Dr Jay Dubashi
THE teenage girls chatted to each other and their teachers as the school bus rattled along the country road. Students from a girl’s high school in Swat, they had just finished a term paper and their joy was evident as they broke into another Pushto song. About a mile outside the city of Mingora, two men flagged down and boarded the bus, one of them pulling out a gun. “Which one of you is Malala Yusafzai?” he demanded. No one spoke – some out of loyalty, other out of fear. But, unconsciously their eyes turned to Malala. “That’s the one.” The gunman said, looking at the 15-year old girl in the face and pulling the trigger twice, shooting her in the head and neck. He fired twice more, wounding two other girls, and then both men fled the scene.
I quote this from an article in Newsweek, (October 29, 2012), a US magazine, by Shehrbano Taseer, whose father, Salmaan Taseer, was murdered by his own bodyguard. Malala was taken to Birmingham, England, where she is fighting for her life at a hospital. Her would be killers have not yet been caught but it’s clear who they are. In fact, an organisations close to the Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack, and has actually vowed to shoot her again, should she survive. All that the poor girl wanted was to go to school, but in Pakistan and Afghanistan and several other countries where the Taliban operates, it is a crime for women to go to school, crime for them even to go out of their homes, and the penalty is death.
If trying to kill a child is not cruelty, I do not know what is. Yet there are people, right here in India, people like Girish Karnad, a secularist writer, who claim that Muslims do no such thing and only those who are anti-Muslim accuse them of barbaric behaviour. One such man, according to Karnad and his tribe, is VS Naipaul, a writer who received the Nobel Prize for literature in 2001, who has not written favourably about Muslims in some of his writings, just as he once wrote about Hindus.
The Muslims say they are inheritors of a great civilisation, which they certainly are, but so are Hindus and Christians and Buddhists. But Hindus and Christians and Buddhists don’t go about killing young girls, forcing them to wear veils and confining them to home, destroying schools and libraries, destroying, in fact, anything that goes by the name of culture. They always blame the West and westerners for their deeds as if they had been forced to do this by westerners, and are fighting back for their own survival. If they have become anti-western, they say it is not their fault; they have been forced into it. They have suffered under the hegemony of the West for centuries, and are now fighting back. And there are men like Karnad, who are, directly and indirectly helping them, though the Karnads themselves are what they are because of their closeness to the West and Western culture.
But Muslims were not, or are not, the only people oppressed by the West. Hindus and Buddhists also come under their hegemony. Hindus, in fact, have suffered at the hands of both the so-called West and Islam, for nearly a thousand years. Yet, we don’t go about killing our young girls because they go to school, or learn music, or become artists and lawyers and scientists, just like boys. We don’t lock up our women in homes and forbid them to be seen in public. And unlike Muslim rulers and warriors, we did not rattle our swords and go about killing people when we invaded them. What is it about Muslims that, when faced by an alien culture, they want to destroy it?
Naipaul is a westernised Hindu; his first wife was an English woman and he had a Mexican or Argentinian mistress. He is now married to a Pakistani woman. He has lived almost all his life in England and acquired a British accent without which you can’t progress much in that country. He has written a couple of books about India, maybe more than a couple, and he used them to excoriate Hindus and Indians. We forgave him because he is such a fine writer and not much of a historian. He said that India was a wounded civilisation – thank God he conceded we were a civilisation – we forgave that too. When a man insults you, but does so artfully, you forget the insults and admire the art. And because Naipaul was an Indian – he repeatedly said so, though we did not force him to do it – we knew that one day he would admit he was wrong and in some of his books and articles he did admit he was wrong and he did admit too that he was a Hindu and therefore the inheritor of a great civilisation.
But he was always a westernised Hindu, like Nehru, though Nehru did not have the grace to admit that he was a Hindu. As a westernised Hindu, Nehru was almost obliged to be soft towards Muslims, even at the cost of alienating Hindus. Hindus take everything, including insults, in their stride, Muslims don’t. That’s why the so-called secular Hindus like Nehru and others can afford to be offensive to Hindus, but measure their words carefully when referring to Muslims.
The question is, if the Muslims can be anti-West, why can’t westerners, including westernised Hindus like Naipaul, be anti-Muslim, and speak their minds freely on Islam? What is sauce for the gander must be sauce for the goose, Naipaul did not always have kind words for Hindus. In his book India: A Wounded Civilization he gave a shellacking to Hindus (in Barack Obama’s words, when his party was trounced in some polls.) as a society that surrendered itself easily to foreigners including Muslims, and has been wearing the scars of defeat ever since.
Only a few Hindus like Chhatrapati Shivaji, Bajirao Peshwa II and Lokmanya Tilak refused to acknowledge the dominance of foreigners and fought them, some militarily and some politically. Naipaul was quite right: the Hindu civilisation was indeed wounded in the course of its long history but it always survived and sprang back to life. We were indeed wounded but we fought back and were on our feet again with a resilience that surprised many.
Naipaul is a westernised Hindu. I met his mother twice, once in Delhi when I interviewed her on behalf of a magazine which I was then editing. She refused even to acknowledge that Naipaul was her son, and avoided even uttering his name. The fact that he was or would soon be an internationally acclaimed writer meant nothing to her. She did not take his name even once, for, according to her, he had abandoned his Hindu patrimony and adopted foreign ways, only for the sake of ingratiating himself with westerners and receive their accolades. In other words, he was a beggar as westernised easterners are, always eying the titbits that fall from the tables of westerners. Mrs. Naipaul, whose name I now forget, was passing through Delhi on her way to Varanasi for a dip in the Ganga, and was so contemptuous of her famous son that she consistently avoided mentioning him in the course of an hour-long interview. I wonder what Girish Karnad’s mother has to say about her secular pro-Muslim son!
But that was before Naipaul had second thoughts and ruminated on the real nature of the rule of Islam in India. Whether he is really anti-Muslim or this is something his enemies – and he has many – have tacked on to him. I do not know. But there is certainly a change in him and his writings and he perhaps realises that there is much more to India than a few five-star hotels in Mumbai and a few pegs in Delhi in the shadow of Qutab Minar. Naipaul is not the first westerner or writer to be fooled by India. Nehru too, who was as westernised as Naipaul, could never discover the real India, despite serving as prime minister for seventeen long years. This was because these men always looked at India from the outside, or as outsiders, and not as we Hindus do, from the inside, or as insiders. There is a vast difference between the two perspectives. India does not reveal herself to outsiders, particularly to westerners, or Indians posing as westerners, like Nehru and Co. She reveals herself only to Hindus because we Hindus are an integral part of India; in fact, we are India. Take away the Hindus, and there is no India. What remains is a big void, a deep unfathomable hole which reveals nothing. Westerners then go back shouting that India is an area of darkness, and some stupid westernised Indians like Nehru repeat the phrase as if it was a voice from the Himalayas.
Any Tom, Dick and Harry can be an Indian, but it takes millennia to be a Hindu. Even an Italian lady from nowhere, who cannot pronounce even her own family name properly, can claim to be Indian, but she can never be a genuine Indian, and certainly not a Hindu. Nehru spoke grandly of the Himalayas and the Ganga, but that is all he could do, for he knew that he was not a genuine Indian, because he was not a genuine Hindu. He was always an outsider, a man looking in from the outside, and seeing nothing.
Things are different with Naipaul. He began as an outsider but became an insider, and now sees India from inside out, and, not like Karnad & Co. from outside in. This is exactly why the Karnads of this country hate the Naipauls and accuse them of being anti-Muslim.
I don’t see anything wrong in a westerner being anti-Muslim, just as I don’t see anything wrong in a Muslim being anti-West. If the Taliban and its fraternity can be anti-western and go about slaughtering thousands of westerners, as they did on
9/11, why blame Westerners for being anti-Muslim and anti-Taliban and chasing them with drones and AK-47’s, as they have been doing in Afghanistan and Iraq?
There are some people who argue that not all the Muslims who invaded India were murderers. They brought us music and fine arts and a new way of looking at life. This is a wonderful argument. You came here and raped our women, slaughtered our children, burnt our books and destroyed our temples. And what did you bring? Music! To hell with your music, to hell with your gardens and your marble mausoleums. Just give us back our temples and our libraries and get the hell out of here!
The Muslims say they have suffered at the hands of the West and they are now paying them back. We Hindus have also suffered, perhaps even more so than anyone else, but we don’t go about killing westerners, or sometimes our own people close to westerners, because that is not what we Hindus do. It is not our culture. And that is the basis difference between our civilisation and others. Ours may have been a wounded civilisation, but we are a wounded lion, not a wounded lamb, and you know what a wounded lion can do, if aroused!