The condition of the stranded Pakistani students in China would have been our condition too if our family had opted for Pakistan in 1947. We should not create a fuss over a few documents and end up like Pakistan.
– Ummenadra Farzana
I felt very grateful to my mother as I read the tweet by Arif Alvi, the President of Pakistan. Alvi had cited the directions of the Prophet regarding epidemics as a logic behind leaving the Pakistani students behind in China! As I watched the video shot by the panic-stricken Pakistani student in Wuhan, I felt sorry for him. I once again felt very grateful to my mother, Syeda Jolekha Khatun, for having decided to stay back in India during 1947. She had to forego a significant portion of her ancestral property and the promises of the lucrative job of a college teacher in Satkhira, in undivided Bengal, for her decision to stay back in India. She never regretted it in her life.
If she had not taken this decision in 1947 and our family, too, had opted for Pakistan, it sent a shiver down my spine to think where we might have been today. Who knows, my granddaughter could also have been in Wuhan today! Instead of evacuating her, the Government would then have asked her to keep faith in Hadith and die of panic! Tarek Fatah has severely criticized the Pakistani President for ‘putting Pakistanis at risk of death to please China’. For the Pakistani students stranded in China, there seems to be no hope of evacuation yet.
I felt extremely grateful to my mother and very proud of being an Indian once again. India has not only evacuated 324 Indians from coronavirus stricken Wuhan; it has also evacuated Seven Maldivians as a part of our ‘Neighbourhood First’ Policy. It also arouses great hope in me to see Indian Muslim women clinging to our Constitution for the first time. In the wake of the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, everyone, from Shaheen Bagh in Delhi to Park Circus in Kolkata, seem to have reinstated their faith in the Indian Constitution.
My two daughters, both of whom are abroad now, are very caustic about the reports on Shaheen Bagh or Park Circus. When my daughters had launched the movement against triple talaq or in favour of the equal property rights of Muslim women, when they were trying to create a public opinion through their writings, many in the community had advised them to follow the ‘Shariat’.
The paradigm shift in the approach of the community is interesting! As a mother, I had supported my daughters not only because they were my daughter. My family and I strongly believe, whatever religion one may belong to, the Constitution of the country has its primacy in the life of every Indian. I am, at the same time, amused at the paradox in the protests. Those who had earlier subscribed to the logic of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board and had proclaimed the primacy of Sharia over the Indian Constitution, are now encouraging women from their families to participate in demonstrations, in the name of the Indian Constitution. Albeit a little delayed response, it gives me immense pleasure to watch this awakening in Muslim women, who had, for a long time been marginalized by patriarchy within the family and the community.
The more we uphold the principles of the Constitution, the more we register our faith in the Supreme Court, the closer we will get to the establishment of equal rights for women. Ten crore Muslim women in the country will also reap its benefits.
In the wake of the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, what I found most intriguing is the call for protest by Imams from mosques. This is a dangerous trend. My father, Syed Siraj Ali, had at one time, been a great fan of Muhammad Ali Jinnah. He was completely disillusioned the day All India Muslim League launched its demand for a separate State of Pakistan. My father had taught me politics should never be governed or directed from religious institutions. I wonder if those who are trying to use the mosque to organize a protest or political movement, are aware of the possibilities of an opposite reaction. How would we feel if this countered by a call for a political movement from the temples?
I am reminded of an incident when a group of people from a mosque had come to give me and my husband some ‘good advice’. They had wanted us to restrain our daughters from leading the movements for the rights of Muslim women. We had very politely reminded them that they definitely have the right to decide the time and venue for the Id Namaz but we do not expect to learn from them how much rights Muslim women should have and what Acts should govern Muslim women in the country.
My grandmother, Umratan Bibi, had met Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain in February 1919. Rokeya had advised her to work for the spread of education among Muslim women. Our family had started a school for girls in Burdwan town in the second decade of the 20th century. My grandmother was deeply influenced by Rokeya. Perhaps this is why she could let my mother study Sanskrit. My family always took pride in singing “Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram”. The Park Circus protesters singing “Raghupati Raghav” instils a great hope for the country. Only if they was a little more initiative towards educating Muslim girls!
It is time for Muslim patriarchy to understand that it is easy to put the women forward in any movement. It is an old ‘strategy’ and might be a good one, but this is not going to benefit the community in any way. I know these ‘Leftist strategies’ well because the Mahila Atmaraksha Samiti had started its work in Burdwan from our house. But, we must remember, a strategy is good as a strategy alone. It neither helps politics nor society in the long run. The Sachar Committee Report had exposed the real nature of development that had taken place among Muslims in the 34 years of Leftist rule in Bengal. The Muslim community, particularly Muslim women, have to understand if they are being ‘used’ as tools in this strategy of resistance and protest.
There are, of course, quite a few Muslims, among the 324 Indians rescued from China. There is also a Muslim student from West Bengal among them. I am sure they were only too relieved and happy to show their passports (documents!) while boarding the aircraft. We, law-abiding citizens, do have to show some or the other document at every necessary point in life. Why fuss over it?