Sunday, August 26, 2007
Viewpoint – Indian Intellectuals Can’t Accept Pakistan
Exposing the anti-Muslim attitude of Indian writers like Ramachandra Guha.
[Text by Ali Eteraz; picture by Muhammad Zaheer Mohsin]
On August 15, 2007, presumably to mark India's 60th birthday, the New York Times published an op-ed by Ramachandra Guha, a prominent Indian author. Titled India's Internal Partition, the article appeared to be a promising examination of Hindu-Muslim relations in India. Mr. Guha began with the events of 1990.
Bharatiya Janata Party leader Lal Krishna Advani journeyed for five weeks between Somnath and Ayodhya, making fiery speeches at towns and villages en route, denouncing the Indian government for "appeasing" the Muslims. In many places Mr. Advani visited, attacks on Muslims followed. In New Delhi, where I then lived, Mr. Advani's march represented a grave threat to the inclusive, plural, secular and democratic idea of India.
However, the reader is not treated to any meaningful discussion about India's "internal" matters whatsoever. In fact, as soon as the discussion about Indian-Muslims begins, Mr. Guha starts to discuss - Pakistan.
In his article, Mr. Guha is quick to invoke his Muslim friendly credentials by recalling his friendship with a Pakistani economist called Tariq Banuri. The latter was apparently the first Muslim Mr. Guha ever became "close" with. He also had dreams about Mr. Banuri during the Ayodhya crisis. Alas, the friendship did not leave any discernible positive residue.
When discussing Muslims in India, Mr. Guha states the oft-invoked trope that Muslims don't do anything but films, saying "but in law, medicine, business and the upper echelons of public service, Hindus dominated." An objective editorial about India's "internal" partition might have inquired why Muslims in India do not make it to the "upper-echelons" of Indian society. But why would Mr. Guha waste time with trivialities? After all, on the 60th anniversary of India , there is plenty of Pakistan bashing to be had. It comes soon enough.
As usual with prominent Indian intellectuals who are unable to accept that Indian Muslims are Indian and Pakistani Muslims are Pakistanis (and not Indians), Mr. Guha calls in Pakistan in this edit on India's Muslims. He recalls his visit to Badshahi Mosque in Lahore.
It was Friday evening, and a large crowd of worshipers was coming out after the weekly prayers. Walking against the flow, I had to jostle my way through.
As I bumped into one worshiper, I was seized by panic. In one pocket of my kurta lay my wallet; in the other, an exquisite little statue of the Hindu god Ganesh, dancing. I am not a believer, but this was my mascot, a gift from my sister, carried whenever I was separated from my wife and little children. What if it now fell out and was seized upon by the crowd? How would that turn out — an infidel discovered in a Muslim shrine, an Indian visitor illegally in Lahore?
Note the use of the terms "infidel" and "panic" and "seized upon by the crowd" (as if all Muslims crowd act as one). The term "shrine" is used to describe a mosque.
The fact is Mr. Guha is unwilling to accept that when he was in Pakistan, no one cared he was a Hindu, or had a dancing god in his pocket, or that he was from the upper-echelons of Indian society. In India, by virtue of being Hindu, he'd at least have been able to feel better than Indian Muslims. In Pakistan, deprived of recognition, and in desperate need for it, he resorted to a simpleton's victimization-complex.
As expected, Mr. Guha ends by predicting war between India and Pakistan.
Despite their shared culture, cuisine and love for the game of cricket, India and Pakistan have already fought four wars. And judging by the number of troops on their borders and the missiles and nuclear weapons to back them, they seem prepared to fight a fifth.
Mr. Guha has selective eyes. He sees only what he wants to see. There is no mention of the peace-initiatives initiated by President Musharraf; nothing on the cricket-diplomacy conducted over the last seven years (during which time Indian visitors were celebrated by Karachites and Lahoris).Mr. Guha ignores that there hasn't been any saber-rattling between India and Pakistan since a long time.
It is the anti-Muslim attitude of intellectuals like Mr. Guha which leads to enmity between Hindu and Muslim; and between Pakistan and India. India's Internal Partition reveals more about why Pakistan was necessary, and a good idea, than casting any positive impression of India.
[An earlier version of this article appeared at Jahane Rumi.]