Connect with us

Opinion

The ‘Muslim appeasement’

The Kashmir Monitor

Published

🕒

on

IST

By HILAL AHMED

The strength of Hindutva politics practiced by parties like the BJP and Shiv Sena in recent years has relied on two interlinked rhetorical devices – that Hindus are victims in secular India; and Muslims have been appeased in the name of secularism since Independence.

And yet no one has defined the phrase ‘Muslim appeasement’.

 

In a speech dedicated to Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, the founder of Jana Sangh and the official ideologue of the BJP, Narendra Modi said:

“…Fifty years ago, Pandit Upadhyaya said, do not reward/appease (puraskrit) Muslims, do not shun (tiraskrit) them but purify (parishkar) them’. Do not treat Muslims like vote ki mandi ka maal (vote banks) or ghrina ki vastu (object of hatred). Unhe apna samjho (regard them as your own).”

This was not the first time when Narendra Modi, like other BJP leaders, invoked the term ‘Muslim appeasement’ to criticise the policies, programmes and actions of non-BJP political parties. Although the meaning of the term ‘Muslim appeasement’ is not elaborated in the speech, Modi was able to make his point. He was certainly referring to the alleged privileges given to Muslims in India, which, in his imagination of sabka sath sabka vikas, had to be condemned for not achieving real development.

Modi cannot be singled out for using ambiguous, vague and unclear expressions to outline the distinctiveness of his party. The idea of ‘Muslim appeasement’ has haunted Indian politics for nearly three decades, but never really been given any adequate intellectual attention.

Broadly speaking, Muslim appeasement is referred to at least in two aspects of politics regarding Muslims: biased institutional apparatus and unfair political practices.

The constitutional provisions related to rights of religious minorities, which offer legal protection to autonomous bodies such Islamic endowments knows as Waqf, the Muslim Personal Law and educational institutions such as the Aligarh Muslim University, are seen as problematic and unfair. It is asserted that minority rights goes against the spirit of religious equality and secularism based on rule of law.

In an article published in the 1970s called Minorities Problems and Its Solution, written by Balraj Madhok, one of RSS’s known intellectuals, the problematic aspects of the Constitution are outlined. He says:

“Articles 21, 30 and 370, which are discriminatory being in favour of minorities should be abrogated from the Constitution of India. Such provisions be made in the Constitution that no discrimination between the citizens of India will be made by the Government on the basis of religions or methods of worship. ….Such Muslims and other minorities who are not prepared to abjure their separatist tendencies should be declared foreigners, and they should be divested of the right of franchise.”

‘Muslim appeasement’ is also used to denote specific forms of political practices. The assurance given to Muslims by the political parties with regard to educational and/or economic empowerment, distribution of tickets to Muslim candidates in elections and even declaration of holidays on Muslim religious festivals are treated as ‘Muslim appeasement’. A resolution passed by the RSS in 2005 is an example of this critique:

“The Akhil Bharatiya Karyakari Mandal (ABKM) decries the return of the demon of minority appeasement under the present UPA government. Its earlier decision to provide 50% reservation for Muslims in Aligarh Muslim University and its attempts now to go in appeal against the HC order on the minority status of the Aligarh Muslim University is a standing proof of its appeasement policy… Also reprehensible is the reported directive given to all the Chief Ministers of the Congress-ruled states to emulate Andhra Pradesh government in extending reservations to Muslims.”

Interestingly, the secular critique of Hindutva’s imagination of ‘Muslim appeasement’, does not propose any alternative idea. Although they tend to talk of the multi-layered structure of the Muslim community and its relative marginalisation, the possibilities of appeasement, its meanings, forms and impacts are not given any serious intellectual/political attention.

‘Muslim appeasement’ is simply refuted as Hindutva propaganda.

Even those scholars, who are critical of Hindu as well as Muslim communalism, could not produce any significant analysis of ‘Muslim appeasement’.

Mushirul Hasan’s assessment of the Shah Bano moment of Indian politics is a good example to underline this confusion. He writes:

“Debates on the Uniform Civil Code have gone on ceaselessly since Independence. Muslim orthodoxy was unequivocally opposed to change, and the liberal view became increasingly blurred because of the unhappy intervention of Hindu ideologues as vocal proponents of reform in Muslim personal law….. The government dare not change its strategy for fear of losing Muslim votes….Rajiv Gandhi imposed a ban on Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses and his successor V.P. Singh declared Prophet Mohammad’s birthday a national holiday. Finally, Muslims were wilfully appeased by the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, and through official reluctance to enact a Uniform Civil Code.”

(Emphases added, Mushirul Hasan, Legacy of a Divided Nation,Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 279)

It is certainly clear from this passage that Hasan is condemning the Hindutva politics, which appropriated the UCC debate. He is equally critical of the Islamic orthodoxy, which was supported by the state in the Shah Bano case. Yet, Hasan fails to specify his meaning of ‘Muslim appeasement’ and we are left with a few puzzling questions: Does Muslim appeasement only mean the political moves of the Rajiv Gandhi government? Or, does it mean that all Muslims were going to vote for Rajiv Gandhi in the election because they were “wilfully appeased” in the Shah Bano case? If this is the case, how is Hasan’s notion of Muslim appeasement different from the RSS’ conceptualisation?

The publication of the Sachar report in 2006 gave a new twist to the idea of Muslim appeasement. As an official document, the report underlines the fact that Muslims of India are socially, economically and educationally backward and marginalised. Although the report very categorically emphasises upon the highly diverse and deeply stratified structure of Muslim community, the ‘Muslim victimhood’ as a new template of Indian politics began to take shape.

The report was invoked, particularly by non-BJP parties, to demonstrate that ‘Muslim appeasement’ was a myth created by the Hindutva forces and Muslims must be treated as an excluded community.

Hindutva politics also refashioned itself in the light of this response. It was argued that the Congress did not show any serious interest in the empowerment of Muslims — they were treated as a vote bank, which led to marginalisation and exclusion; and that the BJP’s firm commitment to equal treatment to all, as the argument goes, helped even the Muslims to prosper in BJP-ruled states. L.K. Advani’s assessed the Sachar Report thus:

“… I feel Gujarat should be grateful to Justice Sachar for proving convincingly to the country that under Narendra Bhai Modi’s regime, Muslims are far better off than their compatriots in other states.”

This argument later evolved into the party’s rhetoric: “Development of all, appeasement of none”.

Now, ‘Muslim appeasement’ has found a new political life in post 2014-India. The BJP has successfully established the fact that addressing Muslims as Muslims is an act of appeasement. The impact of this assertion is so powerful that even the so-called secular, anti-Hindutva, and non-BJP parties have gradually started distancing themselves from Muslims, simply to avoid the tag of Muslim appeasement.

The assumption of ‘Muslim appeasement’ relies on Muslim homogeneity — an undifferentiated picture of a single Muslim community. However, the recognised ‘good Muslims’ in all political parties are never treated as beneficiaries of appeasement. In fact, these ‘good Muslims’ struggle with each other as organic intellectuals — either to refute ‘Muslim appeasement’ as a myth or to evoke the “development of all, appeasement of none” slogan.

The presence of these ‘good Muslims’ underlines the fact that ‘Muslim appeasement’ is not a description of an objective socio-political condition of Muslims; rather it is a metaphor of politics.

The unclear, ambiguous metaphor is cleverly employed to create a ‘fear psyche’ among Muslims. It tells Muslims that they are a pampered lot – even as they experience deprivation – and creates a psychological dissonance. This state prevents them from seeking equity or justice.

The Modi-led BJP is not an exception in this regard. The Muslim faces of the BJP – Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Zafar Islam and Najma Heptulla – are elite Muslims, who are being appeased in the name of sab ka sath sabka vikas.

Yes, ‘good Muslims’ are always appeased.

(theprint.in)


The Kashmir Monitor is the fastest growing newspaper as well as digitial platform covering news from all angles.

Advertisement
Loading...
Comments

Opinion

Agha Shahid Ali, the timeless poet

The Kashmir Monitor

Published

on

By Aga Syed Amin Musvi

The Kashmiri-American poet, Agha Shahid Ali (1948-2001) published a new poetry collection “Rooms are never finished” in the same year he passed away. This poignant and remarkable work was shortlisted for the America’s coveted 2001 National Council Book award.

The work revels at the highest of the poet’s powers dedicated to his late mother. It is framed by her death from brain cancer in 1997 and the poet’s own battle against the same illness shortly afterwards.

 

The poem revolves around the nucleus – theme of life and death in exile.

Shahid employed gigantic metaphors and alluring imaginations.

The songs of the poem are dominated by elegiac tone and each serves as the sequence of poems.

The first from Amherst to Kashmir about the poet’s mother and Karbala are contrasted and binds the time into a narrative beyond time.

The second eleven stars over Andalusia of work exceptionally laced with beauty in an adaptation of MehmoodDarvaish’s “Palestine Poet” original about the expulsion of the Moors from 15th century Spain.

‘Rooms are never finished’ is divided into four parts, but in a brief note the author explains that the conflict in war-torn Kashmir forms the backdrop to his collection and was focusing to his previous volume, ‘A country without post office’.

He and his family took his mother to the devastated land for burial as she had longed for her home during her illness.

In America, she had come to Amherst for treatment and died there. His moving poem Lennox Hill plays on the word mother and describes her last days, overlaid with dream like sequence of Kashmir. He writes.

‘As you sit here by me, you’re just like my mother,’
She tells me. I imagine her: a bride in Kashmir,
She’s watching, at the Regal, her first film with Father.

If only I could gather you in my arms, Mother,
I’d save you—now my daughter—from God.

‘Rooms are never finished’

The book goes on to part one 1, from Amherst to Kashmir a sequence which opens with an exquisite prose poem Karbala: A saga – house of sorrows.

He writes and recollects Hazrat Imam Hussain (AS) on the tenth of Muharram (Ashura) is the rite of Shia’s Islam so central at the funerals those events are woven into elegies every death.

Using Karbala as a leitmotif he takes the reader back to AH 61. In elegant sparse and powerful prose, he reconstructs the story and symbolism of Imam Hussain’s (as) sacrifice as well as sufferings of saviours particularly HazratZainab.

Death had turned every day in Kashmir into some family’s Karbala. We observe the Ashura in the afternoon because of night curfew. That evening at home my mother was sudden in tears. I was puzzled then very moved. Since she was girl and felt Zanib’s grief her own. This was indeed the translation of Kashmiri elegy recited at her mother’s funeral Zainab’s lament In Damascus. This finds the profound contrast with Faiz ‘s translation the Rebel Silhouette.

He goes on to give brief glimpse of Begum Akhter when she sings the meditative poem of MirzaGalib in soppy tunes, then he moves to Muharram and the mourning. The revolving themes of mother, Muharram and Kashmir continue to develop subsequent poems. Interjected with frenzy nostalgia, the whole interposed with a medley of cross cultural references. The poet’s personal anguish becomes an expression of deeper universal emotions and mysteries. Furthermore, these poems written in wide range of poetic style and form, which includes a translation of Faiz’s memory which begins”.

Desolation’s desert. I’m here with shadows
of your voice, your lips as mirage, now trembling.

Grass and dust of distance have let this desert bloom with your roses.

Later he translates the famous Galib’sghazals which Begum Akhter sang

Not all only a few

Distinguished as tulips as rose.

What possibilities has the earth forever

Covered what face?

In this collection the mess of exile separation and loss are layered with several levels of meaning both literal and metaphorical and include poet’s eminent farewell to this earth.

The second section of Rooms are never finished consists of poems which look at the world as a place of limbo, in which the poet is but a passenger, passer-by or guest. In the little poem Rooms are never finished about reality and illusions a voice guides the poet somewhere in space and time and goes on saying:

Come to the window: panes plot the earth apart. In the moon’s crush. The cobalt stars Shed light blue-on Russia the Republic’s porcelain,

The Ural’s mezzotint, why are you weeping

Dear friend!? Hush rare guest.

Agha Shahid Ali has explored many different poetic forms, including canzones, sonnets tetra Zima and he has introduced aspects of Marisa Elegy or elements of shikwaDrIqbal’s (RA) poem . There are several of his ghazals in English too, written in remarkable skill, in which the second line of every couplet repeating a phrase employing the new meaning, culminating with the poet’s name often with a lightness of touch a quite mocking and wit.

Part 111 consists of ‘Eleven Stars Overs Andalusia, a breath-taking adaptation of an Arabic poem, by Palestinian writer Muhammad Darwish. In an end note, Agha Shahid Ali explains that he was sent “a very literal version” and asked to “convert it into poetry”. He finally found a way of tackling it, after reading Lorca (Federico García Lorca Spanish poet 1898–1936).

He adds that the Title of Eleven Stars comes from the Quran and is a reference of Joseph’s dream.

About the dream he say 11 stars and the sun and moon prostrate before him. Joseph was told by his father, “Say nothing of this dream to your brothers lest they plot evil against you.”

But Grenada is made of gold,

Of silken words woven with almonds of silver tears.

In the string of a lute

‘Eleven Stars over Andalusia not only depicts the exile and expulsion of the Moors from Spain and their farewell to their enchanted land but cleverly provides an analogy with the homelands of the author and translator Palestine and Kashmir. These poems also convey the poet’s personal lament for the world that he too will leave behind soon. In the fourth Poem ‘’ I’m one of the Kings of the end

He writes ‘’ I’ve passed over this land, there is no land in this land. Since time broke around me, shard by Shard

I was not a lover believing that water is a mirror

As I told my old friend and no love can redeem me,

For I’ve accepted ‘’ the peace accord ‘’ and there is no longer a present left

To let me pass, tomorrow close to yesterday.

The Eleventh and Final poem, Violins begins and ends with the couplet

Violins weep with gypsies going to Andalusia..

Violins weep for Arabs leaving Andalusia. The fourth and last section of this volume consists of a single poem, ‘I Dream I’m at the Ghat of the only world’ a wonderful meditation work with memories of all that is dear to him_ particularly people such as his mother, poet James Merrill, Eqbal Ahmad, Begum Akhter, all of whom have travelled to the other shore ‘’ the central image holding the poem together is Ghulam Muhammad, the waiting boatman who will ferry the poet across the water.

In this exceptional collection, Agha Shahid Ali has brought English language poetry in the sub- Continent to new heights. He has also conveyed the essence, depth and rage of indo-Muslims culture as no other English writer has, in fact South English poetry has probably never seen anything quite like it.

Continue Reading

Opinion

The Poems of Ghani Kashmiri:

The Kashmir Monitor

Published

on

By Tahir Ghani

This is probably the first proper collection of English translations of verse by MullaTahirGhani, or Ghani Kashmiri (d. 1669), a Persian poet from Kashmir who lived during Aurangzeb’s time and whose language was respected even in Iran. A poet whose creations, whose idioms, influenced Indian writers even as later as Mir and Ghalib.

The collection comes with a insightful introductory essay by Mufti MudasirFarooqi on Ghani Kashmiri and Persian language in Kashmir.

 

The book offers translations of Ghazals, Quatrains (Rubaiyat) and a Masnavi.

As one reads through Ghani’s work, one gets to step into Ghani’s world, his joyous exclamations, his saddening doubts, his dejection of the way world works and his playful jokes at the world.

The compilation comes with English transliteration, so you actually get to read the original work as well the translation (a practice that should always be followed for such work. But somehow is seldom followed). The translations try best to retain the meaning of the original, the only problem is for a reader not already familiar with the way Persian poetry works, particularly in case of some Ghazals where the reader can easily forget the central theme of a composition in an attempt at catching the meaning of translation of an idiom.

One of the most interesting work translated in this book is MasnaviShita’iyahoe Winter’s Tale, a graphic and poetic description of Kashmiri winter by Ghani Kashmir that ends with lines:

Hinduyedidamki mast az ‘ishq bud
guftamashzinjustjuyatchistsud
Dar javaban gift an zunnardar
nistdardastam ‘inan-e ikhtiyar
rishtayedargardanamafgandah dust
mibaradharjakikhwatirekhwah-e ust
I saw a Hindu drunk with devotion
‘Such striving to what end?’ I asked.

In reply said that wearer of the sacred thread:
‘The reins of will are not in my hand.

“The Friend has yoked my neck with HIs thread
And pulled me by it wherever He wills.”

There is an interesting famous story given in the book. It is said that when Ghani Kashmiri was invited by Emperor Aurangzeb to his court, the poet snubbed him and refused.

The poet said to Mughal governor Saif Khan, ‘Tell the King that Ghani is insane.’ Saif Khan asked, ‘How can I call a sane man insane?’ At this Ghani tore his shirt and went away like a frenzied man. After three days he died.

What is not given in the book is a probable reason for Ghani’s hesitation at joining the royal court. The explanation for this behaviour may be sought in the story of his master ShaikhMuhsinFani.

“Fani was a court poet of Shahjahan and was greatly honoured by the Emperor. But when Sultan MuradBakhsh [youngest son of Shahjahan] conquered Balkh [in Afghanistan] a copy of Muhsin’sdiwan was found in the library of Nadhr Muhammad Khan [Uzbek, happened in around 1646] the fugitive sovereign of the kingdom which contained panegyrics on him. This detection of duplicity very much enraged Shahjahan who removed him from the court. However the Emperor allowed him a pension. Fani returned to Kashmir and spent his days in instructing and educating youngmen.”*

  • From ‘A Descriptive Catalogue of the Hindustani Manuscripts in the Government Oriental Manuscripts Library, Madras’ (1909)

Also, another thing not mentioned in the book is that his old takhallusTahir is Chronograph for the year when Ghani (his later takhallus) started his poetic career.
VinayakRazdan

The Captured Gazelle: The Poems of Ghani Kashmiri
TahirGhani
Translated by Mufti MudasirFarooqi and NusratBazaz
Penguin, 2013

(searchkashmir.org)

Continue Reading

Opinion

Four poets on exile and being refugees

The Kashmir Monitor

Published

on

By MananKapoor, Sahapedia

“I have learned and dismantled all the words in order to draw from them a single word: Home,” wrote the exiled Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish in “I Belong There”. Exile has long been a recurring metaphor in poetry and, much like love, has resonated across the boundaries of language and time. From the first-century poet Ovid who was banished by the Roman emperor Augustus, to the 19th-century poet-emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar who was exiled to Rangoon (now Myanmar) by the British, poets have often used their verses to talk about their displacement, respond to migration caused by war and politics, and question man-made boundaries.

The 19th and 20th centuries saw the expansion of nation states and the birth of what the Irish political scientist, Benedict Anderson, called “imagined communities”. Numerous mass migrations took place around the world; families were separated and people were left longing for their homelands. The Indian subcontinent witnessed the horrors of the Partition, the migration of Tibetan refugees, the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War and the exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits. Naturally, many poets from the subcontinent reacted to these tragedies. These poets – some in exile, some in translation and others who witnessed calamity befall their loved ones – shed light on the plight of losing a home and the experience

 

Partition

The 1947 Partition caused the largest human migration in recorded history. Around 15 million people were uprooted, and the Punjab region – a part of which was incorporated into Pakistan – was one the worst-affected areas in the subcontinent. Punjabi poet Amrita Pritam, born in Gujranwala in modern-day Pakistan, became a refugee as a result of the catastrophe. Like millions of others, she moved to New Delhi and, at the age of twenty-eight, penned her iconic poem “AjAkhanWaris Shah Nu” (Today, I Call UponWaris Shah) on a scrap of paper. She wrote:

A million daughters weep today and look at you for solace
Rise o beloved of the aggrieved, just look at your Punjab
Today corpses haunt the woods, Chenab overflows with blood
Someone has blended poison in the five rivers of Punjab
This water now runs through the verdant fields and glades
This fertile land has sprouted poisonous weeds far and near
Seeds of hatred have grown high, bloodshed is everywhere
Translated from the Punjabi by NirupamaDutt
AjjLakhaanDhiyanRondiyan, TenuWaris Shah NuuKain
UthhDard-MandaanDiyaDardiya, UtthTakApna Punjab
Ajj Bailey LashaanBichiyaanTeyLahoo Di Bhari Chenab
Kisey Ne PanjaanPaaniyanWichDitiZaharRala,
TeyUnhanPaniyaanDharatNuuDitaPaaniLaa
IssZarkhaizZameenDey Loon LoonPhuttiyaZahar
GitthGitthCharhiyaanLaaliyanFuutFuutCharrhiyaKaher

Another poet whose voice is considered synonymous with the Partition is Sampooran Singh Kalra, or Gulzar as he’s popularly known. Like Pritam, Gulzar too was born in Pakistan and migrated to India after 1947. The horrors of the event resurface in his writings, be it his heart-wrenching short story “Ravipaar” (“Across the Ravi”) or poems such as “AankhonkoNahiLagta Visa” (“Eyes Don’t Need a Visa”), an ode to Pakistani poet Mehdi Hassan:

Eyes don’t need visas,
dreams have no borders;
With closed eyes
I cross the border, every day,
to meet Mehdi Hasan.

Aankhonko visa nahinlagta
Sapnonkisarhadhotinahin
Band aankhon se roz main
sarhadpaarchalajatahoon
Milne Mehdi Hassan se!

Bangladesh

But the embers of the fire that started in 1947 burst into flame again in 1971. The Bangladesh Liberation War, which witnessed the dissolution of East Pakistan, left millions homeless and forced thousands of people into exile. The historical event was not only recorded by writers from the Indian subcontinent, but also caught the attention of Western poets such as Allen Ginsberg, who was in India right after the war. In “September on Jessore Road”, he wrote:

Millions of souls nineteen seventy-one
homeless on Jessore Road under grey sun
A million are dead, the million who can
Walk toward Calcutta from East Pakistan
… On Jessore road Mother wept at my knees
Bengali tongue cried mister Please
Identity card torn up on the floor
Husband still waits at the camp office door

Kashmir

Another part of the subcontinent, the Vale of Kashmir, has witnessed a continuous exodus since the late 1980s. Since then, over one lakh Kashmiri Pandits have been forced into exile, becoming refugees in their own country, straining the relationship between Hindus and Muslims. In “I See Kashmir From New Delhi at Midnight”, the Kashmiri-American poet Agha Shahid Ali wrote about the homelessness of the Kashmiri Pandits:

One must wear jewelled ice in plains
To will the distant mountains to glass
In “Farewell”, lamenting the loss of the ‘other’, he wrote:
I’m everything you lost. You won’t forgive me.
My memory keeps getting in the way of your history.

Tibet
Not too far away from Kashmir, another community was being subjected to life in exile. In 1959, the 14th Dalai Lama, along with millions of Tibetans, fled to India after their homeland was annexed by China. They found temporary shelter in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, hoping to find a way home in the future. But even today, almost 60 years later, “home” is only a memory for most Tibetans. For others like poet Tenzin Tsundue, who was born in exile, home is a distant dream. In “I am Tired”, he sheds light on what it is like to fight for a home that one has never known:

I am tired,
I am tired selling sweaters on the roadside,
40 years of sitting, waiting in dust and spit.

I am tired,
I am tired fighting for the country
I have never seen.

Admittedly, these poems don’t have the power to alter boundaries or change the course of history. But, to paraphrase Bertolt Brecht, they are what make people sing in dark times.

(scroll.in)

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Subscribe to The Kashmir Monitor via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to The Kashmir Monitor and receive notifications of new stories by email.

Join 1,011,167 other subscribers

Advertisement

Archives

July 2019
M T W T F S S
« Jun    
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031  
Advertisement