Article: What’s on! Halt this politics of hate

Humra Quraishi

It’s just too horrifying and sickening to see the Hindutva politics of hate has  reached  this level of the  unthinkable lows. Manufacturing of websites to put up photographs of Muslim women…hitting a community that already stands shattered. New onslaughts, official or unofficial, targeting Muslim women, children and youth.

Facts to the Muslim community are out there in the open. Documented in the reports of the Sachar Committee, Gopal Singh Committee, Kundu Committee. These reports carry details to the dismal conditions faced by the Muslim community.

There are also detailed reports on the condition of the Muslim women in the country. The stark fact that stands out is this: Muslim women are disadvantaged on three fronts — as women, as members of a minority community, and most of all as poor women.

In fact, over ten years back, when Professor Zoya Hasan and Ritu Menon’s book ‘Unequal Citizens: A study of Muslim Women in India’ was launched, it brought immediate focus on the condition of the Muslim women. Their findings were based on a survey of 10, 000 households in 12 States and spread over 40 districts.

As Professor Zoya Hasan commented, “The survey shows the state of the Muslim women is dismal …the image of the Muslim woman is frozen, that of a veiled woman and that all her problems have to do with her religion,  but this is not the actual reality. We have studied her socio-economic state, her education, the employment opportunities, welfare schemes and political awareness. Also, gender issues which revolve around marriage, violence at home, decision-making and mobility. We have also compared their status and conditions with Hindu women. What stands out is the fact that the status of Muslims as also women varies from region to region of the country — Muslims in South India are slightly better off than their counterparts in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.”

She also detailed, “Muslim women have made few tangible gains more than seven decades of development. They are conspicuous by their absence in the world of politics, in the professions, bureaucracy, universities, and public and private sectors. They rarely figure in the debates on empowerment, poverty, education or health, nor does their vulnerability arouse much concern. Muslim women are disadvantaged thrice over as members of the minority community, as women and as poor women. They remain largely invisible in programmes for the empowerment of religious minorities. For instance, there has not been enough progress for Muslim women in education, employment, skill development and access to basic amenities.”

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The poor socio-economic conditions is not a feature exclusive to Muslim women but it does get aggravated by their marginalised status in the overall context of the social disadvantages they face.

Another grim fact stands out—  on  one  hand, though a  large  number of  Muslim women voted and also participated in the  election  process,  but  on the  other  hand, only a very  small   number  have  been elected to office. Muslim women found it harder to get elected. Their participation hampered both by their gender and as well as their minority religious status.

And much against all the hype created by the Hindutva lot, on the issue of ‘triple  talaq’,  it  stands bypassed by the community itself, as it is not  Islamic.

The fact is that today the Muslim women’s status is getting affected and diminished and threatened by the Hindutva brigades and the politics of hate getting unleashed at an alarming pace.

Every single day there is a fresh onslaught.  The latest is the new farmaan  issued by the ministry of AYUSH , where  they have launched the Surya Namaskar program…  Said to be made compulsory or mandatory for school children from all religions.

This is unfair and unjust, to say the least. Why make such practices compulsory when it could get difficult if not impossible for Muslim children. After all, as Muslims, they cannot bow before anyone except his or her Creator.

Instead of encouraging children from the minority community to enrol in government schools, here come up all these new dictates which will see a  further setback for  the Muslim  child and  his  or her  survival.

Rajesh  Khanna Carried A Personality

Last week, passed by Rajesh Khanna’s 79th birthday. He was born on 29 December 1942, in Amritsar. I wanted to write in my last week’s column about my two interviews with him, way back in 1991, but space constrains stared in the face. But this week I’m somehow determined to focus on him, as he carried a certain personality. Well read, he was suave and sophisticated.

Rajesh Khanna was then, in 1991, the Congress candidate against BJP leader L.K. Advani from the New Delhi Lok Sabha constituency— an election the BJP stalwart almost lost to the star. After all, Khanna lost to Advani by a narrow margin of 1589 votes, after which Khanna stood on the ground at the counting station insisting that he had been cheated of a win… Advani had to vacate the constituency and a by-election took place and Khanna won the same seat in 1992 by defeating Shatrughan Sinha by 25,000 votes.

And  during that election phase  Rajesh Khanna was camping in New Delhi for months at a stretch. I had met and interviewed him on two occasions.

Putting here these details to one of my interviews with him. Before I write those details, I must recount the endless hours  spent  in trying to meet him at his  Vasant  Kunj  situated apartment which he’d  later claimed  was his friend’s. His cranky sounding cook who had  taken the initial telephone calls  sounded  impolite. Then, after much persistence when I did manage to get through to his political Press secretary a particular time was allotted at the Wellington Road situated office.  Even after I’d reached at the appointed time but no sign of Rajesh Khanna. I had no choice but to sit and hear Khanna’s election manager Dr Roshan Lall’s talks.  And finally, after a couple of hours, he’d uttered, “Rajesh Khanna is still with the PM …will be very late, so try tomorrow.” And to my parting query- Is there any hope for tomorrow?  Dr Roshan Lall came up with a poetic one liner “ummeed par hee to duniya kayam hai.”

So, the next meeting  was  fixed for the next day. This time at a particular  nursing home situated in South Delhi. Why this nursing home?  Is he ill? “No, no he is not ill  …this  nursing home belongs to his close friend and he meets a lot of people there as there is a lot of  ‘shanti’  there!”

And there at that nursing home I had finally managed to meet Rajesh Khanna. He’d sat there with several Congress workers standing around him. He looked changed from the last time I had  seen him, a year back …Yes, about 12 or 13 months back he seemed in the  pink of health but now his complexion seemed replaced by a dark tanned  brown, his  hair dwindling  but well coloured /dyed, his face carried marks and his right hand bandaged. And to top it all, the white kurta on him looked somewhat crumpled and the white seemed less white and more along the creamy white strain.

Seeing and sensing a dazed look on my  face, he  replied in a calm  and  subdued way, “ Actually I got hurt yesterday …was visiting the Sunlight  colony and the  people there  got so excited  that they opened the gates with a bang and one of that gates hit my hand.”

My first query was about the chaos in his electioneering campaign. Why?

“Yes, I know there is lot of disorder at this moment. My candidature was announced rather late, so my campaign also started late. Even now my campaign is at the take off stage, yet to be air borne!”

Your  rival candidate Shatrughan  Sinha’s  entire   family  is  managing  most of his election work .Do you think  this  – that is  family  involvement –  makes  some  difference?

“Can’t say. My wife and children are in London. They’d be back on 1 June. Actually Dimple’s mother is very ill so she has taken her there.”

Surely she could  have joined you earlier?

“Actually they will come when I want them to come.” (( looks hurt  and at a   loss  for  words but  puts up a brave front …Also a  definite  emphasis  on ‘ I’)

Don’t you think that this chaos in your organizational set up could mar your  campaign?

“Unlike Shatrughan Sinha I’m not bothered  about  publicity. I believe in naam through kaam.”

What has been the main thrust of your election campaign?

“Local problems, local issues. My focus has been on the working women. I  feel  there should be  an  option of   part -time  jobs for working women,   they should  be  posted  at the  nearest  office ( nearest to their homes)  so that they  save  time  whilst commuting. I know life is very tough for a working woman. I  am going to ease  her working  conditions,  the problem  she faces, those  everyday  struggles  she faces whilst  commuting, or at her  workplace…I  must also tell you  that in my  election  campaigns  I am not  hitting against  my opponent  Shatrughan  Sinha, as  it is  his communal party, the  BJP,  I am fighting  against.”

Have you been meeting Shatrughan Sinha?

“Yes, off and on. At the airport, during flights…”

But he has denied meeting you?

“Well …well, he knows better!  What else can I say!

Is there infighting at the campaign set up level? Also, wasn’t Jag Pravesh  Chandra initially appointed to  be your campaign  manager, so why this change?

“No , there is  no  infighting .Ours is a  democratic  political party where  every  member  expresses  himself .The party has  appointed   RKD  ( RK Dhawan ) as the  campaign manager  and I  don’t interfere.”

Your views on the Ayodhya temple?

“It is for the high command to decide.”

Surely you’ll be having your personal views and viewpoints on this?

“I feel that let this issue be decided either through the Courts or let the  elders decide. Personally I feel that there should be no demolishing and   no construction either at the disputed site for the sake of harmony …No construction and no  demolition  at the cost of  communal  disharmony.”

It is said that during the   past one year you didn’t do much for the New Delhi  constituency. Comment.

“What!  What else have I been doing!  In fact, from the past one year I have  been   here, working in the  slums and  in the  jhuggi –  jhompri areas. I have  been so involved working  here that  that the last  film  I had   produced – Jai  Shiv  Shankar –  has  been  lying  all complete, awaiting   its  release   but I have  found  no  time for  its  release. Ask the people of Delhi how  much I  have doing in  the  slums, jhuggis  bastis. But, of course, not much has been written for I hate publicity.”

What if you lose this election, would you go back to Bombay?

“Bhai, I have  been  repeatedly  saying and  stressing that  winning or  losing  is   not important for me .It is  immaterial for  me .I am  going to be  here, whether I win or  not  win.”

When I had interviewed you last year you sounded irritable and snappy. Have you managed to maintain your cool?

“Maybe this time your questions are not provocative!”

Humra Quraishi is a Delhi-based writer-columnist-journalist. She is also the author of several books including Kashmir: The Untold Story. The views expressed here are author’s personal.

 

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