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An Open Letter to Shri Shashi Tharoor
Critique on the book..... 'The Elephant, The Tiger and The Cell phone' ....on the chapter titled as "Indianness"

Dear Shri Tharoor,

I am taking the liberty to write to you, even though I do not have your permission to do so. Please do forgive me ! However, I trust that you shall not mind as you are used to hearing from people who wish to comment on your books that they may have read. Incidentally, this is the first book authored by you that I have had the occasion to read. Allow me to congratulate you on your writing ....... superb !! You are so erudite and your language, such a pleasure ! I write to you because I am shocked at some of what you have said. I must confess, however, that in view of your stature, I feel like 'the mouse that dared the lion in the latter's den' !!!! But, write I must.

The book that I am reading and wish to comment on is "The Elephant, The Tiger and The Cell-Phone." I have read and re - read the chapter titled ' ideas of Indianness' and find, to my dismay, that you have shared with your readers the socialist philosophy of the Indian National Congress, which has made a mockery of our constitution and played havoc with India's civil society. I submit as follows:-

1. On Secularism

a) 'I quote from chapter no. 20 of your book, on secularism.... 'but secularism as an Indian political idea had, in any case little to do with western ideas privileging the temporal over the spiritual'.

b) 'Secular politics within the nationalist movement rejected the belief that religion was the most important element in shaping political identity'.

c) ' Indian Secularism meant recognizing that India had a profusion of religions, none of which should be privileged by the State'.

Should secularism mean as per clause 1 c above, then how do you justify the following ...... page 77, paragraph 3, from line 5 to the end of paragraph 3, as follows:-

"For decades after independence, successive Indian governments had guaranteed their (Muslims) security in a secular state, permitting the retention of Muslim Personal Law separate from the country's civil code and even financing Haj pilgrimages to Mecca".

Has the Congress party whose government was at the helm for the first three decades, not made a mockery of India's constitution by indulging in practices which are in total contravention of the spirit of the Constitution, the preamble of which reads as follows :-

"We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic and to secure to all its citizens: Justice, social, economic and political; Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; Equality of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all Fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation.

In our Constituent Assembly this twenty sixth day of November, 1949, do hereby adopt, enact and give to ourselves this constitution".

And what of civil society ? Where have you left us ? Without social justice or equality of status, or a fraternity amongst the Hindus and Muslims and last but not least, a nation in dis-unity.

Since the advent of Islam into India, by Ghazni or, perhaps even earlier, the Hindus....... there was no other community excepts Buddhists and Jains and those who had been compelled to leave their home lands and seek shelter on Indian shores, such as the Zoroastrians, the Syrian Christians, Armenians, Jews and lately, Tibetans etc. etc........ were forced at the point of the sword to convert to Islam or be slaughtered. Hundreds of thousands of Hindus accepted Islam being lesser of the two evils. In the process, countless Hindus were slaughtered and innumerable temples were ransacked, looted and destroyed. Many a time Mosques were built on the ruins of temples which had been desecrated and destroyed. The Mughals were the last of the Islamic invaders, their empire finally collapsed in 1857, by then, of course, the East India Company had gained a strong foot hold in India. The first war of independence, also termed as the Indian Mutiny of 1857, saw both Hindus and Muslims on the same side, under the banner of Bahadur Shah, the last Mughal Emperor, fighting the East India Company. Surprising, to say the least, considering that a nearly a thousand years of Islamic rule in which the most ghastly and abominable atrocities had been committed by the Muslims on Hindus, in particular, had just ended. Even more surprisingly, the homogeneity between the Hindus and Muslims continued well into the 20th century. The founding of the Muslim league did ruffle some feathers, but ultimately it was the politics of both, the Congress party and the Muslim League, now at cross purposes with each other, aided and abetted by Lord Mountbatten, that eventually led to the partition of India.

Pluralist Democracy

Partition was over. Most of the Zamidars and the rich Muslims had emigrated to the newly founded Pakistan. However, many Muslims had chosen to stay back in India. Unfortunately, they were not particularly well to do, or even reasonably educated and belonged mostly to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

The Government of India, in its wisdom welcomed the Muslims who stayed back, in spite of the fact that Pakistan had been founded on the single principle 'of the two Nations theory' i.e. Pakistan for the Muslims and India for the Hindus and other religious communities, being off-shoots of Hinduism, namely the Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains etc.

"The idea of Nationhood" presumes that all citizens would be equal in status, regardless of their creed, religion, caste, colour, conviction, culture, costume and custom and that in keeping with the true meaning of the term Secularism, no religion would be privileged by the State. The Government of India should have introduced a "common civil code" to bring all citizens at par with each other, in law, but it did not do so. On the contrary, the Government of India, for decades after partition, in its wisdom chose to, instead, guarantee security of the Muslims ….. in a Secular State ? !!!!!! The obvious presumption is that the Muslims had reason to fear the Hindus for their safety, (the other communities were too small in number to be of any consequence). The Congress government, thereby pitted the Hindus against the Muslims, for better or for worse !! Secondly, the Muslims were permitted to retain their "Personal Law", separate from the Country's Civil Code. If this was not enough, Haj pilgrimages to Mecca were also financed.

Immediately after partition the Muslims who did not cross over to Pakistan but remained behind in India were a subdued community. Should the government of India have at that stage laid down the ground rules as to what our new India was going to be ….. such as a common civil code, withdrawal / discontinuation of the Haj subsidy etc. etc. ..… and ground rules to safeguard the guarantees enshrined in the Constitution, including security and safety of the individual and to lay a strong foundation for a Secular State and a vibrant, pluralist, democracy. At this point in time the Muslims had an alternative ….accept the ground rules, or emigrate to Pakistan !

What a shame that at the very beginning, at the very birth of the new India, instead of laying a proper foundation for the Hindus and Muslims to live and grow together as true citizens of one nation, the Congress party and its government, with Pandit Nehru as Prime Minister, pandered to the Muslims and offered them the most incredible sops, simply to secure them as a vote bank. Factually, the Government of India in the first few years of the first decade after independence, created two nations within the geographical boundaries left to India after partition, one Hindu and the other Muslim or Islamic, with a breach in between, as large as life. Whatever chances of success the newly conceived India had were ground to dust.

Vote Bank Politics

Continuing in the same strain, in the mid 70s when Indira Gandhi was the prime minister and Faqruddin Ali Ahmed, the president of India, Moinul Haq Chaudhary was a Minister in the ruling Congress Government in Assam. Shri Moinul Haq Chaudhary and Shri Kidwai, then Chief Secretary to the Government of Assam were instrumental in allowing Bangladeshi refugees to resettle in India. These Bangladeshi Refugees came in hundreds of thousands and settled on the plains of Assam, to bolster the Congress vote bank. This move had the blessings of both the prime minister and the president of India. The Assamese, both Hindu and Muslim were reduced to a minority in their own home land, because of the influx of the refugees of Bangladesh. Did any so called liberal or secularists object, or voice an opinion contrary to what was advocated by the prime minister and her Congress party?

To further compound matters to the detriment of our much vaunted pluralist democracy, Shri Rajiv Gandhi, as prime minister succumbed to the Muslim clerics and agreed to alter section 125 of India's Criminal Procedure Code. Shri Rajiv Gandhi with 400 members in Parliament and could have easily amended the Constitution to implement a common civil code, but did not do so. I doubt if such opportunities will ever come our way again.

The "icing on the cake" was without doubt, the handy work of the governments of Smt. Sonia Gandhi and Shri Manmohan Singh, from 2005 to 2014, which took the appeasement of the minorities to incredible heights.

Most of the terrorist strikes in India have been at the instance of the IM or SIMI, with technical support from ISI, Pakistan or some other terrorist organizations based in Pakistan. The Government of theday repeatedly failed to adopt a sufficiently stringent policy against such acts of sedition and treason so as not to affront the vote bank. A remark by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that the minorities had the first right on the country's resources, without a thought for the majority community, is communal in the extreme. Hindustan has been the homeland of the Hindus from the beginning of time and yet, the majority community has been relegated to the status of 2nd class citizens in their very own backyard. Unbelievable, but true !!!

Not only has the Constitution of India been jeopardized to the extreme, but in civil society today there exists an undercurrent of animosity, mistrust and fear. Is this what you would call a vibrant, pluralist democracy ? I quote you, "ultimately, of course, what matters in determining the validity of a nation, is the will of its inhabitants to live and strive together". In this context I submit that Islam, which is a foreign religion arrived in India through Muslim conquest and spread itself through proselytization, sometimes by barbaric means, cannot be said to be a part of Indian philosophy and tradition. I have been told that the tenets of Islam forbid any practicing Muslim to fraternize with any other community and in my personal experience, I have yet to find more than a handful of Muslims who are happy to accept homogeneity with the Hindu. In my experience, Muslims much rather prefer to mix within their own community and any relationships which may form outside their own, are but in deference to the exigencies of the workplace. I quote Tufail Ahmed from his article Democracy and Indian Muslims:- "It is also true that Muslims lag behind in India's collective life, but this is because they are under the influence of orthodox ulema or because Muslim politicians fail to imagine themselves as leaders of all Indians".

I quote you, "Hinduism provides for a shared sense of common culture within India which has nothing to do with religion"…...."Hindu festivals from Holi (when friends and strangers of all faiths are sprayed with coloured water in a Dionysian ritual) to Deepavali (the festival of lights, firecrackers and social gambling) have already gone beyond their religious origins to unite Indians of all faiths as a shared experience. In response, I sight a Member of Parliament from Hyderabad, Shri Akhbaruddin Owaisi whose remarks may interest you :-

"In Hyderabad, our Muslim population has crossed 50%, and now we are in majority. Therefore I demand the Administration to impose restrictions on celebration of Hindu festivals such as Ram-Navami, Hanuman Jayanti etc. In the Bhagya - Lakshmi temple, near Char-Minar, we have already shown our strength by stopping the ringing of the Bell/gong. We Muslims will ensure that this temple is also destroyed. Akbaruddin Owaisi, Sansad, Majlis-e-Ittehadul-Musalmeen, (AIMIM), Hyderabad, India".

In further support of my aforesaid contention I sight speeches / remarks / sayings of some prominent Muslim members of Parliament and state legislatures, clerics, maulana's etc. :-

What Prominent Indian Muslims have said about Hindus and Hindustan:

1. Asaduddin Owaisi, Member of Parliament, MIM, Hyderabad, "Hindus shouldn't make the mistake of considering Indian-Muslims any different from the Pakistan-Muslims. If India may dare to attack Pakistan, then 25 crore (250 million) Indian Muslims will join Pakistan Forces and fight against India."

2. Maulana Badarrudin Ajmal, Loksabha Sansad, AIUDF, Assam, "Hindus do not have any rights to vote in Arab, Pakistan or any one of the 56 Islamic Nations. I challenge: has even a single Hindu the strength (guts) to impose restrictions on our (Muslims') voting-rights in India?"

3. Nuroor Rahman Barkati, Shahi Imam, Tipu Sultan Masjid, Kolkata, India, "Let Hindus consider cow as a mother, even then we Muslims will surely cut the cows, because sacrifice is Muslims' religious right. Allah demands sacrifice. Muslims don't fight an oral - war, we do everything directly with our might. We are not afraid of any ruler or government because we the Muslim community have already grown sizable. If any mother's son intervenes, we will deal with him, but we will certainly cut Cows."

4. Maulana Sayyad Ahmad Bukhari, Shahi Imam, Jama Masjid, Delhi, "In the face of our strength (might), Hindus are not able to build even a single Ram-temple in their own country. Do Hindus have the spunk to even stall the construction of a Mosque in Saudi-Arabia, Pak or any one of the 56 Islamic countries?"

This is not to say that there have not been stray voices that have caused much unnecessary, unpleasantness, such as Sakhshi Maharaj, various Sadhwis etc. etc. They are more akin to be 'loose cannons', in the same garb as Shri Digvijay Singh of the Congress, though not so erudite. Swami Aditya Nath on the other hand is a highly educated individual, with many accomplishments. Unfortunately, his politics and speeches are vituperative.

I wish to say that I have no prejudice or bias in the matter. I have been brought up amidst Muslims and even today, Muslims are some of my oldest and dearest friends. There is a small town in U.P. called Shahjahanpur, very close to one of my homes where I spent considerable time in my youth. Shahjahanpur has always had a large Muslim population and I had occasion to know many of them intimately. I am an alumnus of Aligarh Muslim University where I spent three years. My experiences of Shahjahanpur, coupled with my time at Aligarh, gave me an insight into the life style of the Muslim community. I know and understand their ethos and psyche better than most.

I would be honoured to receive a reply from you should you wish to comment.

Ratanjit Singh

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
COMMENTS (3)
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19 January, 2016. "Reply to Mauls artuip".......Sir, i believe that u have got the import of my article completely wrong. This article is not about a " Hindu's attempt to denigrate the Muslim community." I am not in the least communal or harbour anti - Muslim sentiments. If anything, I am, perhaps, the other way around ! Nor do I subscribe to a cultural collision theory. I have no agenda, least of all to advocate religious and cultural supremacy of the HINDUS, as against the religous and cultural ethos of the Muslim commmunity. What I have written concerns the philosphy of the Indian National Congress which governed India from its inception for 3 decades and its policies of  "appeasement" of the minority community and governance by the principle of "divide and rule", only for electoral gains !! India was a fledgling nation. Two distinct ethnic and religious communities, undoubtedly with a shared cultural history of a1000 yrs, who had only recently survived a fratricidal war, were desperately attempting to co-exist with one another, as citizens of  one nation. The job, rather duty, of a responsible government was to ensure amity amongst ìts citizens (Hindus and Muslims) by being just and completely secular in its approach to any or all religious groupings, to promote between them a fraternity to co-exist with each other harmoniously,  United and integral, as one nation, particularly in view of their pluralist cultural ethos. Successive Congressments  did exactly the Opposite, by treating the Muslims as a vote-bank by offering them favour ...Security (from the  Hindus ? If so, a divìde was created between the two at the birth of the new India);  Personal law, (rather than a uniform civil code which would have made all citizens equal in law) and a " Haj subsidy" ( no Hindu has ever been given any subsidy to visit any shrine in India) .....( Justice Altamas Kabir, Chief Justice of india stated in open court that as per teachings of the qoraan, the Haj pilgrimage was not a must for every Muslim, but for only those who could afford the expense) .....  in total disregard of the precepts of both, secularism and the Constitution of India. . Indira Gandhi as Prime Minister allowing hundreds of thousands Bangladeshi refugees to settle in Assam and Rajiv Gandhi giving in to the hard core Muslim clerics in the shahbano case was, again to ensure a  vote bank,  in total detriment of national interest. I have also quoted two members of parliament and some prominent clerics of the Muslim community who do not believe in the Indian Constitution, nor have faith in secularism, or in the pluralist nature of Iñdian society. Their sayings are vituperative, as are the speeches of Yogi Adityanath and Sakshi Maharaj and others like them. Sir, I am a great votary of a vibrant, pluralist INDIAN NATION....one nation where we all would stand together, shoulder to shoulder, in unity and with integrity !
Shamimuzzaman
Kanwar Ratanjit Singh's 'critique' is highly contagious and in bad taste. It is strange that his stay at the Aligarh Muslim University campus could not do any good to transform him into a healthy minded, cultured pluralist while even communal Muslims too are made humane and accommodating by its all pluralist and rationality brewing intellectual environs. Anyway, one would find it satisfactory to note that Mr. Singh at least finds it worth mentioning that he had been educated at AMU. Mr. Singh's ill founded dogmas and misconceptions about Indian Muslims clearly reflect his inimical notions about the community's history, that are based on anti-Muslim sentiments purely on cultural collision theory. A fanatic approach to push religious and cultural supremacy is evident in his statements thus making a point for so called Hindu nationalists who take pride in painting things in a single saffron colour. He has developed his thought on unfounded history mischiefs about alleged Muslim atrocities without providing any empirical sustenance to his arguments, which makes one believe that he is sick at the core of his mind and needs to be counselled by some psychiatrist. Had Muslim rulers been that savage as alleged by Mr. Singh, I do not think there would have been anybody left with any other religion or belief as about a thousand years' time is enough to annihilate any diverse thought or belief. This has been proved by Hitler, Slobodan Milosevic, the 2002 Gujarat Government and recently the Myanmar's Ashin Wirathu, who went to any extent to eliminate completely their target communities without even paying any heed to international outcry. Can you give any reason to such savagery, Mr. Singh? Well, it is in vain to argue with you as your heart has turned into a stone and your mind nothing but a poison ground ought to cultivate hatred and discontent amongst communities. Your views are part of a larger design which an ordinary citizen cannot even understand. I am sorry to say but every one of us will have to go our own Swarg or Nark way.....let it be yours too......Phool Ki Patti Se Kat Sakta Hai Sone Ka Jigar Mard-e-Nadan Par Kalaam-e-Narm-o-Nazuk Be Asar
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