India and the Arab world Protests, Will it Lead To Something New?

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EDITORIAL: By Saeed Naqvi, Copy Edited by Adam Rizvi, TIO: Will Protests In the Arab World And India Lead To Something New?

“Ba Khuda deewana bash-o

Ba Mohammad Hoshiyar”

In plain language, take liberties with God but be careful with Mohammad.

When Chandrabhan Brahmin, Dara Shikoh’s Prime Minister, crossed the red line, the intention was not to insult the prophet or hurt believers. He wrote:

“Punja dar panjay e Khuda daram

Manche parwaaye Mustafa daram”

(My hand is in the hand of God;

Why should I worry about Mohammad?)

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This is more in the nature of literary conceit – a tease, a naughty expression designed not to offend but to amuse. Moreover, it is meant for a small intimate company, leaving no room for misunderstanding. Chandrabhan Brahmin’s verses were, in fact, cited as evidence of Dara Shikoh’s liberal court, which, incidentally, showed how intellectually indebted Dara was to his great grandfather, Akbar.

It reflected on the widespread popularity of Akbar that the revolt by Sheikh Sirhindi against The Emperor’s experiment with eclecticism in the form of Deen-e-Ilahi or the Religion of God, was no more than pinpricks. If Sirhindi were a larger-than-life threat, it would not have been possible for Jehangir to have him confined to jail in Gwalior.

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The security of the Empire is reflected in Dara’s audacious cultural experiment. He opened the way to Indology in Europe by having the Upanishads translated into Persian. His Majma-ul-Bahrain or the Confluence of the Oceans was an epoch-making effort at trying to find common ground between Sufism and Vedantic Speculation.

The clergy must have been hopping mad at such excesses. Aurangzeb’s 49-year rule was wobbly in the sense that he spent considerable time in the Deccan campaigns. The clergy wasted no time in climbing ladders around him. The Gyanvapi mosque on the site of an old Shiva temple is more a function of Aurangzeb’s weakness than his assertiveness. It brought cheer to the clergy burdened by the memory of the Dara years.

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The promise of the great civilizational compact Akbar and Dara had given notice of survived the Aurangzeb years. There was a burst of it in Mohammad Shah Rangeela’s court in Delhi, in Wajid Ali Shah’s court in Lucknow until the last Moghul Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar was dispatched to Yangon by the British where he died in the garage of John Davis, a junior officer.

This very amateurish incursion into history on my part has picked up in frequency since May 2014 when Prime Minister, Narendra Modi made his very first speech in Parliament.

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“Hamein 1,200 saal ki ghulami se nikalna hai.” What Modi meant was that we have to come out of 1,200 years of subjugation. Most of us had parroted since 1947, that all Indians together had gotten rid of 200 years of British rule. Modi’s statement makes that stand on its head.

Over the years, one has gotten used to the Muslim period, indeed the Muslim being underplayed. Take, for instance, UNESCO’s project for elevating Delhi into a heritage city. This story goes back a decade, way before the appearance of Narendra Modi. For years notes went up and down on the subject. An initial stumbling block was that all the seven cities of Delhi but one happen to be Muslim. The seventh is Lutyen’s Delhi. They all fall well within the period which Modi considers years of “ghulami” but I am mixing `up eras. The UNESCO story belongs to the Congress era.

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Ultimately, after years of bargaining, the choice was narrowed down to two – Lutyens Delhi and Shahjehanbad or old Delhi.

Dossiers were exchanged between UNESCO, archaeological survey, and the Delhi Heritage society. But on the appointed day when the agreement with UNESCO was to be signed a mysterious hand swooped the documents away even as the assembled officials watched.

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Enlightenment came through the agency of a group of retired judges and their families on a guided tour of Akshardham temple on the Jamuna. The guide may have exceeded his brief but he informed the stunned group that the history of Delhi starts with the Akshardham temple.

The protests in Arab capitals against remarks on Prophet Mohammed made by BJP spokesperson, Nupur Sharma, and Navin Jindal represent spontaneous anger, or do they also denote new affiliations in the region. Earlier, the US would have been in the loop at the very outset and played favorites. India’s independent vote at the UN on Ukraine has freed both Washington and New Delhi. They can now play situations according to their own lights.

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Internally a stifled Muslim community has found in the protests an opportunity to vent their anger.

Is New Delhi on notice that its anti-minority excesses will from now onwards be under scrutiny in the Arab world? I doubt if recent events indicate an irreversible transformation. Once the dust settles on the current protest, I expect it will be business as usual with the Arab world.

For New Delhi, it is a wonderful opportunity. It must dismount the tiger – of communalism. This policy will give negative results henceforth because:

(a) In my recent travels within India, I don’t see much traction for high voltage communalism outside the Hindi belt.

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(b) The BJP is already in a position to whistle, throw up its cap and celebrate its status as a Muslim-mukt party. Out of 301 seats in Parliament, soon there will not be one Muslim in this galaxy. If Hindu consolidation was required to consolidate BJP votes for Parliamentary elections that have been achieved. This percentage in the assemblies is unachievable.

(c) Beef, halal meat, hijab, love jihad, namaz in the open, mosques as stone-pelting stations on Hindu processions – all these and more have been tried to keep the communal temperature on a simmer.

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In any case, these tricks, by themselves do not galvanize the nation. All of these are tied to nationalism. This entails Kashmir always on a boil and Pakistan on a permanent enemy list. Has the RSS and the BJP plugged their ears so firmly that Atal Behari Vajpayee’s whisper does not reach them? “We cannot change our neighbors.”

Also, Read more from this Author: Putin’s Adviser: Sanctions Hitting Europe More Because US Wants It Weakened

Curated and Compiled by Humra Kidwai

Saeed Naqvi

Saeed Naqvi

Saeed Naqvi is a senior Indian journalist, television commentator, interviewer. He has interviewed world leaders and personalities in India and abroad, which appear in newspapers, magazines and on national television, remained editor of the World Report, a syndication service on foreign affairs, and has written for several publications, both global and Indian, including the BBC News, The Sunday Observer, The Sunday Times, The Guardian, Washington Post, The Indian Express, The Citizen and Outlook magazine. At the Indian Express, he started in 1977 as a Special Correspondent and eventually becoming, editor, Indian Express, Madras, (1979–1984), and Foreign Editor, The Indian Express, Delhi in 1984, and continues to writes columns and features for the paper.

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