Any cowardly, armed or mobbed attack on unarmed people must be condemned in no uncertain terms. We, who came out in “Not in my name” protest at Jantar-Mantar against Gorakshak mob lynching, also came out to protest against the ghastly act of attack on Amarnath pilgrims. But why the Salim Sheikh, is, instead of being praised for his presence of mind; as a sensitive human; as a smart, intelligent driver, is being appreciated with over emphasis of his being Muslim, which had no role in his heroic role of driving through the rain of bullets.
Sometimes one really wonders over the superiority of the virtues of civility over our ancestral primitivity? There are many intrigues that allude its connections with upcoming Gujarat elections, on the patterns of Godhra on the of 2002 elections, but that is matter of separate discussion. Emphasis on Salim’s religious identity acquired from the society independent of his conscious will, has serious inadvertent ideological implications. This amounts to say that despite being ‘Muslim’, he saved ‘Hindus’.
Around 30-35 years ago I came across a history text book for school students that introduces Akbar as a noble ruler despite being a Muslim. It reminds me of a partition story (probably Saxena Sahab) of Manto, read long back. “Some people are boasting that one lakh Hindus have been slaughtered, Hindu religion is ruined, other are boasting that 1 lakh Muslims have been butchered, Islam has been destroyed. No one is saying that 2 lakh humans have been killed.” Such discourses inadvertently or intentionally strengthen the ideology of communalism. Communalism is not an attribute of biology but an ideology, which is created and recreated in our everyday life experiences and discourses, like this. On any issue related to Islam or Muslims, there is war cry calling ‘Muslim’ intellectuals to take a stand, as if ‘Muslim’ is a category of intellectualism. Despite Irfan Habib’s loud declaration of his atheism, many people refer to him not as a historian but a Muslim historian. And the specificity of the ideology is that it not only affects the perpetrator, but victim also.
Ish Mishra, Associate Professor, Dept. of Political Science, Hindu College, University of Delhi