The Question Of Indian-ness In Dark Times

In a letter to late Kamleshwar, once late Rahi MasoomRaza had sought a reply from him asking that, “YaarKamleshwar ye mausambadalkyonahiirahahai!”This impression seems true for present situations. When the echo of slogan schanted against muslimsat the time of partition, long erased from the public memory have not only been resurrected but has become more emboldened and shrill, the dehumanization of muslim community has touched a new low; one cannot but be reminded of the trauma and collective sufferings during the partition.. To be a silent witness and keeping oneself aloofcan be criminal.Perhaps, we are living through one of the most difficult times in the history of our nation, with very little gleam of hope in such dark times. In this extreme depressing and disappointing time one is compelled to remember one of the finest contemporary writers and a master narrator- Rahi Masoom Raza.

rahi-masoom-razaThe pertinent questions which Rahi Saheb raised decades ago still haunt us in the present, as many of the questions he asked remain unanswered. The perfect tribute to his rich legacy will be upholding and standing true to the vision of society he had.  His soul will only rest in peace, till we are able to walk the path he had shown to us and achieve what he wanted from all of us. His extraordinary conviction to the humane ideas remain human in inhuman conditions and stay together despite all socio-cultural and religious diversities, stood completely apart from the times he lived in. He dreamt of a society which ensures every individual a life of dignity and where social justice shines supreme.

He has deliberated upon socio-political realities of everyday and presented a historical narrative of “chosen trauma” and “chosen glory” in books such as Oaskiboond, NeemkaPed, Katra beeAarzooetc.

Rahi Saheb primarily focuses on everydayness, about common history and shared legacy of people living to this corner of the planet. He also proposed how and why we have come to this level of wide rift between the two communities. This is the idea which Levi Strauss presents when he argues about ‘cultural dialogues of different communities that, each culture, by definition, is incomplete but the very incompletion of cultures makes humanity complete’.

One of his celebrated novels is Aadha Gaaon. The story deals with the life at Gangauli. Its characters are villagers yet it is a masterpiece literary work on the partition of India. The novel is a social and cultural account of an undivided nation.

It seemed that partition of India was the final destiny of Indian muslims. So the case is here: while a few moved to Pakistan, more chose to stay back in India. Both the Muhajirs and Indian muslims paid a heavy price in return. The traumatic experiences of partition had astounding impacts on all of us. Can we afford one more human displacement? Certainly not!For Funnan Mia, Pakistan was a nightmare but the only place which he wants to be buried is none other than Gangauli. The tragedy with Topi Sukla is that he was neither accepted by his ‘community’ nor by ‘others’ which resulted into his suicide at onejuncture point of his life. Responding to the plight of TopiShukla, Rahi Saheb conveyed a fundamental belief in the idea of human life and that suicide is a blot on the forehead of any nation or civilization. WazirHasan was killed by Hindus while protecting a temple to be demolished. How many of us dare to play such roles in our daily social engagements? Perhaps such people can be counted on fingers. The people like WazirHasan needs to be kept alive in public memory. The rediscovery of WazirHasan is a compelling need of the dark times we are living in..

In TopiShukla, one of his most compelling commentaries of contemporary times, he narrates about communal clash and subsequent bloodshed stretched over many neighbouring villages. All over the place there dead bodies could be seen; for him these bodies were dead bodies of Indians. In this form these bodies were beyond the categorization of hindus and muslims. In other words he meant that these dead bodies symbolized death of humanity, secularism and tolerance. Riots are bi-product of the brazen conspiracy of rouge politicians. And are we all blissfully unaware of the relations between communal clash and election notification?

The irony is complete.The communal division of the country, from the times of partition seem to be approaching full circle. While the Muhajirs on the other side of the border present day Pakistan, are least welcome. What we are witnessing on this side of the border is that desperate hurries to send off the remaining Muslims to that side and meet the fate of their Muhajir fellows. Someone from us must remind ourselves of Rahi Saheb in such dark times.The iron confidence,with which he said no to Jan Sangh,is worth mentioning here. But the Indian muslims is fast losing that small space of asserting their voices and their rights to be equal citizens in the present day India.The present ruling regime is not only committed to expel muslims from their own land but wants a history re-written without them. Dehumanization does not require official consent; it gradually creeps in with an unofficial manner but accepted widely as a universal truth after one point of time. He was fortunate enough to put critique on social situations sitting somewhere in the corner of his home and could say that with conviction till he breathed his last. But the present regime, riding upon false consensus and shoddy discoursethis regime does not even allow a note of dissent.Any act of resistance is discouraged.

We are left at the mercy of political establishment. Each sphere of life is occupied by them, journalism has become a futile exercise of sensational news notifications; TV debates shout out for TRP; social media is destinedto be the dustbin of boredom. The art of articulation through fiction has been overruled. Rahi Saheb is an abandoned idea in the age of ChetanBhagat. As a result we have become utter hostile for any kind of dissenting muse.

The pedagogy which Rahi Saheb had offered to the society has been rejected out rightly by us, as a nation. We are collectively responsible for the end result of an unjust society which does not even bother to understand its cultural heritage and a common history of thousand years. His deep understanding of cultural diversity and majority-minority relationship has lost its place. With this we have also lost Funnan Mia, TopiShukla and WazirHasan who had enlivened our old idea of India. They are the true exemplars of Indian-ness. Beyond political rhetoric and hypocrisy, they present a face of humanity and tolerance immersed in their soil and homeland.Aren’t we shying away from such collective vocabularies and losing sight of and command over the tales of extraordinary courage, so beautifully brought to life by the late Rahi Saheb. .

In the context of the dark times we are going through, one should not forget to remember Rahi Saheb’s staunch assertion:

“The Jan Sangh says that Muslims are outsiders. How can I presume they’re lying? But I must say that I belong to Ghazipur. My bonds with Gangauli are unbreakable. It’s not just a village, it’s my home. Home!! This word exists in every language and dialect in this world, and is the most beautiful word in every language and dialect. And that is why I repeat my statement- because Gangauli’s not just a village; it’s my home as well. ‘Because’ – what a strong word this is.And there are thousands of ‘becauses’ like it and no sword is sharp enough to cut this ‘because’. And as long as this ‘because’is alive, I will remain SaiyidMasoom Reza Abidi of Ghazipur, wherever my grandfather hailed from. And I give no one the right to say to me, ‘Rahi! You don’t belong to Gangauli, and so get out and go, say, to Rae Bareli.’ Why should I go, Sahib? I will not go.”

The Indians of all hue today need to reaffirm this proclamation of Rahi Saheb, India is not merely a piece of land, it is home to a large number of muslims. They are not going to go anywhere but will lead a life of dignity and respect in this very country, BECAUSE IT IS THEIR HOME.

Abu Osama, currently teaching Social Work as Assistant Professor at Social Work Department, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad.


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