Being The Other: The Muslim in India: A Book of Parallel Story

being other Saeed Naqvi is among the top most authorities of hard core journalism who has been a witness, reporter, writer and editor of the most seminal political events in the post-partition erain India, closely watched the rise and rise of dynastic centered party focused communally charged politics throughout the country that have direct bearings on the Indian Muslims from the day one. He is also a famous tv commentator, interviewed important political figures and continues to write columns which mainly focus the underprivileged, the parallel history,for different prestigious newspapers. He has authored three books and Being The Other: The Muslim in India is his latest and most remarkable book written with an enviable riveting style. The book is partly his personal memoir and a hard-earned set of exploration of the deliberate structural discriminations and continued institutional ‘Othering’ processes against a strong 180 million Indian Muslim community despite being entitled with all fundamental rights and other constitutional guarantees as the equal citizens of India. It investigates the modern day divisions between Hindu and Muslims, first fomented and utilized by the British to enhance their colonial Raj. Then the successive leader even like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Valabahi Patel and Lord Mountbatten used and accentuated this communal division to see their political ambitions fulfilled and get the power transfer smoothly within the parameters set by the rising Hindu nation. In a calculated move, the independence of India was wrapped in the package of bogus secularism and soft saffron to legalize Hyderabad and Junagadh annexations; save Kashmir from going to Pakistan come what may. A strong sense of betrayal is prevailing throughout the book unmasking once the champions of coexistence of all faiths. Even that tall Nehru himself was the man overseeing and directing the affairs to get rid of Muslim and their political bargains once for all resulting a bloody partition as one of the foundational mistakes which will haunt the sub-continent in the remote future as well given non solution ofcore problems like Kashmir.

The book begins with a stunning context the author has been grown in like an ordinary citizen without having any identity labels attached. He happens to be the product of once the great Indian traditions like Ganga Jumani Tehzeeb, the rich tapestry composed of centuries over harmonious existence and rich cultural intermixing among principle faiths and the mutually shared politics in the deep down homes of Awad. The first two chapters also peek into the historical times of Wajid Ali Shah, the last ruler of Awad, offer graphic details about the first national uprising (1957 Mutiny) against the British rule. Subsequently, deconstructing the popular history with a strong analysis that how an easily avoidable partition, one sided land reforms, desperation on the part of the leaders to climb power corridors and their rate race to secure Hindu vote bank with reference points to heart wrenching communal riots, well planned demolition of the Babri Masjid coupled with other anti-Muslim positions and tirades ruined all enviable cultural ethos of India forever.

The Partition of the subcontinent,the gift Congress gave to the Hindu Right, as the book reveals, proved a perfect beginning to have a Hindu Rashtra. In this very direction, the Muslims who stay put in India have been made to suffer identity crisis and their very survival questioned from the day one. They were always treated differently, the govt. institutions would work progressively against them decade after decade. Reduced completely to “Other” with a centuries over “uninstitutionalized apartheid” attached, the very Muslimness of this gigantic minority is being flogged as “Other”, “anti-national”, terror sympathizers, backward, Jihadis etc. “I do not know when it happened but gradually over the years people around me began to identify me as Muslim. This was new, a process which placed me with the ‘other’,” Naqvi writes. These “distances of the mind (are) more durable than the communal clashes” which is dangerously being utilized by the Hindustan brigade to rise and dictate the terms of the “New India”.  The very role of top leaders has come under severe deconstruction in the book. Muslims who believed them, proved mistaken. MoulanaAbulKalam Azad although was a great admirer of Gandhi and Nehru; believed in Nehru’s phoney secularism, was ultimately backstabbed by both them. At one time, Gandhi writes to Nehru: “There are many positions he(A K Azad) can occupy in public life without any harm to any cause(Hindu Cause!). Sardar (Vallabhai) is decidedly against his membership in cabinet and so is Rajkumari… It should not be difficult to name any other Muslim…” The author adds: “Gandhiji is quite clear. All that Nehru needs to keep up the secular pretense is to have a token Muslim in the Cabinet. How different is this tokenism from the one in vogue all the years since 1947?”  The power struggle between Congress and BJP and subsequent rivalry within other Hindu groups and castes has thrown up new dangerous challenge: target the Muslim as the other to affect greater Hindu consolidation. That exactly what the BJP, RSS and associates have been doing aggressively these years.

The middle portion of the book focuses on the communally charged events which shaped the share and size of the contemporary Indian (largely Hindutva) politics. Large scale anti-Muslim riots, the planning and demolition of the Babri Masjid, Gujarat and Muzaffarnagar riots etc. were in fact directed to disempower Muslims further, reduce them as second class citizens and keep them on the mercy of majoritarian political parties.

The making of Kashmir Problem, one of most important chaptersin the book, is in fact Naqvi’s greatest effort towards the forbidden Kashmir conflict narrative when none is ready to accept Kashmir even a dispute, the lingering and festering conflict which consumes human lives on daily basis. Ian Stephen, editor of The Staesman from 1942 to 51 is the first hand witness to the events engulfing the partition the author has very much banked upon. A brilliant attempt to explore the deliberately created Kashmir problem on the part of Nehru, Mountbatten and Mahraja of the Kashmir to settle their personal scores against the unwonted Muslims; later on against Jinnah and the associates. Lord Mountbatten, the last Vice Roy of the British India, for example, had agreed to stay as Governor General of Independent India out of Nehru’s persuasions who wanted to have some “favours” in sensitive matters like Kashmir. What about the Governor Generalship of Pakistan? Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s rebuttal that “why should the representative of a departing power stay on in a supervisory position in both India and Pakistan? This, as I’ve pointed out earlier, peeved Mountbatten.” His pride hurt resulting disastrous consequences to the whole subcontinent in following years as the misadventures of India in Kashmir were overlooked and hoodwinked by the responsible. The chapter has details about Gandhi’s critical visit to Srinagar , Sheikh Abdullah’s role. The closed doorschemes as directed by Nehru with the help of “Hinduised” Mountbatten at that crucial times have been given a great space. Similarly, the forgottenMuslim massacre in the Jammu around the partition region as witnessed subsequently confirmed by Ved Basin, founding editor of Kashmir Times, is also discussed. Given the intricacy multiplied over decades, the author laments “it will be very difficult to find a happy ending to the tragedy of Kashmir.”  The deadly triangle trap composing of New Delhi-Srinagar, India-Pakistan and Hindu-Muslim will not be easy to bypass in this direction.

The external affairs do play a role to enhance and polarize this Hindu Muslim divide further. America’s so called War on Terror has been perfectly utilized to terrorize the Muslim community within the country. To stereotype the situation, the Indian media outlets which don’t dare to cover the international events themselves, take the feed from CNN Reuters BBC without any filter. “The attitude seems to be-you shape the world, we will mark time with caste, cricket and shallow TV debates.” the author laments.

Concluding the book with a powerful epilogue, Naqvi summarizes this slow but factual “Othering” process. “Never before have we had it so bad­­, not a day passes without someone questioning the legitimacy of the Indian Muslim, a call for us to be ‘super patriots’, to prove our patriotism.”  The powerful inter religious and caste networks has been made a promising way forward for the Hindu community, whereas the Muslim is still influenced by clerical leadership which strikes personal bargains with political parties keeping the community mired in poverty and backwardness. The author raises questions as to “why have our politicians, power-brokers, ordinary citizens failed to reach out, to bridge the divide between Hindus and Muslims.” One learns that an acute helplessness is prevalent on the ground zero and “only rarely did the political and personal will of our tallest leaders rise above electoral and sectarian considerations.” The book alarms us all: “When the reader has finished reading the book, I hope he or she will have gained a measure of understanding of what is being lost to communalism. Muslims are not the only ones who will lose, every Indian will.”

Being the Other is the direct result of the author’s growing disillusionment about the loss of every shade of co-existence and the occupation of traditional spaces of free discourses gradually replaced by the capitalism driven communal bias in India. This is the beginning of the story, a parallel but hitherto untold history that every Muslim in India will find their reflections in. At the times when a Muslim Salman Khan is jailed for allegedly killing an animal 20 years ago contradicting the popular support to and freedom of the murderers of Muhammad Akhlaq, Arazul with flaring up of anti-Muslim riots in the run up to next general elections, the Muslim community must have to reboot their socio-economic and political strategies and come standing to shape their collective identity now or never. The book very much confirms the apprehensionsKashmiris are fighting against all these decades. The loss of young blood is dangerously rising due to complete betrayals at almost all levels over years. It is literary a Police State now, the army has been fully authorized to meet any challenge at their own. So, before selling the idea of India in Kashmir, the history and policies of the successive regimes at New Delhi regardless of the intensity of saffron color of their sleeves, must be given a thought at least.

Mohammad Yousuf Najar
Budgam, Kashmir
email: [email protected]


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