Lateef baat bhi ahbab ko khatakti hai/ Na Jaane kaun sa kaanta meri zabaan mein hai ( Even a subtle expression disturbs my comrades/ I wonder what thorn I have in my tongue) is how the latest row between Azam Khan , Samajwadi Party MP from Rampur, UP, and Rama Devi, Deputy Speaker in Lok Sabha can be summarised. Rama Devi is BJP MP from Seohar, Bihar.
When SP government was sworn in 2012 in UP (March 15), only a month later in April, I was with Azam Khan, at his 34-B accommodation, Darul Shifa, Lucknow, and was flabbergasted to find Azam Khan mulling to resign from ministry. He asked me to intimate my media friends too, the reason was an incendiary report on ETV UP in which he was castigated like anything. I instead called Jagdish Qatil, who had channel’s franchise, it was almost midnight, Qatil wanted to apologise but Azam Khan did not speak to him. Later a phone call, perhaps from CM Akhilesh Yadav came and the matter ended. It later came out that Shivpal Yadav was behind the report, as a very strong lobby inside SP always wanted to cut Azam Khan to size. In the wake of results of 2012 UP elections, the outgoing CM Mayawati had said that 70% Muslims voted for SP. Azam Khan, who was one of the founders of SP was expelled from SP before 2009 general elections, as SP had aligned with Kalyan Singh, a convict in Babri Masjid demolition case, and all the 14 Muslim candidates of SP in 2009 lost. Azam Khan was re-inducted into SP, on the eve of UP 2012 assembly elections and SP strode to power. No wonder he is the most potent Muslim voice in whole of north India.
Azam Khan is a nine time MLA, Ex. MP Rajya Sabha and is now in Lok Sabha, and the last three decades, since he stepped into politics, he has refused to become the traditional ‘show-boy’ of Muslim politics, and therefore, has been a thorn in communalist’s eyes. Who can forget the slogans ‘Jo Azam Ka Sar Layega/ Woh Ram Bhakt Kahlai ga’ (The one who brings the scalp of Azam will be called a Ram Bhakt), who can deny the murderous assault on him, as he sat with 110 SP MLAs in 2002, right outside UP Governor House along with Mulayam Singh staking claim to form the government, and was fired-upon in which another MLA Manzoor Ahmed died. I was a part of that protest. Azam Khan was Leader of Opposition in 2002-03 and pivoted against BSP-BJP government, took CM Mayawati by the storm as she did not issue a fresh notification to nail LK Advani in the Babri Masjid demolition case. NDA was at Center then.
Who can rebuff the acrimonious relationship which UP Governors TV Rajeshwar , BL Joshi and Ram Naik had with him. Despite repeated representations, the Governors did not find obliged to clear the Jauhar University Bill, which had to be amended, until Governor Aziz Qureshi gave accent to it. The face-off between Azam Khan and Ram Naik had become so intense that he sought time from President Pranab Mukherjee, to submit a memorandum against Naik. Mukherjee had given him a five-minute time but the meeting lasted for 30 minutes. “Welcome Mr Khan the great leader of Indian Muslims,” is how the President received him.
Now Azam Khan is yet again in a sea of storm, he has been slapped with more than three-dozen FIRs since the elections 2019 were declared. Since Modi accession to power in 2014, and more after SP ouster in 2017, Azam Khan is the lone MLA who has been routinely hounded by Rampur administration as a daily recipe. Hook Line and Sinker. “ Hum apni har barbadi ke liyein taiyyar hai,” ( I am ready for my every misfortune) he had said right after the raids, from a little known face, from Central Waqf Council and India TV ran special a programme highlighting on how Azam Khan had usurped Waqf lands. Everything was stage managed. That was very immediately in the aftermath of the change of guard in UP.
Before I venture into the latest turn of events I state a historical cue. “In exchange of a kiss of a mole on my beloved face I would give Samarkand and Bukhara,” said Hafiz Sheerazi and was called by Amir Taimur as it was he who had fought wars to win them over and Hafiz was giving them just in exchange of a mere kiss, to which Hafiz in Taimur’s court said that had he been Amir Taimur he might never have conceived such an idea. Amir Taimur smiled and Hafiz came our unscathed. But, for BJP humour is an outclass and it clearly missed the wood for the forest.
What Azam Khan ended up saying (July 26) to 70 years old Rama Devi turned out to be a spoilsport. While addressing on Triple Talaq Bill, which is slated to bring monstrous results to Muslim men and women, while he wanted Mukhtar Abbas to listen and looked at BJP benches, Rama Devi asked him to look at her seat and not to the other side, she expressed it by moving both her hands, her laughter can also be heard, Ravi Shanker , who has brought the controversial bill also nodded smilingly, then she specifically pointed towards herself for Azam Khan to address, everything until then was very light, and Azam Khan in his humorous way, said that he would look at her so much that she would ask him to remove his gaze, to which she said it was not the question of removing the gaze(for a fraction of a second in-between she looked towards BJP benches, read Ravi Shanker) , which prompted Azam Khan to say that he likes her that very much (ach_chi and pyari) that his heart wishes to keep on looking into her eyes, Rama Devi said she is his younger sister, and signaled it alright, Azam Khan said he would never remove his gaze from her, for her being straddled on such an exalted seat. By then noises had started coming from BJP benches and Rama Devi said it was no way to speak and ordered everything at be erased from record, Azam Khan said she is Honorable and is his sister. Until that time Ravi Shanker had developed a lump on his face, all this while SP President Akhilesh Yadav laughed and wanted Azam Khan to continue. Ravi Shanker stood and wanted Azam Khan for apologise for his sacrilege against women and Ram Devi. From humour it turned into a bickering and Rama Devi, joined chorus to ask Azam Khan to apologise as brother, Azam Khan nodded in disapproval and Om Birla Speaker thereafter took to seat. Ironically, only a bit earlier it was Mukhtar Abbas who could barely stutter, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, from his written homily. Azam Khan left parliament in a huff. What came out surprising was to how he could still maintain his calm in the wake of onslaughts of Triple Talaq Bill while Ravi Shanker lost his demeanor.
The media house went into a spree, Azam Khan was branded a misogynist for his sexist remarks. Smriti Irani drubbed him. Rita Bahuguna stood behind Irani. I wondered Bahuguna as to how she so easily forgot the honour and respect Azam Khan always gave her in UP Assembly. Azam Khan was lampooned from all directions. Come July 29, and as Lok Sabha started, Azam Khan stood, with Akhilesh to his right, and expressed Chamma (sorry) twice, and said, that he could never have an ill-feeling and would never have it too, for the Chair, as he has been twice parliamentary affairs minister, but despite that if Chair has found that his feeling was wrong, which is never possible for him for he called her his sister too, he stands sorry, to which Rama Devi answered that Azam is a habituated offender (of making remarks) and should be made to improve. Om Birla, observed that MPs should always address looking at the Chair and the sanctity of parliament should be maintained. The story ended.
Now, to paraphrase Azam Khan. He is Sir Syed Ahmed-The Second. The last hundred years of Muslims in India is a story of fire and fury. Muslim armymen sacrificed their lives at the altar of British India, Narendra Modi too had to pay obeisance to Muslim martyrs, for their liberating Haifa from Ottomans in World War-I, and since partition they have been subjected to the burning-furnace of institutional riots, whether it was under the paragon of secularism Nehru or VP Singh, what to refer to Muslim cleansing under Gujarat CM Narendra Modi in 2002. Decade after decade this story of extracting the price from Muslims, for what Muslim rule over India did for seven centuries, is a perpetuating phenomenon, and with the advent of Modi 2.0, every Muslim stands vulnerable to Hindutva killers masquerading on streets, not a single mosque/madrassa is now safe . Lacs of Muslims had cancelled their train reservations, in 2014, on the occasion of Eid. Thousands have been kept into jails, under the most inhumane and draconian laws, thousands have been killed in riots, now modern day New India feasts on Muslim lynching-the new normal.
Azam Khan, in today’s darkened times comes as a glimmer of hope. He is a paragon for the parched throats. His credibility is just second to none. Never he would sing to the tune of masters, a distinction which outshines Maulana Azad too and during all these years has carved a special niche to be a founder of his dream project Muhammad Ali Jauhar University at Rampur. Muslims could not muster for a second university after AMU in the last one century.
Azam Khan begged his friends and comrades and said he was even ready to polish shoes to mobilise funds for university, went abroad and brought donations to help make university become a reality. In making of this university he literally exhausted himself to the hilt, braved the sun, carried its bricks and served it with his sweat and blood. This university is the eyesore of communal Hindus. Why are people, both enemies and frenemies against it? Will not Azam leave it to the service of community and future generations of Muslims and Indians alike will benefit from it? To also mention Azam Khan is building one of the grandest mosque inside university campus from the past at least 25 years. He yearns to make it to the top-ten mosques in the world.
Azam Khan is a gifted speaker, his command on Urdu and Hindi is alike, his speeches are the proverbial ‘flies like a butterfly- stings like a bee’ and accordingly he gets banned from campaigning every elections. What wrong he could commit if he had lauded the sacrifices of Muslim martyrs into winning the Kargil War (in 2014)? Why a reference over Muslims in an anathema in India? What folly did he make if he had used a political phrase ( khaki underwear) for his opponent in 2019, if not for the liking of saffronites ? Why would anyone feel belittled if he had reciprocated love for hate spitting Sadhvi Prachi ? The answer lies in the fact to which he had once referred that the one who feeds on her own children is a vampire and cannot be a mother, and everyone construed he had called it for Bharat Mata.
Meanwhile in this melee, UP ATS Jhansi (July 22) has caught Charan Singh, Deen Bandhu, Pushpender and Sitaram Pal with 1000 detonators and 5000 Gelatin rods. Police has watered down the event saying it might be for the use in illegal mining. Are these four accused, to be charged under the new Amit Shah guidelines of UAPA, did parliament or even our prime time channels find it appropriate to ponder? And what if Muslims were these accused.
The writer is a lawyer, journalist and former UP State Information Commissioner.