‘Go to Pakistan’ has probably been most often used phrase used against Muslims in India. Recently in yet another such incident the SP of Meerut, UP has been in the news and a video is circulating where he, Akhilesh Narayan Singh, is allegedly using the jibe ‘Go to Pakistan’. In the video he is seen shouting at protestors at Lisari Gate area in Meerut, “The ones (protestors) wearing those black or yellow armbands, tell them to go to Pakistan”. His seniors stood by him calling it ‘natural reaction to shouting of pro Pakistan slogans. Many BJP leaders like Uma Bhararti also defended the officer. Breaking ranks with fellow politicians, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi of BJP, criticised the said officer and asked for suitable action against him. Interestingly this is same Naqvi, who earlier when the beef related arguments were going on; had stated that those who want to eat beef can go to Pakistan.
Interestingly this is probably the first time that any BJP leader has opposed the use of this jibe against the Indian Muslims. True to the dominance of trolls who support divisive politics, Naqvi has been trolled on the issue. As such vibe ‘Go to Pakistan’ has been a strong tool in the hands of aggressive elements to demonise Muslims in general and to humiliate those with Muslim names. One recalls that when due to the rising intolerance in the society many eminent writers, film makers were returning their awards, Aamir Khan said that his wife Kiran Rao is worried about their son. Immediately BJP worthies like Giriraj Singh pounced on him that he can go to Pakistan.
The strategy of BJP combine has been on one hand to use this ‘go to Pakistan’ to humiliate Muslims on the other from last few years another Pakistan dimension has been added. Those who are critical of the policies of BJP-RSS have on one hand been called as anti National and on the other it is being said that ‘they are speaking the language of Pakistan’.
Use of Pakistan to label the Muslims and dissidents here in India has been a very shrewd tool in the hands of communal forces. One remembers that the ‘cricket nationalism’ was also the one to use it. In case of India-Pakistan cricket match, the national hysteria, which it created, was also aiming at Indian Muslims. What was propagated was that Indian Muslims cheer for Pakistan victory and they root for Pakistan. There was an unfortunate grain of truth in this as a section of disgruntled, alienated Muslim did that. That was not the total picture, as most Indian Muslims were cheering for Indian victory. Many a Muslim cricketers contributed massively to Indian cricket victories. The cricket legends like Nawab Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, Irfan Pathan, and Mohammad Azaruddin are just the few among the long list of those who brought glories for India in the field of cricket.
Even in matters of defence there are legions of Muslims who contributed to Indian efforts in the war against Pakistan all through. Abdul Hamid’s role in 1965 India Pak war and the role of Muslim soldiers in Kargil war will be part of Indian military history. There have been generals in army who contributed in many ways for the role which military has been playing in service of the nation. General Zamiruddin Shah, when asked to handle Gujarat carnage, does recount how despite the lack of support from local administration for some time, eventually the military was able to quell the violence in some ways.
During freedom movement Muslims were as much part of the struggle against British rule as any other community. While the perception has been created that Muslims were demanding Pakistan, the truth is somewhere else. It was only the elite section of Muslims who supported the politics of Muslim League and later the same Muslim League could mobilize some other section and unleash the violence like ‘Direct Action’ in Kolkata, which in a way precipitated the actual process of partition, which was the goal of British and aim of Muslim League apart from this being the outcome of ‘Two Nation theory’.
Not much is popularized about the role of great number of Muslims who were part of National movement, who steadfastly opposed the idea and politics which led to the sad partition of the subcontinent. Few excellent accounts of the role of Muslims in freedom movement like Syed Nasir Ahmad, Ubaidur Rahman, Satish Ganjoo and Shamsul Islam are few of these not too well know books which give the outline of the great Muslim freedom fighters like Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Ansari Brothers, Ashfaqulla Khan.
Immediately after partition tragedy the communal propaganda did the overdrive to blame the whole partition process on Muslim separatism, this totally undermined the fact that how poor Muslims had taken out massive marches to oppose the Lahore Resolution of separate Pakistan moved by Mohammad Ali Jinnah. The whole Muslim community started being seen as the homogenous, ‘The other’ and other misconceptions started against the community, the one’s relating them to atrocities of Muslim kings started being made as the part of popular folklore, leading the Hate against them. This Hate in turn laid the foundation of violence and eventual ghettoisation of this community.
The interactive-syncretism prevalent in India well presented by Gandhi-Nehru was pushed to the margins as those believing in pluralism did not actively engage with the issue. The economic marginalization of this community, coupled with the increasing insecurity in turn led to some of them to identify with Pakistan, and this small section was again presented as the representative of the whole Muslim community.
Today the battle of perception is heavily tilted against the Muslim community. It is a bit of a surprise as Naqvi is differing from his other fellow colleagues to say that the action should be taken against the erring police officer. The hope is that all round efforts are stepped up to combat the perception constructed against this religious minority in India.
Ram Puniyani was a professor in biomedical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, and took voluntary retirement in December 2004 to work full time for communal harmony in India. He is involved with human rights activities from last two decades.He is associated with various secular and democratic initiatives like All India Secular Forum, Center for Study of Society and Secularism and ANHAD. Response only to email@example.com