Saturday, October 12, 2013

From ‘a living faith. My quest for peace, harmony and social change. An autobiography of Asghar Ali Engineer’ by Asghar Ali Engineer

Likhte rahe junoon ki hikayat-i khoonchakaan
har chand is mein haath hamare qalam hue
-          Mirza Ghalib

Endlessly writing passion’s blood-drenched tales
My hands, my self became the instruments of the story’s telling.

Ye charagh jaise lamhein kahin raigaan na jaayein
Koi khwaab dekh dalo, koi inqilab lao
-          Rahi Masooom Raza

May these flame-like moments not go waste
Witness a dream, usher in a revolution!

Investigation of the Bombay Riots
I undertook an investigation of the Bombay riots of 1992-93…… It was simply horrible to visit the sites of rioting and massacre. The general complaint from the people I met was about the role of the police. In some cases it was blatantly partial. It was in the Deonar area that an inspector pulled out some young Muslims from their houses and asked them to run and then shot them dead. He was later suspended though he pretended to be mentally deranged……
In Maharashtra, the police have been highly communalized (with honourable exceptions) thanks to Shiv Sena propaganda. Its mouthpiece Samna (which means confrontation) uses very strong communal and abusive language and most of the lower level policemen read it regularly and are deeply influenced by its communal propaganda …..

In the world, every nation preserves and protects its heritage but in Saudi Arabia what exists is also destroyed for fear that it would be worshipped.Even graves of all except that of the Propht and his three companions, have been destroyed. And as for the Prophet’s grave, no one can kiss it or even pray facing it. When I stood in front of the Prophet’s grave and recited verses from the Qur’an, the police came and caught my neck and turned my face to the other side!
What is more surprising is that while the entire Islamic heritage has been destroyed, just opposite the Prophet’s Mosque a shopping centre has been constructed and ironically it has been named after Abu Dharr, one of the Prophet’s companions who was strongly against accumulation of riches and was an advocate of simple life like that of the Prophet himself. Legend has it that Abu Dharr never shook hands with those who were wealthy. Now, one can also see gold and jewellery shops all around the Prophet’s mosque. Is this not sheer hypocrisy in the name of Islam! One wonders.

If followers of the two different religions speak the same language, differences are bound to get minimized. Darashikoh, Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan’s son, also makes the same point in his book Majma’ul Bahrayn (Comingling of Two Oceans – Islam and Hinduism)

…..there were prominent people from Tehran, including some Ayatollahs …..Another Ayatollah …..said, ‘we do co-exist with other faiths but we cannot accept pluralism as it implies validity of other faiths.’ ….I then said that it is an un-Qur’anic statement that except Islam all other faiths have no validity. The Qur’an clearly says that all Prophets have been sent by Allah and they all bring Truth from Him. How then could we say that other religions are invalid and pluralism is not acceptable? ….the Ayatollah….said that although all Prophets come from Allah, their followers had distorted the original teachings and hence these religions ceased to be the original Message from Allah. To this I retorted that it was not for human beings, but only for Allah to decide what has been distorted and what has not. The Qur’an clearly says that although we may differ, we should not condemn others but only exceed each other in good deeds and leave it to Allah to decide as to who is right and who is wrong.

He also told me that until the Second World War no one in Holland (perhaps also in other European countries) would take bath every day. For months they did not take a bath. It was only after 1945 that the tradition of daily baths started

….there is a saying in Russian that one must have his breakfast to his heart’s content, share the lunch with his friend and give dinner away to his enemy!

……Sarmad who was a contemporary of Aurangzeb …He had supported Dara Shikoh who was inclined towards Sufism, and hence Aurangzeb wanted to kill him. He obtained a fatwah from the ‘ulama on the grounds that he did not recite the kalimah (profession of Islamic faith) fully. Instead of saying ‘la ilaha illallah’ (there is no God, except one God), he would only say ‘la ilaha’ (there is no God).
………one of Sarmad’s disciples …..said, ‘is it a lie to say illallah?’ ‘No,’ said Sarmad, ‘it is the highest truth. But for me it would be a lie.’ ‘Why is that?’ the disciple had questioned. ‘Because, I have not been able to really deny the many gods of desire still sitting in my heart. How can I then say illallah? I am still worshipping so many idols of desire and not free of them,’ was Sarmad’s answer. He was then beheaded.

From ‘Khushwantnama. The Lessons of my Life’ by Khushwant Singh

Na karda gunahon kee bhee hasrat kee miley daad
Ya Rab! Agar in karda gunahon kee zazaa hai.
(For sins I wanted to commit but did not, give me credit
O God, if you must punish me for those I did commit.)

I also follow my role model Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib in his habit of drinking and dining. He took a bath every evening and got into fresh clothes before he fished out his bottle of Scotch whisky, poured out his measure in a tumbler, added scented surahi water to it – and drank in absolute silence while writing immortal couplets in praise of wine and women.

‘Tell me what you eat and I’ll tell you what you are,’ claimed the famous French gastronome, Brillat-Savarin.

Mohammed Rafi Sauda (1713-81), poet laureate of the Mughal court, thought along the same lines:
Fikr-e-maash, ishq-e-butaan, yaad-e-raftgaan
Is zindagi mein ab koi kya kya karey?
(Concern for livelihood, love for women, memories of the past
What else is there left to man in his life?)

Gandhi ….his favourite hymn:
Vaishnavjan toh tainey kaheeye, jo peerh
Paraayee jaaney ray
(I know him as a man of God, who feels
another’s pain.)

As Guru Nanak said:
Suchchon orey sab ko
Ooper Suchh Aachaar
(Truth above all
Above truth truthful conduct)

Khat ghaal kichh hathhon dey
Nanak raah pachchaney sey
(‘He who earns with his own hands and
With his own hands gives some of it away.’
says Nanak, ‘has found the true way.’)

…Edward Young (1681-1756)….
Some, for renown, on scraps of learning
And think they grow immortal as they

There seem to be two reasons for the failure of our intellectuals to change society. One is that all of them write in English, a language that barely 10 per cent of educated Indians can read and comprehend. The masses never get to know about them and what they are saying.

Ghalib ….
Mehrbaan hokey bulaalo  mujhey chaaho jis
Main gayaa vaqt naheen hoon ki phir aa
bhee na sakoon
Have mercy and send for me any time
you so desire;
Time gone is forever gone its true – I
am not time, I can always return
to you.

Faiz Ahmad Faiz ……
Raat yoon dil mein teree khoyee hue yaad aaee
Jaise veeraney mein chupkey sey bahaar aa
Jaisey sahraaon mein hauley sey chaley baad-e-
Jaisey beemar ko bevajah qaraar aa jaaye
Last night the lost memory of you stole
into my mind
Stealthily as spring steals into a wilderness
As on desert wastes a gentle breeze begins
to blow
As in one sick beyond hope, hope begins
to grow.

…Iqbal ….
Baagh-e-bahisht sey mujhey hukm-e safar diya
thha kyon.
Kaar-e-Jahaan daraaz hai, ab mera intezaar kar
(Why did you order me out of the garden
of paradise?
I have a lot left to do; now you wait for me.)

Nishaan-e-mard-e Momin ba too goyam?
Choon marg aayad, tabassum bar lab-e-ost
(You ask me for the signs of a man of
When death comes to him, he has a smile
on his lips.)

From ‘The Namo Story. A Political life’ by Kingshuk Nag

I have discovered strangely; most of Modi’s fans are not known to him at personal level. Those who do, mistrust his ambition. Modi is highly individualistic and has no friends or family that he is close to. He lives alone and even his mother, who resides with his brother in Gandhinagar, does not come to stay with him. In India, this seems a trifle surprising. But as I said, Modi is unique.

…‘Jyotigram village scheme’ to provide electricity to the state’s 18,065 villages by 2003. The villages were to have assured power supply but they would have to pay for it. Even Modi’s critics concede that the project was a success.

A lot of myths around Modi and his economic prowess are based on half-truths and gross exaggerations.

….vote share of the Congress party in the 2004 and 2009 elections: 26.53 per cent and 28.55 per cent respectively.….Muslims make up nearly 15 per cent of the electorate (as per the latest estimates). With Modi being projected as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Congress circles believe that Muslims will vote for the Congress with a vengeance. To get another 15 per cent is not that difficult a proposition and garnering a total of 30 per cent is not such a great deal, feel Congress leaders. In fact, the victory of the Congress-led alliance in both 2004 and 2009, is attributed to the votes that it got from Muslims.

In all the three assembly elections in Gujarat (2002, 2007, and 2012), the BJP garnered 50 per cent of all the votes polled.

‘Vajpayee’s oratory was humorous, often poking fun at himself, full of words of wisdom and very enjoyable to hear, but Modi’s oration is fully charged and often hits opponents below the belt,’ says a journalist….

If there is any prime minister of India that Modi can be compared to, it is Indira Gandhi. She began as an underdog, but powered her way to the top, destroying the old syndicate that controlled Congress politics up to then. She was also a demagogue, capable of decisive action and a great maneuverer. Ditto for Modi. Indira too connected with the massses directly, bypassing the political executive. The same is the case with Modi in Gujarat, the only place where he has been tested so far.

Having witnessed the [post-Godhra] riots closely, I can say with authority that any government that showed such indifference in controlling the carnage elsewhere in the country would have been dismissed immediately and the state put under President’s Rule.

Interestingly and unlike many other parts of India where Muslims have Urdu as their mother tongue, the Gujarati Muslim speaks Gujarati. Except for the meat they eat, Gujarati Muslim food is also the same as that of his Hindu counterpart. ‘In that sense, the Gujarati Muslim is integrated into Gujarat’s society. And yet, ‘Gujarati Asmita’ …does not include the Gujarati Muslim’

‘When you know somebody closely, you learn to trust him. If you do not know him, fear preys on your mind and out of this fear arises insecurity. Precisely that has happened in Gujarat… There has been no Ganga-Jamuna confluence of cultures, like in Northern India…..  Gujarat’s long coastline has always bred a sense of entrepreneurship and commerce in its people. That is why there has been a Hindu-Muslim business engagement,…..’
The fact that the Gujaratis have always been a mercantile community also means…..Very few people want to join the military or the police….. Had the Gujaratis been a strong martial race, it is possible that this feeling of insecurity would not have taken root easily, feel many observers.
Other than this insecurity and the resultant inability to include the Muslims as an integral part of society, Gujarat is an ideal place. Outsiders who have lived in Gujarat say that they have never felt out of place in the state.

….almost everybody agrees that Modi hits opponents below the belt and resorts to cheap humour that titillates, but is not expected of a person so high in public life. ‘To that extent, he has not overgrown his mofussil days. Such cheap diatribes are lapped up by rural crowds,’ says a minister in his government.

Analysts think that Modi excels in an adversarial role; where there is a foe to vanquish. That is why he always requires an enemy.

Those most skeptical of Modi and his ways, however, agree that under his rule, petty bureaucratic corruption has been reduced.