Sunday, July 27, 2008

I am Indian, first

“I am a Muslim. I am an Indian, and I don’t see any difference in the two” – Omar Abdulla, on 22 July, 2008 in the Parliament.

How very true and so well spoken. India has always been a country of many religions. In fact, that is our strength. We may all belong to different religions and follow different paths, or even be atheists, India has the space to house all. We cannot at all say that just because we are called, Hindustan, this is a country for the Hindus. Certainly not! There is in fact, no true Hindu. We are all a mix of many religions. Hinduism has taught us to be receptive to all, because it does not bar any. This is mainly because, Hinduism, per say, is not a religion, it is a way of life. And in that it has been more receptive to all religions.

It is a known fact that in the last so many years, India has never attacked any country, it has only fought to defend its own territory whenever attacked, or helps out a meeker and powerless nation around her. Like Bangladesh, when it was attacked brutally by its own Big Brother, Pakistan, because it fought for its own independence. But, even that, only on the behest of the warring nation. The reason for this lie in non-violence. We would defend ourselves when attacked, but never attack ourselves.

We, as Indians would never ever attack our own brothers and sisters within our country, because they are from a different faith, or religion. Yet, it has happened in the past and continues to do so. These are politically motivated attacks. We as Indians, have no issues around whom we live with, where and who is our neighbour. We as Indians, resist and abhor, statements made by Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, of Hindutva, “ in this land Hindus have been owners, Parsis and Jews the guests and Muslims and Christians the decoits”. It is a disgraceful statement that could have come from only a genetically challenged and culturally dysfunctional person. In fact, at the grassroots level, people of this country can easily say with pride that we are Indians, who have a little of every religion in us, imbibed through the years of coexistence. For really there is no, true Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Parsi, Jain, Sikhs or any other person belonging to any religion here in India, who can say for sure that he is not all of these and more….

That more, is being Indian. Hence, Omar Abdulla’s statement, is the true spirit of India, no doubt.

Speaking of democracy, at the time of Indian independence, noted historian, Ramchandra Guha, in the booklet published by Outlook Publications, Will India Become A Superpower? states, “Back in 1948, doubts were also being cast about the Indian experiment with nationhood. Never before had a new nation not based its unity on a single language, religion, or a common enemy (or, preferably, all of the above). However, all Indians did not have to speak Hindi or be Hindus. ……As an inclusive, plural and non-adversarial model of nationalism, the idea of India had no precedent or imitator. It set itself apart from European nationalism, which was based on a common language and, often, a shared faith and common enemy as well. Thus, the citizens of England were united in the fact that all spoke English and they were mostly Protestant and that many of them disliked France and the French”. – pg 10 -11 Further he goes on to say, “meanwhile through its collective coexistence of different faiths, languages, cultures and cuisines, India is better model for world governance than more homogeneous countries such as China, Japan or the United States. Once, the heterogeneity of India was seen as its great flaw, now, it may justly be celebrated as its greatest strength”.

This is the true fact of being India. Those in minority in India may jump up to remind us that the atrocities done towards their community or the lack of vote bank, proves otherwise. But the fact is that all Indians, irrespective of caste and community, stand up together against the atrocities delivered. We see it as atrocities done with political ill motivation and we do not support such actions.

The recent talk of land being passed on to the Amarnath Yatra Trust is only one such. Why should land belonging to Jammu & Kashmir be given off to Hindu Trusts. This land belongs to them and for thousands of years Kashmiris have been hosts to the yatris and devoted their time and service towards them. And they will continue to do this, even if the service is delivered by humans born as Muslims. What has faith got to do with, practice and support given to fellow worshipers of a different religion? In the Gujarat riots or for that matter, the Bombay riots, hundreds of thousands of Hindus and Muslims opened their doors and their lives for their neighbours, friends and even strangers, and hid them from the ugly face of genocide carried out by bigoted and evil politicians in the garb of Hindus. At a basic level, as humans and as Indians, we are one, we are bhai-bhai.

Hence, the enlightened statement made by Omar Abdulla, on the floor of the Parliament, must go down in history, as one of the most powerful statement ever made on this soil, and in the seat of the highest respect we pay to be Indians. This statement truely mirrors the real face of the Indian heart.

It is no less a statement, that brought tears and joy in the eyes of millions, when Pandit Jawaharlal Nehnu made his historic speech on the night of 14 – 15th August, 1947.

"Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity."

Vande Mataram!

I am Muslim And I am An Indian
Jammu & Kashmir Unrest


Amrita said...

I really liked Omar 's speech.So passionate and came deep from inside his heart.

Its true v are all created by one God and should learn to live in peace vith each other.

The terrorist attacks have just stunned the country once again. One feels so unsafe on the streets.

Julia Dutta said...

Hi Amrita,
Yes, the terror attacks have shaken all of us, but as I heard someone say in Delhi's Sarojini Nagar, only yesterday on TV, "We are not afraid. We cannot be terrorised". At once true and false. But life must go on and what will be will be...
Thanks again, lovely to see you again.

Ash said...

Your post made a insightful reading!

Julia Dutta said...

Thanks Ash!
How are you?

Ramesh Naidoo said...

Analysis: Haj vs. Amarnath

The unfortunate events in Jammu & Kashmir regarding the transfer of land by the government to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board call for each one's urgent attention and involvement.

What began as a simple effort to facilitate Amarnath pilgrims has suddenly developed communal and political overtones. This is appalling when compared to the facilities offered to the Haj and the Vaishno Devi pilgrims.

In an attempt to bring this to the attention of every responsible citizen of India, we would like you to have the benefit of some facts stated below.

In keeping with public policy statements, the Government of India makes elaborate arrangements for the welfare of Haj pilgrims and strives to improve the facilities provided to them every year. That is how it should be. The Government of India, and the ministry of external affairs in particular, deserves credit for providing perhaps the best arrangements that any government makes for their Haj pilgrims.

For eg: As reported in a newspaper article, here are the facts about the facilities provided to Haj pilgrims.

1. To begin with, the government provides an airfare subsidy to about 100,000 pilgrims selected by the Haj Committee of India who go for Haj annually. Pilgrims pay only Rs 12,000 for their air travel. This figure has remained unchanged for at least a decade or more. According to official figures, this subsidy was Rs 280 crores in 2006, or about Rs 28,000 per pilgrim. Today, with rising fuel prices, this figure would have gone up to Rs 350-400 crore. There is also a seperate Haj Terminal at Delhi International Airport.

2. There is a separate Haj cell in the ministry of external affairs. The Haj Committee of India has its own premises in Mumbai. Similarly the State Haj Committees have their own premises in various other Indian cities. These facilities have been built on land provided by the state governments.

3. Accommodation in Mecca and Medina is decided keeping in mind the need to provide maximum convenience and comfort to the pilgrims. Typically, all accommodation has lifts, telephones, running water, electricity and telephone at the minimum. There is total computerisation of pilgrim location and movement.

4. For Haj 2007, a contingent of 115 doctors (including 63 specialists with post-graduate degrees) and 141 nurses and other para-medical staff, 3 coordinators, 46 assistant Haj officers, 165 Haj assistants and 186 Khadimul Hujjaj were sent from India on short-term deputation to Saudi Arabia. Special attention is given to medical facilities for the pilgrims.

5. Some of the facilities provided by the government are: arrangements for polio, meningitis and influenza vaccinations for pilgrims before departure; a 75-bed hospital and 12 branch offices-cum-dispensaries in Mecca; a 15-bed hospital and 6 branch offices-cum-dispensaries in Medina; three medical teams at Jeddah airport to provide medical care round the clock to Haj pilgrims; 17 ambulances in Mecca and Medina; supply of medicines, medical supplies and critical medical equipment from India. All this adds up to the total money spent by the government to facilitate a hassle-free Haj pilgrimage each year for tens of thousands of Muslims from India.

What is due to one community by logic and fair practice is due to another. And yet in a discriminatory treatment lakhs of pilgrims who have been going to Amarnath for years have been denied basic human facilities. The question is what took them so long to consider these facilities and not whether or not they should be provided.

There isn't any adequate medical and sanitary facilities for the pilgrims of Amarnath Shrine. As the agitation continues, it has been reported that a water bottle costing Rs 14 was sold at Rs 70. And a khacchar or a pony that took pilgrims at the cost of Rs 1,500 charged an abominable Rs 10,000. Compare this with the subsidies for Haj Pilgrims. Buses of pilgrims were also stoned by unruly elements.

The whole agitation was started by the Peoples Democratic Party on the absurd presumption that providing these basic facilities to the travelling pilgrims will result in a changed "eco-cultural character" of the state. Does this imply that Kashmir only has a "Muslim" character?

Kashmir originally and lawfully belongs to both Hindus and Muslims. Nevertheless, 4,00,000 Kashmiri Pandits were driven out of Kashmir and are living as refugees and now even the very thought of Hindus settling in Kashmir is creating such violent repercussions. Is this a sign of a secular, healthy, fair society?

Even if we were to presume that it has a Muslim character, how can travelling pilgrims possibly change eco-cultural character of a place. Can there be a likelihood of someone settling down at the height of 13,500 ft? There can not be any possibility of Hindus settling down in the proposed land.

It is ironical that though the Hindus are being denied basic hospitable facilities to enable their pilgrimage, the temporary, pre-fabricated shelters built by the Amarnath Shrine Board were dismantled and sent for emergency relief operations during the earthquake in Kashmir in October 2005. "About 60-70 pre-fab shelters were sent to Uri and Tangdhar, where they housed thousands," a senior Government official is reported to have said. "The Amarnath Board also sent pre-fab toilets. There was no objection from any political party at that point."

For centuries pilgrims have been making the arduous trip to Amarnath cave without any benefit from the state. They have to depend to private philanthropy for food, accommodation and other facilities. It is shameful that people have lived in torn taurpaulin tents. But a caring State in independent India can and should do more.

Please also view online exhibition on exodus and selective killings of 4,00,000 Kashmiri Pandits from Kashmir. Click to view.


Ramesh Naidoo

Sujata said...


Julia Dutta said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Julia Dutta said...

You think so? Thank you!

Julia Dutta said...

Dear Ramesh Naidu,
Thank you very much for visiting my blog and thanks a million times for your elaborate comment, which does not ignite the fire of anger in my heart but only compassion. I can understand your pain and your point of view. I am with you in so far as the Government must intervene to see that the necessary facilities required for the Amarnath pilgrimage must be provided and it is the Government which should provide it, State or otherwise. But I do still have reservations about land being given off to religious shrines. They are as much profit mongers as any one else only their clothing is different. Have you seen what they are doing in Rishikesh and above, albeit the land is being bought by the Ashramas themselves? Religion must remain in the hearts of humans, and shrines simple and not another place that stinks of wealth and materialism. This goes for all religions in my opinion. Hence, I stick to my stand that instead of passing on the land to the shrine trust, let the Government of India take responsibility, if the State government can't.

I have just been to your blog and could find a place to comment - I liked your post on Aurangzeb, but I only wanted to say one thing, for a young chap like you, it is important to remember the things that happened in history, but it is more important to be in the moment and the present and see how we can not do the same acts as these people did. We have to learn from the past and make a positive contribution to our country and humanity at large, instead of going of harping about the past. Leave that to Historians who only like to delve in the past...

11:13 PM

Freddy said...

I too really liked Omar Abdulla's speech in the parliament, words that will sure go down in history.
Your post was really great to read. :)

Julia Dutta said...

Hi Freddy,
Thanks for visiting! I hope it does and I hope India has Leaders like Omar Abdulla in the forefront....

flygye12 said...

what about omar abdullahs " our land will be given to shrine board over my dead body" rhetoric? isn't that something akin to rabble rousing?

Julia Dutta said...

Sorry I haven't been to this post for a long time. As far as Omar's statement is concerned, I think it is too emotional and in the context of where he said it at, a public meeting, I think he was aiming at rising the red passionate angry emotions of the crowd, which politicians so often do. Even you cought the fire....See! Forget it! He does not mean it of course, unless he is looking at suicide in the middle of the streets! Hardly Omar I would say....Hey Chill!