Realities Mirror Plural Khurshids and One Arif - The New Indian Express

Realities Mirror Plural Khurshids and One Arif

Published: 02nd March 2014 06:00 AM

Last Updated: 02nd March 2014 07:45 AM

I’m not surprised at Salman Khurshid’s use of the term “impotent” for political rivals. Khurshid epitomises the new political culture where contemptuous, abusive and unparliamentary language has become common. More shocking is his mindset which is obvious from his writings. In his book At Home In India:A Restatement of Indian Muslims, he writes, “(On the other hand) there was also a terrible satisfaction among Muslims, who had not completely forgotten Partition’s unpleasant aftermath. Hindus and Sikhs were alike paying for their ‘sins’. They were paying for the blood they had drawn in 1947.” Indians would be grateful for enlightenment by Khurshid as to what ‘sin’ Hindus and Sikhs committed in 1947? The question which he himself has to answer is whether his views resemble people like Zakir Hussain and Maulana Azad or leaders of Khaksars and the Muslim League of pre-Partition days?

Tie and coat with an Oxford pedigree not necessarily  make any English-speaking Muslim liberal or secular, just as a beard and cap don’t negate it. Self-declared liberals, who have often times jettisoned their ideological moorings to stoke fundamentalism, are more dangerous than proclaimed fundamentalists, as they legitimise irrational demands, aspirations and ideology born of hostility, conspiracy theories and fear whipped up against imagined enemies. None other than Iqbal, a liberal scholar, and Jinnah, considered an ambassador of secularism, legitimised the Pakistan movement. There are umpteen examples even in post-independent India. For instance, Syed Shahabuddin, formerly a foreign service officer, abandoned his liberal mask and began professing communal demands after joining politics.

History is replete with examples when greed for power sabotages one’s conscience. This can be seen in the case of Khurshid too. He had once great admiration for RSS. The Motherland, an RSS daily (now defunct), published Golwalkar’s interview on August 23, 1972 in which he said that as long as personal laws do not pose any threat on unity, integrity and constitutional values, voice for progressive changes must emanate from the community itself. Apropos Golwalkar: “Nature abhors uniformity, which is the death-knell of nations. I’m all for the protection of various ways of life, but variety must supplement the nation’s unity and not range itself against it.” His exposition triggered an ideological debate. Describing Golwalkar as a statesman, he wrote (Motherland, August 25, 1972): “Frankly, I bow to Guru Golwalkar for the courage he has shown in expressing views which are more or less on similar lines as those of the late Dr Zakir Hussain.”

Alas, 1970s’ liberal Khurshid now feels his liberalism to be an albatross for his political career. His shift is more than obvious. He is a strong advocate of religion-based reservation. In 2010, he even favoured distributing enemy property, seized from traitors in 1947 and during Indo-Pak wars, among Muslim claimants. Its worth is at least Rs 1 lakh crore. The move to amend the Enemy Property Act was, however, thwarted by policy think-tanks. For Khurshid too, his liberalism was a short-term romanticism, and politics based on religious identity is a reality.

Ironically, another stellar example, Arif Mohammad Khan, a former president of AMU Students’ Union and a minister in the Rajiv Gandhi government, took a principled stand on the Shah Bano issue, much to the ire of Muslim fundamentalists, and preferred quitting office. Despite ups and downs, Arif’s secular ethos remains undiluted. Unfortunately, his credentials and world views are of no use for political parties, who prefer non-secular voice as more rewarding in terms of votes. Don’t the current political realities also mirror our responsibility for the two contrasting syndromes of plural Khurshids and singular Arif?

Sinha is Hony. Director of India Policy Foundation

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