By Uday Mahurkar
8 Jan 2012
The storm over the incendiary speech of Akbaruddin Owaisi in Hyderabad which almost took us back to the age of medieval vandalism is yet to die down. Almost a week after the hate speech calling Muslims to teach a lesson to Hindus in the most violent language the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader has no sense of regret. Rather he was greeted with unabashed gusto and fervour on his return from UK where he headed soon after his blood curdling oratory. Sparks followed over the speech as the leader of a secular party having alliance with the BJP put his foot in the mouth saying that the RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat and Owaisi are two sides of the same coin, thus taking us to new depths of minority appeasement.
Owaisi's speech was a typically ultra-Wahhabi, a religious creed that envisions the spread of Islam to the entire world at the expense of other religions, condemns moderate Muslims wanting to reach out to the Almighty through the intercession of a Muslim saint or a Guru , advocating instead direct dialling to Allah, and sees Osama Bin Laden as a hero. Interestingly, Owaisi spoke in keeping with the radical Islamic image of AIMIM, a party floated at the behest of the Nizam of Hyderabad before independence that actively supported the formation of Pakistan. But those who have followed the footsteps of ultra-Wahhabis aren't surprised.
Take, for example, the speech a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board delivered at a hall in Ahmedabad in 2006 at the behest of a local Muslim religious organisation. I was present on the occasion and that speech will for ever be embedded in my mind as it exposed the ultra-Wahhabi vision of an 'Islamic India'. I shall call the leader 'Inzimam Ibrahim' here instead of taking his true name for obvious reasons. Ibrahim first began by the questioning the Muslim clergy present on the occasion as to why Islam despite having been in India for centuries had not been able to convert the entire country. He asked with aggression : "Why Islam couldn't take into its fold the lakhs and crores of Dalits, the Pidits (oppressed) and the lower classes who have been waiting to walk into the Islamic fold for centuries and that what exactly went wrong with the Islamic strategy. " After dwelling on the failures of the guardians of Islam in India to convert the entire country Ibrahim deftly changed his tune by taking inspiration from Pakistani Muslims.
He said a set of Pakistani Muslims showed him the other side of the same story when they complimented him as an Indian Muslim for the wonderful job that they (Indian Muslims) had done of furthering the Islamic cause in India as against the hopeless situation they had found themselves when Pakistan was found and they were left alone and abandoned in divided India. Then he proceeded further revealing that the Pakistan Muslims indeed made him realise that Indian Muslims had after all not done too bad a job since Independence. Finally Ibrahim went on to say triumphantly: "Indeed we have crossed new frontiers. Today none can become a Chief Minister in Uttar Pardesh without Muslim support. In Assam the situation is still better for us. This is simply unimaginable when compared with crestfallen shape of the Indian Muslims on the day of partition ".
Here comes the main point. Those from the majority community and even from amongst the moderate sections of the minorities who know the true Independence struggle history as to what actually happened during country's traumatic partition must be appalled at the utterances of the Owaisis and the Ibrahims. It is known that in a short span following partition a vast majority of Hindus of the then West Pakistan and parts of Sindh were ethnically cleansed by Islamic zealots through a series of riots and forced to flee to India. Today's Delhi comprises mainly of that ill-fated lot of Pakistani Hindus. Later when violent reaction from common Hindus started against local Muslims in India Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Nehru and Sardar Patel brought it under control on the plea that Indians can't go back to an age of medieval vandalism. So, what the Indian Muslims suffered at the hands of reactive and infuriated Hindus and Sikhs except in West or Indian Punjab and Bihar was very negligible as compared to the uprooting and trauma that lakhs of Pakistani Hindus suffered as a whole. So, a feeling of betrayal is bound to be felt by a vast section of the majority in India at the utterances of the likes of Owaisi and Ibrahims.
And this sense of betrayal could be in greater degree in those who have read a book titled The sole Spokesman: Jinnah, the Muslim League and the demand for Pakistan. It was written in 1994 by Pakistani-American historian Ayesha Jalal who has taught history in many American universities including Harvard and has been a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. In this book, Jalal says that 86.7 per cent of the total Muslims who voted in the Central Assembly election of undivided India in December 1945 (which is just 20 months before Partition) caste their votes for the Muslim League and less than 2 per cent for the Indian National Congress. The remaining Muslim votes went to regional Muslim parties. In effect Jalal literally says that a vast majority of Indian Muslims who voted in that election wanted India's partition and formation of Pakistan. For example , it is well known Muslim League dominated amongst Indian Muslims before Partition even in places like Ahmedabad, where one of the early Pakistani Prime Ministers, Ibrahim Ismail Chundrigar, was born.
The crux of the story is that the magnanimity of a vast section of majority community leaders and that of its general population despite grave provocation played a key role in securing the safety of ordinary Muslims in India during the Partition period. The pitfalls of ultra-Wahhabism are in fact visible more in Pakistan and Afghanistan where ultra-Wahhabis are not only attacking the Sufi and the Shia Muslims but also their own brother Wahhabis who follow a moderate line. In fact they have forced the coining of the term 'Ultra-Wahhabis'. Instead of stoking communal fires and formulating conversion strategies the Owaisis and Ibrahims would do well to take a leaf out of the Israel visit of late Pope John Paul II in 2000 when he virtually apologised to the Jewish nation for the wrongs done by the Roman Catholics on the Jews in the past 2,000 years and called for the ultimate reconciliation.
Uday Mahurkar is a Senior Editor with India Today covering the politically and socially significant state of Gujarat. He is one of the longest serving journalists with India Today and a respected political analyst.