By Mohammed Wajihuddin
July 14, 2018
Congress president Rahul Gandhi
If Congress president Rahul Gandhi were to listen to me, here is an unsolicited advice to him. Now that he has already met a delegation of Muslim intellectuals at an air-conditioned room of his Tughlaq Road residence in the leafy Lutyens’ Delhi, he should now visit old Delhi and meet some “normal” Muslims and put ears to the ground.
Old Delhi is pebbled with history. But Rahul will have to be choosy and he should choose Jama Masjid the grand mosque, an iconic Mughal-era architectural majesty, as his first port of call. And he should be there preferably on a Friday afternoon. He may skip the mandatory Wazu (ablutions) and the two Rakat (unit) Friday prayer but should sit among the hordes of the pyjama Kurta-clad faithful in skullcaps to hear Syed Ahmed Bukhari, the Shahi Imam whose family has used the grand mosque as a personal fiefdom.
As he sits through the Shahi Imam’s Friday Khutba (sermon), Rahul may hear what probably nobody in the exalted Muslim delegation told him during his two-hour, closed-door informal meeting. Never a man of few words and not known for maintaining sobriety while speaking in public, especially when he speaks from the Jama Masjid’s pulpit, Bukhari appear incendiary and angry. He may say things which no Muslim would have ever dared to tell the scion of the Gandhi-Nehru clan. The Imam knows the many “injustices” done to Muslims during the long Congress rule like the back of his palm and may remind Rahul of the promises made and broken, assurances given but never fulfilled.
A fearless leader that he claims he is, Bukhari may refer to the many excesses perpetrated on parts of old Delhi during the Emergency. A master in playing the victimhood card that he is, the Imam may also talk about the many incidents of lynching Muslim youths have been put to during the current dispensation but may also remind Rahul how, during the decade-long UPA rule, the situation was not much better. During the 10-year UPA regime, many Muslim youths were hauled up into jails on false terror charges, some of them let off later but only after their lives were ruined.
And yes, how can the Imam forget not to express his displeasure over Rahul’s frequent trips to the temples and his mother and former Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s confession that Congress suffered because of a perception that it is a party of the Muslims. To the Muslim delegation Rahul reportedly said that he had visited mosques and Sufi shrines too but his temple visits received more attention in the media. But no mosque in India matches the grandeur and importance of the Jama Masjid. Rahul’s visit there will get maximum media coverage and will be a big PR exercise for him too. It will silence those who complain that Rahul has limited his visits to some obscure mosques and Mazars.
Yes, the BJP and other affiliates in the extended Parivar will certainly latch on it to accuse the Congress President of partisan politics. But they are bound to question Rahul’s every step which smells of “minority appeasement.”
Once he has heard Bukhari and shaken hands with ordinary Muslims at the mosque Rahul should stand on the red stone steps of the mosque, close his eyes briefly and recall the historic speech freedom fighter, Islamic scholar and Independent India’s first education minister Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (1888—1958) delivered at the same venue during the tumultuous days of Partition. Speaking in chaste Urdu, Azad had reminded the Muslims of the follies their co-religionists had committed by choosing to go to Pakistan. He bemoaned how his sane advice was unheeded and the community was left exposed to a storm. He persuaded the thousands assembled there not to abandon the many mosques and mausoleums their forefathers had built here. He told the assembled gathering of the historic blunder that was Pakistan. He also reminded the Muslims of their caravans who pitched their tents of the banks of the Yamuna and performed Wazu with its holy water.
And while Rahul remembers Azad’s historic speech, he may also recall if his party has done justice to Maulana Azad’s own memories and the Muslims to whom he, along with many of his contemporaries, including Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, promised equality and justice. India belongs to everyone who calls it his/her home. Rahul needs to admit that his party did commit some mistakes. He must say it and even if he has to say it from atop one of the minarets of the Jama Masjid that the Muslims of India who remained behind cannot be held responsible for the diabolical two-nation theory which ultimately created Pakistan. Rahul, as the inheritor of the Congress’s legacy, must spell out that Pakistan cannot be used as an albatross around the necks of Indian Muslims as Muslims alone were not responsible for partition. And he needs to come out with a new roadmap not prepared by the wooly-headed old guards who see Muslims as a vote bank.
While he remembers the great Maulana there, Rahul may also recall and appreciate that Maulana loved and respected his friendship with Nehru so much that he willed the 30 pages of his India Wins Freedom to be published 30 years after his death lest Nehru got embarrassed by some of the Maulana’s candid views on circumstances leading to partition.
And after he exits the Masjid, Rahul may stroll down to the nearby park where Maulana Azad lies buried, perhaps a bit uneasy with what is happening to the Hindustan he fought so doggedly for. For years the Maulana’s last resting place suffered apathy and neglect till his grandnephew, activist and author Firoz Bakht Ahmed petitioned the courts to intervene and protect the mausoleum’s sanctity. Ahmed himself remained “marginalized” during the Congress rule. Recently the BJP government “rehabilitated” him with chancellorship of Hyderabad-based Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU).
Will Rahul hear this unsolicited advice from an un-intellectual, common Muslim?
DISCLAIMER: Views expressed above are the author's own.