Salman Rushdie was dead right when he described the banning of the Satanic Verses in India nine days after its publication in London as "political football".
It is heart breaking to receive messages of concern from friends and relatives overseas whenever Hindu-Muslim riots break out. Most painful by far is the query from relatives in Pakistan: “Bhaiyya, are all of you safe?”
The only role at this juncture for Indian Muslims in India’s electoral politics is to enable Hindu consolidation. This may not occur to the Muslim voter but this is the consequence of his politics.
The two successes of Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen of Hyderabad in recent elections in Maharashtra may not affect government formation in Mumbai but reverberations will be felt in the nation’s politics for a long time.
The government of Akhilesh Yadav in UP has asked the battered Muslims of Muzaffarnagar to sign an affidavit: “Myself and members of my family who have left our village and our homes due to violent incidents in our village, will not now return to our original village and home under any circumstance.”
In this affidavit, the SP government is demanding the Muslim refugees of Muzaffarnagar to forego their right to return, rather like the Palestinians. Many refugees worldwide do not return for a variety of reasons. But here the state is complicit in perpetuating the exile.
The Muslim has many issues with the Congress. What has become of him in the 60 years of Congress rule, he was able to see in the mirror of the Sachar Committee Report in 2006. Why, he asks, does he hear the same slogan, riot after riot? (“Mussalman ke do sthan. Qabristan ya Pakistan.”)
Is it because the Congress allowed the misapprehension to persist that the Muslim divided the country and then stayed on? If that were the case why have Seshadri, Lohia, Maulana Azad and scores of others taken the Congress to task as the Guilty Men of India’s Partition? Of course, the BJP shouts the morbid slogan, but it is the Congress which created conditions over the past 66 years for that slogan to carry.
And now, finally, having spared the killers of Rajiv Gandhi and Beant Singh (that would destabilize Tamil Nadu and Punjab) the UPA govt has taken a gamble on Afzal Guru because the valley of Kashmir is well covered with military presence. How will the aftermath playout?
The more the communal picture changes since the demolition of the Babri Masjid 20 years ago this week, the more it remains the same.
I have, by way of a diversion, looking at the deteriorating communal situation nearer home, in UP. Let me begin with Faizabad, the precursor of Lucknow’s great culture.