Maverick: Raiders of the lost bark
By Farzana Versey
Covert, December 16-31
“B***h, how I wish one of the bodies recovered from the Taj turned out to be yours! Jihadi apologist!”
This has been among the many abusive notes I have received. Not one of these people has the courage to reveal a name or a location. Not one of them is interested in any of the bodies recovered.
India is plagiarising the Western dream gone wrong because of ‘outsiders’. Xenophobia is ruling.
The attack on Mumbai brought to the forefront an uncomfortable question: If India has become a ‘soft target’ for terrorists, then has it happened overnight? What makes the system so complacent?
The intellectualisation of religious differences has most definitely ingrained itself in the middle class and the educated elite. If the jihadis are not illiterate poor boys anymore, then neither are the prejudiced critics.
If you have ever claimed to be a political animal then they seal your fate as a washerman’s dog. Recently, it was used as a headline in a major newspaper that carried a review of my book. The first sentence read, “There’s a saying in Hindi which goes: dhobi ka kutta, na ghar ka, na ghat ka. The washerman's dog doesn't know where he belongs, whether at home or at the ghats with his master.”
An educated person was saying that I consider Pakistan my (and the Indian Muslim’s) master only because I have written about that country from the Indian Muslim point of view? Apparently, my journey is unfulfilled because I am looking for my identity in Pakistan. Every shred of my Indianness needs to be labelled before I become acceptable even for ‘tolerance’.
Earlier we only dreamed of making Mumbai into Shanghai; now we want leaders like former Australian Prime Minister John Howard who spoke up for the right to spy on mosques and against immigrants. His quotes have been doing the rounds since the Gujarat riots and are used on any occasion, irrespective of the nature of terrorism. Some are blown up and bloodied with red font: “This is our country, our land, and our lifestyle, and we will allow you every opportunity to enjoy all this…We didn’t force you to come here. You asked to be here. So accept the country YOU accepted.”
The Western model is being mimicked with not a care for authenticity. What these hate-mongers do not realise is that Indian Muslims are indigenous people of the land and not immigrants. The India that the British left was not a Hindu nation. Patriotism is not about any religion.
While all inhuman acts are despicable, let us not put all the culprits under one category. Who is sponsoring them? Are they working on their own or being prompted by foreign agencies? Or local ones?
On what grounds do Muslims have to deal with advice such as this: “They can stop sheltering terrorists among them and start turning them and their collaborators over to the authorities or be prepared to have a Modi or his look-alike to be the next PM”?
It is convenient to ask one community to collaborate with the government, but what do you do when the government itself is merely talking tough to get mileage? The new militancy often responds to just such puerile pugnacity. Like all impetuous motives, it can turn dangerous. We must understand that terrorist organisations do get banned and there can be a high alert for them. Is there a way to caution people against politicising their own consciences and becoming a quasi Establishment?
Drumbeaters come in various garbs. Do the housewives from a posh locality who screamed, “They’ve raped our motherland. We want war” know the price of war? Would they send their children into the armed forces?
Do we realise that even as our people claim to be world citizens they use the ruse of resurgence of ‘Indian culture’? They may wear a branded leash, but these are the real washermen’s dogs with elastic values and no bite. They go wherever they hear a familiar bark to join the herd.