Am I a suspect in present India

Looking at the growing  climate of  intolerance in the country, a feeling has started growing in my heart if I am also a suspect. I  am a born Saraswat Brahmin, but by conviction has been a non-believer. I do not visit places of worship nor do I offer daily prayers. I enjoy my date with tipple in the evening and am also fond of  foods without inhibitions and am pained by  growing attempts to put restrictions on what I eat or what I drink.

Brij Bhardwaj

Born  before independence  I witnessed freedom  movement  from a distance  as a child, but as I grew  I along with my school mates picked up the Congress flag and would go around  shouting slogans in favour of a Congress candidate  whose picture showed him standing behind bars. We had no idea who he was but we shouted slogans in his favour because he was behind bars while his opponent a Hindu Mahasabha nominee  was a rich shop owner.

My family was a victim of partition and had to move from Lahore first to Simla and then to Delhi. I was at home when my parents returned home shocked because Mahatma Gandhi had been shot at the prayer Meeting which they had gone to attend at Birla House. We saw mass mourning on the death of Mahatma and my elder brother observed a fast to mourn the same. During this period I also saw our school headmaster being arrested for his links with RSS suspected of having links with killers.

The atmosphere in which I grew , young students were fascinated  by left  movement  which was divided between  those  who were influenced by  Russian  revolution and others who  wanted  democracy  while  serving the poor. In college I also led the first protest in India outside Russian embassy  for  armed  action in Hungary and  its occupation of that country. Even before I had graduated I became a trainee journalist when I became editor of students journals in Delhi University.

Soon my desire to join profession of my choice was fulfilled. .My first brush with authorities  came during period of emergency , though  Kashmir  where I was posted was free of any retrictions because  Chief Minister Sheiukh Abdullah followed an independent line. But media persons could not print  what Chief Minister said who  refused to accept that leaders like Jaiprakash Narayan  who had been arrested could be enemies of the country  nor we could report what Congress leaders  alleged about  Sheikh Abdullah or his Government because State Government would not allow it.

 

I feel today I am a suspect because  I consider all those who support cow vigilantes, Love Jihad, and  attack  poor Muslims and Harijans as enemies of nation. I strongly  support movement for autonomy for Kashmir  and see nothing wrong if a Muslim majority state which joined India instead of Muslim majority Pakistan  seeks special safeguards. I feel dialogue is the only solution of Kashmir problem, which is political and not use of force.

I feel Kashmir  is truly secular as  Beef and  Pig products are both banned and not sold or consumed in the State. It also banned cow slaughter  in pre-independence times. I can also be a suspect as I have enjoyed my evening cup of Scottish brew  in  States  where  there was prohibition  as well as in those not  under any  restrictions In olden days in  Kanpur  the best place to get your  supply was to park outside  a police station  and honk and soon a person will approach you  and get you  the brew of your choice.

Today I also feel I am a suspect  because of my eating habits , my views on Kashmir and finding it difficult to stand when national anthem is  played. My  objection is because being 83 , even if  my mind is willing  to stand when national anthem is played  in movie halls  my legs find it difficult. I compare present time to free times  spent by me in  Kashmir  where Id was celebrated by my children and me with abandon by enjoying feasts for a week and Diwali in our home by Children of the colony by eating sweets and bursting crackers.

There was no controversy over Babri Masjid or if Taj had been built on top of a temple. I am also a suspect because I opposed demonetisation as it forced honest citizens to stand in lines to withdraw their own money. I also oppose GST for imposing heaps of documentation on people who have never seen face of  computers. Lastly I am a suspect because I  feel like sending all paper tigers who sitting in T.V studios  in the evening indulge in  Kashmir bashing  and create fresh complications.

I love Lahore where I was born. I feel nice to hear Pakistani singers  like Noorjahan and others or listening to the poetry of Mirza Ghalib and Faiz. I would love to join those who carry candles  to the border posts and hope that the two countries would become friends again afterall  geography  will not allow us to change neighbours. If Germany and France or England could become friends after fighting each other for decades why not India and Pakistan.

I wish many more in India had witnessed the friendship and  close relationship that exists between Indian and Pakistanis living in counties of Europe and USA  where  both are foreigners. Sorry I have become sentimental, afterall in old age one is allowed to dream.

I could also be suspect because I love , Muslim girl from Gujarat  that my nephew has married . I also enjoy the company of Muslim boy that  my niece has married  in London In both cases  no body has undergone conversion and enjoy fun of Diwali and Eid  in true spirit. The harmony that exists  in family  makes me wonder what is   “Love Jihad “ about. I could add many more stories, but  it will be difficult to convince those  who are looking for suspects in every corner and also under the carpet.

 

(Brij Bhardwaj is a veteran journalist and commentator)