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.
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)