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Was Shahbuddin ‘a true mirror image’ of Hindu fundamentalism?

Nagaland News

Post-Jan 22, it maybe farewell to Nehru’s India

Nirendra Dev
NEW DELHI, JANUARY 21: There is possibly a lesson to learn especially in democracy.
In the1980s and the 1990s, India was at war with itself.
Many observers of the time used to say that if anybody could be called a ‘parrot’, who kept the ‘life’ of Hindu-fundamentalism secretly in the heart (of a Muslim), it was Syed Shahbuddin.
While the Temple-Masjid dispute went on, one fine day he demanded a ‘ban’ on eminent English writer Salman Rushdie’s novel Satanic Verses.
The Rajiv Gandhi Government was smarting from the Shah Bano case fallout thus allegedly ‘without even reading the book’, it was banned.
The BJP’s allegation of ‘Muslim appeasement’ stuck quickly because even Pakistan, a country created to preserve and uphold Muslim interests, by then did not do it.
Many years later in 1998 on my ‘shifting’ to Delhi from Nagaland, I met Shahbuddin for the first time. It was a press conference and I was assigned to cover it by the Press Trust of India (PTI).
The venue was one of the MP’s Bungalows on Ferozeshah Road near Mandi House. I and a few other journalists were surprised to find Shahbuddin sitting there alongside a senior BJP leader.
But as the press conference was to start, the BJP leader said ‘Namaskar’ to Shahbuddin and went off. We mortal journalists foolishly stared at each other and a few of us giggled; Shahbuddin almost reprimanded us and asked us to start the media briefing.
I am only sharing the anecdote and have no intent to suggest any motive.
Shahbuddin actually had changed the nature of Indian politics. His Babri Masjid Action Committee was reluctant to see any reason and a strong argument was built up by him and his scholarly friends that the Muslim side would win the battle effortlessly.
In other words, my moot point is Shahbuddin achieved something unique. He made the Muslims ‘go deeper’ into a world of their own, a world of little pragmatism and trusting the so-called BMAC. Mulims believed that ‘sickular parties’ will protect them and the Babri mosque.
Shahbuddin took Muslims away from the reality and from Hindus even as he ‘succeeded’ in articulating well the minority community’s claims and position. This is the paradox of the life of a scholar, who was also in the Foreign Service. Many years later, a senior wag called him ‘a true mirror image’ of the rise of Hindu fundamentalism in Indian politics.
In 2024, a new assertive India under Modi’s leadership wants to re-establish India’s rightful place with its thousands of years of civilizational history. But it also wants a neo-Bharat that’s different from India that emerged after the British left 7 decades ago.
In the new scheme of things, Hindi is preferred to English, Indian laws are reworked giving them Hindi titles and the Hindu religion and rituals may get the upper hand on the socio-political platform.
Narendra Modi and his party have been in power since 2014. For the past 9 and half years, they have been challenging Nehru’s policies of left-liberalism. However, January 22 will possibly mark the end of Nehru’s India and bring the establishment of political Hinduism. It may truly be Modi’s India.
(Views are personal)