Time to live together separately!
ZIYA US SALAM speaks to seasoned academic Mushirul Hasan, who believes there is a silver lining to the recent events in Gujarat. "The bubble will burst," he assures even as he emphasises the need to look within... .
Professor Mushirul Hasan... the right diagnosis for Indian polity. Photos: V. V. Krishnan.
YEARS AFTER the Salman Rushdie controversy, the wounds have not healed. Not fully. Mention those dark, despondent days, and Professor Mushirul Hasan, otherwise a reasoning, thinking being who keeps emotions firmly wrapped under layers of woollens, turns a bit edgy. Sitting at Jamia Millia Islamia's Academy of Third World Studies, the historian is still a bit sore. "For four and a half years I was not allowed on the campus. I was assaulted a couple of times, I narrowly escaped. But I insisted on my right to enter the campus, I bounced back on the strength of my intellectual commitment and my commitment to this university. Now the university is reciprocating and I find that the community is embarrassed by the ill-advised campaign in the past."
Having joined Jamia in 1978 after beginning his career with Delhi University's Ramjas College in 1969, he is busy giving finishing touches to the arrangements for an international conference - `Living Together Separately: Cultural India in History and Politics'. Neither religion nor controversy is the cornerstone of Hasan's life. And isn't of any Muslim, he insists. "To argue that religion is the sole motivating factor in a Muslim's life is as wrong as to say that it is for a Sikh or a Hindu."
A little after completing "Islam in the Subcontinent: Muslims in a Plural Society" - brought out by Manohar some time back - he is ready with the blueprint which will help the community row to safer waters. "The community must show greater receptivity to liberal views of not just co-religionists but all others. We must transcend the stereotypes and learn to live together separately. The Muslim community must get their act together in a spirit of regeneration, reconciliation." He is also quite clearly unperturbed by the emergence of Narendra Modi and the recent victory of aggressive Hindutva in Gujarat. Like ever, he continues to nurse hope. He is clearly an optimist. "Modi's emergence must stiffen the resolve of the Muslims to educate their children, reflect on what's wrong with their family laws. But as far as the Hindutva brigade is concerned, one does not need to worry. The experience of a theocratic State has failed everywhere. The Hindutva bubble will burst, based as it is on a divisive ideology. Just as they
suffered a debacle in the freedom movement, Hindutva forces would suffer a major setback. Fascism had its high points, but it collapsed within five years. More than 995 million people of the country do not want rampant civil strife. The Gujarat setback is a temporary one. In the ebb and flow of secular democracy there will be setbacks here and there but that should not reverse the march of the larger secular polity.
He also has a word of caution for Muslims. "Any extremism in reaction to Gujarat carnage or the electoral verdict will be counter-productive. The future of Muslims lies in their close identification with secular democratic institutions. Muslims have to create their own space, eschew violence, stay away from extremism."
He has a sobering thought for others as well. "Hindutva in its present manifestation is a threat not just to Muslims but to the country. The contest is not between Togadias and Muslims but between the Togadias and moderates wedded to secular vision. Hindutva is directed against forces of modernity, it is Muslims today, tomorrow it will be liberal, left-wing secular elites, Dalits, OBCs and others. The task before us is to defend the secular legacy we inherited."
Erudite and soft-spoken when he does not elucidate on contentious subjects, his tempo increases just a wee bit when he dwells on the interpretation of Indian history in modern times. "I contest this notion of viewing the entire community as a monolithic entity. Also implicit in terms like `rise of Muslim nationalist leaders' is the assumption that the community is outside the so-called national mainstream."
He has put down all this and more in "Islam in the Subcontinent" which, according to him, "is quite good, the canvas is wide. It is a well-researched book with running argument, certain consistency. It reflects my intellectual concerns for the last decade."
Having said that he reveals that he has just penned "Plurality and Shared Tradition: Qasbas in Colonial Awadh". It should be out before you can put down Manohar's 500-odd page book priced at Rs. 995. Here is to some enlightenment.
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