Signs Of The Times

By Humra Quraishi

The very fact that Baba Ramdev could attract crowds is not  because he is some sort of a leader but because of  one underlying factor : there is a disconnect between the masses and the rulers of the day .The vacuum is wide, spreading out. Any shrewd man or woman who just about knows how to deliver an emotional speech can step in and use people’s anger, to further his or her  own ambitions and with that  add another dimension to the chaos spreading around .

To fight the corrupt in the establishment you need a genuine  leader who is above political tilts and slants .Apolitical in every sense of the term. And this is lacking in today’s men who are said to be leading these recent protests, these uprisings.

Did you hear Anna or Ramdev utter a word or a full fledged sentence against communally tainted politicians ? No, no direct or even an indirect attack on the communal ! Why ? After all , communally  charged politicians are as  dangerous as  the corrupt ones  but there’s a definite quiet  on that vital front . Why ?

Look around , a leader is  missing on every front . It was bizarre to see PA Sangma  play up his tribal card just before the  Presidential  candidature .What has he done for the tribal population of this country ? This , when tribal land and identity and property  is getting looted in the name of development and progress . It is  a  known fact that tribal men and women are exploited in different  spheres and yet the so called tribal leaders play  political games .

And what have the so called Muslim politicians done  for the Muslim masses  !  Nothing , except use them , use their votes to be precise . Three or  four Muslims are hand picked by the  establishment , to be fitted along the so called prime slots . And they in turn maintain that ‘safe’  distance from the masses .No , there’s little connect . And with that  none to hear  those genuine woes and grievances . In fact , this brings me to write that the disastrous  tragedy that  took place at Mumbai’s  Azad  Maidan is an offshoot of this reality – the Muslim community  lacks a  apolitical leader and this community is  used by politicians to further their vote bank  politics. Why did that protest – meet turn so horribly violent and vulgar ? Why couldn’t that anger be contained ? Why were they provoked to rioting , that horrible violence unleashed by vested interests ? Who gave those provocative speeches ? And why ? Who placed them on the dais ? For what ! Were big political  interests and bigger political players involved in that mess ?

There’s turbulence hitting . That connect  between the rulers and masses ought to come about immediately , otherwise the  vacuum will stretch , to be  filled by Ramdevs .As of now , you and I can’t even think of  nearing those grievance cells or commissions or those men and women heading them . Not just the security phobias come in way , but also those definite  relays  that files are merely  pushed from here to there. Also, those realities that big bodied commissions are  set up so that those turbulences are somehow silenced for the time being , till the  next general elections .

Doesn’t the government of the day  know of the possible turbulences and grievances yet it refuses to react . Simply refuses to reach out, to try and bridge that ever widening  gap.

In fact, the government of the day  could at least help contain the growing anger amongst the masses .Or else  help the release of that anger through some of those  non – violent ways – unleash of that  anger on paper , through dialogue at organized platforms .So that the young don’t sit  rounded up,  languishing in those prison cells.


Just after filing this column I’m rushing off to meet Khushwant  Singh. Its his birthday – born in village  Hadali ( undivided Punjab , in Pakistan’s Sargodha district ) ) in 1915 , he celebrates  two birthdays – 2 February and also on 15 August .Why two birthdays ? “ My father was certain I was born on 2 February but my paternal grandmother was equally  certain that I was born in the midst of  bhadon , so I celebrate it  on 15 August too …”

In fact, Khushwant is one of those rare men who has tried his level best to bridge that gap between communities .This when he got uprooted during the Partition and had to move from there to  here – from Lahore to New Delhi. And though decades  have passed but he looks very emotional at the very mention of his birthplace –  village  Hadali . In fact, several years back Minoo Bhandara  – the  well known parliamentarian of Pakistan who’d later died in a freak car accident in China – had  brought a couple of  photographs  of Khushwant’s  ancestral home in that  village . Seeing them  Khushwant had got nostalgic – “ Last when I’d  visited my village  it was a very emotional experience ,with a reception held for me and people coming to meet  me . Ours was a large haveli and today  it lies occupied by three refugee families who had  gone from Rohtak …It was touching to see  the gurdwara in the village  still intact .Even during the  Partition nobody  touched  the  gurdwara  though the village population was 90% Muslims and there were few  Sikh and  Hindu families .”

In fact , Khushwant  is one of the  few who did not  let the  bitterness of the  Partition  affect him .Not just that  but he has  done his bit to  better  Sikh Muslim  ties .As he says , “I have  always  wanted to bridge  the  gap between Sikhs and Muslims  …When I was  awarded the  Rockefeller  Fellowship I decided  to  write the two  volumes  on the history of the Sikhs under the auspices of the Aligarh  Muslim University …No , never  did I  develop any anti – Muslim  feeling…  no , not even during the Partition upheaval . Two persons have left a deep impact on me -my Urdu teacher Maulvi Shafiuddin Nayar at the Modern School , New Delhi , and the other was Manzoor Qadir  , my lawyer friend  in Lahore …Also, the first woman I fell in love with was a Muslim from Hyderabad. She was my sister’s friend and  had come to Delhi to study …I fell in love with her and it made me bond with the entire community …”

And though he is a self proclaimed atheist but  its  only through him that  have I  learnt the  maximum about the Sikh religion and  Sikh history .He has written extensively on the  Sikh faith and  on the community .One volume after another .In fact , I must write this – several years back whilst we were in the midst of some discussion he asked  me whether I had been inside a  gurdwara .

‘What ! You haven’t  been inside a gurdwara !’ He’d  exclaimed and the very next week he  took me to a gurdwara …


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