Are Kashi-Mathura Next?
India, the home of every Indian
After having sent the British packing from India, we the people chose to nurse the country as a home of every Indian. It was taken for granted after Independence that the well-meaning decision will keep Indians united forever. Those who dreamt of India as the home of only one religious community were not taken seriously, and even dismissed as crazy, for decades. The idea of India as the home of only Hindus was considered a joke in a country where the minorities add up to nearly 20 percent of the population, and enough was never done to challenge or to combat the dangerously divisive school of thought.
The traumatic incident of partition in 1947 therefore led to periodic riots that could not be contained. The centuries old Babri Masjid in Ayodhya was torn down in 1992 with naked hands of right wing enthusiasts to the tune of blood curdling chants of ‘Ayodhya is only a pretext, Kashi-Mathura are next’.
Ayodhya toh sirf jhanki hai, Kashi Mathura baaki hai
The riots in Gujarat followed in 2002. Now the Gyanvapi mosque in Banaras is threatened with demolition. This is happening against the wishes of the majority of citizens in the city and those living for centuries around the temple-mosque complex. Tension is building, and citizens are nervous at the thought of anger spilling over in public places.
Sudhir Singh, a Banarasi film maker, told The Citizen that he is not in favour of people taking the law into their own hands. “We have a justice system. Crowds let loose on streets cannot decide what is best for us. Let the courts do that,” said Singh. The question is if anyone even wants to listen to this sensible citizen?
Love Shows the Path
It has taken civil society much too long to wake up to all the hate speech heard regularly around us. But the Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) that had played such a powerful role in the early 20th century against the British is now up and about.
IPTA flagged off a cross country cultural journey to mark the 75th year of India’s independence on April 9, the birth anniversary of Mahapandit Rahul Sankrityayan. This is also the day when the Progressive Writers Association was founded when writers and poets had pooled in to inspire a robust mass movement against the colonial rulers.
Journalist, and Author of A Shadow of the Past: A Short Biography of Lucknow, born Kedarnath Pandey in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, Sankrityayan, the Hindi writer was both monk and a Marxist. But above all he was a patriot who was arrested and jailed for his anti-British writings and speeches.
Titled Dhai Akhar Prem, or ‘love is a two syllable word’ after the verses written by the saint poet Kabir who said that wisdom is not gained by reading many books, as the one who has studied the two and a half letters of love is the wisest human being of them all. The purpose of the cultural journey is to meet as many people in the state as possible and to point out the benefit of creating love and harmony in all our lives. The journey took off from Raipur. It travelled to Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand to tarry in Tarouni village, Darbhanga the birthplace of Baba Nagarjuna. National General Secretary, IPTA Rakesh Veda said that he had heard Baba Nagarjuna live in Lucknow, and recalled the Hindi poet who also wrote in Maithili questioning all those in power without fear.
Nagarjuna died in 1998 and he wrote in one poem how the five sons of the mother country are faced with an opponent fierce one has been shot dead while four continue to tread:
“paanch pooth bharatmata ke, dushman thaa khoonkhar, goli khakar ek mar gaya baaki reh gai chaar.”
Bihar is one state where the people fought against exploitative feudal landlords with great courage. Veda said that the cultural journey is conceived as a form of resistance to the hatred being spread in present times as he feels that art is a powerful medium to spread love. On the way, many artists, poets and writers talk to people about the value of freedom, of liberty, equality, justice and fraternity to individual lives and how these values are being submerged today in an ocean of hatred.
Pilgrims of Love
Indian People’s Theatre Association secretary in Bihar, General Tanveer Akhtar highlighted the importance of the practice of more unity, brotherhood and love. Throughout the journey the caravan of love picks up folk songs and performs drama with the local people. Firoz Alam read from the books of Safdar Hashmi for children who surrounded him on the way.
The cultural journey reached Banaras on May 8 where progressive writers like Kabir, Bhartendu Harishchandra, Munshi Premchand, Rahi Masoom Raza, Kaifi Azmi and shehnai master Bismillah Khan were remembered. On May 12 the journey will take a break in Lucknow members of the Dalit Writers Association will host cultural events along with other local NGOs.
The pilgrims of love also visited the village of the country’s first President Rajendra Prasad in Bihar, and the home of Maulana Azad. The travellers carried up bananas and bread for their meals. The only concern on the mind of the peace loving people is to save their homeland from being destroyed by hate.
During the journey it was discovered that Mahatma Gandhi’s non-cooperation movement from the 1920s was just a follow up of dramatist Bharatendu Harishchandra’s call in 1884 at the Dadri Mela in Ballia to boycott foreign goods and clothes.
Throughout the journey social activists from the past are remembered including people from the Bhakti movement, along with Sufis whose only love in life were other human beings. It is important for the travellers to talk to the young around the country, most of whom are unemployed and are being used to indulge in anti-social and hateful activities in return for a few rupees.
The journey of the artists will end in Madhya Pradesh on May 22. This is the first time perhaps in decades when concerned citizens in the city have travelled into the countryside to meet with fellow Indians to find out what is on their mind, and how they imagine the future for their children.
Back to Politics
Meanwhile the politics practiced in Uttar Pradesh remains mean. The police force continues to reign terror upon citizens like the policemen involved in the Chandauli and Lalitpur crimes committed against women. When not been raped, robbed or murdered, citizens are also faced with a power crisis due to a coal crisis. It is said that coal is being imported and that consumers will be asked to pay one rupee per unit of electricity more in the future, making the common citizen wonder if they will ever see an end to at least some of their woes?