Opinion

The incident that happened in Karachi, right after the day Babri Masjid came down.

There’s this incident that happened in Karachi, right after the day Babri Masjid came down.

A mob led by the local Jamaat-I-Islami cadres, seminary students and the local cleric converged near the house of the local temple priest. They weren’t going to shout slogans, no sir, they can’t waste their time in such niceties when their hearts ached for what all they’d be allowed to do today. Can you feel the burning enthusiasm here? It’s just like something you felt as a kid when your friends would shout your name out, calling you for the evening games and you wouldn’t want to even finish your meal—you wanted out, you were desperate. Yeah, that’s exactly how the crowd felt because the activities that lay ahead— they made them ache and the crowd discipline enforced by the local cleric just seemed to waver.

So, amidst much grumblings and ‘hmmmms’ the door was knocked. Funny, a mob would do that. But they did just that if the acquaintance narrating the incident to my tuition-teacher is to believe. They knocked, and they waited.

A woman bent with age and with them, high rimmed glasses like the grandmoms of the nineties wore, opened it—bewildered seeing the mob. The local cleric came forward and handed her a folded piece of paper and she went, eyes squinted scanning for intent, door firmly shut and latched. You see it had been decided in the evening-meeting the day before that Muslims were not animals like the Kafirs and the local priest was a good man anyway. Someone pointed out the paradox here—How could the priest be a good person if all the Kafirs are damned animals. Much was discussed, but the cleric settled it ‘Some animals are capable of goodwill too but they are animals anyhow, so if the priest refused to behave, they’d treat him like they’d treat a mad horse’, and the matter was finally settled.

So here they were, waiting outside the door of the local temple priest as he studied their demands. A five minute deadline on top of that, it took ten to read for this man whose eyes had gone hazy with the beatings of time, no choice for him—the demands were to be met.

And he finally came out, pained. His ancient face having aged considerably in those five minutes. It was either to be his daughters or the temple, his choice, one was to be sullied. The crowd waited, holding their breaths as he marched forward, they seemed to give way like the ocean gave way to Moses.

He took to the street—forward to the temple. Loud shouts of ‘Hindustan Murdaabad’ seemed to cloud the atmosphere, followed with ‘Nare Takbeers’. Some in the crowd were depressed because it was the daughters for whom they’d arrived, they didn’t give two shits about this priest. Most were ecstatic, kids howling with joy. Pure unadulterated bliss– the emotion that shakes your core because you aren’t used to it, as rare as that exotic drug the rockstars snort, a luxury. That’s revenge, witnessing your sworn enemy being utterly humiliated and you leave him alive just so he is forced to live this inequity every night for the remainder of his life and how heady this thought is for some people! That was the kind of euphoria that had swept over this crowd and their senses along with their better judgement if they even possessed it all along–dulled.

The Hanuman Temple was brought down amidst much fanfare. They made the priest strike the first blows and the crowd discipline (does there exist anything like that even) gave way to wanton arson. He was spat upon, labelled an ‘Indian agent’, driven home with face blackened up with grease and shoe-polish. His honour in tatters, his temple gone. ‘But my home intact’, maybe that was all on his mind trying to search for the sole ray of sunbeam in this typhoon that had just turned his life around.

And then there was something entirely unfathomable to him—how could he be an Indian when he had lived all his life on this land? How could a frail eighty year old man be a Hindu Indian agent? His head couldn’t get around such questions, just like ours didn’t when algebra was first introduced in the maths classes, dear reader. Maybe he died wrecking his brains for answers— How on this dear planet could he be an Indian and why would anybody punish him for something that mattered as little to him as to them. The temple was on Pakistani land, the money went for local charity. The old man was a Pakistani, his son a policeman. His family contributed as much to the state as his next door neighbour. How could he be an Indian then?

But that’s the question minorities are often forced to ask. That’s not a problem particularly with the priest. Romas asked this question, Jews did for a long long time, Native Americans in the land of liberty, Tamils in Sri-Lanka too. Such questions shouldn’t be allowed to take roots, they destroy civilizations. They destroy morality. They destroy progress.

But I guess, that my point is hard to understand. For your answer, and since you asked such a deep question—I urge you to settle down in Pakistan, adopt their customs, pay taxes and fight for wars and help their people like you’d help a family member in times of need and then a day comes, when they all converge around your house urging the dogdamned Hindu to come out, shouting anti-India slogans. Or settle down in the US of A, apply for citizenship, be a contributing citizen and send your son to fight their wars and have him come back home in a body bag, then have a chicken-hawk draft dodger presidential nominee blast you as a non-American. The bafflement you’d feel over such strange exercises is what Indian Muslims feel when you shout such slogans at their faces. Bafflement as in—What more do we have to do to pass your test?!

Ganesh Kumar

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