India is once again going to polls. Another huge exercise that is going to take weeks will incur hundreds of thousands of crore of rupees. As many as 814 million people are eligible to use their franchise in the biggest democratic exercise in the world history.
This is an ideal time to send right message to the people who are made to listen to almost every word of the netas, big and small, left or right or for that matter center. This is an ideal occasion to make people forget their differences and make them bond as Indians and only Indians.
While the nation enjoys festivals of all hues, Holi, Deepawali, Onam are celebrated by Hindus across the nations, Christians celebrate Christmas, Good Friday and a couple of other festivals, Sikhs enjoy Gurpurab, Vaisakhi, Parsis celebrate Navroz and Muslims Eid al Fitr, Eid al Azha, Muharram besides others, there is one festival that is equally enjoyed by them all. And this is Lok Sabha election that is celebrated every five years.
Everyone, irrespective of the difference of his language, dialect, religion, region whether he or she lives in hills or plains or in the faraway places like Andaman and Nicobar Islands, wants to be part of the festival.
It is tried to ensure that every information about election, candidates, constituency and polling booths reaches the voters living even in the remotest parts of the nation. Just the other day a newspaper splashed the means by which poling materials including EVMs are taken to the polling booths and I was amazed to see even elephants, camels and small boats being deployed to take the election to the end voters.
This is an ideal occasion to create brotherhood, love, and an air of togetherness of people of all races, religions and castes living within the confines of India. But sadly the opposite is the case.
The occasion is used by politicians of all hues to divide the nation. Just the other day Samajwadi Party stalwart Azam Khan claimed on top of his voice that Kargil was liberated by a Muslim soldier. I am amazed how on earth he found that a lone Muslim soldier of the Indian Army went alone to liberate the ice capped peaks of Kargil. This war launched by mindless former Pakistani general Pervez Musharraf was one of the most bizarre instances of war mongering in the Indian subcontinent. Azam Khan’s comment was no less bizarre.
But apparently it is not Azam Khan alone. There are others with more brazen statements that increase communal divide in a nation that seems to have been purposefully dragged into communal cauldron.
Owaisis in Hyderabad are known to spew venom. They say that it sells. And so they must sell it in the market at the time of elections. I have seen a few videos by the Owaisi brethren and I found them harrowing.
But apparently they are not alone. There are Togadias, Amit Shahs, VK Malhotras, Uma Bhartis and any number of other rabble rousers who come with daggers and venoms against everyone who don’t buy their ideology of hate. Just the other day Amit Shah talked about badla (revenge) in Muzaffarnagar, a district that has suffered communal violence merely months ago.
But I should admit that our own ilk, the media, also plays an equal role in spreading this divisive ideology among the unsuspecting people across the nation.
While our forefathers who fought for the Independence and the unity of the nation, gave up everything to make people of the nation feel like brothers and sisters, we are slowly trying to undo the Himalayan task that they accomplished prior and after Independence.
Mahatma Gandhi gave his life to preserve the communal amity in the country. With his blood he reared communal harmony that looked lost somewhere in the aftermath of the unfortunate partition of the country. He was the man who was the icon of togetherness and created a bond of brotherhood among Indians.
Another iconic personality whom we are starting to forget is Abul Kalam Azad. India’s first education minister and a former president of the Indian National Congress, Azad was not just a political leader, but a statesman, a laureate and an alim par excellence. His words are worth billions.
Azad who became the President of the Indian National Congress at a very young age of 35 years said in his presidential address “even if an angel descends from heaven with a gift of freedom for India from Allah I would not accept it until there is Hindu-Muslim unity as loss of India’s freedom is loss of India but loss of Hindu-Muslim unity is loss of entire humanity”.
There were many others who were intoxicated by the love of the nation and who wanted to bring unity and communal amity in the country. These were the people who tried to give up everything for its sake. Hussain Ahmad Madani, one of the stalwarts of the freedom movement who talked about composite nationalism believed that Muslims and Hindus were destined to remain together in India.
His book ‘Muttahida Qaumiyat Aur Islam’ is a living testament as to how the nation called India is the confluence of Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and Muslims. He was the man who was in the forefront against Muslim League’s divisive politics and had strong faith in the secular foundations of the Indian nation.
We are in the midst of another national festival called general elections and a clarion call for the communal amity and togetherness is going to take the nation forward. Divisive words of Azam Khan, Owaisi, Amit Shah, Togadia or anyone else for that matter should be silenced and the atmosphere of communal amity must be preserved across the nation to give the nation a big boost.
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Syed Ubaidur Rahman is a New Delhi based writer and commentator. He has written several books on Muslims and Islam in India including Understanding Muslim Leadership in India.