The controversies over awards is not new. Even veteran Bollywood actor Dilip Kumar, who received Nishaan-e-Imtiaz award in 1998 from the Pakistan government, had faced pressure to return the honor
Last fortnight as the veteran film star Dilip Kumar was hospitalized, I took out my notes on him and his wife, Saira Bano. I had met the couple just once and that too rather briefly in the lobby of a five-star hotel in New Delhi. But soon after that meet, I had interviewed Saira Bano for a national daily. This was in the summer of 1999, in the backdrop of the major controversy erupting, with Dilip Kumar receives the Nishaan-e-Imtiaz award from the Pakistan government. Pressure was mounting on him to return the award, with Saira Bano reacting, “Tell me, are we living in a democracy or is some sort of dictatorship going on!”
During the course of that interview, when I had pointed out to her, that several critics stated that Rabindranath Tagore had returned the title that the British had bestowed on him, and in keeping with that, Dilip Kumar could also return the award, she’d retorted, “Rabindranath Tagore returned it on his own, on a certain occasion. He wasn’t labelled anti-national, nor was he bullied and threatened. Tell me, do we now go looking for all those trophies, awards and citations that our cricketers received when they had played in Pakistan? Should we ask them to give back all those awards they’d received earlier? I’m told that even LK Advani sahib had got some citation from Pakistan…all this talk of returning awards seems petty.”
She had sounded hurt and upset by the deterioration taking place all around. “It gets very painful to see what’s been happening! How much are we going to be bullied! In fact, before this crisis, we faced the riots, just after the Babri Masjid demolition. I must say it has left me very hurt, very grieved, as though my dream has been broken, as though there’s been a crack in the glass…I feel very upset. One hopes that communalism and the rise of fascism get controlled and common sense prevails, so that we can all co-exist in peace,” she had said.
Others like Saira Bano, could also hear the alarm bells!
Perhaps, one of the first to have sensed that things were not going okay was Khushwant Singh. He would repeatedly say that fascism has spread out its fangs, and its right here, reached here! He would stress on communal strife hitting in the country, reaching dangerous levels, “No, nobody could have ever imagined that fascist forces would rise and spread out in our country, as its today. Fascism well and truly crossed our threshold and dug its heels in our courtyard. We let the fanatics get away with every step they took without raising a howl of protest. They burnt books they did not like, they beat up journalists who wrote against them, they openly butchered people for believing in a different God… The fascist agenda of Hindu fanatics is unlike anything India has experienced in its modern history.”
Khushwant was realistic and would comment along the strain. “No, I’m not optimistic, but one should fight, one should make every single effort to save the country and openly challenge and take on these men who are destroying the country. We have to battle with them at any cost. If we love our country we have to save it from the communal forces .And though the liberal class is shrinking I do hope that the present generation totally rejects the communal and fascist polices …and realizes that these are tough times for India.”
Another writer, Mulk Raj Anand, would go the extent of saying, “What’s getting wrong with us Indians! We are becoming third class. At times I sit and wonder, are we the same people whobuilt the Ajanta and Ellora caves! Today we have become so very destructive and there’s so much violence spread out! What’s getting wrong with us!”
Alarming trends here!
Earlier this month a Muslim family was mowed down in the Canadian city London in the Ontario province, by a hate-filled surcharged man. Four members of that family died, in that “premeditated” vehicle attack, with the lone survivor, a young boy, grievously injured, battling for life in a hospital.
Within hours, the Canadian police not just the nabbed the killer but was also forthright in their statement: “It is believed that these victims were targeted because they were Muslim,” Detective SuperintendentPaul Waight told a news conference on Monday. Police are weighing possible terrorism charges, he said, adding that it is believed to be a hate crime.
No, none of the rightwing Canadian politicians shrieked in defence or support of that killer. They let an independent and un-biased police force carry out their investigation…a thorough investigation without political intrusions or any of those communal tilts and slants. Look at what happens here, in our country when our citizens get attacked and killed. No political ruler seems to give a damn to humans getting targeted and attacked!
In these recent days there have been several news reports of killings along the communal format. In fact, he latest lynch killing took place earlier this month in the Mathura district of Uttar Pradesh. Cow vigilantes lynched a Muslim man, Shera. He died and his four companions — Khadim, Shahzad, Anish, Rahman- were left grievously injured.
And if one were to focus on police might sway, holding out in the capital city, then this incident would relay much: Last fortnight, a Muslim man, 29 year old Wasim Khan, residing in the Chhatarpur locality of New Delhi called up the police helpline number 100 to register a complaint …about a brawl taking place in his neighbourhood. What he got was cops of the Fateh Pur Beri police station thrashing him with lathis to such an extent that his spine is damaged and he needs immediate surgery. He has named three cops of this police station — sub inspector Satender Guliya , head constable Praveen, constable Jitender — who had called him to the police station and then used lathis to thrash him and also threw communal anti-Muslim taunts and slurs!
Yet, one didn’t see tears trickling down the faces of any of the rulers of the day! Are the rulers of the day aware of these ongoing onslaughts!
In fact, together with the rising violence and destruction, there’s come up another trend. In several incidents of anarchy and rioting, the victims are paraded as culprits! We all saw and heard and experienced apparent glimpses of this trend when during the North East Delhi rioting, several victims were named as the culprits. This list also carried the name of a saviour doctor of the area, Dr M A Anwer of the Al-Hind Hospital, who had saved the lives of the dying and injured yet his name was there in the police charge sheet! In fact, recent studies conducted in the area,by activists and academics,go to show that till date the hounding of the alive victims is on!
The tragedy stands compounded as writers and commentators and journalists who write on these ground realities of the day are getting targeted by the State machinery. There’s to be an immediate halt to this, otherwise how would any journalist function and report and put forth facts and more facts!
These are definitely dark times. One is feeling suffocated. Helplessness and hopelessness is tightening its hold. At least, in those earlier years one could question and query, without apprehensions of the aftermath unleashed by the State machinery.
Leaving you with these lines of Sahir Ludhianvi:
Here we go, stoking fire through song-laden lips
The fear of the world can never staunch the flow of our word
In all, we have just one view, our own
Why should we see the world through someone else’s eyes It is true we did not turn the world into a garden
But at least we lessened some thorns from the paths we travelled.