To foil the na­tion­al­ist nar­ra­tive

The Pak Banker - - 4EDITORIAL - Jawed Naqvi

WHEN much of the demo­cratic world was plead­ing with Zi­aul Haq to spare Zul­fikar Ali Bhutto's life, the In­dian govern­ment, of which Atal Be­hari Va­j­payee was for­eign min­is­ter, re­mained stu­diously aloof. In­dia re­fused to in­ter­vene with Is­lam­abad on the is­sue, not on hu­man­i­tar­ian grounds, not even sym­bol­i­cally. It was pay­back time when Zia nom­i­nated Va­j­payee's prime min­is­ter Mo­rarji De­sai for Pak­istan's high­est civil­ian award. No Bal Thack­eray protested.

Re­mem­ber that it was Indira Gandhi, as op­po­si­tion leader, who spoke up for Bhutto. She had signed the Shimla Agree­ment with the van­quished Bhutto in 1972 and now, be­ing of Nehru­vian pedi­gree, she was wor­ried for Bhutto's fam­ily even if he had not been par­tic­u­larly nice about In­dia. She wrote and spoke to Nus­rat Bhutto, sym­pa­this­ing with her trauma and her chil­dren's. When Zia vis­ited Delhi in 1983 to at­tend the non-aligned sum­mit un­der her lead­er­ship, Mrs Gandhi gave him short shrift. Af­ter her death, the nar­ra­tive in the more reactionary mosques and madres­sahs was that three peo­ple re­spon­si­ble for the cre­ation of Bangladesh - Bhutto, Mrs Gandhi and Mu­jibur Rehman - had met with a vi­o­lent end by God's will. The nar­ra­tive waned when its prob­a­ble pa­tron him­self per­ished in an as yet un­ex­plained air crash, ap­par­ently caused by a crate of ex­plod­ing man­goes.

We can't for­get eas­ily how al­most ev­ery stu­dent on the cam­pus of Jawa­har­lal Nehru Univer­sity, JNU to the world, had shared the out­rage over Bhutto's predawn ex­e­cu­tion. His re­li­gio­fas­cist tor­men­tor didn't kill just the pop­u­lar leader, he snuffed out in the process the sec­u­lar al­beit con­tro­ver­sial ide­al­ism of Pak­istan's founder. In do­ing so, the mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor cre­ated the grounds to breed home-grown ter­ror­ists who would go on to mas­sacre school­child­ren in Pak­istan or shoot or blow up in­no­cent peo­ple in In­dian cities. The day Bhutto was laid low, many JNU stu­dents didn't eat. There was more pal­pa­ble sor­row than at the pass­ing away of Mao Ze­dong a year or two ear­lier, al­though on that oc­ca­sion too some stu­dents wore the black armband. No one was jailed or at­tacked for mourn­ing a Pak­istani leader or cel­e­brat­ing a Chi­nese one. Bhutto in par­tic­u­lar had sworn to eat grass if that is what it took to make a nu­clear bomb, and it was to have In­dia in the cross hairs. He didn't live long enough to re­alise the folly. There was never one In­dia where Pak­istan was con­cerned and there was never one Pak­istan where In­dia was con­cerned. There were al­ways mixed opin­ions about each other and a range of in­ter­locu­tors on ei­ther side. There were In­di­ans who felt close to Zia's world­view. They in­cluded Va­j­payee's Hin­dutva fol­low­ers as well as the more ob­scu­rant of In­dia's Mus­lim clergy. There were In­di­ans who felt com­pas­sion for Bhutto, not the least be­cause he was the hero, rightly or wrongly, of Pak­istan's lib­eral left. Zia sought to crush Bhutto's fol­low­ers, but he ended up invit­ing a rush of ca­ma­raderie with the hunted in­tel­lec­tu­als from mil­lions of In­dian ide­al­ists. Mrs Gandhi came back to power in 1980 and she opened the doors to many fugi­tives from Zia's tyranny. One of them was a woman of great in­tel­lec­tual grit, the poet Fah­mida Riaz. She was to later lament how In­dia un­der the political sad­hus had trag­i­cally ac­quired like­ness with Zia's Pak­istan. The other Pak­istani fugi­tive I re­mem­ber was a fine jour­nal­ist, Sala­mat Ali. Both were pop­u­lar guests in Delhi homes. There were no po­lice raids or lawyers tail­ing them.

In ex­press­ing sol­i­dar­ity with In­dia, Fah­mida Riaz was car­ry­ing on a tradi- tion that was set in mo­tion in 1947. Pak­istan fell on dark times soon un­der Ayub Khan's mil­i­tary rule. His ob­jec­tive and Hin­dutva's peren­nial thrust in In­dia were iden­ti­cal. They were both avowedly anti-com­mu­nist. In­dian po­ets and writ­ers led a cho­rus of protests against Ayub Khan's regime. Ma­jrooh Sul­tan­puri's fa­mous ghazal - Jala ke mishal e jaa'n hum junoo'n sifaat cha­ley - was com­posed in sol­i­dar­ity with his com­rades in Pak­istan. The left-right po­lar­i­sa­tion in In­dia à la Pak­istan has taken its own time to evolve. Com­mu­nist bash­ing is just about be­gin­ning, but its roots are old. Divi­sions within the In­dian left led to one side back­ing the po­ten­tial right, which was to be­come their un­do­ing.

In the 1970s, im­por­tant vis­i­tors to JNU would meet the stu­dents in L3, a spa­cious hexag­o­nal room wedged be­tween the li­brary and the vice chan­cel­lor's of­fice on the old cam­pus. When Va­j­payee be­came In­dia's for­eign min­is­ter in 1977, he was warmly re­ceived in L3 by JNU's left­ists and com­mu­nists. The cam­pus had played a use­ful role in the de­feat of Mrs Gandhi in the poste­mer­gency polls, and Va­j­payee was JNU's ally in the en­deav­our. And though the left­ist cam­pus wel­comed him as one of its own, it had to sus­pend its aware­ness that the guest be­longed to the RSS sta­ble, which is where he was des­tined to re­turn, and he did. "You were op­posed to our bomb, so we dropped it," Va­j­payee told the stu­dents. In­dian left­ists, be­fore they be­came na­tion­al­ists, had op­posed the bomb. Pokharan II was 20 years away. The Hindu news­pa­per on Mon­day car­ried an un­usu­ally sharp cri­tique of In­dia's Left Front, which it said had been bul­lied into buy­ing the na­tion­al­ist discourse of the rul­ing right-wing al­liance. Stu­dent clus­ters were un­happy that though com­mu­nist lead­ers protested the Hin­dutva at­tack on JNU, they adlibbed the spu­ri­ous cho­rus against al­leged anti-na­tion­al­ist slo­ga­neer­ing.

If In­dia's com­mu­nists feel their em­brac­ing of the na­tion­al­ist world­view would fetch them vic­tory in West Ben­gal or Ker­ala in the com­ing polls they may or may not be proved right. What is cer­tain though is that it won't stop a Hin­dutva state from hunt­ing down the com­rades as the Pak­istani state across the bor­der did years ago. JNU must dig in its heels for long bat­tle ahead, with or with­out an ide­o­log­i­cal van­guard.

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