By Farzana Versey
06 December, 2006, Countercurrents.org
I have got a new father. He died before I was born. He died before my mother was born. He died before my grandmother was born. He died generations ago. But Zahir ud-Din Mohammad is Papa. Yes, I am Babar ki aulad.
The progeny of a tyrant. A face I do not recognise. A mosque I would never have known about. A legacy I carry as a mortuary dumped with an unclaimed corpse.
"I am from a minority community." My words circled the compressed air in the plane.
"What did you just say?" asked the gentleman sitting next to me.
"I am from a minority community."
"Is that how you introduce yourself?" he shrugged. A wonderful conversation that had begun about the media, Naxals, politicians, industrialists had ended.
He was candid: "This comment has left me disturbed. It has taken away from all the ideas we talked about."
So many thousands of feet above sea-level, at the mercy of technology and nature, we became Hindu and Muslim. This was the first time in spoken communication that I had uttered the phrase 'minority community' for myself. Was this not a statement of fact? Should I feel ashamed of it? Why was I limiting the expanse of my sky?
That morning there had been a newspaper report that had filled me with trepidation as I read it on the way to the airport. It talked about how certain frequent travellers in Mumbai were being hauled up for questioning by the police. Your crime? Being a Muslim.
In the lounge, I curled up the paper and tucked it away. I did not want to show them what had become of us. No one watched me suspiciously, but I looked around with suspicion. Antenna and armour were both in place.
I wasn't afraid for myself, but I was afraid about my reaction. What if I lost my temper? What if I made scathing comments and asked them to prove their loyalty, their credentials.
Worse, my destination was Dubai, where they say all my 'brothers' are in hiding after committing terrorist acts in the new corporatised Bharat, where history is being hawked on saffron bandanas.
It does not matter what political party is in power. Today, power rests on the mighty prongs of the trishul. We are a non-violent nation; we hate guns; we distress over road rage. But we go on raths, simulate the archaic, our ennui satiated with impotent anger over spectres shrouded in lies.
Why do I remember December 6 at all? Because they remind me about it.
Look at this report of December 4: "Uttar Pradesh government has sounded an alert across the state and asked district authorities to take measures to maintain communal harmony on December 6 anniversary of Babri mosque demolition."
They have anyway barricaded the make-shift temple. It is high-security area. God does not live there; god has been trapped there. Is the cradle of Ram lalla the cradle of civilisation? Does this civilisation make you demolish a mosque in six hours? Can you imagine the planning and effort that must have gone into this quickie attempt, how well-synchronised it was?
You ask, did not the Muslims destroy a temple that was there? I shall quote the words of a Sufi singer from Sindh, Allan Fakir, who on a visit to Delhi a few years ago had said, "Yes, Babar must have come to Ayodhya, he must have stumbled on a ruined structure and asked what it was. He must have been told that it is the birthplace of Ram and Lakshman – 'then it is pavitra bhoomi. There should be ibaadat in such a place. Prayers and devotion. Raise a mosque here'. And thus a Babri Masjid must have come to be."
100 people have been pronounced guilty in the 1993 bomb blasts case. Now tell us who are the guilty for the riots that preceded it?
A little over nine years later, when Gujarat happened, we realised that a Hindu life was worth Rs. 2 lakh, a Muslim's one lakh.
This is the legacy of Babri.
They say their resentment is over things like Article 370 for Kashmir and the Muslim Personal Law. While the former was formulated as an administrative necessity, the latter, though undesirable, seems to be causing problems only for the Brahmin-Rajput sections, minorities themselves. (The rath yatra as a response to Mandal makes its own ironic statement.) Why did no one think about a Uniform Civil Code in 1947? Why did no one shout slogans of "Jai Sri Ram" then?
I do want to know how those going to Ayodhya on December 6, 1992 could be called pilgrims when they had a specific agenda. Do people go on Haj carrying weapons?
There are several other questions one asks. I have still not got adequate answers.
How many Muslims have been traitors to the country?
Haven't riots put them back by a few years?
Have they progressed economically?
What have they gained?
Has there been no contribution at all from the community?
Have they really tainted the purity of the ancient civilisation?
Why do 800 million Indians find us a threat? The Muslim is an abstraction now. S/he would be forced to ask: Who am I? And the response would be…I am the AK-47 rifle, I am the detonated bomb, I am the dynamite that has blown up cars, trains, bodies, I am the beard, the burqa, I am the voice that shouts out loud in the streets to support dictators who look like thieves, I am the bent over figure taking up public space for my prayers, I am the loudspeaker that beckons believers and is a nuisance to the ears, I am the butcher with the knife over a poor goat's neck, I am the one that the metal detector detects faster than anyone else. I am not like you anymore.
This is the legacy of Babri.
14 years ago, a BBC reporter had hesitantly asked me, "Would you still wear a bindi after all this?"
What was 'this'? Just an onion-domed structure in a town I knew little about? No, it was the blood on the walls in my city. I do not revisit those areas, for when I had done so they were washing the stains and those would not go away.
Remembrance comes in other garbs: The pregnant woman who was kicked in the stomach repeatedly to tell her, and us and everyone who did not go along with their narrow beliefs, that nothing new should be born.
She did give birth. Another Babar ki aulad was here. Prematurely. This is what happens when you hit so hard.
(Farzana Versey can be reached at [email protected])