Debating India


Feel Good Fleetingly


Wednesday 7 April 2004, by BANDUKWALA*J.S.

In the months following the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992, as now, the adoring fans of a cricket superstar - Azharuddin then and Irfan Pathan now - were breaking communal barriers haunting our society... Can cricket overcome the religious madness in our belly?

In its March 25 issue, The Indian Express talked about ??hundreds of cricket fans rushing onto the streets in a victory rally. In Mandvi, the home of Irfan Pathan, policemen were almost overrun by frenzied fans. Senior police officials had to lock up the Jama Masjid and lay a cordon around it to prevent the crowds from entering his house.’’

If Irfan were in a reflecting frame of mind, he must be wondering at the 180 degree turn that his fate has taken. In his short span of 19 years, Irfan must have seen many such maddening crowds trying to enter the Jama Masjid where his father is a lowly paid muezzin, one who calls the faithfuls to prayer.

The Jama Masjid of Baroda is in the VHP list of 3000 mosques that should be converted into temples. As a result, this mosque has been a frequent target of communal mobs, leading to blood being spilt and Muslim properties being destroyed in the vicinity of Irfan’s home.

Now, suddenly this poor Muslim lad, who’s only passed his Class X, is an icon. But can he bridge the vast Hindu-Muslim divide in Gujarat? Would many of those in the recent adoring crowds have gladly killed the same Irfan two years ago?

The truth is that cricket adulation is transitory. It lasts only until the icon hits a bad patch and gives a poor performance. Roses will just as easily become stones. One is reminded of Einstein who was a German Jew. Replying to a question on how his country would view him in future, he said: "If my theory succeeds, Germany will probably call me a German. If it fails, they will say that he is after all a Jew."

Sports or music can never overcome ideologically-driven prejudice and hatred. Ustad Allauddin Khan is widely considered the greatest Indian musician of the last century. He was the guru of Pt. Ravi Shankar. A Madhya Pradesh Government music academy is named after him. Last month, State Culture Minister, who is also Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s nephew, decided to drop the Ustad’s name from the academy. The charge: he was a foreigner. Incidentally, even his shishya Ravi Shankar did not utter a word of protest.

The same is true of other Muslim icons - whether Dilip Kumar or Shahrukh Khan. President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam is acceptable only so long as he suppresses his Muslim identity. His achievements in space and nuclear science and his vast service to the country would amount to nothing in the face of a saffron onslaught.

Irfan can’t bridge the Gujarat divide. That needs a change of heart, which in turn requires a Gandhi. How do you find such an epochal man in today’s Gujarat. There is only one way out of the Gujarat mess - the victims of tragedy must get justice.


Outlook India, April 07, 2004.

SPIP | template | | Site Map | Follow-up of the site's activity RSS 2.0