Hate culture

New India is newly minted; it has no history. Or, rather, its history has to be written from scratch. What is needed for that is an aggressive ignorance that sees only black, white and the red of fury, and uses the word 'anti-national' as a cleansing weapon. The idiocy of the reasons behind the violence at Aligarh Muslim University is a recent example. Members of the right-wing Hindu Yuva Vahini attacked students with the demand that the portrait of Muhammad Ali Jinnah hanging in the students' union hall be taken down: it was anti-national. Jinnah's portrait had been in the hall since 1938, because he had been made a life member of the union as had been Mahatma Gandhi and B.R. Ambedkar at different times. Jinnah's portrait was displayed along with those of the others. The pictures represent a part of AMU's history, and are also a poignant witness to the tragic events in the subcontinent, while suggesting the layered relationship - not black, white and red - that India has with Pakistan.

Two features of the assault stand out. The police beat up and injured the AMU students in frank support of the attacking outsiders, and the programme awarding life membership of the students' union to the former vice-president, Hamid Ansari, that was to follow a few hours later, had to be cancelled. The stupidity of the reasoning did not matter: quite a number of birds had been killed with one stone. But the work of dismantling history and the creation of a bogey must go on tirelessly. So the BJP, the sole keeper of Indian culture, has to be picky about applying the basic principles of this culture on particular occasions. Faiz Ahmed Faiz's daughter was an invited guest to a conference in Delhi, but she could not be treated as god according to tradition because she came from Pakistan. Her name was abruptly dropped from the conference in which she was the keynote speaker, and her accommodation in the designated hotel was cancelled. Faiz's greatness and vision as a poet, his pain at Partition, may not matter to born again 'nationalists', but it is striking that India is willing to be known internationally as a country that kicks out invited visitors if they are from Pakistan.


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