Last week’s unsavoury developments, especially the row over ban of animal slaughter and sale of meat, and demand for renaming certain cities in Maharashtra, takes me back to my childhood days, when I had my first lesson in communal politics. It’s still relevant and may help us to understand further what we want as a peace-loving society.
My native place, Mangrul Dastgir, a nondescript small town in Amravati district of Vidarbha, continues to carry Dastgir in its name with great pride. It has a definite history of communal harmony. If we were to go by what is happening around us, the very model that is synonymous with my native place, and many more unknown and known places, faces an imminent threat.
My native place, home to some 20,000 people, has sufi saint Baba Dastgir as its presiding deity. The gadhi, a place that each town or village would build on a hillock (or in absence of hillocks they would create one) to be used as a shelter during attacks from aggressors of old times, houses Dastgir’s small dargah. People of all religions reach up to his kabra to seek blessings, and not just during Dastgir’s Urs, but whenever they wish to. It’s a symbol of secularism that stands tall even as the remaining part of the gadhi has been flattened to construct a road.
Opposite the grave is a vast ground that hosts a parent branch of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Beyond the RSS venue stands a magnificent temple of Hindu deity Dattatreya. People affiliated with the Sangh Parivar manage the Hindu temple. People from all religions manage the Dastgir dargah. And when all appeared well between them — the dargah, the RSS and the temple — I remember how a group of people had attempted to create a communal rift by trying to rename our tiny place after Lord Dattatreya (as Mangrul Dattgir). While these people wrote the name differently, the rest were more than happy with Dastgir.
When asked, my late father, who studied to become a teacher in a Nagpur-based school run by an RSS ideologue, gave me my first lesson in the country’s communal politics, which later escalated in the wake of the Ayodhya episode. Several instances that have taken place thereafter, have had me revisit the insight he gave me then. Thankfully, my town still carries its original name.
This example makes me believe that the majority of the country’s population does not want any communal disturbances even as Delhi’s Aurangzeb Road was renamed, and the Shiv Sena revived its demand to change the cities of Aurangabad to Sambhajinagar, Osmanabad to Dharashiv and Islampur to Ishwarpur. In Islampur, the Sena has tied up with Shiv Pratishthan, a hardcore Hindu outfit patronised by Sambhaji Bhide, who is an adarsh purush to top leaders in the RSS and its political offshoot, the BJP.
The Congress-NCP government had scrapped the renaming of Aurangabad and Osmanabad in 1999 when the high court had asked to maintain the status quo. Back in power after 15 years, the Sena has upped the ante yet again.
Last week, the BJP retreated after extending the period of the ban on slaughter and meat sales during the Jain community’s Paryushan Parva because the Sena and other political parties did not approve of a prolonged ban. People may want to know who pressurised the municipal authorities. Are the individuals who feel empowered because of their close proximity to the BJP responsible for this?
Such ill designs speak volumes of the mind games certain people are playing to tarnish our social fabric. Their sole aim is political gain. Of late, Maharashtra, in particular, has seen a series of controversies over the beef ban, scrapping of reservation for Muslims, death sentencing of terror convict Yakub Memon and the meat ban. Such rows do not augur well for Maharashtra, where the BJP had promised voters unparalleled development and quality of life. If such acts continue, the people who are not interested in any form of politics and believe in leading a peaceful life, are likely to shy away from supporting the BJP. The Sena too needs to be consistent; one doesn’t understand why it fails to be uniform in policy when it comes to any kind of ban.
The writer is Political Editor of mid-day