India Cannot Be Ever Complete Without Muslims

                                  It was most ashaming to see that how the students of Banaras Hindu University’s (BHU’s) Sanskrit Vedvigyan Sankay (SVDVS) went on strike  demanding the cancellation of the appointment of Assistant Professor Feroze Khan and transfer him to another faculty. These students were opposing the appointment of a Muslim to teach Sanskrit in Banaras Hindu University’s Sanskrit studies department! Nothing on earth can be more shameful than this! India as a nation cannot be ever complete without Muslims and this cannot be ever denied or disputed!

Why do we forget that Muslims are an integral part of India just as Hindus? Why do we forget that many Muslims like Ashfaqullah Khan smilingly sacrificed their lives while fighting against the Britishers so that we can gain freedom? Why do we forget that it was Abdul Hamid who was the main hero of 1965 war against Pakistan who destroyed more than 22 tanks of Pakistan and inflicted huge damage on them?

Why do we forget that we are a secular nation where all religion are equal and not a theocratic nation like Pakistan where one religion alone reigns supreme? Why do we forget that Dr Abdul Kalam was also a Muslim who fathered India’s nuclear weapons and India’s missile programmes like that of Agni, Prithvi among others and went on to become the most popular President of India acceptable to people from all religion equally? Why do we forget that Muslims have contributed for the betterment of our country in all fields? Why do we forget that it was Maulana Abul Kalam Azad who had opposed the partition of India on ground of religion till the last even though Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel and Mahatma Gandhi had agreed to it? Why do we forget that it was Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan who while opposing partition had said that, “Nehru what have you done? You have made me a foreigner in my own country by agreeing to partition of India on the basis of religion?”

I cannot ever even dream of India without Muslims! I still feel that majority of Indians are secular but such shameful incidents damage the reputation of our country on the international fora! I can never forget how Maulana Mehmood Madani had sharply rebuffed former Pakistani dictator General Pervez Musharraf who when while in India had slammed the condition of Muslims in India saying that, “I am seeing that you want to do politics on the condition of Muslims in India. Don’t worry on this score as 90% Hindus are with us. They shall always remain with us.”

It is good to note that students ultimately decided to call off a fortnight long protest against the appointment of a Muslim to teach Sanskrit in BHU’s Sanskrit studies department, ostensibly swayed by the huge support he received even from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and BHU Vice Chancellor Rakesh Bhatnagar as reported in Hindustan Times newspaper dated November 23. The local chapter of RSS described “as totally wrong” the protest against the appointment of Dr Firoz Khan at the department of Sahitya in the faculty of Sanskrit Vidya Dharma Vigyan (SVDV). RSS which is the ideological mentor of BJP expressed full support for the appointment of Dr Firoz Khan which is extremely commendable!

While elaborating on this, Jai Prakash Lal who is a senior functionary at the Kashi region RSS while coming out in full support of Dr Firoz Khan said that, “It is the firm, and clear view of the RSS that the protest on communal grounds against a person, who is dedicated to teaching Sanskrit reverentially and has been appointed through a legal selection process, is entirely wrong.”

Good to see that BHU students have now called off their 15-day dharna. It was also good to see that the students associated with Joint Action Committee of BHU took out a march to support the appointment of Firoz Khan as an Assistant Professor in the faculty of Sanskrit Vidya Dharm Vigyan. They expressed their full solidarity with him which has only served to enhance their own image in front of the nation! A senior administrative official of the BHU also said that that 99% of the University staff and administration were behind Mr Khan.

It is also good to note that even the BHU Vice Chancellor Rakesh Bhatnagar took a firm stand in favour of the appointment of Dr Firoz Khan which helped defused the protest! He said without mincing any words that, “There is no question of looking back at the matter as the appointment has been done on basis of pure merit.” Why the hell are then some few students objecting on the baseless ground of religion alone? This is most despicable and deserves no space in a democratic country like India which cannot be ever complete without Muslims!

In my personal life only once I witnessed a Muslim who faced discrimination on the ground of religion about which I have never written earlier. My school friend Rais Khan who studied with me in Class XI in Sagar once way back in 1990-91 while standing alone stood a lot dejected with virtual tears in his eyes. I asked him what happened. He said that wherever I go our class fellows stop talking and slowly start going away and I am left totally alone.

Let me be candid enough to concede that I had never observed this till that time but when I started observing I found that he was right and wherever he used to go and stand except he and me, all used to leave on one ground or the other like going to drink water etc! My friend Rais Khan said inconsolably that, “They feel that I am Muslim and as Mulayam Singh Yadav had ordered firing on Hindus at Karsewaks in 1990 in which many Hindus had died so I should be boycotted.” I became very angry for this unpardonable act of theirs!

I immediately consoled Rais and told him that I am with you so just don’t worry and we both will stay together always and you don’t bother about others. I started slamming hard all those who did such boycott act and asked them whenever they tried to taunt me for talking with him that, “What is the fault of my friend Rais Khan if Mulayam Singh Yadav ordered police to open firing on karsewaks? Did Rais Khan play any role in it? When he has no role then why are you all boycotting him for what has been done by a Hindu politician named Mulayam Singh Yadav? Why no one is boycotting him who is the real culprit and who was the real force behind ordering fire on karsewaks? Why is Rais being singled out just on ground of his being a Muslim?” These words of mine did the magic and slowly all Hindus of my class realized their folly and started talking with him gradually one after the other in a normal manner for which he thanked me but I said that there is no need to thank me as you are my friend and shall always remain so no matter what others may say or behave in the most foolish manner!

I must acknowledge that Rais too stood with me in my trying times and even once told the Principal most bluntly that, “If Sanjeev Sirohi will be expelled from school on any ground whatsoever then expel me also because he always stood by me in my trying times while narrating the whole incident. I will not continue with my studies without my friend Sanjeev Sirohi”. The Principal who was a “Sister” of St Joseph Convent School was visibly shaken and she commended me for standing with him when all others had boycotted him!

Coming back to the subject at hand, it is most heartening to note that even Dinesh Sharma who is UP Deputy Chief Minister has come out strongly in support of Dr Firoz Khan and he categorically and clearly asserted that, “Teachers do not have any religion. Students can always raise questions about the appointment process, whether merit has been compromised in the selection process of the teacher. But students cannot raise questions about the religion of teachers. I was taught Sanskrit by a Muslim teacher, Sir Waliullah Khan, when I was studying at Government Jubilee Inter College in Lucknow. Recently, I felicitated Waliullah Khan Sir at a function held in my school. It was such an emotional moment for me.” I have just no words to appreciate Dinesh Sharma for such a strong stand as he has taken on this sensitive issue even as many others strangely prefer to keep quiet on it! Every Indian must emulate the worthy example of UP’s Deputy Chief Minister Dinesh Sharma if we truly want our nation to grow powerful, progressive and prosperous! India as a nation cannot be ever complete without Muslims and we all must ensure that no Muslim ever feels isolated on any ground whatsoever!

It goes without saying that we must all live like good human beings without discriminating against anyone on ground of religion alone. Deanswift had once rightly said that, “We have just enough religion to make us hate one another but not enough to make us love one another.” We must always remember that India as a nation can be complete only with people from all religion living in peace and harmony and respecting each others sentiments always!

If this does not happen then there will be communal violence, strife and discord which can never be in the long term national interest of our country! Strict legal action must be taken against all those who try to discriminate against anyone on ground of religion, caste, sex or community or any other ground whatsoever! There has to be zero tolerance for intolerance!

Sanjeev Sirohi