By Sushil Kutty
Veteran author Nayantara Sahgal saying she’s half-Muslim and then claiming “I’m Hindu myself” is the height of confusion. At the Jaipur Literature Festival, Sahgal confirmed her half-Muslim identity and then confused with “We refused a religious identity when we attained Independence because we’re a deeply religious country with many religions. My problem is with Hindutva because I’m a Hindu myself and it makes me sad that the Hindutva mentality has divided us into Hindus and others.”
Sahgal cannot be half-Muslim and “I’m a Hindu myself” – half-Hindu and also solely-Hindu at the same time. Nobody can be one-and-a-half this or that. Moreover, in the India context, half-Muslim can only translate to the other half being Hindu. It never paid political dividend being half-Hindu and half-Christian or half-Muslim and half-Christian. Christianity and Christians do not command that privilege. Christian vote-banks do not “swing” enough.
That said, swearing loyalty to the Hindutva ideology are those who are wholly Hindu. There are no half-measures with this lot. Their idea of Hinduism does not waver. ‘India is Hindu, I’m Hindu’ is what sets them apart. Interestingly, no Muslim will ever say he’s half-Hindu. That will deny him his Muslim identity altogether. Only the Congress and the likes of Nayantara Sahgal have been getting away with the half-Hindu and half-Muslim division of the Hindu Indian.
The prevailing view is that but for Jawaharlal Nehru, Partition would not have been. Up until the spring of 1946, there was talk that a political compromise between Nehru and Jinnah would have preserved a united India. For that the Congress – Nehru in particular – would have had to grant Muslim areas that became Pakistan more autonomy than what Nehru was willing to grant. Nehru did not want a weak central government. So, the Congress abandoned the compromise solely because of Nehru.
For Nayantara to then say that “when India had to decide official languages after Independence, the list was 13 languages”, that the list did not have Urdu, and it was “my uncle Jawaharlal Nehru (who) questioned that” is kind of taking too much for granted. Nehru had no love lost for the Muslim even if he lied “Urdu is my mother tongue.” No Congressman other than Mani Shankar is a Nehruvian.
Nearly 20 percent of India’s population were still Muslim after Independence and Partition and Nehru was not above playing the Muslim-card if it paid him and the Congress electoral dividends. Besides, he did not see a threat from a splintered Muslim population strewn across the country. The name of the game was divide and rule and Nehru had learned from past-masters in the game, the game the British taught.
The opposite was consolidation of the Hindu vote, which was the undertaking of the BJP. Rajiv Gandhi was inclined to consolidate Hindu votes in Congress’s favour but his life was cut short. Now, Nehru’s great-grandson Rahul Gandhi appears to be smitten by the idea. For Nayantara Sahgal to continue to live in the past is incongruous.
She said her latest book ‘The Moon Shines by Day’ is about the “unmaking of Modern India” but to link that with the rise of Hindutva and differentiating Hindutva and Hinduism do not answer the question as to who precipitated the creation of Pakistan – Nehru or Jinnah? Without doubt Nehru. Who was fully a Hindu? Of course, Nehru. Who was to blame for the schism within Hindu society? Nehru!
Surely, Sahgal cannot morph history to her liking, just because she read Nehru wrong and because the Congress started too late to consolidate the Hindu vote behind it. At the Jaipur Lit Fest, Sahgal revealed that her new book has focused on the Dalit, whom she admired. “Hindutva is a complete distortion of Hinduism,” she said. A little too late for both. Sahgal and the Congress have realised that distorting the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Hindutva is the best foot forward for a party to step out of the pit. It would be good for the Congress to shelve the half-Hindu, half-Muslim identity. Being clever by half would not work at all. (IPA Service)
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