The life and death of Lance Naik Nazir Ahmed Wani, who won the Ashok Chakra this week posthumously, is a slap in the face of those who think and say that of all the religious groups of India, Muslims alone are suspect in their loyalty to the nation.
Lance Naik Wani died for India. His commitment to India was no one-time accident in which he just happened to land in front of an enemy bullet. Before this, he had already won the coveted Sena Medal. Not once, but twice.
All accidents of fate?
There’s more about him that so thoroughly demolishes the belief of the Sangh parivar that if any religious group needs special scrutiny for loyalty, it is the Muslims. This idea that Muslims are intrinsically beyond the pale of true citizenship has now found formal expression in the Narendra Modi government’s Citizenship Amendment Bill.
Lance Naik Nazir Wani was a Muslim and he died battling people of his own religious group. Quite clearly, he placed the nation above his religion. He did not merely intellectualise about this. He died to prove it. What more can you ask for?
Of course, there are Muslims and Kashmiris who have indulged in acts of terror and violence against the country. But, then, there also are several non-Muslims and non-Kashmiris who have done the same. The person who shot the Mahatma Gandhi on January 30, 1948, was neither a Muslim nor a Kashmiri.
Groups who have directly suffered by acts of individuals from a particular community may be forgiven for harbouring reasons to suspect them. I am referring here to the Kashmiri pundits. However, for any one to generalise that a particular community is more likely to be anti-Indian than others is not just folly. It is an anti-national act.
The stance of the Modi government on the Citizenship Bill is a glaring example of its official thinking. India officially welcomes refugees of all religions, but Islam. Others are treated as ‘good, unless there is something to show that they are bad’. Whereas all Muslims are treated as ‘bad’, full stop, even if they prove to be worthy of being considered refugees under international law. There is just no other explanation for the bias in the Citizenship Bill.
Besides this Bill, there are numerous examples of the anti-Muslim bias of senior politicians associated with the government. But if the government and ruling party are confronted with some of the appalling statements they have made, they will claim that it was the personal, one-time opinion of one person, quoted out of context. But how does one escape the direct charge that the government of India suspects the loyalty of Bengali Muslims in Assam, whereas it does not do so for Hindus entering the state?
The politicians who make this untenable claim should be told about Lance Nail Nazir Wani, his two Sena Medals and his posthumous Ashok Chakra. They also need to be told of anti-national terrorist charges in Indian courts against several Hindus, some of them serving in the Indian army.
There are good guys and bad guys everywhere. A government has a right to keep the bad guys out. However, it has to work to prove badness in a particular person. It simply cannot take the stand that a whole community is so likely to be bad that it makes sense to create special rules for them.
From Havildar Abdul Hamid, Param Vir Chakra (1965 war) to Lance Naik Nazir Wani, there are numerous examples to expose the hollowness of the BJP’s – and regrettably, the government’s – claim that while people of all other religions are natural friends of India, Muslims are natural enemies. The new citizenship bill is premised on this poisonous idea and must be withdrawn.
Alok Asthana is a retired colonel of the Indian Army.