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Religion

The Taliban Mindset Comes in All Shapes and Sizes and We Must Oppose Them All

Javed Akhtar responds to the criticism that a recent interview of his has triggered from the Hindu right-wing.

When I gave an interview to NDTV on September 3, 2021, I had no idea that what I said would generate such sharp reactions

On one hand, there are some people who have expressed their outrage and anger in the strongest language possible, on the other hand there are people from every nook and corner of the country who have given me messages of solidarity and expressed their total agreement with my point of view. I will surely thank them all but first, I want to respond to the allegations and accusations of those who vented against my interview. Since it is not possible to respond to each critic individually, this is my collective response.

My detractors have said that while I am criticizing the Hindu right wing I have never stood against fanatics among the Muslim fold. They have accused me of not saying anything about triple talaq, of not speaking on purdah or any other regressive practice within the Muslim community. I am not surprised at the fact that they are totally unaware of my activities over the years. After all, I am not such an important person that everyone should know what I do or have been doing.

The fact, however, is that, over the past two decades, I have been given police protection twice because of threats to my life from fanatical Muslims: first, because not only had I vociferously opposed triple talaq when the issue was not on the national radar, but I had, along with an organisation named Muslims for Secular Democracy (MSD), toured several cities across India like Hyderabad, Allahabad, Kanpur and Aligarh and from a variety of public platforms spoken out against this retrograde practice. The impact of this can be envisaged from this: I started getting death threats, that were prominently published in one Mumbai-based Urdu newspaper. This was in 2007. A.N. Roy, who was then Commissioner of Police, Mumbai actually summoned the editor and publisher of the publication and warned him that if any violent act were to follow, the Mumbai police would hold the newspaper responsible. 

In 2010, on a TV channel, I had a debate with a prominent Muslim cleric, Maulana Kalbe Jawwad on the regressive practice of purdah which greatly upset the Maulana and in a few days my effigies were burnt in Lucknow and I started getting hate mails and death threats once more. Again, I was provided protection by the Mumbai police. So to accuse me for not standing up against Muslim fundamentalists is totally baseless.

Some have accused me of glorifying the Taliban. Nothing could be more absurd. I have only contempt for people of such a mindset. A little more than a week before my NDTV interview, I had,  on August 24, 2021, tweeted: ‘It is shocking that two members of Muslim Personal law board have expressed their extreme happiness at the take-over of AFG by the barbarian Taliban although the board has distance itself but it is not enough. MSLB must give their POV in the most unambiguous words.’

I am re-iterating my opinions here because I don’t want the supporters of the Hindu right-wing to hide behind the false excuse that I don’t stand up against regressive beliefs and practices within the Muslim community.

They have also accused me of insulting Hinduism and Hindus. There is not an iota of truth in this. Actually, in the recent interview I have said ‘Hindus are the most decent and tolerant majority’ in the world. This I have repeated again and again and have also emphasized that India can never become like Afghanistan because Indians by nature not extremists; it is in their DNA to be moderate, to keep to the middle of the road. Why then, despite these assertions of mine, you will wonder, are some people so upset with me? The answer is because I have clearly condemned the extreme right-wing, the bigots, the fanatics of each and every community. I have emphasized that there is an uncanny resemblance among the right-wing mindsets of every community. 

Yes, in my NDTV interview I have expressed my reservations against organizations affiliated to the Sangh parivar. I am opposed to any school of thought that divides people on the basis of religion, caste and creed and I stand by all those who are against any such discrimination. Perhaps that is why in 2018 one of the most respected temples of India, the ‘Sankat Mochan Mandir’, Varanasi, invited me and gave me an unprecedented never before, title and trophy that called me ‘Shanti Doot’, or messenger of peace. I was also asked to give a talk inside the temple, a rare honor for an atheist like me. 

My critics are also outraged that I find a lot of commonalities between the mindsets of the Taliban and the Hindu right-wing. As a matter of fact, there is a lot of commonality. 

  • The Taliban are forming an Islamic government based on religion, the Hindu right-wing wants a Hindu Rashtra. 
  • The Taliban want to curb women rights and put them on the margin, the Hindu right-wing has also made it clear that they don’t like the freedom of women and girls; from Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat to Karnataka, young men and women have been beaten mercilessly for sitting together in a restaurant or a garden or any public place. 
  • Like Muslim fanatics, the Hindu right-wing too does not accept the right of women to choose their own life partner. Recently, a very important right-wing leader has said that women are not capable of being left on their own or being independent. 
  • Like the Taliban, the Hindu right-wing also claims superiority of faith and astha over any man-made law or court.
  • The Taliban have no love lost for any minority; similarly, what thoughts and feelings the Hindu right-wing nurtures for the minority is evident from their speeches and slogans and – whenever they get an opportunity – by their actions. 

The only difference between the Taliban and these extremist groups is that the Taliban today have unchallenged power in Afghanistan with no one to question them, while in India there is huge resistance against the Indian version of this Talibani ideology which is totally in conflict with the Constitution of India. Our constitution does not discriminate on the basis of religion, community, caste or gender. We have institutions like the judiciary and media too. The key point of departure between the two is that the Taliban have achieved their goal in Afghanistan. The Hindu right-wing is doing its best to get us there. Fortunately, this is India and the Indian people are providing stiff resistance. 

Also read: The World Must Pay Attention to the Violence Against Muslims in India

Some people are also upset that in my interview I have mentioned M.S. Golwalkar’s admiration for Nazi Germany and the Nazi way of handling Germany’s minorities. Golwalkar was the supremo of the Sangh from 1940 to 1973. He authored two books, We, or our Nationhood Defined and A Bunch of Thoughts. These books are easily available on the Internet. Over the past few years, his followers have started disowning the first book by claiming that it was “not written by Guruji”. This distancing is because even the worst bigot is today not able to defend or justify the contents of the book. They say that putting Golwalkar’s name in the book that ran into several editions was just a mistake.

We, or Our Nationhood Defined was published for the first time in 1939. Golwalkar was very much in this world till 1973. Between 1939 and 1973, in other words for 34 years, several editions of this book were published but Golwalkar never disowned this book, so obviously his follower’s denial of his authorship is nothing but political expediency. Here I give you one quote from each of his books.

From We, or Our Nationhood Defined, (pages 34-35; pages 47-48):

“To keep up the purity of the race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races – the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindusthan [sic] to learn and profit by…

“the foreign races in Hindusthan (Christians and Muslims) must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence the Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but those of the glorification of the Hindu race and culture, i.e., of the Hindu nation….. and must lose their separate existence to merge in the Hindu race, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu Nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment, not even citizen’s rights.”

From A Bunch of Thoughts, pages 148-164237-238, Part Two, Chapter VI, The Hindu Nation, Section, The Nation and Its Problems XVI. Internal Threat, 1. THE MUSLIMS & … THE CHRISTIANS:

“Even today, Muslims, whether in high position of the Government or outside, participate openly in rabidly anti-national conferences…….

“…Many leading Christian missionaries have often declared unequivocally that their one single aim is to make this country ‘ a province of the Kingdom of Christ’…

These quotes are self-explanatory. I really do not need to say anything more.

It is interesting that while supporters of the Hindu-right wing are so upset with me, one of their own prominent political leaders has called the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government ‘Talibani’. I am not a member of any of the three parties which, as a coalition, are governing Maharashtra extremely well under the able chief ministership of Uddhav Thackeray. Today, his popularity in Maharashtra rivals that of Mamata Banerjee in Bengal and M.K. Stalin in Tamil Nadu. Not even his worst critics can accuse him of any discrimination or injustice. How and why anyone can call Uddhav Thackeray’s government ‘Talibani’ is beyond my understanding. 

Javed Akhtar is a poet and screenwriter.