‘Indian Muslims should demand a separate state for themselves within India’

  • Publish Date: Jan 19 2016 1:04PM
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  • Updated Date: Feb 17 2016 5:25PM
‘Indian Muslims should demand a separate state for themselves within India’

The writer and veteran journalist Ghulam Nabi Khayal was conferred with the prestigious Sahitya Akademy award for his book Gashik Minar (Pillars of Light) in 1975. Khayal joined the bandwagon of scores of Indian writers who recently returned the award in protest against the rise in intolerance and the attacks on minorities in India.

In an interview with Saqib Malik, Khayal said that the initiative of the writers “to cause a literary rebellion” against the Indian government is a fitting reply to dreadful divisive forces curbing freedom of speech. Khayal, however, expressed disappointment about the response from other Kashmiri writers many of whom have not come forward to return their awards.

Excerpts:

Why did you not return the award against the widespread human rights violations taking place in Kashmir?

I received the Sahitya Akademy award in 1975 and 38 Kashmiri writers in total have received this award so far . The award was given to me by National Academy of Letters which included a cash sum of Rs 5000. For more than past 40 years Kashmir has faced Human Rights violations. Thousands of people have been killed and most of these atrocities have been carried out by security forces. During last several years, there is lot that happened in various Indian states including J&K.  Around 800 communal riots have taken place in India since 2014. Incidents of brutalities in India since its independence were on a provincial level but during the last one year, communal attacks particularly against Muslims and Christians have been brutal and direct. Some incidents that didn’t happen in past 68 years are happening now. I felt the award received on national level must be returned in wake of what was happening to Muslims. The Dadri incident was most deplorable and condemnable. An innocent person was killed in a cold blooded murder. Incidents such as ban on Ghulam Ali concert in Mumbai is also condemnable. Sahitya Akademy award being returned especially by Hindus is a slap on BJP’s face. Nayantara Sehgal was first to return the award followed by 40 other writers. At a time when politics of hate is being played out and a wall being created between Hindu and Muslim, PM is only doing lip service. The criminal negligence of the Indian government and its indifferent attitude is shocking. Considering all these factors, I felt award must be returned. It’s a peaceful protest which will bear its fruit.

Do you think it is too little, too late for a section of the society such as writers to counter the ideologies such as that of RSS?

Writers’ power can make or break things. The impact has been such that several central ministers have been forced to comment on the overall situation. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley says returning awards is a manufactured campaign. How is that possible? Calling names to writers and levelling allegations is a face saving exercise of BJP. Another union minister made a statement saying writers should have met me. The question that arises is when the PM didn’t do anything what could a minister have done. The action of writers has had an impact otherwise Government of India would not have reacted so vehemently and sharply.

Is returning of awards mere tokenism or do you think it will have an impact?

 As creative people we can’t take action against anyone by raising slogans or holding dharnas. I am happy about the impact of this gesture since three top BJP ministers have already reacted on this. This will go a long way. It is heartening that when no one in world condemned atrocities on minorities, writers came to the forefront to do so. Even as controversial figure such as Salman Rushdie has condemned the brutalities.

What does current situation in India tell us about the condition of Muslims in the country?

 Indian Muslims are unfortunate to have no serious leadership. They have neither accepted any leadership. Muslims in India are so narrow minded that even in 21st century they argue over the draft of nikah nama. It is unfortunate that Muslims don’t respond to national issues. There are some Muslim clerics who support BJP despite the seeds of communal hatred that BJP has sown in India. I condemn Imam Bukhari for his impractical actions of not being consistent with supporting a particular political party. I would say Muslim leaders such as Imam Bukhari has no conviction. It was the job of Indian Muslim leadership to confront this onslaught on their literature, religion, language but they did not do so. What I understand is that Indian Muslims should demand a separate state for themselves within India, a possibility which even UN supports.

Have you written about the atrocities faced by common people in Kashmir?

 I am troubled by what is happening at the national level but what is more important to me is what is happening back home. I have written a lot of poems on brutalities in Kashmir in Urdu which I would be publishing soon. It is an apolitical comment on the prevailing situation in a subtle manner.

What aspects of BJP at the centre irked you the most to return the award?

 There have been some shocking developments ever since BJP came to power. RSS has issued dictats such as Hindus should have four children. Often schools were told that they should wash their premises by cow urine. Muslim children have been forced to sing Vande Mataram which is anti Islamic. There have been incidents such as these and other things which I watched minutely and silently. This entire Hindutva wave leading to the general elections appeared a stunt. One had thought it would end then and there. Even since elections, anti-minority campaign has been taking place unabated. It is more shocking to hear things from PM. The Indian government operating under the control of RSS is leading to a division of the country.

Do you want other Kashmiri writers to follow suit?

 I made the announcement of returning the award at a public function. There were few other Sahitya award winners at the event. I urged that more people should come forward and return the award. Unfortunately  only Margoob Banihali has come forward  to do it, so it is better if I don’t comment on Kashmiri writers. I don’t think more writers will take this initiative and Margoob and me will be the first and last persons to do so.

The action taken by scores of Indian writers to return awards and office bearers of resigning from their positions could leave an impact on government of India .