Editor and my mentor Kuldip Nayar recently entertained Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah at his residence. I posted this wonderingly on Facebook and was asked by a journalist colleage--Sanjay Kapoor of Hard News actually--what would you do if Mr Shah knocked on your door?
The seemingly innocuous question set me thinking. What indeed? Though of course as Nayar has now pointed out---seeing little difference between secular ‘fanatics’ and the ‘others as he calls them---this meeting was arranged at the instance of some erstwhile Socialist colleagues. But what if I opened the front door and found the BJP president standing there. (Too much to presume I guess, with flowers in his hand?!) And so it will be safe to presume that the question by my colleague is about a benign knock on the door, and not the malevolent as fact and fiction have both spoken of in some detail.
Being from Lucknow, I would invite him in. And if it was Eid I would offer him some sawaiyan but leave out the pasandas and kebabs although without these mutton (note the clarification) delicacies most of my friends in Delhi would hesitate to grace my house with their presence on Eid day! Anyways so perhaps some sawaiyan and some tea might be in order.
I would then enquire after his health. And hope that he would follow suit so I could tell him that I might be fine but my muslim relatives, and the larger community is not. That they are petrified, indeed terrorised, when they read of mob lynchings, attacks, humiliation, assault. And are told they do not belong to a country that is theirs, has always been theirs, And are called anti national traitors at the drop of a hat. And as Nayar in his column has vouched for Shah’s amazingly gentle, affable personality I would then expect the BJP President to listen with the ‘courtesy’ that my once upon a time mentor has credited him with.
I would ask him why people are being attacked in this manner. And why is such hatred being spread. And why are people now no longer allowed to live together, without poisonous hate being infused into their vitals. I would ask him why he is silent on such issues, and why does he not ensure that all those men who preach hate as legislators of the party he heads are not expelled. And why he does not insist they be arrested and tried for their actions.
Nayar said that Shah listens quietly, that he likes a debate, and that he is tolerant of the other point of view. This is embolding, and so taking a cue from my former editors assuring words, I would ask Shah why it is necessary to infuse politics with hate. And at the risk of sounding naive and totally stupid I would still ask him why the Muslim in India is being so pilloried, why the Christians are being attacked in their poor little hamlets in states like Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, why mobs are being encouraged to attack and kill the minorities.
And then perhaps over a second helping of delicious ---even if I say so myself---sawaiyan I would ask Shah how he feels about such murderous assaults. How pained and hurt he is. Saddened and worried. Or….?
I am sure, as Nayar says in his column about Shah’s visit, the conversation will be meaningful and fruitful. I will convince Shah that we are good people, we only want communal harmony in this country, we seculars ( the spelling is not sickular I will tell him) want peace, we want equality, we want justice, we love LGBTs and want gender rights, we want to abolish untouchability and discrimination and give Dalits and Advisasis a place in the sun, we want our women looked after and protected and not raped, we believe India can grow only if there is harmony and love and peace.
I do not know whether Shah ever loses his temper but Nayar said he is quite the epitome of gentle courteousness and not at all the fire and brimstone guy he imagined to be.” I must admit that my opinion about Amit Shah was that of a person emitting fire and brimstone. But I was completely bowled over by his courtesy and politeness, clear thought process and perception and, above all, possessing an affable temperament” the editor I followed and respected has said. And so perhaps Shah will then listene to my little emotional outburst and who knows being the optimist I am, even agree.
But then Nayar has said that Shah told him that he was six years old when he started going to the RSS shakhas .And that he “could spot the pride in his eyes when said this. Indeed, he has been through the grind at Nagpur. It has been a long haul for Shah but he has ultimately emerged as the party president.” So perhaps my optimism might be ill founded, and Shah then might not be that easily convinced and won over. But then Nayar has said he sensed some kind of disappointment in Shah, a tinge but there, though one is not really sure for what. Mountbatten and partition that he says both discussed at some length or,....?
So again reading between Nayar sahab’s lines I will perhaps try another track. And play upon that “tinge of disappointment”. A RSS versus BJP approach, the bad bad cop and the bad-trying-hard-to-be-good-cop. So maybe over a final cup of steaming, sweet chai I could then persuade Shah that RSS is not good for his health. That those journalists writing that the RSS is gunning for him are right. That he should watch his back.
Who knows I might succeed where Nayar sahab failed. After all we are not dealing with indoctrinated persons, but affable, courteous folk who come calling on us. And hey presto Shah will discard his cloak for the new sickular --- oh dear I got that spelling wrong I think----libtard (now that should have been liberal) garb. And become one of us.
As for me, well you know these chaps have been misunderstood They are nice folk, and nothing like that little visit to brng out their sweet side, and clear the air as it were.