If I was an Indian Muslim, I would have a whole lot of questions today and certainly no answers.
So far, I believed in the pictures of Rahul Gandhi, skull cap and all, in Iftar party breaking his fast, so to speak, at sunset during a day in the Ramadan month. Now, I read he said on Tuesday in Indore that his party is one of Hinduism.
It raised a whole lot of issues to my mind. Does Congress stand for Muslims, Dalits, Hindus or everyone? So far I have been told the only protectors Muslims have are Congress. They engineered a special protection for my Jammu and Kashmir brethren and sisters in Indian Constitution. They stood up for Sharia during the Shah Bano case; are most determined for Rohingya refugees; paralyzed the country on Kathua tragedy; stalled the Triple Talaq bill, spotlight every single–half or full–lynching incident in the remotest hamlets of the country. Rahul Gandhi even called Congress a ‘Muslim party’ a while ago. Now they say they are one of Hinduism.
All this while, they dubbed Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as sectarian and communal even though Narendra Modi never once said he stood only for Hindus. Isn’t Rahul Gandhi now being communal by opening claiming his party is one of Hinduism a few weeks after he said that Congress is a Muslim party and a few years after he said that mythical ‘Hindu terrorists’ are more dangerous than LeT? Isn’t it polarizing the communities? Widening the gulf of fear and insecurity between practitioners of two religions? Is this the vision of One India or daring of a burglar who wishes to rob the home of 1.3 billions of all its valuables?
Then I look at my newspapers. My day begins with Indian Express, the “journalism of courage.” For the last four years and a half, they have reported every single incident against the Muslim community, and Dalits, with sincerity and not a little bit of imagination and creativity. They have marked anniversaries of Dadri, Pehlu or a Junaid by sacrificing the space for news of their front pages. They made sure the Muslim community didn’t forget for a single day the crimes which have been committed against them during the Modi regime (Nor did they Una or Bhima-Koregaon on behalf of Dalits). Indian Express seemed seriously concerned about the future of Indian Muslims. Who can forget their “And they killed Yakub” headline?
And now look at them – now that Rahul Gandhi has jumped the ship, to my eyes at least, Indian Express choose to completely blank out his Indore comment in the 31st October’s edition. Why didn’t they report Rahul Gandhi for his communal and polarizing comment? Why did they desert millions of Indian Muslims who dread a majoritarian narrative in this country? Could Indian Express be said to be standing up to the idea of secular, free and equal India? Just imagine if Modi had said BJP stands only for Hinduism? (They haven’t allowed him to live down the Kabristan-Shamsaan speech to this day).
If I could ask Indian Express why for a similar offence, BJP is communal and Congress is not. Why give ammunition to right-wingers who claim there is never a pro-Hindu story on your front pages? Why make even your die-hard fans like me and other Indian Muslims doubt your sincerity when you sweep Rahul Gandhi’s all-for-Hinduism comment under the carpet?
I’ve tried to give my faith in Indian Express a second chance. What if their reporter truly missed the Indore event? Extremely unlikely for Rahul didn’t offer his comment in private. It was a press conference. Even if their reporter missed the event, news agencies such as PTI must have brought the news on their teleprinters. On close inspection, I even find this Indore press conference of offensive-comment buried inside their newspaper on Page 8.
Then why did you throw a cloak on this Rahul remark? Why have double standards on BJP and Congress? If you care about Indian Muslims or the idea of India that you numb our minds daily with, why avoid the searchlight on Mr Rahul Gandhi? Is that an editorial policy or a direction you receive from “Above”? And who’s this “Above”? Does this “Above” have the welfare of Indian Muslims or India as a whole in mind?
These are all very disturbing questions that Indian Muslims should ask. I hope Indian Express takes these fears in the form of questions to Rahul Gandhi. Ask its editorial writers from JNU and Ashoka University; Kancha Ilaiahs or Apoorvanands, to prove they truly speak for minorities. Scratch the surface of Kapil Sibal and Shashi Tharoor who are never out of your reach, or representation, in their newspaper on a daily basis. They could even evoke write-ups from retired professionals such as Justice Fali S. Nariman or Chelameswar, ex-cop Julio Ribeiro, ex-election commissioner S.Y. Quraishi etc who don’t even need an invitation to fill their editorial pages.
After all, Indian Express is “journalism of courage.” They profess to stand up for minorities. They claim to care for a “free and secular India”.
Author of “How United States Shot Humanity”, Senior Journalist, TV Presenter