Sunday, August 15, 2010

Happy Independence Day!- What is Azadi ?

On 15th Aug, 2010..... I look back and feel nice to be born in a free country (after independence). The people who were born in pre-independence India, did their utmost best to get us our freedom. They went through trials and tribulations to get us our free nation - India, as it stands today. My great grandfather and grandfather (pad-nana and nana) also did they bit for the nation. They were Sayyeds and followed Islam very closely. In fact my pad-nana covered his face (a cloth falling around his turban) as he went out of the house. He was known as 'red-haired Hyder saab' as he was red-haired and his ascendents is heard to have migrated to India many many years back from Iraq (except Dravidians, India has mostly people moved from other lands in ancient times). He was fair and good-looking too. He did a lot of social work and helped the poor and deprived people around him. The non Muslims in Ambejug-Karwar also respected him a lot. Even the non-Muslim women stood to one side as he walked down the road. He, himself, humbly walked with lowered glances, as is the way of true Islam -humility!

His son, my nana, Sayed Abdul Hamid, himself followed his father closely. He also lived simply and humbly. He was always ready to help others - Hindu or Muslim, when they needed help. My mother's family themselves were not well -off. They just managed the basic necessities and had a few cows / buffaloes to meet other needs. But that was the usual trend in Karwar once. Even, when there was nothing in the house, my grandfather didn't hesitate to give away something or call over someone for lunch/ dinner. Such was their greatness. And my nani was another sweet lady, who obeyed and helped him live his life fruitfully, fulfilling the duties God has made mankind for. She was small in stature, much like a doll. Fair and pink. From the time I saw her, she had a wrinkled body, but looking at her one could say that she was very beautiful once. My grandfather was taller than her, but again fair and handsome, as his wrinkled face stated and from what I hear from my mother. These were people with kindness, who never got angry on others, yet spoke for wrong and at the same time were quick to forgive.

My grandfather, joined the freedom movement during his time and used to be mostly travelling. Of course, there was arrest warrant issued on him by the then British government. To evade British arrest, he moved to Goa. Goa was then under Portugese rule and the British had no say there. In Goa, he built a small home in Vasco, where some of my mamus (maternal uncles) stay to this day. His nature was to keep helping people around him. In Goa, again my grandfather started his social service. People were uneducated in Baina, Vasco and many Muslims were not aware of their own books. 'Nana' started his work of educating people - literary and religious. He founded a small education centre, which is now a big school in Baina. But since he was kind and humble, he didn't keep any stake in it. Nor did he do it for any acknowledgement or fame.
He once also went to prison for the sake of Indian freedom. There he wrote a song, 'Bhagyawaan dharti chi aamhi lekra...' (marathi). My mom remembers the opening lines as he used to hum them often. As Karwar was once part of old Bombay State, Konkani and little Marathi was spoken there. Now the highlight in Karwar is mostly on Kannada, though most people speak Konkani. Sadly, most of his literary works were not preserved by his children. Also, in those days, he was mostly travelling and their living conditions were not great. So, most writings were lost or spoiled over a period of time.

He used to wear a pyjama and kurta and a sherwani coat on top of his kurta. And a white turban completed his attire. A white beard made him look cute. I remember as a child, when he'd come to Mumbai (at our old RBI quarters at Mumbai Central), he used to love peppermints and used to carry a packet hidden on him. Such humble people are difficult to find these days. His life was an example of a good Muslim, who followed the 'sunnah' of Prophet Mohammed, Alhamdulillah. They lived amicably with fellow non-muslims as with people from their own community. People to this day take his name with respect.

When I compare this with the people of Kashmir valley, who feel that they will be better off as a separate nation and in a better state to guard their culture, it hurts me no end. People who ingrain in youth heads that Muslims should live in Islamic states/ countries only, are leaders who themselves do not know the essense of Islam. Prophet Muhammed SAS lived amicably with non Muslims of those times. The real challenge lies in being a true Muslim against all odds. Only in a mixed society, is one compelled to follow one's religion better. Because, your every action is not only yours, but represents your community's. And everyone is watching you. You might not have an open space in every office to offer Muslim prayer (namaaz), nor concession for going home early in Ramzan. But every struggle one makes to emerge a good Muslims inspite of all odds, is what true jihad is all about. Jihad actually means 'Struggle'. But sadly the term is misused and misunderstood in this age.

Why do I say that living as a Muslim in a non-Islamic state/ country is more challenging? When everything around us is conducive to our requirement, we lose the spark and the essence of our own teachings. We start to take them for granted. In fact, when I look at Pakistani girls, I sometimes find them more modern than many non-Muslim girls here in Mumbai or whole of India. Even in Kashmir (in a 2 day stay in Dec), I saw more interactive culture than the one we follow in my own house. Of course, from what I heard about certain cultural practices being followed in Kashmir, I would hardly call it Islamic. When I, as a Muslim, step up and work with fellow non-Muslims, I am asked about my culture, my practices. Also when people hear about something in Islam, they wonder aloud why I am not doing the same. And that requires explanation. And to explain, you need to know. It is almost like you are being monitored to follow your own religion.

If I avoid 'non-Halaal' meat stating I prefer to eat from specific non-veg restaurants, I am given an odd glance. In areas, where they are no places serving halaal meat, I prefer to eat veg food stating that I prefer veg when outside. Only to those who understand and specifically ask, I mention about 'halaal' food. And explain the concept, if required. Recently on my way to Ajmer, an elderly lady (from a Jain couple of Ajmer) travelling with us in the train, asked me whether there were two types of Muslims -one with hijaab and another without. I had to explain to her that all Muslims have to cover themselves from head to toe. Of course, it was embarrassing for me. So, it is kind of a check for me. In Ramzan, even on specific days, when I am not allowed to fast, I prefer not to eat or drink water through the entire day in office, instead of giving personal description of things. Because my every action as a Muslim is accountable! Without a test, how can we pass or fail? So also, 'this' (living in a non-Islamic state) is like a test.

In certain Islamic countries, people have started taking things for granted. Following same old practices passed over through the ages, without referring to the Quran and Hadeeth, whether these are correct or not. Some have even started moving away. Only the attire has remained and the values almost vanished! Whereas most Muslims living in non-Islamic countries like UK, USA, India, Singapore and many more countries, follow their religion better. (There are a few exceptions everywhere!) They read the Islamic scriptures/ books and get initiated into the religion and hence get a better understanding. Or, for those who have already been Muslims, reading scriptures of God become more essential to answer the questions posed by their non-Muslim colleagues and friends from time to time.

Coming back to the question of 'independence' and so-called Azadi that the Kashmiris are seeking. Entire Kashmir is a beautiful land, blessed by God. The culture is rich and the hospitality is indeed great. This lovely land with lovely people has been sought by Pakistan and China alike. Many parts (not shown in Indian map) have been occupied by Pak and China. In all the tension, there has mostly been military in the land. Also, rest of India, was earlier very scared to go to Kashmir, due to the continued unrest there. In this way, it has mostly been isolated from other parts of India. There have been limited movements from Kashmir to other parts of our country. Also, we hardly hear of marriages across J&K state and other states. Such may be very few. This has helped retained the original flavour of the land along with hostility towards the military. All this has further made the people there feel aliented and unwanted by Indian government. This of course, has been combined with cross border terror from Pak to occupy the land. Often the common man in Kashmir has suffered.

Keeping all this in mind, the frustration of the people is understandable. The people there want nothing to do with Pakistan nor India, but want a separate country with access to both India and Pakistan. This sounds like a rosy dream to the Kashmiri youth. But reality is different from rosy dreams. Every country has its share of ups and downs. And so has every state. There are some people in Mumbai too, who want to throw non Marathis away! Some tribes of North -East have been wanting a separate nation for years. (But we can't let everyone have their own way!) In this turmoil, the civilians living in North-East keep suffering and lose lives. They too have been living under military surveillance since years now. But the plight of Assam is never looked into, nor is it highly spoken of by we Indians. Maybe, there are no immediate neighbouring nations around there, which are a considered a threat to India.

So the focus is again on Kashmir. A land of beauty and culture. Paradise on earth and a major tourist attraction for India. Apart from that, we have the Amarnath temple there, which is an important place for the Hindus. Let us think whether a separate country with free access to two countries is possible? Nopes. It is a security threat to our nation. 'Free Access' is always two ways! If a Kashmiri can enter Pakistan and India freely, it also means the other way round. Any Pakistan wanting to create trouble in India, can easily enter into Kashmir and from Kashmir, into India without a passport. Presently, there is a lot of terror activity in Pak. With a separate Kashmir, it will only be a hub for terrorists to hide. And finally, it will attract the fate of a country like Afghanistan, which has attracted lot of bombing only on suspicion and also because it does not have a reputable global presence at a higher plane. Finally, Kashmir will have UN intervention and become a US military base. And once a military base, always one! So, the military rule still remains! So, where is the 'azadi'? This is one aspect of the future of the sought 'freedom'.

What is the other serious repercussion of a separate Kashmir? The trade, finance and companies running in Kashmir at present, are linked to India and run because of the Indian economy. Indian rupee and economy has stood strong even in times of recession. The same cannot be said for Pakistan. Kashmir is presently surviving on handicrafts like embroidery, carpets and other hand made articles. Most people are involved in Trade. There are Kashmiris who go to various cities in India and sell their handicrafts. A few other types of small business exist too. Another important link with rest of India is the widely networked J&K Bank. Many Kashmiris are employed through it. Will the rest of the branches exist if Kashmir is separated? Also other Indian companies having branches/ outlets in Kashmir will have to close down. Such a move will only make Kashmiris unemployed and more dependent on traditional handicrafts. This will worsen economy there and push people to poverty.
Another aspect - Will other nations, who have been waiting to acquire Kashmir since ages, be quiet ? A separate small Kashmir with no economy or good military base or International standing, will only make it an easy target for any country to attack and acquire it. So the so-called 'Azadi' that the Kashmiris want is only a highly exaggarated dream. And Kashmiris should wake up from their slumber! You are one of us and we love you and want you to be a part of India as always!

We should strive for 'freedom' of our souls instead. What is true freedom or azadi as a good human being ? As a human, we should strive to be free from sins, free from bad practices, free from evil and Satan. Only then can a person totally be called free or azad. In Ramzan, when our endeavour should be to fast, do good deeds, give charity and devote our time to prayer and acquiring religious knowledge, thoughts which lead to destruction only weaken our faith and keep us away from the mercies of this blessed month.

As someone truly said -'It is easier to make babies now than make someone a true Indian and even a true Muslim'.

Proud to be part of a nation, which has churned great heroes and given a lot of contribution to maths and science and even computer technology! Jai Hind.

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