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September 15, 1999


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Issues 99/ Nawab Mohammed Abdul Ali, the Prince of Arcot

'To be honest, I didn't know where the Babri Masjid was till it was demolished'

I feel at least this time, our country will have a strong and stable government which will last for five full years. We have had enough of unstable governments that functioned for 18 months or two years. Frequent elections are such a colossal drain on our economy. The official estimate of an election is Rs 10,000 million but many people say the cost of an election varies from Rs 80,000 million to Rs 100,000 million. What a waste of money! I feel that this money can be utilised for the development of the nation especially when our country is lagging behind in the education front.

Another disturbing trend is that whichever government comes to power, those in the opposition try to pull it down by all means. They attack the ruling party with allegations and charges. They disturb the parliamentary proceedings in such a way that nothing happens in Parliament except the showering of accusations at each other. Why can't the parties that sit in the Opposition allow the government to work for sometime? And it is up to the people to elect a party or keep it away. Till the next election, the Opposition should learn to sit in the Opposition and behave like one. From day one, the Opposition parties start their tricks to pull the elected government down. This is a very bad sign. It shows that those in the opposition are after only one thing and that is power.

Except for a few incidents, which happened in a few pockets, the BJP government was okay. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee behaved like an excellent leader. He is a person with a broad vision and is not a narrow-minded fanatic. I am not exaggerating when I describe him as a very nice person. But others in the BJP also should come forward and be like him. There are quite a few dedicated and good people in the BJP, working for the nation but let me be frank, all of them should keep themselves totally away from communalism.

They hurt the minorities by such acts as the killing of the Australian missionary and by destroying the places of worship of other communities and then shouting India is great and Vande Mataram. Believe me, this fanaticism will not work in our country. People, even our Hindu brethren will tolerate this only to a certain extent.

India has always been a secular country and it should remain like that. What is a secular government? A government that will not oppose or support any religion. Without oxygen, we cannot survive. The same way, India will not and cannot survive without secularism. Communalism is like a virus that spreads cancer. Once it starts attacking one area, it will spread fast.

What should be done to prevent the virus from spreading? The politicians should not interfere in religion. It is as simple as that. In India, politics and religion cannot go together. Politicians should not try to mix politics and religion. I don't think any religion advocates attacking or abusing another religion or its places of worship.

After the Babri Masjid incident, people all over the world think that Hinduism is a religion that licenses attacks on the places of worship of another religion. But is Hinduism a religion that calls for the burning of people alive? Is Hinduism a religion that allows burning the religious books of another religion? Because of the deeds of a section of the people, Hinduism as a whole has got a bad image now. It all happened because of some politicians.

We have thousands of politicians but what we need badly are good leaders. Yes, there are some elderly statesmen who honestly work for the betterment of the country. But any government, which comes to power after the elections shouldn't be communal. Communalism will ruin the nation. It will not be good for any government to harm or hurt the feelings of the minorities.

I agree that the prime duty of both the state and the Centre is to look after the interests of all people. They are not the government for one community alone; the government is for the entire country. It is not a good attitude to say that we care only for the majority and we don't care for the minorities.

Some people think the minorities will be under tremendous pressure if the BJP comes to power. But another section feel, ''let us see what will happen. What can they do to us? We are not just a minority but the second majority in India. Nobody can play with the second majority.'' We are more than 15 per cent of the population.

I think there should be no fear in the minds of the people. I don't think any authority or any government can do any harm to the minorities. But if they try to revive issues like the uniform civil code and the construction of a Ram temple at Ayodhya, things will turn bad. They should not keep the fire burning, they should extinguish the fire immediately and close the chapter. But some people want to play the religious card now and then as these issues are like trump cards to win votes. But these people should understand that India belongs to everyone. India belongs to the Hindus, the Muslims, the Christians, the Sikhs, the Jains, the Buddhists and how can anyone say that it belongs only to one community?

They just can't say that all Muslims should go to Pakistan and the Christians to Vatican. These types of slogans hurt the feelings of the minorities. They cannot ask the Muslims to go to the Arabian countries. Why should we go to Pakistan or the Arabian countries when our country is India? We were born in this country, we are living in this country and we will die in this country. When the time comes, we Muslims will be there in the forefront to fight for the country, as India is our country and we belong here.

To a large extent, politicians are responsible for the tension that is there between the Hindus and the Muslims. We have been living happily for centuries together and now why should they come and poke their nose in our religious affairs and create tension? You are a Hindu and I am a Muslim. Does that mean I am your enemy and you are my enemy?

For example, take the Babri Masjid issue. To be honest, I didn't know where it was till it was demolished. I hadn't even heard about till then. Now the whole world knows about Babri Masjid and the Ram temple. Now that the masjid is demolished, let us leave it there and close the chapter. The Hindus will not tolerate if the Muslims construct a mosque there and the Muslims will not tolerate if the Hindus construct a temple there. Again, there will be bloodshed and innocent lives will be lost. What the elected government should do is close the gates and keep it as a monument.

Religion is the only thing that divides Indians now. Tell me are we fighting for any industry? Are we fighting for food? Are we fighting for developmental work? We do not fight saying, we have no food, give us food, we have no clothes, give us clothes, we have no shelter, give us shelter. The Constitution says that the government should provide all Indians with free education. So, give us education. Nobody shouts or fights for these things. The politicians also do not want to educate people. If people are educated, they cannot be fooled and the politicians know that for sure.

As told to Shobha Warrier


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