You might wonder why I am so agitated, emotional and angry.
I am uncomfortable. But why am I uncomfortable
in my own country? Why do I feel isolated in my own country? I
ask myself all these questions again and again. Do I deserve to
to be treated like this, in my own country, by my own
Till the BJP came onto the scene, I was quite happy. My karate
students came to learn karate from me not because I was a Hindu
or a Muslim, but because I was good at it. They like me not because
I was a Hindu or a Muslim but because I was their teacher.
Everything changed after the rise of the BJP, after the demolition
of the Babri Masjid and after I married a Hindu. I often wonder, when
will I be comfortable? I will be comfortable only when religion
and caste are banned from our society.
I will be away from the country on August 15. I had thought that
on that day I would crucify myself on the Indian Cross, that is,
on a cutout of the map of India. But I
will do it after I return. By doing this I want to tell the people of my anguish. I want religion
and caste to be banned from this country. Let there be no more
Babri Masjid demolitions, no more Bombay blasts, no more violence against nuns, no fighting
in the name of Allah, Jesus Christ and Vinayaka.
I am sure I will be able to change the minds of a handful of people at least.
Throughout my life I have attempted to be a secular person.
Never have I bracketed people according to their religion. Never have I singled them
as Hindus or Muslims, only as human beings. Neither have I
identified myself as a Muslim. To me only one thing mattered,
that I am an Indian and India is my country. I was born and have lived here.
I do not have any other home land.
Do you know my people in Madurai wanted to ostracise me because
I married a Hindu? My community also boycotted my wedding
reception. Do you know what they said among themselves, 'How
could he marry a Hindu? He should be chucked from the community.
He should have at least converted her to
Islam. How can he allow her to go around with a pottu (bindi)? He is disgracing the whole community.'
I refused to bow down. Why should I
convert my wife? She was born a Hindu and I want her that way.
On the other hand, my wife's people also refused to accept us.
Their version was, 'How dare she marry a Muslim? She has done injustice
to the entire community.'
We have been married for ten
years and her family has still not come to terms with our marriage.
She too has been ostracised by
her community. Funny are the ways of people! Now we can
neither attend Hindu nor Muslim functions.
Though our country is called secular and democratic, even
after fifty years of Independence, we are identified as Hindus
and Muslims, not as Indians. I feel so isolated in my own country.
This feeling began with my sister's marriage. Everyone was
against her marrying a Hindu. But I supported her in spite
of stiff opposition from our community.
Believe me, she
was not allowed to step into the street and remained inside the house for
a very long time. They said, they would chop her, kill her, etc
if she dared enter the area. I was subjected to similar hostility. As I was a karate
instructor, they did not harass me physically. But they stopped talking to our family,
did not smile at us and ignored us. It was painful to know that people whom I considered as friends behaved in such a manner.
But when I started accomplishing things in life, people began
accepting me. Not because they liked me but because they loved
being identified as Hussaini's friends and relatives.
Throughout my life, I have been trying to do good to people and
this is what I have got in return.When I gave karate training
to Christian nuns, it made big news all over the world.
But do you know what happened here? I received angry telephone
calls: 'Being a Muslim, how can you train Christian nuns? You
are going to create a society where Christians will
come and convert you. You will be killed, your car will be bombed.
After that what will you do?' I was angry. I wanted to help the nuns
so that they could defend themselves in the event of any unlikely advance.
When the M F Husain controversy
started, I responded as a creative artist. I, however, knew that he did not
mean to hurt the religious sentiments of the people by painting Saraswati in the
nude. But I was so pained by the whole episode that I painted Husain
in the nude and clothed his Saraswati. My Muslim friends
were annoyed, 'How could you insult a genius like this?'
I could not understand their logic.
When the Babri Masjid controversy happened, I argued with my
Muslim friends that it should be given to the Hindus.
'What's wrong in giving
the area to the Hindus? It is a dilapidated building and nobody
is using it for prayers. If we give it to them on a platter, the victory is
yours,' I reasoned.
They retorted that I was saying all these things because I was married to
a Hindu. But I knew that was not the reason.
Some, of course, agreed, 'Hussaini, you are right.'
While many others said, 'Why should we give? If we do this
they will start asking for Mathura, Somnath etc.' Sadly,
I couldn't convince my Muslim friends.
After the Masjid demolition and the Bombay blasts, I suddenly
realised that I was hated by the Muslims. My Muslim friends,
laughed and said, 'You were giving it to them on a platter.
Now what has happened? They have demolished it.' While
my Hindu friends said, 'We have demolished the Masjid. Now we
should chuck out all Muslims from this country to Pakistan.'
The biggest shock of my life was when somebody told me that
a leading newspaper was going to publish a big expose that I was
a spy from Pakistan. I loved my country. I have never seen Pakistan,
I have no relatives in Pakistan, I have nothing to do with Pakistan
and I have no knowledge of the politics of Pakistan. How
could anyone say this?
Now I feel isolated among Hindu crowds. I don't mingle with
the Muslim crowd either. I have faith in God. But I do not have faith
in religion because religion separates people. I don't mind going
to a mosque, church or temple. I am just waiting for the day when caste
and religion are taken off application forms.
When I have children, I am going to tell them that they do not
have any religion. Let them study all religions like they study
history, geography and science. Let them read all the religious
books, the Bible, the Quran and the Bhagavad Gita. By doing so,
they will get the best out of all these religions.
I do not have a ration card. I do not have my name in the voter's
list. Do you know why? They insisted on my religion, and
I refused. So, I have no photo identity card. Unfortunately, we
do not have a Mahatma Gandhi to change this rotten system.
We only have politicians who only want to capture power, more power
and nothing but power. Only when we have a political party which
can courageously say that we stand for banishing all religions
and castes from this country, can we call ourselves a real secular
I feel the government should promote inter-religious marriages,
only then will we be able to wipe away caste and religion from
our society. It is the politicians who are creating divisions
among people, it is the politicians who are trying to divide the
country. Unless we begin a legislation banning politicians
and political parties who talk about religion and caste, our country cannot remain
I was selected by the state government to represent the state in a
procession on August 15. Even if I was not going to the US
I would not have participated in the procession.
I would have told them that I don't not want to participate because
I do not feel like a true Indian. I don't feel it is necessary
to celebrate these fifty years. What I want is to be
treated at par with every Indian. But I am not.
It is not religion or temples that the BJP wants, they
want power. I understood this when
the 13-day-old BJP government did not do anything drastic
against the Muslims. It is better to be in a country where the
BJP is the ruling party rather than in the Opposition.
In the Opposition, they are always trying to divide the Hindus
I will be happy when they come to power.
I am very, very sure that once they get power they will not
talk about religion or temples.
There was a time when I searched my car for bombs because I was getting
threatening calls constantly. The thought that I am isolated
and threatened in my own country just because I am a Muslim and
married to a Hindu is extremely painful. This is happening to a
person whose father participated in the freedom struggle and
was a historian and a writer. This is happening to a person
who smashed hundred granite stones on his chest to make people
aware of the social evils in the society. Now I cannot live peacefully
just because I was born a Muslim.
I feel like a homeless person, an orphan.
Where do I belong? Do I have a home? Do I have a country like
all the others have? I had several opportunities to settle down
in other countries, but I didn't. Why? Because I loved my country
and I wanted to live here. And this is the price I am paying for
not leaving my own country. It has left me shaken and I have
not yet recovered from the shock. I am still angry, pained, frustrated
As told to Shobha Warrier. Photographs: Sanjay Ghosh
Caste no bar