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'BJP uses nine tongues simultaneously'

By Syed Firdaus Ashraf
July 20, 2018 10:38 IST
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'The top level will be development and then sab ka saath, sab ka vikas.'
'But at the street level, the tongue will be vicious.'

Pehlu Khan being lynched by a mob of cow vigilantes in Alwar district, April 1, 2017.

IMAGE: Pehlu Khan being lynched by a mob of cow vigilantes in Alwar district, April 1, 2017.

Saeed Mirza made the cult classic Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai in 1980, but when you read his latest book, Memory in the Age of Amnesia, you wonder Saeed Mirza ko gussa kyon aata hai.

In his book, Saeed Mirza writes about the Gujarat riots, Vietnam, Libya under Muammar Gaddafi, Palestine.

'The other greater tragedy about those terrifying days is when people today say, 'It happened a long time ago... we need to move on'. Move on to what, I think,' Mirza writes in his book.

"There will be a temple (Ayodhya) or war with Pakistan. I am predicting that (for the Lok Sabha elections)," Saeed Mirza tells's Syed Firdaus Ashraf.


After reading your book it felt as one one is watching the movie Waltz with Bashir, where the main character suffers from amnesia and cannot remember that he was an Israeli soldier who took part in killing Palestinians in a refugee camp.
Do you think Indian society wants to live in a similar state of amnesia?

To me, it is like a grand design to not face up to your reality.

You need to create myths as you are so caught up in the present.

The fear of the present looms so large that nothing else matters.

If you look over your shoulder at the past, it might hamper your present or perception of the present.

So avoid that aur thoda aage badhe (move ahead a little).

That is the escape clause that most countries have, and specifically India.

We have been through a hell of a lot and we just tend to overlook it and go on.

How many more frightening memories will we keep overlooking?

We need to ask that, and this is happening across the world.

In your book you mention Narendra Damodardas Modi and the Gujarat riots. Do you think as a country we want to go through amnesia and don't want to look back, say, at the Gujarat riots?

I have also mentioned why people are surprised by Modi's arrival (as prime minister).

I am not surprised.

There were indications historically from 1987.

If you see the history of India, the kind of caste, communal, linguistic, ethnic riots in this country we knew where we are heading.

These were markers continuously.

This was happening since 1965, but nobody noticed.

Nobody was held accountable for communal, linguistic and caste violence. This did not serve the Constitution of India.

22 years ago when I met you, after Atal Bihari Vajpayee came to power, you said baazi le gaye kutte quoting Bulleh Shah. What do you have to say now when Modi is in power?

I will mention that now also.

Baazi le gaye kutte.

The reason I say is we have reached a stage where we have Dara Singh who killed the priest Graham Staines, then Vajpayee became palatable.

So now you can make him into a poet and statesman.

God bless him now he is ill.

They are responsible for lot of things.

Lot of other people who did not belong to fundamentalist organisations but other political parties, they (too) are responsible for a lot of slaughters.

Were they ever held accountable?

People are now surprised when (former President) Pranab Mukherjee goes to the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) headquarters.

I am not surprised.

Why is everybody shocked like Alice in Wonderland?

The point is that it has nothing to do with parties, but the state of mind.

You don't have to be ISIS to belong to ISIS. It is a state of mind and it is frightening.

To be a fundamentalist, you don't need to belong to a fundamentalist organisation. It is a state of mind which worries me.

It is easy to target the obvious.

The point is it resonates into all other areas which we do not notice.

For instance, we have the Constitution that we know that if you are poor, forget being Dalit, being Muslim or backward class, you go to a police station and you do not have a hope in hell.

Where is the Constitution for these people?

This is the truth.

Kisko ullu bana rahey hain (who are they fooling?)

If you are poor in India, you will not get a fair deal.

Since I personally do not believe in God, where does the poor person go?

You spoke of amnesia when it comes to the Gujarat riots, but the same society does not want to forget Alauddin Khilji or Babar. Why?

I had a joke when the Karni Sena (the Rajput organisation which protested against Padmaavat) came up.

Why don't we have a Khilji Sena?

There is nobody to support poor Khilji.

Only Khilji is to be blamed. It is so easy.

You always need the 'other' to vilify and somehow rise above it. And to me Aurangzeb, Khilji, this is the mindset I am talking about.

If you defend them, you will be immediately called pro-Pakistani.

If you talk of atrocities by Sikhs, Marathas and Rajputs, what will be you called?

There were atrocities across the board.

So can we say Indian society has selective amnesia?

Amnesia is always selective.

It helps the ruling elite to create walls.

It helps for regime change.

It helps in slaughter.

It helps in wars.

It helps in manipulating press.

It helps in fake news.

IMAGE: 'If you see the history of India, the kind of caste, communal, linguistic, ethnic riots in this country, we knew where we are heading,' says Saeed Mirza. Photograph: Hitesh Harisinghani/

You write that we were sovereign, secular and democratic. That is not factual. We were originally a sovereign democratic republic.
(Then prime minister) Indira Gandhi added the word 'secular' to the Constitution in 1976.

We were a sovereign democratic republic with equal rights for everybody.

Equal rights, what does it mean?

Freedom of expression and religion, everything included.

But the 'secular' word was imported later.

The idea was an inclusive Constitution though the secular word came later.

It guaranteed equality to all citizens which fundamentally was true.

Can we say now that under Modi's rule...

(Interrupts) Modi is only a name.

As I told you 20 years ago, baazi le gaye kutte.

When I am saying this, it is the mindset that dominates the country.

It is the state of mind that has overtaken our country.

That is the fear.

Can we change that or is it too late?

It is a long battle ahead as the cancer has spread.

It takes very little to start a fire. (But) It takes a helluva lot of people to extinguish it.

The cancer has spread (to) the narrow tunnelled vision of the world, bigoted vision of the world.

And my book is not about India, but about the world. Iraq, Syria, Latin America and what happened across the world.

I am trying now to understand how did it come to pass and how did it happen.

I have no answers, but I can raise questions.

All I know is that the centrality of human beings is out of the window and something else has taken formal shape.

Do you feel that the kind of society you imagined and which you lived, which saw that secularism was always a farce and the real world was something different?
Were you living in some other world where you just didn't see the realities of today?

Perhaps you are right.

Maybe it is a Utopian dream.

What is wrong in it?

And it is just not India, but across the world.

What does a human being want across the world?

Peace, dignity of living and hopefully a job for living, education for children and healthcare. Peace means bhaichara (amity).

A supportive society which is inclusive and very few people will not take to this vision of the world.

Yet, all you require is the forces which do not believe in this equality and decency.

Who do you think will feel threatened by these terms? Kaun hai? (Who are they?)

Once we understand, we will know where the battle lies.

You think the lift boy downstairs does not want it (peace) or a cab driver, a waiter, or a bus conductor?

This is the world they would love to have.

The point is, the moment you say inclusive, how do you break the idea of bringing the 'other'?

When this cannot be delivered in a socio-political system, where do you pin the blame down then?

How do you divert attention?

You require the 'other'.

It could be linguistic, racial or religion or anything.

Did you ever feel that you were not in touch with the ground reality of communalism in India?

I am deeply in touch (with it).

Please understand, who are the people who thrive out of communal viewpoint? Kaun hongey?

It is simple.

Upper caste people, the upper caste socio-economic strata because the alternative is a threat to their power base. It is very simple.

Who would subscribe to the space that has friendship between Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims and Christians? Who will have a problem? And we know that.

You think they are a majority. I don't think so.

That's not Utopia to have that dream. It is the vast majority of the people.

You gave an example in your book by quoting the journalist P Sainath on how Nero's guests were silent when Nero was putting slaves into the fire.
Why do you think this is happening in India that there is no public anger over lynchings or atrocities against Dalits? Why is society silent?

There is anger, but unfortunately that has shifted into patriotism, shoved into a war situation and the guarantee there will be a temple (Ayodhya) or war with Pakistan.

I am predicting that (for the Lok Sabha elections).

The point is that it is needed because you (the Modi government) have not delivered on your promises.

Every country does that.

When you need to divert attention, bring in patriotism straightaway.

Bring in Hindus, if you are in Pakistan.

You need the 'other'.

India is their enemy.

It is so easy to divert attention.

People don't seem to understand.

Most people do.

Just 31 percent voted for the BJP and 69 percent did not.

The BJP uses nine tongues simultaneously.

The top level will be development and then sab ka saath, sab ka vikas.

But at the street level, the tongue will be vicious.

Fascists speak with nine tongues.

What are the sub-plots?

Rumours, riots and social media. Where is the development in that?

What is this nine tongues theory?

The BJP is a party of nine tongues. All fascist parties are like that.

Nine is just a number I am using.

Don't you feel India has some hope that there is brotherhood in society? Muslims do not face that much harassment.

Who said so?

Harassment against Muslims is not very common.

No, it is happening.

Go to a police station or government office. It has reached there.

On the streets, harassment of Muslims is not happening, but when it comes to the State, minorities are having a rough time. This is the truth.

In America, England or Pakistan or in India, by and large it is true.

They are having a rough time.

Try being a black (in the United States).

You judge any civilisation by how it treats its weakest links.

The most disenfranchised, the Dalits, the tribals, the minorities, you judge from them whether it is a good democracy or not.

But there is no protest against injustice. If the situation was so bad, those people would have revolted against the system.

Are you asking for revolution by seeing the photograph of Che Guevara in my house?

There is zulm (tyranny). We have revolts.

Farmers are staging revolts and there are mass demonstrations.

In central India, there is uprising of Naxalism.

You got the army in the north-east and Kashmir.

You think this stuff is not happening.

Of course, it is happening, but it is just not getting noticed.

In Tamil Nadu people are protesting.

It is just that these things are not getting reported.

The press keeps all these things aside.

People are expressing their anger. They expressed their anger in Delhi too by voting for the Aam Aadmi Party.

This was democratically done. It was fantastic.

I am not an AAP member, please.

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