Cinematographer: Shaina Anand
Duration: 00:17:22; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 38.778; Saturation: 0.156; Lightness: 0.410; Volume: 0.207; Cuts per Minute: 13.359; Words per Minute: 124.088
What were a bunch of left-liberal folks to do? They performed their speeches for the good citizens and children of Disket, and talked late into the night.
The participants flew into Leh, from sea-level to 13000 feet and without acclimatising, made their way up the highest motorable road in the world to arrive late at night. The delegates are settling down to breakfast, when a VHP representative arrives to discuss the event with them. He informs them that they are invited guests of the VHP's "Buddh Mahotsav.
Attempts to reckon with the situation appear on the sidelines: For example at breakfast, where a 20-something Maulana (Islamic scholar) from Delhi seeks to provoke the VHP representative at the table. Or in-guest-house debates on topics such as Islamic law, feminism, environmentalism and Kashmir.
The video, shot by a participant, includes stadium scenes, a friendly ghost's dance, and a peculiar atmosphere that hangs over this high-altitude encounter.
The participants consist of :
Shaina - Shaina Anand
SA – Shubhadra Anand, Historian (Former Principal and Professor of History, R. D. National College, Bandra, Mumbai)
IE – Irfan Engineer, Social Activist and Advocate (Director - Center for Study of Society and Secularism, Mumbai)
MM – Meena Menon, Political and Trade Union Activist (Vice President, Girni Kamgar Sangharsh Samiti (Mill Workers' Action Committee) and Senior Associate, Focus on the Global South)
RM - Rama Menon, journalist
NS - Nandini Sunder, journalist
SV - Siddharth Vardarajan, Former Editor, Times of India; currently the Strategic Affairs Editor, The Hindu.
KMC - Kamal Mitra Chenoy, Professor, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University
A number of historians, journalists and activists are invited to Disket in the Nubra Valley, Ladakh (a mountain desert district between Kashmir and Tibet) to participate in a National Integration Seminar. However, it appears that the same has been misrepresented, on arrival they are told that the actual event is the celebration of "Buddh Mahotsav", the first in a series of Nation-wide Events (the next was to be in Arunachal Pradesh) master-minded and organised by the VHP.
A group of people comprising of Indian journalists, activists and historians are invited to Disket in Nubra Valley, Ladakh (close to Siachen Glacier) to participate in a 'National Integration' Seminar. The Jammu/ Kashmir official who invited them is sympathetic to the ideals of secularism and composite cultural integration, and so they accept the invitation. They arrive by flight to Leh, and without getting the opportunity to acclimatise, travel by Khardung La, the highest motor-able road to Ladakh. Various members of the contingent arrive and crash out. The next morning they wake up to find themselves being attended by a 'host' who welcomes them to the 'Buddh Maha Utsav' organised by the VHP. As they try to digest this surprising news along with their morning cuppa and breakfast, the following conversation ensues between some of the contingent members and the VHP representative.
A 25 year-old Maulana Delhvi from Delhi is in conversation with the VHP representative.
MD: Supposing, with reference to the Director-General Tourism, in this Task Force for the cultural festival which is taking place in this city, for e.g. Jammu Kashmir Tourism, DG, organises a cultural event. Considering in Kashmir the Sufi culture prevalent among the people, such an event, a Sufi festival is put up or something on Hazrat Bal or something like that... what is your reaction?
VHP Rep: You remember the famous statement of Sudarshan when he said...?
MD: Would you please state your views in Hindi? I believe in Swadeshi...
VHP Rep: All right. So Shri Sudarshan's very popularly discussed speech was...
composite cultural integration
buddh maha utsav
Disket, Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir
jammu and kashmir
sacred hindu literature
sacred islamic literature
Maulana Dehelvi, Irfan Engineer, the director of the Institute of Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution, and the VHP Rep have a discussion regarding Muslims, national integration, patriotism and more. A great deal of the discussion appears to be aimed as a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the policies of the VHP.
MD: Since we are discussing the topic of national integration, supposing our esteemed Home Minister makes a statement that Islamic Madaris
have a large role to play in the militancy and terrorism prevalent in India. RSS had stated this in 1947. I don't know. I wasn't even born, I don't even know if RSS said this... But there is something which is believed by everybody in the entire world - At the time of the Freedom struggle, Dar-Ulum Devgum, Usachaimet Ulma, Husain Ahmed Madni, Ali Bandhu; and all the others, they were together. If you have gone to Bombay, Shaukat Ali Road, etc and so many others who were a part of the freedom struggle. (ref: Roads named after them in Bombay. Here MD is referring to Muslims who took part in the freedom struggle.) In the yesteryears, all those men who gave so much to this independence movement refused to go to Pakistan and chose to settle in India because they believed in showing their allegiance to an Indian concept of democracy and secularism.
You must have seen, when we talk of 'Wataniyat'
which you refer to as Rashtriya
I am a Muslim. When a marriage takes place in our house - my one sister got married recently, another one is going to get married soon - we make the girl sit for an ubtan
seven days before the wedding day. The ubtan
is applied all over the girl's body. When the bridegroom arrives at the wedding, he does so on a horse, wearing a pagdi
(turban), we don't tie a saafa
, but a pagdi
. We also wear a kamarpatta
(belt). The Islamic aspect of the rituals, of the entire wedding is actually the two minute recital of the Khudbah
, the general meaning of which translates as: 'In the name of God, do you take this lady as your wife?'
That's it in the nutshell. Apart from that particular aspect, all the other rites followed are those prescribed from sacred Hindu literature of the ancient times.
Nationality is present even among us (ref: Muslim community). For example, with reference to the Ganges: basically, the sacred Islamic literature has not been studied. Please don't get me wrong, Kanhaiyaji, Sri Krishna - you will not have heard this reference for Sri Krishna - Shah Abdul Aziz Mahdiz Dehelvi. In the entire country of India, apparently no institution was ever broken down or destroyed by the British. But one Islamic institution was destroyed- She-Madood-Ullah.
Do you know that people believe Shah Jahan to have one wife? Actually, he had four wives - one was Fatehpuri Begum - Fatehpur Masjid is named after her; one is Mumtaz Mahal, in whose name the Taj Mahal has been made; one other; and the last was Akbari Begum, in whose name Edward Park has been created. There was an Akbari Masjid there earlier. The British got away with that. In fact, even Imam Bukhari stated that since the British had destroyed it, and converted it into a park, there is no point in reconverting it back to a Masjid. It was done, so we accepted that. But the only reason the institution was destroyed...
[abruptly cut-off mid-sentence by the VHP rep's suddenly getting up, completely turning around and holding a one-sided dialogue with some colleague to the far side of the area. (In essence, he is trying to circumvent Maulana Dehlivi's baiting) The footage captures the amusement of the other journalists present as well as the humorous presentiment of the videographer. When he comes back to the table , he tries to change the subject, cut the conversation and make everybody get up to go for something. MD refuses to take the hint and continues where he was cut-off:]
MD: Shah Abdul Aziz and his father She-Moodad Aziz - This is a matter of nationality - you want to know what role did the Muslim play in the making of this nation? In the entire world, the first translation of the Koran, the first commentary which took place was in India at She-madood-Ullah Institution (which was named after its founder.) The British destroyed it. They weren't against the Hindus, but against the Muslims, so they destroyed it. The founder's son was Shah Abdul Aziz. He was asked questions regarding worship: What are your views about Kanhaiyalal
(another name for Krishna - one of the Hindu gods)? So he replied: Please don't ask me about Kanhaiyaji
He quoted Iqbal (Islamic poet) on the same instead - Sri Krishna ki jahaa baji vedaate
... you understand leh-vedaate
, na? Sarode Rabbani
... You understand Sarod
, na ?
VHP Rep: Music.
MD: Yes, and Rabbani
is used to refer to...?
VHP Rep: Voice.
MD: Not in the least, sir. Rab
refers to God Almighty. So it refers to God's voice. Iqbal referred to Sri Krishna's voice as 'Sarode Rabbani ( the sweet voice of God).' Shah Abdul Aziz said that Sri Krishna was an apostle. Lord Ram... I have heard of him since childhood. In my neighbourhood, there were many Hindus. There was one Muslim family and there was a temple in the neighbourhood vicinity and we even had Saraswati Puja
on the porch of my house...
VHP Rep: Where are you from?
MD: I hail from Delhi.
VHP Rep: where in Delhi?
MD: Near the Jama Masjid, there is a neighbourhood known as Sayyeddham. When Shahjahan had founded Delhi, he had actually kept a plot of land on a higher mountain ground for Sayyids
. But I don't believe that. But that's how the story goes by members of my community...
(interrupted by the VHP Rep): Achcha, I have one request for you...
MD: Please let me finish what I have to say. It's almost nearing the end...
... So in our childhood we were told about saying Jai Siyaram
... Sita would lead, Ram would follow; Radha would walk ahead, Krishna would follow... For a few days, this was taught to us. My father was alive at the time, now he is not. One man came up to him and said 'Jay Ramji ki
'. My father said: "If you say Jaisiyaramji ki
, then I too will say Jaisiyaramji ki
. But if you say Jai Shri Ram
, then I will not greet you in kind. (Jo ke mein pichlon dino se yahi sunte aa raha hoon
Call it patriotism, call it nationalism - It is very much present among the Muslims, but neither have there been any attempts to read their sacred literature. Even today, there are secular people present here, among us, whatever it is. Neither has there been any sincere undertaking to understand Islam, nor any attempts to understand Indian Muslims. If we do anything, then it is considered (court ki avelna
)... We have reached the Parliament... I must say - It is good to be frank - I like the fact that we are talking freely and frankly. In the history of Independence, we (Muslim Community) have marched to the Parliament. But the history of the entire subcontinent is proof that we have not marched to the courts of legal justice. We have never done that. But before sentencing Kalyan Singh, the RSS and the Sangh marched towards the Supreme court and proved what is what. What you refer to culturalism and nationalism, it will not be created until we do not respect it legally.
After the Koran, I take samvidhan
as the most important concept in the world. Koran, because it is my basic religious belief and after that Indian samvidhan
qualifies as Koran.
So what I am trying to tell you is that in whatever you are doing (such as this event) invite everyone - Muslims, Christians and in the discussions whatever controversies are raised - such as the Kanchipuram matter. There was a representative of the Dalai Lama sitting near you who left earlier, I had a chance to converse with her too. The Maha Purush departed without saying anything. The Kanchipuram Shankaracharya shared his wisdom before departing. When you as a VHP rep, organise more functions such as these in Arunachal Pradesh, in Kerala, Buddh Utsav, please include these kind of discussions/ controversies in the event. In fact, please celebrate Ram Navmi and invite me. Please organise a Janmashtami celebration and I'll arrange for some Maulvis. Please do this!
VHP Rep: Yes, yes, yes! We must do this...
MD: Hindi please! Hindi!
VHP Rep: Yes. Great thinking! We need more people like you.
MD: But I cannot be Mukhtarabaz. Main Mukhtaarabaz Naqvi nahin ho sakta
(General laughter at the joke.)
VHF Rep: But it is up to us how we work with people like you. Let me paraphrase that - It is our privilege to work with your calibre - if we make you Mukhtaar awaaz
, or Kisan awaaz
or Sayed shamuddin
We as the VHP Sangh want... We know that the people think of us as fanatic...
MD: Sir, this is not true.
VHP Ref: People do state this. So we want to change the perception of our image among the people. We need the right people who will guide us, who will suggest to us when we are going wrong in our core thinking. Anyway, these are my thoughts (Clarification of personal belief and not being a mouthpiece for the Sangh.)
Another activist, Irfaan Engineer (Centre for Studies in Secular Society) begins to speak:
IE: Deewan Sir, I'd like to tell you only this - that ample examples are available...
VHP Rep: But we don't deny that... We know there are...
IE: But VHP has chosen only one or two Muslim fanatic cases and projected it...
VHP Rep: All right! (tone in a conceding manner) Let me put it this way, we (VHP) are ready to correct our mistakes.
Lady with him: We'll put them up as show pieces.
VHP Rep: We (VHP) are ready to correct our mistakes.
first translation of koran
indian freedom struggle
shah abdul aziz
shah abdul aziz mahdiz dehelvi