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The Reverse Garam Hawa Phenomenon: A subcontinental thaw, or mere tokenism? – Arshia Malik

The Indian Muslims feel they are being pushed into a corner. This is a huge corner, the Indian geographical boundaries house 201 million (2018 estimate) of them. This push and shove started right after the 1947 Partition which divided India into West Pakistan and East Pakistan (later Bangladesh). 

Garam Hawa, a 1973 Urdu drama film by M. S. Sathyu captures the start of this push and shove beautifully. The title alludes to the "scorching winds" of communalism, political bigotry and intolerance, that blew away humanity and conscience from across North-India in the years after the partition of India in 1947, and especially after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. Salim Mirza, the protagonist played by the great Balraj Sahni, is reluctant to leave his ancestral 'haveli' because he is holding onto his faith in a new idea. Despite the fact, that his shoe manufacturing business is suffering in the new communally charged environment, and the family had to sell off their haveli to move into a rented house. Yet, he struggles to keep his faith in secularism and idealism alive, along with his optimistic son.  The highlight of the movie is the ending when Salim Mirza sends the tonga carrying his family, which was supposed to take him to the railway station for a train to Pakistan, back and joins his youngest son for a protest march against unemployment and discrimination. 

The scene of the movie is not different from what India got to witness on the 17th-century steps of the Jama Masjid of Old Delhi on 21 Dec 2019, when Muslims coordinated protests against the CAA (Citizens Amendment Act) and the NRC (National Register of Citizens). Shekhar Gupta in his Print article asked: 

What happens when the Republic’s largest minority (one of every six or seven Indians) comes out on the steps of their holiest mosque to pronounce they are Indians first, believe in the Constitution, the flag and the anthem, and reject the idea that someone could now reimagine the basis of the Republic, whatever his majority?

Dr Manmohan Singh had said to a hall full of senior journalists at his 2009 election-time interaction at New Delhi’s Constitution Club, that anyone complaining about special facilities for the Muslims should be aware that even if 1 per cent of India’s Muslims (about 20 crore now) decided that there was no future for them in India, the country would become ungovernable. 

These scenes from the protests signify the awakening of the Indian Muslims who were not really asleep but were just trying to find their way in the Republic of India all the through the 1947 war with Pakistan, the 65' war, the 71' war which resulted in the Liberation of Dhaka, the 99' Kargil War, the Kashmir insurgency, the rise of the global Islamic Caliphate, 9/11, Mumbai bomb blasts, Batla House encounter, Muzzafarnagar riots, Gujarat riots, Babri Masjid demolition by the 'karsevaks' in 1991, and the recent decision by the Supreme Court judgement and so on. 

Between surviving these onslaughts on the Indian Muslim psyche and keeping the idea of India alive, the Indian Muslim has to deal with the rise of majoritarian politics of Hindutva, the assertive nationalism of the BJP (Bharatiya Janta Party) and the Machiavellian "Arthashastra" of the Amit Shah - Narendra Modi duo vis-a-vis Kashmir, and Hindu identity politics. The Indian Muslim wokeness has its Left-Liberal social justice warriors too apart from genuinely concerned Hindus, Sikhs and people from all sects, creeds and castes. It is remarkable to see the Tricolor instead of the green Islamic flags in the hands of the protesters, the Indian Constitution rather than the Quran being upheld, the National anthem being sung rather than Islamic slogans, and the pictures and placards of B. R. Ambedkar (Father of the Indian Constitution) and Havildar Abdul Hamid, PVC (Param Vir Chakra), martyr of the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war. 

As a Kashmiri, seeing Hindu students, professionals, teachers, writers, activists, academia, celebrities facing 'lathis', batons, arrests, tear gas and police brutality, while not giving up on their Muslim counterparts, I can't help thinking of the impression this must be making on the third generation of conflict-ridden youngsters watching the images from their living rooms in the Kashmir Valley. Generations brought up on the hatred of the 'Hindu Bania' or the derogatory 'Bihari' for every dark-complexioned person must be confused as to what was happening in the National Capital Region and across Indian cities. The decades of Islamic radicalism in the form of Wahabbism, Salafism and the recent ISIS rise and debacle coupled with the conditioning of the unfinished business of the Partition- secession from India and merger with Pakistan, has built an intrinsic hatred for the Kashmiri Pandits, or any pro-India dissenter down to labelling them as not Muslim enough. 

The "Azadi" sentiment has been packaged well since the new millennium with Leftists the world over siding with the agenda of the Islamists by highlighting the Indian Army violations with lists of custodial deaths, while suppressing the ISI-sponsored insurgency in the Kashmir Valley, and conveniently neglecting the first victims of the "Azadi" - Kashmiri Muslims themselves. The Oppression Olympics and atrocity tourism is presented all over the Left bastions Universities in the form of seminars, slide presentations and the occasional demonstrations before Indian consulates. The ‘Intifada Factory’, as I like to dub it, has strong networks and lobbies like a tree with roots in the Mirpuris in London where the JKLF headquarters are in Birmingham. So all the Social Justice Warriors (SJWs), useful idiots like the Kashmiri Pandits in favour of "Azadi", and the conflict entrepreneurs from the Press Enclave in Srinagar cry the usual victim-hood, using the misnomer of Islamophobia every time there is dissent or criticism, appropriating the Civil Rights Movement of the South and the Holocaust literature while completely fooling the Liberal, white-guilt ridden or Brahminical patriarchy guilt-ridden activists.    

This is evident in the protests against the CAA and NRC in Delhi too where Islamists are trying their best to hijack the movement with their Islamic slogans. But it didn't work. From ordinary people understanding the fear of the Muslims to the Congress leader Shashi Tharoor admonishing the introduction of Islamic slogans in rallies, the Muslim wokeness is being checked from all sides. The iconic reformer of the Indian subcontinent of Muslim heritage, Hamid Dalwai or the "Angry Young Secularist as he was known, would not have been happy but he would have been there, walking with the students, addressing them in groups. His seminal work "Muslim Politics in India" which I am trying to revive as a must-read for distribution on a mass scale, should be the guiding manifesto for the Indian Muslim who is not afraid to declare India as his/her home and standing up to the State's bumbling, stumbling, attempts at streamlining a nation while fighting a proxy war both on the ground and digitally.

I am also hopeful about these images being witnessed by the new generation Kashmiris could make their conditioning stop and they will make their way through the mess of identity politics, provincial mentality and regional politics.   

This reverse "Garam Hawa" cannot be ignored by anyone. A video in which a very aware Maulana is articulating his doubts about the CAA and the NRC has to be answered if the Government of India considers the Muslims to be rightful Citizens too.   

Ending this on a quote from a speech delivered by one of the country's best orators and public intellectuals - Dr. Shashi Tharoor, in 2012 at IIM Calcutta.

"India is a nation of belonging rather than of blood. The idea of India is of one land embracing many. It's the idea that a nation may endure differences of caste, creed, colour, culture, cuisine, conviction, costume and custom and still rally around a consensus. And that consensus is around a simple democratic principle - that in a diverse and rich democracy like India's, you don't need to agree all the time, so long as you would agree on the ground rules of how you will disagree."

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