Sohail Hashmi in Kafila. Here
As you read one chilling account after another of perfidy and deceit, of official connivance with the killers, of doctors’ refusal to treat Muslim patients, of government offices telling their Muslim employees, even those who had chosen to stay, to leave and go to Pakistan, of pre-teen girls speared through their vaginas, of infants being chopped to pieces, of pregnant woman being stabbed through their wombs, of women, in their tens of thousands, on both sides of the blood-soaked border, kidnapped, raped and sold off, again and again and again, rioters, policemen, army men all joining in this macabre act of desecration of womanhood, your blood begins to run cold.
And all this in the capital of a nation that had announced to the world that she was home as much to the Muslim as it was to the Hindu, the Sikh, the Parsi and the Christian. Those upon whose shoulders had fallen the responsibility of steering its fate, were people who were either not capable or did not care and some, many of them were almost at the top, were complicit in the violence.
As you read all this, your mind begins to be flooded with images and reports of the recent past, events, pogroms, genocides – Nellie, Bombay, Gujarat begin to flood your mind. The same barbarities, the same callousness, collusion, protectors turning perpetrators, doctors refusing to treat patients, suckling infants being beheaded, neighbours killing neighbours and all this amidst claims of a faith that was inherently tolerant, open, welcoming.
You also think of this frail woman, a woman who has lost her husband to these killers and who still went out every day, trying to save one more life, unite one more family, buy sweets for a girl with half her skull stitched up, supervising rations for the refuge seekers, begging for blankets, setting up schools for children, organizing joint processions of Hindu and Muslim children, getting their parents together, getting into communally charged localities and asking people to stop the dance of death, if not for anything, then at least for the life of the fasting Mahatma, who had vowed not to eat as long as peace did not return to Delhi.
As you read you see this unsure, scared, confused, hurt, lonely woman, grow up in stature and with her rises your hope and your faith in the victory of the Human spirit.
Read this book if you want to understand where we went wrong and to see the fault lines, to see how we need a secular state and not sarv dharm sambhav. Read this book also if you want to understand the falsity of the self image that we have created of ourselves and of our nation, but read it most importantly to understand the fragility of the premise upon which is built the idea of India and the need to protect and nurture this premise and to make it real. Because this premise is India and it is people like Anis Kidwai that made it possible.