Sheikh Saleem Gafoor did what any decent human being would do. The 37-year-old bus driver saved those in his care and in the process, saved himself.
Bullets are indiscriminate. They don't choose their targets with care.
Sheikh had the presence of mind to get out of there. He did that. He did not idly sit behind the wheel and think: These are a bunch of Hindus, so let them die.
So, let's not demean his actions by defining him by his religion. That's patronising and presumptuous.
It only underscores the sentiment that we, the majority are surprised that a Muslim would do this.
In our eagerness to feed the perverse priorities of political parties — across the spectrum — their supporters fall over themselves to create heroes. But for the wrong reasons.
Why not just reward Sheikh for his good deed and not worry about his religion, which had nothing to do with his job as a driver. If I were Sheikh, I'd feel condescended to.
Let's play out this scenario: Sheikh loses control of the vehicle because the terrorists shoot out his tyres. The bus slams into a tree. The engine seizes up. How would we react? If Sheikh has lived, we would have had flayed him. For the crime of being Muslim. We would have accused him of being in cahoots with the terrorists and helping them kill Hindus. We'd say: So what if he lost his life? After all, it was jihad. And that would have been the story splashed across the media.
Sheikh is the working man. When we make him a legend and label him a Muslim, we are perpetuating division and not unity. Because our actions are drenched in prejudice. Why can't we accept that human beings, in difficult circumstances, do the right thing simply because that's in our DNA?
We don't have to fall back on caste, creed or religion to justify courage under fire.
Would all these flag-wavers have cared if Sheikh had died in a hail of bullets? I doubt it.
Sheikh's actions brought honour to his job. That's what human beings do, day in and day out.
Visit Katra, near Jammu. Walk up to the Vaishno Devi shrine. Nearly all the people who serve the devotees on the way up are Muslim. They're the ones wrangling the horses. Or literally having your back as they push you up. They're folks like you and me, simply making a living the best way they know how. There's no animosity there. No hostility. In fact, a certain understanding and camaraderie exists between them and the pilgrims.
It is in that atmosphere, amidst these scores of helping hands that you realise that agony is caused by defining people solely on the basis of their religion and lumping them in together.
Let people be. Let them earn their daily bread.
Well done Sheikh. I don't care if you're Hindu or Muslim.
You did well by those entrusted to your care.
God bless you.
Published Date: Jul 12, 2017 07:44 am | Updated Date: Jul 12, 2017 07:53 am