As the Durga Puja and Dussehra festivities peak with Vijaya Dashami right around the corner, one man is surely crestfallen.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui grew up in the bustling town of Budhana in the Muzaffarnagar district of Uttar Pradesh. Since his childhood, he had always been keen on taking part in the local Ramleela. This year, the century-old Ramleela committee gave him the role of Marich — a character in Ramayana. Nawazuddin had begun rehearsing with much gusto but alas, his childhood fantasy was not to be.
A few Shiva Sena goons mounted pressure on the Ramleela committee ensuring that a Muslim minority member didn't get any role in a Hindu legend. The childhood dream of a Budhana resident was shattered by a handful of unsocial elements who don't want any communal amity. Their vision can be aptly described as intolerant and parochial .
What is more disturbing is that the district administration, including an IAS District Magistrate and an IPS Superintendent of Police, did not intervene in the matter to promote any communal harmony. Equally disturbing is the indifference on the part of the State administration under the self-proclaimed progressive Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav. His own Samajwadi Party's stance so far has been perceived to be pro-minority. This was visibly demonstrated in the party and State administration's stand in handling the Muzaffarnagar communal riots or dealing with the case of the Dadri lynching. It's intriguing that with elections in the state only a few months away , the UP Government and the ruling party chose to ignore this incident, lest it is labelled to be linked to a particular community on charges of appeasement.
On the contrary, it was perhaps a great opportunity to bring the two communities closer but the chance was sadly lost. With the government stakes being high, no one in India's most populous state wanted to take a risk by using their clout to allow Nawazuddin to act and thus ensure furthering of harmony. Sadly the foreign consultant engaged by UP CM and his party to advise on the upcoming elections remained passive. If he had his ears to the ground, he could have advised against such indifference. From the SP's point of view, any support to Nawaz would mean support to the minority from the angle of votes.
State intelligence agencies know that Shiva Sena in UP has no or a very scant presence. They certainly don't have enough presence to the extent of calling shots. Their writ doesn't run large in UP. We don't know for sure if this was factored by the entities that matter.
Amongst all the state and non-state actors in UP, Nawazuddin emerged as the best actor in the whole Ramleela episode. He displayed his maturity by swallowing the affront and maintaining his silence so as things don't get out of hand.
This solitary and isolated incident should not lead us to believe that all is lost on the communal amity front. My family and I have been pandal-hopping this Durga puja. Many puja locations have food stalls manned by members of the minority community and there is a beeline to grab Mughlai delicacies in the most uninhibited manner. It's a unique trend to observe in Delhi NCR. No one is questioning whether the meat is of Jhatka or Halal. In a Durga Puja pandal, a Muslim artist from a foreign country rendered songs right in front of Goddess Durga. No eyebrows were raised . Such instances keep our hopes alive. Mohammad Rafi has the best of Hindu bhajans to his credit and music director Naushad the best of compositions of Hindu devotional songs. Similarly , Majrooh, Kaifi Azmi et al have contributed so much for communal peace.
This is India's strength and our pride.
The author is a retired IPS officer and a security analyst.