A great article from Barkha Dutt

Barkha Dutt
Thursday, March 16, 2006

Taken from www.ndtv.com

Swimming in the sea of India’s cultural complexity has taught me that I can no longer carry my agnosticism lightly.

Time has convinced me that my resistance to institutionalised religion is the defining character flaw of the progressive elite; a discordant note in an otherwise full-throated symphony; a disconnect so deep that sometimes people like me are just left watching from the side lines at the tumultuous fight for India’s future; spectators, not participants because we speak the language of disbelief.

But there are times, I am grateful that I am neither Hindu nor Muslim, but just a devout skeptic. Right now, is one such.

Despite the lonely corner non -believers like myself inhabit, I am reasonably confident that the ordinary Indian is as mystified as me by the hysterical debate that has consumed our media these past few weeks.

The theme song, actually it was a duet, went something like this-Hindutva is simmering under the surface, waiting to leap out from the political grave into the warm embrace of a new life; and “moderate Muslims” must speak, not just speak, they must shout, scream, holler, be heard, so that there is no “backlash.”

Apparently, the horrific twin blasts at Varanasi have given all this the force of an emergency. If I were either Hindu or Muslim, I would be deeply insulted at the generalised and simplistic assumptions made about me, my intelligence, and most importantly, my faith.

On the evening of the blasts, Renuka Narayanan went on NDTV and said “Varanasi is to Hinduism what Mecca is to Islam, this is the seat of Hinduism that has been attacked.” I can still feel the slight shudder that went down my spine. The stakes seemed so high.

Gujarat 2002; New Delhi 1984, has made us forever fearful. The fear isn’t entirely misplaced; every terror attack, especially those targeted at the nerve centres of faith, pushes us that much closer to the edge; to the precipice of polarisation.

But the argument lapsed into absurdity, when the politicians began talking. If the Varanasi blasts were a consequence of the UPA’s “minority appeasement”, then how does one explain the shadow of terror that tailed India during the NDA regime? From Kandahar to the Parliament attack?

If the blasts were a result of this government being “soft on terror” then how does one explain that there is no empirical difference in the level of violence today, when compared with last year? And has a shrill BJP forgotten that Atal Behari Vajpayee’s lasting legacy is the creation of a peace process with Pakistan and a peace initiative with Kashmiri separatists?

Bihar was proof that the NDA is a combative, shrewd political force that the UPA cannot afford to be complacent about. But surely there was a lesson in it for the BJP as well- another state won not on the strength of religious mobilisation but on the promise of change.

Even the complex caste arithmetic could not save a Lalu Prasad Yadav; clearly identity politics could only travel this far, if governance and development were not equal companions on the journey.

So no matter what the public opinion pundits write (and I suspect, even the BJP’s master strategists may just have lifted the idea off the edit pages), I would argue that in the absence of an extraordinary event, religious identity is now more the EX-factor, than a decisive, intangible, X factor; Hindutva I think has served its time and outlived its political utility.

All generalizations are a gamble, but I would take the risk and say that Middle India (as distinct from both the fundamentalists and the liberals) wants to travel down the Middle Path; the age of shrill rhetoric is over, Indians, are increasingly impatient with extremism of any kind, in any faith, Hindu or Muslim.

I’m pretty sure that the ordinary Hindu, angry as he or she may be about the assault in Varanasi, and before that, Ayodhya, will also find L K Advani’s Rath Yatra disingenuous and unnecessary; a poor caricature of himself.

I’m equally sure, that if I were a Muslim in India today, I’d feel under siege; claustrophobically caught between those who claim to speak on my behalf, and those who are demanding that I must speak up as a “moderate.” Lost in the cacophony of argument is the clarity of exactly what we are asking them to speak up against.

If it’s about the politicians like Haji Yaqoob Qureshi, the minister in Uttar Pradesh who dared to declare a reward of Rs 51 crore for the Danish cartoonist’s head, Muslim after Muslim that I have interviewed has condemned him and asked that he be removed from the state government.

It’s a non-Muslim chief minister who continues to keep him in public office. It’s India’s party in power, the Congress, that continues to maintain a shameful silence on his utterances; the same Congress that will use textbook rules to secure a vindictive expulsion of Jaya Bachchan from Parliament is conveniently inert when it comes to Qureshi.

And it’s the Marxists, who need to march with Mulayam, who are silently looking the other way. So aren’t newspaper columnists framing the question incorrectly? Sure, there is a conspiracy of silence, but look who is not talking.

Or is it the anti-Bush protests that we are alarmed by and object to? Apparently the worry is that Indian Muslims are joining hands with the Global Islamic Community, if they march against Bush; that this heralds the ominous arrival of Political Islam at our doorstep. But isn’t this a wildly insecure, and mostly hysterical reaction?

First, the protests spoke for a fragment of Muslim opinion, and it would be presumptuous to assume that the protestors represented 14 million people.

Secondly, so what if they don’t like Bush? Why isn’t their right to protest legitimate? This weekend, on We the People, a cross section of Muslims made the same point: to oppose George Bush’s politics in Iraq is not the same thing as opposing a nuclear deal that’s clearly good for India.

To lose that distinction is to question the patriotism of the Indian Muslim, not just a dangerous argument, but also a deeply offensive one.

Mehbooba Mufti from Kashmir summed it up when she said the cause of an Independent Kashmir had been championed by Islamic militants from as far as Sudan and Afghanistan, but never by an Indian Muslim outside of the valley.

Are we becoming like the United States? Fearful of minorities? Alarmed at their assertion, superior and scornful about their conventions? Unable to see them as anything but the “other?”

Finally, are media clichés the biggest disservice at a time like this? What or who do we mean by a Moderate Muslim? Mohammed Ali Jinnah was barely a believer, hardly followed the Quran, but created Pakistan.

So who is “moderate” enough for us, and who sets the benchmarks? The day of the blasts, I got a call from a member of the Muslim Personal Law board, scared and worried about a “backlash”, wanting to condemn the blasts on national television, so that nobody misunderstood their response. The subtext is clear.

Fifty-nine years after India was born, in a country where there are more Muslims than there are in Pakistan, we are still asking Muslims to wear their nationalism like an identity card; we are still asking for proof of loyalty. This is not their failure. It is ours.

Cant help but praise her. !


25 thoughts on “A great article from Barkha Dutt

  1. SP says:

    dude… In fantasy world your or Barkha Dutt analysis of muslims is great. But I think they hate us as much as we hate them. It is religious beliefs that we hold different. It is our ego which stops us.

    Out of that I basically think the main problem is the derive everything from the Quran which no doubt is a holy book and want to link every aspect of their life with it. I myself am against religion and politics mixed.

    They think their religion comes before the country, which is bad.

  2. Hiba says:

    Getting to the point – I would like to remind Barkha Dutt that a true practicing Sunni Muslim would anyday encourage Haji Yaqoob Qureshi’s declaration. As giving repect to the Prophet Muhammed (Peace Be Upon Him) and upholding his honour is one of the basic principles of Islam.

  3. sufia husain says:

    barkha u make sense. appreciate the article.
    sufia husain

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  5. Abhishek says:

    Barkha Dutt’s “compassion” for Muslims stems from a silent disgust for the Hindu middle class that she harbours. She has stated explicitly on TV that she considers the Hindu middle class, “hypocritic”.

    Barkha Dutt is a hypocrite.

    She expresses a wish to show M F Hussian’s paintings on NDTV, but is hypocritical to not show the same enthusiasm for showcasing the Danish cartoons or reading passages from Dwikhondito.
    A thinly vieled excuse of “hurting minority sentiments” exposes her so-called “secularist ideals” that she claims to champion.

    Should we rename her BUrkha Dutt … ?

  6. Dear Friend Abhishek,
    A very good morning!! What you have said about Barkha Dutt makes sense and my complements to you for that…..
    She is out and out a hypocrite and a nuisance in the media circles (Print/Electronic). She thinks that she is a great secularist, but if we look at her article, it is found that she has a definitive tilt and likes to create sensation.
    In her well-known, third rated TV programme, “We the people”, she gave 10 minutes for a victim of Malegaon blast to speak but did not give, not even 2 minutes for a victim of Delhi Blast speak on the same subject—this is unfortunate and disgusting. She has been doing this again and again and again…..
    She is just a populist who has hurt the sentiments of all communities, through biased reporting and illogical theories. It is time we boycott her and the advertisers who advertises her programmes on all Powerful Television.

  7. sidharth says:

    Barkha Dutt is a wonderful journalist, I love watching her TV show, “We The People”. But she is also an ideologue, she fervently supports her ideology, ever trying to enhance her reputation as a secularist, which she might be. I won’t call her a hypocrite, rather her thinking is wrong. Yes, we need the Muslims to produce a proof of loyalty because every act of terrorism traces its roots to Islam, so what if we are being careful. Reading her article, I almost forgot for a moment that she is a hindu. On one hand she says she isn’t religious, an agnostic as she put it, but the article projects her in a different light, a woman trying to sensationalize the issue..

    but she writes well, can’t take that away from the self annunciated “secular” lady.

  8. Om Awasthy says:

    One can’t be correct all the time. But there are a few points Barkha has inferred from today’s incomprehensible religious state of affairs, that seem correct to me:

    1>> Generalization, in any form whatsoever, is dangerous.

    2>> Asking any minority to provide proofs of loyalty is outright wrong. (In the same breath, I personally feel its a wrong that needs to be done, but with great caution. For step-fatherly treatment towards any community can prove to be fatal. And we are no Nazis! We could look for proofs of loyalty without letting the questioned ones know.. wotsay?)

    3>> Hindu nationalism is a very convenient concept. But being a Hindu hardly is a proof of anything. We need to understand this, asap.

    And now some of my inferences:

    1>> Protests are, on most occasions, a very disproportionate representation of a people. So, taking them as any kind of a certain indication of the political mood, is, to say the least, improper.

    2>> Religious differences never.. never are the cause behind any form of violence. The two of the most prominent causes are – vested personal interests cleverly veiled behind sensationalization of conveniently twisted religious differences, and human prejudices clothed in the fabric of misinterpreted ‘holy’ tenets. And there is a marked, definite difference between what is conceived and what is! Any reasoning eye would clearly demarcate the two..

    3>> Any game-plan to eradicate this menace should necessarily, and prominently, include a proper educational device. Kill the terrorists in their mother’s wombs. In their madarsas, their schools.. by enlightening them before they turn into terror-mongers. By arming them with adequate mental conviction, based on intellectual ability of seeing and reasoning, to escape any brainwashing, however strong and convincing it may be!

    4>> People need to know that faith is just a concept perceived by us humans.. a feeling that makes us feel guarded, and satisfied. It is NOT something that has been injected into us by some supernatural being. And we need to understand, religion is all about faith.. not a penny more, not a penny less!

    The Koran says ‘the blind, and the seeing, are not equal’. We better have eyes !! 🙂

  9. RA says:

    How is Burkha Dutt such an expert on the United States, she can declare that the country is ‘fearful of it minorities’.

    In my twenty years of living experience in the United States and understanding of its history crossing the milestones of abolition of slavery and desegragation and civil rights and forward, what I have come to realize is that the Unites States aspires to and does stand up for the ultimate minority of all – the individual and his/her right to think, live, believe and speak freely and the best one can be, whatever be one’s community affiliation, as long as one does not misinterpret violating the rights of the others as one owns right.

    Also, for Burkha Dutt’s information, the greatest leaders of United States did not weasel out of challenging disenfranchiment of powerless minorities – Lincoln went to war to abolish slavery against the whole of the South, who took refuge in the Bible to rationalize slavery. Rajiv Gandhi on the other hand rolled over for the Islamicists to further disenfranchize a powerless minority or do muslim women don’t count as a minority.

    Ms. Dutt might do India a favor if she stopped engaging in what is standard practice in India of using the term minority as a synonym of muslim, and for all practical purposes the Islamicist who profess to speak for the entire community. She might be remembered in history if she undertook the task – framers of the Indian Constitution did not – of honestly pondering, discussing, writing about and defining what is meant by a minority in the Indian mosaic and what are the factors of disenfranchisement, and who is affected, considering the premise for minority rights is for people at the risk of disenfranchisement to have a fair stake in the system, which by definition could not mean special rights not available to others as that would not be fair.

    And if by some long shot she can bring herself to do this without muzzling differences of opinion with shouting and monologuing for the love of listening to the sound of her own voice she might achieve something productive.

  10. anon says:

    Burkha dutt and whole NDTV team sold to Arabs long time back. I am not surprised. We have ambassadors of terr.. in every field in our country. Sharukh openly minting Daw..d’s money, Sanjay Dutt in politics, Barkha dutt, Shekhar Gupta in Media, Shabana Azmi, wwho is jealous of everyone else and covers her incompetency by playing a sympathy card that she belongs to minority. Only lazy bones play sympathy card that they are women or something etc. If you ar confident and competitive enough, you dont need special reservations. God is great. He will teach all these cruel man eaters a lesson.

  11. Eshita says:

    Its actually frustrating being a minority…

  12. skylark304 says:

    i have read many articles of Barkha Dutt and also watched her interviews NDTV.
    SINCE SHE WAS BORN IN DEC1971 , she is coming to see as child of a Grand old Grannie called India . SHE sees india after partion when everybody has got the cake anbd eaten and still wants land from kashmir and assam. BENGAL was devided into 1/3 rd west bengal and 2/3rd east pakistan. the same with kashmir where AZAD KASHMIR is pakistan kashmir but they want indian kashmir too.
    ultimately BARKHA DUTT need to understand that first pakistan was created for all muslims and then DIRECT ACTION and then” ENEMY’S PROPERTY LAW TO DISPOSSESS THEM so 38%hindus in west pakistan and 43% hindus in bangladesh have become .03% and 5% respectively, it was allah’s ebadat that kafir was killed and dispossessed. now the cake of india should again be devided by 170 million muslims and HINDUS . ALLAH HAS NOT LEFT INDIA ,HE STILL WAITING ON THE CHANCE OF HINDUS AND SIKHS TO GIVE THEIR RIGHTS.
    ALLAH IS COMMUNICATING WITH MANY AND GIVING HIS CALL , BARKHA MAY BE HEARING IT BUT many of us are not lucky enough to hear his message.
    BARKHA IS GIVING YOU THE MESSAGE to GIVE MORE LAND & RESOURCES TO MUSLIMS in subtle way!! i will be happy to see BARKHA DUTT in a Burkha soon ,she will look fabulous in a HIZAB also!! PAN-ISLAMIC STATE will be established, inshalla!!

  13. Pallavi says:

    hi everyone…!!!i am a thirteen year old girl who is really very interested to become a journalist…i am really inspired by barkha dutt’s articles….can u all suggest me what to do from now so that i can practice becoming a successfull journalist as you all know that becoming one is a really tough job…thank u….:)

    • Chinmaya says:

      If you’re serious about becoming a journalist, please read a lot. Read history, read science, read analyses of society, and of course, read editorials, op-eds, from a range of newspapers. At the risk of sounding like a west-worshipping idiot, I recommend reading newspapers such as the new york times (which you can access online) for exposure to high-quality journalism – investigative, opinions… People like Kristof of nyt are really good writers. Just think, read and write a lot, and don’t worry too much yet about formal education and degrees. If you can be a clear thinker, and become really really good with a language (or languages) of your choice, you’ve achieved the hardest part of becoming a good journalist. Good luck, and stay inspired!

  14. Ananth says:

    This article in so wrong in more ways than one. I dont understand how she comes to the conclusion of muslims being questioned about their loyalty all the time. This is so not the case. Indians are probably the most tolerant people there are (all religions included) which makes the nation even able to sustain so many diversities at one. The article, however, paints a picture of muslims constantly being on the lookout for swords looking to strike at their necks. Today’s average muslim has, I’m pretty sure, forgotten the horrors of Babri Masjid as just an aberration rather than a rule and confidently strides the streets of India. So too the Hindus. I don’t see the point in this piece at all.

    • Chinmaya says:

      Ananth, your conception of minorities/religions/tolerance in India is as desirable as it is delusional. For starters, just go through the comments on this page carefully as a first pass at seeing an India that is not quite as harmonious as, and a great deal more nuanced and subtly discontented, than you seem to picture it. Sure, Muslims do stride the streets confidently, as they should, but one can’t completely shed the baggage, the expectations, that go with an identity very easily. Sure, there are several points in this article that I’d take issue with, but not for the Utopian reasons you mention. I would like to appreciate and congratulate you, though, for being one of the few people to have left a comment that is not a rabid rant.

  15. Kavita Sharma Joseph says:

    Well I agree with Mr. Om Awasthy that rights mean fair stake in the system, which by definition could not mean special rights not available to others as that would not be fair.

    I our country we are so worried about minority rights that we have forgotten about the majority population of this country.

    Sometimes sensationalising an issue back fires look what happened with BJP today they are themselves demolished but have left behind them a legacy which is always going to be controversial. Prior to Babri Masjid Demolition nobody cared about it. Today it has all kind of connotation.

  16. Ankita.P says:

    hiii every 1.. myself ankita. want to become a top journalist.. plz do suggest dat will make me a good journalist.. wat r d ways to reach the top.. nd serve d ppl by my articles..

  17. Aron says:

    “On the evening of the blasts, Renuka Narayanan went on NDTV and said “Varanasi is to Hinduism what Mecca is to Islam, this is the seat of Hinduism that has been attacked.” I can still feel the slight shudder that went down my spine. The stakes seemed so high.”
    For a self professed agnostic- why should the simple fact that Hindus could have their ‘Mecca’ seem preposterous? unless she has double standards of what people deem as their holies- readily granted if Mulsims venerate Mecca, and view it as outlandish if hindus point out varanasi is like their ‘Mecca’?
    What would she say if Mecca gets attacked by Hindu Jihadis? the same thing?

    “If the blasts were a result of this government being “soft on terror” then how does one explain that there is no empirical difference in the level of violence today, when compared with last year”
    For an agnostic what should be the problem opening the Islamic texts themselves without bias or prejudice and check why its perpetuating? what stops her?
    After all every Jihadi screams out saying he did his terror based on them?
    Has she the honesty to bring to debate verses that promote perpetual enimity between the Believer and the kafirs?

    Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawaniwrote: Jihad is a precept of Divine institution. Its performance by certain individuals may dispense others from it. We Malikis [one of the four schools of Muslim jurisprudence] maintain that it is preferable not to begin hostilities with the enemy before havinginvited the latter to embrace the religion of Allah except where the enemy attacks first. They have the alternative of either converting to Islam or paying the poll tax (jizya), short of which war will be declared against them.1 And Ibn Khaldun: In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the (Muslim) mission and (the obligation to) convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force

    On why Hindu Muslim harmony is difficult- has she looked up if either scritural sources say anything against that?


    Should give battle with the intention of supporting the deen [religion] of Allah … and of destroying any other deen which is in opposition to it:so as to render it victorious over all [other] deen even if the mushrikun detest it. (Koran 9:33)4 “It may happen that the enemies of Islam may consider it expedient not to take action against Islam, if Islam leaves them alone in their geographical boundaries to continue the lordship of some men over others and does not extend its message and its declaration of universal freedom within their domain. But Islam cannot agree to this unless they submit to its authority by Jizyah…” Milestones (Ma’alim ‘ala Al-Tariq) p.73 Sayyid Qutb

    Does she pretend never to have read this?-

    Let not the believers take the unbelievers forfriends rather than believers; and whoever does this, he shall have nothing of (the guardianship of) Allah, but you should guard yourselves against them, guarding carefully; and Allah makes you cautious of (retribution from) Himself; and to Allah is the eventual coming. Qur’an 3:28 O you who believe! do not take the unbelievers for friends rather than the believers; do you desire that youshould give to Allah a manifest proof against yourselves? Qur’an 4:144

    Burkas and her likes are simply evading issues claiming to be impartial and bold agnostics and rational humanists- but diverting attention from the directly evident sources that explain the phenomenon of conflict that the Islamic jumma has the world over with non-muslim humanity.

    Just read this Pakistani intellectual Irfan’s article in Pakistani Paper-
    Demons from the Past where he boldly asks Pakistani brothers to introspect.
    Burkas have not that integrity nor intellectual courage-

  18. Sameera says:

    Will not divulge my religion… Great and ‘inspiring’ comments. I wish to comment and share the belief that we all carry with us…. ‘We as individuals are great and unstoppable’.. We fear (so does the author of the article), being ‘unliked’ and act in manner that suits fine for the moment cheating ourselves in the duecourse as we are not what we think we are.. Every word used by every contibutor above is his/ her opinion and is NOT reality for they are mere opinions and no one knows whats reality..

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