I was listening to “Madhuban mein Radhika naache re, Giridhar ki muraliyan baaje re” while driving to work, and I thought of how this playful song about Radha and Krishna’s leela was sung by Mohammed Rafi, written by Shakeel Badayuni, set to tune by Naushad, and picturised on Yusuf Khan and Mahjabeen Bano. It seems simplistic to point out such commonplaces from earlier decades in today’s hardened milieu, but what else does one do really?
Well, for one, perhaps it is time we gave more space to the liberal-progressive Muslim voice and listened, actually listened, to it. This means to reject the Hindutva trope of the “good” and the “bad” Muslim and to recognise the struggle of the liberal Muslim whose precarity is particularly pronounced today. And to realise that in the ever-shrinking secular space, it is only the liberal-progressive, regardless of faith, who can reclaim the narrative. It is time, as Hilal Ahmed says, to have “an honest public debate on the predicament of people like us”.
As we began work on this issue, we heard of three killings in Haryana, first of Waris, then of Junaid and Nasir, allegedly by Bajrang Dal’s gaurakshaks. Then came news from Assam of a senselessly cruel anti-child marriage drive. Meanwhile, the bulldozer reached Jammu and Kashmir, demolishing homes. The three incidents, among many other such, are unmistakeable moves to harass India’s largest minority community.
In a 1970 letter to a little boy, Charles Schulz, the creator of the Peanuts comic strip, wrote that the greatest strength of a “good citizen” lies in the “protection of our smallest minorities”. By that measure can we honestly lay claim to being good citizens? I leave you with that question.
Read the issue here.