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‘Sleeping with the Enemy?’

25 years ago, the authors shared their personal story with us; now they revisit the India and south Asia of 2021

Admiral Ramu and Lalita Ramdas 22 May 2021

Image Courtesy:indiatvnews.com

“What happened when a Hindu girl, an Indian, and a Muslim boy, a Pakistani,
 fall in love and marry just when the daughter’s father is due to be promoted
Chief of the Naval Staff?” [Communalism Combat – Special Issue – August 1996]

AN AFTERWORD

In 1996, we agreed to tell the story of our personal experiences and the tortuous twists and turns of the saga of Indo Pak relations when we were approached by two young activists – Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand to contribute to their recently started journal which, with great prescience, they called Communalism Combat. It was an edition appropriately titled “A TIME TO TALK PEACE“, brought out to commemorate the 50th Year of the Partition of India.

It was rare that someone would embark on so risky a journalistic enterprise dedicated to battling the communal virus which was already beginning to rear its ugly head. Not only have they done so with courage and unrelenting focus, but they have stood out as beacons in an increasingly murky world where we stand witness to their worst fears about which they sounded alarm bells so long ago.

And as we re-read this particular edition of CC in hard copy – which miraculously stood the vagaries of travel, storage, attacks by rodents and termites – there are several thoughts and reflections that come to mind looking back over 25 years. Hence this AFTERWORD.

Let us start with the provocative and tantalising title – SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY!

Back in 1996, when we first wrote this “personal is political” piece, it was just 3 years after Ramu retired from the Navy – and six years after Kavita and Zulfiqar had got married in Chicago.

We were struggling to come to grips with many things at that time …..

Retirement Blues: Challenges, learning many lessons

An unplanned post retirement move to a relatively remote rural area after a life time spent in protected, secure and yes – Ivory Tower – existence – primarily in Service, aka ‘Sarkari’ housing in Navy establishments, was an adventure to put it mildly.

The move to a village in Alibag Taluka in the Konkan, in November 1993, was like nothing we had ever experienced. We found ourselves thrown in at the deep end! Coming from the relative luxury of life in a series of Navy Houses  - Kochi, Vizag and Delhi in three of the topmost jobs in the Indian Navy – with office and domestic staff around to serve and pamper, to  strange and unfamiliar wilderness , was enough to make us want to run back to some familiar place. But there was no place to run to!!

And pride and penury [Ramu then had a residual monthly pension of Rs 2600/-!!] made us grit our teeth and buckle down to making this adventure work. We recall feeling like those early pioneers who headed out to the Wild West.

Suddenly there were just the two of us in a totally unfamiliar locale – no staff – no driver – no phone - no friends and no roof over our head. It was like starting life all over again – but at the ages of 60 and 53. We were driving miles to the nearest bank to open an account – standing in lines for everything from a telephone connection, an electricity metre and a bank loan to build the home where we have now lived for nearly 27 years. We begged and borrowed from friends and family, and manage to build a roof over our heads.

It was a struggle to get a continuous supply of electricity or even water. And given a Z category security status post retirement thanks to some operations involving the Navy– we had a police presence camping right outside our gate for many months.

So when our son in law Zulfiqar came on his first visit to us in LARA – RAMU FARM– as we have mentioned in the article – he literally could walk out of the gate and report his presence to the police as a US/Pakistani national as is required by the law!! We even applied and got official permission for him to stay with us at Navy House – Delhi on his only visit to Delhi when Ramu was still Chief of the Naval Staff.

So our strong response to the Captioning of this totally unorthodox love story 25 years ago – was largely conditioned by some of the above factors.

When Peace Mongering was not anti-national!

More importantly, the larger environment in the nineties was one, where despite the continuing tensions there was still an overall atmosphere of civility and cordiality with regard to discourse with Pakistan and Pakistanis, which continued through the decade of the mid 1990s into the early years of the 21st century.

 We were able to travel to each other’s countries, obtain visas with relative ease, and participate in a variety of Pak India people to people interaction was happening at several levels– joint conventions were held in different cities – student workshops were happening – women’s groups were meeting across South Asia and establishing bonds and networks that have endured all challenges. There was a good deal of optimism and hope that Pak India Peace Initiatives would eventually fructify and lead to some progress in the direction of normalising relations, strengthening the Peace Dividend. And there was even an ambitious initiative to bring together Armed Forces Veterans from both India and Pakistan in a group called [IPSI] India Pakistan Soldiers Initiative for Peace – started up by that incredible Gandhian and Peace Warrior – Nirmala (Didi) Deshpande.

It was during this period that this former Navy man, Ramu, met with Gen Musharraf a few times – and was always given time for an audience /meeting with PM Vajpayee on his return – to discuss and work on some kind of concrete action to follow up the informal tracks. Recognition came for these quiet efforts and in 2004 the Magsaysay Award for Peace was awarded jointly to Ramdas - a former Indian Navy Chief and a Human Rights Activist from Pakistan – I A Rehman.

A time of hope and decades of despair

It was indeed a time of Hope – of Choti si Asha-ein. We did not view Pakistanis as the Enemy - and hence the discomfort with the Caption “SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY” !

Today – looking back – especially at some of the traumatic events that have taken place in the same period and in an overlapping time line – one wonders if the Editors of Communalism Combat were not prophetic after all?

Thought it might be helpful for us to list just a few of the chain of events that have touched us personally and which have certainly made a deep and lasting impact on our politics and the policy perspectives of the country and people. The full impact of what this means for the long term has not yet been seriously assessed or understood – and this is a task for social and political analysts and historians who are not blinded by an allegiance to one or other ism – especially the blind belief in a right wing fascist ideology.

What follows below is by no means an exhaustive list but provides a bird’s eye view of the series of events, many of which were cataclysmic:

1992 - Babri Masjid Demolition – [Ramu was Chief of the Navy still – and there is another narrative to share about that at some future date!]

1993 - Bombay Bomb Blasts and Riots

1994 – Founding of PIPFPD - Pak India Forum for Peace and Democracy

1998 – May 11 Pokhran II – “The Buddha Smiles”?

1998 – May 28 Chagai – Pakistan tests

1998 – Formation of CNDP – Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace

1999 – Kargil War

2001 – Attack on Indian Parliament

2001 – Agra Summit

2002 – Godhra and Gujarat Violence – killing of thousands of Muslims – the communal cauldron and laboratory – Admiral Ramdas letter to the PM and the CM Gujarat

2003 – Indo Pak Ceasefire Agreement & Delhi Lahore Bus Service

2004 – Magsaysay Award for Indian and Pakistani Peace Activists - Ramdas and Rehman

2001 to 2004 – Students and Youth for Peace Initiative between India and Pakistan -  series of residential workshops between Indian and Pakistan students – Singapore, Karachi, Lahore and Paud – Pune.

2007 - Samjhauta Express Bombings

2008 – The Mumbai Terror Attacks

2009 to 2013 – weakening of Congress Party and UPA II – rise of India against Corruption – and creation of AAP – Aam Aadmi Party

2011 – FUKUSHIMA – A NUCLEAR CATASTROPHE

2013 – AAP comes to power in Delhi with support from outside from INC.

2014- BJP / NDA comes to power at the centre.  New Governments – the hope of an inclusive neighbourhood policy – the tone set by the swearing in ceremony in Delhi – and the hope of a thaw in the frozen bilateral relations

2015 – November – the ‘bold’ diplomatic initiative of the surprise visit by Modi to meet Nawaz Sharif in Pakistan

2015 – AAP wins 67 out of 70 seats in Delhi and Kejriwal is the popularly elected CM

2016 – Pathankot Attack -

2016 onward – increased firing and incidents across LOC

2017 – 2018 – Ramping up of attacks on minorities Yogi Aditya Nath CM in UP -

2019 - Pulwama – Balakot – And elections – BJP in with a massive majority

2019 August – Revocation of Art 370 and special status to J&K

2019-2020 – NRC, CAA - And the escalation of domestic situation vis a vis Muslims – Cow slaughter, lynchings, anti-women – Love Jehad

2019 – 2020  Shaheen Bagh – CAA / NRC protests – carnage in NE Delhi

2020 – The Black Farm laws – and the overwhelming mass protests and resistance by Farmers across the country.

COVID 19 PANDEMIC!!

An Education in reality

The move out of the national capital into a rural area and living and experiencing the vagaries of weather, agrarian distress, and other difficulties over nearly thirty decades now and seeing at first hand how pampered urban India has been and how different the reality of the village, has been a wakeup call. Not only have our eyes been opened but our consciousness too. We have experienced and therefore understood that there is not just the one India which is concentrated in Delhi and in the metropolitan areas. We have been both privileged and deeply saddened as we have travelled across and seen the other India – indeed the many ‘Indias’ – the real, the wonderful, the ‘shining’, but also the hungry, the bleeding, the scarred and brutalised India. We have walked and marched and conversed with some amazing people – young and old – who have raised the banner of resistance and responsible dissent against injustice, for democracy and in defence of the Constitution and of the rights of students and academics and other human rights defenders. We have had opportunities to participate and learn from so many - literally from Kashmir to Kanya Kumari and Godhra - Gujarat to Assam– and in a variety of national, regional and international Fora.

These diverse and multi- faceted opportunities and engagements have kept us enriched, energetic stimulated, and re-vitalised in every way.

It has also taught us the all important lesson – that when you retire from any one career– many doors open and it is up to you to decide which ones you choose to walk through.

And it is with hindsight that today we are more convinced than ever before that it is time to stand up and be heard - to tell the many stories that need telling and retelling. If there is one clarity in our minds, it is this, that we must now share our lives and thinking – our many new learnings, unlearning and relearning – and to be fearless and clear that it is our consciences that we need to follow.

Lessons from Germany: Don’t forget Hitler!

Our three years spent in Germany in the early seventies, when Ramu was the Naval Attache in Bonn, taught us a lesson we have never ever forgotten.

Unlike many diplomats who lived in yet another Ivory tower, we chose to move out of the comfort zone and live in a village on the outskirts of the capital. Our interactions therefore were immensely wide and varied - with the ordinary citizens as much as with the corps diplomatique. An oft repeated theme in our conversations, in German, from many friends, would be around what happened in the dark days of Hitler and the Third Reich. Over and over again we were confronted with their angst and agony of being unable to answer the questions and powerful anger of their children who simply could not understand or accept that the elders, the bulk of citizens, did not know what was actually going on around them? Why did you keep quiet – How could you remain silent in the face of the horror, the bestiality, the concentration camps and the extermination of the Jewish Community? Surely you must have known?

And the words of so many of our friends and neighbours and some from the Armed Forces Community with whom we interacted the most – continue to ring in our ears:

“Don’t be afraid to speak Truth to Power. We now realise in hindsight that had we not been so fearful of what Hitler’s foot soldiers might do to us – we could have avoided the horror of a world war and so much else that we Germans, Europeans and indeed the world, has had to suffer.”

Let us never forget that the party in power in India today, together with their ideological masters in Nagpur, have always praised and held up as their ideal, the Nazis, Mein Kampf and Adolf Hitler – especially for implementing their vision of purity of the Aryan race, vicious racism and anti-Semitism. Much of this has simply been transferred from Jewish people to Muslims and by extension to Pakistan.

Between the overwhelming money and muscle power the right wing ultra-nationalists have learned their lesson well on how to keep an entire nation and society in such fear that few are emboldened to speak out against the regime. The mastery over digital communication and social media has been perfected into a smooth and brutally efficient silencing machine.

As a result we are seeing the cold blooded and ruthless manipulation of people and politics into a hate filled, despotic and twisted interpretation of the Constitution and the democratic impulse. Vasudaiva Kuttumbakkam – the world is one family – has been long abandoned. Looking back, we are clearly at a much worse place today than we were in 1996 – the Farmers Samyukta Morcha and their incredible mobilisation for over 126 days notwithstanding!

This “afterword” – at the suggestion of the Editors of Communalism Combat, attempts to integrate our personal and political journeys and will hopefully provide readers with much food for thought and much needed discussion.  

As we write, end March 2021, there is news of a welcome ceasefire announced by senior army commanders of both India and Pakistan. There is also a news report that gives some optimistic news of resumption of trade on a few select items. But such is the level of cynicism – that there is not telling what form the assault on Democracy will take, for eg. the Bill on taking away most powers from the elected CM of Delhi and vesting them in the person of the LG has now become Law!

So yes – the lessons are staring us in the face – this is not the time to be silent – this is the time for each of us to exercise our right to free speech and expression as Citizens under the Constitution if we want our Democracy to survive.

 The words of Pastor Niemoller in Hitler’s Germany are only too relevant to us in India, in South Asia and other parts of the world too.  In his Germany people kept quiet when ‘they’ came for the Jews, the Communists, the Catholics, the trade unionists, the journalists and others ……and eventually “when they came for me – no one was left to speak out for me”.

In our beloved land the parallels are too close for comfort.  So today, 25 years down the line, in a year when we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the creation of Bangla Desh, and when we revisit the essay captioned   SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY, here our thoughts. We want many more of you to read this story – a true story, a love story – and in today’s new lingo – possibly one of the early examples of “Love Jehad”?! We can well ask the question today as to who indeed is the Enemy and who are the several sleeping partners?  And in this “Love Jehad” – no one converted anyone – families on both sides of the borders defined by one Radcliffe have had the closest of bonds across generations, faiths, ethnicities, culture and language. But today, we cannot fly to Karachi nor can we walk across the Wagah Border!

 We only know this that in the final analysis we are also part of “We the people” who gave ourselves this Constitution on that memorable day January 26 in 1950 when India became a Republic. It is our sacred responsibility to that Republic and to that Holy Book – the Constitution of India - to defend it with our lives.

As someone famously said:

“If not us then who?

If not now, then when?”

(The authors wrote this afterword in April from Bhaimala Gaon, Alibag, April 2021)

Editor’s Note: We regret the delay in publication. Next week we shall carry as a sequel the original story, Sleeping with the Enemy that appeared in 1996.

‘Sleeping with the Enemy?’

25 years ago, the authors shared their personal story with us; now they revisit the India and south Asia of 2021

Image Courtesy:indiatvnews.com

“What happened when a Hindu girl, an Indian, and a Muslim boy, a Pakistani,
 fall in love and marry just when the daughter’s father is due to be promoted
Chief of the Naval Staff?” [Communalism Combat – Special Issue – August 1996]

AN AFTERWORD

In 1996, we agreed to tell the story of our personal experiences and the tortuous twists and turns of the saga of Indo Pak relations when we were approached by two young activists – Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand to contribute to their recently started journal which, with great prescience, they called Communalism Combat. It was an edition appropriately titled “A TIME TO TALK PEACE“, brought out to commemorate the 50th Year of the Partition of India.

It was rare that someone would embark on so risky a journalistic enterprise dedicated to battling the communal virus which was already beginning to rear its ugly head. Not only have they done so with courage and unrelenting focus, but they have stood out as beacons in an increasingly murky world where we stand witness to their worst fears about which they sounded alarm bells so long ago.

And as we re-read this particular edition of CC in hard copy – which miraculously stood the vagaries of travel, storage, attacks by rodents and termites – there are several thoughts and reflections that come to mind looking back over 25 years. Hence this AFTERWORD.

Let us start with the provocative and tantalising title – SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY!

Back in 1996, when we first wrote this “personal is political” piece, it was just 3 years after Ramu retired from the Navy – and six years after Kavita and Zulfiqar had got married in Chicago.

We were struggling to come to grips with many things at that time …..

Retirement Blues: Challenges, learning many lessons

An unplanned post retirement move to a relatively remote rural area after a life time spent in protected, secure and yes – Ivory Tower – existence – primarily in Service, aka ‘Sarkari’ housing in Navy establishments, was an adventure to put it mildly.

The move to a village in Alibag Taluka in the Konkan, in November 1993, was like nothing we had ever experienced. We found ourselves thrown in at the deep end! Coming from the relative luxury of life in a series of Navy Houses  - Kochi, Vizag and Delhi in three of the topmost jobs in the Indian Navy – with office and domestic staff around to serve and pamper, to  strange and unfamiliar wilderness , was enough to make us want to run back to some familiar place. But there was no place to run to!!

And pride and penury [Ramu then had a residual monthly pension of Rs 2600/-!!] made us grit our teeth and buckle down to making this adventure work. We recall feeling like those early pioneers who headed out to the Wild West.

Suddenly there were just the two of us in a totally unfamiliar locale – no staff – no driver – no phone - no friends and no roof over our head. It was like starting life all over again – but at the ages of 60 and 53. We were driving miles to the nearest bank to open an account – standing in lines for everything from a telephone connection, an electricity metre and a bank loan to build the home where we have now lived for nearly 27 years. We begged and borrowed from friends and family, and manage to build a roof over our heads.

It was a struggle to get a continuous supply of electricity or even water. And given a Z category security status post retirement thanks to some operations involving the Navy– we had a police presence camping right outside our gate for many months.

So when our son in law Zulfiqar came on his first visit to us in LARA – RAMU FARM– as we have mentioned in the article – he literally could walk out of the gate and report his presence to the police as a US/Pakistani national as is required by the law!! We even applied and got official permission for him to stay with us at Navy House – Delhi on his only visit to Delhi when Ramu was still Chief of the Naval Staff.

So our strong response to the Captioning of this totally unorthodox love story 25 years ago – was largely conditioned by some of the above factors.

When Peace Mongering was not anti-national!

More importantly, the larger environment in the nineties was one, where despite the continuing tensions there was still an overall atmosphere of civility and cordiality with regard to discourse with Pakistan and Pakistanis, which continued through the decade of the mid 1990s into the early years of the 21st century.

 We were able to travel to each other’s countries, obtain visas with relative ease, and participate in a variety of Pak India people to people interaction was happening at several levels– joint conventions were held in different cities – student workshops were happening – women’s groups were meeting across South Asia and establishing bonds and networks that have endured all challenges. There was a good deal of optimism and hope that Pak India Peace Initiatives would eventually fructify and lead to some progress in the direction of normalising relations, strengthening the Peace Dividend. And there was even an ambitious initiative to bring together Armed Forces Veterans from both India and Pakistan in a group called [IPSI] India Pakistan Soldiers Initiative for Peace – started up by that incredible Gandhian and Peace Warrior – Nirmala (Didi) Deshpande.

It was during this period that this former Navy man, Ramu, met with Gen Musharraf a few times – and was always given time for an audience /meeting with PM Vajpayee on his return – to discuss and work on some kind of concrete action to follow up the informal tracks. Recognition came for these quiet efforts and in 2004 the Magsaysay Award for Peace was awarded jointly to Ramdas - a former Indian Navy Chief and a Human Rights Activist from Pakistan – I A Rehman.

A time of hope and decades of despair

It was indeed a time of Hope – of Choti si Asha-ein. We did not view Pakistanis as the Enemy - and hence the discomfort with the Caption “SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY” !

Today – looking back – especially at some of the traumatic events that have taken place in the same period and in an overlapping time line – one wonders if the Editors of Communalism Combat were not prophetic after all?

Thought it might be helpful for us to list just a few of the chain of events that have touched us personally and which have certainly made a deep and lasting impact on our politics and the policy perspectives of the country and people. The full impact of what this means for the long term has not yet been seriously assessed or understood – and this is a task for social and political analysts and historians who are not blinded by an allegiance to one or other ism – especially the blind belief in a right wing fascist ideology.

What follows below is by no means an exhaustive list but provides a bird’s eye view of the series of events, many of which were cataclysmic:

1992 - Babri Masjid Demolition – [Ramu was Chief of the Navy still – and there is another narrative to share about that at some future date!]

1993 - Bombay Bomb Blasts and Riots

1994 – Founding of PIPFPD - Pak India Forum for Peace and Democracy

1998 – May 11 Pokhran II – “The Buddha Smiles”?

1998 – May 28 Chagai – Pakistan tests

1998 – Formation of CNDP – Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace

1999 – Kargil War

2001 – Attack on Indian Parliament

2001 – Agra Summit

2002 – Godhra and Gujarat Violence – killing of thousands of Muslims – the communal cauldron and laboratory – Admiral Ramdas letter to the PM and the CM Gujarat

2003 – Indo Pak Ceasefire Agreement & Delhi Lahore Bus Service

2004 – Magsaysay Award for Indian and Pakistani Peace Activists - Ramdas and Rehman

2001 to 2004 – Students and Youth for Peace Initiative between India and Pakistan -  series of residential workshops between Indian and Pakistan students – Singapore, Karachi, Lahore and Paud – Pune.

2007 - Samjhauta Express Bombings

2008 – The Mumbai Terror Attacks

2009 to 2013 – weakening of Congress Party and UPA II – rise of India against Corruption – and creation of AAP – Aam Aadmi Party

2011 – FUKUSHIMA – A NUCLEAR CATASTROPHE

2013 – AAP comes to power in Delhi with support from outside from INC.

2014- BJP / NDA comes to power at the centre.  New Governments – the hope of an inclusive neighbourhood policy – the tone set by the swearing in ceremony in Delhi – and the hope of a thaw in the frozen bilateral relations

2015 – November – the ‘bold’ diplomatic initiative of the surprise visit by Modi to meet Nawaz Sharif in Pakistan

2015 – AAP wins 67 out of 70 seats in Delhi and Kejriwal is the popularly elected CM

2016 – Pathankot Attack -

2016 onward – increased firing and incidents across LOC

2017 – 2018 – Ramping up of attacks on minorities Yogi Aditya Nath CM in UP -

2019 - Pulwama – Balakot – And elections – BJP in with a massive majority

2019 August – Revocation of Art 370 and special status to J&K

2019-2020 – NRC, CAA - And the escalation of domestic situation vis a vis Muslims – Cow slaughter, lynchings, anti-women – Love Jehad

2019 – 2020  Shaheen Bagh – CAA / NRC protests – carnage in NE Delhi

2020 – The Black Farm laws – and the overwhelming mass protests and resistance by Farmers across the country.

COVID 19 PANDEMIC!!

An Education in reality

The move out of the national capital into a rural area and living and experiencing the vagaries of weather, agrarian distress, and other difficulties over nearly thirty decades now and seeing at first hand how pampered urban India has been and how different the reality of the village, has been a wakeup call. Not only have our eyes been opened but our consciousness too. We have experienced and therefore understood that there is not just the one India which is concentrated in Delhi and in the metropolitan areas. We have been both privileged and deeply saddened as we have travelled across and seen the other India – indeed the many ‘Indias’ – the real, the wonderful, the ‘shining’, but also the hungry, the bleeding, the scarred and brutalised India. We have walked and marched and conversed with some amazing people – young and old – who have raised the banner of resistance and responsible dissent against injustice, for democracy and in defence of the Constitution and of the rights of students and academics and other human rights defenders. We have had opportunities to participate and learn from so many - literally from Kashmir to Kanya Kumari and Godhra - Gujarat to Assam– and in a variety of national, regional and international Fora.

These diverse and multi- faceted opportunities and engagements have kept us enriched, energetic stimulated, and re-vitalised in every way.

It has also taught us the all important lesson – that when you retire from any one career– many doors open and it is up to you to decide which ones you choose to walk through.

And it is with hindsight that today we are more convinced than ever before that it is time to stand up and be heard - to tell the many stories that need telling and retelling. If there is one clarity in our minds, it is this, that we must now share our lives and thinking – our many new learnings, unlearning and relearning – and to be fearless and clear that it is our consciences that we need to follow.

Lessons from Germany: Don’t forget Hitler!

Our three years spent in Germany in the early seventies, when Ramu was the Naval Attache in Bonn, taught us a lesson we have never ever forgotten.

Unlike many diplomats who lived in yet another Ivory tower, we chose to move out of the comfort zone and live in a village on the outskirts of the capital. Our interactions therefore were immensely wide and varied - with the ordinary citizens as much as with the corps diplomatique. An oft repeated theme in our conversations, in German, from many friends, would be around what happened in the dark days of Hitler and the Third Reich. Over and over again we were confronted with their angst and agony of being unable to answer the questions and powerful anger of their children who simply could not understand or accept that the elders, the bulk of citizens, did not know what was actually going on around them? Why did you keep quiet – How could you remain silent in the face of the horror, the bestiality, the concentration camps and the extermination of the Jewish Community? Surely you must have known?

And the words of so many of our friends and neighbours and some from the Armed Forces Community with whom we interacted the most – continue to ring in our ears:

“Don’t be afraid to speak Truth to Power. We now realise in hindsight that had we not been so fearful of what Hitler’s foot soldiers might do to us – we could have avoided the horror of a world war and so much else that we Germans, Europeans and indeed the world, has had to suffer.”

Let us never forget that the party in power in India today, together with their ideological masters in Nagpur, have always praised and held up as their ideal, the Nazis, Mein Kampf and Adolf Hitler – especially for implementing their vision of purity of the Aryan race, vicious racism and anti-Semitism. Much of this has simply been transferred from Jewish people to Muslims and by extension to Pakistan.

Between the overwhelming money and muscle power the right wing ultra-nationalists have learned their lesson well on how to keep an entire nation and society in such fear that few are emboldened to speak out against the regime. The mastery over digital communication and social media has been perfected into a smooth and brutally efficient silencing machine.

As a result we are seeing the cold blooded and ruthless manipulation of people and politics into a hate filled, despotic and twisted interpretation of the Constitution and the democratic impulse. Vasudaiva Kuttumbakkam – the world is one family – has been long abandoned. Looking back, we are clearly at a much worse place today than we were in 1996 – the Farmers Samyukta Morcha and their incredible mobilisation for over 126 days notwithstanding!

This “afterword” – at the suggestion of the Editors of Communalism Combat, attempts to integrate our personal and political journeys and will hopefully provide readers with much food for thought and much needed discussion.  

As we write, end March 2021, there is news of a welcome ceasefire announced by senior army commanders of both India and Pakistan. There is also a news report that gives some optimistic news of resumption of trade on a few select items. But such is the level of cynicism – that there is not telling what form the assault on Democracy will take, for eg. the Bill on taking away most powers from the elected CM of Delhi and vesting them in the person of the LG has now become Law!

So yes – the lessons are staring us in the face – this is not the time to be silent – this is the time for each of us to exercise our right to free speech and expression as Citizens under the Constitution if we want our Democracy to survive.

 The words of Pastor Niemoller in Hitler’s Germany are only too relevant to us in India, in South Asia and other parts of the world too.  In his Germany people kept quiet when ‘they’ came for the Jews, the Communists, the Catholics, the trade unionists, the journalists and others ……and eventually “when they came for me – no one was left to speak out for me”.

In our beloved land the parallels are too close for comfort.  So today, 25 years down the line, in a year when we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the creation of Bangla Desh, and when we revisit the essay captioned   SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY, here our thoughts. We want many more of you to read this story – a true story, a love story – and in today’s new lingo – possibly one of the early examples of “Love Jehad”?! We can well ask the question today as to who indeed is the Enemy and who are the several sleeping partners?  And in this “Love Jehad” – no one converted anyone – families on both sides of the borders defined by one Radcliffe have had the closest of bonds across generations, faiths, ethnicities, culture and language. But today, we cannot fly to Karachi nor can we walk across the Wagah Border!

 We only know this that in the final analysis we are also part of “We the people” who gave ourselves this Constitution on that memorable day January 26 in 1950 when India became a Republic. It is our sacred responsibility to that Republic and to that Holy Book – the Constitution of India - to defend it with our lives.

As someone famously said:

“If not us then who?

If not now, then when?”

(The authors wrote this afterword in April from Bhaimala Gaon, Alibag, April 2021)

Editor’s Note: We regret the delay in publication. Next week we shall carry as a sequel the original story, Sleeping with the Enemy that appeared in 1996.

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26

Nov

10 am onwards

Delhi Chalo

Pan India

IN FACT

Analysis

Stop Hate

Hate and Harmony in 2021

A recap of all that transpired across India in terms of hate speech and even outright hate crimes, as well as the persecution of those who dared to speak up against hate. This disturbing harvest of hate should now push us to do more to forge harmony.
Taliban 2021

Taliban in Afghanistan: A look back

Communalism Combat had taken a deep dive into the lives of people of Afghanistan under the Taliban regime. Here we reproduce some of our archives documenting the plight of hapless Afghanis, especially women, who suffered the most under the hardline regime.
2020

Milestones 2020

In the year devastated by the Covid 19 Pandemic, India witnessed apathy against some of its most marginalised people and vilification of dissenters by powerful state and non state actors. As 2020 draws to a close, and hundreds of thousands of Indian farmers continue their protest in the bitter North Indian cold. Read how Indians resisted all attempts to snatch away fundamental and constitutional freedoms.
Migrant Diaries

Migrant Diaries

The 2020 COVID pandemic brought to fore the dismal lives that our migrant workers lead. Read these heartbreaking stories of how they lived before the pandemic, how the lockdown changed their lives and what they’re doing now.

Archives