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Reclaiming One’s Voice



Raza Rumi cuts through the high decibel terrorism rhetoric to voice some ground realities of Pakistan, all this while braving attempts on his life.



A few months back, I had to leave my country simply to ensure that I would not be left dead. The price of public positions is hard. Perhaps I had ruffled too many feathers or was simply unlucky to have caught the attention of those who tried to kill me. I am trying to make sense of things that may have fallen apart for me. But have they? I keep trying at making sense of my country, the one I belong to and the one I love immensely.

Nuclear state. An Islamic Republic. A Failed state? Endless labels and categories have been accorded to what Pakistan represents today to the world at large. Some facts speak for themselves but perceptions are deceptive as they start morphing into realities. Pakistan is also a resilient country and inspires me to fight the odds, the demons that have to be defeated and the endless list of things that need to be done.

Contrary to what most diagnose, Pakistan’s trajectory was not inevitable. The country’s founder, almost a demonic figure in India, attempted to set a direction in his August 11 speech by recognising that religion could mobilise people and politics but cannot be an instrument for governance. “We are starting with this fundamental principle,” said Jinnah, “that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State.” The famous words followed: “…in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.” Critics say it was too late. Others think this was the only way to shape statecraft when a new state had come into being. Perhaps all of this is irrelevant now. Sixty seven years later, Pakistan is hardly the country it was geographically or otherwise in 1947.


Jinnah’s Pakistan cannot be abandoned


jinnah3This August has been cruel. Haunting images of Sindhi Hindus, essential to the cultural reality and demography of the province, leaving the country [i] shook those who believe that Pakistan belongs to all Pakistanis. This year’s minorities’ day – August 11 – inspired by the famous speech [ii] of […]

August 23rd, 2012|governance, Pakistan, Published by Jinnah Institute, SouthAsia|3 Comments

Southasian Sufism: a new victim of communalist brigade

After everything Muslim has been trashed by the rejuvenated Hindutva across the border, now Southasian Sufism is also being highlighted as an Islamist-supremacist project. What utter ignorance to write about the syncretic mystics who were not part of power games nor were they parts of the armies. They were wandering mystics who found India’s spiritual landscape exciting and endearing and chose to stay and die there. The saddest piece that was forwarded to me by a reader is linked below by someone who holds forth – rather fumes – on Sufism and makes sure that he is introduced as “IPS (Retd)” – a scion of the Indian Police Service, an abominable legacy of the colonial state and its naked exploitative nature. Small wonder, his communalised veiw of the world is what the architects of his proud service wanted and achieved with much success.

False, pretentious and ill-informed. Alas.

Dark side of Sufism: Reappraisal of the Role of Sufis Working as Missionaries of Islam, R.K. Ohri, IPS (Retd)

For centuries the Sufi creed and Sufi music have been tom-tomed as great symbols of spiritualism and promoters of peace and harmony between the Hindus and the Muslims. The cleverly marketed concept of Sufi spiritualism has been unquestioningly accepted as the hallmark of Hindu-Muslim unity. It is time we studied the history of Sufis, […]

February 27th, 2009|India, India-Pakistan History, Sufism|2 Comments

Ode to Benaras – Ghalib’s grand vision

A Brahmin resident of Benaras


Benaras: “forever spring”

It is incredible that a Muslim poet who prided himself on his Turkic ancestry and invoked the “warrior” past in his day-to-day conversation (through his letters) could compare the divine light at Mount Sinai to the lamps at Benaras

The cancer of communalism and bigotry in South Asia continues to haunt us. These days, the Muslims are once again a subject of intense, though not always fair, scrutiny in India: their loyalties are being questioned and many are potential terrorists if not already abettors of violence. The post 9/11 world has contributed to the demonising of the Muslim identity and history to surreal heights.

The recent bomb blasts in Delhi have placed the communal discourse on the front pages. The invaders and violent Muslims have done it again. A friend called me from Delhi and narrated the profiling that takes place at marketplaces and how the gulf between different communities is widening.

There was a time, not in the ancient past, when in Delhi the greatest of Urdu poets Mirza Ghalib (1796-1869) lived in an age when Hindus and Muslims shared common saints, dargahs and even popular gods and goddesses. Written accounts of this age – the mid to late 19th century – relate how intimate co-exitence of “Mussalmans” and “Hindoos” had led to a relative amalgamation of customs among the common people. And poets like Ghalib could see the commonalities of spiritual streams:

I n the Kaaba I will play the shankh (conch shell)

In the temple I have draped the ahraam (Muslim robe)

The verse above delineates the Sufi concept of fana (or dissolution of the self in divine reality) and the unity articulated by the ancient Indian texts such as the Vedanta. Sufis were to elaborate this as the wahdat-al-wajood (Unity of Being) philosophy. […]