In addition to Coronavirus which has taken some new areas under its grip, the country had to bear the pain of two popular Hindi cinema actors, Irrfan Khan and Rishi Kapoor, who died in two consecutive days. A shock-wave has been seen across the nation. Both were exceptional artists who left their marks on the Hindi cinema and ruled the roost for almost half a century
Irrfan, of the two, will be remembered for his courageous and bold assertions and calling a spade, a spade. He did not spare anyone, not even some Muslim clerics. Some of the practices in Islam were not of his liking, and he made no bones about them. The sacrifice of animals was one. Irrfan was a quiet person. But whenever he opened out, he was listened by one and all. His views and opinions on some of the topics are noteworthy. He was an artist and not a star.
Some open-ended questions may be asked to other Muslims in the light of his thoughts and utterances on some of the issues. If he did not live in the country in fear, why should someone else in the community say that he or she is living in fear? He did not call himself secular. There was no need. Everyone knew it. He never felt the need to disclose his identity and say, "My Name Is Khan". Neither did he have any association with the underworld, nor did he enjoy life and acquire wealth through gangsters. He was different. Irrfan did not act. He lived the character. Be it Piku, Lunch Box, Maqbool or Hindi Medium, he fitted into the stories of all the films. It appeared that these stories were written for him, and characters created keeping him in mind. Like many others in his community, Irrfan never played the religion card to achieve anything. He respected all other religions. He never insulted Hindu deities nor was he a member of the award-returning gang. He always remained true to himself.
There was a stunning silence after his death. Everyone was mourned. It is not typically done. Excepting a few clerics, he has had no critic. He loved the country. As a film actor, he has excelled. His dialogue delivery and action were well appreciated. Everything was so natural-his walk, his talk, his expression. It was a great pleasure watching him on the screen. He gave happiness to millions of cine-goers. Nobody asked if his name had Khan title. Nobody differentiated. He was a darling of the masses. His religion or his caste did not matter to anyone. He should be a lesson to the Muslim leaders who talk of Islamophobia and hatred of Muslims. Everyone needs to understand that we are unlike other countries.
The Muslims of the country, especially those who are shouting from rooftops that the community is being unnecessarily targeted should have to understand that people do not love or hate anyone based on his religion. The people of the country see only how and what you are contributing to the nation. Your culture or your language Urdu has no hater. Qawwali or Ghazals and your dishes are equally popular in the Hindu community. Nobody hates the Taj Mahal built by a Muslim emperor. The entire country loves Abdul Hameed and former President APJ Kalam. They are the heroes of the country. We all are proud of them.
Nobody in the country had any problem with the bearded persons. Nobody had any objection to women dresses. But the thinking changed after those who kept long beard behaved differently. They indulged in acts harmful to humanity and the nation. Sikhs also keep the long beard. Nobody has anything against. What I am trying to emphasise is that you do no wrong, and everybody will love you, irrespective of your look or dress. The costumes of Christian priests have never become an issue. The nuns' robes different from others have never become a talking point. They have commanded respect because they are engaged in public services.
The Muslims of the country, especially those who are shouting from rooftops that the community is being unnecessarily targeted should have to understand that people do not love or hate anyone based on his religion. The people of the country see only how and what you are contributing to the nation. Your culture or your language Urdu has no hater
In short, the dress or look has nothing to do with love or hate. What is hated is a specific action. The Corona positive Jammatis who, instead of going to a doctor, went in hiding are the hateful persons. Those who provided shelter to them should also be hated. Neither did they do any good to the community nor anyone else. The stone pelters who hurt police officers and medical staff are to be despised. If someone calls it being anti-Muslim, he is harming the society and the nation. They deserve condemnation. Irrfan attacked them who needed to be attacked. He did not spare anyone.
After Irrfan Khan left the world, many leaders and writers paid tributes to him. Some film story writers compared him with actor Naseeruddin Shah. But Naseeruddin Shah who has a large fan following finds living in India fearful. Irrfan did not. He had seen the country peaceful and better than others. Muslims in this country, according to Irrfan, were safer than those living in Muslim countries. Naseeruddin Shah, on the other hand, was not scared when 26/11 happened.
Even when the Pandits were massacred in Kashmir, Naseeruddin Shah had kept quiet. He should open his ears and listen to what India's heroes from Dr Kalam to Irrfan Khan and from Azim Premji to Abdul Hameed have said. They are the country's heroes not because they are Muslims because they have done public service and made valuable contributions. This country will not call Zakir Naik and Maulana Saad, Tablighi Jamaat, its heroes because they have done a disservice. Secularism is in our blood. We have had Idris Hassan Latif as Air Force chief. But some people have turned a blind eye to all this. They see everything murky in India.
Even when the Pandits were massacred in Kashmir, Naseeruddin Shah had kept quiet. He should open his ears and listen to what India's heroes from Dr Kalam to Irrfan Khan and from Azim Premji to Abdul Hameed have done for their nation
Finally, let me come to Rishi Kapoor. His films like Bobby, Laila-Majnu, Amar Akbar Anthony and Mulk have received applaud from cine-goers of all religions. Muslim women from Old Delhi used to sit in palanquins to see Laila Majnu in ' Jagat ' cinema hall adjacent to Jama Masjid. Sadly, secularism does not mean to somewhat, it should say. It is not pro or against any group or community. Hindus have always been tolerant. It may be recalled that when MF Hussain drew controversial paintings of the Hindu goddess, there were many Hindus who demanded no ban. Similarly, the likes of Irrfan Khan never said or did anything to hurt the sentiment of other groups or community. He will remain etched in our memory and dear to us forever.
(The author is a Senior Editor, columnist and former MP)