Sunday, December 06, 2009

Sunday that Splintered Humanity

(The article originally written for The Herald of India, published as Black Sunday)

In 1992, just like this year, 6 December was a Sunday. We got up early morning to claim a cricket pitch before some rival teams came and denied us the chance to have a game on a much-awaited weekly holiday. We won the spot but I think we lost the match; and, when we got back home in the evening we heard the news that Babri Mosque has been pulled down. The news did not have much meaning for me. I was neither a Hindu nor a Muslim and lived in a largely non-politicized city. There weren’t any Muslims among our playmates and, as hindsight, we were saved the exchange of uncomfortable glances. Most guys I played with were Hindus and Sikhs but they seemed not too interested in this news item either. Those were the days when Sikh terrorism was still palpable in our parts; Hindu–Muslim conflict belonged to the Partition era. In any case, all of us teenagers loved our cricket more than anything else and were more interested in India playing first one-day international cricket match against South Africa the next day. I was fascinated by the Proteas; by the fact that they were no minnows though they had just started playing international cricket. I had fallen in love with that electrifying fielder at backward point, Jonty Rhodes and worshipped White Lightning Allan Donald. The historic match was played on 7 December 1992 at New Lands, the first ODI to be played in South Africa. India lost that match, much like our team the previous day. India’s best fielder and captain, Mohammad Azharuddin, another of my idols, dropped not one but two catches. Catastrophic as it was, it was a sort of thing that happened on a cricket field and an Indian fan had learnt to make peace with such debacles.

Meanwhile, the reports of Babri demolition and subsequent analyses were multiplying every single day. For a brief moment, next day, I listened to a panel discussion on the same. What caught my attention was what one panelist said. If my memory serves me correct, he very categorically declaimed that that event had disconcerted each and every Muslim in this country; how else could one explain Azhar grassing those straightforward chances. Is this true? Or is it just a fantastic conjecturing—I asked myself but could not decide. This was something far more disturbing than India’s capitulation in Cape Town could ever have been. In fact, it was at that moment the name Mohammad Azharuddin began signifying the notion of Muslim to me. Before that it only meant a dashing middle- order batsman and a supremely agile fielder to me, whose feats I secretly wished to emulate.

As a child, after Indira Gandhi’s assassination, I had learnt to neatly divide humanity in three—Christians, Sikhs and Hindus. After Post-Mandal agitation, as a pre-teen, I became aware of another set of categories to divide my friends and acquaintances—General, SC and OBC. While I was knocking at the gates of adulthood, in December 1992, humanity further splintered.

These divisions were real as I once found a younger man explaining to me the difference between Hindus and Muslims. We are so different—he said to me—We worship full moon and they worship new moon; we pray with our palms joined together but they keep them apart; we pay obeisance to the rising sun looking east, they turn towards west to pray.

Surface differences like these became creeds of separate nationalities.

Those who wanted to begin a movement of one people only gave birth to unbridgeable differences between one individual and the other. Those who thought they had won that spot in Ayodhya on Sunday, 6 December 1992, lost their souls bit by bit, category by category.

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