By R.K. Sinha
The country has faced an extraordinary situation.In addition to Coronavirus which has taken some new areas under its grip, it had to bear the pain of two popular Hindi cinema actors,Irfan Khan and Rishi Kapoor, who have died in last two days. A shock-wave has been sent across the nation.Both were exceptional artistes and have left their marks on the Hindi cinema. They ruled the roost for almost half a century.
Irfan, of the two,will be remembered for his courageous and bold assertions and calling a spade, a spade.He did not spare any one, not even some Muslim clerics.Some of the practices in Islam were not of his liking and he made no bones about them.Sacrifice of animals was one. Irfan was a quiet type.But whenever he opened out he was listened to by one and all. His views and opinions on some of the topics are noteworthy. Actually, he was an artiste 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 some one else in the community say that he or she is living in fear.He did not call himself secular.There was no need .Every one 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 under world nor did he enjoy life and acquire wealth through gangsters.He was different.
Irfan 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,Irfan 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.Every one mourned the death.It is not normally done.Excepting a few clerics,he has had no critic.He really loved the country.As a film actor he has excelled.His dialogue delivery and action was 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.
No body asked if his name had Khan title.No body differentiated.He was a darling of the masses.His religion or his caste did not matter to any one.He should be a lesson to the Muslim leaders who talk of Islamophobia and hate 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 on the basis of 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.
Till recently, 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 long beard. Nobody has anything against. What I am trying to emphasize on is that 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’ dresses different from others have never become a talking point.In fact,they have commanded respect because they are engaged in public services.
In short,the dress or look has nothing to do with love or hate.What is hated is certain 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 be also hated.Neither did they do any good to the community nor to any one else.The stone pelters who hurt policemen and medicos are to be hated.If some one calls it being anti-Muslim he is harming the society and the nation.They deserve condemnation. Irfan attacked them who needed to be attacked.He did not spare any one.He should act as guide to misguided Muslims.
After Irfan 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. Irfan did not.He had found the country peaceful and better than others.Muslims in this country,according to Irfan,were safer than those living in Muslim countries. Nasiruddin 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 people like India’s heroes from Dr Kalam to Irfan Khan and from Azim Premji to Abdul Hameed have said. They are 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, the Sadar of Tablighi Jamaat, its heroes because they have done disservice. Secularism is in our blood. We have had Idris Hassan Latif as Air Force chief. But some people have turned blind eye to all this.They see everything murky in India.
Finally,let me come to Rishi Kapoor. His films like Bobby , Laila Majnu , Amar Akbar Anthony and Mulk have received applauld from cine-goers of all religions. Muslim women from Old Delhi used to sit in palanquins to see Laila Manju in ‘ Jagat ‘ cinema hall adjacent to Jama Masjid. Sadly,secularism does not mean to some what it should mean.It is not pro or against any group or community.Hindus have been always tolerant.It may be recalled that when MF Hussain drew controversial paintings of Hindu goddess there were many Hindus who demanded no ban.Similarly,likes of Irfan 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 for ever.
(The author is a Senior Editor,columnist and former MP)