That Yakub Memon’s hanging was condemned by some sections of Indian society – for reasons as varied as a stand against capital punishment, that he wasn’t directly involved in the 1993 Mumbai blasts, or even that his return to India was predicated on a promise that the state wouldn’t crucify him – is known. But there is, arguably, a bigger question lurking behind this hanging, as others before this one; a question which these elements of Indian society would either dismiss out of hand or evade, citing the oft-quoted hope that Indian democracy, for all its flaws, still contains measures for self-correction. And that question, in stark terms, is whether the RSS’ founding vision of turning Muslims into second class citizens in India has emerged from being a shadow, hidden behind shuffling feet in voter-lines and muffled by psephologists’ gabber in TV studios, to be a fact lived, experienced and suffered in the everyday life of Muslims, particularly in the form of ‘application’ of ‘justice’. In other words, was Jinnah right? Was the difference between the touted ‘idea of India’ and the repeatedly stressed ‘failures’ of Pakistan always meant to collapse into sameness?
This ‘slide’ into majoritarianism in India was not contingent on the rise of the RSS’ political wing, the BJP. Historically, the idea of the ‘Muslim figure’ being a problematic one lies at the heart of the earliest imagining of modern India, free from colonial rule. Whether it be the Congress party or the BJP, what Indian Muslims have had to face is a litany of riots, false implications in terror cases, watching helplessly as Hindutva bigots, who brag about slaughtering Muslims, go scot free, even as the likes of Memon are hanged. And people like Teesta Setalvad, fighting an admirable fight against an unjust system, are hounded for the crime of trying to ensure some justice is delivered for the gory hell that was enacted in Gujarat in 2002. Is it any surprise, then, according to Indian Home Ministry’s figures, that incidents of communal violence have risen 24 per cent in the first five months of this year?
“It is too early to say,” Chairman Mao supposedly said when asked what he thought of the French revolution of 1789. History may yet take a while to judge Jinnah’s vision and that of the founding fathers of independent India. But, at the very least, if claims of Indian secularism, democracy and rule of law would earlier evoke skepticism in Kashmir, they now evoke snorts of derision.