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14 November 2012

For amity, communalism must die

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By Stanley Pinto

Bolwar Mahamad Kunhi, winner of the Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award for his work on Gandhi for children and the recipient of the 2012 Kannada Rajyotsava Award, weaves his fiction around marginalized Muslims in an imaginary town called Muthupady . All his works are imbued with a deep sense of communal harmony. He tells STOI only when politics of communalism dies will there be total amity between Hindus and Muslims.

Was it social concern that prompted you to write or did it come about later?

In the initial two to three years, I was one among the multitude of writers. In 1973, one thought started bothering me - why aren't there Muslim characters in Kannada literature? Why should a Muslim character always be a 'jatka saabi' (a horse-cart driver)? Doesn't he have a life like others? The answer I found was to write about them.

How are your views seen by your community?

That's a million-dollar question. Three decades ago, it was not easy to write about Muslims. While there was literature to eulogize the "heavens'' , I wanted to write about a world of my own and that's why I created Muthupady. I gave the residents of Muthupady all facilities and freedom.

All stories and novels were aimed at Muslims with the intention they get educated. That's why the language is simple, not contrived. It's a straight line of story telling. I believe that social change is possible through writing when I see that some of my friends who had protested after browsing through (not reading) my writing, now have daughters who carry laptops and give me a platform to speak.

What are your views on the increasing burqa culture in Dakshina Kannada district? Do you think growing intolerance in the society is alienating minorities?

Till December 6, 1992 this was not the norm, although the primary reason could be that not enough girls who would wear a burqa made it to schools. In my village, my elder sister was the first to attend school and she studied till Class V. Next was my sister who got a degree and became a bank employee . Thirty years ago, my friends would ask me: "Bolwar, you talk about revolution, but why don't your girls get educated?" Now, Muslim girls attend college in droves and they score well and get ranks. The question asked by the children of those friends is: "Why do you always wear a burqa or veil?"

Is there a need to raise this issue?

One should understand that if a Muslim girl has to step out, she needs the permission of her mother, who, in turn, has to get societal approval . If the community has to allow girls to get educated freely, the pre-1992 atmosphere of amity should return. If that has to happen, communal politics should end. After the Babri Masjid demolition, the relationship between Hindus and Muslims has gone sour. Muslims wear burqa because others say don't . It's like every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

It's sad that the sufferers are poor Muslim girls and women. To buy a burqa for her daughter, a woman who rolls beedis for a living may have to invest six months of her earnings. Nobody can see the tears or the pain inside a burqa.

Once you commented that 'It's sad that a Muslim has to prove his Indianness' ...

Although my books are about Muslims, 98% of my readers are non-Muslims . I sail with my legs in two boats... A Muslim believes he will not have a place in heaven if he does not perform namaz five times a day. But also, unless he declares he loves his country five times a day, he does not have a place on this earth. Still, many readers have appreciated the intent behind my writings . Change is a continuous process. What is not palatable today is accepted without qualms tomorrow.

(Courtesy: The Times of India)

1 comment:

  1. I appreciate that you have published this interview. I enjoyed it thoroughly. It gives an insight.
    Mohammad Aleem

    ReplyDelete