By Vidya Bhushan Rawat,
Former president Dr APJ Kalam’s death has brought back into discussion on his work, career and mission as the middle class India fed by absolutely communalized media has spared no time in making Kalam an ‘Einstien’ of India and perhaps the greatest president of India. Many called him ‘statesman’ while other said he was the ‘greatest’ scientist of the world. Indians are habitual of using adjectives to describe someone dear to them. Kalam was darling of India whose trolls hate those on social media as well as in public life who show their dissent to their futile and superfluous ‘vision’. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that he has lost a ‘margdarshak’ or what we term as guide. Was Abdul Kalam really a Margdarshak of Modi or RSS or they coopted him after his massive popularity with urbanized India with his ‘nationalistic’ views which attract the communalized middle classes.
APJ Abdul Kalam with USTM chancellor Mahbubul Haque [File Picture of TCN]
Let us not forget that the proposal of Abdul Kalam for the position of President of India was suggested none other than Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav who promoted Kalam for next president when he was the defence minister of the country. Mulayam’s Kalam agenda was important for him to project himself as a supporter of Muslims who are ‘nationalists’ too keeping in mind the 2004 general elections. Mulayam always nursed his ambition for being prime minister and for that Kalam’s elevation to become India’s President was sending a goodwill message to the Muslim community.
There is no doubt that Kalam became a hero of Sangh Parivar for various reasons. On certain things he actually fitted in the broader vision of Sangh Parivar as an ideal Muslim like Sikandar Bakht and Arif who have been part of their club for long and did not open their mouth on violence against Muslims or discrimination at different level. In fact, any talk of discrimination on part of Muslim was rebutted by them as those inspired and instigated by Pakistanis and Saudi Arabia. Therefore it is important for us to understand as what is an ideal or ‘nationalist’ or patriotic Muslim for the Sangh Parivar and its ideologues? So, I can describe here what the Hindutva’s ideologues consider an ‘ideal Muslim’.
‘An ideal Muslim is the one who read ‘Gita’ and consider it the world’s best book and decry Quoran or everything that Muslim do in the name of identity. He or she would despite Urdu and read Sanskrit and speak about the ‘greatness’ of this dying language. He or she should not feel hurt of Vandemataram and devote their time on Yoga and Suryanamsakaram. These days ideal Muslims are also those who love Lord Hanuman after watching ‘Bajrangi Bhaijan’ and love ‘Indian culture i.e essentially Hindu brahmanic culture and way of life. An ideal Muslim must adapt to Hindu traditions and leave his own Islamic identity. He must shout loudly as ‘Bharat mata kee Jai’ and his only identity is that he has ‘Hindu ancestors’ and he must admit that he or his family were ‘forcibly’ ‘converted’ to Islam. President Abdul Kalam was a perfect Muslim that way for Sangh Parivar who never bothered about his Muslim identity or I would say rarely tried to get identified with Indian Muslims or their issues and that is why he got more support in this communalized atmosphere from the Hindu middle classes.
Kalam’s death happened at a time when we saw terrorist attack in Gurudaspur in Punjab yet media ignored that incident and focused entirely on Kalam. Could it have been possible if there was a UPA government and the attack had happened? We know how the Indian media criminally ignored the death of former Prime Minister V P Singh because they did not want to discuss anything about him as everything about him was ‘negative’ for them. For Kalam, as Arun Jaitley said,’ everything about him was ‘positive’. The media focus deflated from Gurudaspur attack and we saw extraordinary coverage on Kalam with each media house virtually making him the ‘biggest’ icon of independent India.
Indian middle classes always look for a hero who can satisfy their jingoistic nationalism. Frankly speaking Abdul Kalam was not a scientist but I would call him a technocrat managing things at DRDO. Therefore one can’t put Kalam to the company of illustrious scientists like Homi Bhabha, Vikram Sarabhai or Prof Satish Dhavan but unfortunately in the mass eulogy a majority of ‘devotees’ might not even heard of these great scientists who made India’s nuclear as well as space programmes huge success as Kalam publically surpass all other scientists at the moment. The fact is that missiles or nuclear bomb for which we are giving Kalam the ‘biggest’ ‘scientist’ certificate is certainly not new ‘research’ as it is already available with many countries at the moment. The fear is that these technologies can now go in the hands of unaccountable rogue elements like ISIS and Taliban too. So that does not make both ISIS and Talibans great scientific mind.
There is nothing wrong with having a vision but the issue is, how do you plan to achieve it? Kalam was lovable to the middle classes because he provided ‘quotable quotes’ to achieve their ‘dreams’. Indians are very fancy of ‘quotes’ perhaps consider them essential shortcuts for success and the more quotes you have the better your image among the people. ‘Always dream high’, he would say. ‘Respect your elders, tread the right path and help your country’. The other day, I heard him speaking about education in an interview to Times Now,’ The aims of education should be that students should not become ‘jobseekers’ but ‘job providers’. Now, all this look very great but how will we reach and is the aim of education is just about ‘jobs’ and not changing our attitudes and way of life. We all know. He had a vision for 2020 which he was going to IIMs and other institutions and speaking students but how do you achieve that. We rarely heard anything to remove mass poverty in the country from Dr Kalam ? We never heard him saying what he proposed to eradicate hunger and malnutrition in our country.
Kalam was ‘great’ because he never spoke of discrimination. He never spoke of problems being faced by the minorities and marginalized and that makes him the ‘best person’ for the Sangh Parivar project whose main agenda is that minorities should thank that they are being allowed to live in India. Just do your duty and don’t ask any question. The entire ‘Gita’ ‘gyan’ is meant for minorities in their scheme of things to know their limitations and keep quiet.
While one can appreciate Kalam not using his religious identity for his political purposes and he could have promoted humanism and passion with his convictions. He was a popular man and could have promoted towards developing scientific spirit as per article 51A of our constitution and yet he chose not to do so. Instead, we found him bowing to Sai Baba and many other Babas and Shankaracharyas which gave them legitimacy. Kalam lost his science at the feet of Sai Baba and therefore promoted irrationalism and religiosity.
One thing is clear that India’s ruling elite want to use our identities for their own purposes. It is justification of their policies and pretention of their ‘tolerance’. When K.R.Narayanan became president of India, he was called an ‘intellectual’ and then untouchable president. Powers tried to pretend as if the issue of violence against Dalits did not exist and every issue is resolved. For many days, he was the ‘sweetest’ president but as soon as he started questioning the government and returning many of their bills, he became a thorn in their wider game plan. It is another matter that Narayanan never really compromised with his ideology and made it his dharma to remind the government of the day all the time to focus on constitution and eradication of poverty and violence and discrimination against Dalits. He was immensely loved by people but definitely they are not the ‘uppercaste’ India who matters for our ‘opinion-makers’.
Though Kalam opened Rashtrapati Bhavan for common citizen particularly for children yet we did not see him showing any concern about the violence against the Dalits and Aadivasis. There were no words of wisdom from him on caste and gender discrimination. He had no view on the displacement of aadivasis and destruction of our environment. Planting a few saplings will not wash the sin of destroying huge forest and habitat of the people. Abdul Kalam inherited the rich legacy of President K.R.Narayanan who gave new hope to millions of Dalits and other marginalized and took it upon him to remind the government of following the constitution and rule of law. Unfortunately, Kalam could do nothing except speaking of ‘high’ voltage rhetoric like Narendra Modi. Like Modi, Kalam too suffered with an idea of ‘intellectualism’ and a ‘great’ ‘speaker’ but the only factor for them is the Hindu middle classes who do not want to hear any issue of discrimination or affirmative action for any one. This class only wants to eulogize the brahmanical values and violent reprisal in dealing with all those who are deemed as dissenters or thorns.
We did not hear anything substantial on Gujarat 2002 from President Kalam publically even when he mentioned that Prime Minister Vajpayee did not want him to go there. It is said that President Kalam loved ‘poor’ and students but we rarely saw him interacting with ‘sarkari’ school children or at some government colleges in remote areas which do not have teachers or even labs. Those were not his concern. Kalam supported India’s missile programme and proved himself a great ‘patriot’ as mentioned by a minister. It is sad that we have to use word like ‘patriot’ for a person who has been the father of our missile programme and our president. Is there anyone who is not a patriot? Yes, for the Sangh trolls all those who disagree with their brand of brahmanical nationalism are not patriots.
Kalam definitely was not an RSS man but he did nothing to keep away from them or people like them. He did not speak anything even after he was out of office on communal violence and hate mongers. He would have promoted scientific thinking and modernity but then he prostrated at the feet of Shankaracharyas and Saibaba, much to the comfort and happiness of the brahmanical forces led by Sangh Parivar. With his clean image, Kalam could have made things easier for Muslims in India but unfortunately he created more difficulties for them. His image is being sold to the world putting extreme pressure on Muslims to be ‘like’ him, an issue which even Muslims in his own town would not agree. One should not forget that years ago in the middle 80s, it was Rameshwaram where several hundred people embrace Islam after suffering at the hands of caste Hindus. It is not that Kalam was unaware of such things but he kept quiet on everything which was uncomfortable for the right wingers in India and therefore became a ‘delighted’ person for them.
Kalam’s best legacy would be to simple and active all their life. There is no doubt that he remained a simple man who loved to teach, interact and was a hard worker. He remained apolitical till end though that itself was a political statement favoring those who did not want him to raise any uncomfortable question. Kalam definitely made an impression with people of India who loved him and saw in rise that dreams if followed properly and diligently could be achieved. That way, he was a role model for millions of youngsters. He met with an end which would be envious for any one. After living a healthy and purposeful, Kalam passed away doing things which he wanted to do and among those who were his biggest fans. Even if he has not been influence our political discourse, Kalam will always be remembered for his honesty, simplicity and work-holism but let us give him due respect but not overhype him to the ‘greatest’ as he was neither a statesman nor a scientist.
(Vidya Bhushan Rawat is a Delhi based Journalist and activist. He blogs atwww.manukhsi.blogspot.com)