A universal mother and the secular others

Photo: Shakeeb KPA/Maktoob

Snehashish Das

Like every year Ammi (mother) has come to Delhi, Jamia Millia Islamia to Jawaharlal Nehru University, urging students to join the mass protest demonstration in Jantar Mantar on the 15th to asks Amit Shah “Where is Najeeb?”. Ammi considers herself as the mother of all of us, she says “Tumhare Ammi tumahre saath hai, kabhi bhi, kahin bhi; aur tum sab bhi Ammi ka saath do” (Your mother stands with all of you, anywhere, anytime; and you too do stand with your mother). Ammi is our universal mother; mother of all those who are together in this fight against caste, Islamophobia, misogyny, and all other multiple and multi layered oppression. Ammi is the universal mother whose motherhood transcends the patriarchal boundaries and whose ‘care’ extends to the larger anti caste, anti Islamophobia, anti hate and anti oppression movements. Thus Ammi could locate herself in the whole universe, Ammi locates herself against the universal fight against hate and oppression, Ammi marks a present when the world is needed care, when her universe of children need care fighting for survival and living. Drawing gender, drawing caste upon the care facilitate a severe injustice upon the universality of Ammi and her motherhood because the truth of motherhood of Ammi is beyond our capabilities to intervene into. Ammi says “I don’t see caste, gender, sex, religion among you; I only see my other children like Najeeb are studying here, and I need to take care of them like I would do it for Najeeb.” She says I believe in Allah. Her motherhood, her care, not for just Najeeb, but all of her children she believes to care about, is her Dīn, her relationship with the most gracious and most merciful Allah. Care comes as obedience and submission to the almighty Allah. Her care cannot be rationalized under the modernity’s gaze, it cannot be seen in a postmodern lens that of being reasoned in multiple ways to discover multiple truths around it; yet it has reason, one reason that maintains her relationship with the most graceful Allah, one truth in pursuit of the revelation by Angle Gabriel, the sayings of Allah. Care is universal, because care is not controlled or guided by any other supreme power of like caste, sex- gender, or of the sovereignty of the state, but of only her Imaan. Care fights multiple injustices, but care doesn’t wage a revolution against tradition, doesn’t question her faith, doesn’t revolve around debate of Hijab, Submission, Piety etc; thus care cannot be a feminist subject to think about, to interpret or to rationalize. Thus, care has no boundaries, no limitations, it cannot be mapped, it cannot be gendered it cannot be theorised now, because it transcends what all we know about care.

But can the universal motherhood of Ammi directly translate into “We are Najeeb” slogan in the other way around? “We are Najeeb” is a slogan that echoes in every protest, in agitation to bring justice to Najeeb. Many believed that, seeing a mother crying her heart out in the administrative block in JNU for months, where we had nothing to give her except to console her by making her believe that we all are here children, her child lives in us, among us and we all are together in this struggle, in this fight to bring back Najeeb. Such a hope, consolation, faith is necessary to take forward the struggle and to provide justice to the motherhood which has been thrashed on the stairs at the administration block or in one corner of Jantar Mantar, where her care has been taken as her vulnerabilities and every single state forces and administrative institutions mocked at it. But then, we need to investigate into the civil consciousness about and around Najeeb, the secular public engaged in it, and ask “Can we all be Najeeb?”

Fatima Nafees was also joined by Tabrez Ansari’s wife Shahista Parveen and author Arundhati Roy at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi on October 15, 2019 Photo: Shaheen Abdulla/Maktoob

On 1948, when K.T. Shah proposed to include the word secular in the Article 1, Clause 1 of the Indian Constitution in the Constituent Assembly Debate, Babasaheb was in strong point to let the people of the country decide what social order they will follow in time and according to the circumstances. On 1976 Amendments when the word Secular added not just to the constitution, but as the very basic feature of the Preamble, It let the state to have supreme power over the social order of the country, sovereignty over faith. Ambedkar strongly believed such power of the state or constitution over social order of the country is antithetical to the democratic ethos since the power and role of people over their choice to social order or faith directly transformed to the state and sovereign secular state now could control faiths and social orders for their nation building project. Thanks to the fundamental rights sanctioned by Babasaheb the citizens still could profess their faith and institutions around it, yet Secular came as nothing but a direct regulation of it by the state. Secular is nothing, but a civil consciousness built by the nationalists leaders, thus state and civil (mass or mob) work together facilitating the nationalist agenda. The Indian nationalist leaders are nothing but Hindu nationalists, from Congress to BJP. RSS, ABVP are no way away from the state, but have always worked as the agent of this secular state to build the nationalist consciousness among the people. The turn of the consciousness from the leaders to the masses, to become a civil idea about nation, is nothing but secular. This is why Yogi Adityanath could proudly say “What is more secular than Hindu?”

The state has always wished to integrate in communal with the secular; to develop a homo-nationalist consciousness, and uniform identity. Beef Ban to Uniform Civil Code, Tipple Talaq Bill all have happened through secular gaze. This integrationist project of the secular state always have tried to integrate the communal others within it; thus Abdul    Kalam is proffered over Shaheed Afzal Guru, Ram Nath Singh Kovind appears to be the Dalit face of Hindu Nationalism. And the communal others who protest to be integrated, who refuse to chant Jai Shri Ram, they are criminalized, butchered and abducted. And the secular state stays silent, justifies it, safeguards the criminals because to protect nationalistic agenda of it. The Godhra Riot and Modi getting clean chit for this, Ayodhya conflict and the court judgments about it, death penalty Afzal Guru, Yakub Memon to satisfy secular public consciences, extra judicial killing in Batla house, or of Pushpendra Yadav, the emergency situation during Sikh Riot, Murders and Curfews in Kashmir, murders in Toothukudi etc are just few examples of the secular state safeguarding their nationalist agenda through the help of secular, civil, nationalist mob they have created. All these happened under secular state power and regulation because the communal masses denied buying into the secular nationalism. Secular has nothing to do with faith, because under secular gazes all these violence, murders, assault happens, and the state or the secular masses are never answerable to anyone; they are sovereign over God, there is no judgment day, there is no watchful who they are responsible to. Thus, the Hindu nationalism under secular gaze is not about to establish a faith, but to dismiss what faith is all about. Or might be an imitation to what they believe as god from the Brahmin constructed myths; such as Ram’s murder of Sambhuka, Rvana, Durga’s murder of Mahisashur, Baman’s murder of Mahabali etc.

“Amit Shah, your son has become the BCCI secretary. Congratulations. Can you tell me where is my son Najeeb?,” students carried a flex board in protest. Photo: Shakeeb KPA/Maktoob

Najeeb’s forced disappearance is nothing, but because of his resistance to the secular through his communal identity. He was harshly bitten up and abducted by the nationalist mobs, which the secular state has shielded through every ways possible. From the denial of lodging FIR against his assaulters with a fake promise to find Najeeb in 24 hours to Ammi Fatima Nafis, to failing to undertake any legal procedures against the culprits by willfully ‘failing to crack the mobile password’ and other lies and tampering of the evidences can be seen as secular state’s authority over a communal body and life, and denial of justice, then getting away with it. Under the same secular gaze, by using the narrative of ‘fact’ the assault was also tried to be delegitimized and faked because a communal being is just a body that doesn’t serve the nationalist agenda, that questions the secular sovereignty over their faith. Fake making up of stories taking from the fake testimony of an auto driver to project it as evidence, media projection of him being a terrorist having links with ISIS, producing his medical reports to prove him as mentally ill and have a connection with his mental health to assault and his forced disappearance are the classic cases of the secular knowledge communal bodies or their construction of communal bodies. I won’t say the failure of SIT (Special Investigation Team) of Delhi Police, Crime Branch of Delhi Police, Central Bureau of Investigation and the University Administration’s denial to find Najeeb is a failure of Indian state mechanism, but very much success of it. Indian secular state succeeded when CBI closed the case last year, it succeeded because the assaulters are still roaming freely, it succeeded because Ammi is still running from here to there to seek justice, it succeeded because Najeeb is popularly demonized and has been declared as terrorist (true or false) and it has penetrated into the mass consciousness, it succeeded because the secular knowledge has constructed the image of a communal body through Najeeb and many other and developed their nationalist agenda, it has succeeded because Najeeb has not been brought back yet.

Keep the state aside, let’s talk briefly about the masses who scream #JusticeForNajeeb. On 14th October 2019, when left led JNUSU president Aishe Ghosh said Najeeb was criminalized, assaulted and disappeared because he belongs to an identity, I was shocked. I still don’t know what did she mean by ‘We’ must assert our identity, I don’t know what identity the upper castes have to assert in this secular space where the identity they belong to is very much of the part of and complement to secular knowledge. Nevertheless, I am reminded of the time, when JNUSU ex- president Kanhaiya Kumar once said, after the forced disappearance of Najeeb, that we shouldn’t see it as the disappearance of a Muslim student, but of a (JNU) student. Not just Kanhaiya Kumar, but the whole left troupes tried to take Najeeb’s identity from what happened to him, from his being. Najeeb’s identity seemed too much communal to them which couldn’t fit into their “up up secularism- down down communalism” slogan. They bought into the secular narrative and constructed the same communal being for Najeeb what the state tried all the time or at all tried to take away the communal so it fit him into their struggle and narrative. I am reminded of the day when AISA- SFI led JNUSU president Mohit Pandey signed the letter to prove Najeeb as mentally ill, which supposedly would have a connection to his forced disappearance and assault on him, demonized him and tried to blame him for his own victimhood. Many selective agitations around Najeeb, rhetoric by the national leaders couldn’t bring back Najeeb, but easily fed into the secular knowledge. JNU is the campus where from ABVP to Left, everyone, go on justifying and proving how Durga Puja is secular festival and where as demonize and condemn Insha’Allah as communal (DSF has done multiple times, on stage). I don’t know how “We are Najeeb” actually gives justice to who Najeeb was, his particular identity, the assault on him and forced disappearance because of his resistance to the secular homo-nationalist state through his communal being, the communal construction of him through state’s power, media conscience and public imaginations of him. I don’t know all who believe that “We Are Najeeb” could at all go through what Najeeb did. Is we are Najeeb slogan takes away the particular identity of Najeeb which threatened the secular state?

A mother is still waiting for his son will come back through Allah’s grace.  Ammi’s care, her faith and fight culminates Duas for her forced disappeared child. Insha’Allah Najeeb will come back.

Snehashish is a student of Sociology at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi

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