Thursday, July 30, 2015

On the death of two Muslims in India

The tweets were the first.  When I peeked into Facebook, there were posts.  Later that evening, when I called to check in with my parents, father said "the big news here is that Abdul Kalam died."

"Yes, I got the news here."


Father has not gotten used to news traveling at the speed of light.  For that matter, neither have I; but, that's a discussion for another day.

In the follow-up call, he talked more about the passing away of Kalam, a former president of the old country.  "Not since the death of Gandhi and Nehru have I seen such emotions from the people" he said.  And he clarified: "I don't mean government organized responses.  This is by individuals. And by private corporations."

I have only a news-junkie understanding of Kalam, having left the old country almost three decades ago, well before Kalam became famous.  My father's take was, therefore, interesting to me.

"Maybe it is because after Nehru, Abdul Kalam was the only one who was really interested in children and young people."

I recalled a friend posting in Facebook a photo from a few years ago--her son receiving an award from Kalam.

Abdul Kalam, a scientist-turned president, died while delivering a lecture to students:
Dr. Kalam, a Muslim Tamil who died at 83, was one of the few Indian leaders able to bridge the country’s political, religious and linguistic divides, and his death provoked an outpouring of grief across the political spectrum at a time when positions have hardened.
I wish Fox News had covered the death of this Muslim for hours on and demonstrated to its rabid viewers that there is no "Muslim problem" and that Muslims are adored by non-Muslims too as any outstanding person of any other faith would be.

Kalam led an exemplary life.  People, wherever they are, love the real ones like Kalam, even when they know well he would have had his own flaws just as any mortal would.  The ones who fake it might win the battle, but the genuine win the long game.  Kalam was a role model to the youth:
As a professor, he was known to dine and debate with his students, and he made sure that 100 children from each state in the country attended his presidential inauguration in 2002, despite concerns about space.
It is now the young, primarily, who keep his quintessentially earnest inspirational quotes alive in social media posts.
The youth aspect, a spontaneous outpouring at that, was what father was also talking about.  

Meanwhile, India carried out the execution of a Muslim who was found to be integral to the bombings in Mumbai in 1993, after the mercy petition was rejected by India's president and after its top court upheld the capital punishment sentence:
It is ironic that our media will be split between two funerals taking place at two corners of the country today. Former president APJ Abdul Kalam will be interred in Rameswaram and executed convict Yakub Memon in Mumbai. It’s not ironic because it throws into sharp relief some simplistic narrative of the Good Muslim versus the Bad Muslim. The irony is that had Memon’s fate rested in the hands of a President Kalam who knows what the outcome might have been. That has nothing to do with their shared faith but everything to do with his opposition to capital punishment on principle.
Kalam had supported the abolition of capital punishment saying confirming a death sentence was one of his “most difficult tasks” and noting “almost all cases which were pending had a social and economic bias.”
As that excerpt notes, "Muslims" in India or anywhere else on this wonderful planet are not by any means a simplistic narrative, unlike what Fox News and its ilk would like to believe.


Anne in Salem said...

From what I've read, that is an interesting picture showing Modi bowing in respect to a Muslim. Sounds like Dr Kalam deserved every bit of respect shown to him. May he rest in peace.

Sriram Khé said...

Of course, there are also many other interpretations on why the likes of Modi embraced Dr. Kalam. But, I leave that as an exercise for the interested reader ;)

Ramesh said...

I have a major problem in your post.

Where is the Muslim in this ??

Abdul Kalam was a much loved, respected and adored Indian. Full stop.

Death penalty is a horrible anachronism and the sooner we stop this, the more civilised a society we shall be. Full stop.

Sriram Khé said...

Well ... you may choose to filter out the Muslim backstory, but it is there in full display. As we joke here, denial is not a river in Egypt ;)

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