Gujarat - A state of unrest

by Aakar Patel

Mid Day, November 2, 2003 original

Dar Firaaq-e-Gujarat
(On Separation From Gujarat)
~ Wali Muhammad Wali

Parting from Gujarat leaves thorns in my chest
My heart - on fire! - pounds impatiently in my breast

What cure can heal the wound of living apart?
The scimitar of exile has cut deep into my heart

My feet were bound, and in sorrow I did tire
My heart singed rapidly, like a hair over fire

At first, this heady stroll left my mind fertile with rumination
In the end, this separation pulled my heart into intoxication

Gaze into my heart and see th! e garden of the lover
Where the flowers of winter riot in my blood's colour

It is with regret that in the end I see my friends depart
So rise from the empty tavern and steady yourself, my heart

And thank God's mercy, O Wali! He let that passion remain
The heart's still anxious to catch a glimpse of my Gujarat again

Wali Muhammad Wali (1667-1707) had no problems with his identity: he saw himself as a Gujarati. Apart from this ghazal, he wrote a masnavi on Surat (Dar Taarif-e-Shehr Surat) in which he describes his passion for the city with chest-thumping patriotism.

He is referred to as Wali Gujarati by the state's Muslims and by
others as Wali Daccani. He is thought to have been born in Aurangabad before moving to Ahmedabad, where he was buried in the reign of the emperor Aurangzeb.

Gujaratis do not consider him part of their cultural identity.

Wali's tomb in Shahi Baug, on the road outside the city police
headquarters, was torn down on the afternoon of February 28 last year by a mob.

An idol of 'Hulladio Hanuman' (Riotous Hanuman) was put on his grave
and the same night the ruins of the tomb were levelled and the road
was tarred over it.

"Wali was a national treasure," says Waris Hussain Alvi, retired
professor of English at Ahmedabad's St Xavier's college. Alvi is a
descendant of Shah Wajihuddin Alvi, an important Gujarati sufi of the
Qadiriyya order who lived in the time of the emperor Jehangir, and
whose family claims links with Wali.

Wali is the first poet of the Urdu language. "He represents the
beginning of the Urdu shairi tradition," Prof Alvi says.

"Wali was young, handsome and a lover of things: Ashiq mijazi," Prof
Alvi says with delight. He was happy-go-lucky and went with his
friend Syed Abul Mu'ali to Delhi to seek his future and recite his

Before him, verse was written only in Persian, the language of the
court. Urdu, known then as Hindvi, Hindustani or Dehlvi, was used in
conversation but no book and no poetry was written in it.

"When scholars and poets in Delhi read Wali, they were astonished at
the beauty of his language," Prof Alvi says. "They realised that the
language they used for everyday purposes was the language of poetry!

'Why are we writing in Persian?' they asked."

Wali's prolific work - he wrote in every form: rubayi, qasidah,
masnavi and ghazal - became the rage with qawwals, tawaifs and

With Wali language began to change, says Prof Alvi. The more local
Hindvi/Hindustani/Gujari began to acquire a Persian vocabulary
because of Wali's poetry.

Prof KC Kanda writes that Wali may "thus be called the architect of
the modern poetic language, which is a skilful blend of Hindi and
Persian vocabulary".

Prof Kanda adds that Wali was the first poet to ! write as a man - the
Persian tradition being to write of love from the woman's
perspective, and that "his tone was of cheerful affirmation and
acceptance, rather than of melancholy grumbling".

Wali began a poetic revolution from which immediately sprang three
great poets a few years after his death: Mir, Dard and Asar.

Mir Taqi Mir acknowledges his debt to Wali in a couplet:

Khugar nahin kuchch yoon hi hum 'Rikhta' goi kay
Mashooq jo apna tha bashindah-e-Deccan tha

I haven't casually been possessed by Rikhta (Urdu)
He who was my love was a native of the Deccan

Other than his language, both Prof Alvi and Prof Kanda are agreed,
Wali was able to fuse the two elements of secular or temporal love
with love of the divine: Ishq-e-Mijazi aur Ishq-e-Haqiqi, the
tradition of sufistic poetry which came to India from Persia.
However, he may have been born in the wrong period.

The Mughal court under Aurangzeb was Spartan and puritanical. The
kingdoms that encouraged poetry - the Shia Adilshahi and Qutubshahi
dynasties of Bijapur and Golconda - were under attack from the
emperor, who considered Shias heretics.

It is unlikely that poets would be encouraged in such an atmosphere.
Not much else is known about Wali. His tomb in the Shahi Baug area
was known as 'Cheeni Pir ka Mazar' - the tomb made of china.

It was renovated by Mehdi Nawaz Jung, first Governor of Gujarat in
the early '60s and then Wali Day was celebrated in the state, led by
people such as the Gujarati poet Jayanti Dalal. Every year people
would gather to pay homage, including Gujarati Hindus.

So important is the legacy of Wali that a fight has continued between
the Daccanis, represented by Hyderabad funded by the Nawabs, and the Ahmedabadis over where Wali was from.

The first book on Urdu poetry, written in 1751, mentions Wali as
being Ahmedabadi, while a second book, a decade later, says he was
from Aurangabad.

Prof Alvi's father, a collector of manuscripts, had a document with
the seal of Wali on it and the Alvi family at least is convinced, and
takes great pride in the fact, that Wali was Gujarati.

Here was a Muslim who professed his deep and undying love for
Gujarat. The state of Gujarat (see interview with Modi) however makes no claim on him.

The charisma of Modi: Why Gujaratis love their chief minister

Chief Minister Narendra Modi offers a vision for his state's identity
that connects strongly and instinctively with the Gujarati.

He projects a clean, businesslike image and a charisma lacking in any
other Gujarati leader including those within his own party. He also
has a strong, almost messianic, self-belief.

His vision comprises of a Gujarat whose entrepreneurial abilities and spiritual heritage must not only recognised but admired by the world; of a state that understands the problems it faces and has put up the solutions. A state that wants to strongly embrace modernity but without letting go of its culture.

Modi's greatest strength is his tough and uncompromising posture
against Muslims, which is much appreciated by Gujaratis.

The decision of the state to meddle in the riot cases, which the
Supreme Court believes have been shoddily investigated and
prosecuted, is accepted and approved of by Gujaratis who prefer to
move on from the violence by ignoring it.

They had already agreed, through their voting of Modi, that the
violence was necessary to 'set the Muslims right'.

In an interview, Modi spoke of his vision, especially the Panchamrit Yojna, his five-pronged plan to propel Gujarat to the frontline of economic progress in India.

The Planning Commission "expects Gujarat to deliver 10.2 per cent growth" in the current five year plan in order that India touch 8.2 per cent, Modi said, adding that this will be achieved through the Panchamrit Yojna. Last year, the state was at just over 3 per cent.

The plan's five parts address Knowledge, Security, Water, Power and People.

Modi wants to introduce centres for excellence that will prepare
Gujaratis for the IT era in which "mobile phone manufacturers will
make less money than a mobile phone's designer" and "manufacturers of Ford cars will make less money than designers of modern accessories fitted in these cars".

He wants Gujaratis to learn Maths and Science in English and every other subject in Gujarati so that they can "face up to international competition" and asks why Gujaratis are not exporting nurses ("the US needs 10 million") and teachers to Europe.

He also says Gujarat has become the "Petrocapital of India", that
India has no need for gas pipelines from Pakistan when Gujarat itself has an excess of gas.

On the whole he prefers to deal with economic issues and is not very keen on talking about cultural matters or of the violence.

He says that the subject of violence is never brought up with him
when he travels abroad, but only by the English media in India.
Some of his own people are not as sanguine.

One senior figure said that the Rs 66,000 crore that Modi claims was mopped up during the Vibrant Gujarat programme was just recycled old projects.

Several people said that foreign investors who were talking to the
state before the riots fled horrified as the carnage started and
projects collapsed because of the complicity of the state in the

Asked if there was a consensus among Gujarati Hindus on the issue of Muslims, given the last 15 years and what has happened in Kashmir, Gujarat, Delhi and the events of September 11, Modi said that this could not be the subject of a newspaper interview.

"Six or seven hundred years of history is associated with this and
till you go to the roots of the matter you cannot properly understand this."

Asked if the Gujarat government would restore the tomb of Wali
Muhammad Wali, Modi said that there was contradictory evidence on whether the tomb really was his and that he had instructed his
government to see if a memorial could be built.

A war of identity

Former prime minister Inder Gujral said in an interview last week
that there was no conflict between Hindus and Muslims in India.

Even in Gujarat he indicated, there was no primary conflict - social, political or economic - which could be described as a faultline.

What then is responsible for the anger and violence in Gujarat?
The social scientist Achyut Yagnik describes it as the outcome of a
struggle for identity.

The immediate causes for the violence may be ascribed to several
factors, Yagnik believes, but the friction is produced through the
churning of a people defining themselves in terms that exclude
groups, specifically Muslims.

In the last six decades, the state has transformed rapidly and old
social ties have eroded at the village and town level with nothing to replace them.

The middle classes have acquired modernity but have retained
traditional values which may be in conflict. One of the most obvious is the bias against girls.

Yagnik points to the appalling female infanticide and foeticide in
the state. Gujaratis are joined only by Punjabis as being the most
bigoted Indians against female children. In parts of the state, the
census shows, there are only three females for every four males.

The absence of a culture that can accommodate modernity has led Gujaratis, Yagnik believes, towards cultural nationalism, which offers them an identity they can take pride in.

This process has included Gujaratis abroad who are at the vanguard of funding Hindu activities from the various spiritual sects to the Sangh and its associates.

This has coincided with a decline in the Congress, whose values such as Gandhian attitudes to Muslims and Dalits as been replaced by a more sharply defined dialogue. The corruption of the Congress and the projection of the BJP as clean has accelerated this decline.

At the village level, the decline of the Congress has opened up space for the Sangh. With the assistance of the state, now controlled by the BJP, the Sangh has set up institutions that offer aid and identity to the tribal and Dalit populations that were excluded entirely from the social and economic structure.

The VHP's ekal vidyalaya (one-teacher school) gram shikshan mandir project for tribals is operational in 59 villages in Dang, 127 villages in Surendranagar, 69 villages in Narmada and 30 villages in Panchmahals.

In these schools, students are taught how to read and write and to sing devotional and nationalistic songs by a VHP volunteer, the
general secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Jaideep Patel said.

The project is funded through the Sangh's Bharatiya Janseva Sansthan and the IDRF, in the news last year after being attacked in the US for its policies.

The process of tribal assimilation into the greater Hindu fold,
Yagnik believes, is aided in the second stage by the activities of
the Gujarati spiritual sects, the Swaminarayan fold and the Swadhyaya movements in particular which teach Hindu practices such as vegetarianism and spiritualism.

Incidentally, neither of these sects condemned the violence last year.

The Sangh's inclusiveness has attracted Dalits as well and last
year's riots were noted for the fact that Dalit and tribal youth were
often at the forefront of anti-Muslim violence.

The Sangh however, remains Sanatani at its core and does not reject caste. The inclusion of dalits and tribals is on the assumption that they occupy a peripheral role in the caste system.

Jaideep Patel yearns for his days in the village when the barter
system kept things stable and says he is disturbed by modernity.

The social scientist MN Srinivas in his last article wrote of how it
was in fact barter that kept caste in place in the villages and it
was the advent of hard currency and commerce that was breaking it.

In the absence of any alternative from the Congress, or any other
party, the process of inclusion of the disinherited communities of
the state into the Hindutva fold is likely to accelerate apace and
their division with people whose practices are projected as un-Hindu and therefore un-Indian will deepen in Gujarat.