Gujarat - A state of unrest
by Aakar Patel
Day, November 2, 2003
(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
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
Wali Muhammad Wali (1667-1707) had no problems with his
saw himself as a Gujarati. Apart from this ghazal, he wrote
on Surat (Dar Taarif-e-Shehr Surat) in which he describes
for the city with chest-thumping patriotism.
He is referred to as Wali Gujarati by the state's Muslims
others as Wali Daccani. He is thought to have been born
before moving to Ahmedabad, where he was buried in the
reign of the
Gujaratis do not consider him part of their cultural identity.
Wali's tomb in Shahi Baug, on the road outside the city
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,
whose family claims links with Wali.
is the first poet of the Urdu language. "He
beginning of the Urdu shairi tradition," Prof Alvi
"Wali was young, handsome and a lover of things:
Ashiq mijazi," Prof
Alvi says with delight. He was happy-go-lucky and went
friend Syed Abul Mu'ali to Delhi to seek his future and
him, verse was written only in Persian, the language
court. Urdu, known then as Hindvi, Hindustani or Dehlvi,
was used in
conversation but no book and no poetry was written in it.
scholars and poets in Delhi read Wali, they were astonished
the beauty of his language," Prof Alvi says. "They
realised that the
language they used for everyday purposes was the language
are we writing in Persian?' they asked."
Wali's prolific work - he wrote in every form: rubayi,
masnavi and ghazal - became the rage with qawwals, tawaifs
With Wali language began to change, says Prof Alvi. The
Hindvi/Hindustani/Gujari began to acquire a Persian vocabulary
because of Wali's poetry.
KC Kanda writes that Wali may "thus be called
the architect of
the modern poetic language, which is a skilful blend of
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
acceptance, rather than of melancholy grumbling".
Wali began a poetic revolution from which immediately
great poets a few years after his death: Mir, Dard and
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
Wali was able to fuse the two elements of secular or temporal
with love of the divine: Ishq-e-Mijazi aur Ishq-e-Haqiqi,
tradition of sufistic poetry which came to India from Persia.
However, he may have been born in the wrong period.
Mughal court under Aurangzeb was Spartan and puritanical.
kingdoms that encouraged poetry - the Shia Adilshahi and
dynasties of Bijapur and Golconda - were under attack from
emperor, who considered Shias heretics.
It is unlikely that poets would be encouraged in such
Not much else is known about Wali. His tomb in the Shahi
was known as 'Cheeni Pir ka Mazar' - the tomb made of china.
It was renovated by Mehdi Nawaz Jung, first Governor of
the early '60s and then Wali Day was celebrated in the
state, led by
people such as the Gujarati poet Jayanti Dalal. Every year
would gather to pay homage, including Gujarati Hindus.
So important is the legacy of Wali that a fight has continued
the Daccanis, represented by Hyderabad funded by the Nawabs,
Ahmedabadis over where Wali was from.
The first book on Urdu poetry, written in 1751, mentions
being Ahmedabadi, while a second book, a decade later,
says he was
Prof Alvi's father, a collector of manuscripts, had a
the seal of Wali on it and the Alvi family at least is
takes great pride in the fact, that Wali was Gujarati.
Here was a Muslim who professed his deep and undying love
Gujarat. The state of Gujarat (see interview with Modi)
no claim on him.
charisma of Modi: Why Gujaratis love their chief
Minister Narendra Modi offers a vision for his
that connects strongly and instinctively with the Gujarati.
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.
vision comprises of a Gujarat whose entrepreneurial
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.
greatest strength is his tough and uncompromising
against Muslims, which is much appreciated by Gujaratis.
decision of the state to meddle in the riot cases,
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.
had already agreed, through their voting of Modi,
violence was necessary to 'set the Muslims right'.
an interview, Modi spoke of his vision, especially
Yojna, his five-pronged plan to propel Gujarat to the frontline of
economic progress in India.
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.
plan's five parts address Knowledge, Security,
Water, Power and People.
wants to introduce centres for excellence that
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".
wants Gujaratis to learn Maths and Science in English
other subject in Gujarati so that they can "face up to international
competition" and asks why Gujaratis are not exporting nurses ("the
needs 10 million") and teachers to Europe.
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.
the whole he prefers to deal with economic issues
and is not very
keen on talking about cultural matters or of the violence.
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.
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.
people said that foreign investors who were talking
state before the riots fled horrified as the carnage started and
projects collapsed because of the complicity of the state in the
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.
or seven hundred years of history is associated
with this and
if the Gujarat government would restore the tomb
till you go to the roots of the matter you cannot properly understand
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.
war of identity
prime minister Inder Gujral said in an interview
that there was no conflict between Hindus and Muslims in India.
in Gujarat he indicated, there was no primary conflict
political or economic - which could be described as a faultline.
then is responsible for the anger and violence
The social scientist Achyut Yagnik describes it as the outcome of a
struggle for identity.
immediate causes for the violence may be ascribed
factors, Yagnik believes, but the friction is produced through the
churning of a people defining themselves in terms that exclude
groups, specifically Muslims.
the last six decades, the state has transformed
rapidly and old
social ties have eroded at the village and town level with nothing to
middle classes have acquired modernity but have
traditional values which may be in conflict. One of the most obvious
is the bias against girls.
points to the appalling female infanticide and
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.
absence of a culture that can accommodate modernity
Gujaratis, Yagnik believes, towards cultural nationalism, which
offers them an identity they can take pride in.
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.
has coincided with a decline in the Congress, whose
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.
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.
VHP's ekal vidyalaya (one-teacher school) gram
project for tribals is operational in 59 villages in Dang, 127 villages in
Surendranagar, 69 villages in Narmada and 30 villages in Panchmahals.
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.
project is funded through the Sangh's Bharatiya
and the IDRF, in the news last year after being attacked in the US
for its policies.
process of tribal assimilation into the greater
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.
neither of these sects condemned the violence last
Sangh's inclusiveness has attracted Dalits as well
year's riots were noted for the fact that Dalit and tribal youth were
often at the forefront of anti-Muslim violence.
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.
Patel yearns for his days in the village when the
system kept things stable and says he is disturbed by modernity.
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.
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.