Reflection on some slogans-2

Rohit Dhankar

[Before I go to the next set of slogans, it has become necessary to note that this writing is somewhat behind the changing character of the protests, the protests seem to have developed a positive character as well.

Let me explain: I am firmly for CAA, NRC and NPR, with the condition that NRC and NPR are carried out in an absolutely just and transparent manner. And I believe that is possible. I also believe that whether BJP wants or not the government can be forced to conduct this exercise in a fair and transparent manner.

The protests against CAA, NRC and NPR are becoming a movement. Strangely, in spite of this movement being AGAINST my own stand, it makes me happy. BECAUSE it is learning how to distinguish between the present-day government and the nation. Because it is discovering that tricolor is something to be respected, rather than a symbol of hated nationalism. Because it is discovering that singing national anthem is a powerful means of declaring allegiance to the country while simultaneously fighting against government decisions which we don’t agree with. Because this movement is discovering that it is the constitution which binds us together, it is the constitution which confers sovereignty of will on each of us, which becomes the corner stone in fight for justice. Because this movement is learning to see that India is something to be proud of. Because this movement is slowly but surely discarding the India bashing rhetoric and learning to fight with the present government while declaring firm ownership and allegiance to India that is Bharat.

I am for the CAA, I am AGAINST the movement opposing CAA; BUT the positive affirmation of India by my CAA-opposing compatriots also brings joy to heart. We will fight out our differences, but will swim or sink together. This is a democratic fight amongst us, not between ‘us’ and ‘them’. This is a nation making up its mind, not enemies fighting to vanquish each other. We are one people and are very lucky to have diversity of opinions, cultures and faiths. We all have equal right to try to shape India the way we wish, as long as we feel, believe and say it is “My India”.]

As a response to part 1 of this piece some friends have suggested a critique of right-wing slogans as well. I will come to that in the third part, if find some worth analyzing right wing slogans. Many right-wing slogans are clearly communal and are recognize as such by all. Some others are abusive: desh ke gaddaron ko, goli maro salon ko. Some are stupid: Dilli police tum lath bajao, ham tumhare saath hain. There is nothing to write about them. They simply express opposition and hatred. I am writing about so-called liberal slogans because they are seen as secular and not communal.

In the last part we had a brief look at a set of slogans used in protests against CAA etc. In this part trying to understand some more slogans used in the same protests. They are:

  1. “Allahu Akbar”
  2. “……. Insha Allah, Insha Allah”
  3. “Tera mera rishta kya? La ilaha illallah”

What do these slogans mean?

Allahu akbar: also written as “Allah hu akbar” and “Allah akbar”. The simple meaning is “God is the greatest”. Muslims use this daily in their prayers and, many other occasions, in a peaceful manner. But it is also a war cry, used my Muhammad himself. Terrorists use it regularly in their attacks. Even in its simple and peaceful meaning Muslims use it to remind themselves the most important belief of their faith: Allah is the greatest.

People who do not know Quran may easily accept the translation “The God is the greatest” and have no problem with it. Because atheists generally don’t mind people’s proclamation of their religious beliefs and believers in all religions have no problem with God being the greatest, when “God” is understood as the ultimate divinity not connected with any particular religion. But Allah of Quran is not that God. Allah expressly forbids setting up equals to Him. Sure 98:6 warns “Verily, those who disbelieve (in the religion of Islam, the Qur’in and Prophet Muhammad) from among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) and Al-Mushrikun will abide in the Fire of Hell. They are the worst of creatures.” Al-Mushrikun mains “idolaters”, worshippers of idols. One can multiply such examples from Quran in dozens where Allah warns that all those who believe in any god other than Allah will burn in hell fire for eternity.

The people who translate “Allah” as ‘the God’ in general without associating it with any particular God, be that of Bible or Gita; are admirable and have good intention of harmony. The believers in Quran when understand Allah as God in general, they are also trying for harmony being and being open minded. But at the same time Allah himself does not like being worshipped as Shiva, Vishnu, Krishna or Rama. They all are lesser and false Gods according to Quran and have no intersession power. Worshippers of all these gods will go to hell fire. Therefore, shouting of “Allahhu akbar” is a proclamation of supremacy of Allah, nay, rather a proclamation of only divine existence and of falsity of all other god.

In a protest to save secularism of the country, to establish equality of all religions, this is rather a strange way of being secular. “Har Har Mahadeva”, a Hindu war cry, will be equally objectionable in a protest for secularism. “Jai Shri Ram”, which is graduating into a war cry from a simple greeting, will also be equally objectionable.

“Insha Allah”: in its simple meaning is “God willing”. Many people say “Bhagwan ne chaha to” or “Ishwar ki kripa se”. I don’t see any thing objectionable about it, even when Allah happens to be a very stern and jealous god. This is only a way of making a wish. However, it depends what the wish is. The first time I heard this slogan was in 1916 JNU episode “Bharat tere tukde honge … Insha Allah, Insha Allah”. This certainly is objectionable. But in the current protests, as far as I know, this slogan is not used in this manner. Therefore, nothing the issue with it.

“Tera mera rishta kya? La ilaha illallah”: This is part of declaration of faith in Islamic monotheism. The full version being “laa ilaaha illa Allah Muhammadun rasool ullah”. Which means “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.” Also translated as “Nothing worshipped is worthy of worship but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.” Thus “La ilaha illallah” means “There is no god but Allah”. The full slogan would been “What is the relationship between you and me? There is no god but Allah”. In other words: only relationship between us is that of faith in Allah as the only God.

In secular India, one would assume, the most important relationship between citizens is acceptance of and commitment to the constitution; in addition to our shared past and culture of thousands of years. This slogan means rejecting all other relationships but that of faith in Islam. This clearly separates Muslim population or declares that ‘if you do not believe in one God, Allah, then I have no relationship with you.’ I have unconfirmed information that the slogan was used by Muslim League in this later meaning while raising demand for Pakistan.

To my mind this slogan is clearly divisive, Islamic supremacist and seriously objectionable.

Some icons of secularism

In recent protests the so-called liberals (SCLs) have projected some people as icons of secularism. It would be instructive in understanding their thinking to have a look at proclamations of these icons.

One of two icons of secularism is created out of Jamia protests is Ladeeda Sakhaloon. Together with Aysha Renna N her pictures are splashed everywhere in media, including an article written by a very reputed intellectual regarding learning democracy from youth. These two icons were interviewed by another so-called secular Barkha Datt, and their zeal is praised by SCLs no end. What Ms. Sakhaloon has to say about secularism is quoted below.

During the protest gathering happened yesterday. Some liberals dictated us to refrain from chanting “Insha Allah” and “Allahu Akbar”. We have only submitted completely towards Almighty. We have abandoned you secular slogans long before. Those slogans will be raised loudly again and again. Those slogans are our spirit, our imagination and the one which refines our existence. You might be in a hurry to prove your secular loyalty, but we are not. We are and will exist in every space as sons, daughters, grandsons and granddaughters of Malcolm X, Ali Musliyar and Variamkunnath. Those slogans are our spirit and we have derived our imagination of being political from our forefathers. For you people this might be mere slogans, for us this is the one which liberate ourselves. At this point we are clear, we don’t hold any burden of chanting secular slogans and may not fit your secular vocabulary. Our engagement and approach altogether is different from you and is the fundamental difference. So, please don’t dictate us.”

I have quoted this declaration of Ms. Sakhaloon in full and unedited. Because I do not take it to be a childish or youthful boast. To me it is a declaration of Islamic supremacy and jihadist attitude. Raising such people to the status of defenders of democracy and icons of secularism is dangerous for India and an insult to the intelligence of genuinely secular citizens who believe in harmony and diversity.

She clearly declares that she, and her ilk, do not care for secularism. They derive their inspiration from the slogans I have analysed above. The three names she mentions as her ideals are very instructive. Malcolm X was an Islamist who considered white race as devil, thought its demise is imminent. Wished for white genocide. Other two, Ali Musliyar and Variamkunnath were leaders of Mappila riots (Malabar Rebellion) which though was also against British rule but indulged in Hindu genocide through forced conversions and mass killing. I can not understand what secularism means for SCLs if Ms. Sakhaloon is their secular icon. If you do, please explain to me. This person is clearly an Islamic supremacist jihadi as far as I can understand.

Another secular icon SCLs discovered during 2016 JNU episode is Shehla Rashid. Let’s see what she has to say about these slogans. Ms. Rashid twitted her views in a series of messages directed at SCLs on 30th December 2020. Let’s have a look at some of them.

“If you say ‘Hey Bhagwan’ in mixed gatherings, if you light lamps at public functions, if you use religious metaphors from the Mahabharat and Ramayana in political speeches, if your mythological works support your political work, you can’t oppose only ‘Muslim’ identity assertion!She considers use of religio-cultural metaphors as ‘identity assertion’. And forgets that no one ever objects to “ya Allah” and “ya khuda” in common conversation; they are like “He Bhagwan”. The objection was to something much more threatening than that. However, lighting lamps in public functions is an issue which, in my view is difficult to justify. I am not sure whether it is a religious symbol or cultural without any association with religion.

“If you are embarrassed by Muslims’ cultural clarion calls, then you’re not an ally. If you are ashamed of us, then you’re part of the problem. If you are an ally, please understand that our religious, cultural and human rights are as non-negotiable as are yours.” She is asserting that Muslim clarion call will come in the form of Islamic supremacy (Allahu Akbar) and declaration of believers’ brotherhood (La ilaha illallah) and also declaration that this is the only relationship they are ready to accept. Also, note the belligerence “you are not an ally. … you are part of the problem”.

After a series of such belligerent tweets she gives a manual to SCLs: “A manual for allies: If you are opposed to Muslim identity politics, why do you want leadership of a movement that is being led and sustained by Muslims, for which Muslims are paying with their blood?

You want to be an ally? Sure! Please start by demanding that Dalit Muslims get reservation under the SC category – an instance of faith-based discrimination against Muslims by the Indian state.

Let’s try this one more time: 1) This fight is about Muslims, not about Islam. 2) Muslims are asserting their identity because the attack is based on their identity. 3) #La_ilaha_illALLAH is a cultural clarion call like ‘Hellalujah!’ or ‘Jesus!’ or ‘Hey Ram!’ or ‘Wahe Guru!’”

Now, she forgets that no one shouts “Hey Ram” or “Wahe Guru” in a protest against CAA on the ground that it is against secularism. She does not admit the clear contradiction. Second, Hey Ram and Wahe Guru are neither declaration of supremacy nor declaration of only basis of relationship.

These two icons of SCLs make a few things clear:

  1. They don’t care about your secularism. That is your fad, they are not fighting for it.
  2. They will fight their battel with Islamic supremacist slogans, if you don’t like it, leave them alone.
  3. Together with this they will also wish digging grave of Hindutva, Brahmanism, Manuvad, etc. Therefore, Islamic supremacy is fine, but Hindutva and Brahmanism are not.

This is not an argument in defence of Hindutva or Bharmanism, what ever they might mean; this is an argument against all religious assertions in a protest that is supposed to be to protect secularism. “Jai Shri Ram” and “Har Har Mahadev” will be as objectionable in such protests as “Allah hu Akbar” and “La ilaha illallah”.

And those who want to chant slogans against ills in the Hinduism should imagine chanting the parallel slogans replacing “Hindutva” etc. with “Islamism”, “Mullavad”, “Tushtikaran”, etc. All hell will break loose.

Let’s understand that tilted secularism is weak secularism, and will never be able to stand on its feet. Hindu-fundamentalism is increasing and needs to be defeated. But Islamic fundamentalism also needs to be defeated. SCLs acceptance of Islamic fundamentalism (in the form of Islamic Exceptionalism) will feed Hindu-fundamentalism, and both will grow.


10th January 2020


2 Responses to Reflection on some slogans-2

  1. Dolashree Mysoor says:

    Rohit ji,

    I have a question about Islamic tenets. I haven’t read the Quran and I hope you will be able to shed some light. If one does not believe in Islamic supremacy according to the way in which you have explained the prayers, can one be considered a Muslim? One of the basic prayers that you describe is steeped in Islamic supremacy as you have explained. If one does not believe in this form of supremacy, does it affect one’s ability to be a true believer of Islam?

    A follow up – if the answer is that it affects one’s ability to be a true believer, then doesnt this directly affect Muslim identity in the way Shehla Rashid & Co are talking about it? I ask this because if we are to provide equal cultural and religious rights to Muslims in India – what does this imply? Can we logically say – “dont do the thing that makes you as a Muslim, but you have the right to assert your Islamic identity and rights to culture”? The same question goes for people chanting “Jai Sri Ram”.


    • rdhankar says:

      As far as I understand, if one does not believe that “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the prophet of Allah” and that “Muhammad is the last and final prophet” one cannot be a Muslim in religious and technical sense. That is, one cannot be called a true believer. However, as we all know, one can be a “social” and/or “political” Muslim, one can belong culturally to the Muslims; which is true for all religions. One can be a social/political/cultural Hindu or Christian without believing in any or all of the dogmas.

      To me my cultural and religious rights can be seen in three categories. One, those which are strictly private and do not affect public space and policy. Example: what god I believe in and how I worship it, what is allowed to eat and what not, what cloths I wear and what not, and so on. One has full freedom in these and the state has no business making laws there, all other things being equal.

      Two, sphere of life where I interact with other people, be they from my religion or from any other religion. For example: marriage and inheritance. Here, if the other person with whom I interact submits to my religious and cultural dictums, we both may live as we want. But if the other person approached the legal system of the country for any kind of protection or redressal, then should be treated as “Indian citizen”, as an autonomous Individual, will have the same rights as anyone else, and can not be differentiated because of his/her religion.

      Three, in public policy and public space. This should be governed strictly by the secular laws, constitutional values, undiluted. For example, if I want Saraswathi vandana in the public schools funded by the state, it should be banned. If I insist on chanting “Har Har Mahadeva” in a protest to safeguard secularism I am being inconsistent. If I say “Shiva is the only God and all other gods are false” I am being Shiva-supremacist. And I will have to live with others chanting “Shiva is false god, and Vishnu/Allah/Yahova is the only true god”. I can not insist on public proclamation of supremacy of my God, but banning the same proclamation of other Gods. If I believe in Shiva and you believe in Allah, and if you want me to chant Allah’s supremacy with you, you should be prepared to chant Shiva’s supremacy with me.

      Problem with the monotheistic religions is that they would like to declare their monotheism publicly, but object to public denouncement of that monotheism. Christianity has learned to live with this, but Islam has not yet learnt it. To my mind this is the reason why political movements concerned with or started by Muslims quickly acquires resinous character. The current protests have broken all records of speed in bringing Islamic character to the fore.

      Any cultural and/or religious identity can be allowed to dominate public space only as much as it is consistent with equal rights to all individuals. Beyond this when one demands it one is demanding “exceptionalism” and that can not be allowed.

      So, all I am saying is, you can happily chant your “there is no God but Allah”, only that you are no more fighting for equal secular rights. You are declaring your supremacy and bigotry in public, and I am within my rights to denounce, disassociate and criticise, and say that you are against secularism.

      Indian constitution gives you freedom to preach your religion, you are preaching your religion; go ahead, no problem. Just that you are wrong when you talk in name of secularism. And just by publicly chanting “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the prophet of Allah” you are giving me right as well as occasion to publicly declare that “Allah is a false God, and Muhammad a bigoted fraud”. When you publicly chant “Jai Shri Ram” as a slogan of supremacy (not as a greeting, as it used to be) then you also give me the right to say “Ram is a fictitious character, raised to be a false God. There is no Vishnu and no avatars, all this is bunkum.” Take you pick. Either keep your cultural/religious identity to yourself, or give me right to attack it as viciously as I want to, within public decency of language, of course. And I am using the term “attack” consciously, it is more than just a critique. You can not flaunt your religious identity and expect me not to counter it. Sorry, if it sounds too harsh.


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