By Arun Pratap Singh with Afnan SM
MUSSOORIE, 21 Nov: The Plenary Session of second day of the ongoing Valley of Words Literature & Arts Festival began with a keynote address by Dr Arif Mohammad Khan, Governor of Kerala and an Islamic scholar and later his conversation with Dr Sanjeev Chopra, the curator of the literature festival. The conversation was titled, “Text and Context” and it revolved around a recent compilation of his articles published in form of a book titled ‘Text and Context: Quran and Contemporary Challenges’. Chopra introduced Khan, a former Union Minister as a statesman from Uttar Pradesh who was driven by passion for patriotism even in his political career. Chopra also reminded that Khan had been President of Aligarh Muslim University’s Student Union during his varsity days.
Speaking on the topic, Dr Khan felt that British had done tremendous damage by distorting Indian history and dividing it along the binaries of religion as Hindu and Muslim periods, whereas the fact was that Indian culture and actual history had a strong foundation of plurality. He added that the religious landscape of India could not be characterised by such binaries as it was in reality characterised in terms of multitudes, as India was home to many religions. He felt that distortion of History along the binaries of Hindu and Muslim periods of history was a deliberate conspiracy of the British which was part of its strategy to divide and rule, this country. India had been described as ‘a conglomeration of various religious and social communities.’ This was done to prevent the possibility of a unified uprising by the colonial subject against the British rule. Khan added that this policy heightened the feeling of disunity, separateness and community consciousness among the Indians. He further stressed that historically, ‘Hindu’ was actually a geographic term which referred to all Indians and a term that all Indians were entitled to call themselves. The wording of the Indian constitution echoed the ethos of the independence movement. Thus, the unit of the constitution was the citizen and the emphasis was rightly laid on the brotherhood, dignity, freedom and rights of the individual.
Khan further claimed that the message of the Indian civilization and heritage was that of cosmopolitanism.
He also dismissed the idea of Hindu domination and further claimed, “Acquiring power and subordinating others was never in our DNA”. India derived its strength from self-sacrifice for others. Dr Chopra recalled a recent statement of Khan wherein he had stated that Kerala was a deeply democratic state and that even communism had been democratised in Kerala. While agreeing to this assertion of himself, Khan conceded that his earlier days as Governor of Kerala were rather tense and there were some differences of opinion between the chairs of the Governor and the CM. He was referring to the Anti CAA stand of the state but clarified that he had chosen to make it clear that citizenship was a central subject as per the constitution and the state had no stake over it. He also emphasised that he was extremely optimistic in his belief that in the coming years, India would be in a position on the global map that it deserved.