I want to discuss the ‘filmi’ rendering of the recent Amarnath tragedy—where Hindu pilgrims were murdered by a group of Jihadi terrorists in a state where Islamism has taken deep roots. This rendering is put forth by the various TV channels, by the English language media, and others.
In this rendering, one thing that occupies centerstage, almost to the point of displacing the tragedy, is the Muslim hero that emerges. In this case, it was Salim Shaikh. Within hours of the news of the Jihadi murders, Salim Shaikh became the biggest highlight of the story.
Let us first get the record straight. Salim Shaikh was the driver of the bus, owned by Gujarat based “Om Travels”. He had been tasked by Om Travels with driving buses to Amarnath, having done this 6 times in the past also. His co-driver was a certain Harsh. When the firing started, Shaikh was not hurt very much, but Harsh was shot by a bullet in his shoulder. It was Harsh that asked Salim to “keep driving and not stop.” Salim Shaikh, in one of his first interviews to Republic TV (the day after the attack) said that he continued to drive “to save his life, and also that of the passengers.” These are the facts. There are many aspects to these facts, which I shall state below.
- The travel agency—Om Travels—hired a Muslim to drive their Amarnath Yatra route. This is to the great credit of their own trust of Muslims. In a state—Gujarat—which is often called “Hindutva’s hatred lab” etc. by the liberal gang.
- The passengers of the bus were completely fine with being driven by a Muslim to a Hindu pilgrimage. Note that Hindus are not even allowed to Muslim sites such as Mecca/Medina etc. This openness is to the great credit of Hindu Dharma’s tolerance and acceptance/respect of all faiths.
- The passengers did not once suspect that a Muslim driver might, somehow, collude with local Islamists in Kashmir. This is not a farfetched fear—yesterday Aijaz Ahmed (PDP MLA)’s driver has been picked up by police for questioning related to the attacks. It would not be unreasonable if they had objected, given the circumstances in the Kashmir valley. To their credit, they did not.
- The passengers never vented anger against any community, and instead glorified their driver. They could be excused for venting anger (justified) against Islamists, but I have yet to see any such statement from them. This is to their great credit.
5. The co-driver—a Hindu called Harsh—not only suffered far greater injuries, but also seems to have been the one who had the presence of mind to urge Salim not to stop. One would think he is an equal hero to Salim.
- One of the passengers closed the door shut when one of the Jihadis tried to enter the bus. Btw, this also suggests the bus was momentarily halted, and that Harsh’s statement that he urged Salim not to stop becomes all the more important. Back to this passenger — I would say he, more than anyone else, directly saved lives. If any of the Jihadis had entered the bus, we would have had a hostage situation (perhaps the intent of the Jihadi-op) or far more dead than 7. This unnamed passenger is another hero of this situation.
So here is another fact. NONE of the above aspects of this situation were highlighted by our media. Why? Because they spoil the filmi “secularism wins” narrative that is so much a staple of our national discourse? Indeed, all 5 points actually can add to a “secularism wins” narrative as well. So why were they ignored—because in the peculiar “secularism wins” narrative of Bharat, it is the Muslim who has to be the hero, not the Hindu. In all these points, it would be a Hindu who would be the hero.
I end with a question. Say the driver was a certain Shyam Sukh, not Salim Shaikh; and the co-driver was a Hamid, not Harsh, would the driver still have been the Hero in our media? If the passenger who shut the door as the Jihadi tried to enter had been a Muslim, would he have received so little attention? If the answer to both these questions is No, then what we are doing is massaging stories as per our secular obsession. I think that is the wrong thing to do. We should tell the story like it is—there is enough heroism there for all the true heroes—Salim Shaikh, Harsh, and the person who closed the door.
This article is dedicated to three Bharatiya citizens—Salim Shaikh, Harsh, and the passenger who closed that door. I do not care about what religion they profess—they are all equal heroes. I will not give anyone extra points over anyone else, because that would be discrimination based upon religion. Hindu Dharma does not allow that, and I am a devout Hindu. May all three be given the grace of the almighty.
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