SUNANDA K. DATTA-RAY
He stopped short of adding what is unfashionable to the point of being unmentionable — that today’s subcontinental politics cannot escape the legacy of undivided India’s Hindu-Muslim equation from which it sprang. Amen to the prayer of the optimistic Bangladeshi who wrote that Hindus and Muslims have lived peacefully “for over a thousand years and will have to live in harmony for thousands of years more”. But that expression of hope wouldn't have been necessary if his premise had not been flawed. Despite Dipu Moni’s handsome exoneration, Singh’s comment caused a flutter precisely because it hinted at what is nowadays called identity politics.
The apology that he was not being “ judgmental” is neither here nor there. If the prime minister is to be faulted, it’s that he wasn't sufficiently probing. Hindus there will aver that Bangladeshis don’t have to be “in the clutches, many times, of the ISI” to be “very anti-Indian”. Apart from instinctive communalism, they can also have reason enough of their own. Even Bangladeshis who “swear by the Jamaat-ul-Islami” (Singh meant the Jamaat-e-Islami) can nurse grievances that secular Awami Leaguers share because they concern water resources or transit rights. Not all complaints can be dismissed as anti-liberation communalism.
Published in The Telegraphs, Kolkata, India, July 9 , 2011
Sunanda K. Datta-Ray is a journalist and could be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org