Sunday, June 05, 2005

Does Dev support the two nation theory?

I watched Dev some time ago, and quite enjoyed it. The movie shows how police and politicians collude to promote riots. We know that such things happen — Gujerat 2002 and Delhi 1984 are ugly facts. And it’s boring to argue about which of the communities are at fault.

The movie also shows various streams of the Muslim community of India. There is the Gandhian father of the protagonist, representing the pan-Indian part of the community. There is the opportunist politician who shamelessly foments irredentism. And caught by the betrayal of the former by the latter, and faced with the Hindutva capture of the state, there is the new generation, for whom looms violence and terrorism. That the protagonist eventually rejects violence and accepts pan-Indianism suggests that the movie supports the good old fashioned India-is-home-to-us-all idea.

Or so you would think, except for one thing that continues to puzzle me. I want to draw attention to the use of the word qaum. Indian Muslims in the movie are collectively called a qaum — by all Muslim characters as well as the Hindutva politicians and police of both politicised and non-politicised nature.

So everyone in the movie agrees that the Indian Muslims are a qaum. Now, this Urdu dictionary translates qaum as:

qaum: A n.m. nation/people

This sounds right. After all, isn’t Jinnah Baba-e-Qaum (Father of the Nation)? And didn’t Maolana Maodudi say that qaum (nation) was watan (homeland), not mazhab (religion)?

Now, if Indian Muslims are a distinct qaum, then surely it follows that they should have their national homeland, remember the two-nation theory? And since there is (at least one) national homeland for Desi Muslims, remember that whole partition business, surely the Hindutva politicians are right in saying that remaining Muslims in India should emigrate.

The movie seems to argue against this view of the world, supporting the Nehruvian pan-Indian nationalism. Why then use qaum, when something like millat (community) would do? Or despite its apparent message, does the movie actually support Muslim separatism (and its Hindutva reaction)?