Reform, without ‘reformers’ is not possible.
Bharat Ratna Babasaheb Ambedkar, in his book, The Untouchables, wrote-
“Unfortunately, no Brahmin scholar has so far come forward to play the part of a Voltaire who had the intellectual honesty to rise against the doctrines of the Catholic Church, in which he was brought up.”
That Babasaheb went on to become the symbol of Dalit emancipation is well known to history. While there are many who contest the legend that has been made out of his life, everyone recognises the profound impact that he had in unifying a divided Indian society by giving up on the demand of separate electorates. It is important to be conscious of the fact that building symbols is a responsibility that is central to the very idea of nation-building. Sarojini Naidu had once remarked, that it took a great deal of money to keep the Mahatma poor. That was important; for our political heritage would have been poorer, without the story that Mahatma’s life is.
Mention should also be made of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar who pioneered the cause of women education through Bethune College; Raja Rammohan Roy, who challenged the orthodox practices of Hinduism; Swami Vivekananda who gave us a lesson in humanism and spirituality, and those countless known/unknown faces of social and religious reform, who together gave us a progressive Indian society. Eradicating social evils, and contesting old ideas became the Indian way of life, even if it came at the expense of sacrificing traditions, and practices. That Hinduism embraced change, and that the ordinary Hindu made it an important element of his Hindu Tan Man Jeevan is a fact that no right-thinking Indian can deny.
The story of Indian Muslim, however, is different. Nothing can illustrate it better than the fact that no Ambedkar made its way to the Supreme Court, when it recently started hearing a petition on triple talaq. Those self-proclaimed masters of Islam, who did reach the courtroom, under the cloak of Muslim Personal Law Board, were the ones who made every attempt to stop the apex Court from testing triple talaq, on the touchstone of Constitution.
Marriage is to Islam- a contract, they say. What their myopic vision fails to see is that the contract is one-sided; for it assigns the right to initiate, and conclude a triple talaq to only one party. This clearly repudiates its sanctity in a modern liberal democracy, that ours is. But instead of encouraging a debate within, and outside the community, the self-styled masters of Islam tried to uphold the status-quo. This, when the petitioners were themselves, from within the community.
The liberal love affair with conservative Islam has to end.
Of the many contradictions in the world, the love affair between liberals, and conservative Islam is the one that is most difficult to comprehend. That those (rightly) advocating restraint on polluting environment every Diwali, maintain a stoic silence each time goats are killed on Eid, shows the selective expression of their liberal thought. It is in this environment that Irrfan Khan remarked:
“We have forgotten the real meaning of rituals. We have made them a tamasha (scene). Qurbani means sacrificing something close to your heart and sharing with others. Today, you buy a goat from the market for sacrifice. It is something to think about, it is a matter of common sense, we all should ask ourselves how sacrificing another life earns us any goodwill. We have made a mockery of Muharram. It is meant for mourning and we take out processions. We, Muslims, have made a mockery of Muharram. It is meant for mourning and what we do? Take out (tajiya) processions. And why are Muslims silent against the issue of terrorism? People should also question the politicians over this issue.”  
He was, as expected, abused by the clerics. When Salman Khan gets away by proving that No One Killed the Blackbuck, everyone from the likes of Subhash Ghai to the young Varun Dhawan, line up in defence. But when Irrfan Khan speaks up, and pays the price by facing music, not one shows up. ‘Satyamev Jayate’ star Aamir Khan, as always, reserved his comments, by dismissing it as a personal matter.
Uncomfortable questions need to be asked.
Those of us who made Kangana Ranaut, a symbol of the new-age woman, were silent too. Perhaps because we did not wish to talk about matters that have the potential of making some among us, uncomfortable. With more than a dozen attacks within this month itself, in the name, and for Islam- the world is already uncomfortable enough.
If a certain Manusmriti can be burnt for having within it, ideas that stand for discrimination, there is no reason why ideas enforced through the book- that claims to carry within it all the truth there is, should at the very least, be open to debate. The Wahhabism that is troubling the world in the name of Islam needs to be contested. That certain terrorists are killing and maiming civilians in the name of Islam is enough reason to bring about a course correction, and free the religion of ideas that are being (mis) interpreted. Given that these ideas have a bearing on the future of human civilisation as a whole, members of other communities cannot be mute spectators, by dismissing the matter as an internal affair of the said religion.
We need to support, and encourage reformers.
Irrfan Khan appeared on The Newshour, last night. Arnab Goswami had on panel, a certain Dr. Tasleem Rahmani, who represents the Muslim Political Council of India- which calls itself a ‘pressure group’ and ‘think tank’ of Indian Muslims. He kept attacking Irrfan, who in turn, kept making his call for democratisation within Islam, loud and clear. Irrfan spoke in favour of his right to drink alcohol as a Muslim, among other things. His critical approach was constantly attacked by the self-styled ‘masters’ of Islam, present on the show. Whether this will trigger the kind of reaction on our social media feeds, that Kangana Ranaut did with her feminism, remains to be seen.
At the end of the programme, he promised to continue raising his voice, at a suitable platform. No one can be sure of his sincerity in pursuing the case of Islamic reform, at this stage. It could just be the ‘Madaari’ effect. But, even so, it deserves to be applauded. Islam needs new masters. It needs a Madaari who talks, and prepares the community, for emancipation. Irrfan, for now, has done all that a jamoora can. He is the first, but he should not be the last.
Madaari (2016) ,the movie- is a lot like A Wednesday (2008). Irrfan Khan plays a character who is known as Nirmal Kumar. Nirmal’s story is clearly inspired by that of the original Aam Aadmi (The Common Man), in A Wednesday. And by comparison, Madaari falls flat. However, it has this one dialogue, which deserves to be heard.
“जो कहूँगा नही समझोगे | 5-10-15 साल बाद… शायद… पर कहने का असर होगा गहरा |”
“What I will say, you will not understand. Maybe 5/10/15 years later, you will. The impact of what I have said will be deep.”