The unsung hero of reform movement
It was small hours of the morning. A boy of 16-17 was poring over his books, engrossed in his studies. There is a knock on the door. A man in a simple Muslim garb enters, tells the boy that Hazur-e-aali wants to see him. They exchange a few words, and the boy is driven to a grand house where Hazur-e-aali is sitting on a chair in a large room. The boy is directed to sit on the floor before him. Hazur-e-aali commands him to look him in his eyes and begins to talk about the glorious history of the Dais, how they never die; about the infallible Imams and their resplendent past; about Fatimid history and its vicissitudes; about Islam and its Ismaili inheritance and about the Dawoodi Bohras who opposed their Dai and how they were ruined (halak thayaa).
The boy tries to ask questions in between, but is ignored. The monologue, peppered with Quranic references, continues for an hour, two hours. Then suddenly it stops, the boy is asked to leave. He is driven back to his hostel. The next day the driver is back at the same time, and also the next day. This continues for 20 odd days. Each time Hazur-e-aali would command the boy to look him in his eyes and unleash a monologue, and the boy would endure it with quiet impatience.
It turns out that Hazur-e-aali was none other than the late Sayedna Taher Saffuddin (STS), the 51st Dai, the boy, Saiffudin Insaf, the hostel, Jafar Suleman Hostel, and the grand house, Saifee Mahal. This is an as unlikely scenario as ever. Why would a Dai, who claimed to be Ilah-ul-ard (God on earth), bother to waste his time with an uncouth village lad? â€œThe whole episode still puzzles me. But, you see Sayedna Taher Saifuddin was a shrewd man, he wanted to catch me young. Most probably he got to know about my rebellious attitude through his agent and devotee Dr. Qasim Diwan,â€ recalls Saifuddin Insaf.
So Sayedna Saheb was trying to exorcise the rebel in you? â€œYes, thatâ€™s what I think. He kept asking me to look him in his eyes, as if trying to hypnotise me,â€ Insaf says. Â If that was the plan, it could not have flopped more disastrously. For the Sayedna Saheb, who projected himself as infallible and knower of hidden truths, failed to fathom that this gangly youth whom he was desperately trying to win over would one day grow up to be a full-blown rebel. Ironically it was all-knowing Sayedna who unwittingly set him on that path.
When Insaf heard about STSâ€™s claim of being Ilah-ul-ard (God on earth), he wrote:
Khuda hone ka dawaa bhi kiya hai
Aur uspar yeh qayamqt kar raha hai
Ebadat meiN Â laga hai rehbare-qom
Khuda kis ki Ebadat kar raha hai?
Those nocturnal rendezvous gave Insaf a glimpse into the goings-on inside that charmed palace on Malabar Hill. He became a familiar face around Saifee Mahal and soon developed a close relationship with the then Mukasir Saheb, Saleh Bhaisaheb Safiuddin and had easy access to Sayedna Taher Saifuddin himself. â€œThis lasted for about six years. I observed the activities at Badri Mahal and Saifee Mahal from close quarters,â€ Insaf says. â€œOnce,â€ he recalls, â€œI saw some Bhaisahebs busy in a meeting late into the night, and overheard them discussing how they were going to fleece a certain rich Bohra the next day, and as they talked they laughed. This is the attitude of the so-called royal family, they would make fun of gullible Bohras in private but put on a great show of piety in public.â€
This was not the first time Insaf had seen the seamy side of men in white. Years before as a kid he had gone from Dewas to Ujjain with his maternal grandfather, Haji Qamruddin, to a function in honour of STS who was visiting the town. An elderly man in the same Ujjaini attire as that of Haji Qamruddin, walked up to the STSâ€™s throne with folded hands and started talking to him,Â but suddenly he was kicked and immediately a swarm of handlers swooped on him and beat the man up. He was thrown out of masjid drenched in blood.
â€œI was horrified and so was my grandfather,â€ says Insaf. Much later he came to know that the elderly man was Nazar Ali Seth, the owner of a mill in Ujjain. He was a benefactor of Bohras and had employed 600 of them in his mill. â€œHe was a devotee of Sayedna Saheb and had spent a fortune to glorify him. But now the mill had fallen on hard times, and on that particular occasion Nazar Ali Seth had gone to Sayenda Saheb to request him to help save the mill from liquidation and 600 Bohra families from financial ruin. But instead he got the boot,â€ Insaf recalls.
Insaf is full of such anecdotes. He remembers everything - names, dates, people, events â€“ the details tumble out in a torrent. He has a gift of instant recall and a prodigious memory. Ask him a question and you get series of eyewitness accounts for an answer. And he delivers them with a resignation and wisdom of a man who has seen the emperor without clothes and has the courage to tell it to the world.
Born in Khandwa in April of 1941 to poor Dawoodi Bohra parents (Maryam and Nazar Ali), Insafâ€™s childhood was full of hardships. His mother died when he was seven, and fatherâ€™s small shop didnâ€™t do too well. â€œThere were days when we went to bed with just chappati and water,â€ Insaf says. Even as a child he was socially very active and outspoken. When a number of Bohras from Ujjain came down begging, distressed by what he saw, he wrote his first poem in Urdu called Â â€œChingaariâ€ warning about things to come.
Bheek ke khaatir kabhi nikle na the iss se qabal
Aaj yeh Chingaari hai Shola bhi bun jayegee kal
He read it out loud at a majlis in the local masjid, and it was all fine as far as it went highlighting poverty among Bohras, but he says, â€œI foolishly ended it with something likeâ€¦â€™Hoshiyaar ae quom ke dai-o-rehbar hoshiyarâ€™. The moment I finished, all hell broke loose. I was pushed and thrown out of the masjid. I was declared a â€œmuddaeeâ€ (apostate). In a huff, I went to Meera Bai Garden and by way of rationalising my stand, wrote a sarcastic poem which ended with these lines,â€ he says.
Aap ke sar ki qasam Dawat ka dushman meiN nahee
Mahal per apne kabhi Dawat tau dekar dekhiyeÂ
To his young mind it did not occur that Mullaji (as the Dai was then popularly known) was beyond reproach. It was early 50s, by then STS had established himself as an absolute potentate of the Bohra universe. All the jamats even in the remotest towns had come under the strict control of the Kothar, and had received due instructions on the limits of their freedoms. The old days when a Dai could be dragged to court by an ordinary Aamil were gone. STSâ€™ father, the 49th Dai Sayedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, had suffered that humiliation and the son, on assuming â€œgaddiâ€, had resolved that he would never ever allow such a thing to happen again. He was determined to take control of the community and its coffers. He wanted to build a financial empire and thatâ€™s what he did. A pauper became a sultan, literally,â€ Insaf says.
By the time Insaf came to recite his offending poem the Bohras were well on their way to becoming meek and docile. Mullaji had established himself as a demigod and the Bohra psyche had been shrewdly moulded to treat him as such. Any sign of rebellion was to be immediately suppressed.
Mera khooN qabile-tazeem hai kal ko shayad
Ek qatra bhi bagaawat naa paya jaye
Insaf was not much of a rebel then, but whatever little he had seen was enough to raise doubts in his mind. And the first thrashing he got only deepened his doubts.
ZakhmoN ne aur aaNkhe ataa ki mujhe
Dard ne dee parakh mujhko such/jhoot ki
â€œAround that time the Burhanpur Hakimiya School case was in its last stage and hearings were going on in Khandwaâ€™s district court. Each day after the hearings, one teacher of mine Zameer Sir (who was a friend of Master Hasan Ali Jafarji Kachera, principal of Hakimiya Coronation School) would relate to me the dayâ€™s proceedings, Iâ€™ll write it down in my own simple style, then heâ€™ll cut stencils and get it cyclostyled on a machine kept at the Town Hall and when everyone had gone to sleep Iâ€™d slip the pamphlets into the shops. The next day the â€˜market would be hot with discussionâ€™,â€ Insaf says. â€œAlthough I did not understand the meaning of all these activities but I enjoyed doing that, remaining unknown,â€ he adds.
Beating and clandestine activism. Such was his auspicious initiation into the reform movement. But at that time the words â€œreformâ€ or â€œmovementâ€ were nowhere on the horizon. The adolescent Insaf, poor and motherless, was not sure what he was going to do with his life. â€œMy father was hinting to me that I better start working and earn some money. But I was keen on finishing school and college. Besides, this "mudaee" thing had made life tough for me. In the outskirts of Khandwa town on Kachheri Road there was a rest house â€œNeel-Kantheshwar Saraiâ€ owned by one Mr. Anil Kumar Jain. On my request he allowed me to stay there for free for a few days.
â€œAfter much thought, I decided to run away from Khandwa. A kind friend, Yunus Bakerywala bought me a ticket to Bombay, and with Rs 5 in my pocket I arrived at V.T. Station.
Ghar se, yeh keh kar chala tha, aur zamana ho gaya
Ghar ka darwaza khula rakhna, abhi aataa hooN meiN
â€œIt was the year 1956, I think. I was from a small town, and on seeing the big crowded city with so many people around, I broke down,â€ Insaf recalls. Helped by a fisherwoman he found his way to JJ Hospital where his elder brother Haider Ali was studying medicine. â€œMy brother was shocked to see me but was very supportive. He arranged for my stay and got me admitted into Saboo Siddik Technical School, Byculla. The rest is history, as they say.â€
Naturally inclined to public service, Insaf soon got involved in community work. â€œFor some time I lived in Bhendi Bazaar with one Master Qurban Husain Badshah from Ujjain and then at Jafar Suleman Hostel, Wadi Bunder. While staying in Bhindi Bazar, I started helping out people with school admissions, taking them to the doctor etc. Thatâ€™s how I got to know Dr. Qasim Diwanji. Once I had an argument with him about Dais and their powers. The good doctor was offended by my attitude and perhaps thatâ€™s how I came to be lectured by Sayedna Saheb,â€ Insaf explains.
He says he tried to use his good offices with the Kohtar to help poor Bohras but it never amounted to much. â€œWhenever I went with a request, the Bhaisahebs would say â€˜go to such and such person in the mohalla, he would take care of itâ€™. They never helped anyone directly. During that time my brother, Haider Ali after passing his BMBS degree had got an admission in the MRCP program in London, and when STS came to know about it he promised to give him a scholarship. One Parsee Trust, Sethna Educational Trust Bombay had sanctioned Rs 20,000 so he reached London and started his MRCP program. He needed money for his course, the meter was running. But the money promised by STS never materialized. He therefore asked me to follow it up with STS.
â€œI used to bunk school and go to Badri Mahal to realise that money. Nobody would listen to me. Once I was waiting in the hallway, and Yousuf Najmuddin passed by, and tired and lost in thought as I was, I did not stand up to show respect. YN was furious. Next thing I know was I was beaten and pushed down the stairs. I came out of the building crying. An old Bohra gentleman Miyasaheb Ibrahimji saw me and asked â€˜what happened, why you are crying?â€™ I explained the situation, and he smiled and said, â€˜You will not get anything from here. Ask your brother to arrange the fund from some other place, Arre beta aa Lena Bank chhe, Dena Bank nathiâ€™â€™,â€ Insaf recalls with a chuckle.
It seems he got into the habit of being beaten and kicked out of Badri Mahal. The second time it happened, the kicking was much severe and the circumstance more menacing. It was 1962, the Dawoodi Borha Madhyast Pragati Mandal had held its first conference in Bombay at Jahangir Hall. At the inaugural session Insaf recited a poem in praise of the progressive cause. The next day he was picked up from outside his room he was renting at Paidhooni and taken to Badri Mahal and produced before Mohammed Burhanuddin, the then Mazun Saheb. â€œSayedna Taher Saifuddin was visiting Pakistan that time,â€ Insaf says. â€œThere were people all around, and I thought Iâ€™d be lucky to get out of this place alive. They asked me all sorts of questions, and I replied frankly, and was soundly kicked each time I opened my mouth. As this drama was going on, Mohammed Burhanuddin was watching silently.
â€œI was shocked to see his silence. Angry and frustrated, I blurted out, â€˜Like every Bohra I also used to believe that the problem with the Dawat was the bad functionaries and corrupt Aamils, I always thought the Dai and his family were innocent, but now I know that everyone from top to bottom is on this racketâ€™.â€ This unwarranted piece of revelation was greeted with a storm of kicks. He was thrown out, and he just managed to escape the angry crowd. That proved to be the last straw that broke Insafâ€™s faith in the present-day Dawat.
On another occasion, in Galiyakot in 1972, Sayenda Mohammed Burhanuddin once again remained silent as he witnessed women and children from Udaipur being beaten and molested. That silence also broke the faith of Udaipuris, especially the women, who were his ardent followers, and cost him a full-on rebellion the consequences of which he is still grappling with.
Soon after the Badri Mahal incident, the sins of the son were visited upon the father. In Khandwa, Insafâ€™s old father was dragged from his home to the masjid and throughout the crowd gathered on both sides spat on him. He was told about his sonâ€™s activities against the Dawat and was asked to declare him â€œjamat kharijâ€. He said, â€œMy son supports me by sending me money every month. If the jamat can arrange for that money, Iâ€™ll disown him.â€
â€œThere was no way jamat was going to give him a dhella (penny),â€ Insaf says. â€œMy father was shaken and disgraced by such horrible treatment at the hands of his community,â€ There after his family remained a pariah and their life increasingly became difficult. A fate shared by thousands of families who have had the misfortune to fall out of favour with the clergy.
â€œOne day on my way back from school, it was pouring heavily, I saw a Bohra crowd gathered at what used to be called the Baig Mohammed Park near Mandvi Post Office. The crowd was gathered around a man dressed in a suit and tie. They had caught him tightly. The crowd was demanded, â€˜Say Sayenda Taher Saifuddin Zindabadâ€™. The man said, â€˜Zindabad.â€™ The crowd demanded, â€˜Say Pragati Mandal murdabadâ€™, but the man refused. Each time he refused he was kicked and pushed,â€ Insaf says.
â€œI asked one Raja Seth, a shopkeeper and father of my school mate in nearby Nakhuda Mohalla, what is going on. Raja Seth said, â€˜this man is Noman Contractor, leader of Pragati Mandal. These pragatiÂ mandaliya are such a nuisance, holding meetings and creating trouble. So they are teaching him a lessonâ€™.â€
This was Insafâ€™s introduction to Noman Contractor and Pragati Mandal, as the reform movement was then called. Instantly, Contactor became Insafâ€™s hero.
Lahoo jo muddatoN pewaste-khak hota raha
Wahi jab aaNkh meiN utra tau ek azaab Utra
Hazaaro khawab yooNhi khako-khooN meiN milte rahe
Phir ek roz ke medaaN meiN marde-khawab utra
Â (marde-khawab = visionary)
â€œHere was a man who was saying â€˜Zindabadâ€™ to the Sayedna but was refusing to denounce his own organisation. That takes guts,â€ Insaf says. Contractor, on his part, took a shine to this lad who showed exceptional literary talent. Insaf soon found himself in the forefront of the movement, writing poems and articles and speaking at progressive forums. Right from the day when he at the age of 11 had thrown a shoe at an Aamil in Khandwaâ€™s masjid, who misquoted Muala Ali, Inasfâ€™s life has been following a trajectory that would ultimately lead him into the reformist fold. Â â€œFrom an early age two quotes made a deep impression on me. One, â€˜Dare to be differentâ€™, two, â€˜Extraordinary people are ordinary people with extraordinary courage and commitmentâ€™,â€ Insaf says.
He stresses the words ordinary people. One quick look across the span his life and you know that he has lived up to the ideals he believed in. He has always stood out from the crowd, no threats; no beatings would silence him into submission. His courage to speak truth to power and his commitment to the reformist cause have been extraordinary on all counts. When asked what makes him so fearless and outspoken, he jokes, â€œYou know, once I asked my father about our ancestry and he said I am Nazar Ali, my father Tayeb Ali, his father Hayaat Khanji and his father was Fateh Chandji, perhaps the first convert. A Rajput. So maybe, itâ€™s the Rajput blood still running in me.â€
He makes light of his sacrifices and sufferings. Talking to him, you would never guess that this man of gentle speech and easy manners hides an inner source of endless courage. He is modest and self-effacing to a fault. A raconteur par-excellence, there is always a joke or a shair on the tip of his tongue, a playful twinkle in his eyes, and a sense of humour that can disarm his worst detractors.
Yeh rehnumaa hai ajab maskhara, khuda rakkhe!
Baraat leke jo aayaa hai meri mayyat meiN
â€œBeatings there have been many, but Iâ€™ve also have had a fair share of threats, abuse, prank calls,â€ he says. â€œThese Kothari goondas would call and say â€˜weâ€™re coming to beat you upâ€™, to that I would answer, â€˜how many of you are coming?â€™, and they would be taken aback and say â€˜shut up, why do you askâ€™, and I would say â€˜because I want to arrange jaman for you, youâ€™re a Bohra bhai, how is it possible that you come to my house and I donâ€™t offer you jaman. First eat then beat â€™. That would enrage them, they would abuse me more and bang the phone down,â€ Insaf recalls with much amusement.
Threats, abuse, beatings, violent attacks, frame-ups, prank calls and such have always been a staple of dissidents. Every Bohra who has rubbed the priesthood the wrong side has had to go through this rite of passage. It would seem if you have not been soundly thrashed you have not earned your spurs as a true reformist. Â Insaf has earned quite a few and each one is seared into his memory.
Unka chalna phirna dobhar
Ghabrae ghabrae haiN
Unki peeth pe ghaw laga hai
Mere Zakhm haiN seene par
Mujh ko naaz hai in ZakhmoN par
Soch samajh kar khae haiN
But there is no trace of bitterness when he talks about it. â€œYou see, this black money and religion is a deadly combination. When you challenge that, there is bound to be a reaction, sometimes violent and ugly. Religious reform is not easy, there are powerful vested interests. And the Kothar did not become powerful overnight. It has been a slow, deliberate process. Sayedna Taher Saifuddin was determined to build a financial empire and bring all the communityâ€™s resources and properties under a central control.
â€œAnd there is a reason for that. Sayedna Saheb as a child had witnessed a miserable life of poverty and debt of his father. He succeeded on Dawatâ€™s â€œgaddiâ€ in 1915 and was determined to become powerful by force or fraud. He was intelligent and knowledgeable. The circumstances made him cunning, over-ambitious, manipulator, fearless, vindictive and ruthless. He knew that Dawoodi Bohras in general are timid and submissive. So the first thing he did was to alter the text of the Misaq to suit his interests as a Dai. Just in two years in 1917 without any hesitation he admitted in the Bombay High Court that he had altered the text of the Misaq and had introduced the word Dai along with Imam.
â€œUnder the pretext of â€˜vicegerent of Imam and accountable to Imam onlyâ€™, he soon assumed superior powers (Shamshud-Duatul-MutlaqueenÂ ) and made the entire community his slave. He even insisted that all his followers should submit to him as â€˜Slave of Syednaâ€™ (Abde-Syedna) and do nothing even in secular, social and personal matters, without his Raza. Thus he exercised his absolute control over the Bohras, Amils and the local Jamats reducing them to helpless slaves. He even went to the extent of terrorising innocent Bohras with violence, while maintaining his pious and holy image and calling his era the Golden Era of Dawat-e-Hadiya. This is what I wrote when he died in 1965.â€
Woh mar gaya ke tha jis par gumaaN zamane ko
Ke yeh shareek hai qudrat ki karsazi mein
Ke yeh khuda hi tau hai pekare-majazi mein
Hayato-maut ka kul ikhtiyar rakhta hai
Yeh zindagi bhi murdoN ko bakhsh sakta hai
Woh mar gaya!Â
Fida bhai ki bimari na pooch
Tarapte unko dekha aaNkh bhar Aaee
Shifa karwane Saifee Mahal poNhche
Tau Mola hi ke marne ki khabar Aee.
â€œSayedna Mohammed Burhanuddin only completed what his father had started, transforming the community into a cult. Taher Saifuddin was a mastermind, and Yusuf Najmuddin was a shrewd strategist. But at that time Burhannudin did not have much of a reputation in the corridors of power. People used to make fun of him. In Saifee Mahal he was called â€œMumdoâ€. But I guess he proved them wrong,â€ Insaf says.
â€œYou know at one time there used to be more than 270 different trusts and Bachat Yojnas that Bohras managed to help the poor and needy in the community. Sayedna Taher Saifuddin dissolved all those and brought them under one new trust, His Holiness Memorial Trust. The famous Faiz-e-Husaini Trust in Karachi which was doing great philanthropic work for the community was acquired by him illegally and by fraud. Sir Adamjee Peerbhoyâ€™s properties met the same fate. What is Saifee Mahal today used to be the Peerbhoy House, what is Saifee Hospital today used to be Sir Adamji Peerbhoy Sanatorium, what is Jamali Hospital today used to be Kapadganj-ni-Wadi, what is Rozat Tahera today used to be Qasre-Husaini Jamatkhana,â€ Insaf says.
The tales of fraud, deception, intimidation and violence sound as if he might be talking about the mafia. â€œBut these people are only worse,â€ Insaf says. â€œWhen I used to walk to Saboo Siddik School, on the way I often used to see the young Dawood Ibrahim, Abu Salem and their gang harassing and demanding â€œhaftaâ€ from people, and how they would run away when the police sirens sounded. I started comparing the activities of these gangsters with the activities of Bhaisahebs in Badri and Saifee Mahal. I found the â€˜Bhaisaheb-giriâ€™ more shameful and more dangerous than â€˜Bhai-giriâ€™ as â€˜Bhaisaheb-giriâ€™ was carried on in the name of religion and Ahle-Bayt,â€ Insaf says.
Over the years Insaf has seen how our community has been systematically dumbed down. During the same time, he has also been a witness to and active participant in the changing fortunes of the reform movement. From the Hakimiya school case onwards he has been a committed worker, always preferring to remain in the background, neither seeking publicity nor power. Of quick wit and sharp intelligence, Insaf doesn't suffer fools gladly. In reformist circles, too, he is known for his fierce integrity and for speaking his mind.
He has worked with many stalwarts like Contractor, Sanchawala, Engineer. â€œAfter finishing my engineering I joined Godrej. Noman Bhai was a big industrialist and offered me a job and said he would pay me a higher salary. But I declined. He was the leader of the movement, being his employee would compromise my freedom. I did not want to do that. I said that to him and he understood,â€ he says.
â€œNoman bhai was an excellent leader, he kept everyone together despite our little differences. He would appreciate everyone. He was instrumental in bringing Bohras from all over the world on one platform, organizing conferences, inquiry commissions, lawsuits against the Sayedna. The Nathwani Commission would not have been possible without him. Unfortunately, he died at an early age.â€
Insaf has seen the reform movement, which was sporadic and loose, coalesce into a cetralised, focused body. â€œWhat was Madhyast Pragati Mandal became The Central Board of Dawoodi Bohra Community (CBDBC), The Bohra Bulletin became The Bohra Chronicle. The idea was to consolidate the movement. It happened under the leadership of Asghar Ali Engineer. Asghar Ali and I were childhood friends. With his book The Bohras and his articles he brought our struggle into national focus,â€ Insaf says.
Insaf was elected the General Secretary of CBDBC in the last World Conference in 2011, and has been the editor of The Bohra Chronicle for more than 15 years. Today he is retired from work but continues to bring out the Chronicle without fail. He lives with his wife in a Mumbai suburb. His three children, two sons and a daughter, are professionals and live abroad. â€œIâ€™m glad that we could educate them well. They often tell me why donâ€™t you leave all these activities and concentrate on your writing and painting. But how can I leave it, Iâ€™m committed to this cause,â€ he says simply.
Insafâ€™s other passion is of course writing. He writes fluently and beautifully in Urdu.
Jab bhi mooNh kholooN, mere mooNh se khusboo mehke
Mere lehje se mere alfaz se Urdu mehke
He has written poems, plays, short stories. And he has worn many hats, as a writer, activist, journalist and painter. Many of his poems are published in Urdu magazines, and his plays have been staged. â€œAt one time I was also very active in the theatre scene here. Thatâ€™s how I came to know A.K. Hangal, Abid Rizvi, M.S. Sathyu and others. Iâ€™ve met K. A. Asif who made Mughl-e-Azam. The film took 18 years to make. At one time he was down and out, he did not have money even to buy tea. But then Mughl-e-Azam became a huge success. I told him I did not like the film because the story had historical errors, and he agreed. Then I wrote an alternative Mughl-e-Azam, and I am still looking for a director to make it,â€ he laughs self-mockingly.
In recent years he has been an active contributor to the discussion Forum on this website. But of late he and his wife have not been keeping too well, they both had to undergo surgeries, and all of it has taken a toll on his time and finances. â€œWhen I was in the hospital, a few Bohra men came to visit me and gave me a tidy sum of money. They said â€˜this is all we could manage to collect, sorry we couldnâ€™t do moreâ€™, their sincerity and love brought tears to my eyes. They were from the Bohri mohlla, and all â€˜salam walaâ€™, they know and remember me because of my social work,â€ Insaf says.
Now age is catching up. He has recently moved to a smaller apartment. The wife is bed-ridden, and needs constant care and he is the only one around to take care of her. But Insaf remains optimistic, and in good humour as his nature. When asked about the future of the reform movement, he says, â€œOnce we were in Calcutta meeting with the then Chief Minister Joyti Basu. He was a supporter of our movement. He said â€˜your godman, your Sayedna is well organised but you should not get disheartened. Keep writing, keep protesting, it all goes into government records. Today politicians in Delhi are bought over but when people like us come in power the tables will turnâ€™.â€ Â
â€œEven then, as long as there is injustice people will fight against it, it is human nature. Martin Luther also challenged the Catholic Church. He did not totally succeed but his struggles forced the Church to change some of its ways. Besides, we have to understand, nothing is forever. With time peopleâ€™s thinking will change, things will change. Even the mightiest have fallen,â€ he says.
Kiya rahega yeh seemo-zar ka gulam
Jabke Firown sa khuda na raha
â€œWhen I became editor of The Bohra Chronicle, I decided that the paper will not keep harping on the misery of Bohras. We had done enough of crying. It was time to highlight the positive and the proactive. There were so many acts of resistance which never came to light â€“ Aamils being beaten up, people refusing to accept unreasonable demands, complaining to police and human right commissions and so many such things. We started publishing such stories of individual courage and hope. It showed that Bohras were not taking it lying down. Bohras rise up in protest every now and then. But they are soon silenced. But at least they protest, that gives me hope,â€ he adds.
Jis taraf dekha na tha ab tak udhar dekha tau hai!
It is this hope that sustains him. He maybe old but the fire for insaf still rages in his belly. His word of advice, in his own words:
Yeh gulami khoon ki har boond meiN bas jayegi
BuzdiliÂ seÂ bebaseeÂ keÂ silsileÂ badhÂ jayenge
Jo bhi hoN haalaat hargiz chup na rehna dostoN
Chup rahe tau ZaalimoN ke hosle badh jayenge
Aap ke sar ki qasam waqt voh ladeNge hum
Aap ko hum se Raza leke nikalna hoga!
Aap hamari khamoshi ko apni jeet naa samjheN
Barf ki ChataneN bhi dam nikal deti haiN
Aap ki pagdee salaamat dekhiye kab tak rahe
Sar phiree hawaaiN tau sar uchhal deti haiN
Badalte Waqt ka Dhara
Mujhe yeh haq tau nahi ke nazar utha ke milooN
Mujhe yeh haq bhi nahi ke koee sawal karooN
Mujhe yeh haq tau nahi hai magar mere Aqa!
Badee hi tez hawaeN haiN dore-hazir ki
Salamat Aaj nahi ghar ki ek bhi khidki
Tumhara hukm sar aaNkho pe aaj bhi magar
Na aaj aaNkhe hamari na sar hamara hai
Badalte waqt ke dhare meiN beh raha hai sub
Badalte waqt ka dhara ajeeb dhara hai