Hell broke loose after an Indian celebrity couple – actors Saif Ali Khan and his wife Kareena Kapoor – named their newborn son Taimur. #social media went berserk as to why the couple named their baby after the middle-age “mass murderer” Timur-e-Lang, or Tamarlane. The gravity the right-wing fanatics of today's #India attached to the naming of a celebrity couple’s newborn was incredible. The names of the celebrity parents and the child trended on Twitter for several hours with extremely serious reaction pouring in.
This episode spoke volumes about India as it is today – polarized and intolerant – completely different from what its founding fathers had envisioned, and this raises a serious question over its future as a composite and diverse state-nation..
Today's India feels Muslims were always evil
Those who started cursing 'Saifeena' (as the couple is fondly called) and their newborn over the name have their minds obsessed with a poisonous Hindu-Muslim divide. That’s precisely the reason why the average majoritarian Indian strongly believes that the Muslims were always evil and did enough damage to the country in the past through loot and plunder. They see all the past clashes between Hindu kings and Muslim emperors as essentially religious conflicts. Hence, while Rajput and Maratha kings like Maharana Pratap and Shivaji, respectively, are construed as national icons, even an anti-imperial Muslim leader like Tipu Sultan is demeaned as a butcher. This narrative is entirely based on the politics of identity-building for narrow gains.
But when the Twitter-using, tech-savvy Indians start cursing a celebrity couple over their son's name, it also exposes their lack of understanding of history and culture, and this is something the politicians exploit..
Past battles were not religious, but for supremacy
The enlightened minds of the country must understand that in the past, conflicts between kings were not a religious affair. Those conflicts were about the struggle for supremacy. And if the Hindus have seen more adversity than success, the reason is their ill-preparedness and lack of unity against tough invaders who were militarily far superior.
Timur, for instance, was a descendent of the great Mongol leader Ghengis Khan, who pledged to rebuild the massive empire of his predecessor (a trend which is being seen across the world today, including in the right-leaning India), and accomplished the mission despite his own physical challenges. It is true that he ran over regions and cities, and left trails of devastation, but it is also true that these invasions led to intermixing and refinement of cultures. For example, the Timurid invasion saw Herat city in Afghanistan growing as one of the most cultured cities in the world. Timur reached Delhi and gave little chance to the local ruler, something which has happened in India across the ages.
But can Timur be cursed for his victory? Thanks to the extremely tough geographical conditions of the regions to which they belonged, the invaders from central Asia were always among the toughest people in the world. In contrast, the rulers of the resource-rich subcontinent were mostly complacent.
Hollow attack on celebrity couple violates privacy
If India could not defend itself against invasions, it was not the invaders’ fault and doesn’t make Taimur a bad name, either. Maybe the country lacked a great wall like the Chinese built. But whatever it is, the episode doesn’t speak well about India, which is often eulogized as the country of tolerance and peace. If people can’t tolerate the name of an infant, how can they survive as a democracy?