The Skull Cap Debate: “Should he, Should’nt he”, “But Why Wouldn’t He”?

Saadia Azim

NarendraModi’s repeated denial to don the skull cap presented to him by his Muslim supporters who do not miss an opportunity to prove that ‘hedoes’nt hate them’ and ‘considers them the same”have constantly evoked much interest on the topic. His rebuttal has raked debates in political circles as to “why should the lead man be a fake secularist”, as many of his opponents and as well as his partymen both have been.


It is true the matter is so trivial. It just is about someone’s right to accept someone’s gift as small as a skull cap and wear it for a public show or just refuse it politely as many of us do in our everyday lives.It is also time to appreciate the straight forwardness he put upby rejecting a symbol of religious identity of a particular community. His honesty has to be understood that despite being subjected to severe criticism, losing brownie points and his acceptability within the community, he did not let down his principles.


Only that here we are talking about the Prime Ministerial aspirant of the biggest democracy of the world. And the man is accused of misgovernance or connivance that had led to the killing of more than a thousand people and many more gone missing particularly from the minority community of the state he still rules and showcases around.


It is not about ordinary people like you and me. Neither is it a once in a while instance. Rather it comes at a time when his party is fighting the fiercest battle of elections this season trying hard to put up the democratic, liberal face of the man.


Is it just that the man is too religious or he really harbors hatred towards the community donning skull caps. The question pops in my mind very frequently.Caps are mere symbols. Skull caps definitely are identity symbols of the “Indian Muslim community” even though except for certain religious occasion not many from the community wear the cap constantly.


I heard Narendra Bhai, as he is popularly called in his home state, in a Television interview where he confidently answered the particular query. His reply puzzled me all the more, “Main apne paramparaonka paalan karta hoon aur doosron ke paramparaon ka aadar karta hoon”.(I follow my traditions and respect others)


This statement left me wondering in itself as to who the man considers as ‘Doosron or Others”. He had been to several places all across the nation wearing different forms of head gear from the Sikh turban to Naga hornbill headgear, without any hesitancy. He hadbeen at a public rally in South Assam where he openly said, “It is our moral responsibility to accommodate the Hindueswho cross the border (Bangladesh). But those who live here and have taken away jobs of our boys will have to leave this country and go”. And so it does not make much impact when his partyman Giriraj Singh said that those who do not support NarendraModi will be sent back to Pakistan. That I thought was just playing with words when the meaning went on to be the same.


Given by the fact of his statement it proves beyond doubt that the aspiring democratic leader of India considers himself a part of one tradition that he will follow whereas wearing a skull cap was someone else’s tradition. Well, it needs to be added here that wearing skull cap can be the religious identity of the Indian Muslims but not necessarily the identity of majoritarian Muslims across the world.


His new brigade of Muslim intellectuals and Maulviswho these days justify the act brazenly brings to light some other major facts. MaulanaMadni of the JamaatUlemaHind who has very recently owed his allegiance to Modi, was seen defending the man’s right to reject the skull cap. He said ” just as I cannot don the tilak on my forehead so has he the right to reject the skull cap”.Maulana sahib has to understand that here we are not comparing religious leaders but political leaders who is aspiring to lead the country of 121 crore people that includes about 18 croreMuslims.


The issue is not that he rejected the skull cap. The issue is also not that he differentiated between caps. The issue is that he considers it not to be a part of the Indian culture and custom. India is India only because of its pluralistic society. Indian democracy is the largest because it has provided each citizen the equal rights. And only the one who does not discriminate between Indians have the right to be the leader of the country.

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