Mr. Ashok Singhal, international president of the militant Hindu organization VHP, recently criticized the entire Hindu community and termed it cowardly because the passengers and crew aboard the hijacked Indian Airlines plane could not overpower the hijackers. Addressing a press conference he stated, "The hijacking has proved that Hindus are cowards. Are you going to let Muslims get away with humiliating us in this manner?" Mr. Singhal continued saying, "It's not the government that had to demonstrate courage. If the pilot had the courage, he could have just refused to fly the plane."
The pilot of the ill fated flight, Captain Devi Sharan, was naturally upset: "If Mr. Singhal is so brave, why did he not come to Kandahar and fight the hijackers himself?" The Captain questioned Mr. Singhal's commitment. "Has he ever tried to see the families of the passengers or crew members during the crisis?"
Mr. Singhal's statement on the captain's lack of courage invited a lot of criticism from passengers of the hijacked flight. One passenger wrote, "... Capt. Sharan displayed exemplary courage and presence of mind ... We condemn and regret such statements..."
Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav, chief of Samajwadi Party, came down heavily upon Mr. Singhal. "We are Hindus and we are proud of belonging to the community," said Yadav. "By making such a statement, the RSS chief (Mr. Singhal) had denigrated the country." He commented that Mr. Singhal could have more appropriately described the government led by the Hindu Nationalist party BJP, as cowards.
Mr. Yadav observed that Mr. Singhal's purpose seemed to be creating hatred for minorities. With his statement he made himself a laughing stock in Pakistan where his statement was widely quoted. He also pointed out that the problems with Pakistan could be solved through talks and not arms build-up.
Evidently it is bravery for the VHP and RSS to demolish the Babari mosque in Ayodhya by mobilizing a large crowd and fanning hatred. It is bravery for them to target minority communities - Muslim, Sikh or Christian. It is bravery for them to attack artists and force them to conform to their own views. But it is not bravery in their view when a pilot successfully handles hijackers under distressing conditions.
Mr. Fakhruddin Takullah, a Muslim from Mumbai (Bombay) had booked a train ticket for Delhi on July 15, 1973, i.e. 27 years ago. He finally traveled to Delhi on January 19, 2000 in order to be at the Republic Day celebrations -- the first of the new millennium.
His call for the ticket - which was issued as valid for travel only on certain days of the week - certainly surprised the railway clerk. The clerk tried to shrug him off by saying that the ticket may be invalid. Mr. Fakhruddin promptly did some quick calculations and told the clerk at the counter that January 19, 2000 would fall on Wednesday; and so the ticket should be valid.
The man who guarded his ticket for nearly 27 years arrived in Delhi in style, brandishing his ticket. The Railway Department decided to honor Mr. Fakhruddin by hosting him in official railway guesthouse. They also arranged for his return trip to Mumbai -- free of charge. Mr. Fakhruddin's feat has now been registered in a Book of Records.
Actually, Mr. Fakhruddin is no regular thrill seeker. He holds a record for distributing 538,000 eggs among patients in various hospitals in Mumbai for the past eight years. Known as "Baidwala Chacha" (Uncle Eggs) among the patients, he visits the hospitals on his motorcycle laden with egg trays. He also holds the distinction of organizing frequent blood drives. His own blood group is a rare one, B-Negative.