Dr. Fayaz Ahmad Bhat
Who never talked or spoke of secularism but practiced it and set an example.
I am a student of Sociology. I came across a number of articles and papers on secularism and secularization but I am least interested in term from political point of view. The term is generally being used from political point of view and all other interpretations and meanings are ignored and neglected. Secularism and secularization has very strong and meaningful connotations in sociology. From sociological point of view the term is very handy and useful in bridging gap between two different religious communities especially in the environment of communalism and fundamentalism.
The Indian brand and version of secularism is different from European and Western model of secularism rather opposite in certain aspects. In Europe and West secularism is secularism is counted as a transition from traditional way of life to modern way of thought and polity. However, in Indian context secularism in present scenario is to bypass modern robotic, materialistic, communal and fundamental values and instincts which often led to religious conflicts in India. Secularism cannot be fostered and promoted with fiery, emotional and political speeches neither by writing books and articles rather by practicing and to be committed to it what so ever may be conditions. India has very rich heritage in producing such personalities and there is ample number of such examples. It is very painful and heart piercing when ever such personalities set their journey for heavenly cosmos.
The present piece is being written to pay a great tribute and adieu not a saint or any politician who spoke of secularism and admired by tens and thousands of people for his or her speech but to a down to earth human being who always practiced and stood by it. A teacher by profession Prof. Gautam Gaynendera, a great sociologist besides a noble human being never talked or spoke of secularism but practiced it and always left a lesson for his companions and fellows. His sad demise is really a great lose and the space his departure created can never be occupied.
I first met Gautam Sir (popular called by his students and fellows) in 2008 when Kashmir was politically very charged due to Amarnath Land Row. The agitation in Kashmir was given communal colors outside Kashmir even in Jammu which is a part of the state it has been colored with communal brush. There was growing suspicion and hatred towards the people of Kashmir all over the country despite the agitation has no communal flavor of color in Kashmir. I was thrown out of bus (Matador) and money taken from me in Jammu for being a Kashmiri and in the backdrop of movement and communal colors given to it. It was in this context I met Gautam Sir with regard to my M.Phil programme. I was not treated like a Kashmiri, Muslim, or student but like a son on the very first meet. When people all around show anger and hatred against me, no one seemed to have me, even Kashmiri students who were already enrolled in the University and staying in private accommodation and hostels denied own me. The great soul Prof. Gautam sir came at forefront. He offered me accommodation, those days he was chief warden he offered me room in hostel despite I was not enrolled in the university. This is not a single incident he displayed it every day every time not towards me but towards everyone. He used to talk to the parents of students from Kashmir and assures them their beloved ones are safe and secure. He also use to offer money to Kashmiri students when everything was on halt in Kashmir and there had two months long strike.
Gautam sir was always cool and he never steamed up and spoke in high tone. One day the pitch of his tone raised and his face clearly displaying dissatisfaction when he saw me outside the department with broken arm and plaster on it. “ Tumaray Bazoo Ko kya howa Hai, tum nai mujay phone kiw nahin kiya, mai gadi mai hospital lay jata” ( What happen to your arm? Why you did not ring me? I would have accompanied you to the hospital). Just after a while he said that you should not behave like this you should have called and gave me address of his home and stressed that I should visit there whenever there is any medical emergency. “Agar Raat ko be koye problem ho mujay phone karna, agar phone na milay to direct ghar aana, kabhi bee” (Even if you have any emergency during nights call me and if I am not available on phone, visit my home, any time).
Throughout the year I observed many people were making rounds around him and a number of people were having references to get supervised by him in their Ph.D. When our M.Phil exams were over he called me in his room and asked if I am interested in Ph.D. under his supervision then get an application form and get it submitted. After our results were out I got admission in JMI, New Delhi a prestigious institution of India. I shared it with Gautam Sir, he was very happy and he ringed me many times despite I called him just on few occasions. I miss him as a thirsty person miss water hungry person food and dying person life. He was an icon of secularism that never talked or spoke of secularism but practiced secularism throughout his life and was a live example of secularism.