There’s a lot in the name – Salim Yadav

10455167_346939915477572_8060748661164715237_nThe article सलीम (योगेन्द्र) यादव का सच received overwhelming response from readers. A lot of them demanded it to be rewritten in English. One of the twitter friends Manasi Gandhi volunteered to translate it in English. Below is the edited version of the same.

On 3rd Aug 2012, Anna Hazare called off the ongoing fast and protest at Jantar Mantar, and announced that we would now go political and provide a political alternative to people of India. A lot of volunteers including me were not happy with this announcement. What made me change my mind and enter politics, is a different story and I will write about it sometime later. Yogendara Yadav played a crucial role in moving non-political people like me towards politics. His arguments in favor of politics and his vision of alternative politics was quite convincing.

Lately while we were campaigning for Loksabha 2014 elections, I heard a murmur about some allegations against Yogendra Yadav. He was allegedly playing religious cards for votes by claiming his name to be “Salim” in muslim dominated Mewat region while flaunting his ‘Yaduvanshi’ descent in Hindu areas, during his campaign. I knew him as man with vision for political reforms that go far beyond caste and religion based politics. I couldn’t believe in these allegations but often heard our own volunteers talking about the same. I urged all those friends to cite one such video in which Yogendra Yadav said something to this effect during election campaign, but never received any.

Being in charge of candidate selection and election campaigning in the state of Rajasthan, I couldn’t spend much of time in digging out the truth, though it was always haunting me. I hold him in high regards, but felt  appropriate  to get a clarification on this matter from Yogendraji himself.

Post elections, while attending a National Executive meeting at Prashant Bhushan’s residence in Jangpura I got the opportunity I was looking for. During the lunch time, I found Yogendra Yadav having lunch on a round table. I went to him and sat besides a chair next to him and politely started my conversation.

”I joined politics inspired by your views on alternative politics. But it hurts me when you call yourself Salim, only for political gains. Is this true? Is your name really Salim?”

He said, “Yes, my childhood name is Salim”. I couldn’t believe it and started arguing – how was it possible? You are a Hindu. Without getting upset about the question, Yogendraji started responding in his own style –

“My grandfather Shri Ramsingh Ji was the headmaster of a school in Hissar, Haryana and was residing in hostel campus as the warden . During pre-independence era, communal riots broke out in Hissar. A mob of rioters with blood on their head reached the hostel campus with an intention to massacre students residing there in. Grandfather stood in front of them and said that before going ahead they will have to kill him. The mob was out of their senses. One of the rioters beheaded him. Somehow after killing my grandfather they didn’t proceed further and left the campus without harming the students.  My father was an eye-witness to this, while he was an 8-year-old child. He saw his father being mercilessly beheaded by rioters. This news was published in the ‘Tribune’ newspaper of that time.”

“In 1947 when we got independent, while everybody was rejoicing the new-found freedom, my father witnessed one more communal riot. In the heat of partition Hindus were being killed in Pakistan, while on this side of the border Muslims were massacred. He was 19 by then. Both these events left a lasting impression on his young mind. At a very young age he has seen people butchering their own brothers and sisters.”

My father Prof. Devendra Singh was a Gandhian. Beheading of his father and butchering of innocent people that he has witnessed would not get off his head. He made up his mind and decided to respond in a Gandhian manner. He resolved to naming his kids with muslims names and set an example of mutual harmony.”

“My eldest sister was born in 1957 and was named Najma. But my mother did not concur  to this. She was worried about her daughter’s marriage. Najma was then renamed as Neelam. Four years later, my second sister was born. For the same reasons she was named Poonam. With my birth in 1963, my father got the chance the chance to fulfil his resolution. I was named Salim. My mother, wife and my childhood friends call me by the same name to this day.”

“I started going to school at five years of age. There I realised that something was wrong with my name. Kids would ask me whether I was a Hindu or a Muslim? Whether my parents were Hindus or Muslims? My name had become a butt of jokes for school kids. I was tired of the same questions every day. Me as a child, couldn’t connect to the deep philosophy behind my name. I just wanted to get rid of that daily torture and got myself named Yogendra.”

While listening this, I was visualizing communal riots filmed in movies. In such a situation, putting myself in his father’s shoes, perhaps I myself might have become of the rioters.

The truth about Salim genuinely touched my heart. His father was a true Gandhian, who not only read Gandhi or delivered speeches on Gandhian philosophy, but practised it in true sense. Yogendraji too named his son Pele and his daughter Sufi Dharma. His nephew’s name is Sameer Firoz.

Whatever the case, Yogendraji should not take political advantage out of it. There were allegations that in Hindu areas he was calling himself a ‘Yaduvanshi’ and in Muslim areas ‘Salim’.

Yogendraji’s reply:

“If I had to resort to this kind of politics, I would have better stayed out of politics. The entire objective of me joining politics is in vain. We formed a party to counter precisely this kind of politics. My name being Salim is known to a lot of people and volunteers associated with me but I never spoke about it in any of my election campaigns. The allegations are totally baseless and false. The recordings of all my speeches are with one or the other media house. Show me at least one such video. For the first time I spoke on the issue only when I came to know about this false propaganda. In a press conference I had openly challenged that I would withdraw myself from Loksabha elections if there is any iota of evidence to substantiate these allegations. I am repeating it again. I challenge all my opponents to prove this allegation or else stop playing this kind of petty politics.”

This totally baseless and ridiculous allegation was spread like wild-fire. The impact was such that to this day many party volunteers consider it to be true.

Yogendraji mentioned this incident for the first time in the media, when rumours were spread by making baseless allegations against  him. To make such allegations on a a man who himself fought against communal forces his entire life, whose family endured the heat of communal riots and set an example of communal harmony without paying heed to social condemnation. My heart churned and I felt very sad. Knowingly, unknowingly, I may also have mentioned it in conversations with my party friends and been a partner in crime in spreading these rumours,.

I am repenting for it. Spreading this truth to thousands of people through this blog is my penance. If you think the allegations made on Yogendra Yadav are true, then provide evidence ( which would be very easy to find since the recordings  of all his campaigns are available), otherwise I would advice you is to do a penance just like me by sharing this article with at least a thousand people. Do spread the truth at the same speed with which we spread the rumour.

There is a possibility that you may not believe the story even after reading it. My request to such friends is to research the facts on their own. Yogendraji’s father was a professor in the Khalsa college, Shri Ganganagar, Rajasthan. Most people there know Yogendraji by the name Salim. The people in his neighbourhood in Vinoba basti, where Yogendraji spent his childhood, also know him by the same name.

This reminds me of the famous quote by William Shakespeare – “What’s in a name?”. There’s a lot in the name if it is Salim Yadav.

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