What is your name?,
Ohh Ajmal Kasab??.
This is an often asked question that I encounter from many people including my friends on an everyday basis.
Calling me, hei, Kasab!. Also happens to me frequently.
But I never made an issue out of this, I just smiled at whom so ever they are. But then at times I get alone, this question hunts me why people call me Ajmal Kasab. What is wrong with me?, or what is wrong with people?. I noticed this after I moved to Mumbai and this happed never before and its was post 26/11 Mumbai.
A freaking incident that I had once, while I was traveling in train from Mumbai to Kerala, an uncle who was his mid 50s with whom I was sharing a seat, while I was about to get down at the Calicut railway station, he asked me. Boy what is your name?, I said my name is Ajmal, there was cute boy, must be bellow 9 years who was traveling with him suddenly asked me , Ajmal Kasab?.
I some how made a smile and said, no my dear. I got down at my station.
There are few others who call me terrorist for fun instead of calling my name. A colleague of mine, with whom I use to have political arguments use to tell me Ajmal, you should change your name. Its a problematical name man, and you will suffer. I smile and asks him why should I do that?, Will everything end if I change my name?.
These kind of incidents happens to me often though I don’t really allow myself to feel anything deep about it. In fact, the kind of struggles that are passed in my life is nothing up to this. After I moved to Mumbai, many get wrong thinking that, I belongs to upper caste Muslim seeing the Khan in my name, so I tell them only I have this tale of Khan in my family with my name. Its Ajmal Khan A.T( Areethala) it has nothing to do with it.
Again recently, on 26th Monday Prof. Romial Thapar was speaking at K C College in Mumbai on Indian society and the secular, a public lecture in Memory of Dr.Asghar Ali Engineer conducted by Center for Study of Society and Secularism in Mumbai.
As I was coming down to the venue from the Churchgate station, my friend and democratic rights activist Vernon Gonsalves said to me that, I will be able to locate the college as I see a huge police security as I had talked to him over phone to locate the college. While walking, I saw huge police presence outside the college and there was huge police and tight security inside the venue. They had detectors checking all those passing through the door metal detector had had installed for the programme.
As I was entering to the college a police officer stopped me and asked me to open my bag,
I had a bag and a Chula in which I keep the copies of a student magazine called “Aaghaaz” that we publish hoping that I can find some students to sell it.
I had returned after a solidarity protest on University Grants Commission’s decision to discontinue the Non-NET fellowship from Mumbai University Kalina campus. I might have not looked very clean as others, so the police officer asked only to me open my bags, as few others passed by without being asked to open their bags. I opened both and shown him the books and magazine that I had. I was rushing to get a seat because it was crowded and my friend had reserved a seat for me. While checking by bag as a joke, I smiled at the officer and said him I don’t have either Bomb or black ink, (black ink has become famous in Mumbai recently after book releasing of Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri). The officer suddenly stopped me and asked more details about me, He asked me my name and where I am from, I said my name is Ajmal, I am a student. As soon as hearing my name, he said “tum to khud bomb hain, tum bomb leke aaneka zaroorath nahi”( You need not to carry a Bomb, you yourself is a Bomb!)
Being in Mumbai for last five years seeing, encountering and engaging with Mumbai police is not new for me, but the feeling after listening this I had, I never had, even when I was got detained or arrested in the number of protests in Mumbai on various issues with Dalit, students and other democratic rights organizations in the city.
I smiled at the officer as I do to anyone who call me Kasab, and told him thank you. The Police system is suppose to be the custodian of people, especially those who are vulnerable in the society, if they themselves are reinforcing the stereotypes in the society, the vulnerable will not have faith in the state and its machineries. Tomorrow, I might be called as terrorist by police, person with Bomb or just might get picked up for just being someone from a particular community, as it is happening across the country. Even the very existence of the Muslim bodies are just like Dalit and Adivasi bodies, its Bombs and terror for many.
Ajmal Khan A.T is a researcher and activist with Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR) Mumbai.