Book Review: The Sarkari Mussalman is a poor PR exercise




Amitabh Kumar Das

Book: The Sarkari Mussalman: Life and travails of a soldier educationist
Author: Zameer Uddin
Publisher: Konark Publishers Pvt.Ltd
Pages: 216
Price: Rs 695

I read The Sarkari Mussalman with great expectations. Zameer Uddin has impeccable credentials. He retired as Deputy Chief of the Army Staff, served as India’s Defence Attache to Saudi Arabia, fought the insurgents in the North East, shone as the Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University etc etc. To cap it all, Zameer is the elder brother of the Bollywood actor Naseeruddin Shah, a versatile actor, the “tirchhi topi wala” whom I admire greatly. But I am disappointed, to say the least. The book is a poor PR exercise. The reader has a feeling that Zameer Uddin Shah is still eyeing some Raj Bhawan or a berth in the Modi Cabinet.

At the outset, Zameer Uddin proudly proclaims that he is a Syed, a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad! I don’t think that this is an achievement. Being a Syed is merely an accident of birth. Just like being a Brahmin. People will judge you by your acts, not by your pedigree. But Zameer Uddin writes that his father, a friend of the deposed Afghan King Amanullah, escaped execution because the jallad (hangman) didn’t want a Syed’s blood on his hands! Boasting is unbecoming of any gentleman worth his salt.

Zameer Uddin also styles himself as an expert on camels. His first posting was in the Camel Regiment! He writes that he slept among camels for one month. Watered them, fed them. He writes jokingly that he got the Saudi posting because of his expertise on camels. But when Zameer Uddin was driving his Toyota Corrola in Saudi Arabia, he hit a poor camel so hard that he died on the spot. And Zameer Uddin, the great camel expert, was covered with the camel blood !

The chapter on the Opposition Aman is a big let – down. Zameer Uddin was in – charge of this Army operation in the riot – hit Gujarat. The year was 2002. The reader shudders to read about the qatl-e-aam (pogrom) of hapless Muslims. Narendra Modi, like a modern day Nero, fiddled when Gujarat burnt. But Zameer takes care not to criticize Modi openly. His anger is reserved for the Gujarat police. But who was responsible for the partisan police? Zameer is mum on this score. Zameer proudly tells the reader that whenever Prime Minister Modi sees him, he puts a hand on his shoulder. The reader wonders when Modiji will put a hand on his wife Jashodaben ‘s shoulder?

Zameer Uddin fought the insurgents in the North East. He informs the reader that he exploited tribal rivalries to gather intelligence! It is simply shocking. Divide And Rule may be the British Empire ‘s policy. But how can a senior Army officer Divide and Rule in his own country?

His AMU stories leave the reader intrigued. He was thoroughly insulted by the then HRD Minister Smriti Irani who kicked him out of her bungalow. But the brave Army officer nowhere names Smriti Irani in his book! Why so much caution? When a former Lt General wags his tail before a two – penny politician, who will stand up for India ‘s honour?

The reader is shocked to know that Zameer Uddin tried to keep RSS leaders in good humour. He kept in touch with the RSS leader Indresh Kumar, whom he praises to the sky. And Zameer Uddin tells Muslims not to eat beef. If poor Muslims don’t eat beef, will Mr Shah supply them fresh mutton ? The book throws some light on the functioning of the Indian Army. When Zameer was being interviewed for the Defence Attache post in Saudi Arabia, the Interview Board was very keen to know whether Zameer was a Shia or a Sunni.

Sorry, Zameer Sir. I didn’t like your book. At 70, you should play with dogs and your grandchildren. Gatecrashing a Raj Bhawan shouldn’t be a brave soldier ‘s dream!