By Firoz Bakht Ahmed*
Koi mushkilnahinhei Hindu ya Musalmanhona,
Haan, badi baathei, is daur meininsaanhona!
— Nawaz Deobandi
(It’s nothing great to be a Hindu or a Mussalman,
What matters at heart and soul is — to be a human!)
One laments that even almost seven decades after the Independence emotive issues still occupy front seat. Someone is playing a Muslim card while the other one is playing a Muslim card but when will we all play the India card? For their heinous electoral vote bank machinations to gain power, the political parties like the Congress, Samajwadi party, Bhartiya Janata Party, BSP and others, are fanning communal fires.
We are still in the clutches of a “1947” like communal frenzy at a time when far more serious economic, educational and social problems are crying for attention.
Such unfortunate riots, as happened in Muzaffarnagar and the adjacent areas, do occur sometimes, but currently these small incidents are being used to serve the communal ends of political parties like the BJP and SP in UP and the Congress at the Center politicizing the issue and fanning the communal fires and in fact have nothing else to bank upon at a time when the general elections are not far away.
Communalism has reached such proportions that every thinking Indian with a minimum sense of civic responsibility needs to define a position on this issue. Do Hindus and Muslims in a country like ours need to waste time on the broth of communal cauldron when there are far more serious concerns? Each Indian needs to contribute in his or her small way to the amelioration of this problem. Modern India is a land not of a solitary religion but of diverse religions.
The state does not sponsor or foster any one religion at the expense of the others. This is in keeping with the greatness of India, which through times immemorial, has been the cradle of composite culture. The great poet Iqbal once said about Ram: “Hei Ram ke wajood pe Hindostan ko naaz/ Ahlenazr samajhte hein us ko Imam-e-Hind!” (Under the umbrella of Rama, we are all one mankind/ For us all, he is the Imam-e-Hind). We believe that this process of assimilation has to go on continuously.
Sufi texts record that after saint Kabir, the inspired poet-weaver of northern India, died his lovers and the connoisseurs of his dohas (couplets) — both Hindus and Muslims — fought for the claim of cremating or burying his last remains. As the quarrel started to communal passions, an elderly gentleman requested both communities to cover the saint’s body and wait till next morning.
Astonishingly, when the sheet was taken off, the warring communities found that in place of the body, two heaps of flowers were kept. The Hindus cremated the tulsi (holy plant) flowers while the Muslims buried the jasmine heap, and the problem was sorted out. The moral of the story is that the two diverse cultures of Muslims and Hindus are inseparable and need to run like the parallel lines of a railway track — always together socially but also retaining their religious identities that are separate.
Religion needs to be separated from politics. It can be best done by the truly religious. The minority community needs to be led by an unquestioned leadership of deeply religious persons who will stamp out any chances of flaring communal flames.
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was a deeply religious Muslim leader, a renowned Islamic theologian like Maulana Maududi, but communal harmony was dearest to him. He never stirred Muslims to political action through their faith. Zakir Hussain, who devoted his life to Jamia Millia, did not take that platform to espouse a communal cause; nor was Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed that sort. Today Azads, Fakhruddins and Hussains would have been needed to counter inflammable propaganda. Their very presence and action would have kept the majority community in check. Instead, small time leaders of the minority community have adopted the view — the best defence is offence. This is a tactic that helps no cause.
Just before the dismemberment of the subcontinent, the Muslim peasant in Bengal participated as joyously in the village DurgaPooja as his Hindu neighbour. In Bangladesh Hindus celebrated Eid.
If entire Muslim villages in Malaysia can watch the Ramayana performed on stage, there is no reason why they cannot do the same in India or include Hindus in tazia (a ritual carriage) processions and Karbala enactments.
MeenaKumari, Nargis, Waheeda Rehman and Mumtaz umpteen times played the role of the devoted Hindu wife with sindoor on the forehead. What about bhajans sung in Muhammad Rafi’s sonorous voice? Should we ban his cassettes? Should we stop seeing a Dilip Kumar or an Aamir Khan or Salman Khan film?
Likewise, after the namaz (prayers) when the Muslims stepped out of the mosques, in almost all the walled city locales of India, one could observe Hindu men and women standing with their sick children to be blessed after the prayers. A Maulvi sahib used to wake up a Panditji for his morning ringing of the temple bells or for sounding the shankh (musical instrument). Our composite culture has been that as Sir Syed once described India as a beautiful bride whose two bewitching eyes were — the Hindus and the Muslims!
According to Muraqqa-e-Delhi of Nawab Dargah Quli Bahadur, Mughal emperors consumed only Gangajal. Their celebration of Holi, Diwali and Dussehra is well known. If the rulers were Muslim, the economy was run by Hindu administrators and officers.
Muslim monarchs trusted Hindu accountants. In the military field if Aurangzeb had brave Rajput generals, Shivaji trusted only Muslim generals.
The Sufi saints like Sheikh Muinuddin Chishti, Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia, Khwaja Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki and other pirs like Haji Malang in Mumbai are highly revered by all Indians irrespective of the faiths they follow. The rath percolated in the Muslim society as the tazia.
The Lord of the Seven Hills of Tirupati was given a Turkish wife — ThulukaNachiyar in the temple of Srirangapatnam. How long the RSS, the VHP and the Shiv Sena will deny this history?
There is no danger of India becoming a Hindu theocratic state so far as we have secular and peace-loving Hindus, and fortunately they outnumber the less than 10 per cent or less bigoted and rabid ones. One hopes the Hindu majority will prevail.
Sri Aurobindo’s “Looking from Within” describes aptly the solution to the communal impasse: “Hindu-Mohammedan unity cannot be effected by political adjustment of Congress flatteries. It must be sought deeper down, in the heart and in the mind, for where the causes of disunion are, there the remedies must be sought… We must strike to remove the causes of misunderstanding by a better mutual knowledge and sympathy, we must extend the unfaltering love of the patriot to our Mussalman brother, remembering that to him too our Mother has given a permanent place in her bosom; but we must cease to approach him falsely or flatter him out of a selfish weakness and cowardice… What is wanted is some new religious movement among the Mohammedans which would remodel their religion and change the stamp of their temperament”.
As Indians, Hindus and Muslims share a lot in common. A Hindu of Kolkata is more akin to a Bengali Muslim than a Delhi Hindu. Similarly, a Maharashtrian Muslim shares more in common with a Mumbai-ite Hindu than a Muslim in Punjab.
Hindus and Muslims in their respective states are like a beautifully spun harmony on the pleasing graceful Indian fabric. The irrational, fundamentalist and vote-hungry political hawks never wanted this concord and hence reaped communal dissidence, raped peace and researched in differences rather than reconciliation.
Rabble-rousing and fire spitting Muslim representatives, both inside Parliament and outside it, with their manipulations and vote-bank calculations, rolled in affluence every passing day, while those whom they represented were seen with a begging bowl. Besides, they never highlighted the real issue of the Muslims; rather they harped on the ones that suited their vote calculations.
When lip-serving and self-serving Muslim politicians start indulging in pseudo-secularism, it boomerangs and a chain reaction is triggered. Hindus are made to believe the myths that the rabbit-like breeding Muslims will one day outnumber them and that the popularity of the ghazals of Ghalib, qawwalis of the Sabri Brothers and poetry of Mir, Zauq, Iqbal and Faiz are dangerous signs of the coming social and political domination of Muslims.
Once while Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was smeared by teeka (Vedic ritual) at a national ceremony, daily Dawn of Karachi printed the photograph with the caption saying that likewise one day Azad would be proselytized into Hinduism!
But neither Ghalib nor his ghazals are compulsorily Islamic nor tilak or diya (lamp) are necessarily Hindu. These are all parts of an Indian ethos, a result of the conglomeration of multifarious faiths and cultures. For centuries Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians in India have shared common customs like those on the occasion of a birth, a death or a marriage.
The responsibility to stop communalists and pseudo-secularists, who are present in equal measures in the majority and minority communities, lies with all of us. Muslims should take care of their rabble-rousing elements, shake up their leadership and substitute it with devoted, pragmatic and sincere leaders willing to solve the real problems of the community without mobilizing them on emotional and religious lines.
In the same manner balanced Hindus too must not give more rope to the likes of the VHP or the RSS lest they should hang the community as these organizations have no right to speak on behalf of the entire Hindu community.
They should realize that some of their leaders who spread communal hatred, will take them backwards by aggravating ethnic, clan, caste and regional rivalries. They should realize that the centuries old tolerant milieu of India is the creation of the Hindu sages in ancient times, which predates the arrival of Muslims and the birth of Sikhism in India. It is the prized legacy of us all that is in essence Indian.
*Community worker, grandnephew of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org