I have said earlier that certain things keep coming back both to me and also to our country and one such hot potato is communal conflict. The issue has again attracted public attention following threats to the Sikhs in Jammu and Kashmir in August 2010. The threat has come from the Muslims posing as a serious challenge to the communal harmony in trouble-torn Kashmir as also in other parts of the country.
According to media reports, Sikhs living in Kashmir received anonymous letters directing them to "embrace Islam, join the protests against civilian (read militants/supporters/sympathizers among others) killings or pack up and leave the Valley."
The issue has already figured in parliament forcing adjournment once in a while amid uproar. The UPA government, swearing day in and day out about secularism, has reacted rather passively saying Sikhs have been assured etc etc.
I won’t dwell much on the imbroglio in Kashmir, it certainly deserves another series of postings.
I rather try to debate on the Muslims’ mindset and how things unfold for Muslims – when secular brigade including the Left, Congress other socialist democratic parties try to overdo each other in ‘appeasing’ the Muslims. The purpose being only to garner their votes.
This is largely because unlike the Hindu voters, Muslims in most elections have voted according to certain pattern.
They voted for Congress and other ‘secular’ parties in 2004 deciding the fate of BJP and BJP-led NDA candidates following a specific pattern. No wonder it is this ‘pattern’ of Muslim voting which makes many Congress men confess in private that they would like to continue to lose Gujarat to Hindutva’s new political icon Narendra Modi, so that they continue to win the rest of India citing Modi’s ‘fear factor’ to the Muslims.
Now, before going at the Muslims mindset, I must share something else here. At a different plane, yet again, I am reminded of an observation made by my Education professor at Kohima College in Nagaland. Prof H Rehman, who once told us that the name Hindus to ‘Hindus’ were not given by the community but by the Muslims to describe those who arguably did not embrace Islam and held fort about their traditional Indus valley civilization. Hindus originally called only Sanatan Dharmi if at all they ought to call themselves. It is only in post medieval period that Hindus started calling themselves Hindus. Thus he would argue when a Hindu aggressively called himself Hindu, he was only parroting a name given by the Muslims and was denying himself the original – putripurush identity of Sanatan Dharmi.
No wonder, that way again there is a big merit in the argument that Hinduism is not a religion and rather a way of life. In the recent times, Hindutva is given that definition and even has the endorsement of the judiciary.
Muslims would not consider Hindutva as a way of life. They would take Hindus or for that matter even Sikhs as ‘kafirs’. Therefore, from traditional Islamic point of view – and in isolation of the concept of a modern state – Muslims, at least hardliners, believe they have the religious approval to act against ‘non-believers’.
Even Muhammad s believed to have prescribed that : “When you meet your enemies Invite them to (accept) Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them. ... If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizya. If they agree to pay Jijya (tax) accept it. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah's help and fight them...." (Shaih Muslim 19.4294)
So what’s wrong in threatening Sikhs either to embrace Islam or leave Kashmir?
This brings us to the question, what really awaits the fate of Muslims in the contemporary India. I have posed this question my book ‘Godhra – A Journey To Mayhem’ also. As a Hindu boy, brought up in northeastern hills of India amidst Christian strongholds and continuously confronting the problem of influx of Muslim Bangladeshis from across the border, I had often endorsed and perhaps even believed in pro-Hindutva line.
But I always wondered, what could one really prescribe for a religious group, whom I have occasionally thought of a group supporting Pakistan during cricket match, who have insisted on ensuring a Masjid at Ayodhya, the birthplace of our overwhelming majority Hindus’ Lord Rama, who have pushed out large number of Kashmiri pandits from Kashmir and are now targeting the Sikhs.
May be Indian Muslims have not realized the futility of their confrontation. It is this confrontation attitude Muslims had taken up at the instance of self-proclaimed secularists and their own religious (communal) leaders like Shahi Imam of Delhi Jama Masjid --- that they are perhaps fighting a lost battle.
The same argument perhaps holds good for the partition of India and how much this has harmed the Muslims.
During my stay in Mumbai, I had interviewed noted Muslim scholar Rafiq Zakaria. The author of ‘The Man Who Divided India’ on Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Zakaria, Zakaria had argued that he did not believe in Jinnah’s two-nation theory, as the partition had in no way helped Muslims. In Gujarat, especially after the riots of 2002 and interacting with elderly surviving inmates in the camps, I for one had reasons to endorse Zakaria’s observations that partition has not helped Muslims. Think of a united India and the political strength of Muslims – vis-à-vis – their population size.
On a different plane again, post-1857, Muslims had a very positive contribution at the altar of the nationhood. For the colonial masters, Muslims in general meant a rebel and several historians had recorded that once the Sepoy Mutiny was kindled, Muslims not only joined the Hindus --- they in fact fanned the flames of discontent and took upon themselves the mantle of spearheading the movement against Britain. There have been records of much Muslim uprising against the British in Delhi, Awadh, Meerut, Farukhabad, Bengal and even countryside. In Aligarh and Rohilkhand, Muslims to Britishers were mostly known as rebels. It is not without good reason that Jawaharlal Nehru himself said that the “heavy hand” of the colonial masters fell more on Muslims than Hindus. It is only the quirk of history that Mohammed Ali Jinnah was a man who single-handedly masterminded the partition of India on the basis of Hindu-Muslim division.
In her book ‘The Sewing Circles of Herat – A Memoirs of Afghanistan’, Christina Lamb endorses this view by stating, “although Hindus and Sikhs also participated in the uprising, the British blamed the Muslims and began dismantling institutions associated with the former Moghul empire”.
There’s another aspect to the Muslim history in British India and it is vital for historians and also the followers of contemporary settings. Even as education was unifying Muslims and often threatening Islamic values in the eye of fundamentalists, the Indian Islamic scholars got divided into two camps. One group founded the Aligarh Muslim University, a progressive institution where students wore fez and also ties, played cricket and debated in both Urdu and English. The other group created the deobandi school to train a generation of Islamic followers for whom Koran was the blueprint for everything.
Notably, the madrasas run by deobandis became the fastest growing education system in South Asia, particularly in northern India, Pakistan and in later years in parts of Afghanistan.
To be Continued……