[Image via Amit Arora/Vimeo.com]

The Question of Hindu-Muslim Unity in India

For more than 1000 years, Hindus and Muslims have inhabited this ancient land in somewhat perfect harmony. Their dwellings occupied a common landscape in primordial villages. Their children played and learned together. A chunk of stories are told about the comity of these two, tales of their acceptance of each other abound,  of donation of land to wealthy merchants from Arab who came to reside in what is now called Kerala, of giving daughters in marriage alliance to these wealthy merchants by locals Hindus. Bloody battles have been fought between kings who belonged to these communities but premise was mostly territory, religion the least. No credible evidence exist of religious violence among common masses leave alone riots.

[Image via Amit Arora/Vimeo.com]
[Image via Amit Arora/Vimeo.com]

Why then these two communities which were actually never two, which were never different, which embraced each other for so long are hell bent on confronting each other now. Why almost on the daily basis newspapers are replete with stories of violence in the name of religion.

Some 2500 years ago Buddhism and Jainism came to fore as a reaction to Brahminical ritualism that pervade the social milieu and made an indelible mark on Indian society by strengthening existing argumentative traditions (like Shashtratha) on religious discourse, imparting it a tolerant and pacifist character. Religion was discussed, debated and deliberated rather than being decided by swords.

With the invasion of Alexander from northwestern front, gate for further invasions was opened and this ensued attacks by Parthian, Greeks, Scythians, Huns , Shakas and other Central Asian tribes etc. These tribes came and settled in northern western region and got embedded in Hindu Varna System adoption same traditions and sometimes even same Gods and Goddesses. This veritable and disparate stream of tribes which never ceased approaching India gave Indian society a tolerant character.

Continued political invasions made people impervious to political changes that took place at highest level unless it affects their common social life. In this regard Indian villages were certainly little republics. This political tolerance engendered tolerance towards admission of social groups in Indian Society unless this induction creates a substantial turmoil in existing social order. With a certain amount of conviction it can be argued that Indian society was largely tolerant.

Islam that appeared in India was a tolerant, pacifist, and Sufis form of new religion as it came to India through merchants and traders predominantly rather than through Ghaznaviads and spread through Sufi order. It was this reason that it did not create any alteration in existing social order that already lay entrenched. The fairly accommodative contemporary political framework that carried forward the argumentative tradition under able administration diminished any probability of backlash against Islam. It is true in regard to village councils that existed and were inclusive of all caste and religions which rendered fair justice. It is believed that although there might have been no concurrence on certain matters, there was a fair “value consensus” on most matters and it got enforced through village councils, aided by a system of mutual exchange between both communities, which engaged in give and take of ideas and adoption of each other’s practices, rituals, thoughts and beliefs. In the long run, assisted by simple and independent village life, people intermingled, got enmeshed into a single community. There was an inherent sense of tolerance which led to non-interference in each other’s religious chores.

It is evident from revolt of 1857 when Hindus and Muslims fought against British on premise that both of us follow one God while British being Christian have faith in son of God so they are “kafir”. Cow slaughter was voluntarily given up at many places. This was remarkable instant of Hindu-Muslim unity based on their value consensus.

Having suppressed the revolt, the British advertently decided to erode this value consensus by creating fissures. But the major dent that British made was to have done away with the village councils which were carriers of value consensus.  Later both Muslim league and Hindu Mahashabha sided with the British in widening this gulf which eventually led to partition.

After partition Nehru picked up the threads of economic growth, some people were left behind two three generations. Identity politics that ensued, to get greater participation in this growth did indeed benefit some communities but the Muslim community was left behind. This adventure with identity politics led to polarization of society. For the purpose of grabbing power, all avenues of identity politics were exploited, religion was invoked, fear psychosis created and riots engineered.

What is often missed is that there were existing fissures that were exploited. Unplanned urbanization has led to lack of homogenization in Indian cities, or in other terms ghettoization has occurred which have led to alienation of communities. This has replaced tolerance that existed due to intermingling with ignorance due to lack of concern. In villages too, value consensus has eroded due to uneven development and due to lack of an all inclusive village council. What replaced them was exclusionary caste panchayats, which didn’t care about the overall value consensus and preached their own values. New generations lacked respect and concern for other community, which is a side-effect of consumerist culture. Terms like Mullaji, Khan Sahab, Chaudhary Sahab etc are no more in vogue and rightly so, but it shows the lack of comity and respect wielded earlier.

Media and communal politics created certain perceptions like many Hindus believe that Muslims are pro-Pakistan and therefore they reproduce more so that they can create a Pakistan out of India. A part of south Delhi dominated by Muslim population is often called “mini Pakistan”. Indian Muslims have come to believe that Hindus are kafirs and that they are responsible for eroding common composite culture called Ganga Jamuni Tahjeeb. These perceptions and erosion of value consensus have antagonized these communities and fissures flare up whenever someone incites them knowingly using agendas like “love jihad” or “cow or pig slaughter” and “honor of daughters and wives”.

These misperceptions need to be countered as in the face of a belligerent China and a complex world order, India has to create a niche for itself and fulfill dreams of peace and prosperity seen by our forefathers. Every majority community has a responsibility to make the minority communities feel protected and empowered to speak their mind. It is a sin to doubt the loyalty of any community to India but it is a travesty of our nation that minorities are made to prove their loyalty again and again. But those ignorant minds who doubt, should remember that Indian Muslims have proved it time and again. India fought four wars with Pakistan, during these times Pakistan tried to drive a wedge between Hindus and Muslims by inciting communal passions. But history is witness, Indians fought as one and not as Hindus or Muslims or Sikhs or whatever. Indian Muslims disproved Jinnah’s prophecy when he said that if congress “attempted to exert any pressure on Hyderabad every Muslim throughout whole of India, yes, all the hundred million Muslims would rise as one man to defend the oldest Muslim dynasty in India.” But Indian Muslims did not fight for Hyderabad, but they fought for India. How many Muslim names has one heard of involved in scams and scandals? Think and ask yourself who is the real patriot.

Misconceptions about fertility rate remains. The level of fertility may be higher in Muslims but the reason for this I believe is lack of awareness, non availability of contraception, mullah’s grip over naive people rather than any conspiracy. Evidence to prove my point is the low fertility rates among the educated Muslim families. Further, similar level of fertility were present in Hindus too, two or three generations ago. One can ask him or herself of how many children his or her grandmother had.

Pranay Parashar
Pranay Parashar

[Pranay Parashar (2013), is a Faculty of Engineering, JMI alumnus, presently enrolled in the residential coaching program for UPSC Civil Services Examination, at the Centre for Coaching and Career Planning, Jamia Millia Islamia. He can be reached via email at: pranayparashar[@]gmail.com]

About Pranay Parashar

Pranay Parashar (2013), is a Faculty of Engineering, JMI alumnus, presently enrolled in the residential coaching program for UPSC Civil Services Examination, at the Centre for Coaching and Career Planning, Jamia Millia Islamia. He can be reached via email at: pranayparashar[@]gmail.com

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