Those Hindus who are sincerely striving to strengthen Hindu-Muslim amity would do well to study the thoughts of Sri Aurobindo. There is a prescient passage in one of his writings, dating back a hundred years, to 1909.
“Hindu-Muslim unity cannot be effected by political adjustments or 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 shall do well to remember that misunderstanding is the most fruitful cause of our differences, that love compels love and that strength conciliates the strong. We must strive to remove the causes of misunderstanding by a better mutual knowledge and sympathy; we must extend the unfaltering love of the patriot to our Mussulman brother, remembering always that in him too Narayana dwells and to him too our Mother has given a permanent place in her bosom; but we must cease to approach him falsely or flatter out of a selfish weakness and cowardice. Intellectual sympathy can only draw together; the sympathy of the heart can alone unite. But the one is a good preparation for the other”.
Judge the above thoughts against India’s historical experience and what do we find? That the truth of the yogi’s thoughts speaks to us with undiminished power even today. Love thy Muslim brother, but let it be love of the strong, not of the weak.
Hindus in India exhibit many weaknesses of the heart and the mind in relating to their Muslim brethren. These are a cause for worry in the difficult times that India is currently passing through. One weakness is the dangerous temptation amongst a tiny section of the Hindu society to think that they can make the community strong by meeting extremism with counter-extremism, terrorism with counter-terrorism. India’s history shows that neither religious extremism nor political extremism has ever found support with the Hindu masses. Going by media reports, a fanatical fringe may well be involved in crude attempts at bomb making. It must be strongly condemned and the law must take its course against any perpetrator of violence.
In post-1947 India, nothing has harmed Hindu-Muslim relations more than communal violence. The causes for riots are many and complex, and the tendency to blame one or the other community exclusively is neither based on truth nor helpful. However, one thing is certain: the impact of riots on the fabric of Muslim life is far worse than on the Hindu society. The feeling of insecurity among Muslims, and the resultant anxiety to seek security in ghetto-like living conditions, is a reality that no honest Hindu can either deny or accept. Riots have also brought the role of the political leadership and the criminal justice system under close scrutiny. This role must be fair, unbiased and guided by the rule of law. Communal violence is a blot on India’s civilisational personality. To provoke it and thereby to weaken our national unity has indeed been a principal objective of the globally networked Islamist terrorists. Therefore, it is high time right-thinking Hindu political leaders, who have the nation’s long-term interests at heart, resolved to strive for the realisation of the goal of a Riot-Free India.
This goal cannot be attained by governments and political parties alone. A lot of sustained societal initiatives are needed. Unfortunately, many Hindus, including those in political parties that project themselves to be champions of secularism, do not have the “sympathy of the heart” towards Muslims. Suspicion and mistrust, which are mutual, lie just beneath the surface of cordiality. This situation has arisen because daily multi-layered socio-cultural interaction between the two communities, so essential for emotional integration in any society, is much less than before. The ghettoisation of Muslims is further shrinking its scope.
- Isn’t it the responsibility of Hindus, especially educated and better-off Hindus, to do whatever they can to make Muslims feel welcome and secure?
- What signals are we sending if even someone like Shabana Azmi—and she is by no means alone in this predicament—cannot buy a flat in an apartment or locality of her choice in cosmopolitan Mumbai?
The issue cannot be trivialised by saying that she already has more than one flat in the city. The time has come for the Government and the majority community to consciously promote mixed, inter-religious habitats for the poor, middle-class as well as wealthy populations. This is necessary even to reduce the influence of those Muslim separatist forces that want to ensure least possible integration between the two communities.
There is another Hindu weakness, exhibited especially by ultra-secular intellectuals, which has impaired the community’s ability to establish a truly trust-based relationship with Muslims. It is the tendency of many secular Hindu intellectuals, who have no pride in their Hindu identity, to “flatter (Muslims) out of a selfish weakness and cowardice”. Those who do not love their own religion can hardly be expected to create a bond of robust love with adherents of another religion.
Soul-searching about the many ills in Hindu society is of course necessary. But soul-searching should not degenerate into self-blame, which is the attribute of a coward masquerading as a progressive.
- How many secular Muslims have you seen who loathe their own religion the way secular Hindus routinely do?
- How many secular Hindu intellectuals have you seen voicing legitimate Hindu concerns (such as mass conversions by Christian evangelists) the way secular Muslims endorse legitimate Muslim concerns?
This Hindu weakness, coupled with the attraction of a Muslim vote-bank, is rapidly influencing the stance of many self-styled secular political parties on serious challenges before the nation (Islamist terrorism, large-scale infiltration by Bangladeshis, and separatism in Kashmir, to name a few). In the name of secularism, nationalism is being undermined. What India needs today is the coming together of proud Hindus and proud Muslims, joined by the common unbreakable bond of Indianness and willing to introspect about the shortcomings in their own communities. Write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
HINDUS ARISE, AWAKE FROM YOUR SLUMBER by SHER SINGH AGRAWAL
It was Mahayogi Sri Aurobindo, speaking on the All India Radio from its Tiruchirapally Stat ion, who issued a warning with deep foresight: "But the old communal division into Hindus and Muslims seems now to have hardened into a...