Realpolitik with Balbir K. Punj
I am in receipt of a slender book ?Hindu-Muslim Unity- Truth vs. Falsehood? further captioned ?For a Secular and Harmonious India? with a portrait of Gandhiji on the cover. It is authored-cum-compiled by Bharat Dogra and published by former Chief of Naval Staff Vishnu Bhagwat. The right response to this ludicrous pamphlet should have been one of complete disregard. But on second thoughts, I chose to react otherwise for a few reasons.
First, the publication has displayed the honesty in its title ?Hindu-Muslim Unity?. This term was prevalent in Gandhiji'stime or pre-independent India when the Hindu-Muslim discord was honestly acknowledged although no effective solution was found. In independent India we began to sweep the problem under the carpet. We began to call it a clash of secularism and communalism; and employed a dishonest euphemism ?minority? for the Muslims. At social level the outlook of Hindus and Muslims about each other remained the same; the orthodoxy of Muslim society remained virtually stagnant. Our ?secular? parties courted orthodoxy for vote bank politics. But we tried to dress up the old Hindu-Muslim problem in a fashionable political parlance. We are trying to solve a problem by refusing to acknowledge its existence. This booklet albeit selectively and disingenuously has focused on ?Hindu-Muslim Unity? without conjuring the most abused word ?secularism? in its text.
Another reason of my responding is to analyze the very mentality that spawns publications like this. There is a saying amongst Hindus that name of Lord Ram is mightier than Ram himself. Hanuman, merely by chanting the name of Ram, crossed the sea, while Ram himself had to build a bridge to cross it. But one doubts that Gandhi'sname and picture would succeed where he in flesh and blood failed abjectly. He was rejected by the Muslims in his lifetime despite all his conciliatory efforts. He failed to enlist support of even four percent of Muslims, who remained stoutly opposed to Congress from day one under the impact of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan.
Nehru undid Gandhianism at every step but sedulously complotted a ?Gandhi is India? image. The idea was basically to emotionally blackmail the Hindu majority (like also through erstwhile ?Cow and Calf? election symbol) to eternal submission to Congress.
Jinnah could get 90 per cent Muslims on his side for creation of Pakistan through direct action. Nehru undid Gandhianism at every step but sedulously complotted a ?Gandhi is India? image. The idea was basically to emotionally blackmail the Hindu majority (like also through erstwhile ?Cow and Calf? election symbol) to eternal submission to Congress. Interestingly, Gandhi himself had blackmailed Hindus to pacifist submission in his lifetime. His authority was only over Hindus and his appeal cut ice only with them. His message to Hindus vis-?-vis Muslims was ?die but do not kill, get robbed but do not rob, flee but don'tretaliate?. He had no message for the Muslims. Gandhiji did not dare condemn perpetrators of Mopla massacre, assassination of Swami Shraddhanand by Abdul Rashid, atrocities of Nizam of Hyderabad despite popular agitation of Hindu majority, or even cow slaughter which admittedly was more important to him than freedom of India.
It is the same with those people exploiting his name. Their target audience is almost exclusively Hindus. Their implicit argument is that communal peace is entirely responsibility of Hindus and dependent on their choice. Thus according to them one-sixth of India could continue its hidebound existence dictated by Friday Khutwas of Imams, madrasa education, polygamy, triple talaq, Wakf boards, no population control measures, opposition to Polio vaccination, burqa-beard-skull cap, namaz on roads and railway stations, without causing discomfort to rest of the civil society. I don'tknow how much of this is feasible when that one-sixth (that was one-tenth immediately after the partition) is increasing in number and vehemence steadily. Such efforts to secure Hindu-Muslim unity might be a matter of convenience but not conviction.
Will Hindus (including ?secularists?) be saved by such a unity? Did Mohammed Shahbuddin Ghori spare the collaborator Jai Chand after killing Prithvi Raj Chauhan? Weren'tthe conciliatory Buddhist first to be extirpated by the Turks? From the point of view of Islam Hindu-Muslim Unitywallahs are not lesser kafirs than Hindutva votaries. The Unitywallahs will have to cave in as Islam, encroaches upon their living space. One should remember how Gandhians and the Communists (who had actively worked for the creation of Pakistan) ran helter-skelter out of Sindh, Punjab and East Bengal to the truncated India.
According to them one-sixth of India could continue its hidebound existence dictated by Friday Khutbas of Imams, madrasa education, polygamy, triple talaq, wakf boards, no population control measures, opposition to polio vaccination, burqa-beard-skull cap, namaz on roads and railway stations, without causing discomfort to rest of the civil society.
The fatal flaw of the book, indicative of our unity enterprises, is that it lacks intellectual honesty. It desists from identifying the problem zones and finishes its work with goody-goody talks. Their arguments seem to that ?Hinduism is good, Islam is also good? so why not live as brothers. You will be ?convinced? by reading the book that all Hindu-Muslim problems are illusory rather than real.
For example, more than once, it quotes a Koranic injunction ?Let there be no compulsion in religion?. But Muslims certainly know more Koran than Dogra and Admiral Bhagwat – on the top of which there are Hadith and Hidayas. Muslims also read a verse in Koran – ?So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them; surely Allah is forgiving, Merciful? (Sura 9. Ayat. 5) or Fight against those who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth (i.e. Islam) among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), until they pay the Jizyah (tax) with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued (Sura 9, Ayat 29)
Ben Rast, a Christian missionary who had studied Islamic texts deeply, estimates- ?While at least 114 verses speak of love or peace, sixty per cent of the Qur?an deals in some fashion with jihad?! Thus a writer who has discovered ?Let there be no compulsion in religion? verse from Koran, had he explored, could easily have found numerous verses calling upon the faithful to do just the opposite. The history of Hindu-Muslim relations in the subcontinent has largely been defined by this theological aspect of Islam.
But the writer has chosen to present a semblance of solution without getting at the root of the problem. He should have asked himself if ?Let there be no compulsions in religion? were true in Islam why then apostasy is punished by death. Why a Muslim is not free to choose his religion or give it up in an Islamic country? Why even in a modern Muslim country like Malaysia conversion is one way traffic- to Islam but not out of it- though demographic gap of Muslims and non-Muslims is mere four per cent? Were there no compulsion in Islam why a writer has to use pseudonym (Ibn Warraq) to write ?Why I am not a Muslim?? But the writer has desisted from such an enterprise.
At another place he has tried to show that there was no Hindu temple in Ayodhya which was destroyed to make way of Babri Masjid. His argument is that Tulsidas who lived in Mughal era had made no reference to it. It is like saying that there was no Naxalite Movement in West Bengal by the turn of 1970s, since Satyajit Ray, the great film director who aptly portrayed his time did not touch the subject in any of his films! What about the dedication plaque of Vishnu temple and Hindu idols recovered from the debris of the defunct mosque? Or what about the mosque structure saddled on Kashi Vishwanath Mandir in Varanasi (Gyanbapi mosque) and Krishna Janmabhoomi (Idgah) in Mathura. Unless the writer and publisher have turned blind, they can see them clearly. But why have the avoided this palpable and tricky issue?
Did Mohammed Shahbuddin Ghori spare the collaborator Jai Chand after killing Prithvi Raj Chauhan? Weren'tthe conciliatory Buddhist first to be extirpated by the Turks? From the point of view of Islam Hindu-Muslim Unitywallahs are not lesser kafirs than Hindutva votaries.
There are thousands of temples converted into mosques into India during Islamic period. The Muslim chroniclers had themselves recorded such acts of desecration with triumphant piousness of religion. It would be evident they were temples, even to a blind man, who touches their surface. One can refer to Prafull Goradia's?Hindu Masjids?, a photographic evidence of medieval Islamic iconoclasm across India.
The book of course makes no mention of Jizya (poll tax) imposed on Hindus in medieval era though it has fished out many other feel-good snippet from history. Muslims certainly know more Islam than hundred Bharat Dogras and Vishnu Bhagwats and all ?secularists? put together. So why not learn it from Muftis, Mualanas, and Ulema, and conduct of Muslim monarchs world wide as recorded by their court historians themselves. If dynamics of Islam are very deep one hand, on other hand Islam is the simplest of religion. Look around the world, from 9/11 to Bali Bombing, Kosovo to Moroland, Iran to Bangladesh Islam is avid to tell everything about itself. Only we are reading Dogras and Bhagwats instead of simply listening what Islam has to say.
(The writer, a Rajya Sabha MP and Convener of BJP'sThink Tank, could be contacted at [email protected])