Violence, fear and pressure in the service of religion of peace

June 7, 2022

Rohit Dhankar

There is a storm of Islamic outrage on comments by two BJP leaders, now suspended and expelled from the party. In India there are death threats, announcement of bounties to kill them, protests and riot situations created in opposition to their statements. Internationally many Islamic nations and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) have expressed their condemnation of the remarks and pressurized India to take action against the two. All this perfectly fits into the age-old tradition to use threats, pressure, violence and even murders to protect Muhammad from any criticism. We need to understand this tradition and the harm it causes to society. But before that let us see what exactly Ms. Nupur Sharma and Mr. Navin Jindal said which resulted in such a storm.

The full video of the Times Now debate (it is more of wrangling, not really a debate) is unavailable. Though to my mind it is absolutely necessary to understand Nupur Sharma’s comments in the context, but due to unavailability I am depending on a 23 second clip which went viral and is available presently. The exact words of Nupur Sharma as far as I could pickup in the noise are as follows:

“अरे आप छोड़ो तुम्हारे उड़ते हुए घोड़े तुम्हारे उड़ते हुए घोड़े ……(असपष्ट मैं समझ नहीं पाया) जो कुरान में आगे लिखा है बताएगा, उसका मज़ाक उड़ाना शुरू करदूं? छह साल की बच्ची से ब्याह करके नौ साल में you are having sex with her, किसने? प्रोफेट मुहम्मद ने। बोलना शुरू करदूं मैं? Earth is flat according to Quran 88.20, बकवास ना कीजिये उड़ते हुए घोड़े पर बैठ कर फुर्र होजाइए फुर्र।”

A few things are quite clear from this:

  • The background makes it clear that the wrangling was about the object found in Gyanvapi masjid vajukhanaa, whether its is a piece of a fountain or Shivling.
  • The opponent (Rahmani?) seems to have either claimed that its is a piece of fountain or may have referred to some joke about Shivling.
  • The style in which Nupur Sharma is speaking is aggressive and uncivilized.
  • She is clearly referring to some joke or derogatory comment made on Shivaling, that is why a challenge “majak udaanaa shuru karadun”.
  • To understand it properly we do need the comment to which she is responding. But that is not available.
  • She mentions three items from Quran and Hadith:
    • The flying horse (Buraq) on which Muhammad claimed to have flown to Jerusalem and to the heaven and back in a single night. It is important to note that Muhammad himself claimed this.
    • Muhammad marrying Ayesha at the age of 6 and consummating the marriage at 9, to which Nupur refers as having sex.
    • A reference in Quran (88.20) which some people interpret as saying that the earth is flat.

Ms. Sharma’s references are correct. Regarding the night journey to the heaven on “a white animal which was smaller than a mule and bigger than a donkey” with “step (was so wide that it) reached the farthest point within the reach of the animal’s sight”, one can see Hadith number 3887 in Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 5, page number 132. Translated by Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan, published by Darussalam Publishers and Distributors, Riyadh – Saudi Arabia, 1997. Or alternatively here This is an interesting and completely unbelievable by modern mind story, I recommend reading it.

For Ayesha’s age at the time of her marriage to Muhammad one can see the following, narrated by Aishah herself:

“5134. Narrated Aishah; that the Prophet; wrote the marriage contract with her when she was six years old and he consummated his marriage when she was nine years old. Hisham said: “I have been informed that Aishah remained with the Prophet for nine years (i.e. till his death).” However, there is a dispute in this, as some Islamic scholars argue that she was 19 when the marriage was consummated. But there are at the least two authentic Hadis which say that she was 9 years of age. “Consummation of marriage” means “The completion of marriage by sexual intercourse”. Therefore, in spite of her wrangling style, what Ms. Sharma said was correct.

Regarding flat earth she gives verse 88.20. One can confirm this in any translation of Quran. The chapter 88 of the Quran starts with what torture non-believers will face after death, and what pleasures await the believers. Then relevant verses came as the great works of Allah, so that people can believe in what Muhammad says in the name of Allah. “88.17. Do they not look at the camels, how they are created? 18.And at the heaven, how it is raised? 19.And at the mountains, how they are rooted (and fixed firm)? 20. And at the earth, how it is outspread? 21.So remind them (O Muhammad) – you are only one who reminds.” Again, Ms. Sharma was not wrong, even if there could be a debate on the interpretation.

As I said earlier, it is clear from what she says that it was a counter to her opponent who might have said something about the Shivaling, and she was challenging that “should she” also start ridiculing these things in his scriptures? To me this context is important.

The tweet by Mr. Navin Kumar Jindal that cost him his primary membership of his party BJP and enraged Muslims world over and Indian liberals is given verbatim below, unedited with his own spelling mistakes:

“नबी के दुलारो से पूछना चाहता हूँ कि तुम्हारा नबी 53 वर्ष की आयु में 6 वर्ष की छोटी बच्ची आयशा के साथ शादी करता है फिर 56 वर्ष की आयु में 9 वर्ष की आयशा के साथ संबंध बनाता है … क्या यह संबंध बलात्कार की श्रेणी में नहीं आता..?”

We need to think about it carefully. One may feel that it is irrelevant question today asked in an insulting manner. Personally, I do not think the question is irrelevant. A few days back I listened to an audio recording of a conversation between Ex-Muslim Sahil and a young Maulana, who claimed to be educated at Deoband. Sahil asked the Maulana age of his father, to which the Maulana replied, after a bit of hesitation, that he is 51 years old. Then over a long drawn dialogue Sahil asked the Maulana that if his father today wants to marry a girl of 6 years with plans to consummate marriage at 9, and if the girl’s parents have no objection, then would the Maulana allow his father to marry the girl without any objection? The Maulana replied yes. What doe this conversation show? To me, it shows that since Muhammad’s life is supposed to be ideal life for a Muslim, what Muhammad did in sixth and early seventh century Arabis is acceptable in twenty-first century world, and especially in India, at the least to many Maulanas and their followers. This makes this question relevant for today.

Now, I have come across unsubstantiated statements that Sita was also 6 years of age at the time of her marriage with Ram, and that Rukmini was 9 years when Krishna abducted her. Well, it may or may not be so, but has no impact on the question we are considering. This is possible that in ancient times in India as well as in Arabia and many other cultures girls were married to older men at the age of 6 and marriages were consummated at 9 or so. Also, admitted that in those cultures there may not have been the idea of ‘consensual sex’ with one’s wife. Therefore, the idea of rape may not have been applicable then in such cases.

But today the age of consensus is 18 in India, and even if there is ‘consensus’ at 9, the act will be considered a rape. There was no concept of human rights in many ancient cultures. And there was slavery. Can we today ask the questions about violation of human rights of slaves in ancient Rome, Arabia and India? Of course, you can say that those societies did not think in this manner, but can we discuss the issue in modern terminology today? Even if those societies did not think in those terms, can we defend these acts of those societies today? If no, why can not we ask similar questions about Islamic practices and Muhammad?

But no, you can not ask questions of Muhammad’s doings and sayings. If you do, you are threatened by ‘सर तन से जुदा”. This has been the method of maintaining respect (?) for Muhammad for centuries. We have records in India of at the least a hundred years.

Recently, we have seen two murders in connection with supposed to be insult to Muhammad. Kamalesh Tiwari of Lakhnow, and Kishan Boliya in Dhandhuka taluka Gujarat. There was a riot in Bangalore in which three people died. There was riot in Kanpur a few days back. Our side India there is a riot situation in London on a film, though this is not regarding Muhammad. There were wide spread riots in Sweden. Before that we all know the stories of Satanic Verses, Danish cartoons, Charlie Hebdo, Samual Paty, and so on.

Islam wants to maintain its ‘reputation’ of a ‘religion of peace’ on the threat of violence and murders. There are many Muslims today who are opposing this attitude of the Maulanas and masses instigated by the Maulanas. But they are too few and can not effectively counter this belligerence and violent threat, constantly looming over the freedom of thought and expression.

There are people in India, so called liberals, who propound theories that criticism of Islam should come only from inside Islam, non-Muslims should say nothing on this. This is unacceptable. First, if Muslims preach the merits of their religion openly and publicly, this itself gives a right to everyone to question and critique it. Two, if Islamic practices effect other citizens’ lives in whatever manner, they have a right to critique and criticise and ask questions.

There is an established trend that Indian government and Indian citizens (irrespective of their religion) quickly give in when faced with violence in the name of Muhammad and Islam. Each time this happens the fear in the society increases, less and less people speak up against bad practices and ideas, the bullies become more and more confident and aggressive, and their dominance of public discourse takes more ominous forms. Our wise political commentators do not realise that thousand such micro aggressions every day keep the communal cauldron boiling. They also do not realise that Hindus are learning the trick fast.

We all know that there was a storm of jokes and insulting comments on Shiva and Shivaling recently. When Ratan Lal was arrested (he should not have been arrested) all liberals rose in protest. And he was released. Now, all liberals want Nupur Sharma arrested, because this time it is Muhammad and not Shivaling. I will not be surprised if Hindus soon discover blasphemy. That would be a bad day for India and Indian democracy, but we can not deny that the Islamic idea of blasphemy given an advantage to the bullying element in the Muslim population. The fundamentalist element in Hindu population will soon fashion such a weapon. Presently, so called liberal journalists can happily share insulting cartoons on Shivaling and at the same time pretend hurt when someone speaks truth about Muhammad. This kinds of double standards fuel animosity.

I will paraphrase what Hamid Dalwai said fifty years back: If you can not stand against Muslim intolerance and communalism, you will see Hindu intolerance and communalism increasing by leaps and bounds. The current fiasco on pretended insult to Muhammad in the country and internationally, has increased votes for BJP in millions, as a perceptive young Muslim commentator said.


Whatever Rahul Gandhi may think, India is a nation

May 26, 2022

Rohit Dhankar

Rahul Ganhdi, a leader of national importance (at the least for some!) and Prime Ministerial candidate of his party the Indian National Congress, is repeating again and again that India is not a “nation” but a “union of States”, and even mistakenly compares it with the European Union which is a ‘Union of Nations’, and not merely of states. In his Cambridge interview he again repeated the same stand referring to the Constitution of India. This is a very dangerous stand coming from a leader of his eminence.

One can ignore his lack of understanding of the meaning of the term “rashtra” in Sanskrit literature, one can also understand his advisors being no wiser than himself on this. It seems Yogendra Yadav is right in saying that the left-liberal group of influential people has de-cultured Indian youth through education, which they controlled and still control. Yadav is also right in saying that the same group pf intellectuals and political parties influences by them have thrown the Indian nationalism to the dust. Therefore, I will go into the history only atm the end to prove that India is a nation for a very long time, and will remain so, even if the communists and Rahul Gandhi do not like it.

I will take his statement first in the context of his own party and the constitution. Because in a silly and childish attempt to hammer his point he used the article 1.(1) of the constitution: “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.”

Staring with the preamble one can see that the constitution sees India as a nation. After declaring “WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly Preamble. resolved to constitute India into a 1[SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC]” the preamble also talks of “[unity and integrity of the Nation]”. Thus, this ‘union’ which so confused Rahul Gandhi, is India and that “India, that is Bharat” is declared a nation right in the preamble.

His own party is called “Indian National Congress”, if India is not a nation then he should change the name of his party as well. May be can call it “Indian Union Congress”.

A few examples from the constitution:

  • Article 38 talks of “national life”, it makes it a directive principle for “securing and protecting as effectively as it may a social order in which justice, social, economic and political, shall inform all the institutions of the national life.”
  • Article 49 talks of “monument(s) or place(s) or object(s) of artistic or historic interest, … of national importance.”
  • Article 51 talks of “national flag”, “national anthem”, “national struggle for freedom” and makes it a fundamental duty of every citizen of India “to defend the country and render national service when called upon to do so.”
  • Article 54 and several other articles mention Delhi as “National Capital Territory of Delhi”, if no nation where is the need for a national capital?
  • Article 124 mention “National Judicial Appointments Commission”.
  • “338. 2[(1) There shall be a Commission for the Scheduled Castes to be known as the National Commission for the Scheduled Castes.”
  • “249. (1) Notwithstanding anything in the foregoing provisions of this Chapter, if the Council of States has declared by resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the members present and voting that it is necessary or expedient in the national interest that Parliament should make laws with respect to any matter enumerated in the State List specified in the resolution, it shall be lawful for Parliament to make laws for the whole or any part of the territory of India with respect to that matter while the resolution remains in force.”

One can multiply such examples from the constitution many times over. Rahul Gandhi and his advisors are confused about the idea of ‘nation’. They think that the term ‘nation’ is applicable only to a culturally homogeneous mass of people who are formed into a political community. They do not think that often cultures themselves make a ‘family’ with significant unitary thread running through them as well as retaining many important, even contradictory, differences. He also seems to think mistakenly that a federal structure contradicts existence of a country as a nation.

To quote from one of my old blog articles “the man (Ernest Renan) who called “A nation’s existence is … a daily plebiscite” was wise enough to admit that “At the present moment, the existence of nations is a good and even necessary thing. Their existence is the guarantee of liberty, a liberty that would be lost if the world had only one law and one master.” and we can add if a mass of people had no laws at all!

The historical angle

To quote some more from the same article of mine mentioned above, lets see what Prof. Habib says on this issue. Professor Irfan Habib in his lecture to Aligarh Muslim University students on 26th October 2015 states: “The first perception of the whole of India as a country comes with the Mauryan Empire. … the inscriptions of the Mauryan emperor Ashoka range from Kandahar and north of Kabul to Karnataka and Andhra and they are in Prakrit, Greek and Aramaic. So it was with such political unity that the concept of India came, and its first name was Jambudvipa a name which Ashoka uses in his Minor Rock Edict-1, … The term Bharata was also used in Prakrit in an inscription in Orissa, at Hathigumpha, of the Kalinga ruler, Kharavela in 1st century BC; that is the first instance of the use of Bharat, and Kharavela uses it for the whole of India. So, gradually the concept of India as a country began to arise and a cultural unity was also seen within it as religions like Buddhism, Brahmanism and Jainism spread to all parts of the country. Prakrit was spoken, at least literary Prakrit, all over the country, becoming its lingua franca. So, there were things which, as people could see, united us.”

He goes on to explicitly refute Perry Anderson: “I say all this because it means that the concept of India as a country was ancient, the assertion made by Perry Anderson in his book The Indian Ideology that the India is a name given by foreigners particularly Europeans in modern times, is a totally misleading statement.”

However, the idea of love for the country or patriotism came much later according to Prof. Habib. “True, there was a conception of India in ancient times, even before Christ, but when was there a conception of love for India i.e. patriotism?” he asks. And his answer is that “The first patriotic poem in which India is praised, India is loved, Indians are acclaimed is Amir Khusrau’s long poem in his Nuh Sipihir written in 1318.”

But that makes only a country, not a nation of free citizens. That according to Prof. Babib came during the freedom movement when the aspirations and wellbeing of the masses became a deep concern and were made part of the freedom movement. And later on enshrined in the Constitution of India.

I disagree with Professor Habib that love for the country emerged only in the 13th Century and that the concept of nation necessarily demands modern kind of liberties for its citizens. Rest I think he establishes firmly that the idea of India is very ancient. But on that at some other time.

Personally I think that an idea of a social and political community with a set of common rules and principles to govern collective life should be considered at the least a beginning of formation of a nation. And such an idea and desire for strengthening it is clear even in the last Sukta of Rig Ved:

“2. Come together, speak together; together let your thoughts agree, just as the gods of long ago, coming to an agreement together, reverently approach their sacrificial portion.

3. Common to them all is the solemn utterance, common the assembly, common their thought along with their perception. I (hereby) utter an utterance common to you all on your behalf; with an oblation common to you all I offer on your behalf.

4. Common is your purpose; common your hearts; let your thought be common, so that it will go well for you together.” (The Rigveda, Translated by stephanie W. Jamison and Joel P. Brereton, X.191, page 1661, Oxford University Press, New York, 2014)

Rahul Gandhi will do well to revise his ideas of India and nation, and be a little more respectful to this nation. Otherwise, if we agree with Yogendra Yadav, he is frittering away whatever little of a key political resource in the form of nationalism his party still retains.


Past wrong destroying our future

May 9, 2022

Rohit Dhankar

For last few days a continuous row is going on on the issue of video-graphy of Gyanvapi Masjid, build on destroys Kashi Vishwanath temple. More than one cases are pending in the courts connected with this mosque. The most recent is regarding right to daily worship of what is termed as Shringar Gauri, represented by a statue said to be in the outer wall of the mosque. Another case regrading archaeological survey by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is said to be pending in the Allahabad High Court. A number of pictures of the masque are available on the internet and are circulating on the social media which have clear telltale signs showing that the mosque was built on a temple.

Another high profile temple-idgah dispute brewing is that of Krishna temple and Shahi Idgah in Mathura. Many more such disputes are ping to arise, in spite of the Places of Worship Act 1991 which provides “for the maintenance of the religious character of any place of worship as it existed on the 15th day of August, 1947”. Ram Janm Bhoomi-Babari Masjid was considered an exception to this act, which is now settled by the Supreme Court.

Most people attribute flaring of these disputes to BJP’s Hindu identity politics, which seems to be only a partial truth. Partial because BJP did not create these disputes, and it could not have created, if there were not a festering wounds on the Hindu psyche and corresponding Muslim pride, if not in the acts of vandalism themselves, but in the bravery of the historical charters who inflicted this wound to Hindu civilization. No serious effort was ever made for reconciliation on this medieval barbarity. Our historians tried to whitewash these shameful acts of destruction of temples and building mosques on them through spacious theories of temple destruction being a common practice by kings in that era. This last even to the extent that the NCERT1 book suggests that the destruction of Somanatha temple by Mahmud Ghazani was same in character as Rajendra I, the Chola King, carrying away statues of deities from the temples of defeated Hindu kings. The combined effect of this white washing, equating two very different motives of the kings, often expressed pride by Muslim leader in ruling hover Hindus for eight hundred years like slaves (Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, as the most famous) never allowed the Hindu wounds to heal. I have talked to many Hindus on this issue, and what rankles them the most is denial that there were any such atrocities perpetrated on their ancesters. BJP found this festering wound useful in its politics and used it. But in its own right any democratic and justly secular nation should have addressed it through its normal politics. Now all these temples which were destroyed and particularly ones converted into mosques or built mosques forcibly on their grounds will open up. Neither BJP can stop it nor the extremely biased so-called liberals who killed secularism in India by completely distorting it.

Richard Eaton2, one of the historians who white washes these atrocities himself gives a list of eighty prominent temples destroyed by Muslim kings. Sita Ram Goel takes this number to thousands. Many of these destroyed temples were converted into mosques or built mosques on the same site with their material. Arun Shourie3 in an interesting artile titled “Hideaway Communalism” gives a list of seven such mosques: Qawwat al-Islam Mosque, The Mosque at Jaunpur, The Mosque at Qanauj, Jami (Masjid) at Etawah, Babri Masjid at Ayodhya (this one settled by the Supreme Court), Mosques of Alamgir (Aurangzeb) (the Gyanvapi Mosque), Mosque at Mathura at sitev of Govind Dev Mandir. The list is based on a book written by very reputed Islamic scholar Maulana Hakim Sayid Abdul Hai. Proper research may reveal dozens, if not hundreds, such mosques. Sooner or later they all will become part of the raging controversy in the country.

The Hindu-hardliners will demand control of all these mosques. In the first phase, for many of these mosques some so-called secular historians will come forwards and will try to obfuscate the issue by saying that there is no conclusive proof whether this of that mosque was constructed on a temple, or whether on an abandoned temple or on an active temple after destruction. It would be tough work for them now, as too much material is available to all public and this ruse will not work. In the second stage the fundamental Islamic principle of “once a mosque always a mosque” will be quoted, which will get a legal support from the waqf principle that once a property becomes invested in waqf can not be taken back. This tangle will be unresolvable and will further communalism the society. Distrust and hatred between the two community will keep on spiraling up.

The country should make all efforts to arrest this dangerous development and return to sanity, the communities in question should re-establish trust, and mutual goodwill towards each other. Resolving the issue of medieval temple destruction and converting them to mosques alone will will not solve our problems, but it will remove one painful point and may prepare ground for resolving other issues.

What could be done?

It seems to me to stem the mandir-musjid acrimony one has to be completely honest and fist has to acknowledge the wrongs done by Muslim kings without ifs, buts and without propounding unsustainable theories. A joint commission of historians and religious people from both sides can ascertain at the least the prominent temples destroyed and mosques built on them. Acknowledging that can be the first step.

As a second step hardliner Hindus have to understand that the barbarity of bigoted Muslim kings of that era can not be revisited on the nation again in the 21st century. Acknowledgment of the atrocities and considering them subhuman acts of religious bigotry should be enough. The ownership of the mosques should remain where it is today. No handing over, or changing the character of the place of worship. We are no more barbarians even if some are pushing us to be.

The Muslim community, and particularly the Islamists, have to learn not to throw these acts of bigotry on the face of their Hindu compatriots as heroic acts and stop taking pride in them. And in those who committed them.

All such mosques should always remain under the supervision of the Archaeological Survey of India. Their ownership should remain with the Muslim community as it is today, but they should not be able to change these structures in a manner that the evidence of their history gets destroyed. Therefore, every change, addition, renovation, restoration should happen strictly in the supervision of ASI and with its clear written approval with maps and all.

Every such property (mosques, idgah etc.) should have a board prominently displayed in front of each gate of its premises giving brief but clear history of the place. Who built the original structure, when, who changed/destroyed, when, in whose ownership is it today, etc.

This should be done once and then the chapter closed.

A simpler way could be that once the historically ascertained facts about prominent temples and mosques are established and agreed upon, the leader of both communities should sit together and come to an agreement that some of them which are considered of crucial importance may be peacefully handed over to the Hindus. But that kind of magnanimity does not seem to be possible in Islamic thought, as far as I understand it; even if many individual Muslims want such a solution it perhaps will never materialize.

A rhetorical whataboutery is often raised whenever one talks about destruction of temples by Muslim kings: what about the Buddhist monasteries and stupas destroyed by Hindu kings? Well, if (1) we have sufficient evidence of particular monasteries and supas which are in the possession of Hindus today, and (2) if there are Buddhists claimants them them, then (3) the Hindus should voluntarily hand them over to Buddhists. If the Hindus are adamant and do not agree then the same treatment as to the mosques should be mated out to them as well.


1NCERT, Oour Pasts II, page 66.

2Richard Eaton, Temple desecration in pre-modern India, FRONTLINE, DECEMBER 22, 2000


Playing mischief with history

April 29, 2022

Rohit Dhankar

Recently three articles are published in The Indian Express with a range of views on the current vitiated communal atmosphere in the country. On 15th April 2022 Mr. S. Y. Quraishi published a short article titles “Calling out hate”. On 21st April 2022 Mr. Balbir Punj published a rejoinder to Mr. Quraishi titled “Ignorance isn’t bliss”. To which Prof. Narayani Gupta published a rejoinder titled “History as mischief” on 26th April 2022.

These three short articles, hardly longer than notes, cover a range of views on the causes and extent of current communal strife and hate speech. Could be useful starting points for pondering on what is happening in the country. My main purpose in this article is to examine Prof. Gupta’s article, the other two I have mentioned to give the context. However, it might be useful to devote a few more lines to the context just to make it clearer. Mr. Quraishi starts with concern over hate speech and examines who should stop it as per the law. In says that “[H]ate speech is at the root of many forms of violence” and writes as a concerned citizen to start with. But when he starts giving examples of hate speech and violence one notices that all the examples are those of Hindus committing this crime and not even a mention of any fault and instances of either hate speech or cause of hate speech from Muslim side. And thus, the article which started with the genuine concern from a citizen reduces itself to Muslim perspective alone.

Mr. Punj in his rejoinder mainly refutes two points in Mr. Quraishi’s article: one, hate speech being the root cause of some forms of violence and Mr. Quraishi’s one sided-ness in accusing only Hindus. He seems to suggest that the hate on the basis on religion entered India with Islam. And recounts the standard list of Right-wing Hindu narrative, starting with Muhammad bin Qasim’s attack on Sindh to present day in India and giving some recent examples from Muslim rioting in Sweden, Spain and Jerusalem. He tries to make a claim that before the Islam entered in India there was equanimity in the Indian society, and Islam’s insistence of only one true God and if in power “treating local Hindus as zimmis, forcing them to pay jizya” and destruction of their places of worship destroyed this equanimity. He charges the the author of the earlier article of over simplifying a “complex phenomenon” to “suit a convenient political narrative”. Also of ignorance and of “pusillanimity to face facts”. But does not directly change of mischief and dishonesty.

And that brings us the main article which I propose to analyze here in a little more detail. Prof. Gupta starts with the standard narrative building tactic which involves discrediting the opponent without refuting his/her claims and declaring the article as almost juvenile effort by comparing it to her younger days’ efforts when “wanted to comment on any article in a newspaper”. Prof. Gupta accuses Mr. Punj of cherry picking from history. However, also notes that the strapline of Mr. Punj’s article is “[U]nderstanding trail of hate in India requires honest examination of its origins”. That makes it clear the purpose of Mr. Punj’s article was not to provide an exhaustive analysis of historical roots of hate between Hindus and Muslims, but to hint at a corrective to Mr. Quraishi’s one-sided narrative by giving some historical examples. Since Mr. Quraishi took all the contemporary examples only of Hindu hate speech, he is pointing to historical roots and recounting only those incidents which cause hate, completely ignoring the syncretic tradition.

Prof. Gupta then grandly declares that “[H]istory as a discipline is about time, place and people. Teachers of history compartmentalise themselves into sections of time and of place/region. Not so the non-historian.” Thereby reminding the reader of her own credentials and authority as a historian and Mr. Punj’s lack of the same. Which would be fine had she shown that historian’s acumen in the rest of the article. Then reminds the reader that there was Sufi tradition in Sindh which Mr. Punj ignores. The only substantial claim by Mr. Punj she expresses doubt is that he writes of Mahmud of Ghazni that he “took a vow to wage jihad every year against Indian idolators”. And says that she “tried to locate a source for this, and came up only with one — an earlier article by Punj”. This is a minor point in Punj’s article, and may actually be wrong. As far as Ghazni’s proclaiming himself as champion of Islam and destroyer of infidel’s idols is concerned there are plenty of references. Prof. Romila Thapar on the authority of M. Nizami writes about Mahmud Ghazani “[H]is support for the Caliphate was engineered to obtain for himself the appropriate titles of the defender of Islam”. Alberuni writes, “Mahmud utterly ruined the prosperity of the country, and performed there wonderful exploits, by which the Hindus became like atoms of dust scattered in all diorections, and like a tale of in the mouth of the people. Their scattered remains cherish, of course, the most inveterate aversion towards all Muslims”

The mischief

The most mischievous lines in Prof. Gupta’s article are “Ghaznavi’s exact contemporary, Rajendra Chola, was in the same period raiding Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia. In Indian school textbooks Ghaznavi has always been an “invader”, the Cholas were “conquerors”.”

To understand the full extent of this mischief we need to see at the least one more example from Class VII Social Studies of book of NCERT, the following passage is from Chapter 5 titled “Rulers and Builders” in this book.

“… in the early eleventh century, when the Chola king Rajendra I built a Shiva temple in his capital he filled it with prized statues seized from defeated rulers. An incomplete list included: a Sun-pedestal from the Chalukyas, a Ganesha statue and several statues of Durga; a Nandi statue from the eastern Chalukyas; an image of Bhairava (a form of Shiva) and Bhairavi from the Kalingas of Orissa; and a Kali statue from the Palas of Bengal.

Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni was a contemporary of Rajendra I. During his campaigns in the subcontinent he attacked the temples of defeated kings and looted their wealth and idols. Sultan Mahmud was not a very important ruler at that time. But by destroying temples – especially the one at Somnath – he tried to win credit as a great hero of Islam. In the political culture of the Middle Ages most rulers displayed their political might and military success by attacking and looting the places of worship of defeated rulers.”

Prof. Gupta equates Mahmud of Ghazni and Rajendra Chola and points out bias in calling Rajendra Chola a “conqueror” and Ghazni an “invader”, she terms campaigns of both “raids”. The NCERT textbook wants to show a parallel between the two and communicate that destruction of temples in the Middle Ages was nothing special to Ghazni or Islamic rulers, and this was a done thing by most kings to show their political might.

We need to understand this mischief carefully. [I am not a historian, just trying to make sense of some of the claims of historians which seem to have serious inconsistencies as per my ordinary logic. Therefore, will accept the errors in my judgment if some historian provides evidence which an ordinary thinker can accept as reasonable. But currently I do have serious doubts about these claims of equating Mahmud Ghazani and Rajendra I of Chola dynasty. This is somewhat long and tedious, the readers, if any, have to be patient. 🙂]

First, let’s look at the list of looted statues the first paragraph in the NCERT book gives. The book itself gives no references, but the list provided by Richard Eaton closely resembles it. He writesd: “In the early eleventh century, the Chola king Rajendra I furnished his capital with images he had seized from several prominent neighbouring kings: Durga and Ganesha images from the Chalukyas; Bhairava, Bhairavi, and Kali images from the Kalingas of Orissa; a Nandi image from the Eastern Chalukyas; and a bronze Siva image from the Palas of Bengal.” One can immediately see that most of the images mentioned are common in the NCERT book and Eaton’s paper. In this section of his paper Eaton gives a long list of statues looted by Indian Hindu kings from other Hindu kings. The reference he gives for this long list is from Richard H. Devis’s “Lives of Indian Images”.

In this entire list Eaton given one single example of destruction of an image. It must be noted that looting an image of a deity and then installing it in one’s own temple is not the same thing as destroying the image. As Eaton himself notes the Indian kings derived their authority from the deity of the kingdom, and their political legitimacy as well as power was supposed to be bestowed as well as protected by the deity. A king who takes the image and installs it in a temple in his own capital city is communicating that ‘the deity has left the defeated kind, and now bestows His grace and protects my kingdom and not that of the defeated king’. Here the real target of attack is the king and not the deity. The idea is not to destroy the religion, or any animosity to the religion, not is to insult the deity and the religion, but to say that the religion and deity now fevour me, rather than the defeated king. This motivation and message is very different from what was being communicated by Muslim destroyers of temples, including Mahmud Ghazni. Prof. Thapar notes in “Somanatha: The many voices of History” about Ghazni that “[T]he purpose of the raids was multiple, of which iconoclasmwas undoubtedly a motivation.” That is why it was necessary to destroy the image and take pieces of it to be placed on the steps of mosque to be trodden upon by the believers. Here the message is that your god is false, and I want to destroy it, and to inflicvt an insult upon the religion and its believers.

But Eaton also gives at the least one example of destruction of an image of deity Hindu troops. The example is of destruction of image ‘supposed to be’ of “Vishnu Vaikuntha, the state-deity of Lalitaditya’s kingdom in Kashmir” by “Bengali troops”. Eaton gives no clear reference, but since all this list seems to be based on Richard Davis, this is reasonable to assume that this example of image destruction is also based on the same source. Davis gives the story based on Kalhan’s Rajataringiti. It is an interesting story. The part of the story concerned with my argument goes as follows: “Once, after making a promise of safe conduct to the king of Gauda (Bengal), and offering as surety (madhyastha, lit. “intermediary”) on his pledge the image of Visnu Parihasakesava, Lalitaditya treacherously ordered the ruler assassinated. Such a brazen act clearly departed from all standards of proper royal conduct, and called for revenge. As we might expect by now, the reprisal was directed not at the perpetrator of the deed but at its intermediary. A troop of the murdered king’s dedicated attendants snuck into Kashmir, posing as pilgrims…”. Here the deity was pledged as surety and intermediary, the king who worshiped that deity acted treacherously. And it was an act of specific revenge. Also, it was an act of loyal troops of the assassinated king. All other looting of images is to respectfully reinstating them in temples in the capital cities of the victorious kings. They all were motivated by politics and it was the kingdom under attack, not the religion or deity. In destruction of temples by Muslim rulers its was also the religion of infidels and their idols.

A historian who does not understand this difference is not worth his/her salt. And a historian who understand this but hides the fact and makes false parallels is not honest, and is playing mischief.

The second point in the above quotes of Prof. Gupta and NCERT textbook in equating Rajendra I and Mahmud Ghazni is about ‘raids’. I am not sure on this. I do know that Ghazni was actually ‘raiding’ repeatedly to destroy temples and images, to loot wealth and to capture slaves to be sold in slave markets. But suspect that Rajendra I was attacking to extend his kingdom. If there is evidence of Rajendra I only raiding and of no intention to establish his rule on the defeated territories, calling both raiders will be justified. If not, then one was actually conquering, the other raiding. But the terms are “invader” and “conqueror”. This difference seems to be because of national alignment of the rules in question, however, I don not find it unjustified. Indians may call Rajenda I as ‘conquerer’ as they consider his a great ruler in their history; and say Shri Lankans may call him an ‘invader’ if they do not accept him as contributing to development of their nation, and also consider him as outsider.

There are many more examples of this kind of mischief in our history books. I will just mention a few from a single chapter of the same NCERT book without going into details. The chapter titled “The Delhi Sultans” in citing the sources for writing this chapter mentions histories written by court historians of the Sultans, and claims “The authors of tawarikh were learned men: secretaries, administrators, poets and courtiers, who both recounted events and advised rulers on governance, emphasising the importance of just rule.” But do not mention that the justice according to them was ‘Islamic justice’ in which zazia was legitimate and just, and do not mention that in the later part of Delhi Sultanate zazia was levied on Hindus. The chapter mentions that “The Delhi Sultans built several mosques in cities all over the subcontinent. These demonstrated their claims to be protectors of Islam and Muslims.” But does not mention that many temples were destroyed and many of these mosques were build on them. The chapter specifically mentions “Quwwat al-Islam” mosque in Qutub complex in Delhi, but does not tell the students that it is build on Hindu or Jain temple, as the architectural elements can be seen even today. It also does not tell that The “Quwwat-ul-Islam” means “Might of Islam”, which has special significance when the mosque stands on a destroyed temple. Then chapter claims that “These authors advised rulers on the need to preserve an “ideal” social order based on birthright and gender distinctions.” But do not tell that this ideal was Islamic ideal and it had much more than just “birthright and gender distinctions”. All this I think qualifies as distortion of history, if even not active mischief.

However, I am not accusing these authors of any anti-national or anti-Hindu motives, at least not in this article. I think they are guided by a mistaken belief that one can create a cohesive and peaceful society in which different religious communities can co-exist if their history of atrocities on each other is hidden from the new generations. I believe; may be I am wrong, but this is my belief today; that for a cooperative, respectful and peaceful co-existence the involved communities have to ascertain the truth, accept the truth, apologize for the atrocities on each other, make a binding agreement that such atrocities will not happen again. From this point of view, none of the authors of the three article in question here do a good job. Mr. Quraishi mentions only contemporary Hindu aggression and completely ignores Muslim aggression. Mr. Punj talk of Muslim atrocities and Muslim propensity for unrest but conveys that there is no fault on the side of Hindus. Prof. Gupta only obfuscates in the interest of ongoing powerful so-called liberal narrative. None of them is alone helpful to Indian citizens. If one takes them to be representatives (they are not, this is just for an example) of these sections of society, they need to sit together and pay attention to each others facts, conclusions and motivations.


Communalism, Hate Speech and History

April 28, 2022

Communalism, Hate Speech and History

I am copying three articles below, written in this mopnth by three different authros in The Indian Express. Copying them in the order of their publication.
The first one is by S.Y. Quraisi regarding hate speech.
Second a rejoinder to Quraishi by BalbirPunj.
The third one is regarding cherry picking in history, a rejoinder to Punj by Narayani Gupta.
These three articles actually cover a lot of ground of the current communal-political discourse. Three views, the so-called liberal, Muslim perspective and the so-called Rightist Hindu view are presented, though not in detail.
Let us discuss these articles on the coming Saturday, 30th April 2022, at 8:00 pm
Link: Rohit Dhankar is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Open Dialogue
Time: Apr 30, 2022 08:00 PM Mumbai, Kolkata, New Delhi
Join Zoom Meeting


Hate speech is violent in itself and must be called out
SY Quraishi writes: It is at the root of many forms of violence that are being perpetrated and has become one of the biggest challenges to the rule of law and to our democratic conscience.
Calling Our Hate
Written by S Y Quraishi |Updated: April 15, 2022 9:05:50 am
What is to be done when the Indian republic, committed to working within the framework of constitutional democracy and the rule of law, starts to accommodate elements that are stridently anti-constitutional and anti-secular? What once belonged to the fringes of Indian society now has increasingly become mainstream, their disruptive actions being registered in the public sphere more frequently and viciously. Hate speech is at the root of many forms of violence that are being perpetrated and has become one of the biggest challenges to the rule of law and to our democratic conscience.
One of the most visible consequences of hate speech is increased electoral mobilisation along communal lines which is also paying some electoral dividends.
Hate speech must be unambiguously condemned and the law must take its course, although not merely because it can lead to events of violence in the future. Hate speech, in itself, must be understood and treated as a violent act and urgently so, for it has become an indispensable resource for the ruling powers. No wonder, during the elections, it becomes louder.
Several instances of hate speech and religious polarisation have been reported in Yogi Adityanath’s poll campaign in the recently concluded UP elections, for instance. In 2019, the Supreme Court reprimanded the Election Commission, calling it “toothless” for not taking action against candidates engaging in hate speech during the election campaigns in UP. The Commission responded by saying that it had limited powers to take action in this matter. So far, the Supreme Court does not appear to have acted decisively in response to allegations of hate speech in electoral campaigns, indicating that the EC must assume more responsibility and the EC has argued that in matters of hate speech, it is largely “powerless”. In any case, the EC’s role is confined to the election period. So who is responsible for the non-election times?

Is the state powerless? Not at all. There are a whole bunch of laws meant to curb hate speech. The Indian Penal Code, as per Sections 153A, 295A and 298, criminalises the promotion of enmity between different groups of people on grounds of religion and language, alongside acts that are prejudicial to maintaining communal harmony. Section 125 of the Representation of People Act deems that any person, in connection with the election, promoting feelings of enmity and hatred on grounds of religion and caste is punishable with imprisonment up to three years and fine or both. Section 505 criminalises multiple kinds of speech, including statements made with the intention of inducing, or which are likely to induce, fear or alarm to the public, instigating them towards public disorder; statements made with the intention of inciting, or which are likely to incite, class or community violence; and discriminatory statements that have the effect or the intention of promoting inter-community hatred. It covers incitement of violence against the state or another community, as well as promotion of class hatred.
While examining the scope of hate speech laws in India, the Law Commission in its 267th report published in March 2017, recommended introduction of new provisions within the penal code that specifically punish incitement to violence in addition to the existing ones. In my view, any recommendation for more laws is a red herring and provides an excuse for inaction. It’s the lack of political will, blatant inefficiency and bias of the administration and shocking apathy of the judiciary that is killing the secular spirit of the Constitution.
Another watchdog should have been the media. In recent years, hate speech in all its varieties has acquired a systemic presence in the media and the internet, from electoral campaigns to everyday life. Abusive speech directed against minority communities, particularly Muslims, and disinformation campaigns on media networks have made trolling and fake news significant aspects of public discourse. By desensitising the citizenry with a constant barrage of anti-minority sentiments, the ethical and moral bonds of our democracy are taking a hit.
This epidemic of “mediatised” hate speech is, in fact, a global phenomenon. According to the Washington Post, 2018 can be considered as “the year of online hate”. Facebook, in its Transparency Report, disclosed that it ended up taking down 3 million hateful posts from its platform while YouTube removed 25,000 posts in one month alone.
On April 2, amidst unconcerned police officials and cheering crowds, Mahant Bajrang Muni Udasin, the chief priest of the Badi Sangat Ashram in Uttar Pradesh’s Sitapur district, publicly threatened sexual violence against Muslim women and against Muslims in general — “you and your pigsty will cease to exist”. Although this particular video went viral recently, and he has now been arrested by the Sitapur police, Udasin has had a long history of spewing hate and stoking communal polarisation with apparent impunity. In the past, Udasin celebrated Dara Singh, a Bajrang Dal member who is currently serving a life sentence for leading a mob on January 23, 1999 in Orissa and setting fire to the wagon in which the Christian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons were burnt to death. Likening Dara Singh to a godman, Udasin appealed to Hindu monks to declare him a Shankaracharya. With this, Udasin joins the ranks of a multitude of “holy” men and women, most prominent among them being Yati Narsinghanand, Pooja Shakun Pandey and Jitendra Tyagi, who have been at the forefront of the politics of fear and hatred.
With elected members currently sitting in the legislative assemblies and Parliament giving political sanction to these self-styled mahants, and ordinary citizens mobilised into mob violence and complicit public officials, hate speech is becoming the dominant mode of public political participation. Two people died in the Ram Navami violence recently while many were arrested across states. Shocking images also surfaced from JNU of students injured during a face-off between two groups on Ram Navami on campus.

This should prick the conscience of the nation. Enough damage has been done. We cannot wait another day to address this growing challenge.


Face the facts on communal violence in India
Balbir Punj writes: Understanding climate of hate requires honest examination of its origins, perpetrators
Ignorance isn’t bliss
Written by Balbir Punj |Updated: April 21, 2022 10:46:08 am

Hate and bigotry feed on each other. They germinate and flourish on a toxic diet of divisive and schismatic ideologies and polarising creeds that discriminate against human beings on the basis of colour, region, gender, faith — and divide them between believers and non-believers — ranging the chosen ones against the idolatrous.
‘Calling out hate’ by S Y Quraishi (IE, April 15) has little to do with the anatomy of hate or its ongoing malignancy. It is more of an ad hominem attack on the ruling dispensation. A complex phenomenon has been over-simplified to suit a convenient political narrative. The arguments are drearily familiar, facts dodgy and conclusions delusional.
For aeons, India has had syncretic traditions inspired by the Vedic aphorism, “Ekam sad vipra bahudha vadanti” (there is only one truth and learned persons call it by many names). Because of this underpinning, Indian society has never insisted on uniformity in any facet of life. Indian philosophy is a smorgasbord of varied ideas and traditions — incongruous at times, but always a part of a harmonious milieu.
This equanimity of Indian society was, however, disrupted by invading creeds claiming only their God, and His messenger were true, and the rest were false and worthy of destruction, along with their followers and places of worship.

The first such incursion came in 712, when Muhammad bin Qasim vanquished Sindh, and as Chach Nama, a contemporary Arab chronicle states, introduced the practice of treating local Hindus as zimmis, forcing them to pay jizya (a poll tax), as a penalty to live by their beliefs. “Hate” and “bigotry” thus made their debut in India, which was hitherto free from this virus. Pakistan’s official website credits this invasion as when the country was born as an Islamic nation in the Subcontinent.
In the 11th century, Mahmud of Ghazni, while receiving the caliphate honours on his accession to the throne, took a vow to wage jihad every year against Indian idolaters. During his 32-year reign, he did keep his solemn promise over a dozen times. The rest is history.
But why go into the distant past? Unfortunately, the trail of hate unleashed over a thousand years ago continues to haunt us even today. The last 100-odd years witnessed the Moplah riots, Partition, and the decimation of Hindus/Sikhs/Buddhists in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Kashmir Valley. The recent pre-planned attacks on Ram Navami processions in over half a dozen states, and the onslaught on the Hanuman Janamutsav rally have reminded us that the ogre of hate is alive and stinging.
It’s uncanny: While communal mayhem was going on in India, Muslim mobs were fighting pitched battles against the police in dozens of towns in Spain, Sweden and the city of Jerusalem. In Sweden, Muslims were agitated over blasphemy involving the holy Quran. Protests in Spain are against the imprisonment of a rapper convicted of insulting the monarchy and praising terrorist violence. While the issues involving these sordid episodes may differ, the pattern is common.
Were the Hindu-Muslim relations peaceful in the past and have soured post-2014? The fact is, ties between the two communities were seldom cordial. There were intermittent skirmishes, wars and occasional short-lived opportunistic alliances. Is the current dispensation responsible for Muslim alienation? Remember, even Gandhiji failed to wean Muslims from Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s schismatic movement.
In the aftermath of the Moplah violence and communal riots at several places in India, Gandhiji observed in Young India (May 24, 1924): “My own experience but confirms the opinion that the Musalman as a rule is a bully, and the Hindu as a rule is a coward”. Nothing much has since changed in the Subcontinent.
Can laws or police fight hate? No. If they could, Kashmiri Hindus wouldn’t have gone through the hell they did in the 1990s, and would have been happily back in their homes by now. India is a secular democracy, not because of its Constitution. It’s the other way round. When Pakistan declared itself an Islamic Republic in 1947, it would have been natural for India to identify itself as a Hindu state. It didn’t, and couldn’t have — because of its Hindu ethos of pluralism. A Hindu-dominated India, is, and will always be, catholic, plural, myriad and a vibrant democracy.
George Orwell said, “The relative freedom which we enjoy depends on public opinion. The law is no protection. Governments make laws, but whether they are carried out, and how the police behave, depends on the general temper in the country”.
Can one fight hate selectively? The burning of Graham Staines and his children is reprehensible. So was the lynching of Akhlaq and Junaid. But why the cowering silence on the dastardly gunning down of Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati and four of his disciples (August 2008) in Orissa for which seven Christians and a Maoist have been convicted? Over a dozen Muslim workers of the BJP have been killed in Jammu & Kashmir and other parts of India in the recent past. These victims of hate are, of course, ignored. Their deaths don’t suit the narrative.
Charged reactions, punctuated with half-truths, deliberate omissions and tailored narratives, offer no real solution. Pusillanimity to face facts will only exacerbate the situation and give egregious results. Ignorance is not always bliss.
In this context, it’s relevant to recall what Lester Pearson (14th PM of Canada) said: “Misunderstanding arising from ignorance breeds fear, and fear remains the greatest enemy of peace.”

The problem with cherry-picking facts from history
Narayani Gupta writes: Selective reading of historical events produces half-truths, tailored narratives
History as Mischief
Written by Narayani Gupta | Updated: April 26, 2022 6:32:21

In my younger days, if we wanted to comment on any article in a newspaper, we rattled off a short letter to the editor on our typewriter. Now there are journalists whose comments are in the form of an article as long as the one under discussion. Many of them can only be described as clones of Humpty Dumpty, confident that “When I use a word, it means exactly what I want it to mean, no more, no less”.
A recent example is that of an article by S Y Quraishi (‘Calling out hate’, April 15) and the comment that followed. Noting the alarming reports of hate speeches in the social media, Quraishi wrote, “It is at the root of many forms of violence that are being perpetrated and has become one of the biggest challenges to the rule of law and to our democratic conscience.” He lists those who can act firmly and swiftly — during elections it is the Election Commission that must act, and in the “non-election” months the state has the power to act by using provisions of the Indian Penal Code, and the Representation of the People Act. The sense of urgency in his article was palpable.
There was a rejoinder to Quraishi in The Indian Express (‘Ignorance isn’t bliss’, April 21). Balbir Punj, the writer, says in the second paragraph that Quraishi’s “arguments are drearily familiar, facts dodgy, and conclusions delusional”. Punj adds: “Quraishi’s article has little to do with the anatomy of hate or its ongoing malignancy”. Quraishi was not dissecting the emotion of hate, he was criticising the inaction of the Election Commission and the courts, in the context of hate-speeches made by individuals over the last year.
Punj begins his piece on a breathless note: “Hate and bigotry feed on each other. They germinate and flourish on a toxic diet of divisive and schismatic ideologies and polarising creeds that discriminate against human beings on the basis of colour, region, gender, faith — and divide them between believers and non-believers — ranging the chosen ones against the idolatrous”. The strapline was “Understanding trail of hate in India requires honest examination of its origins”. Eleven of the 15 paragraphs in the essay deal with this trail.

History as a discipline is about time, place and people. Teachers of history compartmentalise themselves into sections of time and of place/region. Not so the non-historian. Punj writes, “For aeons, India has had syncretic traditions, inspired by the Vedic aphorism “ekam sad [sic] vipra bahudha vadanti” (there is only one truth and learned persons call it by many names). In September 2020, a 16-member committee was set up by the Ministry of Culture to study the origin and evolution of Indian culture, “dating back to around 12,000 years ago”. It held two meetings and vanished from the scene. That’s a cautionary tale.
Bhakti and Sufi cults have been for long described as “syncretic”. Punj does not associate Sindh with its great Sufi tradition, but with bin Qasim’s conquest in 712 CE and the coming of Islam — “…as Chach Nama, a contemporary Arab chronicle states, [he] introduced the practice of treating local Hindus as zimmis, forcing them to pay jizya… ‘Hate’ and ‘bigotry’ thus made their debut in India, which was hitherto free from this virus”.
It is worth locating and browsing through translations of the Chach Nama, for its accounts of the attitude of the Arab rulers of Sindh towards the Hindu population and their places of worship. A natural outcome of this beginning was the enduring presence of Sufi orders in Sindh.
The simplest — but not wholly ethical — way to substantiate an argument is by cherry-picking. From 8th-century Sindh the author moves to 11th-century north India. He writes of Mahmud of Ghazni who “took a vow to wage jihad every year against Indian idolators”. (I tried to locate a source for this, and came up only with one — an earlier article by Punj, on July 12, 2019). Ghaznavi’s exact contemporary, Rajendra Chola, was in the same period raiding Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia. In Indian school textbooks Ghaznavi has always been an “invader”, the Cholas were “conquerors”.
The next eight centuries are omitted, and the trail moves down to Malabar (the Moplah Rebellion of 1921), then north and east India (the Partition tragedies of 1946-8), the “decimation” of Hindus in neighbouring countries (no dates) and people in Spain and Sweden.
He proceeds to ask a rhetorical question “Can laws or police fight hate?”
And this article was published a day after the BJP-run civic body let the bulldozers raze homes in Jahangirpuri “in the face of the Supreme Court order” as the Indian Express headline stated on the same day as Punj’s article!
Punj’s narrative could be described in his own words — “charged reactions, punctuated with half-truths, deliberate omissions and tailored narratives, offer no real solution” [to what?]. This is followed by a line which I find extremely difficult to decipher — “pusillanimity to face facts will only exacerbate the situation and give egregious results.”

The Quran verses in Hindu temple festival: Meaning and significance

April 17, 2022

Rohit Dhankar

The whole India was happy when the news that Rathotsava of 900 year old Chennakeshava temple in Belur, Karnataka, started with recital of verses from Quran. It is like a breath of fresh air in the current Hindu-Muslim tension too often resulting in violent episodes. All news papers and news outlets published it prominently and praised the decision of the temple. It is read as a symbol of not only peaceful coexistence, but also deeper goodwill between to two communities. Many said this describes the beauty of India.

There is no doubt that syncretic traditions mutually respected and cherished by both the communities, and an all prevailing respect and goodwill towards each other is what the India needs the most at the current juncture. No sane Indian could or should doubt it. However, traditions and rituals which have become tradition are dead mental/physical gymnastics if their origin and true meaning is not known, understood and accepted by those who are involved and those who appreciate that traditional ritual. Such rituals on the surface can neither create nor sustain true and lasting harmony. If they are accepted and cherished on the force of dogma alone, without understanding their meaning, they actually can be turned into flash-points of violent clash any time, by those who capture people’s mind through them. Therefore, to appreciate the benevolent force of this ritual, knowledge of its origin and meaning of the ritual including that of the verses from Quran is a necessity.

But all news items are declaring that the origin and reason why the ritual started is known to no one. A temple manual written in 1932 is said to mention it, but not how and why this ritual was started. No historian has come forward to explain its origin and original meaning. The only explanation comes from the ToI, which claims that “Belur-based writer and researcher Srivatsa S Vati said the chanting practice is said to have been started in the Ramanujacharya period (1017–1137 CE) as part of Sarva Dharma Samanvaya (a concept embodying the equality of the destination of the paths followed by all religions; although the paths themselves may be different).” The temple itself is said to have been built in 1116 CE, which means the ritual started some time between 1116 CE and 1137 CE. Which implies (1) a significant Muslim population in Belur at that time, and (2) goodwill of temple authorities in particular and Hindus is general towards Muslims and doctrines of Islam. One can assume (2), at the least for an argument; but certainly wonder about (1). Be that as it may, overall it looks a socially positive step of the temple authority of that time.

The important point to note about the idea of “Sarva Dharma Samanvaya (a concept embodying the equality of the destination of the paths followed by all religions; although the paths themselves may be different)” is that it is worthy of following and creates good for the society only if it is mutual, understood, believed in and followed by all. Followed by one party among many and not believed in seriously and not followed properly by others creates serious problems. It may solve some short term problem without mutuality, but will create much bigger in the long run.

One indicator of appreciation of the principle of “Sarva Dharma Samanvaya” by ordinary public is its cheering the ritual and appreciative publication of the news in the media. But this would be real only if the public, media and appreciating opinion makers also know and are transparent about the meaning of the verses from the Quran that are recited. But no news story tells you which verses from the Quran are recited. ToI gives English translation without actually giving reference to the original verses. I will examine that meaning in a while, but first let us think why it is important to know the actual meaning of the verses recited.

Suppose, some good souls from the Hindu community (Brahmins, Dalits and all) opening a school for all castes to study together to acquire vidya, and the inauguration is flagged off with the following verses:

नाविस्पष्टमधीयीत न शूद्रजनसन्निधौ । न निशान्ते परिश्रान्तो ब्रह्माधीत्य पुनः स्वपेत् ॥ ९९ ॥ (Manusmriti)

Suppose further, that every one appreciates the school for all, starting with recitals from a Hindu-shastra, considers it an occasion of unity and acceptance of all for the seeking knowledge. But no one quotes, gives reference of tells the meaning of the verse to all who are appreciating it. Would it really be a gesture of unity and earning vidya (knowledge) for all? Would it last? Would it be genuine? Is the ritual in itself (the physical motions of it) enough? The reader should decide for himself/herself. Meaning of the above quoted verse: “Let him not recite (the texts, Vedas) indistinctly, nor in the presence of Sudras; nor let him, if in the latter part of the night he is tired with reciting the Veda, go again to sleep.” It seems to me that without understanding this verse and the meaning of ‘shudra’ in this, celebration of inclusiveness in this imaginary example would be misplaced if not seriously misleading.

The recited verses from the Quran and their meaning

I did not find references to the recited verses, may be some news item did give the references, but I could not get it. A well wisher and friend sent a link to ToI story, which gives the following English translation:

In the name of Allah, the most gracious and merciful, the god is praised as lord of the world. The god is the owner of the judgment day. The god is worshipped to pray for the help and to show us a straight path. Those who go on a straight path, is not the right way to gain anger …” ToI, 15th April 2022 in “How Hindu temple kept Quran reading tradition alive”.

This text breaks off, it seems without completion, at the end. However, any one cursorily familiar with Quran will immediately recognize that it resembles very closely to the meaning of Chapter 1 (Surah 1. Al-Fatihah). This chapter of The Quran is widely used on many occasions, including in namaaz. This is also clear that the meaning given in ToI is wrong, whether that is intentional or because of ignorance is difficult to say.

Mawlana Abul Kalam Azad, perhaps the tallest leader of India from the Muslim community, considered a very accomplished Islamic scholar, has explained Quran in his “The Tarjuman Al-Quran”. Mawlana’s translation for this chapter in the said book is as follows:

“In the name of Allah, the compassionate, the merciful

1. Praise is for Allah only — The Lord of All Being!

2. The Benevolent, the Merciful!

3. Master on the Day of Recompense!

4. Thee only do we serve, and Thee onlydo we ask for help.

5. Direct us to the Straight Path –

6. The path of those to whom Thou has been gracious, –

7. Not of those who have incurred Thy displeasure, nor of those who have gone astray.” (Emphasis added)

The Mawlana writes the whole of first part of his The Tarjuman Al-Quran on this chapter alone. The long winded arguments are very informative and a pleasure to read, whether all convincing or not is a separate matter.

In this article we will pay attention only to the emphasized verses 4 to 7. In explaining verse 4 Mawlana writes: “…, the form of prayer suggested in the Surat is not, ‘We serve Thee’, but is specifically worded, ‘Thee alone do we serve’, and from ‘Thee alone do we ask for help’. This manner of expression fulfills the primary condition of belief in the unity of God, and disallows room for every form of ‘shirk’ or associating with God anything beside Him.” (Emphasis as in the original) The meaning of ‘shirk’ according to Britannica: “shirk, (Arabic: “making a partner [of someone]”), in Islam, idolatry, polytheism, and the association of God with other deities.” The temple in which the verses were recited qualifies as forbidden ‘shirk’ on the count that it is both polytheistic as well as idolatrous.

The ‘straight path’ according to Mawlana is the path prescribed by the revelation, the central piece of which is already there in verse 4 above. “The Noble Quran” translated by M. T. Al-Hilali and M. M. Khan and published by King Fahd Complex for the Printing of Holy Qur’an, Madinah, is more direct and brief. Accordingly it is simply “Islamic monotheism”. And the path of those who have incurred Allah’s anger and/or gone astray are those who worship anything but Allah, particularly mentioned in this translation are Jews and Christians. Hindus were not an issue in the Arabia of Muhammad’s time, so they are not mentioned. But if one looks at the meaning of ‘shirk’, they, including the temple administration, amply qualify to be counted among those who incur Allah’s wrath and who have gone astray. Of course, Quran never tires of telling you that all such people will burn in hell for eternity, though that is not mentioned in this chapter.

We can say for the purposes of this article that perhaps in every religion there are people with three broad attitudes to the faith in: 1. Those who actually believe in the every tenet of their religion, if they happen to know them. 2. Those who selectively believe, accept the good and leave our what they consider bad. And 3. those who are only socially associated with the faith through rituals and social relationship.

All that the people in category 3 would want is this kind of acceptance of each other’s faith and rituals in which both may participate. However, to be true to their position they should wish it to be two-sided. That is an equal give and take from both religions. My question to such people is: would this ritual still be something to rejoice if there is no such both-sided give and take in the matters of faith? And, is there such a give and take between Hindus and Muslims? My question to the people in category 2 would be the same.

My questions for the people in category one—these are the people who actually matter in religious strife—would be separate for Hindus and Muslims. To Hindus: Are they fine with the actual meaning of the verses recited? Or do they believe that the actual meaning is something like given by the ToI? My question for the Muslims would be: do they accord equal respect to Chennakeshava as to Allah? Would they be willing to reinterpret the verses 4 to 7 as simply indicating devotion to the universal God by any name, any attributes and by any ways of worship? Would the Maulanas accept that the priest of the Chennakeshava temple will go to jannat? Or is he likely to incur the Allah’s wrath?

In my view if this openness in interpretation of the meaning of these verses is not there, this ritual does not represent “Sarva Dharma Samanvaya” and either is hypocrisy or worst Islamic supremacism. One also need to remember that Sarva Dharma Samanvaya in this sense would require reinterpretation of Quran. Would Indian public be prepared for that? One ardently wishes that all this becomes possible. But I do not think that can happen by just rejoicing in superfluous rituals and shying away from asking questions like the ones raised here. The questions like these and an open debate on them with mutual respect and goodwill is the only thing that can give a deeper and real meaning and significance to such rituals.


भारत में वर्तमान सम्प्रदायिक परिदृश्य: कारण और निराकरण?

April 15, 2022

(पहला रफ़ ड्रफ़्ट। इस आलेख को चर्चा के लिये नोट्स के रूप में देखा जाना चाहिये, अभी व्यवस्थित लेख के रूप में नहीं। इस में अभी भाषा और कथ्य की गलतियां हो सकती है। पूरे लेख को अभी हिन्दी में भी नहीं लिखा है। लोगों से एक चर्चा और उसमें इस में अभिव्यक्त विचारों की आलोचना-समलोचना के बाद ही इसे पूरा करने का विचार है, यदि किया तो।)

Discussion on Open Dialogue: 16th April 8:00 pm

रोहित धनकर

भारतीय कथित उदारवादी आख्यान के दो लोगों की तिप्पणियां

प्रोफ़ेसर अपूर्वनन्द का मत

A Delhi University professor and one of the foremost writers in The Wire, tells us that “This politics of violence has caused immense cognitive damage to the Hindus. Their ability to comprehend the world and society is seriously impaired. They have also lost their sense of the self.” (emphasis added). Now, the Hindus, all Hindus, are not only responsible for the Hindu-Muslim riots and rifts in the society, but if they don’t feel this they have become stupid, they lost their cognitive ability and sense of self. Remember that sense of the self and cognitive ability to understand the world is what makes us persons and confers citizenship rights on us. But Hindus have lost both, thus they are no more persons and soon their rights should be consider an anomaly.

प्रोफ़ेसर योगेन्द्र यादव का मत

उत्तर प्रदेश में भाजपा को बहुत मिला तो सब यह विश्लेशण करने लगे की यह क्या हुआ? इतनी समस्याओं, जनता को कठिनायों, आदि को भूल कर लोगों ने भाजपा को वोट कैसे देदिये? बहुत लोगों ने बहुत से कारण गिनवाये, कुछ ने जनता को फ़ुसलाये हुए मूर्ख माना, हलंकि सीधा लिखा नहीं। इसी सन्दर्भ में योगेन्द्र जी यादव का एक विडिओ आया ( जिसमें वे वही बात कह रहे हैं‌ जो हम जैसे कम जानकार १० वर्ष से कम जानीमानी जगहों पर कहते और लिखते रहे हैं। पर अब भी अधूरी बात, पूरी बात कहने के लिये शायद लोगों को और समय लगे। पर इस बात को पूरी करने से पहले यह देखते हैं कि उन्हों‌ने कहा क्या। नीचे उन के विडिओ के एक अन्श (लग्भग १४ मिनट से) की ट्रांसक्रिप्ट है, जिसमें कुछ वाक्यों को बोल्ड मैने किया है। देखें:

“मुकेश :… बहुत सारे लोग ये मानते हैं कि जो हिंदुत्व है वो काफी नीचे तक चला गया है। … जो आपने रिश्ता बनाने की बात की है, मानस में अपने-पराए के भेद की बात की है, क्या वो इस रूप में है?

योगेंद्र यादव : जी मुकेश जी, ये आपने अच्छा किया, खुलासा किया इसका क्योंकि वही है अलग से कोई factor नहीं है। यही तो factor है। और इसे खाली हिन्दुत्व मैं नहीं कहता। देखिये, इस देश में राजनीति करने की तीन सबसे बड़ी संपत्ति हैं, पूंजी हैं, जहां से कोई भी राजनीति अपना स्रोत ढूंढती है, अपना औज़ार ढूंढती है, और अपनी ऊर्जा ढूंढती है। पहला – राष्ट्रवाद, क्योंकि हिंदुस्तान में और खासतौर पर एक गुलाम देश में जो आज़ाद हुआ है, उसका राष्ट्रवाद सबसे बड़ी पूंजी है। और इस देश की तो इतनी अद्भुत पूंजी थी राष्ट्रवाद हमारा। दूसरी – धार्मिक विरासत और हिन्दू धर्म की विरासत, जिसका नाम लेने से हमारे ज़्यादातर लोग सकुचाते हैं। जो हर धर्म की तरह इसमें कूड़ा भी है। और हर धर्म की तरह बहुत शानदार, महान विरासत है ये। और तीसरा – हमारी सांस्कृतिक विरासत। हमारी भाषाएँ, हमारी संस्कृति। ये तीनों चीजों पर भारतीय जनता पार्टी ने कब्जा कर लिया है। ये तीनों इसकी हैं नहीं। ये भारतीय जनता पार्टी वाले, RSS वाले, हमारे देश की सांस्कृतिक धरोहर, विरासत को समझते भी नहीं है। हिन्दू धर्म के बारे में इनकी जो सोच है वो हिन्दू धर्म की मूल प्रवत्ति के विरुद्ध है। और राष्ट्रवाद में तो इनका, एक कतरा खून भी इन लोगों ने कभी नहीं दिया। अंग्रेजों की दलाली इनमें से कई लोगों जो इनके वारिस हैं, उनमें से कई लोगों ने की। लेकिन आज ये इन तीनों के मालिक बनकर बैठे हैं। और जिसके पास राष्ट्रवाद है, धर्म है, संस्कृति है, वो तो मेरा अपना है न। यहाँ से अपना-पराया हुआ है (दिल पर हाथ रखते हुए)। और उसके लिए मैं केवल बीजेपी को श्रेय नहीं देता। मैं, आपको और मुझे, अपने आप को दोष देता हूँ। हम लोग, जिनके पास देश के पहले पचास वर्ष, हम लोगों के पास इस देश की शिक्षा व्यवस्था थी। हम लोगों के पास इस देश का मीडिया था। हम लोगों के पास इस देश की सत्ता थी। हम लोग मतलब आप-मैं नहीं व्यक्तिगत रूप से। मगर ये जो जमात है, इसके पास सब कुछ था। लेकिन, इसने, इस जमात ने, इस देश के राष्ट्रवाद को धूल में फेंक दिया। सोचा इसके लायक नहीं है। सोचा अरे राष्ट्रवाद क्या चीज होती है, ये तो बड़ी embarrassing सी चीज है। अंग्रेज़ी बुद्धिजीवियों की नकल करके हमने भी यूरोप की तरह कहना शुरू किया कि राष्ट्रवाद तो बड़ी शर्मिंदगी का विषय है हमने हिन्दू धर्म के केवल नकारात्मक पक्ष देखे। उसका सार्थक पक्ष, उसकी खूबसूरती, उसकी गहराई, उसकी सांस्कृतिक पूंजी जो है, विषद स्वरूप, उददात स्वरूप जो उसका है, वो कभी पेश करने में सकुचाते रहे। बीच-बीच में कभी कर देते थे लेकिन सकुचाते रहे। और हमने, … इस देश की भाषाओं को हमने लताड़ा। इस देश की भाषाओं का अनादर किया। तो, जो पूंजी हमारे हाथ में स्वतः आ गई थी आज़ादी के आंदोलन के कारण, उसको हमने दुतकारा और दूसरे की थाली में रख दिया। और अब हम कह रहे हैं – हाय-हाय, क्या हुआ, मेरी थाली से क्या, अब मेरी थाली में कुछ नहीं बचा। हाय! वो क्या कर रहे हैं! हमारी वजह से तो कर रहे हैं। सच बात है ये मुकेश जी, इसको लागलपेट के कहने का क्या फायदा?”

इस अधूरे सच में कुछ जोड देने से यह अधिक पूर्ण (सम्पूर्ण नहीं) हो जायेगा। पर उस से पहले यह देखिये कि इस आधी-आत्मस्वीकृति में भी दूसरों को लतियाने का कितना लोभ है। कहते हैं ” ये तीनों चीजों पर भारतीय जनता पार्टी ने कब्जा कर लिया है”। और यह भी कि “जो पूंजी हमारे हाथ में स्वतः आ गई थी आज़ादी के आंदोलन के कारण, उसको हमने दुतकारा और दूसरे की थाली में रख दिया”। जब आपने स्वतः ही उसे “धूल में फेंक दिया” था या उनकी “थाली में रख दिया” तो कब्जा करने की बात कहां आई? उन्हों‌ने आप की फेकी हुई‌ आप की नजर में‌ सडी वस्तु को इज्जतबक्षी। आगे कहते हैं कि “और राष्ट्रवाद में तो इनका, एक कतरा खून भी इन लोगों ने कभी नहीं दिया। अंग्रेजों की दलाली इनमें से कई लोगों जो इनके वारिस हैं, उनमें से कई लोगों ने कीयह बात रोज कही जाती है। और यह कहने में सब से आगे हैं भारतीय कम्युनिस्ट। संघ वालों ने आजादी कि लडाई में भाग लिया या नहीं इस का उत्तर संघ वालों को देनेदें, यहां‌ हम यह देखते हैं कि भारतीय कमुनिस्टों ने क्या किया। क्यों कि यह आरोप योगेन्द्र जी ने मूलतः उन्हीं से उधार लिया लगता है। कमुनिस्टों के चरित्र और स्वतन्त्रता आन्दोलन के आखिरी दिनों में व्यवहार की एक झलक लोहिया अपनी पुस्तक “भारत विभाजन के गुनह्गार” में दिखाते हैं। इस पुस्तक में वे कम्युनिस्ट को एकाधिक बार “विश्वासघती” (पृष्ठ ९, ) कहते हैं। और लिखते हैं कि उन्हों ने विभाजन का समर्थन किया। हलंकि लोहिया उङ्के समर्थन को विभाजन का बडा कारण नहीं मनते। पर यह सिर्फ़ इस लिये कि उनक प्रभाव नहीं था। उनकी नीयत तो साफ़ ही थी। आगे वे कहते हैं “I am somewhat intrigued by this aspect of cimmunist trachury, that it leaves no lasting bad test in the mouth of the people. Other traitors are not so fortunate”. (The Guilty Men of India’s Partiction, Rammanohar Lohia, R.R. Publishing Corporatioin. 1960, re-print 2020)मैने यह हिस्सा मूल अङ्ग्रेजी पुस्तक से इस लिये लिया है कि यहां पर हिन्दी अनुवाद गलत है। इसी पृष्ठ पर आगे वे कहते हैं कि कम्युनिस्ट जबतक सत्ता में नहीं रहते तब तक आत्म-निर्णय (self-determinatioin) का समर्थन करते हैं, और जब सत्ता में आजाते हैं तो उसका विरोध। उनके इस सिद्धन्त ने भारतीय राष्ट्र को कमजोर किया है।

एक झलक और हामिद दलवई कम्युनिस्टों और मुसल्मानों की तुलना करते हुए लिखते हैं “When communists are not in power, they are internationalists; when Muslims are a minority in any country they lack a nationalistic spirit and have an internationalistc, that is, pan-Islamic, attitude. When either the communists or the Islamists are faced with a choice between modern, territorial nationalism and allegiance to the state on the one hand, and their own international ideology on the other, most of them invariably choose the latter.” यह कहना आज कल मुस्लिम विरोध कहा जायेगा पर मुझे दलवई की बात ठीक लगती है। पर मुझे यह भी लगता है कि भारतीय मुसलमान बदल रहे हैं इस सन्दर्भ में। कम्युनिस्ट नहीं बदल रहे।

सच का एक और हिस्सा

अब सच के उस दुसरे हिस्से की बात करते हैं जिस का जिक्र योगेन्द्र जी ने अपने विडिओ में नहीं किया। यह हिस्सा उनकी सम्पत्ती २ और ३ से सम्बन्धित है। उन्हों ने कह है कि “जो पूंजी हमारे हाथ में स्वतः आ गई थी आज़ादी के आंदोलन के कारण, उसको हमने दुतकारा”। बात सिर्फ़ इतनी नहीं है। केवल दुत्कारना किसी भ्रमित आधुनिकवाद के चलते हो सकता है, इस का स्पष्ठीकरण बिना दुर्भावना के आरोप का सामना किये सम्भव है। पर यदि इस “दुत्कार” के साथ तीन चीजें और मिलजायें तो कठिनाई बढ जाती है। मान लीजिये किसी एक बहुत समर्थ तबके ने देश के राष्ट्रवाद, हिन्दू-धर्म और सन्स्कृति को “दुत्कार दिया” और उस तबके के पास “देश के पहले पचास वर्ष इस देश की शिक्षा व्यवस्थाहो, उसके पास देश का मीडियाहो, और उसके पास देश की सत्ताहो; और उसके व्यवहार में नीचे लिखी तीन चीजें भी साफ़साफ़ हों:

  1. राष्ट्रवाद, हिन्दू-धर्म और सन्स्कृति पर लगातार आक्रमण भी करता हो, यह सिर्फ़ दुत्कारने से आगे जाकर उचित-अनुचित लनत-लमानत की बात है। दुत्कार कर तो आप सिर्फ़ अनदेखा करने भी बैठ सकते हैं। यहां सक्रिय जड खोदने के काम की बात है,
  2. कोई दूसर आप की फेंकी हुई उस सम्पत्ती को उठा कर झाडने-पोंछने लगे, उस में कोई मूल्य देखने लगे तो उसे विभिन्न विशेषण दे कर चुप करवादें, मीडिया पर अधिकार के कारण छपने नादें, कहीं गन्भीर चर्चा मेन ना आने दें और शिक्षा पर अधिकार के कारण उस तरह के व्यक्ति और उसके विचारों को विद्यालयों विश्वविद्यालयें से बाहर करदें। यह दूसरी चीज की,
  3. अपने भ्रमित उदारवाद के चालते आप मजहब के आधार पर भेदभाव भी करने लगें,

तो यह एक सैद्धन्तिक भूल के बजाय दुर्भावना लगने लगेगी।

ऊपर मैने जो तीन बातें कही हैं इन के सैकडों उदारहण हमारे आजके उदारवादी विमर्ष में सहज ही देखे जा सकते हैं। वर्तमान सम्प्रदायिक वतावरण के प्रमुख मुद्दों पर चलने वाली बहस और लिखे जाने वाले लेख इस का साफ़ उदाहरण हैं। नीचे लिखे मुद्दों का इस नजर से विश्लेशण किया जा सकता है।

  1. सरकारी शिक्षण सन्स्थानों में‌ हिजाब बैन
  2. हलाल प्रमाण पत्र का मशला
  3. अज़ान की स्वीकृत डेसिबल से ऊंची आवाज
  4. हनुमान चालीसे की धमकी
  5. जगह-जगह भडकाऊ भाषण
  6. रामनवमी पर हिंसा
  7. द कश्मीर फ़िलेस फ़िल्म पर बहस, आदि।

इन सब मुद्दों में दो पक्ष हैं। दोनों पक्षों में सच्चाई के कुछ अंश है। हम इन पर प्रोफ़ेसर अपूर्वनन्द की दृष्टि से भी विचार कर सकते हैं और प्रोफ़ेसर योगेन्द्र यादव की अधूरी झिककती दृष्टि से भी। या फ़िर सहस के साथ पूरी सच्चाई के साथ भी। पर कोई भी एकांतिक विचार हमें शान्ति और सौहारद्र के रास्ते पर नहीं ले जा सकेगा। किसी में भी पूरी सच्चाई नहीं है। हम जब भी दोनों पक्षों को ध्यान में रखे बिना कोई शख्त बात कहते हैं तो आग में घी डाल रहे होते हैं।

बहुत से लोगों को लगेगा की इन मुद्दों पर बात करना यातो समय की बर्बादी है या वर्तमान विभाजित और साम्प्रदायिक राजनीति की चपेट में आजाना। देश के सामने और हजार लोगों के जीवन से सम्बन्धित मुद्दे हैं उन पर विचार होना चाहिये। मुझे बहुत दिन से लग रहा है की इस देश की राजनीति एक गहरे सम्प्रदायिक भंवर में है। वह और मुद्दों पर विवेकसम्मत विचार को पनपने नहीं दे रही। जब तक आम आदमी इस साम्रदायिकता की जडों पर विचार करके विवेकशील निर्णय लेना आरंभ नहीं करेगा, अपनी बात खुले तौर पर नहीं रखेगा तब तक हम इसी भंवर में गहरे उतरते जायेंगे। मेरा ऐसा कोई दावा नहीं है की विवेकशील निर्णय का तरीका या रास्ता वही है जो इन नोट्स में लिखा है। पर इस में मुझे सन्देह नहीं है की लोकतन्त्र को सही दिशा आम आदमी का सुविचारिक विवेक-सम्मत निष्कर्श ही दे सकता है।


Moral obligations of Indians

April 13, 2022

Rohit Dhankar

Many of us remember the arguments advanced by Indian intellectuals that (1) terrorism has not religion, (2) that Muslim community is not responsible for the terrorist attacks allover the country, and that (3) the Muslim community has no obligation to show that they are not with terrorism by distancing themselves from it or criticizing it. Any one who argued against this line, was considered a Hindu bigot out to attack Muslims. Many pointed out that if there are so many incidents of terrorism in the country then there must be a section of the population which harbors and support these groups. But these people and thoughts had no room in the Indian liberal thinking and no place to be published.

The next step was, and still is, that each terrorist attack and Islamic terrorism in Kashmir is a reaction to injustice suffered by Muslims in India. The political, social and historical explanations of these attacks clearly sounded like ‘justifications’ of those attacks. And challenging this justification was, and is in the high intellectual circles even today, impossible. Once, 4-5 very enlightened university professors were talking about ganga-jamuni sabhyata with enthusiasm. I mentioned that on the ground where I work there is a very visible attempt by Muslims to mark themselves separate through changing traditional dress which was the same as Hindus, and changing language. Immediately I was told that this is because they are attacked. Which of course was completely wrong.

With such strong principle of terrorists and rioters not belonging to any religion, when one reads the current—newly minted principles—one wonders whether there is a relationship between consistency of through and memory with intellectual capability? A Delhi University professor and one of the foremost writers in The Wire1, tells us that “This politics of violence has caused immense cognitive damage to the Hindus. Their ability to comprehend the world and society is seriously impaired. They have also lost their sense of the self.” (emphasis added). Now, the Hindus, all Hindus, are not only responsible for the Hindu-Muslim riots and rifts in the society, but if they don’t feel this they have become stupid, they lost their cognitive ability and sense of self. Remember that sense of the self and cognitive ability to understand the world is what makes us persons and confers citizenship rights on us. But Hindus have lost both, thus they are no more persons and soon their rights should be consider an anomaly.

Pay attention to the self-righteous tone in which ‘what I and my comrades think is right. And that is the only right way of thinking.’ If the courts give a verdict which I don’t like, they are corrupt or toeing the government line. If people vote for the party ‘we the guardians of truth and morality’ do not like they have lost their mind, and are unfit to be citizens of a democracy. ‘What we believe is the only knowledge, truth and facts. What we want is the only moral principles worth thinking and obeying’. The article in question has expressed this idea very clearly and forcefully. The dictionary meaning of bigotry: “stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own.” Who said it is confined to the religions alone?

The article also talks about how banning halal certification will harm Indian economy, will make Indian products unacceptable to Muslim majority countries and even to the Indian Muslims. Thus some Hindus by demanding ban on halal certification will harm Indian economy, and that it is an attack on Muslims. There are three issues any thoughtful Indian—irrespective of his/her religion should think about in this connection.

First, the extent of influence of the halal certification. The halal certificates are completely governed by Islamic perspective on what food and other items are allowed and forbidden to a Muslim. The certification business seems to be above fifty-thousand crores per year. A cursory look at the market reveals that there is almost no consumable item which is in the market and does not have a halal certificate. Just a few examples: Amul, Ramdev, Haldiram, Milky Mist, Nestley all have halal certificates. That means that in Bangalore market you can not buy chicken nuggets or even milk which is not halal certified. The author of the article does not mention that this makes the market controlled by Islamic choices, and a Hindu who does not want to buy halal has no choice.

Two, are the Hindus who oppose halal certification attacking Muslims? To understand this lets take the example of halal mutton or chicken. The concept of halal comes from Quran. And in practice guided by Quran and Hadith. Quran has several verses on halal food. In verse 2.172 the Allah tells believers to eat “good things” he has provided. Verse 2.173 further tells what is forbidden, “He has forbidden you only the Maitah (dead animals), and blood, and the flesh of swine, and that which is slaughtered as a sacrifice for others than Allah (or has been slaughtered for idols, on which Allah’s Name has not been mentioned while slaughtering).” (Emphasis added)

Without going into other details lets note that halal non-veg has to be (1) slaughtered in the name of Allah, (2) it is forbidden if slaughtered in the name of any other divinity than Allah, particularly if “slaughtered for idols”, and (3) has to be performed by a believing Muslim according to a particular procedure. Thus, halal, actually is sacrificial meat. This is taught to a Muslim in his/her dini-talim, the halal certification houses mention that it is also their job to educate Muslims about the halal. Which means that there is active teaching designed for Muslims to convince them to eat or use only halal certified items.

Now, suppose a Hindu takes objection to the fact that slaughtered in the name of any divinity but Allah and especially for idols is forbidden. And such Hindus start a campaign (peaceful, I am not saying so far they have always been peaceful, but the argument being built here is only for peaceful campaigns) of informing Hindus about the nature of halal, and tries to convince them not to eat or use halal items. For this they take out peaceful processions, distribute pamphlets and give lectures. Why is this an attack on Muslims? Suppose some people call it so, then isn’t there built in ‘attack on Hindus’ in the very process and procedure of halal? The article which goes on to describe campaign for banning halal certification—which actually means controlling the market—does not bother to understand this aspect.

Three, should Hindus, then, campaign for ban on halal certification? I would say NO. Because Muslims want to eat only halal, and halal certification helps export to Muslim majority country; the Hindus should campaign for marking on the items whether they are halal or not, and force the market through their choice to keep non-halal marked items always in the shops. If there are no non-halal, they do not buy. That will automatically correct the tilt in the market. Any one who calls this an attack on Muslims deliberately ignores the inherent exclusiveness and exceptionalism built into the ideology of Islam, and condones it, but countering this is dubbed as attack!

Now I came to the last and most important issue in this article. The very title declares “Hindus Are Morally Obliged to Oppose the Anti-Minority Politics of Hindutva”. With this I completely agree. This Hindus should oppose and correct the excesses committed by Hindu individuals and organizations, and they are morally obligated to do that. However, like the example above, one has to carefully analyze what is anti-minority politics and what is exercising their own choices, keeping space for their on rights, and actions to defend themselves. I do think that Hindus are not as cognitively challenges and morally depraved as the author makes them to be. And they are actually opposing obnoxious actions of other Hindus, criticizing them strongly. In a way, many of the Hindus are actually fulfilling this moral obligation.

But then a question arises: are the Hindus only people in this country who have such moral obligations? And here I feel that the first group which should show some capability to think and some moral fiber in India are the so-called intellectuals. The intellectual who does not think about and expose in the halal issue what I have very briefly pointed above is either incapable of thinking or completely morally depraved. The so-called intellectuals have shown themselves lacking in clear thinking, acceptance of truth, and courage to speak against injustices and atrocities perpetrated by Muslims; and thus shown themselves lacking in moral responsibility. Another example form the same peace is the use of word “pogrom” for 2002 Gujarat riots. Pogrom means an organized massacre. Which implies it is one sided, organized and with clear intent. The Gujarat riots started with burning alive 59 Hindu pilgrims. According to official figures, the riots ended with 1,044 dead, 790 were Muslim and 254 Hindu. Taking into account the trigger point and death toll suggests it was no pogrom, it was a riot, where both communities participated with madness. Recent example of denying Kashmir genocide is another example of denying truth and this unfulfilled moral obligation by the so-called intellectuals.

Weaving these one sided stories brings us to the third issue of moral obligation. Do the Muslims of this country also have any moral obligation? Should they also oppose and criticize the excesses committed by Muslims mobs (stone pelting on Ramanavami), so-called blasphemy killings, the lectures by Muslim clerics and so on? But as soon as this issue is raised a completely different principle will be evoked: the terrorists, rioters and blasphemy killers have no religion! Well, Hindu hate speech givers, rioters and aggressors have a religion (that is Hindu-dharma) but Muslim counter part of all these and more have no religion? This is moral depravity of so-called intellectuals and one wonders whether one who does not fulfill his/her own moral obligation is worthy of giving lectures to others on moral obligation?