Communalism and how to combat it

December 31, 2015

Compiled by Rohit Dhankar

Here is the last post of the year. And it is completely a compilation, nothing written by me; only a few comments. I have selected passages from two very good thinkers of India. Emphasis is mine. Rest belongs to Humyun Kabir and Hamid Dalwai.—Rohit

“THE BROAD OUTLINE of the Indian outlook was evolved in ancient times. The new impulses of thought which entered the Indian stream with the appearance of the Moslems since the beginning of the eighth century led to points of contact at many levels, but by and large what was established was a modus vivendi rather than an intellectual integration. When different outlooks and forces come into contact, mutual adjustments inevitably take-place, but the synthesis which was achieved was largely instinctive and based on the urges derived from feelings and emotions. Without the framework which intellectual integration alone can supply, such a synthesis cannot generally withstand the risk of the disruption due to the impact of fresh or unexpected urges. In India, the lack of intellectual integration has been a major cause of the phenomenon of parallel societies and cultures which to this day exist side by side within India.” Humayun Kabir, Indian Philosophy of Education, page 188.

“Friendship and good relations cannot subsist where disparities are too great and hence the glaring inequalities within … nations must be reduced if man is to survive in the modern atomic age. Physical neighbourhood of all men side by side with their spiritual and mental isolation is one of the greatest sources of danger in the modem world. One of the major functions of education is to overcome this isolation·, and achieve intellectual and emotional integration of mankind by bringing into one common pool the achievements of all for the service of all.” Ibid, 254.

“In one sense, this has been the aim of the Indian outlook  throughout the ages. Even when practice fell far short of profession, the Indian ideal recognised the right of the individual to go his own way in every sphere of life. Not merely toleration but acceptance of differences has been one of the most significant characteristics of the Indian attitude to the real. Indian thought has always accepted that there are degrees of truth and degrees of reality. It has therefore sought to achieve unity in the midst of diversity rather than impose a dead uniformity in which all differences are wiped out. Indian thought has been synoptic and Indian society and polity federal. It is therefore not an accident that India should be one of the strongest supporters of the co-existence of different social ideals, economic forms and political principles in the modern world. India survived the vicissitudes of history because of her capacity to reconcile differences and evolve a framework within which the widest diversities could co-exist.” Ibid, 238. [Are we loosing this capacity? Because of the Hindu fundamentalists or because of the liberals who tell us that there was nothing of the sort in Indian civilisation? Or because of the both? –Rohit.]

“Progress in the means of transport and communication has made the world one neighbourhood. Intellectual and moral integration of man into a world community has not however kept pace with this advance. Physical neighbourhood of all men side by side with their spiritual and mental isolation is one of the paradoxes of the modern age. Unless different peoples with different backgrounds and outlooks learn to make necessary adjustments in their outlook and temper, clashes that are bound to be catastrophic in the modern context cannot be avoided .” ibid, 234. [Is this prophetic? Is India reaching there? Can we do something about it?—Rohit]

Now we turn to the next thinker.

“It is a tragic fact that there does not yet exist a class of critically introspective young Muslims in India. [Keep calm, it was written in sixties,–Rohit] A society which puts the blame on the Hindus for its own communalism can hardly be called introspective. If Hindu communalism is responsible for Muslim communalism, by the same logic it would follow that Muslim communalism is equally responsible for Hindu communalism. The truth of the matter is that the Muslim intelligentsia has not yet given up its postulate of parallel society. It has still not learnt to separate religion from politics. Their idea of religious freedom is merely that the structure of the Muslim society in India should remain unaltered.” Hamid Dalwai, as quoted by Ramachandra Guha, in Makers of Modern India, page 494.

“However, I consider suicidal the Hindu communalist attempt to answer Muslim communalism by obscurantist Hindu revivalism. Muslim communalism will be defeated only when the Hindu achieves a greater degree of social progress and modernizes himself. By making the Hindus more obscurantist—by making them more puritan and orthodox—Muslim communalism can never be eliminated. The movement for a ban on cow-slaughter provides an apt example. I oppose the ban on agro-economic grounds. But I oppose it even more strongly on non-economic grounds, because if the Hindu belief in the sacredness of the cow is encouraged, it would prevent the Hindus from modernizing themselves and from achieving a greater degree of social progress. The Hindus have slid backward only because of their religious obscurantism. Mahmud Ghaznavi could defeat Hindu armies simply by using herds of cows as a shield for his own army! One hopes that such history will not be repeated in modem times. Hindus must discard all those religious beliefs which hindered their progress and deprived them of their freedom . . . I attack all aspects of mediaeval religious obscurantism whether it is Muslim or Hindu. And hence I am opposed to the movement for a ban on cow-slaughter.” Ibid, page 495-96

“History, which has bred prejudices and animosity, is a hindrance to all of us. All of us have to come out of the grip of our prejudices which originate in our past. Hindu communalists must also break away from the grip of their prejudices. It is not the fault of the young Brahmins of today that their ancestors gave inhuman treatment to the untouchables, and today’s Indian Muslim is not responsible for the oppression to which Mahmud Ghaznavi or Aurangzeb subjected the Hindus. Fortunately, there is a class of Hindus today which bears the burden of its ancestors’ sins and conscientiously tries to undo the damage by embracing social equality as a fundamental value. Similarly, there has to emerge a class of Muslims which would accept the sins of Aurangzeb and, to undo the damage, would therefore embrace the concept of secular citizenship. The emergence and sustained growth of such a class of modem, secular, dynamic liberals is the only effective answer to the Hindu—Muslim communal problem.” ibid, pages 496-97

“Secularism in India, although embodied in the Constitution, is as yet only an aspiration. It has not yet permeated our social life. It is even in danger today. Within the Hindu majority, there is a strong obscurantist revivalist movement against which we find a very small class of liberals engaged in fight. Among Indian Muslims there is no such liberal minority leading the movement towards democratic liberalism. Unless Indian liberals, however small they are as a minority, are drawn from all communities and join forces on a secular basis, even the Hindu liberal minority will eventually lose its batle with communalist and revivalist Hindus. If Muslims are to be integrated in the fabric of a secular and integrated Indian society, a necessary precondition is to have a class of Muslim liberals who would continuously assail communalist dogmas and tendencies. Such Muslim liberals, along with Hindu liberals and others, would comprise a class of modem Indian liberals.” Ibid 497-98

“Indian Muslims believe that they are a perfect society and are superior to all other communities in India. One of the grounds for this belief is the assumption that the Islamic faith embodies the vision of a perfect society and, therefore, being a perfect Muslim implies not having to make any further progress. This is an unacceptable claim by modem criteria.” ibid, 599

“The only leadership Indian Muslims have is basically communalist. An exceptional Muslim like M.C. Chagla has no place in Indian Muslim society. Nor will individual modem liberals suffice. Indian Muslims today need an avant garde liberal elite to lead them. This elite must identify itself with other modem liberals in India and must collaborate with them against Muslim as well as Hindu communalism. Unless a Muslim liberal intellectual class emerges, Indian Muslims will continue to cling to obscurantist medievalism, communalism, and will eventually perish both socially and culturally. A worse possibility is that of Hindu revivalism destroying even Hindu liberalism, for the latter can succeed only with the support of Muslim liberals who would modernize Muslims and try to impress upon them secular democratic ideals.” ibid, 499-500

“It is often argued that Muslim communalism is only a reaction to Hindu communalism. This is not true. The real conflict in India today is between all types of obscurantism, dogmatism, revivalism, and traditionalism on one side and modem liberalism on the other. Indian politicians being short-sighted and opportunistic, communalism and orthodoxy is always appeased and seldom, if ever, opposed. This is why we need an agreement among all liberal intellectuals to create a non-political movement against all forms of communalism. If this is not done, democracy and liberalism will inevitably collapse in India. The stakes are high. It is a pity that few people realize the gravity of the situation. It is even more unfortunate that they are hardly informed about the true nature of the problem.” Ibid, 500

But to develop such dynamism Hindu orthodoxy itself has to be liquidated. The caste system has to be eliminated. The Hindus must embrace modernism. They must create a society based on fundamental human values and the concept of true social equality. Unfortunately, the Hindu mind lacks balance. Even those Hindus who have accepted modernity, justice and brotherhood as their guiding principles sometimes support Muslim communalism. Some avoid speaking against it and some even indirectly encourage it. Those Hindus who ought to be combating communalism today seem, instead, to be trying to put the clock back. They are supporting obscurantism, revivalism, the caste system and the cult of the cow. This is a process which would drain Hindu society of whatever little dynamism it may still have. There have to be enough Hindus trying to modernize the Hindu society and, at the same time, opposing the irrational politics of Muslim communalism. I hope this would happen. For that would precisely be the process by which the Hindu-Muslim problem can be eliminated. Muslim communalism today makes the most of the rift between liberal Hindus and communalist Hindus. It is ironical that Muslim communalists gain the support of Hindus, both liberal and communalist. The Muslim communalist demand for making Urdu a second official language in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar has been supported by the so-called modernist Hindus under the impressive label of secularism. The ‘secularism’ of such Hindus encourages the anti-secularism of the Muslims. These so-called secularist Hindus are opposed to the creation of a common personal law because it might displease the Muslims.” ibid 500-501

“We have to support Muslim modernism in India. We have to insist on a common personal law for all citizens of India. All marriages in India must be registered under a common

Civil Code. Religious conversion should not be allowed, except when the intending convert is adult and the conversion takes place before a magistrate. Children born of inter-religious marriages should be free to practise any religion but only after they reach legal adulthood. If either a [Muslim] dargah or a [Hindu] temple obstructs the passage of traffic on a thoroughfare, it ought to be removed. Government should have control over the income of all religious property. This income should be spent on education and public welfare alone. It should not be obligatory to mention one’s religion and caste (even today, the admission form used in schools compels students to state their religion) . . . For all this to happen, the present division among the Hindus should cease to exist. Those Hindus who want to counter Muslim communalism unfortunately try to strengthen Hindu revivalism. And those Hindus who want to lead the Hindus and ultimately the whole of this nation on the way of modernity are unfortunately supporting Muslim communalists. This has to change. I am on the side of all Hindus who oppose Muslim communalism; but when the same Hindus help Hindu revivalism, I am opposed to them. I support all those who want to modernize the Hindus; but when they adopt a policy of not opposing Muslim communalism, I oppose them. If the Hindus develop a proper balance of mind, I believe the present tensions would soon begin to resolve.” Ibid, 504

[Was Hamid Dalwai right? Have we missed the bus? Is the rise of BJP and Sangh parivar a result of not understanding what Dalwai was warning in 1960s? If the Indian liberals (Hindus and Muslims together) had heeded Daliwai could we have avoided the rise of RSS and the communalist elements among the Hindus? Are the Indian liberals still making the same mistake?—Rohit]