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?