Over the years, the face of Hinduism has changed from benign, and all-encompassing to angrier, parochial, and exclusionary. There have been instances of politicians and Islamophobes usurping the faith and demonstrating their mean and ugly hate for Muslims and Islam
Mushtaqur Rahamat | Clarion India
Allama Iqbal said:
Hai Ram ke wajud pe Hindustan ko naaz; Ahl-e-nazar samajhte hain un ko Imam-e-Hind. (India is proud of Ram’s being and people of wisdom consider him the religious leader of the entire India.)
Like previous years, this year too the Ram Navami festival was turned into venom-spewing and hate-filled anti-Muslim rallies. For more than a century, certain elements in Hindu society have been using religious festivals to harass, demean and demonise Muslims. Hindu processionists have been deliberately deviating from the approved routes and passing through Muslim-populated areas, stopping in front of mosques, madrassas and Muslim shrines playing loud hate-filled music, brandishing weapons and hurling slurs at Muslims, their faith, and Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
When objected to or retaliated, the processionists run amok attacking people and vandalising properties. This year’s Ram Navami processions were no different. For the last few years, the only veneer of civility of condemnation from the common citizens, ordinary Hindus, and above all the government of the day, sometimes without really meaning condemnation, instituting of commissions of inquiry have also been done away with. Rather, in some cases, after the processions have passed it is the turn of the police and the law enforcement agencies riding on earth excavators to bulldoze the houses of mostly Muslims and register cases against them. The lumpens, hooligans, and the organisers mostly remain unknown to the administration and to the books of the law somehow, if brought before the law, only to walk free.
Ram Navmi is celebrated to mark the birth of Lord Rama, the seventh avatar of the deity Vishnu by fasting, singing devotional songs, spiritual readings, and distributing jaggery drinks. Taking out a procession to celebrate Ram Navami in India is a relatively new phenomenon. For some years, Ram Navmi festival has become a tool to harass Muslims, incite violence against them, and spew venom against the Prophet of Islam (pbuh). I am sure Ram would have never allowed this to happen in his name. Ram is known as Maryadaprush; a man of conviction, ethics, and morality. So much so that he asked his wife Sita to prove chastity; a trial by fire, to set a high standard of morality and commitment. How could this Maryadaprush allow such filth and profanity in his name?
Hinduism, like all faiths, has a streak of extremism, albeit not as strident and obvious as others, due to its vast and wide definition of what can be defined as faith and the faithful. Hinduism even embraces those who don’t believe in it; nastiks. Over the years, the face of Hinduism has changed from benign, and all-encompassing to angrier, parochial, and exclusionary. There have been instances of politicians and Islamophobes usurping the faith and demonstrating their mean and ugly hate for Muslims and Islam.
Usurpation of religious processions by fanatics and Islamophobes
Although the term and reference of Islamophobia came into existence around the mid-90s, the practice of harassing Muslims and damaging their properties and businesses had been going on for some time. The usual practice has been to organise processions along the Muslim-dominated areas, stop near mosques or places of interest of Muslims and play objectionable music, indulge in anti-Muslim, and anti-Islam sloganeering, and if stopped, unleash terror on Muslims and their properties. Usually, procession routes have to be approved by local administrations. But as had been the practice these routes were seldom adhered to and always veered to Muslim-populated areas to indulge in wanton and abhorrent activities in the name of their faith. The shameless and defenceless display of bigotry is hard to accept as part of one’s faith.
In India, violence against Muslims has almost been a regular affair from the colonial days to this day. Its frequency and severity have notably increased from the mid-80s to the early 2000s; as the movement to rebuild the Ram temple gathered momentum at the exact Babri Masjid site. The mosque was demolished by Hindutva fanatics (kar sevaks) on 6th December 1992. The movement to re-build Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, one should note, hasn’t been led and fructified by and for religious zeal, rather it was led by quasi-political and cultural but extremist organisations like Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal, and others under the overarching right-wing organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for history correction and political domineering.
Many inquiry commissions instituted in the wake of various riots have established the link between religious processions organised by Hindu militant organisations/individuals, pusillanimity, connivance of the police, judicial amnesia, and the collusion of and conflagration by politicians. The procession or rath organisers come from RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal, and many more nameless and faceless organisations. And violence does break out after such processions and yatras as highlighted by the Commission of Inquiry on Communal Disturbance at Sholapur – September 17, 1967 — chaired by Justice Raghubar Dayal, former judge of the Supreme Court. The commission included Col. B.H. Zaidi, MP, and retired bureaucrat M.M. Philip. Commission of Inquiry to Inquire Into the Communal Disturbances at Bhiwandi, Jalgaon, and Mahad in May 1970, a one-man inquiry by sitting Bombay High Court judge, Justice D.P. Madon established link of Jan Sangh members in fomenting riots after Shiv Jayanti procession. As Chandar Uday Singh highlighted in his recent article “A Single Factor Is Common to All Communal Riots During Religious Processions in India” “… found that 1964 was the year when the Shiv Jayanti procession began its practice of stopping in front of mosques, shouting provocative and anti-Muslim slogans, and throwing excessive ‘gulal’. Coincidentally, this was also the year when the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the predecessor to the BJP, established its Bhiwandi branch.”
Similarly, for Jamshedpur, the commission of inquiry headed by Justice Jitendra Narain, a retired judge of the Patna High Court, found the RSS and Dinanath Pandey primarily responsible.
For the Bhagalpur riots, the probe commission concluded: “The Muslims of Bhagalpur and the surrounding areas were inflicted by divine wrath through marauding mobs in a close alliance with the district police.” The commission recorded in Para 567 of its report that this “is manifest by over 900 corpses with injuries and also over 900 individuals in handcuffs and manacles”. In Para 570 of the report, the commission wrote that “there were sufficient indications since more than a year before the commission of the riot…The district administration as we have said, suffered from culpable amnesia, deliberate indifference, and patent communal bias, incompetence in not anticipating the riot. Lack of impartiality in the district administration also compounded the problem.”
The Supreme Court came down heavily on the government of Maharashtra recently for its failure to rein in a series of hate speeches by BJP MLA T. Raja and observed “State is impotent, the State is powerless; it does not act in time. Why do we have a State at all if it is remaining silent?” The Supreme Court’s observation came as around 50 rallies were organised in the state during the last four months wherein open calls were issued for violence against Muslims.
The word Dharam Sansad echoes in our ears the spirituality, divine subjects, and matter of tranquillity but instead, many Dharam Sansads were held in Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi only to call upon Hindus to take up arms against Muslims. As per these sansads their route to Hindu Rashtra must waddle through corpses of Muslim men, women, and children. They even suggested Myanmar-style ethnic cleansing of Muslims.
Muslims have suffered at the hands of compatriots, Al-Qaeda, the ISIS, and others, who scourged their faith by hate and violence unleashed upon hapless men and women under the pretext of taking on Western imperialism, the perceived loss of Islamic dominance and the establishment of a global caliphate. In the case of Islam, the victims were Muslim themselves but others, also, had their fair share as is evident from planes crashing at the World Trade Centre, train bombing in London, and blasts in three churches in Sri Lanka besides others. Such acts of cruelty and mindless violence are committed in the name of Islam. This certainly could be ascribed to, to an extent, passive acceptance of extremist interpretations of Islam. However, an overwhelming number of ordinary Muslims and clergy stood against this queer face and interpretation of Islam and professed their solidarity with victims of their fellow believers’ actions. They drew clear dividing lines backed by actions and scriptures between what is true Islam and where the divergent sects stood.
However, for the last few years, many Hindu festivals have been defined by the act of hooligans, wanton profanity, and unfiltered hate against Muslims and Islam. Festivals are the most obvious and loved manifestation of any religion. Religious festivals are opportunities for believers to showcase their faith to those outside their fold. Religious festivals are happy occasions to connect with families, friends, and neighbours. These are celebrated with zeal, happiness, and love in places of worship, at home with families and friends, and on the streets with all others with love and affection.
Lately, Hindu festivals have splurged from temples and homes onto the roads in front of mosques and other Muslim places of interest. And, it is not celebrated for spirituality, zest, and happiness, rather this occasion is taken to hit the streets to harass Muslim men, and women, and damage their properties. It is up to ordinary Hindus and their spiritual leaders to wake up to denounce such acts and reclaim their faith. They are in real danger of losing their faith to the bigotry of vested interests of politicians and religious fanatics whose acts will one day scourge the beautiful faith beyond recognition.
The views expressed here are authors’ personal.