By Najeeb Jung
Feb 28 2013
ON 21 February, 2013 an attack by terrorists once again consumed 16 human lives and wounded 115 others in Hyderabad. This attack follows a series of similar attacks that we have witnessed over the past decade. Some of these attacks have obviously been mentored from across the border and some have been indigenous and home grown. I believe the bombs that struck fear and caused loss of human life in Delhi, Pune, Malegaon, Mecca Masjid, Ajmer etc. have not been exploded for social, economic, political or higher ideological motives.
These have been based largely on a horrible communal divide encouraged by demented minds that operate in India as well as in Pakistan. Even those attacks that had the stamp of Muslim terror groups operating from beyond our borders could not have succeeded had they not received local help.
Today as crores of Indians feel fearful and insecure, or feel ashamed at what is happening around us, it seems that we wish to confirm the Marxian axiom that religion is the opium of the people and that “man makes religion, religion does not make man”. It is tragic that this wonderful land that at different times in history gave space to many religions — Buddhism, Jainism, Agnosticism and Atheism, competing with each other to evolve the profound Sanatan Dharam ( called Hinduism today) is witness to a society often divided on communal lines and indeed at times, led by leaders with communal moorings.
Despite the Partition of India on religious lines and the millions of lives lost in 1947, we seem to have learnt few lessons.
We seem to have forgotten our great inheritance that enjoyed the prose and poetry of Amir Khusro, the rich culture of non- sectarian religious poetry drawing on the Bhakti beliefs as well as the fabulous Sufi traditions.
What a pity that we who have prided in the names of Ashok, Akbar, Dara Shikoh, Gandhi and Nehru, today look to leaders who may be far on the opposite side of our great eclectic traditions.
In an outstanding essay published in 1998, Sitaram Yechury illustrates how Hindu and Muslim fanaticism feed off each other and draws sustenance from each other. He argues on the convergence of both Hindu communalism and Muslim fundamentalism and their opposition to secularism, democracy and nationalism. It is interesting to note how their ideas converge on these issues despite their religious differences and mutual animosity. He reminds how an influential section among Muslims advised the boycott of the Republic Day some 30 years ago. Thank God for those secular Muslims who stood up to this nonsense and for the larger secular democratic cause? Also recall how fundamentalist Muslims brought pressure on the government to force Parliament to reverse a court judgment in the Shah Bano case.
These are examples that upset large sections of secular Indians. But the worse was that in more ways than one these instances gave impetus to the Ram Janm Bhoomi movement that culminated in the demolition of the Babri Masjid, led to a series of terrible communal riots, the Mumbai bomb blasts and to an extent even the terrible Gujarat riots of 2002.
Muslim fundamentalists have kept the Muslim masses away not just from the democratic secular mainstream, but also from modern education and contributed to widening the communal divide and helping the forces of Hindu communalism.
Unfortunately Hindu communalism has been no different. Badly written school books misquoting history and painting Muslims in adverse light are part of school curricula in different states. Local pamphlets and books spread equally venomous literature.
Secularists of course often blame various Hindu organisations but this is just part of the story. Closet communalists in both communities pose a greater danger.
Unfortunately the 21st century did not have an auspicious beginning, witnessing the Gujarat carnage. The insidious march of communalism continues to take its toll on thousands. We remain secular because the majority of Hindus and Muslims reject communal and fundamentalist politics. This vast silent majority must now step up its act and demonstrate its commitment to democracy and secularism because should we fail, this monster will destroy the foundations of India itself. We cannot fight terrorism unless we confront communalism.
Immediate measures like setting up of a National Counter Terrorism Centre, improving our intelligence network, or passing the Communal Violence Bill are necessary and will certainly make an impact, but long- term success will come from a frontal onslaught on all kinds of communalism.
This must be done by governments, social organisations, NGOs and school curricula that must be focused on pristine secularism.
Rabindranath Tagore’s words resound loud and clear: “Give me a voice of thunder, That I may hurl imprecation Upon this cannibal whose gruesome hunger Spares neither women nor children”. The writer is the Vice- Chancellor of the Jamia Millia Islamia
Source: Mail Today