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Islam and Sectarianism ( 23 Sept 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Punjabi Hindus: Forlorn and On the Path to Extinction — II


By Justice Syed Asif Shahkar

September 16, 2012

The Pakistani Muslim soldier who died in the war was a martyr and so was the Indian Muslim soldier. Now the question is, who really is a martyr?

The Sikhs for a long time had complained and wailed over the appalling conditions of their historical and holy Gurdwaras in west Punjab. Many writers and correspondents of west Punjab had extended them support to voice their concerns. If we were to compare the two, the difference in the conditions of the two is worlds apart. Gurdwaras were extravagantly made and well kept and temples were nothing but a dilapidated ruin. This temple in Punjab actually was a mirror image of Hindus. Hindus in west Punjab share the same pathetic and hopeless fate as this temple.

Still lost in my thoughts I got out and started to walk, and once again, images from the past surfaced in my mind of Sharma, an elderly man I had met in Delhi, who was displaced and had to move here from a village near my village in Harappa. He talked to me in Jangli, a dialect specific to our region. During our entire conversation, he kept talking and asking about every nook and corner of our neighbourhood and people who lived there. I was really touched and surprised at how much he remembered and so vividly. “It seems like you are still in Harappa, Panditjee,” I said. “Shahjee, you are talking about places and people I am familiar with and remember every single shrub of that place,” was his reply. As I was getting ready to take leave of him, he held me by my hand and said, “How heartbreaking and unjustified it is that Sikhs, on religious grounds, are able to offer prayers and visit their holy and places of birth. Muslims too can visit East Punjab on a similar basis, but I being a Hindu cannot go to see Harappa just because it is not the birthplace of Rama or any other deity. These idiots have no idea that for me not only Rama but all the deities were born in Harappa, as they were revealed to me when I was born, and Harappa is where I was born, and for me that is the holiest of holy places.”

I ran into Tota Ram at a wedding ceremony in the USA. His elders had moved from Sialkot area in Punjab, Pakistan. Tota Ram was a minister in the Punjab administration. I saw that he was continuously swarmed by his toadies and flatterers, but as soon as he could dodge them, he came to meet me and kept talking to me for a long time. “Every single day I feel like walking towards the border to cross over to the other side without caring for the border or the barbed wire fence and reach Sialkot. I know I can be arrested or even be killed by a bullet, but nothing seems to matter in such moments. To tell you frankly, I might actually end up doing that one day!” This is what my Hindu friend said to me.

During a conference in Stockholm, I met Kuldip Nayyar who became very close and fatherly towards me. Later, when I visited him in Delhi along with my Swedish wife, he received and loved her like his own daughter-in-law. I still share the same bond with him.

I remember when I was a child all the houses in our village except two were made of mud and those belonged to Rajoo and Jugoo, two brothers who owned and operated a small shop in the village. Among elders in my family, their names came up in every conversation about the past and it felt as if they were still part of the family and community. Many years after the partition when Rajjo came back to visit, the whole village was ecstatic. Each person was keen to take him home. My elders as long as they lived talked about Rajoo and Jagoo as if they were present and living in our village.

Although Hindus had long ago moved from here, yet their presence and aura can be felt in the entire Pakistan, including west Punjab. Every speck and each grain of soil of this place seems to cry aloud Hindu, Hindu, Hindu. Even though people continue to beat the drum of Islam but customs and traditions here are still soaked in the Hindu culture.

After the partition, Hindus assumed two identities here. One is that our elders reveal during their conversations where a Pakistani Hindu was like a family member and a part of our community. The second is the one that is systematically sponsored and propagated by the Muslim regime through media and history books taught in schools and colleges. The picture they painted of a Hindu was and is chilling and terrifying. In their view, a Hindu is a kafir (infidel), greedy, miserly, a coward but brutal and mean. So unlike others, are all Hindus alike? Are they all clones?

Before labelling Hindus, it is obligatory on our part to make a sincere effort to ponder and answer some pertinent questions. To tether them all with one knot would be illogical and unjust. After the partition, the hearts of the people of west Punjab were seared with hatred for the organised killing and carnage of Muslims at the hands of Sikhs in East Punjab. Hindus were not mentioned in that context. It is baffling that in spite of the Sikhs’ role in killings during the partition and in the two wars later, they receive a red carpet welcome in the west Punjab and Hindus are shunned. Why is there so much hatred for Hindus?

Suspicion and hatred with which the Hindu on the other side is perceived, detested and treated is largely due to the two wars fought between the two nations. During the entire war of 1965 and after the wars, the cannons of propaganda of hatred were directed at Hindus. Islamic fundamentalists and the ruling parties that controlled the media publicised and did it successfully that the war was not between Pakistan and India but between Muslims and Hindus. Interestingly, during this propaganda no one was allowed to mention that the population of Muslims in India was double that in Pakistan. It is only logical to assume that when every fourth person in India is Muslim, there could be a large number of Muslim soldiers in the Indian army. Government could not have completely ignored them when it came to recruitment for the army. In any case, undoubtedly, there must be thousands of Muslim soldiers in the Indian army. During the war, those Muslims soldiers must have aimed their guns to shoot the Pakistani Muslim soldiers. Now we cannot call these Indian Muslim soldiers kafirs. An Indian Muslim soldier, like his counterpart in the Pakistan army, believes in and practices the Islamic faith and traditions. It is noteworthy that in the wars, the Pakistani Muslim was on one side and on the other side was an Indian Muslim; then how in the world could that war be between Muslims and kafirs? The Pakistani Muslim soldier who died in the war was a martyr and so was the Indian Muslim soldier. Now the question is who really is a martyr?

(To be continued)

Justice Syed Asif Shahkar is a serving Justice in Sweden