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Islam and Sectarianism ( 24 Sept 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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


By Justice Syed Asif Shahkar

September 23, 2012

Pakistan clearly lost the war of 1971. Throughout Pakistan and Punjab, Hindus were held responsible and blamed for the defeat

In reality, the war was between Punjabis and those from the UP and Bihar because a large number of recruits of the Pakistan army were from Punjab and on the other side, the Indian army had the bulk of soldier recruitment from the UP and Bihar.

The war of 1971 added fuel to the fire of the still simmering inferno of hatred for Hindus in Pakistan. Bangladesh became the battleground. Prejudiced and biased, Pakistani media blew the same trumpet of hatred against the Hindu. They proclaimed and publicised that the war was not between the Pakistan army and Bengalis but was between Hindu ‘kafirs’ (infidels) and Muslims. According to them, all Bengalis were traitors, kafirs (infidels), and agents of the Hindus. At the time, Muslims in East Pakistan were in the majority and in West Pakistan they were in a minority. Then how was it possible for a minority group to isolate and banish a majority group out of the realm of Islam? Before the war and after the birth of Bangladesh, the whole of Pakistan considered Bengalis to be Muslims, and it is quite fascinating that they were all regarded and called infidels during the war and became Muslims again once the war was over. Is Islam a mere robe that can be worn and taken off at anyone’s whim and fancy?

Every Pakistani in Pakistan and especially Punjabis were made to believe that Pakistan had won the 1965 war. History will judge who the real winner in that war was. Pakistan clearly lost the war of 1971. Throughout Pakistan and Punjab, Hindus were held responsible and blamed for the defeat. Those in Pakistan who claim that the war was just and was about Islamic ideals and faith could not be further from the truth. General Ayub Khan, the so-called great man of faith (Momin), was the head of state during the first war, and during the second war was another Momin, General Yahya Khan. The reality of their faith and belief in Islam is not hidden from any one. It is like diggings one’s own grave. Indulgent and depraved, the reported lifestyle of Yahya Khan puts even that of Mohammad Shah Rangeela to shame.

Keeping all these factors in mind, it is not surprising how the Punjabis of west Punjab (who considers themselves to be Pakistani and not Punjabi) marred by widespread illiteracy, brainwashed by the continuous and systematic propaganda of hatred against the Hindus, has started to consider them an enemy and imminent threat to Islam. The loudspeaker of a mosque is a potent force in the brainwashing of already vulnerable people. Maulvis and clerics are spewing the poison of hatred against Hindus on a daily basis. For them, it has become a routine and the only way to make a living.

The hatred for Hindus in Pakistan and west Punjab is in a way phony as they watch and admire Indian TV dramas about Hindus and their lives and try to copy their style. Often, Pakistani TV plays are reproductions of Indian serials. I had a chance to attend a modern wedding in Lahore and to my surprise, leaving aside a few religious ceremonies, the whole of the wedding looked just like any Hindu wedding in Mumbai. This has become a routine here, whether it is the wedding of a liberal family or a wealthy religious personality.

Before any further discussion on this matter, it is crucial that we figure out who is a Hindu or what is the Hindu identity. No one has a clear answer for this question. The Hindus of Bali, Indonesia, are different as their religion is influenced by Buddhism, and the Hindu of Latin America is different than the one from Singapore. Even in India, all Hindus are not the same as they revere and worship different deities and sometimes their religious rituals and traditions are so varied it is hard to believe that it is the same religion. Once a Hindu Professor told me that it was erroneous to call Hinduism a religion as it is a sort of culture and a way of life. As a matter of fact, Hinduism is an anthology of different cultures.

As I have mentioned before, the Punjabi Hindu, like all people in our society, has an individual identity, and one is unique and different from the other. There are good and there are bad individuals among this group as there are in the rest of the communities of the world. The Hindu is truly the real heir and inheritor of Punjab. It is a fact that the ancestors of all those living in Punjab (Muslims, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs or Christians) were Hindus, and 7,000 years ago, Punjabi Hindus founded Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa as the centres of civilisation. These centres became sources of guiding light and beacons of enlightenment for the rest of the world enveloped and submerged in the darkness of ignorance. The same Punjabi Hindus sitting in Harappa conceived and wrote the Rig Vedas.

It is known that before partition, the Punjabi Hindu played a dominant role in every field, both in urban and rural areas. A majority of Punjabi scholars, scientists, artists and experts in various other fields were Hindus. According to one study, Hindus owned and controlled 80 percent of the economy of Punjab. Furthermore, it is a well-recognised and proven fact that economic clout and education go hand in hand; one complements and promotes the other. Since Hindus were economically strong, consequently, they became the dominant force in the field of education. As a result of these favourable factors, Hindus held the majority of jobs and positions in schools, colleges and universities. A lion’s share of government and administrative positions also fell in their laps. It would not be wrong to say that Hindus were the real owners of Punjab. The number of Muslims or Sikhs in these fields was microscopically insignificant as they were mostly farmers, artisans or manual workers.

(To be continued)

Justice Syed Asif Shahkar is a serving Justice in Sweden