By Karmanye Thadani:
In the last few months, several incidents that have taken place deserve our attention. The shooting down of the chief of the Ranvir Sena, a Bihar-based upper caste Hindu terrorist group, that has killed many innocent Dalits in the name of fighting Naxalism (the Laxmanpur-Bathe massacre in 1997 is significant in this connection, for which death sentences have been awarded to the perpetrators), was indeed a major development that ought to have reminded our nation that terrorism or even terrorism perpetuated in the name of religion is certainly not a Muslim monopoly (though terrorist attacks by Muslims hit the nerve centres like Delhi and Mumbai and hence get much more media attention), just as the attack on a former Indian Army officer in London by Khalistani terrorists, besides other such fortunately unsuccessful plots by Khalistani terrorists in India itself, should have.
Another recent development that deserves attention in this context are the decrees issued by a Khap Panchayat declaring that women ought not to use cellular phones or ride bicycles or engage in love marriages, besides several honour killings of couples engaging in inter-caste or intra-gotra marriages that have been carried out, showing that the Taliban is not the only entity on this planet with such a regressive agenda, and Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army, an ultra-right wing Christian armed group in Uganda or the bill mandating the death penalty for homosexuals in that country motivated by religious reasons, too should have reminded us of the same. Coming back to India, a Dalit being killed for trying to access a public hand pump and a Dalit MP being denied entry in a temple, both being fairly recent developments, should remind us, Hindus, that we need to introspect before boasting about being liberal and progressive.
Not too long ago, a Muslim who happens to be the son of an Indian Army officer who served in the 1971 war and has won several medals, and who served in the Army himself, was allegedly subjected to communal slurs by someone from the staff of an airline in an airport over a not-so-serious issue, and this has brought the question of the prevalent communal divide in our country at the forefront yet again, just as the issue of the Allahabadi Mosque/Pandav remains issue, or even more recently, the Hindu-Muslim violence in parts of Uttar Pradesh has, though it is certainly true that India has come a long way since the early 1990s, and there are and have always been many Hindus and Muslims who are not only not prejudiced against any religious group but are ever-ready to fight tooth and nail to eliminate such prejudices (I belong to this very category, and am only a small part of this huge section of our society, though some Hindus of this variety also sometimes subconsciously exhibit prejudice in their statements, such as “He is a Muslim but he is a nice person”, the ‘but’ implying some inherent contradiction between the two attributes, which one needs to take cognizance of and refrain from doing!), and there are even those who do have some prejudices on both sides but they do not harbour extreme hatred or support violence.
Jawaharlal Nehru had once stated that while communalism may appear to be a giant, it has feet of clay and the nation can be exorcised (yes, ‘exorcised’ was the word he used and it’s quite an apt one, for communalism is indeed a demon) of it if the lies and half-truths on which it rests are busted. Communalism in India exists among the Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians in its own ways, but this particular article shall focus on the prejudices we, Indian non-Muslims, particularly Hindus, have about Muslims, particularly Indian Muslims. I would request you to read this article with an open mind, and not with any sense of belligerence, and I am quite confident that if you do so, you will have a lot to agree with me on.
A major reason for a boost in such prejudices is the approach of the Western media, which has indeed exhibited an anti-Muslim bias in reporting (I have written a Facebook note on this and elaborated on it in the comments, which can be accessed here, though it must be noted that there are impartial non-Muslim media personnel in the West too, like Pierre Tristam, as also Muslims like Farid Zakaria) and another is the fact that many progressive and peace-loving Muslims would simply want to evade the fact that these wrongdoings have a basis in their religion, even though a distorted version of the same, or they would like to evade the truth by seeking solace in baseless conspiracy theories or instead of giving a clear and coherent response to eliminate a prejudice against their own community, they would start bashing others, leading to mudslinging matches and still others would give unsatisfactory answers, but very few would actually give logical responses. I am not a Muslim but owing to my commitment to impartiality, I have, like many other non-Muslims in India and elsewhere, made an effort in this direction.
No, I am not silent about the wrongdoings of Muslims and I am equally outspoken against them, and I do plan to write about anti-Hindu prejudices too. I do not sympathize with anyone who kills innocent civilians and I advocate the death penalty for such people. I support a uniform civil code and I have written an article on this very portal about the same (that can be accessed here), and in that very article, besides others, I have also dealt with the pain of the Kashmiri Hindus; so, I should not be mistaken for being a pseudo-secularist.
However, not being biased in favour of Muslims doesn’t mean being biased against them, and the lies and half-truths that generate an unwanted sense of resentment, even if not hatred, for a particular class of people constituting a sizable fraction of the population of our country and the world at large, need to be busted. In this series, I have tried to cover all the major talking points and have made references to other material, online and in books, that can be accessed in support of my arguments, and though some of the prejudices enumerated are prevalent universally, this series focuses on them from the standpoint of Hindus in India. References shall also be frequently made to the saffron brigade, and though even that is actually not a defined homogeneous entity and has several relatively moderate elements, the references to it in this series are with respect to its more extreme elements.[box bg="#fdf78c" color="#000"]About the author: The author is a freelance writer based in New Delhi. He has co-authored two short books, namely ‘Onslaughts on Free Speech in India by Means of Unwarranted Film Bans’ and ‘Women and Sport in India and the World’. To read his other posts, click here.[/box]