India is an enormous landmass of convergence; the convergence of numerous cultures, languages, religions and a unique amalgamation of civilisations. Amidst this diversity, there does exist a super-bug of communal politics which hinders growth, induces communal discord and erodes rationality. It causes a major setback to the growth, prosperity and development of the nation and its citizens.
There’s an immediate need to understand our past, so that; one, we appreciate our secular past, secondly, find the causes that intensify the ‘super-bug.’ The past few years, especially the days close to the elections saw a rise in hate speeches signifying intolerance, leading to a greater divide between the various sections of the society. These can be clearly seen in reference to communal politics, re-emergence of radical organizations, atrocities on minorities, mob lynching merely on suspicion, heated 9 p.m. debates, etc.
Having a look at the history of India, we see a lot of instances where Hindus and Muslims lived harmoniously for more than 1000 years and still, the counting goes on except a few historic sporadic moments. In the medieval times, various Sufi and Bhakti saints accepted devotees irrespective of religion, and caste. For example, Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, Sant Kabir and Sant Tukaram. Sufi saints often held langars and offered shelter to them at their Khanqas (communal residence for Sufi disciples). This is why many downtrodden people of the society accepted Islam and not because of the fear of sword, as is propagated by some anti-social elements.
It was also during this period that Southern India was famous for two empires namely the Vijayanagara and the other being the Bahamani kingdom. Rulers of the Vijayanagara empire allowed many Arab Muslim merchants to settle in their empire and build mosques. The founder of the Bahamani kingdom, Alauddin Bahman Shah( Hasan Gangu) was a disciple of a Brahman named Gangu. In respect to his master, he adopted the title Bahaman.
These Bahamanis recruited Hindus in large numbers in the administration. Zain-ul-Abedin ( 1420-1470 CE), the Sultan of Kashmir was famous for his policy of religious tolerance and public welfare activities. He brought back the Kashmiri Hindus who had fled due to the persecution by the previous rulers and gave patronage to Persian and Sanskrit scholars.
Humayun, the Mughal king, was given refuge by a Hindu King when he was defeated by Sher Shah Suri. During the reign of Humayun, Bahadur Shah, the ruler of Gujarat invaded Chittor. The queen of Chittor, Rani Karnavati, sent a rakhi to Humayun and requested for help which was positively acknowledged by Humayun.
The famous Akbar (1556-1605) is known for his policy of Sulh-e-Kul i.e. peace for all. He established friendly relations with the Rajput through his matrimonial alliances. Jahangir and Shah Jahan had Hindu mothers and Aurangzeb too, had a Hindu wife. It is a fact that there were more Maratha nobles in Aurangzeb’s army than that of Shivaji’s.
The title Mirza was given to Raja Jai Singh (1611-1667 CE) by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and the point here to be noted is that Mirza means “one who belongs to the Mughal family.” Tipu Sultan (1782-1799 CE), the Sultan of Mysore, rebuilt Sringeri temple which got destroyed during the Maratha raids. Also, Adil Shah offered grants to the Vitthal temple at Pandharpur, Maharashtra.
Moving to the events in modern history, there are ample examples of Hindu-Muslim unity. The famous Revolt of 1857 ,also known as the First War of Independence, was organised by Hindu and Muslim soldiers. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan once said that Hindus and Muslims are the two eyes of a beautiful bride.
In December 1885, the Indian National Congress was established to arouse the feelings of nationalism amongst the Indians. The Deoband school supported the INC and urged Muslims to participate in the movement. The peak of Hindu-Muslim unity can be observed in the Khilafat Non-Cooperation Movement (1920-1922) led by Gandhi. The Muslims and Hindus fought together during this movement. Swami Shraddhanand Saraswati also addressed the crowd from Jama Masjid, Delhi.
Later in the modern period, divisive and communal politics garnered strength which amounted us a painful partition. India adopted the constitution in 1950. Secularism along with freedom is the basic tenant of our constitution. The rulers were replaced by an elected government. But the tragedy is, elected representatives most of the times indulge in communal politics for political gains. Their provocative speeches often lead to hate crimes, riots, polarisation and badly hamper the social fabric of the society.
Coming to the present time, our school textbooks hardly find any mention of these historic events of Hindu-Muslim unity. They glorify wars and war heroes rather than glorifying the best policies of rulers in administration, diplomacy and resource management. These are essential to be incorporated in the curriculum so that values like tolerance, secularism, fraternity and non-violence could be inculcated in the minds of our young generation.
This huge democracy is no more a “secular polity” as envisaged in the constitution. The appeal is, why are the people still motivated by religious, regional and personal sentiments? When would the true democracy in words and spirit be realised?
It’s not about political leaders using communal element, it’s we, i.e. the people, who allow ourselves to be moved by such political rhetoric. Evils of politics are bound to emerge, an active rather proactive citizen must ensure adherence to core values enshrined in the constitution, the modern values of our forefathers.
Each step must be a progressive one. These minute changes should get reflected in family, society and world at large. This would help us create a modern state in real terms; the world of Gandhi’s socialism and Adam Smith’s free market, together; a world moved by development and growth, the reign of social upliftment and communal harmony, the era of reason and reform. When the nation would truly realise unity in diversity.