The Future of Muslims in the Indian Subcontinent
“Should India really rejoice when the one lecturing and threatening Pakistan is Trump, a disgrace to all that is good about America? Have we Indians become so blind with prejudice as to forget that America and other western powers have contributed enormously to the growth of terrorism and Islamist extremism around the world?.”
Thus laments Sudheendra Kulkarni (Jan. 02, 2018, NDTV), who was an aide to India’s former prime minister: Atal Bihari Vajpayee. His is a voice in wilderness, drowned in the boisterous celebrations in India on President Trump’s new year tweet accusing and insulting Pakistan. Donald Trump is popular at only two places on the globe: half of Israel and almost all of Hindu India, not even in America, where his approval rating is around 30%. What a disgrace for a people, whose leader once led the Non-aligned nations and who was a vocal advocate of peace and justice and where Gandhi stood as a demigod to become a subject of fascination for dreamers all over the world! The reason for the Hindus of India to abandon the core principles, which their leaders endeared for so long, is obviously the resurgent hatred of Muslims.
So why have the Sudheendras become almost extinct in India, as the Narendras proliferate? Well, India is a country of contrasts and contradictions. Many of the gods and goddesses of Hinduism have multiple faces and multiple arms. In the Indian Hindu society virtue and vice always remain dormant, either of which could easily be brought to the surface by the Rishis, Mahatmas, Buddhas, Gandhis, Godses and Savarkars. What we are seeing today is the black face of the goddess of darkness, casting its shadow on Hinduism from the Himalayas to Ras Kumari. The social malaise in India has now been transformed. The post-independence generations have been fed with new interpretations of history, which has been condensed into a goulash of resentment and retribution. Victimhood at the hands of invading Muslim armies is constantly replayed and refurbished, which are supposed to have converted temples into mosques and low caste Hindus into Muslims. Under the BJP government, all the educational institutions, as well as the media are now fomenting this culture. People are now living in history and look across the border in Pakistan with disdain and the Muslim populace inside India with contempt. They see nothing but their past humiliation and shame. Alas! They forget that if you live in history, your present becomes the past.
Here is a nation of scientists, mathematicians and the highly enlightened Individuals, which believes that the Babri Masjid was built on the temple marking the birth place of the mythological Rama, an incarnation of the god Vishnu; although excavations so far have shown no signs of a temple under the mosque. No historical indicators have pointed to Rama’s existence in the timeline assigned to him and placed his birthplace in Ayodhya. His date of birth is variously given as 5114 BCE and 7323 BCE (a difference of more than two thousand years: not bad!) His story is told in the epic poem Ramayana, supposedly written by the sage Valmiki, either in the fifth century BCE or the first century BCE or over a period of several centuries. The story tellers do not agree among themselves with the timeline, giving a range of 2,000 years and yet his place of birth has been agreed upon with quite a precision, a great scientific feat!
However incredible it may seem, a Hindu temple had been built on the site of the spot he was born on, in Ayodhya, a city in the present day Uttar Pradesh and supposedly destroyed by the Moghal conqueror Babar between 1526 and 1530 A.D. and replaced with a mosque. Imagine how many layers of civilizations may have passed over this place in 9000 years with panoply of architectural styles, from caves to grass huts to stones to bricks. The science of paleontology is helpless in finding any clues as it did with respect to the Indus Valley Civilization in the subcontinent.
The Hindu paranoia about history is one of the causes of the bifurcation of the Indian subcontinent. It could be named as Somnath Syndrome, the temple which was looted by Mahmood of Ghazni in perennial raids in the eleventh century A.D., leaving a wound in the Hindu psyche which never seems to heal.
Long before the adoption of the Pakistan Resolution by the Muslim League in 1940, the Hindu Mahasabha and the Rashtriya Sevak Sangh were nurturing the idea of Hindu Rashtra. There was no dearth of Hinduist leadership in the All India Congress Committee either. Gandhi was being deified as Mahatma to the disgust of secular minded M.A. Jinnah, who saw that after the British left, the Hindu majority would be vindictive towards Muslims due to the Somnath Syndrome. The congress leadership was already intransigent and was refusing to address the fears of Muslims. Seventy years on, with the hatred of Pakistan, the grand injustice in Kashmir and the Dalitization of Indian Muslims, Jinnah has been vindicated.
The Hindu attitude towards Muslims is rooted in the caste system. Manusmriti, the ancient text of the laws of Dharma (religion) divides the society into four Varnas (colors): Brahmins (priests, scholars and teachers), Kshatriyas (rulers, warriors and administrators), Vaishyas (agriculturists and merchants) and Shudras (laborers and service providers). Outside these four Vernas are Avernas, who are outcastes. They include the undesirables, tribes and the conquered people and those who went out of the religion. They are referred to as Dalits and untouchables, who are ostracized and are treated as lowly human beings. The bulk of Muslims, who are considered to be converts from low caste Hindus fall into this category in the Hindu subconscious mind, although they could not be openly treated as Dalits since Muslims were the ruling class before the colonial rule and were protected by the kings. The caste system in India proved to be very resilient and even infectious as Muslims themselves began to practice it among themselves. Some Muslims would go to great length trying to prove that they were not Indian converts but their ancestors came from abroad. They applied the four Varnas categorization upon themselves and created the four Muslim castes: Saiyeds, Shaikhs, Pathans and Moghals. Intermarriages between the categories were resisted although not very successfully.
A few incidents come to mind, which would highlight the Hindu mindset:
Shabbir Hussain Khan Josh Malihabadi was an Urdu poet, a friend of Jawaharlal Nehru and Abul Kalam Azad. In his autobiography entitled: Yadon Ki Baraat (procession of memories), he writes about his encounter with Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, deputy prime minister in Nehru’s cabinet and the second most powerful man. Josh was nominated to be the editor of Urdu magazine “Aaj Kal”, an organ of the Ministry of Information, Government of India. This ministry was in Sardar Patel’s portfolio. Nehru asked Josh to meet with the minister before taking up the editorship. Josh was apprehensive about the meeting because of Patel’s reputation of being anti-Muslim. In the beginning of the conversation Josh told Patel of his apprehension. Patel answered that he had great respect for people like Josh, who were outside the milieu of the Indian society. (I am paraphrasing.) Josh was an Afridi Pathan, light in color. Patel explained that in fact, his contempt was for the regular Muslims who were low caste Hindus, converted to Islam by the Muslim rulers. In spite of being in minority they want to rule the Hindus, he said. This narrative does not need any elaboration. It sums up the sentiments of the mainstream Hindus towards mainstream Muslims.
Dr. Mulk Raj Anand was a celebrated India-based novelist who wrote in English. His novel “Untouchable” was prompted by an incident in his family, where one of his aunts committed suicide because she was excommunicated by her family for sharing a meal with a Muslim woman.
A story from my own personal experience: While I was growing up in a southern city in India, most homes had no electricity and no running water. The villages had communal wells --- like in the Radha-Krishna movie --- and the urban areas had communal water taps which opened for a few hours a day. There would be a line of women with gharas (water containers) waiting for the water outlet to open. These were mostly Hindu women since the Muslim women observed purdah and would not go out. We were gangs of Muslim kids disposed to committing mischief. So while the women were collecting water in their brass containers, we would go, touch the gharas and run away. The women would curse us, throw away the water and start rubbing the outside of the gharas with cow dung to clean them of the pollution caused by our touch: the Muslim kids. For us it was fun and frolics but for the future of Muslims in India, it was a horror story.
So, much of the conflict in the subcontinent is rooted in the Caste consciousness of Hindus and the Brahminical arrogance. Hindus think that Muslims are of lower intelligence and are incapable of creativity, a myth, which from my own experience, can be broken. Remember that for every Aryabhata there is an Al-Khwarizmi. The subcontinent has produced great Muslim mathematicians and physicists. Examples are: Allama Mashriqi, Raziuddin Siddiqui and Abdus Salam; chemists like Salimuzzaman Siddiqui and Atta-u-Rahman. The problem however is that the systems on both sides of the border are suffocative for initiative. In India, as the Sachar Commission Report has indicated, opportunities for Muslims are so much diminished that the Muslims are falling behind the Scheduled Caste. In Pakistan, the corrupt governments are criminally negligent of the systems of education.
The solution is obvious: In India, Muslims must establish their own institutions as other minorities have done, instead of depending completely on government. The shadikhanas must give way to parhaikhanas. In Pakistan, the madrasah education must be replaced with comprehensive basic education by legislation and the private sector must step in to fund scientific research as in the United States. Excessive religiosity must be discouraged as it is counter-indicated in the Quran and the Sunnah. The future of Muslims will depend upon the quest for knowledge, competitiveness, inventiveness and enterprise.