Emphasis on Composite Culture Missing in India
Filed Under: Opinion, Politics | Posted: 08/06/2010 at 9:32PM
Comments | Region: India
The necessity for forcefully propagating the idea of inclusive development and composite culture through interfaith dialogue between different religious communities is increasingly felt in India.
This is because those spreading canard of lies, hate and stereotypes are having a field day in the country while those preaching peaceful coexistence and unity in diversity are getting marginalized. Some feel the peace activists are not academically sound to articulate their point of view, while their opponents have gathered a high degree of expertise in communication technique and skills.
There is a deliberate attempt to create fissures in the society by stereotyping the Muslim community. They do so by propping up the specter of ogre in the minds against others advocating exclusive development.
The fact remains that there is no historical background to stereotype a community in India. It’s intellectual bankruptcy that is emboldening those working for excluding Muslims and other religious minorities from reaping the benefits of India’s development.
One such stereotype is the Muslim community is seen as invaders, destroyers of temple and who multiply like rabbits, do not bathe and behave like butchers (Kasai).
Let’s talk about Muslim as invaders theory. The contact between Arabia traders and India predates the birth of Islamic faith. That fascinating land of Kerala had been a contact point between Arabia and India centuries before the existence of Islam. Hinduism welcomed Islam with open arms after its birth and gave land for the construction of the first mosque in India at Cranganore near Cochin called Cheruman Perumal Mosque when the Prophet of Islam was still alive.
Secondly, north India was invaded by people of many other faith and specificity long before those professing Islamic faith. Those conquests preceding Muslims are never highlighted in public discourse and the conquest of Muslims is drummed up to serve political and social purposes.
In this spread of lies, the stereotype that Babur as an invader of India occupies the center stage. The entire Muslim community in India is branded as sons of Babur (Babur ki aulad). The slogan during the Babari masjid demolition campaign; “Babur ke auladon ko, Joota maro salon ko,” is still fresh in public memory.
It’s a historical fact that Babar was invited by Hemu, a Hindu ruler to fight against Ibrahim Lodi, the Muslim ruler of India. Babur in fact has come to India as friends of Hindus, yet he is stereotyped as an invader. The irony is the entire nation has gulped this pulp fiction and maintained a conspiracy of silence in the persecution of Muslims.
Similarly it’s wrong to say that Muslim rulers were the destroyers of temples. The 11th Century Hindu King, Harsha or Harshadeva of Kashmir (1089-1111) had a regular department assigned with the task of looting Hindu temples to augment national coffers. This reference is found in S.B. Bhattacherje: Encyclopaedia of Indian Events and Dates, Sterling Publ., Delhi 1995, p.A-20).
The fact that both Muslim and Hindu communities destroyed temples with avowed objectives to fill in their coffers is never being highlighted, whereas, the stereotyping of Muslim community as the destroyers of temples is selectively done to appease majority sentiments. The irony is, such lies are not negated by the enlightened people of the country and are allowed to have a free run.
The construct that Muslims multiply like rabbits, do not bathe and behave like butcher (Kasai) are misnomer. They are done with evil and malicious intentions. The census is the barometer of Muslims multiplying and this myth can be demolished by quoting the government records. Similarly the canard that Muslims do not bathe is far from the fact. In fact, every Muslim has to perform the ritual ablution, five times a day, cleaning itself with water, how many times people other religious faith do this needs to be asked. As far as Muslim behavior is concerned, it’s an individual trait and has nothing to do with a community. To paint the entire community with one brush is a satanic act.
It’s an irrefutable fact that Muslim has made immense contribution for shaping the contours of inclusive development based on composite culture in India.
Emperor Akbar accorded great respect to other religious groups. This was reflected in the promulgation of a new religion called ‘Deen-i-Illahi’. Akbar’s rule was the manifestation of sulh-e-kul (harmony for all). Similarly, Dara Shikoh translated the Upanishads in Persian and made valiant efforts for evolving a composite culture.
There are numerous examples that illustrate the continuation of composite traditions. The Jaggannath Rath Yatra in Orissa begins with the song written by Sal Baig and its best singer is known to be Sikander Alam. The best Bhajan ‘Man Tadpata Hari Darshan Ko Aaj’ was sung by Mohmmad Rafi, penned by Shakil Badayuni and composed by Naushad. No Kathakali dance performance is possible without invoking the name of Kotakkal Haider Ali. Similarly, Justice Ismail of Madras is known to be the only authority on Kumbh Ramayana.
The classical music tradition is the best of the examples of composite culture. There are umpteen examples of ustad-disciple relationship cutting across religious lines. Many of the musical maestros and disciples have interfaith relationship.
In the evolution of composite culture, both Muslims and Hindus have rub their shoulders together. This is reflected in the field of art and architecture. A careful study of the medieval paintings and architecture communicates how united the communities were at that point of time. It surprises many why and how and for what purpose the differences arose.
The composite culture is the common heritage of all the people living in a geographical space. Outside the places of worships, there exists a great degree of communality that binds the people together. Culture has nothing to do with religion. Faith is individual’s choice, different and personal but cultures are not exclusive, it’s common to all irrespective of faiths.
Culture creates mutual approbation of each other and rancor free society. There are various cultural mores and customs that are enthusiastically adopted by inter religious communities. Festivals like Holi and Moharram sees participation of both the communities with equal zest and enthusiasm. The common attire and the language are the results of osmosis of composite culture.
However, all this is being forgotten today. It seems the forces invoking communalism and creating chasm among communities are winning while those working for peaceful co-existence are getting marginalized.
These communal minded people are creating havoc playing with sentiments of people indulging into stereotyping of Muslim community. They are engaged in spreading the canard of erasing all the traits of composite culture. They forget that the history of peaceful co existence among Hindus and Muslims far exceeds those of conflict in the country.
It’s high time that every Indian starts looking at this issue with all seriousness and tries to stop those propagating exclusive development. This could be done through preaching inclusive development both at the geographical and social level.
As development and democracy are inextricably linked, the fruit of the development must reach out to all sections of the society including the Muslims. This in turn may help creating a congenial atmosphere ultimately facilitating in buttressing peace, harmony, stability and enrichment of the country.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a working journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org