CAUSES OF COMMUNAL VIOLENCE IN INDIAN SOCIETY
A chimaera, in Greek mythology was a monster with a lion’s head, a goat’s trunk, and a serpent’s tail, more generally it meant a composite animal. Throughout the ages, painters and writers of fantastic tales have been fond of creating chimaeras. My own favourite brain- child is the momiphant. He is a phenomenon most of us have met in life: a hybrid who combines the delicate frailness of the mimosa, crumbling at a touch when his own feelings are hurt, with the thick-skinned robustness of the elephant trampling over the feelings of others………
– Arthur Koestler
1. Ironically, the country that boasts of its cultural heritage from the great exponents of non-violence in Human civilization – Gautam Buddha, Nanak and Mahatma Gandhi – is stricken by the pestilence of communal violence. The diabolic use to which Jinnah put religion culminated in dividing India. For three decades after that religion was used mostly by, or at the least most effectively by the secularists – not by those, that is, who were secular but those who appropriated the label. ‘Secular’ politicians frightened the minorities — the Muslims in particular — by conjuring miasmas into putting their faith into them. In the eighties this politics reached its nadir: to outdo the Akalis Mrs. Gandhi stoked Bhinderwale, to get Muslims to his side
Rajiv bent the state to fundamentalists among them. The campaigns of the fundamentalists, the capitulations of the politicians occasioned many controversies. These in turn occasioned much bitterness and vehemence. The course these controversies have taken shows that if we do not heed reason in time, if we do not rectify our politics and our ways in response to reason and evidence, society will move to restore the balance irrationally – by force of numbers, by counter-violence – and that, as its ways will be haphazard and uneven, the innocent and the weak are the ones who will get clobbered the most.
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2. The incidence of communal violence is a most disturbing phenomenon. It is a matter of shame that in spite of the hundreds and thousands of lives lost in communal violence year after year, in spite of Commissions of Inquiry and long post-mortems into incidents of communal frenzy, nobody is punished for the communal crimes that they commit.
3. Today communal bodies are much better organized; anti-social and lumpen elements, with active support from communal organizations and politicians, are able to wrought severe damage to society particularly during riots. There has been a greater use of firearms and explosives during the riots because of an alarming proliferation of unlicensed arms and explosives. A study of such incidents reveals that in majority of cases fundamentalist communal leaders have often themselves incited or played opportunist games with communalism for their selfish gains. Thousands have died, as Indians have fought Indians over the years.
4. There has been frequent breakdown in law and order machinery in dealing with major communal riots. No police force in this country is free from communalism, casteism, indiscipline and politics. Politicians have worked to destroy the efficiency of the law and its instruments of enforcement. We need State machinery that is efficient and impartial to put down communal riots and ensure safety of all Indian citizens.
5. Since it is not possible for the Hindus and Muslims to progress in an atmosphere of peace and security without the support and goodwill of each other, ways and means must be found to avoid distrust and recrimination leading to confrontation and riots. All communities, politicians and law enforcing agencies must fight the virus of communal riots unitedly.
In view of J. W. Garner, an important feature of the Sate is that “the body of inhabitants renders habitual obedience to the organized government. ” There are several institutions and agencies working meticulously round the clock to help the government achieve its objectives. Police and other law enforcement agencies are such instruments of the State. The State, police and the society are ...
Statement of the Problem
6. This paper seeks to prove that causes of communal violence between Hindus and Muslims in India, in the post independence era are not merely historical animosity and religion. Political, economic and social factors play a major part in such violence.
7. When the Hindus acquiesced in the partition of India, they believed that it would be a final solution to the Muslim problem. But they now find that they have not only to contend with Pakistan and Bangladesh but also with the age old Hindu – Muslim problems; the tendency so far seems to have been of confrontation, sometimes tacit, sometimes open. There can be no doubt that the conflicts between the two have been growing in number and violence is becoming endemic in our secular democratic society. They surge, subside for a moment and then raise their ugly head once again, leaving behind death, destruction, fear and hatred. There are several factors in communal riots at a particular place and time, and their subsequent spread to other places. Causes of conflict undoubtedly have local variations but they are always a mixture of historical, religious, social, economic and political factors responsible for animosity, which often explodes into violence.
Justification of the Study
8. For a nation to progress economically, it is imperative that political stability is ensured. The time has come now, when India stands on the threshold of becoming a
major global player, to get over minor but important irritants standing in the way of its progress and recognition. Seeds of discord sown between various communities over the years and nurtured by myopic views of politicians have given rise to misinterpretation of secularism and intolerance towards other religions. For all to progress in order to build a strong, powerful and economically developed nation, such irritants have to be uprooted. It therefore becomes necessary to look beyond the obvious and examine the present through the prism of rationality to arrive at the present day causes and find ways and means to counter these.
9. This study concentrates on identifying the causes of communal discord between Hindus and Muslims in the post independence era and ways to counter them.
India is in the centre of a very serious conflict in the world today. It is a very diverse place composed of people from many different religious backgrounds that come from many different regions. Two of the country’s main religions, Muslim and Hindu, have been fighting for hundreds of years for many different reasons. Their feelings of hatred and mistrust for each other are embedded in their ...
10. Though the word ‘communalism’ is amply understood in its generic sense, it would be pertinent here to see some of the definitions of the term as given out by various publications:
(a) Communalism essentially amounts to organizing an exclusive religious group on the basis of hostility to one or more of the others at the social level. The implicit hostility becomes sharper when two or more groups have to live together and share common economic, political and other scarce resources.
(b) Communalism refers to the functioning of religious communities, or organizations, which claim to represent them, in a way which is considered detrimental to the interests of other groups or the nation as a whole.
(c) Communalism describes all movements, which attempt to build a differentiated group consciousness and identity among a defined population.
(d) A consciously shared religious heritage, which becomes the dominant form of identity for a given segment of society.
Methods of Data Collection
11. The primary source of data collection has been through books, periodicals and newspaper articles. An attempt was made to utilise material on the Internet, relevant issues from which have been included in the text. A bibliography of sources has been appended at the end of the dissertation.
12. It is proposed to study the subject in the following manner: –
(a) Chapter I – Introduction.
(b) Chapter II – Methodology.
(c ) Chapter III – Historical Perspective.
(d) Chapter IV – Situation Prior to Independence.
(e) Chapter V – Review: Independence to Date.
(f) Chapter VI – Religious Causes.
(h) Chapter VII – Social Causes.
(j) Chapter VIII – Economic Causes.
(k) Chapter IX – Political Causes.
(l) Chapter X – Suggestions.
(m) Chapter XI – Conclusion.
O believers prescribed for you is
retaliation, touching the slain;
The strife between Hindus and Muslims date back to the 16th century. After the Mughals took over India, there was relative peace for some time between the Hindus and Muslims. This harmony between these two groups broke down, with the harsh Muslim rule at the end of the 17th century. Under the strict Mughal leader Aurangzeb, Taxes were imposed on all Hindus, after they had previously been ...
freeman for freeman, slave for slave,
female for female. But if aught is pardoned
a man by his brother, let the pursuing
be honourable, and let the payment be
In retaliation there is life for you,
men possessed with minds……
The holy month for the holy month;
holy things demand retaliation.
Who so commits aggression against you,
do you commit aggression against him,
like as he has committed against you,
and fear you God.
13. In 712 AD Mohd bin al Q’asim overran Sind. The Arabs, the Turks , the Afghans and the Mughals invaded India in hordes from 1206 AD onwards, reducing temples to rubble, putting hundreds of thousands of Hindus to the sword, and forcibly
converting the survivors to Islam. Throughout the Muslim rule from 1206 onwards till
the advent of Mughal rule 34 kings ruled at Delhi with overt manifestations of Fanatical zeal. Relations between Hindus and Muslims were not cordial during the regimes of Babur, Jehangir, Shahjehan and Aurangzeb due to their religious intolerance. Aurangzeb, who was determined to make India a strictly Muslim empire, reversed the enlightened policies of Akbar, creating bitter communal disharmony and racial animosities resulting in the fall of the mighty Mughal Empire. Their religious intolerance only built up Hindu resistance. Atrocities on Hindus and Hinduism and powerful influence of Muslim rulers combined with innumerable social evils in the Hindu society led to the flow of conversions of Hindus to Islam.
14. Notwithstanding the fact that Muslim politics veered around proselytization of Hindus to Islam, destruction of Hindu temples and idols and severe persecution of Hindus in all walks of life, there is also evidence of tolerance and co-operation between the two communities. It must be remembered that most Muslims in India consisted chiefly of converted Hindus. They did not differ radically, and often spoke a common language. The cohesion and integration of Hindu and Muslim cultures, in the course of time, was, therefore, a natural corollary.
15. Among the noteworthy attempts to harmonize relations between Hindus and Muslims were those of Kabir, Nanak, Tukaram and Shri Chaitanya. The chief protagonist of an understanding between Hindus and Muslims was Kabir, though born a Muslim found no difficulty in worshipping as a Hindu. Then they were joined by a dozen orders of Sufis in Northern India, who by their teachings tried to bring about reconciliation between Hindus and Muslims. Sufism is neither a separate religion nor a sect. It is a particular and distinctive Muslim way of life born of the human heart against Muslim orthodoxy. Sufism is akin to Advaitya Vedanta. Sufis believe in rebirth and incarnation. They are revered by both Hindu and Muslim masses.
When I chose the topic of Americanization of immigrant Muslim women, I think I expected a straightforward, easy to categorize, research project. On the contrary, what I found was surprisingly different. While I think of myself as a liberal, open-minded female, this project gave me a very new perspective on myself and many of my views as well. Muslim women living in the United States are quite ...
16. Assimilation is peaceful coexistence in a heterogeneous system, which presupposed passivity on the part of the assimilated. This was easy in the case of Greeks, Scythians, Parthians and Huns who did not belong to established religions. Parsees brought their own priests with them and their being no proselytization in Zoroastrianism they fitted in smoothly. But the Christians and the Muslim races, even when they had ceased raiding and had settled in India, were by no means passive and resorted to conversions of Indian citizens to Christianity or Islam.
17. The first serious communal riot to which we need to refer occurred in Bombay in 1893. In the course of observing Moharrum, a Muslim mob had indulged in an orgy of violence in Kathiawar, in the course of which Hindu temples were destroyed. The spirit of revenge spread quickly and Hindu – Muslim riot occurred in several parts of Bombay city. Troops were called in and law and order gradually restored.
SITUATION PRIOR TO INDEPENDENCE
18. It should be remembered that communal differences were already an important aspect of Indian life when the British gained control of India. The British pursued a policy of “divide and rule”, to foment Hindu – Muslim Tension as a means to weakening any unified resistance to their imperialism. Recognition of these antipathies found its way into the colonial policy. Some salient examples can be seen in succeeding paragraphs.
19. In 1905, Viceroy Curzon partitioned Bengal. The partitioning was intended to promote efficient administration, but the new boundaries cut across Bengali language communities and Hindu ethnic groupings. Widespread agitation and violence followed, and partitioning was revoked in 1911. A second important policy decision tending to increase the Hindu-Muslim conflicts was the Morley Minto reforms of 1909. These reforms established the principle of ‘separate electorates’, meaning that representation in provincial legislative councils would thereafter be based on minority and communal apportionment. Under the principle of ‘separate electorates’ a Muslim could vote for only a Muslim candidate, and a Hindu only for a Hindu. The mischief produced by it was incalculable because it made religious difference the deciding factor in every political contest.
Religion plays a vital role in the Indian way of life. About 83 percent of the Indian people are Hindus, and about 11 percent are Muslims. The next largest religious groups, in order of size, are Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains. Religious laws of the Hindus and Muslim govern the people?s clothing, food, and marriage. They also strongly influence the type of violence between Hindus and ...
20. The Montagu Chelmsford Reforms 1919 reinforced the principle of separate electorates. Somewhat conciliatory in tone, the reforms implied future parliamentary government for India with eventual Dominion status. But it also acknowledged separate political representation for the Muslim and Sikh communities. Still another instrument of British policy with communal implications was the Government of India Act of 1935. This act provided for separate electorates for Muslims, Sikhs, Indian Christians and Europeans, as also broadened the franchise to women and a small percentage of the “Untouchable” caste. Thus the British legislative policy while ostensibly aimed at protecting minority rights, tended to accentuate sectarian allegiance.
21. Events which shaped the relationship of the two major communities, i.e. Hindus and Muslims in India in the pre – independence period are given below:-
(a) Formation of Muslim League in 1906 with an aim to :-
i) Promote among Mussulmans of India, feelings of loyalty towards the British government and to remove any misconceptions that may arise as to the intentions of the government with regard to Indian measures.
ii) Protect and advance the political rights of Mussulmans in India and respectfully represent their needs and aspirations to the government.
iii) Prevent the rise amongst Mussulmans of India of any feeling of hostility towards other communities without prejudice to the other foresaid objects of the League.
(b) A controversy arose over Afghan invasion of India in 1919 which brought back popular belief among the Hindus that Amir of Afghanistan had been invited by the Muslims of India with Pan- Islamic intentions. This impression was confirmed by public statements of some important Muslim leaders including Maulana Mohd Ali, in which he stressed that the first duty of every Muslim was towards his co-religionists. Gandhi in his article in Young India of May 4, 1921 tried to assuage the feelings of Hindus but without much effect.
(c) While the feelings of distrust and suspicion were growing among the Hindus and Muslims, sporadic communal violence broke out in the Moplah rebellion in 1921. Though the rebellion was against the British authority, the religious fanaticism of the Moplahs was directed towards the Hindus with great ferocity. They killed many Hindus or forcibly converted them to Islam. These Moplahs were the offspring of the early Arab settlers on the Malabar coast.
(d) In September 1924 a very serious rioting took place in Kohat(now in Pakistan), in which about 155 persons were killed and wounded and house property worth about Rs nine lac belonging to both communities were looted. The whole Hindu population had to evacuate the city.
(e) To counterbalance the communal activities of the Muslim League and the Muslim Khaksar party, a militant organization, the extremist Hindu Mahasabha was formed in 1925. Hindu leaders started Shuddhi Movement reconverting Muslims to the Hindu fold to which Muslims showed great bitterness. Communal antagonism became intense and widespread.
`(f) In 1930 session of Muslim League was held at Allahabad where the idea of Pakistan was put forth by its president Iqbal.
(g) On March 26, 1939 at Meerut, Muslim League Working Committee Meeting under the chairmanship of Jinnah passed two very partisan resolutions. One called on Muslims to, ‘effectively organize themselves forthwith in order to protect their liberties, rights and interests’, against Hindu coercion. The other condemned the Arya Samaj and Hindu Mahasabha.
(h) Jinnah’s Presidential address to the annual session of the Muslim League in Lahore on Mar 22, 1940, undoubtedly represented one of the most important political speeches. The speech set forth unequivocally Jinnah’s argument that Hindus and Muslims could not co-exist in a united, free India. Jinnah argued that the solution to India’s constitutional dilemma lay in dividing India into autonomous national states.
(j) In 1946 General Elections, the Aug 16 riots and Hyderabad problem , formed the backdrop for the turbulence in 1947. The riots and massacres of Partition, ghastly beyond all telling, ushered into existence the new states of India and Pakistan. There was an organized bloodbath on both sides of the permanent divide. These left about 5000 dead and 3000 seriously injured.
REVIEW: INDEPENDENCE TO DATE
‘Now, suppose that all the English and the whole English army were to leave India, taking with them all their cannon and ……….then who would be rulers of India? Is it possible that under these circumstances two Nations-the Mohammedans and the Hindus- could sit on the same throne and remain equal in power? …….although the number of Mohammedans is less than that of Hindus…………Then our Mussulman brothers, the Pathans, would come out as swarm of locusts from their mountain valleys, and make rivers of blood flow………But until one nation had conquered the other and made it obedient, peace cannot reign in the land. This conclusion is based on proofs so absolute that no one can deny it……
– Sir Syed Ahmed Khan
22. When the Hindus acquiesced in the partition of India, they believed that it would be a final solution to the Muslim problem. But they now find that they have not only to contend with Pakistan and Bangladesh but also with the age old Hindu – Muslim problems; the tendency so far seems to have been of confrontation, sometimes tacit, sometimes open. There can be no doubt that the conflicts between the two have been growing in number and violence is becoming endemic in our secular democratic society. They surge, subside for a moment and then raise their ugly head once again, leaving behind death, destruction, fear and hatred.
23. After a decade or more of comparative peace after the holocaust that accompanied the partition, the revival of communal violence began in early 1960s with the Jabalpur riots, followed by disturbances in western U.P. National Integration Council was formed as a sequel to the chain of events. The second wave began with disturbances in the Calcutta Industrial belt and then spread to Jamshedpur and Rourkela in 1964. It was a reaction to atrocities committed on Hindus in East Pakistan, a large number of whom migrated to India. The peak of disturbances was reached in 1969-70 with Ahmedabad and Jalgaon-Bhiwandi riots when almost a thousand cases were registered all over the country. The third wave of riots took place during 1978 –82. More than two thousand cases were registered during the period. The worst affected areas were Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
24. What, therefore, is necessary, is to identify ways and means to develop a sturdy National ethos which can combat communal mentality. This has been amply summed up by M. Rafiq Khan, Senior Research Fellow, Gandhian Institute of Studies, Varanasi, “For harmony in inter religious relationships, it is not enough to blame the majority community and expect it to reform. The Muslims have to actively initiate a process of self reliance and self assurance and take the support of the Hindus and the state in the process”. Addressing the Muslims he says, “ Why not turn the searchlight within and see wether your own attitudes and practices conform to the standards and the qualities which you expect from others? Are you really free of prejudices, stereotypes, narrow mindedness and discriminatory thoughts and conduct as you wish others to be in relation to you?”. There are several factors in Hindu Muslim riots at a particular place and time, and their subsequent spread to other places. Causes of conflict undoubtedly have local variations but they are always a mixture of historical, religious, social, economic and political factors responsible for animosity, which often explodes into violence. Let us take a close look at these in succeeding chapters.
If your brother, the son of your mother, or your daughter, or the wife of your bosom, or your friend who is your own soul entices you to serve other gods.. You shall not yield to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him, your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. You shall stone him to death with stones…
25. Personal Belief. Religion as an element of personal belief remains the strongest force in India. The problem arises when personal faith is converted into religious antagonism. Every country, every society has such fanatics – so has India. It has led to violent conflicts not only amongst followers of different religions but also amongst followers of same religion i.e. different sects. Religion comes into fray because it is part of the social order in which men live. Religion cannot be disassociated from the modes of thought that characterise a society. While religion as such has not been responsible for growth of communalism, religiosity, i.e. deep emotional commitment to such matters, has been a major contributory factor and at a popular plane, imparted passion and intensity.
26. Interpretation of “THE BOOK”. There was a time when the only way to justify a rule was to assert that it had been ordained directly by God. Thus we have Manu claiming that his statutes have been created by Brahma Himself, we have Moses bringing down tablets from the mountain, we have the Bible ascribing everything to God and His Son, we have the Prophet claiming that the Quran which was revealed to him through the angel Gabriel was a reproduction of the original which was lying in heaven. Devine ordination was the necessary sanction. (It was not always the sufficient one as is evident from the fact that ever so often physical force, and a great deal of it , had to be used to make people heed the decrees.)
27. We must therefore examine the claims to infallibility that are made on behalf of religion and are believed by the faithful. What did the religions and texts prophecy, and how did things turn out in fact. Over the last three hundred years considerations such as these has led the even devout scholars to conclude that the authors were not as concerned in each instance to record what had actually happened, but to recreate the overall situation in a way that would reinforce the central message of faith. They now hold that it is not “the literal inerrancy” that we must look for in, say, the Bible, but the integrity of the overall mindset of faith that the authors create through the dramatic situations they construct. Often the treatment of the same event by two Books is different. Each is sacred and is said to be from God. The devout Christian is liable to find the reasons that the Quran gives for concluding that the Jesus was not the Son of God, to be just as unconvincing as the devout Muslim is liable to find puerile reasons that one may extract from the Bible for the proposition that he was the Son of God.
28. Are the ‘reasons’ of the Quran as much as the Bible not something else together? The Bible must affirm that Jesus is the Son of God so as to exalt him to his unique position, a position so unique that a religion can be founded after him. For exactly the same reason, The Quran must insist that he was not the Son of God, for the same reason it must deny the central event of Christian martyrology, namely, that Christ was crucified. If it accepts affirmations, it cannot create for Mohammed the unique position it must, if it is to found an entire religion on the latter.
29. Degeneration of Religion
. The religious festivals in different areas are undergoing rapid change. There were local rituals, local deities and so on. What gradually one finds emerging is that not only are the festivals becoming longer and longer; there nature seems to be undergoing a profound change too. Processions addressed by lumpen-type orators haranguing the crowds, are taken out during Hindu and Muslim festivals that virtually stop all work. Without proper police arrangement these can end in communal riots. In Hyderabad, the success of the Ganesh procession had spurred a Muslim MP to make his own show of strength. In 1982, he was mainly responsible for introducing an innovation called the “ Pankah” procession. This takes the form of a procession of Pankahs taken on decorated vehicles or cycle rickshaws that are brought out for the annual Urs of Hazrat Yusuf Saheb and Hazrat Shareef Saheb of the Namapally dargah. In 1982, the procession was taken out on September 14, exactly a week before the Ganesh procession. Even Islamic scholars and devout Muslims say that the procession is not an Islamic tradition. It has nothing to do with Islam; for the vested political interests it is a show of strength.
30. Proselytisation. This causes great resentment among Hindus. Not infrequently conversions of Hindus to Islam and their reconversions to Hinduism ended in communal riots. The Shuddhi movement was a backlash to the proselytizing of non- Hindu faiths. Hinduism is not and has never been a proselytizing religion, and this explains the reason why it never thought of converting the Tribes with all of whom it has lived in peace and harmony for centuries. No one is particularly bothered if an individual Hindu desires to change his faith. What irks many Hindus is planned mass conversion to Islam. To curb unlawful conversions it is time for enacting legislation.
31. Urbanisation and Overcrowding of Towns. In urban areas loss of privacy, the inter-connection of houses, the growth of slum, problem of drainage, boys and girls growing up in close vicinity and teasing each other – all these with the admixture of normal causes are breeding grounds for riots. It should not be forgotten that in urban areas, a great deal of Muslims are poor. They live in ghettos or in traditional Muslim pockets. The average number of children born to a Muslim woman in India at the end of her reproduction period was an incredible 7.69. Against this background, the frequent outbreaks of violence involving the Muslim community acquire a more understandable dimension. The immediate provocation maybe a solitary pig or even a piece of impious meat, but below the surface lurk economic and social tensions that mark the current chaotic phase of social evolution in India. Unhindered growth of population in India as a whole contributes to these tensions. A table to show population growth in relation to some of the countries in the Asia is given below.
WORLD POPULATION: MID-1999
|Country |Male |Female |Total |
|China |651,814,000 |615,024,000 |1,266,838,000 |
|Korea, Republic of |23,437,000 |23,042,000 |46,479,000 |
|Thailand |30,374,000 |30,482,000 |60,856,000 |
|Afghanistan |11,251,000 |10,672,000 |21,923,000 |
|Bangladesh |65,001,000 |61,947,000 |126,948,000 |
|India |515,255,000 |482,801,000 |998,056,000 |
|Nepal |11,848,000 |11,538,000 |23,386,000 |
|Pakistan |78,632,000 |73,698,000 |152,330,000 |
32. Muslim Personal Law. Ever since the mid nineteenth century, Muslim law too was being reformed slowly. Whereas under Muslim law the penalty for apostasy was not just the loss of rights in property, the automatic dissolution of the marriage bond etc, but death, the Caste Disabilities Removal Act of 1850 banished all laws and usage which impaired the rights if property, inheritance or any other rights of an individual ‘by reason of his or her renouncing, or having been excluded from the communion of, any religion, or being deprived of caste.’ The jurisdiction of the Qazis was abolished, and where the personal law of different communities continued it was thenceforth to be administered by the magistrates appointed by the state. The Indian Penal Code of 1860 and the Criminal Procedure Code of 1898 replaced Muslim Criminal Law. The Evidence Act of 1872 replaced Muslim Law of Evidence. This put a host of matters of personal law – the presumption of death, the legitimacy of children, etc.-within the purview of secular, modern legislation. In the same year the Contract act was put in force and applied equally to all – Hindus and Muslims alike. As the textbooks record, the Married Women’s Property Act of 1874, the Majority Act of 1875, the Transfer of Property Act of 1882, the Guardians Wards Act of 1890, the Indian Succession Act of 1925, one by one extended the ambit of modern, secular, common principles to spheres that had been regarded as the exclusive preserve of the separate personal laws of different communities. Moreover, even in spheres where the different personal laws continued to operate, the procedure to be followed in the courts, the nature of evidence to be taken into account, etc came to be governed by the common Codes and Acts. Reform continued apace. Thus while, as we shall see, a tradition of the Prophet would seem to recommend that daughters be married off at the age of twelve, and while child marriages were as customary in Islamic society as in other traditional societies, the Child Marriages Restraint Act of 1929 began the process of the state laying down the minimum age for marriage.
33. This process of reform and integration stopped dead with the Partition. Apart from a few stray extensions – such as the Special Marriage Act of 1954, which gives all couples the option to register their marriages under this act and thenceforth be governed by common, modern, secular laws – the country abandoned all efforts to update or reform Muslim Law, or to move towards a common code. The reason has not been any new, suddenly discovered veneration for personal law but the trauma of Partition – the urge to ‘leave bad enough alone’ – that is, the reason has been expedience, not principle. The consequences are before us. These symbols of separateness continue. What is good in the law of this or that community is not extended to all. What is iniquitous in it continues to torment members of that community. And anomalies reign: a Muslim husband remains free to cast away his wife by pronouncing a single word thrice, while a Christian couple – even if they amicably agree that their marriage is not workable – must wait for three judges of a High Court to confirm their divorce.
34. As results of modern scholarship, we are left with little on which to base the Muslim Personal Law. If we continue to maintain that the traditions etc are authentic, we notice that how much they are dated. If we disregard this evidence also and insist that every word in the Quran and the traditions is eternally true and therefore eternally binding, we have to decide whether we have to reintroduce the provisions regarding criminal law, the law of evidence, institutions like slavery, and the whole stance towards the non Muslims, culminating as it does, in the ineluctable duty of Jihad. Each of these positions leads to untenable results. None of them is able to provide a blanket cover that is being claimed by Muslim Personal Law. We thus have no alternative but to examine each provision of personal law by itself. If it is excellent, we must urge that it be applied to all. If it is medieval, there is no ground on which we can justify the subjection of anyone to it. The manifest inequity of these laws and their obsolescence has led one Muslim country after another to reform them wholesale. Many have tried to dress up the reforms by asserting that they are derived or are based on the Shariat itself.
35. ‘The Devil’. In rural North India, a curious fact has emerged when studying the phenomenon of possession by spirits, in a large number of cases, the ‘bhuta’ or the malignant spirit turned out to be a Muslim. When the patient went into a trance during the healing ritual, he expressed desires that would have been horrifying to his own conscious self. In one case the spirit possessing an old Brahmin priest expressed its desire to eat ‘Kebabs’. In another case, the ‘bhuta’ possessing a young married woman expressed derogatory sentiments against her ‘lord and master’ and openly stated its intentions of bringing the mother in law to a violent and preferably bloody end. Possession by a Muslim bhuta, then, seemed to reflect the afflicted person’s desperate attempt to convince himself and others that his hunger for forbidden foods and uncontrollable rage towards who should be loved and respected, as well as all the other transgressions and sins of the heart belonged to the Muslim destroyer of taboos and were furthest away from his ‘good’ Hindu self. The Muslim seemed to symbolize the alien and the demonic in the unconscious part of the Hindu mind.
36. In most of the labour intensive traditional arts and crafts industry, be it leather industry in Agra, locks in Aligarh, brass in Moradabad or glass industry in Ferozabad artisans are Muslims and the skill has been passed down the generations. They have traditionally bought their raw materials from and sold finished products to Hindu traders. In recent years however Muslim traders have entered the field and this has led to rivalry between the two, frequently ending in communal riots. Communal riots occur in Hatia, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Jamshedpur and Meerut, where there are jobs to secure, houses, shops and plots of land to capture and where economic rivalries are serious, and have to be covered up with the cloak of communalism, in all these places.
37. Modernisation opens up new opportunities. It also dislocates and entails hardships. As we can take advantage of the opportunities, for instance, funds and jobs flowing from the State, and as we can fortify ourselves against the dislocations most readily as groups, we rush to persons who speak the same language, who are from the same region, who belong to the same caste or religion as us. It is around these contours ‘they’ have been distinguished from ‘us’ the longest. Pushed around now, but also tempted by the new possibilities, we rush back to the identities we have known the longest, identities that are therefore the most deeply ingrained.
38. But mdernisation even as it hurls back to these identities, blurs these traditional contours. We may revert to the caste group to grab at the developmental funds reaching our region. But at the same time, and in part because of the same factors, mobility between regions as well as occupations increases, entirely new occupations which do not fit into old categories come into being; differentiations within an occupation become finer; thus, while in the old, ‘unchanging’ mode, one occupation differed so obviously from another, now – what with a much larger number of occupations, as well as finer gradations within an occupation – they are arranged not along a discreet hierarchy but more or less along a continuum. Thus, while on the one side we are hurled back to our caste group, the contours that demarcate this caste from others become hazier by the year.
39. Vote Bank. The electoral process in the country, instead of pulling down the boundary walls of community and religion, has unfortunately made them more pronounced, with the political lexicon of post independence India importing such patent obscenities as the ‘vote bank’. As a result , each zone of communal tension is eyed by the political parties and groups with muted expectancy , calculating which way the dice would be loaded at the next elections. A precarious balance of Hindu and Muslims in a particular constituency leads to riots. Instead of treating each case of communal riots purely as a case of law and order the rulers look at it through political spectacles. What our politicians are looking at is adequately illustrated by population religion percentages in relation to other countries placed at table below:
THE WORLD RELIGION
|India |Hindu 80%, Muslim 14%, Christian 2.4%, Sikh 2%, Buddhist 0.7%, Jains 0.5%, other 0.4% |
|Iran |Shi’a Muslim 89%, Sunni Muslim 10%, Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian, and Baha’i 1% |
|Iraq |Muslim 97% (Shi’a 60%-65%, Sunni 32%-37%), Christian or other 3% |
|Israel |Jewish 80.1%, Muslim 14.6% (mostly Sunni Muslim), Christian 2.1%, other 3.2% (1996 est.) |
|Oman |Ibadhi Muslim 75%, Sunni Muslim, Shi’a Muslim, Hindu |
|Pakistan |Muslim 97% (Sunni 77%, Shi’a 20%), Christian, Hindu, and other 3% |
|Saudi Arabia |Muslim 100% |
|UAE |Muslim 96% (Shi’a 16%), Christian, Hindu, and other 4% |
|United Kingdom |Anglican 27 million, Roman Catholic 9 million, Muslim 1 million, Presbyterian 800,000, Methodist 760,000, Sikh |
| |400,000, Hindu 350,000, Jewish 300,000 (1991 est.) |
|USA |Protestant 56%, Roman Catholic 28%, Jewish 2%, other 4%, none 10% (1989) |
40. Pockets of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and Pakistan into border states are being sheltered on grounds of religion to develop vote banks. The immigrants not only try to grab land but also live so provocatively that communal harmony is impaired. A deeper probe into any of the riots would confirm that in spite of persistence of religious hostility between two communities they are unlikely to fly at each other’s throats until some religious or political leaders decide to exploit the underlying hostility for achieving political goals.
41. Interpretation of Secularism. Our laws do not discriminate between citizens on ground of religion. This is a great advance. It is one of the most precious legacies of our freedom struggle, and one of the best results of the spread of modern and liberal ideas in India. Apart from this our secularism consists mainly of:
a) Chanting verses from scriptures of various religions at state functions.
b) Allowing institutions and groups of some religions what we would readily, and rightly, deny to others.
c) Allowing institutions and groups that dress themselves up in religion a latitude that we readily, and rightly, deny secular institutions and groups .
d) Giving secular speeches when making deal with every communalist organization – which controls or is rumored to control the vote bank of that particular community.
e) Branding others communal.
f) Being ostentatiously anti-religion in public while practicing the rituals and observing the superstitions in private.
42. There is a schizophrenia. We chant, ‘ Hinduism, Islam, Christianity are our common heritage.’ But when a secular scholar proceeds in that belief – when a Hindu scholar, for instance, examines the hadis with the same tools as he does the Puranas – we shout, ‘Communal’.
43. There are double standards. It is progressive to demand that the Government appoint trustees to manage the Vishwanath, Tirupathi, Nathdwara, Gurvayur temples. But it is communal to demand that it do so in the case of a Gurudwara, even when the SGPC has run away from its responsibility under the law. It is progressive to denounce, say, RSS for holding Shakhas. But it is communal to so much as draw attention to the fact that the official budget of the SGPC – a body constituted under our secular laws, elections to which are held under the supervision (and at the expense of) our secular Government – has ‘training in arms’ as one of the heads of expenditure. It is progressive to heap scorn over ill-informed pamphlets published by some math. But it is communal to document the poison being spread by religious schools, madrasas, across the country. It is progressive to denounce some Hindu Swamy for trying to influence his followers on secular matters. But it is rank communalism to point out that obligation to obey hukumnamas and fatwas has no place in a secular state. All this has roots in at the least in three things. They are: –
(a) Ignorance Of Our Traditions. Far from having knowledge of our traditions, far from Hindus having read the Quran, etc. rare is the Hindu who has studied – just studied, to say little of having thought over, and to say nothing at all of trying to live by – the Upanishads or even the Gita, rare the Muslim who has studied the Quran, the Sikh who has studied the Granth Sahib. The western educated Indian has merely internalized the sophisticated, indeed subversive slander of the Western scholars about his texts, beliefs and practices. Much of this scholarship was associated with the need to justify the notion that the east had to be ‘civilized’ by missionary activity, by imperial conquest. We have not studied this body of work in detail. But we have internalized three general notions from it; that by and large our tradition is of little worth; that our present condition, the backwardness of 21st Century India, originates in this tradition; finally, that we are not one stream but an artificial geographical construct, that the Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, etc., are inherently, irreconcilably separate.
(b) Not Delving Into Specifics. The second reason for our schizophrenia, our double standards, is that on these issues, as on other public issues, we are not prepared to go into specifics. The superficial generalisation, the angry slogan and the abusive label is enough for us. Therefore, every issue naturally becomes a ‘Hindu v. Muslim’, a ‘Progressive v. Reactionary’ issue. This leads to animosities even on frivolous issues like routing of and timing of processions. Killings and arson follows, year after year, and Hindu and Muslim animosity is deepened.
(c) Taking Right Steps. We just don’t want to take the steps that the situation demands. For three long years, as the killings in Punjab proceeded, as perceptions of Hindus and Sikhs were poisoned about each other, the government proclaimed, ‘We will not enter the Gurudwaras as we do not want to hurt the sentiments of the Sikhs.’ The outcome on Muslim personal law has been no different: ‘The community alone must decide for itself.’ But why not the country? Now, in the given situation it may or may not be expedient to act. But we should at least be clear on where the principle lies, and whether all we are doing is to dress up dithering as principle.
44. History has been written and it would be our biggest folly to try and carry its burden too far. We cannot perforce undo what has been done. We should take lessons from it and not repeat the same mistakes.
45. Religion is a way of life as professed by a preacher or ordained by a prophet according to the prevalent social norms and evils at that point in time. All our traditions are our common heritage, all religions are part of the country: each of us has not just the right but the duty to consider every tradition and every region as our own and to urge what ought to be done in the interests of country as a whole.
46. Every book is man made. Each of the books that we revere has much that is valuable, but also much that is dated, and much that is just not tenable. Each of us has the right, and in the poisoned air of today, the duty to study and interpret the book. Our surest guide in doing so is direct experience and not the diktat of some intermediary. Most of us have a greater capacity to understand and interpret the texts than the professional priests and theologians, and an infinitely greater capacity to do so than the politicians who hector us in the name of religion.
47. There is scarcely a person writing in the mainstream press in the country who writes with the deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of others. It is also a fact that the complaints for which pressmen are arraigned before the police, the courts or the Press Council seldom originate with ‘ordinary men of ordinary common sense and prudence’. Most often they are put up by self styled leaders who are always on the lookout for ‘issues’ by stoking which they can further their claims to being the protectors and guardians of their followers. It is a good rule therefore for the pressmen to delve into the antecedents of the complainants and also ferret out the propaganda that has accompanied the complaint. For a publication to fall afoul it must prove:
(a) The intension of the author to hurt the religious feelings of other must be deliberate and malicious.
(b) That the test to be applied for this purpose is the reaction of the ordinary man with ordinary common sense and prudence and not the reaction of some abnormal or hypersensitive person.
(c) That the intention must be gleaned primarily from the language and contents and import of the publication itself.
(d) That the deliberate and malicious intension to outrage the religious feelings of others must permeate the article as a whole.
48. Nothing is in a worse condition in our society than the State. And yet it is on the State that we rely for everything, even for talking to each other. We bemoan our politicians and officials for the malaise. That problem is endemic, of course. But here is a good place to begin: at every level, in every crisis, on every problem communities should talk to each other directly, and not through politicians or officials of State. And talk everything that is in their heart about the other.
49. Our laws do not differentiate between individuals on grounds of religion. We are free to pursue our religion. These are the corner stones of a secular State. But in view of the aforementioned we must go a step further. The groups or institutions of one religion should not be allowed to do what groups or institutions of other religions are denied. No religious group or institution must be allowed what a non- religious group or institution is denied. Firmness as well as fairness must inform the policies of the State on all matters, small as well as big. We often postpone doing the right thing for ‘The Great Issue’ to arise. But just as for the individual the only way to gain strength for the ‘The Great Issue’ is to acquire it by acting on the ‘small issues’ as they arise, the only way for the State to keep its apparatus in order, as well as to have that reputation of being just and competent which it needs to tackle ‘The Great Issue’ is to tackle the ‘small’ issues promptly, competently and fairly. A State, which does not enforce the Public Nuisances Act to regulate loudspeakers that blare from places of worship, which does not prevent religious groups from grabbing Government land, disables itself. It will not be able to act when the nemesis of this pattern of behaviour will confront it in the shape of the ‘The Great Issue’. In a secular State no religious organization must have the authority to decree what is to be done on a secular matter. Fatwas, hukumnamas and the like have no place in a secular State.
50. We must establish a truly secular polity – where the individual is the unit in all dealings of the State, and not a group; where secular laws are enforced strictly; where they are enforced uniformly for all; where no one is allowed to do in the name of religion what a secular body is not allowed to do. To prepare for such a polity we can begin with three things here and now:
(a) We should meet in small groups and large, in ones and twos and pour out everything that is in our hearts. We should go on doing so – not until we have convinced each other, that is not necessary, and that is not something we can aspire to immediately. We should continue doing so instead till each of us thoroughly learns the arguments and facts which have led the other to hold the beliefs he holds today.
(b) We should look around and see, all the propaganda to the contrary notwithstanding, how similar the lives of our people are.
(c) We should re-establish social relations. Once again it should not be left to the leaders, nor should it be attempted at the level of general categories – ‘Hindus’ and ‘Muslims’. Every Hindu should vow to make just one Muslim his friend and every Muslim should vow to make just one Hindu his friend. And such a friend that he would he would not think of finalizing the date or time of marriage of his child without taking counsel of the other. You will see the transformation come about – as we begin to realise that each of us is just like the other.
51. Last but the most important action we have to take is to concentrate on the spread of education. Education, not in the sense of academic qualifications, but in the terms of broadening of horizons. Without it none of the remedial actions enumerated can take effect. We as responsible citizens of this glorious land have a very important part to play in this regard.
52. To fashion a fair and firm state ; a State and society in which the individual is all, an individual with an inviolate sphere of autonomy that neither the State nor anyone acting in the name of religion nor any other collectivity can breach; a State and society in which we learn to look upon one another as human beings, in which the partitioning our fellow men between ‘them’ and us is shed; a State and society in which a man of God is known not by externals – by his appearance, by the rituals he observes, by the religious office he holds – but by the service he renders to his fellow men; a State and society in which each of us recognises all our traditions as the common heritage of us all; a State and society in which we shed the dross in religion and perceive the unity and truth to which the mystics of all traditions have borne testimony; a State and society in which we learn, in which we examine, in which we begin to think for ourselves – fashioning such a State and society is a program worthy of those who aspire to humanism and secularism. We must accept the right of everyone to his own opinion and belief as well as the right of everyone to influence others to adopt his opinion and belief , but simultaneously each of us must vow that he will influence others by persuasion alone or not at all.
53. To conclude, we must say to our eternal shame that less than ten percent comprises of the literate, the educated, the politician who wants to capture power in a religious garb as a savior of the community. It is time for the ninety percent, who form the true India, to stand up and get vocal. Battles are not won by silence, or looking the other way around. Unless, we all are alert and determined unitedly not to allow a communal riot occur, many more Bhiwandis and Moradabad, many more Jamshedpur and Hyderabad will keep occurring. Many, many more people – men, women and children will be killed on the pretext of religion, caste and community. The violence will grow all around us, while its perpetrators will walk the streets as free men, their heads held high. It is time for us, therefore to be ashamed of our own silence.
“For, if you love those who love you, what rewards have you?”- Jesus.
1. Das Veena. Communities, Riots and Survivors in South Asia, New Delhi, SK Mookerjee,1990.
2. Gautam Meena. Communalism and Indian Politics, Delhi, Pragati Publications, 1993.
3. Ghosh SK. Communal Riots in India, Calcutta, Law Research Institute, 1987.
4. Hodson HV, The Great Divide, London Publishers, 1980.
5. Kakar Sudhir, Myths as History, TOI, Bombay, 30 April 1985.
6. Khalidi Omar. Indian Muslims Since Independence, New Delhi, Vikas Publishing House,1995.
7. Khan Wahiduddin Maulana. Indian Muslims The Need For Positive Outlook, New Delhi, Al-Risala Books, 1994.
8. Koestler Arthur, ‘The Lion and the Ostrich,’ Suicide of a Nation, New York: Macmillan,1964.
9. Larson Gerald J. India’s Agony Over Religion, Delhi, OUP, 1997.
10. Naqvi Saeed. Reflections of an Indian Muslim, Delhi, Har Anand Publications, 1993.
11. Mohammad Shan, Writings and Speeches of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, New Delhi, Nachiketa,1972.
12. Sharma Sita Ram. Anatomy of Communalism, Delhi, APH Publishing Corporation, 1998.
13. Shourie Arun. Indian Controversy, New Delhi, ASA Publications, 1993.
14. The Holy Bible.
15. The Holy Quran.
 Koestler Arthur, ‘The Lion and the Ostrich,’ Suicide of a Nation, New York: Macmillan,1964.
 The Holy Quran, 2.173-5, 190
 Sharma Sita Ram. Anatomy of Communalism, Delhi, APH PublishingCorp, 1998. et passium
 Ghosh SK. Communal Riots in India, Calcutta, Law Research Institute, 1987,page 6-7
 Ibid. pp 11-15.
 Hodson HV, The Great Divide, London Publishers, 1980, pp 272-273
 Mohammad Shan, Writings and Speeches of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, New Delhi, Nachiketa,1972, pp184-5.
 Das Veena. Communities, Riots and Survivors in South Asia, New Delhi, SK Mookerjee,1990.
 The Holy Bible,13.6-11.
 Larson Gerald J. India’s Agony Over Religion, Delhi, OUP, 1997,pp 89-91.
 “The World Factbook 2000” CIA, USA.(http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html)
 Khan Wahiduddin Maulana. Indian Muslims The Need For Positive Outlook, New Delhi, Al-Risala Books, 1994, et passium.
 Shourie A, Indian Controversy, ASA Publications, Delhi, 1993, page246.
 Kakar Sudhir, Myths as History, TOI, 30 April 1985, Bombay.
 Naqvi Saeed. Reflections of an Indian Muslim, Delhi, Har Anand Publications, 1993, pp 145.
 op. cit. “The World Factbook 2000”.