When I met MJ Akbar (MJ) for the first time at his office in Green Park, New Delhi, we had a very transitory interaction. Though not much noticeable happened, in the last minutes of discussion, however, he made a statement which was to make a lasting impression on me – for life. ‘We have built walls for generations… now its time to break them down.’ he said, as I hopelessly agreed.
For over hundreds of years walls have been built and fortified in this country. It’s stronger than the walls erected by the Israelis to keep away the Palestinians from crossing into their territory. The wall we are talking of is the Hindu-Muslim emotional divide. Apart from the four metros and other cosmos, when I move towards the rural areas, if not all – most, I see how agitated people are against each other. I am saddened by the hatred person of one faith harbors against another in a sense of utter disbelief.
Certainly both have valid reasons from their perspectives to this mutual distrust. But, the issue that baffles my mind is as to why be it that no efforts for lasting reconciliation have been made from either side until today? I am unable to comprehend as why do populace retort to hostility, fighting and brutality when frustrated without giving talks-for-peace a chance? Many may argue that we hadn’t had much of riots in the past ten years. But that is not to say that mutual discontent has vanished. It is gathering momentum, though steadily, even today.
This April when I met MJ in Manipal, he was to express me his discontentment over the existing interdict on religious conversions. ‘It’s not democratic.’ he asserted. Yet, as I often do not, was not provoked, I did not loose my temper though I disagreed by stating my viewpoint, strongly. He too was tolerant, and perhaps more than me, as I spoke of my attitude on Ram Janma Bhoomi Babri Masjid that which was in complete contradiction to his, of course. We certainly were pragmatic and sensible in our approach. Before we bid farewell to each other in Manipal we exchanged a warm hug. This is not to say that we resolved our differences, you certainly can’t conclude ages old disputes in few hours, but because we realized that we believed in each other. Our mutual faith and admiration had nothing to do with our political and religious viewpoints. Friendship is never based on terms and conditions.
Let’s become aware of the fact that to be a Hindu, which I am and will be, you don’t need to be anti-Muslim and vice versa. I was showered with criticism when I defended MJ after his abrupt removal from the post of Editor-In-Chief of The Asian Age and Deccan Chronicle, by some of my friends associated with RSS. ‘He’s anti-Hindu’ some claimed. But I was against this allegation. MJ had defended the Islamic viewpoint when he had to, and quite convincingly. But just because he defended doctrines, in which he had faith in, is not good enough to declare him to be an ‘anti-Hindu’.
For harmony to be established we ought to cultivate awareness of belonging and preclude the tendency of revulsion from each other. Hatred begets nothing but destruction – let’s by no means disregard this fact, but what is happening in this nation is from tip to toe contradictory to it. Even petite tussle between two inhabitants of different religions is taken as a rallying point, at times, for hatred and violence. Instead of showing steadfastness for peace, I earnestly feel that advocates of Hindutva as well as Islam, and even Christianity, are occupied in defending cases against them, and most of the time – blindly. I consider this to be a completely shameful state of affairs.
If by building walls we are to trust that we are acting wise, then, perhaps, its time we learn from the walls that stand between the Israelis and Palestinians, where on either side only innocents are killed, almost everyday. There the hatred is fortified against each other so dreadfully that establishing lasting peace seems to be just unfeasible.
If there is someone, who derives a dividend from these legacies of detestation, vengeance and violence they are our politicians, who camouflage their criminal acts with these ideological identities to win back to power. ‘I vote for BJP not because of the candidate, but for ideology of Hindutva.’ expressed a friend to me during the recently concluded Assembly election in my home state – Karnataka. Similarly is the case with Muslims who vote, and blindly, for the candidates pitted against the BJP for simple reasons that it considers the Sangh Parivar to be an organization against their ‘existence’ and ‘interest’, then be that candidate a notorious criminal, who cares?
Yes, I admit of my associations with RSS, though on emotional ground. I do admire its founding fathers Keshav Baliram Hegdewar and Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar (aka Guruji) and yet in the same candor I admit of my zeal to see harmony among all religious faction.
I am convinced that Hegdewar and Guruji were more of nationalists before anything else. Denouncing them as ‘fundamentalist’, ‘fascist’ and ‘anti-Muslim’ is a complete travesty of fact. They certainly did have point of disagreement with Muslims and Christians, and undoubtedly criticized them, but they never hated them. In this country criticism is often associated with hatred, most of the time it may be true. But that’s certainly not the case with these two legendary nationalists. Neither Hegdewar nor Guruji asked for extermination of religions, not even Islam, from this land – as it is wrongly told. All they promoted throughout their lives is not ‘Extremism’ but Patriotism.
I have known so many journalists who have never been to a RSS Shakha, Muslim Madrassa or even Christian proselytizing centers – yet writing on them as if an authority! Isn’t that a blunder? It is, indeed. I wonder if some one could get our ‘pride-puffed’ journalists back to their senses.
For hundreds of years now we have bickered, fought, backstabbed and even slit open the throats of our own countrymen yielding no noble results, why don’t we try something for peace now? Let me keep you advised that the itinerary for peace is not uncomplicated but I am also definite that it will not be excessively hard either. We need to try, and with great conviction!
The author is Editor-In-Chief of Aseemaa: Journal for National Resurgence | firstname.lastname@example.org | May 20, 2008