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Mutual Reconciliation between the Hindus and the Muslims

Vinod Kumar

Sunday -- June 3, 2001

"If we don't accept 'mutual reconciliation' between the Hindus and Muslims, what other alternative is there?" - asked a friend. The subject of Hindu Muslim reconciliation is nothing new -- it is just another name for Hindu Muslim unity. It has been main topic of discussion in India for over a century but still the issue stands where it was when it started. Only the word mutual is something new. So far it had been unilateral reconciliation which was more of Muslim appeasement than reconciliation, and even that had failed to achieve any reconciliation.

In order to have reconciliation between the two parties, first there has to be a common ground and then some mutual respect. In case of Hindus and Muslims both elements are missing.

It is needless to go into the gory details of the history of Muslim invasions and rule of India during the past millennium, let us just look at the events of the last century. Why have all attempts at Hindu Muslim unity or reconciliation failed? Is it even a viable option?

Muhammad Ali Jinnah when he entered the Indian political scene as a young barrister from England was looked upon as the best hope for Hindu Muslim unity (-- indeed there has never been a better hope). He soon became the rising star of Indian politics. Even when he tried to gain disproportionate benefits for the Muslims at the cost of non-Muslim communities, his dedication to Hindu Muslim unity was not questioned. Having failed in securing his outlandish demands, he left for England. On his return he was a changed man and spearheaded a successful movement for a separate country for the Muslims.

There never was any common ground between the Muslims and Hindus or desire on the part of Muslims to live with the Hindus whom they had ruled for centuries. They could not fathom to live as equals with those who had been their slaves. There never was a question of respect for the Hindu. As a matter of fact Jinnah was right when he said Hinduism and Islam are two different and distinct social orders. It is only a dream that the two can ever evolve a common nationality. The hero of one is the foe of the other. There is nothing that binds them together. Enumerating all the differences between the two, he went on to say that "to yoke two such nations under a single state must lead to growing discontent and final destruction of any fabric that may be so built up for the government of such a state."

As a matter of fact, looking at events of the last decade, Jinnah's words have been quite prophetic.

Jinnah, appropriately, is called the political father of Pakistan.

Now let us look at another man, poet Muhammad Iqbal, equally as important as Jinnah. He is, equally appropriately, called the spiritual father of Pakistan. If Jinnah laid out political network that led to the creation of Pakistan, Iqbal provided the spiritual fabric. In the same vein as Mr. Jinnah, the young poet talked of Hindus and Muslims as Hindi. He wrote "Hindi hain hum watan hai hindostan hamara" -- a song which the millions of Indian children sing even today.

He went on to write: "Kuchh baat hai ki hasti mitati nahin hamaari, sadiyon raha hai dushman daure-zamin hamara" labeling the Islamic invaders and rulers as enemies of India. The enemy in this line could not have been the British. They had not ruled India for centuries when this poem was written. The British rule in fact did not last even for a century. It could only allude to the Muslim rule of India.

As he grew up, like Jinnah he too went through complete transformation. His transformation also happened during his stay away from India. In Iqbal's case it was in Germany.

On his return from Germany, he played to a different tune. The Muslims were no longer just Hindi anymore. The sole focus of his life was now Islam. He sang:

"Our essence is not bound to any place;
The vigor of our wine is not contained
In any bowl; Chinese and Indian
Alike the shard that constitutes our jar,
Turkish and Syrian alike the clay
Forming our body; neither is our heart
Of India, or Syria, or Rum,
Nor any fatherland do we profess
Except Islam."

Whatever opinion one might have of Mahatma Gandhi, no one can question his character and specially his dedication to Hindu Muslim unity. Against all odds, he had made it the mission of his life. He had not a thought of hate in his life. Many times he earned the ire of the Hindu leaders and the Hindus for his support, at times completely irrational, of the Muslim causes.

Maulana Muhammad Ali was another important Muslim leader of the last century. He was the cochairman along with Mahatma Gandhi of the Khilafat Committee. Mahatma Gandhi used to call him his "dear brother" and used to stay at his house when he visited Delhi. As a Muslim, what did Muhammad Ali think of Mahatma Gandhi? Instead of my paraphrasing, let us hear his own words:

""However pure Gandhi's character may be, he must appear to me from the point of view of religion inferior to any Mussalman, even though he be without character. He repeated it later, saying, 'Yes, according to my religion and creed, I hold an adulterous and a fallen Muslim to be better than a Mr. (no longer Mahatma) Gandhi."

These are just three typical examples of Muslim behavior and attitudes towards Hindus. Even a man of Gandhi's character finds no respite. What an ordinary Muslim thinks of an ordinary Hindu is left to one's imagination -- the less said about it the better.

From the events of the last century it is evident that all efforts at securing Hindu Muslim unity or reconciliation have not been successful, to the contrary the non-Muslim population in Pakistan was reduced from around 25% to less than 3%. One need not go into the bloody details of the partition and all the horrors that accompanied it. It is just too painful to recount and neither is this the place to do so. The partition might be an old story for the new generation but what is happening in Kashmir or what ISI is doing is known to every child and adult in India.

The question arises why? Why do the Muslims think and act the way they do?

The answer to this question was best given by Lala Lajpat Rai.

In a letter to Congress Leader C. R. Das from Bengal he wrote:

"There is one point more which has been troubling me very much of late and one which I want you to think about carefully, and that is the question of Hindu-Muslim unity. I have devoted most of my time during the last six months to the study of Muslim history and Muslim law, and I am inclined to think it is neither possible nor practicable. Assuming and admitting the sincerity of Mohameddan leaders in the non-cooperation movement, I think their religion provides an effective bar to anything of the kind."

He went on to write:

"You remember the conversation I reported to you in Calcutta which I had with Hakim Ajmal Khan and Dr. Kitchlew. There is no finer Mohameddan in Hindustan than Hakim Ajmal Khan, but can any Muslim leader override the Quran?"

The Hindu Muslim reconciliation with Muslims' faith in the Koran still unchanged is a mirage.

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