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Unlocking hope in the face of a lockdown

Service to humanity is the only motivation for Aasif Mujtaba 

30 Mar 2020

unloacking HOPE

Thirty-one-year-old Aasif Mujtaba is often mistaken for a lawyer, and sometimes a doctor. Word gets around as soon as  he arrives at Babu Nagar in Mustafabad, scores throng to him and follows him as if he was a shepherd, and they his flock. He has never met anyone of them before. But he knows they are in pain, injured and scarred, both physically and emotionally and he is here to help. Aasif’s mere presence seems to sooth nerves in this crowded residential colony of Mustafabad. 

Scores come everyday to see Aasif, and his team of volunteers who call themselves the Miles2Smile team, in the hope that they will get rations, medicine or even a loan to pay rent. His phone rings non stop till the battery discharges.

“Sorry I could not return your call. I had gone to drop baby Rayyan’s and his mother to their place. ” Aasif sounds excited, almost like a proud uncle and then recalls the day when they heard about a pregnant woman survivor who was close to her due date  Mussarat and was feeling unwell. 

The rioters had looted and burnt her house down, but she managed to flee her house with her three children, two daughters and a son, her husband had died a few months ago. She ran to her mother’s house but realised they themselves were going through hardships. 

The stress added to her complications. “We put her case on priority,” recalled Aasif. “Musrat was in iddat (a period of waiting that Muslim women observe after the death of her husband or a divorce). She hadn’t had her regular checkup done in a while and it took a lot of persuasion for us to take her to the doctor.”

Medical investigations revealed that she had inadequate amniotic fluid and could have a premature delivery. She went into labour the next day and the volunteers took her away to a bigger hospital in a safer neighbourhood. The baby was born in a few hours and was shifted to the NICU for the next eight days. A month after the riots began, they returned to their new home. The mother asked Aasif to name her new baby, who perhaps would not have survived if they had not reached team Miles2Smile in time.

“From ashes of carnage was born a new hope, we have named the baby boy Rayyan, it's one of the doors of paradise),” Aasif sounds like a proud uncle. He and his team have also ‘adopted’ the baby and pledged to take care of the family’s long-term needs. “It truly was  a new hope for all of us,” he added.

This set of volunteers led by Aasif, a research scholar at IIT Delhi, comprises a devoted core group of university students, researchers, lawyers, doctors, while some come part time. But what keeps such diverse personalities together in such tough times?

“The Shaheen Bagh protest acted as a catalyst. We were all together there  and we came across a lot of people with a lot of capacities, capabilities. When the pogrom happened, we were all of the view that we should help the people in distress, bring relief and rehabilitation measures. Service to humanity was the only motivation we are ready to cover thousands of miles to restore a single smile,” said Aasif, who spoke to Karuna John, even as he continues to evolve the team’s future plan of action, as ground realities keep throwing up new challenges as the Covid-19 lockdown intensifies.

Excerpts from an interview edited for clarity.

 

When did you come to offer help in North east Delhi after the riots? 

Every riot has three stages: The pre-riot state when the atmosphere of a riot is created, riot stage when the violence is on, and the post riot stage. We were there during the riots, and reached in two days trying to safeguard families who were stranded, troubled, and surrounded by fanatic Hindutva mobs. We were the first volunteers who reached them and people had a lot of faith in us, they saw that we came to help them during the hour of crisis. 

Were you familiar with the riot-hit areas in Northeast Delhi?

Not at all, most of my team and I had never been to Northeast Delhi, we went because of the pogrom. And now these areas feel like a second home to us.

How did you plan your work, what has your focus been on in these areas?  

The items and services that we brought in were all based on demand. The first need was to save them. The second demand was immediate medical attention. There was scarcity of gynaecologists  and pediatricians, so we talked to doctors. Then people needed legal aid as their houses burnt, family members grievously injured or killed, we roped in legal teams. There was a shortage of food, we roped in local NGOs and also bought plenty of food to supply. Next need was clothes, we set up a ‘smile laundry’, we washed and ironed (donated) clothes and distributed them.  

Then I needed to settle them into new houses. We did that. Then help them restart business. We did that too. 

How did you raise funds? How have you allocated funds?

Initially we combined our personal money, my family and friends also sent money. The  seed fund was created like this, through my close contacts. We used the funds to address the needs as they rose.

What is a typical day on site here like?

A typical day is chaotic. A lot of people queue up for rations. Another set comes to discuss the business they have lost. Families come for medical attention, rehabilitation and legal aid. We try to restore smiles, in whatever way possible. That is our objective.

What errors did you make, especially in the early days? What lessons have you learnt so far?

It was chaotic but the work the team did was marvelous. Some individuals did come and take funds and we found out later that they had taken help from other groups too. But still, what they had lost cannot be restored just by money. There is trauma, stress and pain. There is not enough money for [fixing] that. Even if some individual took money from other groups, that does not cater to what they have been through. They have been through hell. So I won't count that as an error. 

Our learning is simple: for restoring a smile you don't need millions. Just by a small deed, by talking to a family, by sharing their concerns and sitting with them we can bring happiness. Our volunteers are our assets and we multitask.

What is the exit plan, do you have a timeline?

There is no exit plan as such. Rehabilitation is a long drawn process. Once we settle their business, rebuild their houses and their life is back on track we will try to have a follow up each month. We are also planning to educate 50 children. There is a school that got destroyed and the owner has offered us one classroom for 30 kids [once it is restored]. We will make it a smartclass.

Once the dust settles we have an impact assessment and a baseline study pre-pogrom, and another a baseline study post pogrom. Only then we can see what changes were brought in their lives. We will have follow ups for the next year. To see what is lagging, and what we need to do, and we shall do that inshallah. 


****************************************

A month has passed by since Aasif and his team has been working to restore smiles, and rekindle hope in the area. Now, in the middle of the nationwide lockdown to deal with the Coronavirus pandemic the team has entrusted the local volunteers to help where needed. They have already stocked enough ration with the families they have rehabilitated in new homes. 

The residents of Northeast Delhi have survived the days when manic armed mobs looted, killed, and burned their way through the Muslim dominated clusters of North East Delhi, and hunted down Muslim residents even in the Hindu dominated colonies there. And now they look for help as the Covid-19 lockdown keeps them indoors. First they feared rioters, now they fear disease. Prayers, and faith in humanity have kept them going so far.

And they celebrate the rare moment or two that shines bright even during these gloomy days. Baby Rayyan’s arrival back ‘home’ in Mustafabad was one such moment to smile. 

 

Unlocking hope in the face of a lockdown

Service to humanity is the only motivation for Aasif Mujtaba 

unloacking HOPE

Thirty-one-year-old Aasif Mujtaba is often mistaken for a lawyer, and sometimes a doctor. Word gets around as soon as  he arrives at Babu Nagar in Mustafabad, scores throng to him and follows him as if he was a shepherd, and they his flock. He has never met anyone of them before. But he knows they are in pain, injured and scarred, both physically and emotionally and he is here to help. Aasif’s mere presence seems to sooth nerves in this crowded residential colony of Mustafabad. 

Scores come everyday to see Aasif, and his team of volunteers who call themselves the Miles2Smile team, in the hope that they will get rations, medicine or even a loan to pay rent. His phone rings non stop till the battery discharges.

“Sorry I could not return your call. I had gone to drop baby Rayyan’s and his mother to their place. ” Aasif sounds excited, almost like a proud uncle and then recalls the day when they heard about a pregnant woman survivor who was close to her due date  Mussarat and was feeling unwell. 

The rioters had looted and burnt her house down, but she managed to flee her house with her three children, two daughters and a son, her husband had died a few months ago. She ran to her mother’s house but realised they themselves were going through hardships. 

The stress added to her complications. “We put her case on priority,” recalled Aasif. “Musrat was in iddat (a period of waiting that Muslim women observe after the death of her husband or a divorce). She hadn’t had her regular checkup done in a while and it took a lot of persuasion for us to take her to the doctor.”

Medical investigations revealed that she had inadequate amniotic fluid and could have a premature delivery. She went into labour the next day and the volunteers took her away to a bigger hospital in a safer neighbourhood. The baby was born in a few hours and was shifted to the NICU for the next eight days. A month after the riots began, they returned to their new home. The mother asked Aasif to name her new baby, who perhaps would not have survived if they had not reached team Miles2Smile in time.

“From ashes of carnage was born a new hope, we have named the baby boy Rayyan, it's one of the doors of paradise),” Aasif sounds like a proud uncle. He and his team have also ‘adopted’ the baby and pledged to take care of the family’s long-term needs. “It truly was  a new hope for all of us,” he added.

This set of volunteers led by Aasif, a research scholar at IIT Delhi, comprises a devoted core group of university students, researchers, lawyers, doctors, while some come part time. But what keeps such diverse personalities together in such tough times?

“The Shaheen Bagh protest acted as a catalyst. We were all together there  and we came across a lot of people with a lot of capacities, capabilities. When the pogrom happened, we were all of the view that we should help the people in distress, bring relief and rehabilitation measures. Service to humanity was the only motivation we are ready to cover thousands of miles to restore a single smile,” said Aasif, who spoke to Karuna John, even as he continues to evolve the team’s future plan of action, as ground realities keep throwing up new challenges as the Covid-19 lockdown intensifies.

Excerpts from an interview edited for clarity.

 

When did you come to offer help in North east Delhi after the riots? 

Every riot has three stages: The pre-riot state when the atmosphere of a riot is created, riot stage when the violence is on, and the post riot stage. We were there during the riots, and reached in two days trying to safeguard families who were stranded, troubled, and surrounded by fanatic Hindutva mobs. We were the first volunteers who reached them and people had a lot of faith in us, they saw that we came to help them during the hour of crisis. 

Were you familiar with the riot-hit areas in Northeast Delhi?

Not at all, most of my team and I had never been to Northeast Delhi, we went because of the pogrom. And now these areas feel like a second home to us.

How did you plan your work, what has your focus been on in these areas?  

The items and services that we brought in were all based on demand. The first need was to save them. The second demand was immediate medical attention. There was scarcity of gynaecologists  and pediatricians, so we talked to doctors. Then people needed legal aid as their houses burnt, family members grievously injured or killed, we roped in legal teams. There was a shortage of food, we roped in local NGOs and also bought plenty of food to supply. Next need was clothes, we set up a ‘smile laundry’, we washed and ironed (donated) clothes and distributed them.  

Then I needed to settle them into new houses. We did that. Then help them restart business. We did that too. 

How did you raise funds? How have you allocated funds?

Initially we combined our personal money, my family and friends also sent money. The  seed fund was created like this, through my close contacts. We used the funds to address the needs as they rose.

What is a typical day on site here like?

A typical day is chaotic. A lot of people queue up for rations. Another set comes to discuss the business they have lost. Families come for medical attention, rehabilitation and legal aid. We try to restore smiles, in whatever way possible. That is our objective.

What errors did you make, especially in the early days? What lessons have you learnt so far?

It was chaotic but the work the team did was marvelous. Some individuals did come and take funds and we found out later that they had taken help from other groups too. But still, what they had lost cannot be restored just by money. There is trauma, stress and pain. There is not enough money for [fixing] that. Even if some individual took money from other groups, that does not cater to what they have been through. They have been through hell. So I won't count that as an error. 

Our learning is simple: for restoring a smile you don't need millions. Just by a small deed, by talking to a family, by sharing their concerns and sitting with them we can bring happiness. Our volunteers are our assets and we multitask.

What is the exit plan, do you have a timeline?

There is no exit plan as such. Rehabilitation is a long drawn process. Once we settle their business, rebuild their houses and their life is back on track we will try to have a follow up each month. We are also planning to educate 50 children. There is a school that got destroyed and the owner has offered us one classroom for 30 kids [once it is restored]. We will make it a smartclass.

Once the dust settles we have an impact assessment and a baseline study pre-pogrom, and another a baseline study post pogrom. Only then we can see what changes were brought in their lives. We will have follow ups for the next year. To see what is lagging, and what we need to do, and we shall do that inshallah. 


****************************************

A month has passed by since Aasif and his team has been working to restore smiles, and rekindle hope in the area. Now, in the middle of the nationwide lockdown to deal with the Coronavirus pandemic the team has entrusted the local volunteers to help where needed. They have already stocked enough ration with the families they have rehabilitated in new homes. 

The residents of Northeast Delhi have survived the days when manic armed mobs looted, killed, and burned their way through the Muslim dominated clusters of North East Delhi, and hunted down Muslim residents even in the Hindu dominated colonies there. And now they look for help as the Covid-19 lockdown keeps them indoors. First they feared rioters, now they fear disease. Prayers, and faith in humanity have kept them going so far.

And they celebrate the rare moment or two that shines bright even during these gloomy days. Baby Rayyan’s arrival back ‘home’ in Mustafabad was one such moment to smile. 

 

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Setting an example: Muslim devotee donates sprayer for Tirupati temple sanitization

Abdul Ghani, 45, is an ardent disciple of Lord Venketeswara and has made several donations for public service there in the past

20 Mar 2020

Tirupati

While the coronavirus pandemic has caused havoc all over the world, it has also done one good thing. Even through social distancing, it has brought from all religions together in this trying time.

One example of this is Abdul Ghani, a Muslim devotee of the Tirupatii deity who donated a multi-dimensional vehicle mounted sprayer to the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) for the sanitization of the temple premises amid the Covid-19 outbreak, reported Deccan Herald.

The Rs. 2.6 lakh tractor mounted system provided by Ghani, an ardent follower of Lord Venkateswara, is now breaking religious barriers as it moves through the streets of Mada in the aid of humanity. Ghani is known to have offered such donations for the benefits of lakhs of mostly Hindu devotees in the past too.

Four years ago, Ghani had donated an air-conditioned truck for the transportation of vegetables for the free meals canteen facility, the Nitya Annadana Prasadam, run by the TTD near the temple.

Ghani told DH, “I make my insignificant contribution when such need in the temple comes to my notice. I do not seek publicity for God's service.”

Politely refusing to reveal his other donations made in the past, he said, “Venkateswara, Allah or Jesus … I believe that god is one. The ultimate challenge we are facing now is people not understanding this simple equation.” He also said, “If I find out what the temple needs, I will give it. I don’t want propaganda for the service of God.”

He also described Covid-19 as “unfortunate” and said that “such manmade disasters occur as we fail to understand our humble role in this world.”

The TTD has announced the shutdown of the temple for a week beginning Friday, March 20. TTD executive officer, Anil Kumar Singhal announced that though the temple would be shut for devotees, the rituals inside the temple would be conducted as usual. Stating that the last time the temple was shut was in 1892 for two days, he said, “A decision to reopen would be taken based on daily review of the Covid-19 situation in the state and the country. Those who are on the hill would be provided darshan but no new entries from Alipiri, etc. access points. Last time the temple was closed was in 1892 for two days.”

Through this time when some are still raking up communal issues targeting minorities, it is humbling to see a man like Ghani silently promote communal harmony and brotherhood. We must remember to take a cue from Ghani to shun religious and communal biases and come together as a whole to save each other from the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Related:

Lives of the 'haves' and 'have-nots' in the times of Corona

Kashi Vikas Samiti miffed with actress Sara Ali Khan for visiting Kashi Vishwanath Temple

 

Setting an example: Muslim devotee donates sprayer for Tirupati temple sanitization

Abdul Ghani, 45, is an ardent disciple of Lord Venketeswara and has made several donations for public service there in the past

Tirupati

While the coronavirus pandemic has caused havoc all over the world, it has also done one good thing. Even through social distancing, it has brought from all religions together in this trying time.

One example of this is Abdul Ghani, a Muslim devotee of the Tirupatii deity who donated a multi-dimensional vehicle mounted sprayer to the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) for the sanitization of the temple premises amid the Covid-19 outbreak, reported Deccan Herald.

The Rs. 2.6 lakh tractor mounted system provided by Ghani, an ardent follower of Lord Venkateswara, is now breaking religious barriers as it moves through the streets of Mada in the aid of humanity. Ghani is known to have offered such donations for the benefits of lakhs of mostly Hindu devotees in the past too.

Four years ago, Ghani had donated an air-conditioned truck for the transportation of vegetables for the free meals canteen facility, the Nitya Annadana Prasadam, run by the TTD near the temple.

Ghani told DH, “I make my insignificant contribution when such need in the temple comes to my notice. I do not seek publicity for God's service.”

Politely refusing to reveal his other donations made in the past, he said, “Venkateswara, Allah or Jesus … I believe that god is one. The ultimate challenge we are facing now is people not understanding this simple equation.” He also said, “If I find out what the temple needs, I will give it. I don’t want propaganda for the service of God.”

He also described Covid-19 as “unfortunate” and said that “such manmade disasters occur as we fail to understand our humble role in this world.”

The TTD has announced the shutdown of the temple for a week beginning Friday, March 20. TTD executive officer, Anil Kumar Singhal announced that though the temple would be shut for devotees, the rituals inside the temple would be conducted as usual. Stating that the last time the temple was shut was in 1892 for two days, he said, “A decision to reopen would be taken based on daily review of the Covid-19 situation in the state and the country. Those who are on the hill would be provided darshan but no new entries from Alipiri, etc. access points. Last time the temple was closed was in 1892 for two days.”

Through this time when some are still raking up communal issues targeting minorities, it is humbling to see a man like Ghani silently promote communal harmony and brotherhood. We must remember to take a cue from Ghani to shun religious and communal biases and come together as a whole to save each other from the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Related:

Lives of the 'haves' and 'have-nots' in the times of Corona

Kashi Vikas Samiti miffed with actress Sara Ali Khan for visiting Kashi Vishwanath Temple

 

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'Seva', the Sikh langar, from Bhai Kanhaiya to Delhi Violence, 2020

29 Feb 2020

Bhai Kanhaiya

As I coordinate with someone in Delhi who wanted to make a donation of rice to a Sikh Langar intended to serve riot hit people in North-East Delhi, I get asked for the 100th time- “How do Sikhs do it? How, despite all the persecution they have been through, they are always looking to help others in times of crisis? How do Gurudwaras never run out of food for Langar?” As the pogrom against Muslims unfolds in the nation’s capital, for some Sikhs, the memories of 1984 are all too fresh. We, as a people, have seen endless violence in the name of religion. We know what it looks like, we know what it does to people- the generational trauma lives in our very bones.

I grew up with stories about the Sikh Gurus and their followers. The best story that illustrates why Sikhs are always ready to extend a helping hand is that of Bhai Kanhaiyya ji. He was a disciple of the ninth Sikh Guru- Guru Teg Bahadur Ji, and continued living with the Sikh community after his death. During the ongoing skirmishes between the Mughal army and the Sikhs in 1704, the Mughal armies surrounded Anandpur, where the tenth Guru- Guru Gobind Singh Ji- was living, and cut off all food and water supply to the city to starve out the Sikh soldiers.

Every day, the armies would battle and hundreds of wounded soldiers would be seen lying in the battlefield begging for water. Bhai Kanhaiyya would go around the battlefield with a mashak (goat skin bag to carry water) and quench the thirst of wounded soldiers irrespective of which side they were fighting for. The enemy soldiers and generals also started recognizing him and his bag, and thus he became like the Red Cross- providing help to anyone who needed it, gaining right of way from both sides as the battle raged on.

While Bhai Kanhaiyya was providing water as Sewa(service) which is one of the core principles of Sikhism, fellow Sikhs did have their doubts. Some even complained to the Guru pointing out that with Bhai Kanhaiyya’s help, the fallen enemy soldiers would recover more quickly and start fighting again. They were also worried about sharing their water supply with the very people who had cut off the passage of food and water to their city. Guru Gobind Singh ji summoned Bhai Kanhaiyya and explained that he had received a complaint about his actions on the battlefield.

The Guru asked him, “These brave Sikhs are saying that you go and feed water to the enemy and they recover to fight them again – Is this true?”

Bhai Kanhaiyya Ji replied, "Yes, my Guru, what they say is true. But Maharaj, I saw no Mughal or Sikh on the battlefield. I only saw human beings. Guru Ji, they all have the same God’s Spirit. Guru Ji, have you not taught us to treat all God's people as the same? Our Sikh heroes destroy enemies by killing them, but I destroy enmity by giving them water."

With a smile, Guru Gobind Singh ji blessed him and said,"Bhai Kanhaiyya Ji, you are right. You have understood the true message of Gurbani". He gave a medical salve to Bhai Kanhaiyya to provide further help to the wounded, and told the Sikhs to follow Bhai Kanhaiyya’s example of selfless service.

Guru Gobind Singh Ji cited the words of the fifth Guru- Guru Arjan Dev Ji, who wrote-

I have totally forgotten my jealousy of others,

since I found the SaadhSangat (the holy congregation).

No one is my enemy, and no one is a stranger. I get along with everyone.

Whatever God does, I accept that as good. This is the sublime wisdom I have obtained from the Holy.

The One God is pervading in all. Gazing upon Him, beholding Him, Nanak blossoms forth in happiness.”

(Guru Granth Sahib Page 1299 line 55528)

I still don’t know what to say when people ask me about the state sanctioned pogrom in Delhi. I have always lived in fear of markers that identify religion. A Sikh’s turban, when identified in the right context can mean that you know you can reach out to this person for help. This is partly why Sikhs had originally started wearing turbans and dressing in a particular way, so that in times of battle, people knew who they could trust, so that people could identify the friendly community. For a long time, I questioned the identifying markers of Sikhs and wondered why they are important in contemporary life. I would exclaim, “But we are not at war anymore!”, yet, years later, we are. We are at war. The Sikh’s turbans were identified as targets and cost them their lives in 1984. Today, the Prime Minister tells us to recognize terrorists by the clothes they wear. Somewhere, a man is shaving his beard, and a woman is contemplating whether to wear her hijab, a child was burnt inside a house and an 85-year-old woman who survived the Partition, was killed by the mob in 2020.

Will Langar solve these problems? Will it bring back the people and livelihoods and memories lost? Maybe not. But at least people are doing what they can. If you are a civilian and want to help out but don’t know where to start- volunteer at the nearest Gurudwara. When the state washes its hands off its responsibility, unfortunately, we need common people to be heroes. As I remember and salute the acts of Sewa by my Sikh brothers and sisters, I wish for the day their service will no longer be needed, and my child will be able to say, “We are not at war anymore”.

 

Related articles:

1. Stories of Harmony over Hate: Delhi violence
2. Sikh-Muslim friendships started with Guru Nanak Dev Ji
3. Is the Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb, so intrinsic to Delhi, being made irrelevant?

 

 

'Seva', the Sikh langar, from Bhai Kanhaiya to Delhi Violence, 2020

Bhai Kanhaiya

As I coordinate with someone in Delhi who wanted to make a donation of rice to a Sikh Langar intended to serve riot hit people in North-East Delhi, I get asked for the 100th time- “How do Sikhs do it? How, despite all the persecution they have been through, they are always looking to help others in times of crisis? How do Gurudwaras never run out of food for Langar?” As the pogrom against Muslims unfolds in the nation’s capital, for some Sikhs, the memories of 1984 are all too fresh. We, as a people, have seen endless violence in the name of religion. We know what it looks like, we know what it does to people- the generational trauma lives in our very bones.

I grew up with stories about the Sikh Gurus and their followers. The best story that illustrates why Sikhs are always ready to extend a helping hand is that of Bhai Kanhaiyya ji. He was a disciple of the ninth Sikh Guru- Guru Teg Bahadur Ji, and continued living with the Sikh community after his death. During the ongoing skirmishes between the Mughal army and the Sikhs in 1704, the Mughal armies surrounded Anandpur, where the tenth Guru- Guru Gobind Singh Ji- was living, and cut off all food and water supply to the city to starve out the Sikh soldiers.

Every day, the armies would battle and hundreds of wounded soldiers would be seen lying in the battlefield begging for water. Bhai Kanhaiyya would go around the battlefield with a mashak (goat skin bag to carry water) and quench the thirst of wounded soldiers irrespective of which side they were fighting for. The enemy soldiers and generals also started recognizing him and his bag, and thus he became like the Red Cross- providing help to anyone who needed it, gaining right of way from both sides as the battle raged on.

While Bhai Kanhaiyya was providing water as Sewa(service) which is one of the core principles of Sikhism, fellow Sikhs did have their doubts. Some even complained to the Guru pointing out that with Bhai Kanhaiyya’s help, the fallen enemy soldiers would recover more quickly and start fighting again. They were also worried about sharing their water supply with the very people who had cut off the passage of food and water to their city. Guru Gobind Singh ji summoned Bhai Kanhaiyya and explained that he had received a complaint about his actions on the battlefield.

The Guru asked him, “These brave Sikhs are saying that you go and feed water to the enemy and they recover to fight them again – Is this true?”

Bhai Kanhaiyya Ji replied, "Yes, my Guru, what they say is true. But Maharaj, I saw no Mughal or Sikh on the battlefield. I only saw human beings. Guru Ji, they all have the same God’s Spirit. Guru Ji, have you not taught us to treat all God's people as the same? Our Sikh heroes destroy enemies by killing them, but I destroy enmity by giving them water."

With a smile, Guru Gobind Singh ji blessed him and said,"Bhai Kanhaiyya Ji, you are right. You have understood the true message of Gurbani". He gave a medical salve to Bhai Kanhaiyya to provide further help to the wounded, and told the Sikhs to follow Bhai Kanhaiyya’s example of selfless service.

Guru Gobind Singh Ji cited the words of the fifth Guru- Guru Arjan Dev Ji, who wrote-

I have totally forgotten my jealousy of others,

since I found the SaadhSangat (the holy congregation).

No one is my enemy, and no one is a stranger. I get along with everyone.

Whatever God does, I accept that as good. This is the sublime wisdom I have obtained from the Holy.

The One God is pervading in all. Gazing upon Him, beholding Him, Nanak blossoms forth in happiness.”

(Guru Granth Sahib Page 1299 line 55528)

I still don’t know what to say when people ask me about the state sanctioned pogrom in Delhi. I have always lived in fear of markers that identify religion. A Sikh’s turban, when identified in the right context can mean that you know you can reach out to this person for help. This is partly why Sikhs had originally started wearing turbans and dressing in a particular way, so that in times of battle, people knew who they could trust, so that people could identify the friendly community. For a long time, I questioned the identifying markers of Sikhs and wondered why they are important in contemporary life. I would exclaim, “But we are not at war anymore!”, yet, years later, we are. We are at war. The Sikh’s turbans were identified as targets and cost them their lives in 1984. Today, the Prime Minister tells us to recognize terrorists by the clothes they wear. Somewhere, a man is shaving his beard, and a woman is contemplating whether to wear her hijab, a child was burnt inside a house and an 85-year-old woman who survived the Partition, was killed by the mob in 2020.

Will Langar solve these problems? Will it bring back the people and livelihoods and memories lost? Maybe not. But at least people are doing what they can. If you are a civilian and want to help out but don’t know where to start- volunteer at the nearest Gurudwara. When the state washes its hands off its responsibility, unfortunately, we need common people to be heroes. As I remember and salute the acts of Sewa by my Sikh brothers and sisters, I wish for the day their service will no longer be needed, and my child will be able to say, “We are not at war anymore”.

 

Related articles:

1. Stories of Harmony over Hate: Delhi violence
2. Sikh-Muslim friendships started with Guru Nanak Dev Ji
3. Is the Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb, so intrinsic to Delhi, being made irrelevant?

 

 

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Hopeful in surreal, dystopian Delhi?

As Gurudwaras, standing as a pillar of solidarity, embrace all the affected, and Dalits lend a helping hand to the co-oppressed, a young girl, still full of hope, asks me, “What kind of action should an individual take to stop the genocide?”

28 Feb 2020

Gurudwaras

A national channel showed in the same frame – two events that were happening concurrently – one was a visit of two leaders to pay respects at Gandhi’s ashram and the other – a city burning - mobs destroying property, citizens brandishing guns and cops watching in cold silence. The contrast could not have been starker. Two leaders, whose actions, from time to time, may have symbolized hatred, racism, bigotry, deceit, contempt for fundamental human values – at the doorstep of the apostle of peace, dignity, compassion and brotherhood, while part of a capital city, elsewhere, was under siege. 

Let’s take a step back. Less than a year ago, many people rejoiced at the prevailing government receiving a thumping majority. Soon an entire state’s political structure was overturned, ignoring decades of history, broken promises and arguably constitutional morality. Even before the debate had died down, elected leaders along with a few million people were incarcerated and have been living, ignored, uncared for, trampled, second class citizens for over six months, with the rest of the country either giving a damn or worse enjoying their plight. A decades long dispute over a “place of worship” finally got resolved through a judgement that seemed to recognize the happening of a crime, while seemingly rewarding the perpetrator.   Soon came an announcement of a nationwide law that generously granted citizenship to some religiously persecuted people while leaving out others. Followed by the announcement of a nationwide citizenship identification exercise, that just a few months ago, left 19 lakhs in Assam stateless, who are since then, running from pillar to post, to avoid being held in “detention centers”. Even as the first protests began to be noticed, the country saw some vivid images of a university library being invaded by “law and order forces”, of gangs invading another university, engaging in violence, in full view of the security forces, of pistols being brandished by goons while the police watched stonily. 

Women, rightly realizing, that the proposed citizen exercise, put them most at risk, created their Shaheen Baghs – all over the country. Women of all backgrounds, many of whom had perhaps taken to the streets for the very first time in their lives, saw this as a moment of personal liberation – finding extraordinary courage to come out and express their solidarity with each other and their firm belief in the Indian Constitution. Day after day, often in biting cold and rain, they created an enabling environment that allowed them both to discharge their daily duties during the day and be vigilant, but peaceful dissenters at nights. It was an extraordinary exercise of compassion and resilient multi-tasking that most corporate leaders would have been proud of. 

That was the foreground in which elections happened in Delhi. On one side, a party in governance -showcasing the city’s progress in education, health and sanitation, while, on the other hand, an opposition armed with “lets solve the problem with bullets” kind of contempt for the law. Better sense seemed to prevail, and the people, led by women and youth, chose unity and knowledge over hatred and divisiveness. 

And yet, this crazy chain of events has led to over 30 deaths and a few hundred injured, in just two days, while two leaders were paying respects to the Saint of Non-Violence. On the sidelines were people from the law and order machinery that have failed the people of the city. Equally mute were the business leaders and dignitaries who came to visit the Most Powerful Leader of the Free World. Some grassroots leaders and journalists felt dismayed that the violence had lowered the prestige of the country in the eyes of visiting guests, while, several neighborhoods, have hoisted orange flags as a sign of their strength and support for the siege. Strange was the vacuous behavior of the re-elected Delhi leaders, whose past politics seemed to suggest that they cared for basic human values and those enshrined in our Constitution.

As Gurudwaras, standing like a pillar of solidarity, embrace all the affected, and compassionate, peace loving Indians of all faiths, lend a helping hand to the oppressed, a young girl, still full of hope, asks me, “What kind of action should an individual take to stop the genocide?”

 

Related Articles

Stories of Harmony over Hate: Delhi violence

Hopeful in surreal, dystopian Delhi?

As Gurudwaras, standing as a pillar of solidarity, embrace all the affected, and Dalits lend a helping hand to the co-oppressed, a young girl, still full of hope, asks me, “What kind of action should an individual take to stop the genocide?”

Gurudwaras

A national channel showed in the same frame – two events that were happening concurrently – one was a visit of two leaders to pay respects at Gandhi’s ashram and the other – a city burning - mobs destroying property, citizens brandishing guns and cops watching in cold silence. The contrast could not have been starker. Two leaders, whose actions, from time to time, may have symbolized hatred, racism, bigotry, deceit, contempt for fundamental human values – at the doorstep of the apostle of peace, dignity, compassion and brotherhood, while part of a capital city, elsewhere, was under siege. 

Let’s take a step back. Less than a year ago, many people rejoiced at the prevailing government receiving a thumping majority. Soon an entire state’s political structure was overturned, ignoring decades of history, broken promises and arguably constitutional morality. Even before the debate had died down, elected leaders along with a few million people were incarcerated and have been living, ignored, uncared for, trampled, second class citizens for over six months, with the rest of the country either giving a damn or worse enjoying their plight. A decades long dispute over a “place of worship” finally got resolved through a judgement that seemed to recognize the happening of a crime, while seemingly rewarding the perpetrator.   Soon came an announcement of a nationwide law that generously granted citizenship to some religiously persecuted people while leaving out others. Followed by the announcement of a nationwide citizenship identification exercise, that just a few months ago, left 19 lakhs in Assam stateless, who are since then, running from pillar to post, to avoid being held in “detention centers”. Even as the first protests began to be noticed, the country saw some vivid images of a university library being invaded by “law and order forces”, of gangs invading another university, engaging in violence, in full view of the security forces, of pistols being brandished by goons while the police watched stonily. 

Women, rightly realizing, that the proposed citizen exercise, put them most at risk, created their Shaheen Baghs – all over the country. Women of all backgrounds, many of whom had perhaps taken to the streets for the very first time in their lives, saw this as a moment of personal liberation – finding extraordinary courage to come out and express their solidarity with each other and their firm belief in the Indian Constitution. Day after day, often in biting cold and rain, they created an enabling environment that allowed them both to discharge their daily duties during the day and be vigilant, but peaceful dissenters at nights. It was an extraordinary exercise of compassion and resilient multi-tasking that most corporate leaders would have been proud of. 

That was the foreground in which elections happened in Delhi. On one side, a party in governance -showcasing the city’s progress in education, health and sanitation, while, on the other hand, an opposition armed with “lets solve the problem with bullets” kind of contempt for the law. Better sense seemed to prevail, and the people, led by women and youth, chose unity and knowledge over hatred and divisiveness. 

And yet, this crazy chain of events has led to over 30 deaths and a few hundred injured, in just two days, while two leaders were paying respects to the Saint of Non-Violence. On the sidelines were people from the law and order machinery that have failed the people of the city. Equally mute were the business leaders and dignitaries who came to visit the Most Powerful Leader of the Free World. Some grassroots leaders and journalists felt dismayed that the violence had lowered the prestige of the country in the eyes of visiting guests, while, several neighborhoods, have hoisted orange flags as a sign of their strength and support for the siege. Strange was the vacuous behavior of the re-elected Delhi leaders, whose past politics seemed to suggest that they cared for basic human values and those enshrined in our Constitution.

As Gurudwaras, standing like a pillar of solidarity, embrace all the affected, and compassionate, peace loving Indians of all faiths, lend a helping hand to the oppressed, a young girl, still full of hope, asks me, “What kind of action should an individual take to stop the genocide?”

 

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Stories of Harmony over Hate: Delhi violence

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Stories of Harmony over Hate: Delhi violence

Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Dalits and other communities have all come together to help each other and change the hateful narrative spread by Hindutva elements

27 Feb 2020

good news

Amid the stories of gruesome violence and disruption of communal harmony coming in from the national capital New Delhi, it is heartening to see stories of hope too coming through, disrupting the narrative of intolerance and hate.

The good people at the heart of the violence have come out to help their anxious and fearful fellow citizens showing utmost respect for all religions and supporting each other through this trying time brought about by anti-minority elements.

Respect for all faiths: Saving the Holy Quran

After vandalizing a mosque in Ashok Nagar, a man, allegedly from a fringe Hindutva group climbed atop its minaret and hoisted a flag dedicated to Lord Hanuman on it. The burnt pages of the Holy Quran that were strewn on the road post the damage, were then collected by members of both, the Hindu and Muslim communities.

 

 

Delhi’s Ganga – Jamuni Tehzeeb  

At Chand Bagh, one of the worst affected areas in the violence, Muslim residents formed a human chain around a temple to save it from any damage.

Saleem (67) told the Indian Express, “It would have been shameful for us if the temple would have been damaged.”

Tabassum (30), another resident said, “We have ensured that nothing happens to the temple. We also ensured that no damage happens to the shops of our Hindu brothers.”

 

 

In Maujpur too, members of the Muslim faith protected a temple in the area and stood guard in the area so that nobody could escalate violence in the area.

 

In Shiv Vihar, when a Hindutva mob ran amok to assault the minorities, a Hindu protected Asif and his family, reported Maktoob Media. For two days, the Hindu family offered shelter and have also suffered attacks once the Hindutva mob got to know of it saving the Muslims. Yet, unity and peace prevailed.

Escorting the fearful to safety

A group of Hindu men also helped Muslim women and other elders to move away from the centre of the violence safely. An elderly Muslim man who was attending a wedding in Gonda with his two grandsons which stood cancelled due to the violence there, was safely escorted out of the area by the group of Hindu youth who said that they didn’t believe in the Hindu – Muslim narrative and that they were all Indians and human beings first who were meant to protect each other from harm.

 

 

Ronak Chhabra, a journalist with Newsclick who was covering the incident, was attacked by a minority mob who were troubled by the media coverage they had been receiving. Thinking that Ronak was one of the journalists who belonged to the pro-government channels, they attacked him. Ronak heard them say, “They won’t show how the saffron flag bearers rampaged through our lanes.” “We don’t trust the media…”

However, he was saved by the same community that hurt him. He was rescued by two men, Faizan and Shoeb (name changed) who rescued him and assured him that he was safe. They told Ronak who was drenched in blood, “Nothing will happen to you. We will get you treatment.”

The men ensured that Ronak was taken to a clinic and treated for the head injury he had sustained. Shoeb, a compunder, treated him for his wounds while Faizan, a pharmacist called informed Ronak’s family and friends about his condition.

Faizan said, “We have been protesting since more than a month in a peaceful manner. We don’t want violence. We just wanted our voices to be heard.”

Protecting each other’s homes

At Indira Vihar, there are only 8 Hindu families live among 3,200 Muslim families. Amid the violence, three Muslim men sat guard at a Hindu temple to ensure no harm came to it. Not just that, the Muslims members helped the Hindus by changing the name plates of their homes, by either covering them up or writing Muslim names on it.

 

 

In Mustafabad, a Muslim neighbour saved a Hindu resident from a violent mob. “Yehi sab the hamare sang,” said an elderly Hindu lady about the members of the minority community who ensured the safety of the area.

 

Hindu, Muslim Bhai Bhai!

People from the two communities also took out a Unity March pledging that they wouldn’t let the atmosphere of their area get affected or influenced by hatred.

 

 

Chants of ‘Hindu Muslim Sikh Isai’ reverberated in narrow gullies as the communities got together to share a laugh and ease anxiousness during this tense atmosphere.

And as proven before that there is no better medium of unity than food, the two communities erupted in laughter as a Hindu brother said, “Biryani tum khilao, halwa hum khilayenge.”

 

 

The Sikh community has opened its doors to Muslim families who have reportedly started leaving their homes out of the fear for their lives. The Majnu Tila Gurudwara has offered shelter to Muslims who have now been forced to leave the area. Other Gurudwaras too came forward to provide shelter to those who were in need of refuge, shelter and food.

Another heart rending story comes of Seelampur, one of the worst hit areas of the violence. There, the Dalit community blocked routes leading to Muslim localities and stood guard to prevent the entry of rioters in the area.

https://twitter.com/nilanjanaroy/status/1232303148766617601

Citizens also formed a human chain around school girls to escort them to a safe place. The police did not come to their rescue.

 

 

Activists too have come forward, making support groups and launching helplines for all those who are in need of ration and those who are anxious for their safety.

 

 

The most heart-wrenching story was of Premkant Baghel who literally jumped into fire to save his Muslim brothers and sisters after their house was set on fire by rioters. Premkant had already saved six people of the family, but his friend’s mother was still in the house. Premkant suffered burn injuries as he tried to save her. Because the Shiv Vihar area was in the midst of the violence, Premkant couldn’t avail an ambulance and suffered at home. His family members were not sure if he would survive the night. He was then taken to GTB Hospital the next morning where his condition is critical.

Both, Hindus and Muslims, have suffered indiscriminate horror during this violence. Reporters speaking to people at the epicentre have shown that people say it is the ‘common man’ who lost their lives and livelihoods.

While the police and the politicians did not step up to do their duty, it was the public who suffered the ‘targeted’ violence.

However, the examples of humans stepping beyond the deep religious divide only instil more hope in us that no matter how bad the situation, there will always be good people who will stand up for love over hatred.

 


Related:

Videos of hate speech by Kapil Mishra played before Delhi HC
Delhi HC convenes late night hearing, directs DCP to ensure safe passage for ambulances
Listen to Video, HC tells SG, asking him to advise police chief to lodge FIR against 3 BJP leaders: Delhi

 

Stories of Harmony over Hate: Delhi violence

Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Dalits and other communities have all come together to help each other and change the hateful narrative spread by Hindutva elements

good news

Amid the stories of gruesome violence and disruption of communal harmony coming in from the national capital New Delhi, it is heartening to see stories of hope too coming through, disrupting the narrative of intolerance and hate.

The good people at the heart of the violence have come out to help their anxious and fearful fellow citizens showing utmost respect for all religions and supporting each other through this trying time brought about by anti-minority elements.

Respect for all faiths: Saving the Holy Quran

After vandalizing a mosque in Ashok Nagar, a man, allegedly from a fringe Hindutva group climbed atop its minaret and hoisted a flag dedicated to Lord Hanuman on it. The burnt pages of the Holy Quran that were strewn on the road post the damage, were then collected by members of both, the Hindu and Muslim communities.

 

 

Delhi’s Ganga – Jamuni Tehzeeb  

At Chand Bagh, one of the worst affected areas in the violence, Muslim residents formed a human chain around a temple to save it from any damage.

Saleem (67) told the Indian Express, “It would have been shameful for us if the temple would have been damaged.”

Tabassum (30), another resident said, “We have ensured that nothing happens to the temple. We also ensured that no damage happens to the shops of our Hindu brothers.”

 

 

In Maujpur too, members of the Muslim faith protected a temple in the area and stood guard in the area so that nobody could escalate violence in the area.

 

In Shiv Vihar, when a Hindutva mob ran amok to assault the minorities, a Hindu protected Asif and his family, reported Maktoob Media. For two days, the Hindu family offered shelter and have also suffered attacks once the Hindutva mob got to know of it saving the Muslims. Yet, unity and peace prevailed.

Escorting the fearful to safety

A group of Hindu men also helped Muslim women and other elders to move away from the centre of the violence safely. An elderly Muslim man who was attending a wedding in Gonda with his two grandsons which stood cancelled due to the violence there, was safely escorted out of the area by the group of Hindu youth who said that they didn’t believe in the Hindu – Muslim narrative and that they were all Indians and human beings first who were meant to protect each other from harm.

 

 

Ronak Chhabra, a journalist with Newsclick who was covering the incident, was attacked by a minority mob who were troubled by the media coverage they had been receiving. Thinking that Ronak was one of the journalists who belonged to the pro-government channels, they attacked him. Ronak heard them say, “They won’t show how the saffron flag bearers rampaged through our lanes.” “We don’t trust the media…”

However, he was saved by the same community that hurt him. He was rescued by two men, Faizan and Shoeb (name changed) who rescued him and assured him that he was safe. They told Ronak who was drenched in blood, “Nothing will happen to you. We will get you treatment.”

The men ensured that Ronak was taken to a clinic and treated for the head injury he had sustained. Shoeb, a compunder, treated him for his wounds while Faizan, a pharmacist called informed Ronak’s family and friends about his condition.

Faizan said, “We have been protesting since more than a month in a peaceful manner. We don’t want violence. We just wanted our voices to be heard.”

Protecting each other’s homes

At Indira Vihar, there are only 8 Hindu families live among 3,200 Muslim families. Amid the violence, three Muslim men sat guard at a Hindu temple to ensure no harm came to it. Not just that, the Muslims members helped the Hindus by changing the name plates of their homes, by either covering them up or writing Muslim names on it.

 

 

In Mustafabad, a Muslim neighbour saved a Hindu resident from a violent mob. “Yehi sab the hamare sang,” said an elderly Hindu lady about the members of the minority community who ensured the safety of the area.

 

Hindu, Muslim Bhai Bhai!

People from the two communities also took out a Unity March pledging that they wouldn’t let the atmosphere of their area get affected or influenced by hatred.

 

 

Chants of ‘Hindu Muslim Sikh Isai’ reverberated in narrow gullies as the communities got together to share a laugh and ease anxiousness during this tense atmosphere.

And as proven before that there is no better medium of unity than food, the two communities erupted in laughter as a Hindu brother said, “Biryani tum khilao, halwa hum khilayenge.”

 

 

The Sikh community has opened its doors to Muslim families who have reportedly started leaving their homes out of the fear for their lives. The Majnu Tila Gurudwara has offered shelter to Muslims who have now been forced to leave the area. Other Gurudwaras too came forward to provide shelter to those who were in need of refuge, shelter and food.

Another heart rending story comes of Seelampur, one of the worst hit areas of the violence. There, the Dalit community blocked routes leading to Muslim localities and stood guard to prevent the entry of rioters in the area.

https://twitter.com/nilanjanaroy/status/1232303148766617601

Citizens also formed a human chain around school girls to escort them to a safe place. The police did not come to their rescue.

 

 

Activists too have come forward, making support groups and launching helplines for all those who are in need of ration and those who are anxious for their safety.

 

 

The most heart-wrenching story was of Premkant Baghel who literally jumped into fire to save his Muslim brothers and sisters after their house was set on fire by rioters. Premkant had already saved six people of the family, but his friend’s mother was still in the house. Premkant suffered burn injuries as he tried to save her. Because the Shiv Vihar area was in the midst of the violence, Premkant couldn’t avail an ambulance and suffered at home. His family members were not sure if he would survive the night. He was then taken to GTB Hospital the next morning where his condition is critical.

Both, Hindus and Muslims, have suffered indiscriminate horror during this violence. Reporters speaking to people at the epicentre have shown that people say it is the ‘common man’ who lost their lives and livelihoods.

While the police and the politicians did not step up to do their duty, it was the public who suffered the ‘targeted’ violence.

However, the examples of humans stepping beyond the deep religious divide only instil more hope in us that no matter how bad the situation, there will always be good people who will stand up for love over hatred.

 


Related:

Videos of hate speech by Kapil Mishra played before Delhi HC
Delhi HC convenes late night hearing, directs DCP to ensure safe passage for ambulances
Listen to Video, HC tells SG, asking him to advise police chief to lodge FIR against 3 BJP leaders: Delhi

 

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Is the Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb, so intrinsic to Delhi, being made irrelevant?

The syncretic spiritual practices, literature, aesthetics, culinary traditions, crafts and weaves that encompass the long-standing tradition called Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb are very much present in contemporary North India. Why then, do a section of communally charged people deny its relevance and existence?

25 Feb 2020

Ganga Jamuni

Delhi has historically been a prime example of the Ganga-Jamuna or Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb; with its iconic Khariboli language (a mixture of local dialects) and has been home to the literary and music traditions of the North India region, being the birthplace of Qawwali and the Delhi Gharana. Today, Delhi is the epicentre of divisive politics and the rising resistance against it by the populace in a bid to preserve communal harmony and secularism. Ganga- Jamuni Tehzeeb is apparent in the core values of the people coming together in the nation’s capital today.

The tradition has been passed down through generations by the residents of the Doab (translates to ‘two rivers’- Ganga and Yamuna/Jamuna) region of the central plains of North India, which has long witnessed a syncretic fusion of Hindu and Muslim religious and cultural elements. The term Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb originates from an Awadhi poetic phrase as the Nawabs of Awadh were the fore-runners of this culture, propagating the practices in central Uttar Pradesh from Awadh to Prayagraj (erstwhile Allahabad), Lucknow, Kanpur, Faizabad, Varanasi and Ayodhya.

There are many historic stories in the folklore of this region that describe syncretic and synergistic practices. One such story is about the reason behind a silver crescent moon perched on top of a Hanuman Temple in Aliganj, Lucknow. It is said the crescent was presented to the temple as a token of gratitude by the Queen of Awadh. Her son fell ill and no one was able to cure him. She went to “Hanuman Lalla” to pray for a miracle. Her son survived and she donated the crescent made of silver to the Hanuman temple.

secularism

Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb also traces back to the Bhakti Movement when Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Jain and Sikh saints propagated similar ideas of spirituality beyond religious norms, giving the Doab area a cohesive regional identity rather than a personal religious identification. When Bhagat Kabir sang, “Chadariya bheeni re bheeni, re Raam naam ras bheeni”, alluding to how his soul is soaked in Bhakti ras of Raam’s name, his spiritual expression of devotion to a Hindu God was never a conflict with the fact that he was born as a Muslim. Bhakti poetry and Sufism was beyond such definitions and divisions. The composite multiculturalism that this movement cultivated is one of the core ideas of India as a secular nation even today.

Kabirpanthi weavers of Chhatisgarh still sing Kabir’s dohas (couplets) to the tune of the loom. The famous carpets woven in Kashmir by Muslim kaarigars (skilled weavers) embroider images of Goddesses Durga, Lakshmi, and Sarawati on their handlooms. The influence comes partially from the erstwhile interactions with their Kashmiri Pandit neighbours and partly from the weavers who may migrate there for work from the Doab region. The stories of these weaving traditions are bittersweet in light of the tragedies both Kashmiri Pandits and Muslim residents of Kashmir have endured over the past decades.

In Varanasi and Bengal, the Muslim weavers integrate Hindu iconography like the lotus motif into their designs. Locally known as “booti” (meaning small plant/leaf/flower), the design is a must on the famous Banarasi sarees.

The travelling Patua Chitrakars, who are also predominantly Muslims have long carried the tradition of storytelling in west Bengal using painted scrolls to tell stories from Hindu epics as well as tales of Sufi saints. Durga Puja and Dussehra witness Muslim artisans making the Hindu idols while people of Lucknow come together to observe Muharram regardless of their religion.

The shared identity of this region is also evident in the cuisine. Varanasi is popular as the holy city for Hindus but few people know about its rich culinary tradition with raan-musallam, murgh-musallam, machhli-dum, and biriyani, served on the same table as Matar-ka-nimona (a traditional vegetarian curry) and khoya-matar-makhana (curry made with green peas and fox nuts).

In Lucknow, the very architecture and structure of the city speaks to a shared influence of Mughal era as well as Hindu tradition. Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb is ingrained into the people’s lives, yet radicalization and divisive politics are quick to dismiss the existence of this brotherhood or attack it.

In 1920, Lala Lajpat Rai said, “The Indian nation, such as it is or such as we intend to build, neither is nor will be exclusively Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian. It will be each and all”. The time of reckoning is here, with reports of targeted violence from Delhi getting increasingly alarming as on February 24, 2020, even as Donald Trump visits the most imposing Mughal architectural landmark Taj Mahal a few hundred kilometres away. In this moment of turmoil, each tenet of communal harmony is precious. Traditions like Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb deserve to be discussed, celebrated, and preserved.

Is the Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb, so intrinsic to Delhi, being made irrelevant?

The syncretic spiritual practices, literature, aesthetics, culinary traditions, crafts and weaves that encompass the long-standing tradition called Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb are very much present in contemporary North India. Why then, do a section of communally charged people deny its relevance and existence?

Ganga Jamuni

Delhi has historically been a prime example of the Ganga-Jamuna or Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb; with its iconic Khariboli language (a mixture of local dialects) and has been home to the literary and music traditions of the North India region, being the birthplace of Qawwali and the Delhi Gharana. Today, Delhi is the epicentre of divisive politics and the rising resistance against it by the populace in a bid to preserve communal harmony and secularism. Ganga- Jamuni Tehzeeb is apparent in the core values of the people coming together in the nation’s capital today.

The tradition has been passed down through generations by the residents of the Doab (translates to ‘two rivers’- Ganga and Yamuna/Jamuna) region of the central plains of North India, which has long witnessed a syncretic fusion of Hindu and Muslim religious and cultural elements. The term Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb originates from an Awadhi poetic phrase as the Nawabs of Awadh were the fore-runners of this culture, propagating the practices in central Uttar Pradesh from Awadh to Prayagraj (erstwhile Allahabad), Lucknow, Kanpur, Faizabad, Varanasi and Ayodhya.

There are many historic stories in the folklore of this region that describe syncretic and synergistic practices. One such story is about the reason behind a silver crescent moon perched on top of a Hanuman Temple in Aliganj, Lucknow. It is said the crescent was presented to the temple as a token of gratitude by the Queen of Awadh. Her son fell ill and no one was able to cure him. She went to “Hanuman Lalla” to pray for a miracle. Her son survived and she donated the crescent made of silver to the Hanuman temple.

secularism

Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb also traces back to the Bhakti Movement when Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Jain and Sikh saints propagated similar ideas of spirituality beyond religious norms, giving the Doab area a cohesive regional identity rather than a personal religious identification. When Bhagat Kabir sang, “Chadariya bheeni re bheeni, re Raam naam ras bheeni”, alluding to how his soul is soaked in Bhakti ras of Raam’s name, his spiritual expression of devotion to a Hindu God was never a conflict with the fact that he was born as a Muslim. Bhakti poetry and Sufism was beyond such definitions and divisions. The composite multiculturalism that this movement cultivated is one of the core ideas of India as a secular nation even today.

Kabirpanthi weavers of Chhatisgarh still sing Kabir’s dohas (couplets) to the tune of the loom. The famous carpets woven in Kashmir by Muslim kaarigars (skilled weavers) embroider images of Goddesses Durga, Lakshmi, and Sarawati on their handlooms. The influence comes partially from the erstwhile interactions with their Kashmiri Pandit neighbours and partly from the weavers who may migrate there for work from the Doab region. The stories of these weaving traditions are bittersweet in light of the tragedies both Kashmiri Pandits and Muslim residents of Kashmir have endured over the past decades.

In Varanasi and Bengal, the Muslim weavers integrate Hindu iconography like the lotus motif into their designs. Locally known as “booti” (meaning small plant/leaf/flower), the design is a must on the famous Banarasi sarees.

The travelling Patua Chitrakars, who are also predominantly Muslims have long carried the tradition of storytelling in west Bengal using painted scrolls to tell stories from Hindu epics as well as tales of Sufi saints. Durga Puja and Dussehra witness Muslim artisans making the Hindu idols while people of Lucknow come together to observe Muharram regardless of their religion.

The shared identity of this region is also evident in the cuisine. Varanasi is popular as the holy city for Hindus but few people know about its rich culinary tradition with raan-musallam, murgh-musallam, machhli-dum, and biriyani, served on the same table as Matar-ka-nimona (a traditional vegetarian curry) and khoya-matar-makhana (curry made with green peas and fox nuts).

In Lucknow, the very architecture and structure of the city speaks to a shared influence of Mughal era as well as Hindu tradition. Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb is ingrained into the people’s lives, yet radicalization and divisive politics are quick to dismiss the existence of this brotherhood or attack it.

In 1920, Lala Lajpat Rai said, “The Indian nation, such as it is or such as we intend to build, neither is nor will be exclusively Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian. It will be each and all”. The time of reckoning is here, with reports of targeted violence from Delhi getting increasingly alarming as on February 24, 2020, even as Donald Trump visits the most imposing Mughal architectural landmark Taj Mahal a few hundred kilometres away. In this moment of turmoil, each tenet of communal harmony is precious. Traditions like Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb deserve to be discussed, celebrated, and preserved.

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Harmony over hate: Married Muslim man to be head priest of a Lingayat math

A follower of Basavanna’s philosophy Diwan Sharief will begin his duties as the main priest on February 26

21 Feb 2020

Lingayat mutt

For the first time, a 33-year-old Muslim man Diwan Sharief Rahmansab Mulla is set to be made chief priest of a Lingayat math in Gadag district of north Karnataka. A math is a religious order, and members of the clergy are required to adhere to strict rules as they perform their spiritual duties. Sharief, who is influenced by the 12th century reformer Basavanna’s teachings, will be incepted on February 26, The Indian Express reported.

Sharief is married and a father to four children – three daughters and a son. While preaching Basavanna’s philosophy to the people, Sharief ran a flour mill in the neighbouring village. Sharief said, “Nobody asked me to do it, the Almighty came and intervened my thoughts to guide me towards taking this step. Everyone around has been very supportive and cooperative in helping me come here and take charge.” “Today, Rahman’s son has become Diwan Sherief. My parents donated their ancestral property of two acres for the upliftment and welfare of the society, upholding the Basava values of equality open to people across faith,” he added.

The Lingayat math of Gadag is one of the 361 monasteries belonging to the Sri Jagadguru Murugharajendra Matha of Chitradurga and two acres of the land for the math had been donated by Sharief’s parents who were influenced by the teachings of Lingayat preachers.

Murugharajendra Koraneswara Swami who is going to appoint Sharief as the priest said, “It does not matter what caste you belong to. If God appears to you for a path of goodwill and sacrifice, you will do it regardless of the manmade restrictions of birth and caste.” Speaking about the math’s decision to appoint a married man and a Muslim Koraneswara Swami said, “Basavanna was never against a married person becoming a seer. He (Sharief) has made arrangements for his family to lead a good livelihood. From now, he will be among us to head the Shantidhama. The village residents have welcomed the decision wholeheartedly. It is an opportunity for us to uphold Basavanna’s idea of a ‘kalyan rajya’ (welfare state).”

Sharief who took ‘deeksha’ last year in December, will begin his duties as the main priest of the math on February 26 said that he would “walk on the path of dharma” and spread the message of “love and sacrifice”. He said, “They’ve put the sacred thread and given me the responsibility. They’ve given me the ‘Ishta-linga’ (a symbol of the Lingayat faith) and this honour. I have done the ‘Ishta-linga dharan’. I’ll walk on the path of dharma. Love and sacrifice is the message given to me… that is the message I want to propagate.”

HK Patil, a Congress leader from Gadag told reporters, “In Gadag, the math has a practice of making a person of any community head of the jatra committee. For several years, one or the other Muslim gentleman who is religious, who has faith in Basava philosophies, they are chosen as chairman of jatra committee... This is nothing surprising and is a very healthy development.”

The news of Sharief’s appointment as the head priest has attracted a lot of attention and spread more hope regarding communal harmony in the backdrop of the attacks on protesters agitating against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Speaking about how everyone has supported him in this journey he said, “Everyone has supported me. Nobody has opposed me. Going ahead, let the teachings of Basava grow.”


Related:

Preamble to be read at Mahim Dargah in Mumbai
Kerala mosque opens doors for Hindu wedding
CAA-NPR-NRC protests cut across all religious and communal divides

 

Harmony over hate: Married Muslim man to be head priest of a Lingayat math

A follower of Basavanna’s philosophy Diwan Sharief will begin his duties as the main priest on February 26

Lingayat mutt

For the first time, a 33-year-old Muslim man Diwan Sharief Rahmansab Mulla is set to be made chief priest of a Lingayat math in Gadag district of north Karnataka. A math is a religious order, and members of the clergy are required to adhere to strict rules as they perform their spiritual duties. Sharief, who is influenced by the 12th century reformer Basavanna’s teachings, will be incepted on February 26, The Indian Express reported.

Sharief is married and a father to four children – three daughters and a son. While preaching Basavanna’s philosophy to the people, Sharief ran a flour mill in the neighbouring village. Sharief said, “Nobody asked me to do it, the Almighty came and intervened my thoughts to guide me towards taking this step. Everyone around has been very supportive and cooperative in helping me come here and take charge.” “Today, Rahman’s son has become Diwan Sherief. My parents donated their ancestral property of two acres for the upliftment and welfare of the society, upholding the Basava values of equality open to people across faith,” he added.

The Lingayat math of Gadag is one of the 361 monasteries belonging to the Sri Jagadguru Murugharajendra Matha of Chitradurga and two acres of the land for the math had been donated by Sharief’s parents who were influenced by the teachings of Lingayat preachers.

Murugharajendra Koraneswara Swami who is going to appoint Sharief as the priest said, “It does not matter what caste you belong to. If God appears to you for a path of goodwill and sacrifice, you will do it regardless of the manmade restrictions of birth and caste.” Speaking about the math’s decision to appoint a married man and a Muslim Koraneswara Swami said, “Basavanna was never against a married person becoming a seer. He (Sharief) has made arrangements for his family to lead a good livelihood. From now, he will be among us to head the Shantidhama. The village residents have welcomed the decision wholeheartedly. It is an opportunity for us to uphold Basavanna’s idea of a ‘kalyan rajya’ (welfare state).”

Sharief who took ‘deeksha’ last year in December, will begin his duties as the main priest of the math on February 26 said that he would “walk on the path of dharma” and spread the message of “love and sacrifice”. He said, “They’ve put the sacred thread and given me the responsibility. They’ve given me the ‘Ishta-linga’ (a symbol of the Lingayat faith) and this honour. I have done the ‘Ishta-linga dharan’. I’ll walk on the path of dharma. Love and sacrifice is the message given to me… that is the message I want to propagate.”

HK Patil, a Congress leader from Gadag told reporters, “In Gadag, the math has a practice of making a person of any community head of the jatra committee. For several years, one or the other Muslim gentleman who is religious, who has faith in Basava philosophies, they are chosen as chairman of jatra committee... This is nothing surprising and is a very healthy development.”

The news of Sharief’s appointment as the head priest has attracted a lot of attention and spread more hope regarding communal harmony in the backdrop of the attacks on protesters agitating against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Speaking about how everyone has supported him in this journey he said, “Everyone has supported me. Nobody has opposed me. Going ahead, let the teachings of Basava grow.”


Related:

Preamble to be read at Mahim Dargah in Mumbai
Kerala mosque opens doors for Hindu wedding
CAA-NPR-NRC protests cut across all religious and communal divides

 

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This is my India

20 Feb 2020

hindu muslim unity
Representation Image
 

Away from the crammed, cacophonous life in a metro and devoid of the divisive slogans like "goli maro" and "current to Shaheen Bagh", I recently spent a peaceful week at my ancestral village in Bihar.

It was my beloved father's first death anniversary and my siblings and I decided to remember him by doing something which would have pleased him immensely had he been alive today. Since he was a school teacher and had spent his life teaching and guiding students, we decided to do our bit for some of the students in our village.

I asked my cousin Rashid Sami to prepare a list of boys and girls in the village who had passed an exam last year with flying colours. Around a dozen made it to the list. At a modest function we distributed certificates of merit and medals among those whose name appeared on the list.

The beautiful, brief ceremony was different in many ways. Though predominantly Muslim, my village is divided into three tolas or small hamlets. So, apart from Muslims, there are houses of banias called suris, cobblers or mochis and mushars who are so poor that some of them eat rats and are now among Maha Dalits in Bihar's entrenched caste hierarchy.

I grew up seeing mochis and mushars working as farm labourers for the high caste zamindars of another village. The suris were engaged in small trades and they had opened kirana or grocery shops or sold grains at weekly haat or village bazaar. None of the suris in my village till a decade ago had studied beyond matriculation while most of the mochis and mushars remained unlettered and dirt poor. During lean or non- farming season in their state the men from mushar and mochi tolas went to Punjab to work in the fields and earn livelihood while women stayed back bringing up children. Even as I turned 14, passed 10th exam and left village to study in a town.

I had not seen a mushar or a mochi child of my village studying beyond primary level. Uneducated, undernourished and without much scope where they lived in, the boys migrated to big cities to slog as unskilled workers while the girls were married off early. For them, the village remained an area of darkness while the big cities brought relief from pangs of hunger. Higher education was beyond their reach. These children of a lesser God didn't aim for big in life. Almost every man drank tadi or Toddy. The suris were not so poor but giving good education to their children was not among their priorities.

Which is why I was enormously glad when I found a suri, a mushar and a mochi boy on the list of candidates we were going to felicitate. Chanchal Mahtha, son of Kanhaiya Lal Mahtha, a suri who works as an LIC agent, cracked the Sub-inspector of Police exam last year and is currently training. He will be the first boy from my village to become a daroga or Sub-inspector. Kanhaiya came to receive the certificate and medal on behalf of his son. He later told me that Chanchal wept on phone after he saw his father in a video receiving a small token of appreciation from us. "Papa, nobody among our relatives thought of giving me an award. But these uncles from our village have made us feel proud," said Chanchal to his father on phone. Both father and son were flooded with phone calls from their relatives as they shared photographs and videos from the award ceremony on WhatsApp and Facebook.

The story of Dilip Kumar Ram, the boy from mochi caste, is more spectacular. His unlettered father Misri Ram worked as a driver in Delhi nursing a dream to see his son become a big man. Misri's wife Sanjayi Devi stayed in village, determined to educate their son Dilp. Dilip took a leap of faith when he got enrolled at an Engineering college in Bhopal. Now he is B.Tech and works with a company in Delhi. I had seen in my childhood how the high caste zamindars treated these landless mochis. They would get the tongue lashes and threats of eviction--they had built their huts on the zanindar's land --if they refused to work in the fields of the zamindars. These poor mochis didn't have the courage to sit on chairs before the zamindars and were expected to address the zamindars and their children not by their names but as maalik (lord). These poor mochis, men and women, would often appear in soiled and tattered clothes. So, my joy knew no bounds when I saw Dilip's mother Sanjayi Devi come to receive certificate of merit clad in a clean, black sari. I remember many of the mochi women as midwives who wore saris that were often soiled and stained. Seeing Dilip's mother in a clean, new cloth made my heart fill with pride.

Dilip has broken chains that had tied his community, at least in and around my village, for centuries. The light of education has finally reached the darkest of the corners and we felt honoured to felicitate the likes of Chanchal and Dilip.

Among the guests who graced the felicitation function was my father's close friend Ram Babu Jha. He spoke fondly about my late father and appreciated our humble efforts to encourage children to excel in education. My father's another friend and a fellow teacher at a High School Wasi Ahmed Shamsi lauded the fact that we siblings--our elder brother Quamar Alam Nayyer, younger brother Dr Mohd.Qutbuddin and I ensured that we included a mushar, a mochi and a suri, along with Muslim children, for the awards.

We sang songs of devotion and we also sang our national anthem together.

We didn't have money to give them or buy the awardees expensive gifts but the small token of our love and appreciation will hopefully go a long way to spread an atmosphere of goodwill. We have resolved to announce coaching and guidance for poor and meritorious students of our village soon. Caste is no bar and the only criteria to get educational help is merit. Wasi Ahmed Sahab who taught me Urdu and Persian in High School observed that this small gesture would help detoxify the atmosphere. It will work as an antidote to the culture of hatred being spread in India. This is the way we can defeat the nefarious design of those who want to divide us. This is the way we can help promote harmony and combat communalism. My India is not the land where hate-mongers tell communities to see people of other faiths as enemies. My India is a land where a mushar, a mochi, a Muslim and a suri sit together and celebrate success stories. As long as this spirit of sharing and caring survives, my India will survive. This is my India and we will ensure it survives till eternity.


Kutchh baat hai ke hasti mit ti nahi hamari/

Sadiyon raha hai dushman daur-e-zaman hamara (There is something that we don't extinct/Though the world has been our enemy for centuries).


From the writer's Facebook Wall

This is my India

hindu muslim unity
Representation Image
 

Away from the crammed, cacophonous life in a metro and devoid of the divisive slogans like "goli maro" and "current to Shaheen Bagh", I recently spent a peaceful week at my ancestral village in Bihar.

It was my beloved father's first death anniversary and my siblings and I decided to remember him by doing something which would have pleased him immensely had he been alive today. Since he was a school teacher and had spent his life teaching and guiding students, we decided to do our bit for some of the students in our village.

I asked my cousin Rashid Sami to prepare a list of boys and girls in the village who had passed an exam last year with flying colours. Around a dozen made it to the list. At a modest function we distributed certificates of merit and medals among those whose name appeared on the list.

The beautiful, brief ceremony was different in many ways. Though predominantly Muslim, my village is divided into three tolas or small hamlets. So, apart from Muslims, there are houses of banias called suris, cobblers or mochis and mushars who are so poor that some of them eat rats and are now among Maha Dalits in Bihar's entrenched caste hierarchy.

I grew up seeing mochis and mushars working as farm labourers for the high caste zamindars of another village. The suris were engaged in small trades and they had opened kirana or grocery shops or sold grains at weekly haat or village bazaar. None of the suris in my village till a decade ago had studied beyond matriculation while most of the mochis and mushars remained unlettered and dirt poor. During lean or non- farming season in their state the men from mushar and mochi tolas went to Punjab to work in the fields and earn livelihood while women stayed back bringing up children. Even as I turned 14, passed 10th exam and left village to study in a town.

I had not seen a mushar or a mochi child of my village studying beyond primary level. Uneducated, undernourished and without much scope where they lived in, the boys migrated to big cities to slog as unskilled workers while the girls were married off early. For them, the village remained an area of darkness while the big cities brought relief from pangs of hunger. Higher education was beyond their reach. These children of a lesser God didn't aim for big in life. Almost every man drank tadi or Toddy. The suris were not so poor but giving good education to their children was not among their priorities.

Which is why I was enormously glad when I found a suri, a mushar and a mochi boy on the list of candidates we were going to felicitate. Chanchal Mahtha, son of Kanhaiya Lal Mahtha, a suri who works as an LIC agent, cracked the Sub-inspector of Police exam last year and is currently training. He will be the first boy from my village to become a daroga or Sub-inspector. Kanhaiya came to receive the certificate and medal on behalf of his son. He later told me that Chanchal wept on phone after he saw his father in a video receiving a small token of appreciation from us. "Papa, nobody among our relatives thought of giving me an award. But these uncles from our village have made us feel proud," said Chanchal to his father on phone. Both father and son were flooded with phone calls from their relatives as they shared photographs and videos from the award ceremony on WhatsApp and Facebook.

The story of Dilip Kumar Ram, the boy from mochi caste, is more spectacular. His unlettered father Misri Ram worked as a driver in Delhi nursing a dream to see his son become a big man. Misri's wife Sanjayi Devi stayed in village, determined to educate their son Dilp. Dilip took a leap of faith when he got enrolled at an Engineering college in Bhopal. Now he is B.Tech and works with a company in Delhi. I had seen in my childhood how the high caste zamindars treated these landless mochis. They would get the tongue lashes and threats of eviction--they had built their huts on the zanindar's land --if they refused to work in the fields of the zamindars. These poor mochis didn't have the courage to sit on chairs before the zamindars and were expected to address the zamindars and their children not by their names but as maalik (lord). These poor mochis, men and women, would often appear in soiled and tattered clothes. So, my joy knew no bounds when I saw Dilip's mother Sanjayi Devi come to receive certificate of merit clad in a clean, black sari. I remember many of the mochi women as midwives who wore saris that were often soiled and stained. Seeing Dilip's mother in a clean, new cloth made my heart fill with pride.

Dilip has broken chains that had tied his community, at least in and around my village, for centuries. The light of education has finally reached the darkest of the corners and we felt honoured to felicitate the likes of Chanchal and Dilip.

Among the guests who graced the felicitation function was my father's close friend Ram Babu Jha. He spoke fondly about my late father and appreciated our humble efforts to encourage children to excel in education. My father's another friend and a fellow teacher at a High School Wasi Ahmed Shamsi lauded the fact that we siblings--our elder brother Quamar Alam Nayyer, younger brother Dr Mohd.Qutbuddin and I ensured that we included a mushar, a mochi and a suri, along with Muslim children, for the awards.

We sang songs of devotion and we also sang our national anthem together.

We didn't have money to give them or buy the awardees expensive gifts but the small token of our love and appreciation will hopefully go a long way to spread an atmosphere of goodwill. We have resolved to announce coaching and guidance for poor and meritorious students of our village soon. Caste is no bar and the only criteria to get educational help is merit. Wasi Ahmed Sahab who taught me Urdu and Persian in High School observed that this small gesture would help detoxify the atmosphere. It will work as an antidote to the culture of hatred being spread in India. This is the way we can defeat the nefarious design of those who want to divide us. This is the way we can help promote harmony and combat communalism. My India is not the land where hate-mongers tell communities to see people of other faiths as enemies. My India is a land where a mushar, a mochi, a Muslim and a suri sit together and celebrate success stories. As long as this spirit of sharing and caring survives, my India will survive. This is my India and we will ensure it survives till eternity.


Kutchh baat hai ke hasti mit ti nahi hamari/

Sadiyon raha hai dushman daur-e-zaman hamara (There is something that we don't extinct/Though the world has been our enemy for centuries).


From the writer's Facebook Wall

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Mahatma Gandhi: 'My Ramrajya means Khuda ki Basti... but a Secular State'

30 Jan 2020

First published on: 02 Oct 2016

“By Ram Rajya I do not mean Hindu Raj. I mean by Ramarajya Divine Raj, Khuda ki Basti or the Kingdom of God on Earth”  Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi[1]
 
At the heart of the visceral animosity that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Hindu Mahasabha (HMS) and all the affiliates have against Gandhi is his deep, reasoned and passionate commitment to a composite Indian nationhood. His writings in Young India and Harijan are well-documented as also is his subsequent clarity on the issue which is unequivocal. [2]



Faced with the growing appeal of communalists across the religious spectrum, in the early-mid 1900s,  Gandhi remained firm in his commitment to equal citizenship based on human rights and dignity.....
...
Under Gandhi’s guidance and leadership, communal amity remained central to the constructive programmes of the Congress. Muslim intellectuals and leaders of national stature, Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, Dr Ansari Hakim Ajmal Khan, Badruddin Tyabjee, Maulana Shaukat Ali and Jauhar Ali were proud part of the Congress fold. While the larger national movement, represented by the Congress and Revolutionaries, was surging ahead with a wider vision and inclusive foundation of Indian nationhood, at play were majoritarian and minority communal forces, in parallel, pushing their narrow, hate-driven, communal agendas.

In 1937, at the open session of the Hindu Mahasabha held at Ahmedabad, V.D. Savarkar, in his presidential address asserted: “India cannot be assumed today to be a unitarian and homogenous nation, but on the contrary there are two nations in the main – the Hindus and the Muslims.”[1] By 1945, Savarkar had gone to the extent of stating, “I have no quarrel with Mr. Jinnah’s two–nation theory. We, the Hindus are a nation by ourselves, and it is a historical fact that the Hindus and the Muslims are two nations”. [2]. It was this sentiment of separate and irreconcilable identities of the followers of these religions that led to the communal holocaust and the formation of Pakistan. 

If the Muslim League and Jinnah need to squarely be positioned for their responsibility in articulating a politics that eventually led to a communal bloodbath, the Hindu Mahasabha and the Rashtritya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) with their consistently divisive politics, cannot escape their share of the blame.

Arguably, as much as Gandhi’s and the larger, Congress’ commitment to secular and composite Indian nationhood, a deep source of resentment for the proponents of a Hindu Rashtra was the democratic and egalitarian agenda being articulated by the national leadership through the Karachi resolution. The attempts on Gandhi’s life that began in 1934 , were a response to the dominant political articulations on nationhood, caste and economic and other democratic rights that were in direct challenge to a hegemonistic and authoritarian Hindu Rashtra. 1933, the year before the first attempt on Gandhi’s life, he had declared firm support to two Bills, one of whom was against the abhorrent practice of Untouchability.

The run up to Independence and unfortunately, Partition, was the scene or battle ground for fundamentally different notions of nationhood. While over one hundred years of sustained movements and mobilizations to throw off British yoke were wedded in the united battle of all Indians against foreign rule, the early-mid 1900s saw the birth and emergence of sectarian and communal definitions of Indian and Pakistani nationhood. With the birth of the Hindu Mahasabha, the Muslim League and the RSS, these movements were in constant battle with the larger movement, significantly, at different points of time actually acting as collaborators with the British.
…..

Later, on January 27, 1935, Gandhi addressed some members of the Central Legislature. He told them that "(e)ven if the whole body of Hindu opinion were to be against the removal of untouchability, still he would advise a secular legislature like the Assembly not to tolerate that attitude.".[1] On January 20, 1942 Gandhi remarked while discussing the Pakistan scheme: "What conflict of interest can there be between Hindus and Muslims in the matter of revenue, sanitation, police, justice, or the use of public conveniences? The difference can only be in religious usage and observance with which a secular state has no concern." [2] From then until he was shot dead in cold blood on January 30, 1948, his responses and articulation on the disassociation of religion from politics became even clearer and sharper. This meant in effect he was a great threat to past and present day proponents of a Hindu rashtra.

[[As quoted by Nauriya, in the Hindu, 2003, in September 1946, Gandhi told a Christian missionary: "If I were a dictator, religion and state would be separate. I swear by my religion. I will die for it. But it is my personal affair. The state has nothing to do with it. The state would look after your secular welfare, health, communications, foreign relations, currency and so on, but not your or my religion. That is everybody's personal concern!" Gandhi' s talk with Rev. Kellas of the Scottish Church College, Calcutta on August 16, 1947, the day after Independence, was reported in Harijan on August 24:

"Gandhiji expressed the opinion that the state should undoubtedly be secular. It could never promote denominational education out of public funds. Everyone living in it should be entitled to profess his religion without let or hindrance, so long as the citizen obeyed the common law of the land. There should be no interference with missionary effort, but no mission could enjoy the patronage of the state as it did during the foreign regime." This understanding came subsequently to be reflected in Articles 25, 26 and 27 of the Constitution.

On the next day, August 17, Gandhi elaborated publicly on the same point in his speech at Narkeldanga, which Harijan reported thus: "In the India for whose fashioning he had worked all his life every man enjoyed equality of status, whatever his religion was. The state was bound to be wholly secular. He went so far as to say that no denominational institution in it should enjoy state patronage. All subjects would thus be equal in the eye of the law." Five days later, Gandhi observed in a speech at Deshbandhu Park in Calcutta on August 22, 1947: "Religion was a personal matter and if we succeeded in confining it to the personal plane, all would be well in our political life... If officers of Government as well as members of the public undertook the responsibility and worked wholeheartedly for the creation of a secular state, we could build a new India that would be the glory of the world." Speaking on Guru Nanak's birthday on November 28, 1947, Gandhi opposed any possibility of state funds being spent for the renovation of the Somnath temple. His reasoning was: "After all, we have formed the Government for all. It is a `secular' government, that is, it is not a theocratic government, rather, it does not belong to any particular religion. Hence it cannot spend money on the basis of communities." ]]

Excerpted from Beyond Doubt: A Dossier on Gandhi's Assassination, Teesta Setalvad, Introduction by the author
 

[1] Ibid, from The Collected works of Mahatma Gandhi
[2] Ibid
[3] Swatantarya Veer Savarkar, Vol. 6 page 296, Maharashtra Prantiya Hindu Mahasabha, Pune
[4] Indian Educational Register, 1943, vol. 2, page 10

  [5] Gandhi in Young India, September 19, 1929, p. 305.

[6] Gandhi on secular law and state,  http://hindu.com/2003/10/22/stories/2003102200891000.htm. Anil Nauriya

Mahatma Gandhi: 'My Ramrajya means Khuda ki Basti... but a Secular State'

First published on: 02 Oct 2016

“By Ram Rajya I do not mean Hindu Raj. I mean by Ramarajya Divine Raj, Khuda ki Basti or the Kingdom of God on Earth”  Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi[1]
 
At the heart of the visceral animosity that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Hindu Mahasabha (HMS) and all the affiliates have against Gandhi is his deep, reasoned and passionate commitment to a composite Indian nationhood. His writings in Young India and Harijan are well-documented as also is his subsequent clarity on the issue which is unequivocal. [2]



Faced with the growing appeal of communalists across the religious spectrum, in the early-mid 1900s,  Gandhi remained firm in his commitment to equal citizenship based on human rights and dignity.....
...
Under Gandhi’s guidance and leadership, communal amity remained central to the constructive programmes of the Congress. Muslim intellectuals and leaders of national stature, Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, Dr Ansari Hakim Ajmal Khan, Badruddin Tyabjee, Maulana Shaukat Ali and Jauhar Ali were proud part of the Congress fold. While the larger national movement, represented by the Congress and Revolutionaries, was surging ahead with a wider vision and inclusive foundation of Indian nationhood, at play were majoritarian and minority communal forces, in parallel, pushing their narrow, hate-driven, communal agendas.

In 1937, at the open session of the Hindu Mahasabha held at Ahmedabad, V.D. Savarkar, in his presidential address asserted: “India cannot be assumed today to be a unitarian and homogenous nation, but on the contrary there are two nations in the main – the Hindus and the Muslims.”[1] By 1945, Savarkar had gone to the extent of stating, “I have no quarrel with Mr. Jinnah’s two–nation theory. We, the Hindus are a nation by ourselves, and it is a historical fact that the Hindus and the Muslims are two nations”. [2]. It was this sentiment of separate and irreconcilable identities of the followers of these religions that led to the communal holocaust and the formation of Pakistan. 

If the Muslim League and Jinnah need to squarely be positioned for their responsibility in articulating a politics that eventually led to a communal bloodbath, the Hindu Mahasabha and the Rashtritya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) with their consistently divisive politics, cannot escape their share of the blame.

Arguably, as much as Gandhi’s and the larger, Congress’ commitment to secular and composite Indian nationhood, a deep source of resentment for the proponents of a Hindu Rashtra was the democratic and egalitarian agenda being articulated by the national leadership through the Karachi resolution. The attempts on Gandhi’s life that began in 1934 , were a response to the dominant political articulations on nationhood, caste and economic and other democratic rights that were in direct challenge to a hegemonistic and authoritarian Hindu Rashtra. 1933, the year before the first attempt on Gandhi’s life, he had declared firm support to two Bills, one of whom was against the abhorrent practice of Untouchability.

The run up to Independence and unfortunately, Partition, was the scene or battle ground for fundamentally different notions of nationhood. While over one hundred years of sustained movements and mobilizations to throw off British yoke were wedded in the united battle of all Indians against foreign rule, the early-mid 1900s saw the birth and emergence of sectarian and communal definitions of Indian and Pakistani nationhood. With the birth of the Hindu Mahasabha, the Muslim League and the RSS, these movements were in constant battle with the larger movement, significantly, at different points of time actually acting as collaborators with the British.
…..

Later, on January 27, 1935, Gandhi addressed some members of the Central Legislature. He told them that "(e)ven if the whole body of Hindu opinion were to be against the removal of untouchability, still he would advise a secular legislature like the Assembly not to tolerate that attitude.".[1] On January 20, 1942 Gandhi remarked while discussing the Pakistan scheme: "What conflict of interest can there be between Hindus and Muslims in the matter of revenue, sanitation, police, justice, or the use of public conveniences? The difference can only be in religious usage and observance with which a secular state has no concern." [2] From then until he was shot dead in cold blood on January 30, 1948, his responses and articulation on the disassociation of religion from politics became even clearer and sharper. This meant in effect he was a great threat to past and present day proponents of a Hindu rashtra.

[[As quoted by Nauriya, in the Hindu, 2003, in September 1946, Gandhi told a Christian missionary: "If I were a dictator, religion and state would be separate. I swear by my religion. I will die for it. But it is my personal affair. The state has nothing to do with it. The state would look after your secular welfare, health, communications, foreign relations, currency and so on, but not your or my religion. That is everybody's personal concern!" Gandhi' s talk with Rev. Kellas of the Scottish Church College, Calcutta on August 16, 1947, the day after Independence, was reported in Harijan on August 24:

"Gandhiji expressed the opinion that the state should undoubtedly be secular. It could never promote denominational education out of public funds. Everyone living in it should be entitled to profess his religion without let or hindrance, so long as the citizen obeyed the common law of the land. There should be no interference with missionary effort, but no mission could enjoy the patronage of the state as it did during the foreign regime." This understanding came subsequently to be reflected in Articles 25, 26 and 27 of the Constitution.

On the next day, August 17, Gandhi elaborated publicly on the same point in his speech at Narkeldanga, which Harijan reported thus: "In the India for whose fashioning he had worked all his life every man enjoyed equality of status, whatever his religion was. The state was bound to be wholly secular. He went so far as to say that no denominational institution in it should enjoy state patronage. All subjects would thus be equal in the eye of the law." Five days later, Gandhi observed in a speech at Deshbandhu Park in Calcutta on August 22, 1947: "Religion was a personal matter and if we succeeded in confining it to the personal plane, all would be well in our political life... If officers of Government as well as members of the public undertook the responsibility and worked wholeheartedly for the creation of a secular state, we could build a new India that would be the glory of the world." Speaking on Guru Nanak's birthday on November 28, 1947, Gandhi opposed any possibility of state funds being spent for the renovation of the Somnath temple. His reasoning was: "After all, we have formed the Government for all. It is a `secular' government, that is, it is not a theocratic government, rather, it does not belong to any particular religion. Hence it cannot spend money on the basis of communities." ]]

Excerpted from Beyond Doubt: A Dossier on Gandhi's Assassination, Teesta Setalvad, Introduction by the author
 

[1] Ibid, from The Collected works of Mahatma Gandhi
[2] Ibid
[3] Swatantarya Veer Savarkar, Vol. 6 page 296, Maharashtra Prantiya Hindu Mahasabha, Pune
[4] Indian Educational Register, 1943, vol. 2, page 10

  [5] Gandhi in Young India, September 19, 1929, p. 305.

[6] Gandhi on secular law and state,  http://hindu.com/2003/10/22/stories/2003102200891000.htm. Anil Nauriya

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