The AC mechanic came when I was doing my puja. He had come earlier than the time he should have. When I opened the door to him, still saying the mantras, he apologized and asked me to complete my puja and that he would finish his work in the meanwhile. Nothing unusual, right? Except that he was a Muslim. Later he explained that he had come early because he had to go for his Friday noon prayers after completing the work at my place. I nodded, both of us deferring to each other’s call of faith.
Such incidents are common in households, neighbourhoods and public places across the country. Don’t we see Hindus and Muslims living together in peace, doing their respective work, praying at their respective places of worship, even socializing? There are so many dargahs that have a large number of Hindus offering worship. In the deep south of the country, there are shops owned by Muslims outside big temples, which sell puja items. They even offer helpful tips about the kind of items that should be offered to a particular deity! It is their trade, and neither the pilgrim nor the shopkeeper give a second thought to the other’s religion.
As a young girl, I remember making offerings to the Muslim pilgrims when they carried the tazia through the streets of Nagpur during Muharram. I love the tranquility inside a church as I pray. I remember going with my father to his Muslim colleague’s house as a young child – I used to call him Ghouse mama. Another of his good friends, Robert Uncle used to heartily wish us Merry Christmas every year. When I asked my father why he wished us when we were not Christians, he explained that the spirit of any festival transcended its religion. And that is the secret of the religious harmony of the people of this country.
Former President A.P.J.Abdul Kalam in his autobiographyWings of Fire recounts his father’s friendship with the chief priest of the Shiva temple in his hometown Rameswaram. He has written how the two would discuss matters of God and spirituality – his father sporting the prayer cap worn by Muslims and the chief priest wearing the sacred thread and long hair coiled at the back. The two friends not only retained the respect of the people of their respective communities, but also remained friends.
The truth is that those who are really devout, whether Hindus, Muslims or Christians – respect those belonging to other religions, even if they don’t agree with the tenets. For the rest, religion means vote banks and publicity stunts. They should be condemned, ignored, even shunned.
The key words here are really devout. The British had started the whole thing of divide and rule and the power hungry politicians, the media, social media, celebrities from all walks of life, and fringe elements from various communities have joined the fray today to tear the fabric of India asunder. They magnify some local skirmish and blow it to national proportions furthering the divide. And worse, don’t issue a clarification or apology when the story is proved false or had nothing communal about it.
It is about time to focus on positive stories of harmony to make people of all faiths feel proud of their upbringing and culture and ignore such provocations. And we, the people, have to do it, for such stories are buried deep inside the paper in a single column centimetre of space, that is, if they are published at all. And of course, no TV channel worth its colour will ever air them. For then, where will they find their TRPs? And what will happen to the vote banks of their political masters, pray?
Time was when journalistic ethics demanded that the communities involved in any skirmish, including a riot, was not named, even though everyone and their aunt knew the names! Today, in times of ‘transparency’, they have to be not only mentioned but also highlighted to serve someone’s agenda. And we have debates about intolerance that are nothing but shouting matches. One would think nothing positive is happening in our country, be it some path-breaking global agreement or the Chennai floods. (Read a hard-hitting post cloaked in humour on Chennai floods here).They of course will look for communal and political angles even to them if they deign to look at them at all.
Isn’t it about time we called the bluff of these mischief mongers? Isn’t it about time we told them:
Thank you dear sirs and madams, but we the people of India are not playing ball. We, of all faiths and communities are wise to your vested interests, vote bank politics and popularity boosting techniques! And oh, we are not going to be scared by your threat of a bloodbath in the country or of invitations to neighbouring countries to overthrow our government. So there!
So when I saw this heartwarming collection of stories of intercommunal harmony with pictures from Better India in my mailbox, my spirits lifted and I felt fresh hope for our country. A Muslim man performing the last rites of his Hindu friend; a Muslim translating the Hanuman Chalisa into Urdu and a Hindu translating the Quran into Marwari….
Stories to warm one’s heart and inspire the spirit of unity, aren’t they? Read them all here.
Then I remembered a post written in 2011 on the topic of communal harmony on the eve of the SC judgement on Babri Masjid. The TV channels only saw communal conflict and chaos, willing them to happen. Typically nothing had happened then despite their ‘best’ efforts.
I am sharing some stories largely ignored by the TV channels and other media, from my post of April 2011…..
- In the supposedly polarized state of UP, Pandit Amar Nath Mishra, the chief of the Brahmin Sansad was acting as the convener of the Imam Council of India and fighting for higher wages for the Imams of that state. I wasn’t surprised. Imagine! The state that witnessed the Babri Masjid demolition and the subsequent communal disturbances was that day witness to the miracle of a Hindu priest convening a council of Imams to fight for the latter’s rights! (Read news item here).
- Not just that, but it also brought together the rival factions of Islam – “the historic achievement of bringing together all the rival factions of the minority community — Shia, Sunni, Barelvi, Nadvi, Kichchochwi and Deobandi on the same platform for the first time”. He was also hopeful that the Imam Council would support the Sansad’s campaign to improve the poor state of Sanskrit schools and universities in UP. And why not? As he said, they were all in the same profession and should be supporting each other! Do read the story here.
- Elsewhere, on the internet was the story of some maulvis trying to bring about awareness of the development work being done by the RSS in UP. Unbelievable?
- Mohammed Hashim Ansari of the Sunni Wakf Board and Mahant Bhaskar Das of the Nirmohi Akhara, the two oldest litigants of the Babri Masjid case met after the Babri verdict and embracing each other. The former was over 90 and the latter 83 at that time. As recently as Feb. 2015, Hashim has gone on record pleading to set Ram Lalla free, as he was suffering in a tent, while the politicians responsible for it sat in their AC bungalows! But the vested interest groups have their own axes to grind so don’t listen to such voices.
- A Muslim businessman Ashiq Ali Nathani has renovated a Ganesh temple in Ranathambore in Rajasthan in a goodwill gesture to promote communal harmony.
- Going back in time, the Phoolwalon ki sair celebrated in Delhi during Oct/Nov every year, is a festival that started as a secular festival celebrated by both the communities, offering floral tributes at the Hindu temple of Yogmaya as well as at the Dargah of Khwaja Bhakthiar Kaki in Mehrauli. The tradition of this Hindu-Muslim festival was started by the Mughal King Akbar Shah II.
So why don’t we begin a campaign – of spreading positivity and trust among communities by sharing such stories to counter the narrative of intolerance set by the media and vested interest groups?
Homepage image courtesy: incredible-india.sanjeevnitv.com
This page Top: http://www.thebetterindia.com/