& occasionally about other things, too...

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Remembering the Mahatma

“I believe myself to be an orthodox Hindu and it is my conviction that no one who scrupulously practices the Hindu religion may kill a cow-killer to protect a cow.”
                                                           Mahatma Gandhi

So, the leaders of India and Pakistan want to go to war. And the media in both countries is eager to turn the subcontinent into a warzone. This is so utterly stupid that it shouldn’t even merit a comment.

But we live in a world where social media enables and empowers the propagation of xenophobia and jingoism, with unceasing calls to action to destroy the enemy across the border and ‘once and for all’ put an end to the evil designs of the neighbour who has never quite reconciled to its fate for the last seven decades.

Trolls crawl out of dark crevices to unleash venom sometimes openly but often anonymously or through identity theft.

Bellicosity becomes the norm and shrill name-calling replaces decent exchange of opinions.

One’s own religion (and its adherents) gets equated with everything pure, and the other side’s religion with everything vile. Agnosticism and atheism belong to the netherworld and leave the religious confused, angry.

Nationalism becomes non-negotiable, a zero-sum game. The dissenter, the contrarian is a pariah not merely to be shunned but to be banished. Sane voices pleading for peace are ignored, mocked, threatened and silenced.  You don’t have the option of not belonging to a binary. Either you are with us or you are against us.

Humanism loses its meaning. There is constant ‘what aboutery’, a moral relativism that absolves their side of every violation of a human being’s right to live with dignity because, “well, they’re equally guilty, if not more.”

Yes, everyone is disconcerted by the murder of Indian soldiers by militants. Yes, ultimately the categorization of good terrorist / bad terrorist is delusional. A terrorist has no ideology. But there can be legitimate differences on how to eliminate terrorism. 

And in a democracy do people not have the right to question violations of human rights of citizens (whether they are in Kashmir, Baluchistan, the North East regions of India, or in the jungles of Jharkhand and / or Chhatisgarh)?

Why should those who raise these questions be termed traitors?

Is the right to question the state not absolute in a democracy? 

Strangely, even after seven decades, Indo-Pak tensions nearly always results in the 150 million-strong Indian Muslim community on the defensive. This is because the wounds of Partition have never been allowed to heal in India, and the Indian Muslims continue to be held responsible for Jinnah’s zeal.

Whatever the present government may say, the Indian Muslim is undoubtedly feeling cornered, and is expected to continuously pledge her support to the Indian state after every random terrorist attack. On the other hand, the Indian state doesn’t deem it necessary to initiate any action against the perpetrators of violence against the Indian Muslim community for imagined hurts.

October 2 2016, is Mahatma Gandhi’s 147th Jayanti. It would be worth recalling his message to both the communities.

If the Hindu and Muslim communities could be united in one bond of mutual friendship, and if each could act towards the other even as children of the same mother, it would be a consummation devoutly to be wished. But before this unity becomes a reality, both the communities will have to give up a good deal, and will have to make radical changes in ideas held heretofore. Members of one community when talking about those of the other at times indulge in terms so vulgar that they but exacerbate the relations between the two.

In Hindu society we do not hesitate to indulge in unbecoming language when talking of the Mahomedans and vice versa. Many believe that an ingrained and ineradicable animosity exists between the Hindus and Mahomedans. In many places we see that each community harbours distrust against the other. Each fears the other. It is an undoubted fact that this anomalous and wretched state of things is improving by the day…But the object of taking a vow is speedily to bring about, by the power of self-denial, a state of things which can only be expected to come in the fullness of time. How is this possible? Meetings should be called of Hindus – I mean the orthodox Hindus – where this question should be seriously considered. The standing complaint of the Hindus against the Mussulmans is that the latter are beef-eaters and that they purposely sacrifice cows on the Bakr-i-id day. 

Now it is impossible to unite the Hindus and Mahomedans so long as the Hindus do not hesitate to kill their Mahomedans brethren in order to protect a cow. For I think it is futile to expect that our violence will ever compel the Mahomedans to refrain from cow-slaughter. I do not believe the efforts of our cow-protection societies have availed in the least to lessen the number of cows killed every day. I have had no reason to believe so. I believe myself to be an orthodox Hindu and it is my conviction that no one who scrupulously practices the Hindu religion may kill a cow-killer to protect a cow. There is one and only one means open to a Hindu to protect a cow and that is that he should offer himself as a sacrifice if he cannot stand its slaughter. Even if a very few enlightened Hindus thus sacrificed themselves, I have no doubt that our Mussulman brethren would abandon cow-slaughter…if I want my brother to redress a grievance, I must do so by talking upon my head a certain amount of sacrifice and not by inflicting injury on him. I may not demand it as of right. My only right against my brother is that I can offer myself as a sacrifice.

It is only when the Hindus are inspired with a feeling of pure love of this type that Hindu-Muslim unity can be expected. 

As with the Hindus, so with the Mussulmans. The leader among the latter should meet together and consider their duty towards the Hindus. When both are inspired by a spirit of sacrifice, when both try to do their duty towards one another instead of pressing their rights, then and then only would the long-standing differences between the two communities cease. 

Each must respect the other’s religion, must refrain from even secretly thinking ill of the other. We must politely dissuade members of both the communities from indulging in bad language against one another. Only a serious endeavour in this direction can remove the estrangement between us. Our vow would have value only when masses of Hindus and Mussulmans join in the endeavour. I think 

I have now made sufficiently clear the seriousness and magnitude of this vow. I hope that on this auspicious occasion and surely the occasion must be auspicious when a wave of satyagraha is sweeping over the whole country – we could all take this vow of unity. For this it is further necessary that leading Hindus and Mahomedans should meet together and seriously consider the question and then pass a unanimous resolution at a public meeting. This consummation will certainly be reached if our present efforts are vigorously continued. I think the vow may be taken individually even now and I expect that numerous people will do so every day. My warnings have reference to the taking of the vow publicly by masses of men. F it is taken by the masses, it should, in my humble opinion, be as follows:

With Go as witness we Hindus and Mahomedans declare that we shall behave towards one another as children of the same parents, that we shall have no differences, that the sorrows of each shall be the sorrows of the other and that each shall help the other in removing them. We shall respect each other’s religion and religious feelings and shall not stand in the way of our respective religious practices. We shall always refrain from violence to each other in the name of religion.
Gandhiji's quote is from Makers of Modern India, Edited by Ramchandra Guha

No comments:

Post a Comment