|By Ram Puniyani [ Published Date: April 11, 2012 ]|
Life is full of paradoxes, and not all of them are intriguing. Some of them give a pleasant cosy feeling too.
Recently, on March 25, 2012, people saw Pakistan deputy attorney general Muhammad Khurshid Khan polishing the shoes of devotees in Gurdwara Rakab Ganj in Delhi. This work is part of Seva (service) in Gurdwaras. This particular tradition is part of Sikh Gurdwaras.
Khurshid was doing this to atone for the sins of Talibans that have tormented the Sikhs in many ways. He also was doing it to heal the wounds of the minorities who have suffered the violence. Talibans had abducted three Sikhs, had demanded ransom and one of the Sikhs was killed. Khurshid felt the Talibans have done something inhuman, which is against Islam. Pained by this, he started this mission of bringing peace and amity amongst religious communities.
One is sure there may be enough conservative, fanatic elements who will criticize this humane and touching gesture on the part of Khurshid. One knows that Talibans with their particular version of Islam, which got a boost in the indoctrination of Madrassas set up in Pakistan by the US to counter the Russian occupation of Afghanistan, is the extreme intolerant variety of Islam, something is against the basic tenets of that religion.
The same Talibans had destroyed the Bamiyan Buddha statues, and they had also imposed Jazia on Sikhs and had also come up to implement with the colour code for dress for people in accordance to their religion. South Asia has been in the grip of sectarian violence where minorities in each of these countries has been the major victim of politics in the name of religion, a politics which takes cover under the identity of religion and spreads hatred against the ‘others’, the ones belonging to other religions.
This politics also accentuates the divides amongst the followers of the same religion as it also breaks them into further narrow sects. Surely, while Christians and Hindus nave been major victims of violence in Pakistan, the smaller sects of Islam, Ahmadiyas and Kadiyanis have also faced the wrath of the dominant sections of society. In India during the rise of the communal violence during last three decades, while Muslims and Christians, the religious minorities, have faced the major brunt of sectarian violence, at the same time, Dalits and Adivasis have also been victims of the violence to a sizable extent.
The politics in the name of religion operates on the foundation of identity of religion and undermines the moral values of that religion. It constructs a history where the Kings of a particular religion become the ‘icons’ of that religious community, while the kings belonging to other religions become the villains of the piece. The interactive culture of the communities is undermined in these narratives and the religious communities are made to stand against each other as the opposite parties.
The reality is that the amity of people had been more along economic lines; the landlords on one side and the labouring masses on the other. While the ‘clergy’ stood at the service of the affluent ruling class, the saints expressed the sigh of the oppressed sections of the society. The landlords-kings allied and fought with each other for the sake of power and wealth while the labouring masses interacted with each other, rubbing shoulders while visiting the Sufi dargahs, or paying respect to saints of the genre of Kabir, cutting across religions.
The colonialists were more interested in plundering South Asia, which as a continent came under British rule in the main. The British promoted the declining sections of landlords and kings, recognizing them as ‘representative’ of their religious community.
This laid the foundation of communal politics, with Muslim League on one side and Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS on the other. These communal streams picked up the version of history, centred on the religion of the kings and tried to preserve their vested interests in the language of religion. This interpretation looks down on the syncretic traditions of people who found as much solace with the likes of Bule Shah or Nizamuddin Auliya as with Ramdev Baba Pir or Satya Pir as with Dadu, Raidas or Tukaram.
The highest point of success of British policy of ‘divide and rule’ was the partition of the country or rather carving out of Pakistan in the name of religion, while the remaining part upheld the values of freedom movement to come up as a secular democratic nation. Overall, the major culture and traditions of South Asia, India-Pakistan-Bangladesh are mixed ones, the syncretism of their religious tradition being its high point.
During the last three decades, sectarianism has surged on account of many a local factor which have been further boosted by the rise of the Global Emperor, the US, who devised the religious language and demonized Islam to quench its hunger for oil. The result has been the wounds of partition. The wounds of communal strife of the past which were slightly cooling down have been exacerbated and the communal forces have become stronger in all the South Asian countries.
These communal forces have at one level similar value, opposition to democracy and abolition of human rights of weaker sections of society. At surface they present it as a battle against the ‘other religious community’.
In this dismal scenario, it is people like Khurshid who are braving it out and despite the sure opposition from fundamentalist forces are keeping the torch of amity alive. While Talibans, Zia Ul Haq and the RSS-type formations have been on the rampage, the forces like those presented by Khurshid are also silently singing the songs of peace.
The efforts in this direction have been slowly but surely percolating and trying to appeal to the humane aspects of community living. These elements know that while at one level the victim groups have to get their rights by their struggle against injustice, they also know that the progress of society is possible only by overcoming the sectarian divides which try to trample our democratic values.
Democratic ethos are the base on which the struggle for human rights and a better society is possible in the short and long run. All the efforts which bring communities together for interaction, celebration are building the bridges which not only will overcome the sectarianism but will lay the foundations on which peace with justice will be possible.
Three cheers for the likes of Muhammad Khurshid Khan!