My heart goes out to the people of Gaza. But, when I ask the same heart that why does it then fail to condemn Israeli attacks? It gives me a very logical answer. It says that the same set of people who are so vehemently condemning the atrocities in Gaza will not shed a tear, or would rather, rejoice the slaughtering of Israeli’s in the same region.
In my opinion, it’s a fight between two different ideologies and will exist till people keep thinking that their faith is the best. This fight between faiths has existed since times immemorial. India has also seen such fights and is still witness to it because of its people with a many kinds of religious, political and regional belief systems. So let us discuss about the conflicts in India primarily focusing on the beliefs Nationalism and Religion. This conflict, in the Indian scenario, is mostly centered on Muslims. I will discuss the same in this write-up.
India is said to be a so called secular nation which has state separated from religion and, thus, gives equal rights to the follower of every religion and considers every religion to be equal. But, I feel that the above thought is only confined to the books/constitution and is not practiced even by the government. I will not get into discussions of Muslim appeasement etc to support my observation. I will instead I will talk about some cases which we all hear and read about regularly in the media.
One of the controversies Narendra Modi created during his election campaign was about helping Hindu Bangladeshis to settle in India. Many secular intellectuals rejected his idea considering it as being communal. But, I was surprised to see many Assamese, who are the worst victims of Bangladeshi influx, not being averse to the idea. All of them supported the idea with one condition that all these settlers should be spread evenly across the country. Even they were ready to take the load of allowing Bangladeshi Hindus, but, oppose settlement of Muslim Bangladeshis tooth and nail. We can of course call this idea of Narendra Modi as a communal thought, but, this differential treatment has always prevailed in the region officially.
If we consider the case of a Nepalese or a Bhutanese citizen, there is no restriction on his/her coming to India and settling here. Basically the only difference between a Nepalese/Bhutanese citizen and an Indian citizen is the latter’s right to vote, else every other thing is the same. Each one of us knows many Nepalese living and working in our area. I have hardly seen any national level hue and cry about Nepalese or Bhutanese citizens settling in India although Nepalese are present in India in good numbers. Same is the case with Tibetans living in India, although their asylum in India is among the bone of contention between India and China. Still, people have no issues. Even, people of Chinese origin living in India might not be facing problems. I think the only reason for Indians not having any major problem with these people is that these two countries are predominantly Hindu or Buddhist or for the matter of fact, Nepal was the only Hindu nation in the world officially till recent times whereas Pakistan and East Pakistan were formed on the basis of religion. Pakistan became an Islamic nation whereas India remained a secular nation (which Bangladesh is also now) accommodating everyone officially. Relations with the Lankans are not that good because of the Tamil problem, but, I do not see any settlement problems to Lankan nationals in India.
According to me, the major threat that majority Hindus in India see with the settlement of Muslims in India is that with the rise of Muslim population there will be a drastic change in the way of life of the Hindus. I can say so because I know Bengali Hindus who have peacefully lived in Assam even during the heat of the Assam agitation in the late 70’s and the early 80’s whereas there are riots between Bengali Muslims and ethnic people even today. This according to me is the threat that Hindus perceive in many parts of the country.
If we look at the Muslim aspect of the issue there is even more complexity which might turn into a Gaza like problem in the future. Muslims are actually stuck between faith and nation. If a Muslim thinks that nation is supreme and that the government should not allow Bangladeshis who are mostly Muslims to settle in India, he being anti-Islamic. As per Islam, a Muslim should not go against a Muslim when it’s a case of his betterment and Bangladeshis infiltrate into India only because of the compulsions of poverty. How can one Muslim be against the empowerment of another Muslim? This is a major conflict that a practicing Muslim must be facing! I can also say that it is inhuman not to allow poor people in search of bread and butter to settle here.
I say it with confidence that a conflict exists amongst Muslims between Nationalism and Religion because when there are riots in Assam between Bodos and Bangladeshi Muslims, Mumbai comes to a halt. There are protests in many parts of the country and people from the North Eastern states are targeted. Muslims should actually be supporting their countrymen instead of a settler who is trying to assert himself in their own country. Although, people from North East face problems in many parts of the Country as well, but then, there is never an open community clash with the people of NE India and most of the people agree that they are our fellow countrymen and stringent action should be taken against the perpetrators of the crime.
So, one confusion of a practicing Muslim or even a person with basic humanity is whether to support a poor Muslim who is coming to their nation in search of work or be with the national policy of opposing Bangladeshi settlement. Now, in case the government comes up with a policy to rehabilitate Hindus from Pakistan and Bangladesh, how would a Muslim convince himself that Muslims are not being meted differential treatment on the ground of religion by the government? Such policy would actually reflect pure differential treatment between Hindus and Muslims by a secular government. If we consider this from a humanitarian aspect, Hindus should also not oppose Bangladeshi Muslim settlement India as all these people come to India in search of daily bread and butter and were their fellow countrymen sixty seven years back. It is inhuman not to allow a poor man to search for his bread and butter.
Now, we see that it’s inhuman as well as un-Islamic not to allow Bangladeshis in India. Let’s look at another case in India, let’s look at Jammu & Kashmir (J&K).
Jammu & Kashmir, internationally known as Kashmir, is a clear example where national preferences are based on religion. Muslims either want freedom or want to merge with Pakistan (this merging with Pakistan thought has been shelved by well off people looking at its present state) whereas Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and even Shia Muslims want to stay with India. There might be many technical arguments that can be put forth like the instrument of accession or matter being in the UN or Pandit Nehru’s promise to the people of Kashmir on plebiscite. The crux of the matter is that national preferences are divided on religious lines.
The state of affairs in Kashmir (not J&K) have been very turbulent in the past quarter century. Some people might even compare it to a Gaza like situation in the early nineties. Muslims say that Indians have occupied J&K whereas others say that they are Indians. Muslims say that there have been atrocities on them by the Indian security forces in the past quarter century whereas others say that the people victimized were either terrorists or anti-Nationals. So it’s clear that a division exists! Muslims say that they have been victimized and others say that the people victimized were either terrorists or anti-Nationals.
So, this victim card is one dangerous tactic that has to be dealt with. If there is a riot between Bangladesh Muslims and Bodos, Muslims are being victimized.
So the situation is quite interesting, Muslims say that they were victimized where others say that the people taken to task were either terrorists or anti-Nationals. So, there is a clear situation of conflict between faiths. Some say that nation is supreme whereas others say that religion is supreme.
Now, let’s look at the idea of India. Kashmiris in their fight for a separate nation even go to the extent of challenging the idea of India. No one would agree that India was India/Bharat before 1947. Many Muslims whom I speak to also do not agree with this idea of India, they consider India to be a post 1947 creation whereas a Hindu (excluding communists) will never challenge this idea of India. Actually, both these beliefs of people suit their own convenience and faiths.
So, I guess the above discussion is enough to say that there exists a lot of difference between Hindus & Muslims in India