Sunday, December 16, 2007

Mahatma Gandhi on Hindu Muslim Issues

HINDU-MUSLIM TENSION: ITS CAUSE AND CURE.

HINDU INDICTMENT

Pandit Banarsidas Chaturvedi brought a message from a Hindu residing in Tanganyika to the following effect: "Tell Gandhi he is responsible for the Muslim atrocities in Multan."I did not print the message before, as I was not ready to write then upon the question of questions. But many letters have since been received by me, some from well-known friends telling one that I was responsible even for the alleged Moplah atrocities, in fact for all the riots in which Hindus have or are said to have suffered since the Khilafat agitation. The argument is somewhat this: 'You asked the Hindus to make common cause with the Mussalmans in the Khilafat question. Your being identified with it gave it an importance it would never have otherwise received. It unified and awakened the Mussalmans. It gave a prestige to the Maulvis which they never had before. And now that the Khilafat question is over, the awakened Mussalmans have proclaimed a kind of jehad against us Hindus.' I have given the purport of the charge in readable language. Some letters contain unprintable abuse. So much for the Hindu part of the indictment against me.

MUSSALMAN INDICTMENT

A Mussalman friend says:The Muslim community being a very simple and religious community were led to believe that the Khilafat was in danger and that it could be saved by the united voice of Hindus and Mohammedans; these innocent people, believing your very eloquent words, showed great enthusiasm, with the result that they were the first to boycott schools, law-courts, Councils, etc. The most famous institution of Aligarh, which Sir Syed had built by the labour of his lifetime and which was justly the first institution of its kind, was utterly spoilt. I shall be very much obliged if you will kindly point out that the Hindu community had a similar institution, and it met with the same fate. I know of scores of boys who could have taken the University degree with credit to themselves and the community to which they belonged, but they were inducedto leave studies on religious grounds, with the result that they were utterlyruined. On the contrary very few Hindu boys left, and those who did so for thetime beinginstantly joined, as soon as they found that the movement was tottering to pieces. Similar was the case with lawyers. In those days, youbrought about a sort of unity between the two communities and advertised it farand near that it was a solid one. The simple-minded Mohammedans again believedit, with the result that they were brutally treated at Ajmer, Lucknow, Meerut, Agra, Saharanpur, Lahore and other places. Mr. Mahomed Ali, who was a born journalist of a very high type, and whose wonderful paper The Comrade was doing such solid work for the Muslim community, was won over to your side, and he is now a loss to the community. Your Hindu leaders-in the guise of shuddhi and sangathan are trying to weaken the Muslim community. Your short-sighted decision to prevent people from entering the Councils has acted most unfairly on this community as the majority of able men refrain from entering the Councils because of the so-called fatwa. Under the circumstances, do you not honestly think that you are doing a great harm to this community by keeping the Mohammedans, a few of them of course, still in your camp. I have not given the whole of the letter. But the extract represents the gist of the Muslim indictment against me.

NOT GUILTY

I must plead not guilty to both the charges, and add that I am totally unrepentant. Had I been a prophet and foreseen all that has happened, I should have still thrown myself into the Khilafat agitation. In spite of the present strained relations between the two communities, both have gained. The awakening among the masses was a necessary part of the training. It is itself a tremendous gain. I would do nothing to put the people to sleep again. Our wisdom consists now in directing the awakening in the proper channel. What we see before us is sad but not disheartening, if we have faith in ourselves. The storm is but the forerunner of the coming calm that comes from a consciousness of strength, not from the stupor of exhaustion and disappointment. The public will not expect me to give judgment upon the riots in the different places. I have no desire for giving judgment. And even if I had, I have not the facts before me.

MOPLAHS

I will say a word as to the causes. The Malabar happenings undoubtedly disquieted the Hindu mind. What the truth is no one knows. The Hindus say that the Moplah atrocities were indescribable. Dr. Mahmud tells me that these have been grossly exaggerated, that the Moplahs too had a grievance against the Hindus, and that he could find no cases of forcible conversions. The one case that was reported to him was at least 'nonproven'. In his findings, Dr. Mahmud says, he is supported by Hindu testimony. I merely mention the two versions to ask the public to conclude with me that it is impossible to arrive at the exact truth, and that it is unnecessary for the purpose of regulating Our future conduct.

MULTAN, ETC.

In Multan, Saharanpur, Agra, Ajmer etc., it is agreed that the Hindus suffered most. In Palwal it is stated that Hindus have prevented Mussalmans from turning a kachcha mosque into a pukka one. They are said to have pulled down part of the pukka wall, driven the Muslims out of the village, and stated that the Muslims could not live in the village unless they promised not to build any mosque and say azan. This state of things is said to have continued for over a year. The driven Mussalmans are said to be living in temporary huts nearRohtak. In Byade in Dharwar district, my informant tells me, on Muslimsobjecting to music being played before their mosque, the Hindu desecrated the mosque, beat the Mussalmans, and then got them persecuted. Here again I cite these two instances, not as proved facts, but to show that the Mussalmans too claim to have much to complain of against Hindus. And it can certainly be fairly added that where they were manifestly weak and Hindus strong, as in Katarpur and Arrah years ago, they were mercilessly treated by their Hindu neighbours. The fact is that when blood boils, prejudice reigns supreme; man, whether he labels himself Hindu, Mussalman, Christian or what not, becomes abeast and acts as such.

THE SEAT OF THE TROUBLE

The seat of the trouble, however, is in the Punjab. The Mussalmans complain that the Hindus have raised a storm of protest on Mr. Fazal Hussain trying very timidly to give a fair proportion of Government employment to Mussalmans. The letter from which I have already quoted complains bitterly that, wherever a Hindu has been the head of a department, he has carefully excluded Mussalmans from Government posts. The causes for the tension are thus more than merely religious. The charges I have quoted are individual. But the mass mind is areflection of individual opinion.

TIRED OF NON-VIOLENCE

The immediate cause is the most dangerous. The thinking portion seems to be tired of non-violence. It has not as yet understood my suspension of Satyagraha after Ahmedabad and Viramgam tragedies, then after the Bombay rowdyism, and, Lastly, after the Chauri Chaura outrage. The last was the last straw. The thinking men imagined that all hope of Satyagraha, and therefore of swaraj too in the near future, was at an end. Their faith in non-violence was skindeep.Two years ago, a Mussalman friend said to me in all sincerity, "I do not believe [in] your non-violence. At least, I would not have my Mussalmans to learn it. Violence is the law of life. I would not have swaraj by non-violence as you define the latter. I must hate my enemy." This friend is an honest man. I entertain great regard for him. Much the same has been reported of another very great Mussalman friend of mine. The report may be untrue, but the reporterhimself is not an untrue man.

HINDU REPUGNANCE

Nor is this repugnance to non-violence confined to Mussalmans. Hindu friends have said the same thing, if possible, with greater vehemence. My claim to Hinduism has been rejected by some, because I believe [in] and advocate non-violence in its extreme form. They say that I am a Christian in disguise. I have been even seriously told that I am distorting the meaning of the Gita when I ascribe to that great poem the teaching of unadulterated non-violence. Some of my Hindu friends tell me that killing is a duty enjoined by the Gita undercertain circumstances. A very learned Shastri only the other day scornfully rejected my interpretation of the Gita and said that there was no warrant for the opinion held by some commentators that the Gita represented the eternal duel between forces of evil and good, and inculcated the duty of eradicating evil within us without hesitation, without tenderness. I state these opinions against non-violence in detail, because it is necessary to understand them if we would understand the solution I have to offer. What I see around me today is, therefore, a reaction against the spread of non-violence. I feel the wave of violence coming. The Hindu-Muslim tension is an acute phase of this tiredness. I must be dismissed out of consideration. My religion is a mattersolely between my Maker and myself. If I am a Hindu, I cannot cease to be one even though I may be disowned by the whole of the Hindu population. I do, however, suggest that non-violence is the end of all religions.

LIMITED NON-VIOLENCE

But I have never presented to India that extreme form of nonviolence, if only because I do not regard myself fit enough to redeliver that ancient message. Though my intellect has fully understood and grasped it, it has not as yet become part of my whole being. My strength lies in my asking people to do nothing that I have not tried repeatedly in my own life. I am then asking my countrymen today to adopt non-violence as their final creed, only for the purpose of regulating the relations between the different races, and for thepurpose of attaining swaraj. Hindus and Mussalmans, Christians, Sikhs and Parsis must not settle their differences by resort to violence, and the means for the attainment of swaraj must be non-violent. This I venture to place before India, not as a weapon of the weak, but of the strong. Hindus and Mussalmans prate about no compulsion in religion. What is it but compulsion if Hindus will kill a Mussalman for saving a cow? It is like wanting to convert a Mussalman to Hinduism by force. And similarly, what is it but compulsion if Mussalmans seek to prevent by force Hindus from playing music before mosques?Virtue lies in being absorbed in one's prayers in the presence of din and noise. We shall both be voted irreligious savages by posterity if we continue to make a futile attempt to compel one another to respect our religious wishes. Again, a nation of three hundred million people should be ashamed to have to resort to force to bring to book one hundred thousand Englishmen. To convert them or, if you will, even to drive them out of the country, we need, not force of arms, but force of will. If we have not the latter, we shall never get the former. If we develop the force of will, we shall find that we do not need the force of arms. Acceptance of non-violence, therefore, for the purposes mentioned by me, is the most natural and the most necessary condition ofour national existence. It will teach us to husband our corporate physical strength for a better purpose, instead of dissipating it, as now, in a useless fratricidal strife, in which each party is exhausted after the effort. And every armed rebellion must be an insane act unless it is backed by the nation. But almost any item of non-co-operation fully backed by the nation can achieve the aim without shedding a single drop of blood. I do not say 'eschew violence in your dealing with robbers or thieves or with nations that may invade India.' But in order that we are better able to do so, we must learn to restrain ourselves. It is a sign not of strength but of weakness to take up the pistol on the slightest pretext. Mutual fisticuffs are a training, not in violence, but in emasculation. My method of non-violence can never lead to loss ofstrength, but it alone will make it possible, if the nation wills it, to offer disciplined and concerted violence in time of danger.

NOT TRULY NON-VIOLENT

If those who believe that we were becoming supine and inert because of the training in non-violence, will but reflect a little, they will discover that we have never been non-violent in the only sense in which the word must be understood. Whilst we have refrained from causing actual physical hurt, we have harboured violence in our breast. If we had honestly regulated our thought and speech in the strictest harmony with our outward act, we would never have experienced the fatigue we are doing. Had we been true to ourselves, we wouldhave by this time evolved matchless strength of purpose and will. I have dwelt at length upon the mistaken view of non-violence, because I am sure that, if we can but revert to our faith, if we ever had any, in non-violence limited only to the two purposes above referred to, the present tension between the two communities will largely subside. For, in my opinion, an attitude of non-violence in our mutual relations is an indispensable condition prior to a discussion of the remedies for the removal of the tension. It must be common cause between the two communities that neither party shall take the law intoits own hands, but that all points in dispute, where-ever and whenever they arise, shall be decided by reference either to private arbitration, or to the law-courts if they wish. This is the whole meaning of non-violence, so far as communal matters are concerned. To put it another way, just as we do not break one another's heads in respect of civil matters, so may we not do even in respect of religious matters. This is the only pact that is immediately necessary between the parties, and I am sure that everything else will follow.

THE BULLY AND THE COWARD

Unless this elementary condition is recognized, we have no atmosphere for considering the ways and means of removing misunderstanding and arriving at an honourable, lasting settlement. But assuming that the acceptance of the elementary condition will be common cause between the two communities, let us consider the constant disturbing factors. There is no doubt in my mind that in the majority of quarrels the Hindus come out second best. My own experience but confirms the opinion that the Mussalman as a rule is a bully, and the Hindu as a rule is a coward. I have noticed this in railway trains, on public roads, and in the quarrels which I had the privilege of settling. Need the Hindu blame the Mussalman for his cowardice? Where there are cowards, there will always be bullies. They say that in Saharanpur the Mussalmans looted houses, broke opensafes and, in one case, a Hindu woman's modesty was outraged. Whose fault was this? Mussalmans can offer no defence for the execrable conduct, it is true. But I as a Hindu am more ashamed of Hindu cowardice than I am angry at the Mussalman bullying. Why did not the owners of the houses looted die in the attempt to defend their possessions? Where were the relatives of the outraged sister at the time of the outrage? Have they no account to render of themselves? My non-violence does not admit of running away from danger andleaving dear ones unprotected. Between violence and cowardly flight, I can only prefer violence to cowardice. I can no more preach nonviolence to a coward than I can tempt a blind man to enjoy healthy scenes. Non-violence is the summit of bravery. And in my own experience, I have had no difficulty in demonstrating to men trained in the school of violence the superiority of non-violence. As a coward, which I was for years, I harboured violence. I began to prize non-violence only when I began to shed cowardice. Those Hindus who ranaway from the post of duty when it was attended with danger did so not because they were non-violent, or because they were afraid to strike, but because they were unwilling to die or even suffer any injury. A rabbit that runs away from the bull-terrier is not particularly non-violent. The poor thing trembles at the sight of the terrier and runs for very life. Those Hindus who ran away to save their lives would have been truly non-violent and would have covered themselves with glory and added lustre to their faith and won the friendship oftheir Mussalman assailants, if they had stood bare breast with smiles on their lips, and died at their post. They would have done less well, though still well, if they had stood at their post and returned blow for blow. If the Hindus wish to convert the Mussalman bully into a respecting friend, they have to learn to die in the face of the heaviest odds.

THE WAY

The way however does not lie through akhadas—not that I mind them. On the contrary, I want them for physical culture. Then they should be for all. But, if they are meant as a preparation forselfdefence in the Hindu-Mussalman conflicts, they are fore-doomed to failure. Mussalmans can play the same game and such preparations secret or open do but cause suspicion and irritation. They can provide no present remedy. It is for the thoughtful few to make quarrels impossible by making arbitration popular and obligatory.The remedy against cowardice is not physical culture but the braving of dangers. So long as parents of the middle-class Hindus, themselves timid, continue to transmit their timidity by keeping their grown-up children in cotton wool, so long will there be the desire to shun danger and run no risks. They will have to dare to leave their children alone, let them run risks and even, at times, get killed in so doing. The puniest individual may have a stout heart. The most muscular Zulus cower before English lads. Each village has to find out its stout hearts.

THE "GOONDAS"

It is a mistake to blame the goondas1. They never do mischief unless we create an atmosphere for them. I was eye witness to what happened in Bombay on the Prince's day in 1921.We sowed the seed and the goondas reaped the harvest. Our men were at their back. I have no hesitation in holding the respectable Mussalmans (not all in any single case) responsible for the misdeeds in Multan, Saharanpur and elsewhere, as I have none in holding respectable Hindus responsible for the misdeeds in Katarpur and Arrah. If it is true that at Palwal we have prevented the erection of a pukka mosque in the place of akachcha one, it is not the goondas who arc doing it, it is the respectable Hindus who must be held accountable. We must resolutely discountenance the practice of absolving the respectable class from blame. Therefore, I hold that Hindus will commit a grave blunder if they organize Hindu goondas for defence. From the frying pan they will jump into the fire. The Bania and the Brahmin must learn to defend himself even violently, if not non-violently, or surrender his womenfolk and possessions to the goondas. They are a class apart, whether they are labelled Mussalman or Hindu. It was said with gusto that, protected by untouchables (for they feared not death) a Hindu procession (playing triumphant music) quite recently passed a mosque unhurt. It is a very mundane use to make of a sacred cause. Such exploitation of our untouchable brothers can serve neither Hinduism in general nor the suppressed classes in particular. A few processions so doubtfully protected may pass a few mosques safely. But it can only aggravate the growing tension, and degrade Hinduism. The middle-class people must be prepared for a beating if they wish to play music in the teeth of opposition, or they must befriend Mussalmans in a self-respecting manner.The Hindus have to do penance for the past and still continuing disabilities imposed by them upon the suppressed brothers. There can be no question of expecting any return from them for a debt we owe them. If we use them to cover our cowardice, we shall raise in them false hopes we shall never be able to fulfil, and if the retribution comes, it will be a just punishment for our inhuman treatment of them. If I have any influence with Hindus, I would beseech them not to use them as a shield against anticipated Mussalman attack.

GROWING DISTRUST

Another potent cause of the tension is the growing distrust even among the best of us. I have been warned against Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviyaji. He is suspected of secret motives. It is said that he is no friend of the Mussalmans. He is even credited with being jealous of my influence. I have the privilege of knowing him intimately ever since my return to India in 1915. I have had the privilege of closest communion with him. I regard him as one of the best among Hindus who, though orthodox, holds most liberal views. He is no enemy of Mussalmans. He is incapable of jealousy of anyone. He has a heart large enough to accommodate even his enemies. He has never aimed at power. And what he has is due to a long period of unbroken service of the motherland, such as very few of us can boast. He and I are temperamentally different, but-love each other like brothers. There never has been even so much as a jar between us. Our ways being different, there can be no question of rivalry, therefore, of jealousyeither. Another one distrusted is Lala Lajpat Rai. I have found him to be frank as a child. His record of sacrifice is almost unequalled. I have had not one but many a chat on the Hindu-Muslim question with him. He is no enemy of the Mussalmans. But I confess that he has his doubts about the immediate attainment of unity. He is seeking light from on High. He believes in that unity in spite of himself because, as he told me, he believes in swaraj. He recognizes that without that unity there can be no swaraj. He only does not know how and when it can be attained. He likes my solution, but he doubts if the Hindus will understand and appreciate its nobility (as he calls it). Let me say in passing I do not call my solution noble. I hold it to be strictly just and the only feasible solution. Swami Shraddhanandji is also distrusted. His speeches, I know, are often irritating. But even he wants Hindu-Muslim unity. Unfortunately, he believes in the possibility of bringing every Muslim into theAryan fold, just as perhaps most Mussalmans think that every non-Muslim will some day become a convert to. Islam. Shraddhanandji is intrepid and brave. Single-handed he turned a wilderness into a magnificent boarding college on the banks of the sacred Ganges. He has faith in himself and his mission. But he is hasty and easily ruffled. He inherits the traditions of the Arya Samaj. I have profound respect for Dayanand Saraswati1. I think that he has rendered great service to Hinduism. His bravery was unquestioned. But he made his Hinduismnarrow. I have read Satyarth Prakash, the Arya Samaj Bible. Friends sent me three copies of it whilst I was resting in the Yeravda Jail. I have not read a more disappointing book from a reformer so great. He has claimed to stand for truth and nothing else. But he has unconsciously misrepresented Jainism, Islam, Christianity and Hinduism itself. One having even a cursory acquaintance with these faiths could easily discover the errors into which the great reformer was betrayed. He has tried to make narrow one of the most tolerant and liberal ofthe faiths on the face of the earth. And an iconoclast though he was, he has succeeded in enthroning idolatry in the subtlest form. For he has idolized the letter of the Vedas and tried to prove the existence in the Vedas of everything known to science. The Arya Samaj flourishes, in my humble opinion, not because of the inherent merit of the teachings of Satyarth Prakash, but because of the grand and lofty character of the founder. Wherever you find Arya Samajists, there is life and energy. But, having the narrow outlook and a pugnacious habit, they either quarrel with people of other denominations or failing that, with one another. Shraddhanandji has a fair share of that spirit. But, in spite of all these drawbacks, I do not regard him as past praying for. It is possible that this sketch of the Arya Samaj and the Swamiji will anger them. Needless to say, I mean no offence. I love the Samajists, for I have many co-workers from among them. And I learnt to love the Swamiji, even while I was in South Africa. And though I know him better now, I love him no less. It is my love that has spoken. The last among the Hindus against whom I have been warned are Jeramdas and Dr. Choithram. I swear by Jeramdas. Truer men I have not had the honour of meeting. His conduct in the jail was the envy of us all. He was true to a fault. He is not anti-Mussalman. Dr. Choithram, though I began to know him earlier, I do not know so well. But from what I do know of him, I decline to think of him as anything but a promoter of Hindu-Muslim unity. I have by no means exhausted the list. All I feel is that, if all these Hindus and Samajistshave still to be won over to the side of unity, the word unity has no meaning for me. And I should despair of achieving unity in my lifetime.

BARI SAHEB

But the suspicion against these friends is not its worst part. I have been warned against Mussalmans just as much as I have been warned against Hindus. Let me take only three names. Maulana Abdul Bari Saheb1 has been represented to me as an anti-Hindu fanatic. I have been shown some writings of his which I do not understand. I have not even worried him about them. For, he is a simple child of God. I have discovered no guile in him. He often speaks without thinking and often embarrasses his best friends. But he is as quick to apologize as he is ready to say things offensive. He means all he says for the time being. He is as sincere in his anger as he is in his apology. He once flared up at Maulana Mahomed Ali without just cause. I was then his guest. He thought he had said something offensive to me also. Maulana Mahomed Ali and I were just then leaving his place to entrain for Cawnpore. After our departure, he felt he had wronged us. He had certainly wronged Maulana Mahomed Ali, not me. But he sent a deputation to us at Cawnpore asking us to forgive him. He rose in my estimation by this act. I admit, however, that the Maulana Sahebcan become a dangerous friend. But my point is that he is a friend. He does not say one thing and mean another. There are no mental reservations with him. I would trust such a friend with my life, because I know that he will never stab me in the dark.

THE ALI BROTHERS

A similar warning has been given to me about the Ali Brothers, Maulana Shaukat Ali2 is one of the bravest of men, capable of immense sacrifice and equally capable of loving the meanest of God's creatures. He is passionately fond of Islam, but he is no hater of other religions. Mahomed Ali is his brother's alter ego. I have not seen such implicit faithfulness to an elder brother as in Maulana Mahomed Ali. He has reasoned out for himself that there is no salvation for India without Hindu-Muslim unity. Their pan-Islam ism is not anti-Hindu. Who shall quarrel with their intense desire to see Islam united against attack from without and purified from within? One passage in Maulana Mahomed Ali's Cocanada address was pointed out to me as highly objectionable. I drew his attention to it. He immediately acknowledged that it was an error. Friends have told me there is something to object to even in Maulana Shaukat Ali's address to the Khilafat Conference. I have the address by me, but I have not hadtime to study it. I know that, if there is anything offensive in it, he is the man the readiest to make amends. The Brothers are not faultless. Being full of faults myself, I have not hesitated to seek and cherish their friendship. If they have some faults, they have many virtues. And I love them in spite of their faults. Just as I cannot forsake the Hindu friends I have mentioned above and effectively work among Hindus for Hindu-Muslim unity, neither can I work to that end among the Mussalmans without the Mussalman friends, such as I have mentioned. If so many of us were perfect beings, there would be no quarrels.Imperfect as we are, we have to discover points of contact and, with faith in God, work away for the common end. In order to purify the atmosphere of distrust of even the best of us, I had to deal with some of the principal characters. I may not have convinced the reader of the correctness of my estimate. Anyway, it was necessary that he knew mine even if his was different from it.

ILLUSTRATION FROM SIND

This intense distrust makes it almost impossible to know the truth. I have received from Dr. Choithram the alleged facts of an attempted forcible conversion of a Hindu in Sind. The man is said to have been done to death by his Mussalman companions because he will not accept Islam. The facts are ghastly if they are true. I straightway wired to Sheth Haji Abdulla Harun inquiring about the matter. He very kindly and promptly wired to say that it was reported to be a case of suicide, but that he was making further inquiries. I hope that we shall succeed in knowing the truth about it. I simply point out the difficulty of work in the midst of suspicion. There is one other Sind incident which I hesitate to report till I have fuller and more authentic particulars. I simply beseech those who hear about any such incidents, whether against Hindus or Mussalmans, to keep themselves cool and pass on simply facts which can be sustained. I promise on my part to inquire into the most trifling of cases and do whatever is possible for a single individual to do. Before long, I hope, we shall have an army of workers whose one business will be to investigate all such complaints and do whatever is necessary to see that justice is satisfied and cases for future trouble are avoided.

FROM BENGAL

The tales that are reported from Bengal of outrages upon Hindu women are the most disquieting if they are even half true. It is difficult to understand the cause of the eruption of such crimes at the present moment. It is equally difficult to speak with restraint of the cowardice of Hindu protectors of these outraged sisters. Nor is it easy to characterise the lust of those who become so mad with it as to take liberties with innocent women. It is up to the local Mussalmans and the leading Mussalmans in general of Bengal to find out the miscreants, not necessarily with a view to getting them punished, but witha view to preventing a recurrence of such crimes. It is easy enough to dig out a few criminals from their hiding places and hand them over to the police, but it does not protect society against the repetition of them. It is necessary to remove the causes by under-taking a thorough process of reform. There must arise in Islam as well as in Hinduism men who, being comparatively pure in character, would work among such men. Much the same may be said of the Kabuli terror.1 This has no bearing on the Hindu-Muslim tension. But we have to deal with such cases, too, if we are not to be helplessly relying purely upon the police.

"SHUDDHI" AND "TABLIGH"

That, however, which is keeping up the tension is the manner in which the shuddhi or conversion movement is being conducted. In my opinion, there is no such thing as proselytism in Hinduism as it is understood in Christianity or to a lesser extent in Islam. The Arya Samaj has, I think, copied the Christians in planning its propaganda. The modern method does not appeal to me. It has done more harm than good. Though regarded as a matter of the heart purely and onebetween the Maker and oneself, it has degenerated into an appeal to the selfish instinct. The Arya Samaj preacher is never so happy as when he is reviling other religions. My Hindu instinct tells me that all religions are more or less true. All proceed from the same God, but all are imperfect because they have come down to us through imperfect human instrumentality. The real shuddhi movement should consist in each one trying to arrive at perfection in his or her own faith. In such a plan character would be the only test. What is the use of crossing from one compartment to another, if it does not mean a moral rise?What is the meaning of my trying to convert to the service of God (for that must be the implication of shuddhi or tablish, when those who are in my fold are every day denying God by their actions? "Physician, heal thyself" is more true in matters religious than mundane. But these are my views. If the Arya Samajists think that they have a call from the conscience, they have a perfect right to conduct the movement. Such a burning call recognizes no time limit, no checks of experience. If Hindu-Muslim unity is endangered because an AryaSamaj preacher or Mussalman preacher preaches his faith in obedience to a call from within, that unity is only skin-deep. Why should we be ruffled by such movements? Only they must be genuine. If the Malkanas wanted to return to the Hindu fold, they had a perfect right to do so whenever they liked. But no propaganda can be allowed which reviles other religions. For that would be negation of toleration. The best way of dealing with such propaganda is to publicly condemn it. Every movement attempts to put on the cloak of respectability. As soon as the public tear that cloak down, it dies for want of respectability. I am told that both Arya Samajists and Mussalmans virtuallykidnap women and try to convert them. I have before me volumes of Aga-Khani literature which I have not yet had the time to study carefully, but I am assured that it is a distortion of Hinduism. I have seen enough of it to know that it describes H.H. the Aga Khan as a Hindu avatar. It would be interesting to learn what the Aga Khan himself thinks of all this literature. I have many Khoja friends. I commend this literature to their attention. A gentleman told me that some agents of the Aga-Khani movement lend money to poor illiterate Hindus and then tell them that the debt would be wiped out if the debtor would accept Islam. I would regard this as conversion by unlawful inducements. But the worst form is that preached by a gentleman of Delhi. I have read his pamphlet from cover to cover. It gives detailed instructions to preachers how to carry on propaganda. It starts with a lofty proposition that Islam is merely preaching of the unity of God. This grand truth is to be preached, according to the writer, by every Mussalman irrespective of character. A secret departmentof spies is advocated whose one business is to be to pry into the privacy of non-Muslim households. Prostitutes, professional singers, mendicants, Government servants, lawyers, doctors, artisans are pressed into the service. If this kind of propaganda becomes popular, no Hindu household would be safe from the secret attention of disguised misinterpreters (I cannot call them missionaries) of the great message of the Prophet of Islam. I am told by respectable Hindus that this pamphlet is widely read in the Nizam's dominions and that the methods advocated in it are extensively practised in the Nizam'sdominions. As a Hindu I feel sorry that methods of such doubtful moralityshould have been seriously advocated by a gentleman who is a wellknown Urdu author and has a large circle of I readers. My Mussalman friends tell me that no respectable Mussalman approves of the methods advocated. The point, however, is not what the respectable Mussalmans think. The point is whether a considerable number of Mussalman masses accept and follow them. A portion of the Punjab Press is simply scurrilous. It is at times even filthy. I have gonethrough the torture of reading many extracts. These sheets are conducted by Arya Samajists or Hindu and Mussalman writers. Each vies with the other in using abusive language and reviling the religion of the opponent. These papers have, I understand, a fairly large circulation. They find place even in respectable reading-rooms. I have heard it said that the Government emissaries are at the back of this campaign of calumny. I hesitate to believe it. But evenassuming the truth of it, the public of the Punjab should be able to cope with the growing disgrace. I think I have now examined all the causes, both original and continuing, of the tension between the two communities. It is now timeto examine the treatment of two constant causes of friction.

COW-SLAUGHTER

The first is cow-slaughter. Though I regard cow-protection as the central fact of Hinduism, central because it is common to classes as well as masses, I have never been able to understand the antipathy towards the Mussalmans on that score. We say nothing about the slaughter that daily takes place on behalf of Englishmen. Our anger becomes red-hot when a Mussalman slaughters a cow. All the riots that have taken place in the name of the cow have been department aninsane waste of effort. They have not saved a single cow, department but they have on the contrary stiffened the backs of the Mussalmans and resulted in more slaughter. I am satisfied that, during 1921 more cows were saved through the voluntary and generous effort of the Mussalmans than through the Hindu effort during all the previous twenty years (say). Cow-protection should commence with ourselves. In no part of the world, perhaps, are cattle worse treated than in India. I have wept to see Hindu drivers goading their jaded oxen with theiron point of their cruel sticks. The half-starved condition of the majority of our cattle is a disgrace to us. The cows find their neck under the butcher's knife because Hindus sell them. The only effective and honourable way is to befriend the Mussalmans and leave it to their honour to save the cow. Cow-protection societies must turn their attention to the feeding of cattle, prevention of cruelty, preservation of the fast disappearing pasture land, improving the breed of cattle, buying from poor shepherds and turning pinjrapoles into model self-supporting dairies. Hindus do sin against God and man when they omit to do any of the things I have described above. Theycommit no sin, if they cannot prevent cow-slaughter at the hands of Mussalmans, and they do sin grievously when, in order to save the cow, they quarrel with the Mussalmans.

MUSIC

The question of music before mosques and, now, even arati in Hindu temples, has occupied my prayerful attention. This is a sore point with the Mussalmans as cow-slaughter is with the Hindus. And just as Hindus cannot compel Mussalmans to refrain from killing cows, so can Mussalmans not compel Hindus to stop music or arati at the point of the sword. They must trust to the good sense of theHindus. As a Hindu, I would certainly advise Hindus, without any bargaining spirit, to consult the sentiment of their Mussalman neighbour, and wherever they can, accommodate him. I have heard that, in some places, Hindus purposely, and with the deliberate intention of irritating Mussalmans, perform arati just when the Mussalman prayers commence. This is an insensate and unfriendly act. Friendship presupposes the utmost attention to the feelings of a friend. It never requires consideration. But Mussalmans should never expect to stop Hindu music by force. To yield to the threat or actual use of violence is a surrender of one's self-respect and religious conviction. But a person, who never will yield to threat, would always minimise and, if possible, even avoid occasions for causing irritation.

PACT

In view of what I have said above, it is clear that we have not even arrived at the stage when a pact is even a possibility. There can be, it is clear to me, no question of bargain about cow-slaughter and music. On either side it must be a voluntary effort and, therefore, can never be the basis of a pact.For political matters, a pact or an understanding is certainly necessary. But, in my opinion, the restoration of friendly feeling is a condition precedent to any effectual pact. Are both parties sincerely willing to accept the proposition that no disputes, religious or otherwise, between the communities should ever be decided by an appeal to force, i.e., violence ? I am convinced that the masses do not want to fight, if the leaders do not. If, therefore, the leaders agree that mutual rows should be as in all advanced countries, erased out of our public life as being barbarous and irreligious, I have no doubt that the masses will quickly follow them. So far as the political matters are concerned, as a non-cooperator I am quite uninterested in them; but, for the future understanding, I hold that it is up to the Hindus as the major party not to bargain, but leave the pen in the hands of, say, Hakim Saheb Ajmal Khan and abide by his decision. I would similarly deal with the Sikhs, the Christians and the Parsis and be satisfied with the residue. It is, in my opinion, the only just, equitable, honourable and dignified solution. Hindus, if they want unity among different races, must have the courage to trust the minorities. Any other adjustment must have a nasty taste in the mouth. Surely the millions do not want to become legislators and municipal councillors. And if we have understood the proper use of satyagraha, we should know that it can be and should be used against an unjust administrator whether he be a Hindu, Mussalmanor of any other race or denomination, whereas a just administrator or representative is always and equally good, whether he be a Hindu or a Mussalman. We want to do away with the communal spirit. The majority must, therefore, snake the beginning and thus inspire the minorities with confidence in their bona fides. Adjustment is possible only when the more powerful take the initiative without waiting for response from the weaker. So far as employment in the Government departments is concerned, I think it will be fatal to good governments if we introduce there the communal spirit. For administration to be efficient, it must always be in the hands of the fittest. There should be certainly no favouritism. But, if we want five engineers, we must not take one from each community, but we must take the fittest five even if they were all Mussalmans or all Parsis. The lowest posts must, if need be, be filled by examination by an impartial board consisting of men belonging todifferent communities. But, distribution of posts should never be according to the proportion of the numbers of each community. The educationally backward communities will have a right to receive favoured treatment in the matter of education at the hands of the national government. This can be secured in an effective manner. But those who aspire to occupy responsible posts in the Government of the country can only do so if they pass the required test.

TRUST BEGETS TRUST

For me the only question for immediate solution before the country is the Hindu-Mussalman question. I agree with Mr. Jinnah that Hindu-Muslim unity means swaraj. I see no way of achieving anything in this afflicted country without a lasting heart unity between Hindus and Mussalmans of India. I believe in the immediate possibility of achieving it, because it is so natural, so necessary for both, and because I believe in human nature. Mussalmans may have muchto answer for. I have come in closest touch with even what may be considered a "bad lot". I cannot recall a single occasion when I had to regret it. The Mussalmans are brave, they are generous and trusting the moment their suspicion is disarmed. Hindus, living as they do in glass houses, have no right to throw stones at their Mussalman neighbours. See what we have done, are still doing, to the suppressed classes! If 'Kaffir' is a term of opprobrium, how much more so is Chandal? In the history of the world religions there is perhaps nothing like our treatment of the suppressed classes. The pity of it is that the treatment still continues. What a fight in Vaikom for a most elementary human right!1 God does not punish directly; His ways are inscrutable. Who knows that all our woes are not due to that one black sin? The history of Islam, if it betrays aberrations from the moral height, has many a brilliant page. In its glorious days it was not intolerant. It commanded the admiration of the world. When the West was sunk in darkness, a bright star rose in the Eastern firmament and gave light and comfort to a groaning world. Islam is not a false religion.Let Hindus study it reverently and they will love it even as I do. If it has become gross and fanatical here, let us admit that we have had no small share in making it so. If Hindus set their house in order, I have not a shadow of doubt that Islam will respond in a manner worthy of its liberal traditions. The key to the situation lies with the Hindus. We must shed timidity or cowardice. We must be brave enough to trust, all will be well. The readers of Young India will pardon me for devoting practically the whole of Young India to the question of Hindu-Muslim unity. He will readily do so if he holds with me that there is no question more important and more pressing than this. In my opinion,it blocks all progress. I therefore invite the reader to peruse the statement most carefully and favour me with views or information (not necessarily for publication) that may throw additional light on the question or correct any errors of fact or opinion.

Young India, 29-5-1924

1 comment:

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