There is news that in UK, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has unveiled (17/10/2020) 50 Pence 'Diversity coin’ to celebrate Britain’s diverse history and recognise the profound contribution minority communities have made to the shared history of the country. The coin carries the message “Diversity Built Britain”. This is in the backdrop of the campaign led by ‘We too built Britain’ group. The release of the coin is the beginning of the series which will honour the country’s ethnic minorities. There can be a detailed elaboration as to how different ethnic minorities have lived and made Britain their home. A significant number of these are from South Asia, including India.

The real import of this is the backdrop of the thesis of ‘Clash of civilizations’ by Samuel Huntington, as per which the present era is the one where after the collapse of socialist Soviet union, the clash is along the lines of civilizations. Different religions will be in conflict as per this thesis. "It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new World will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict, will be that the cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world Affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between Nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future."

This theory dominated the global scene particularly in the aftermath of 9/11 attack on World Trade Centre. Osama bin Laden called 9/11 jihad and George Bush launching the attack on Afghanistan used the word Crusade, while Tony Blair, the then UK PM, attributed ‘divine reasons’ for the attacks on the countries of West Asia.

This theory did provide an ideological cover for the attacks on different countries by US and allies. It was primarily driven by lust for control over oil resources. The ‘Clash theory’ provided cover for the violations done by American axis always out to control global resources, earlier in form of direct colonization and now as imperialist forces, influencing global economy with an eye on oil resources. At ideological level the best response to this thesis came from the then President of India, Dr K.R. Narayanan, who stated that ‘civilizations don’t clash, it is barbarisms which clash’.

The United Nation at that time was led by Kofi Annan, who was the General Secretary. He went on to appoint a high level international committee, cutting across different religions and nations to come up with an understanding of the world today and to recommend the measures to restore the amity of civilizations, cultures and people of the of the World. The report (Mid Nov2006) (http://www.unaoc.org/repository/report.htm) is a landmark in more ways than one.This committee came out with a brilliant document, ‘Alliance of Civilizations’.

There is not much awareness about this global study, which aptly describes the role of migrations, building of nations by diverse communities through alliances at multiple levels.

Talking of India, diversity has been the hall mark of this society from long. Christianity entered India, right in first century. Already different religious traditions, Jainism Buddhism were present here. Islam came in 7-8 Century from Malabar Coast through Arab traders and later many of those who were victims of Varna-Caste system embraced Islam through Sufi saints. The Muslim invaders coming from North West were more for reasons related to power and wealth. Buddhism had spread in various South East Asian countries. Indians also migrated to different parts of the World mostly for economic purpose, employment or greener pastures. UK has abundant number of them, Similarly America and Canada, now Australia has lot of migrants from India. Earlier many Indians did migrate to Caribbean’s, Mauritius, and Ceylon among other places.

The migrating communities have no monolithic approach in the countries of their migration. Most of them do maintain their nostalgia for the country of their origin, while relating to the societies of their migration in different ways. Today you will see a large numbers of Indians in West Asia, particularly in Gulf region. Here in India the sectarian elements uphold the Non Resident Indian’s nostalgia for India, they also look down upon minorities (Muslims and Christians) as foreigners. There is an infinite diversity within the Hindu fold itself. Indian culture has been a total mix of diverse sections of society, each contributing in their unique ways. All our Literature, Art, Architecture is a mix of contributions from multiple streams.

India’s diversity has been multi-factorial and at different layers. Different communities have been living and celebrating this diversity. Religious festivals have been one of the strong platforms for community interactions. In the area of religions Bhakti and Sufi traditions have upheld the diversity. While ‘melting pot model’ of cultural integration does apply partly, the main expression of diversity has been a ‘salad bowl’ model where different components are visible and still are thick part of the whole. Our literature for example not only mirrors the reality of society, it also tells us the diversity which has been prevailing here. We can learn this from so many literary giants and see this diversity of our culture. The same diversity formed the base of freedom movement of India, which gave space to each of these components of diversity.

In contrast to those who were part of national movement, the communal streams went for monolithic concepts, like ‘Urdu-Muslim-Pakistan’ and matching ‘Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan’. The leasers of freedom movement went on to uphold this diversity as a strength to coin phrases like ‘Unity in Diversity’. One of the paramount leaders of freedom Movement, Jawaharlal Nehru, went on to express the same as a celebration in his magnum opus, ‘Discovery of India’.

Today we do need to learn from the UK example where role of minorities is recognised, appreciated and upheld. One needs to give the similar acceptance for diversity, to pave the path of peace and progress.

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED

A Year ago, RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat had stated (October 10, 2019) that Indian Muslims are happiest in the World due to Hindus. Now he goes on to say that most content Muslims are only in India. Not content with that he went on to state that “if there is any example world over wherein a foreign religion that ruled over the people of a country still exists there”, it is here in India. And further “"Our Constitution did not say that only Hindus can stay here; hereafter only Hindus will be heard here; if you want to stay here, then you have to accept the superiority of Hindus. We created a space for them. This is the nature of our nation, and that inherent nature is called Hindu". Wearing the hat of a historian he stated that many a Muslims fought for Rana Pratap against Akbar, exemplifying that people of all faiths stood together whenever there was an attack on India’s culture.  He labeled Ram Temple is a symbol of national values and character.

Most of these formulations are a ploy to deflect the criticism which RSS, as the patriarch of Hindu Communalism is facing currently, at home and also internationally. The plight of Muslims has been deteriorating at rapid pace during last few decades. Adding on to the violence against them in the wake of Rath yatras for Ram Temple, the mob lynching’s in the name of cow-beef, the social intimidations in the name of love jihad, ghar Wapasi have peaked during last few years. The cumulative intimidation of Muslim community did find its expression in the most democratic Shaheen bagh movement. The violence that took place in the aftermath saw the heavy loss of Muslim lives and great damage to their properties and holy places. The image of communalism as tormentor of weaker sections of society is going up, so probably Mr. Bhagwat is quoting Indian Constitution, which most leaders from his Parivar decry, criticize and call it as being unsuitable for India as it is based on foreign values. On the contrary Shaheen bagh movement showed the peak respect for the same when ‘Preamble of Indian Constitution’ formed its core slogan and ideology.

Undoubtedly, Indian Constitution wants a plural democratic India while RSS parivar wants a Hindu nation. For Indian Constitution religions are not foreign or native, they are universal and we have a full freedom to practice, preach and propagate our religion, we also have a freedom not to adhere to any religion.

The RSS Sarsanghchalak probably does not know that nationalism and religion were separate in the scheme of freedom movement of India where people from different religions and atheists participated with equal zest in fighting against the British rule. He may be unaware that in South East Asian countries the major religion is Buddhism, which originated in this land but is the major religion in those countries.

The communal view of History has been the mainstay of his organization, rather his Parivar’s politics. When he says that even Muslims participated in battle against Akbar, to save the Indian culture, he is taking the distortion of History to further level. In what way did Rana Pratap represent Indian culture? He was a King of Mewar. In what way the battle between Akbar and Rana Pratap was for Indian culture. Akbar, for that matter most of the Muslim kings, who ruled here, became the part of this land. Akbar in particular was for multi-faith society, that’s why he conceptualized Sulh-E-Kul (Harmony among religions). And as Muslim Hakim Khan Sur was part of Rana Pratap’s army (saving Indian culture!), so was Raja Mansingh leading the forces of Akbar! Quiet a garbled up exercise to project Rana Pratap as symbolizing Indian culture, forgetting Raja Mansing was leading forces from opposite side.

So far RSS history has been presenting Rana Pratap and Shivaji as heroes of Hindu nationalism, now probably they have learnt that both these warriors had Muslims in their army and similarly their rival Muslim Kings had Hindus also on their side. These battles have nothing to do as being for and against Indian culture. As such Indian culture flourished during this period leading Jawaharlal Nehru to call this as ‘Ganga Jamani Tehjeeb’ (Syncretism, pluralism at peak). The peak of this was Bhakti and Sufi traditions, which focused on humane aspects of life.

As far as Ram Temple being the symbol of national values and culture, we should recall Bhimrao Ambedkar’s ‘Riddles of Rama and Krishna’, where Ambedkar and later Periyar criticize the Lord for killing a Shudra Shambuk, when he was doing penance, killed Bali from behind and banished his pregnant wife Sita on mere suspicion. Symbol of Indian nationalism is freedom movement and Indian Constitution.

Indian Constitution gives equal citizenship rights to people of all religions, ethnicities, regions and languages. The problem is that communalism regards this as a Hindu nation and so Muslims and Christians are regarded as foreigners.  Accordingly earlier Sarsanghchalak M.S. Golwalkar in his book, ‘Bunch of thoughts’; calls them internal threat to the nation.

To call that Indian Muslims are happiest in the World due to Hindus or they are most content in the World, must a joke. In the light of the rising violence against them, the rising ghettoisation of the community and their declining political representation tells another tale. To cap it; now a section of media, which is part of the communal project, is coining words like Corona Jihad, Corona bomb and the last in the series is from Sudarshan Channel, which sees four odd percent successful Muslim candidates as Jamia Jihadis and others with them as a part of planned jihad to take over civil services!

Such statements like Indian Muslims are most content or happiest is like rubbing salt on the wounds of a besieged community, which is trying its best to live the values of Indian Constitution as witnessed during Shaheen bagh movement.

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED