This is the response I received from one of the readers of this blog. I feel it is necessary to respond to some of the points raised--my correspondent has chosen to put together several issues in an effort to express his ideas:
Just one thing I would like to disagree with and definitely what I will say is not politically correct but its the truth nevertheless and I fear that in trying to be politically correct we are edging towards loosing our freedom in our own country. My point is regarding the parallel you have drawn between Taslima Nasreen and Maqbool Fida Hussain and would like you to note that both are extremely different situations which cannot be compared.
Maqbool Fida Hussain depicted Mother India and the Goddesses of the Hindu Religion as Naked Women in obscene postures and both Mother India and The Goddesses are of objects of worship and reverence. Now its important to note that though freedom of expression should be permitted but where do we draw the line, even rape is an expression, so should we allow rape or murder or stealing? Religion, you must understand, is a very personal phenomenon and nobody has the right to to humiliate some one's personal sentiments, wouldn't you agree? Maybe you didn't mind your godesses and country being portrayed as a Naked Woman but others did, so are they wrong? If Maqbool Fida Husain or anyone were to depict your family in a manner which you found obscene what would you do? And what would you do if others would say he did no wrong? How would you feel? What would Madhuri say if he drew her naked sitting on someone lap? It was only right that the Hindu's protested and they should not be called fundamentalists because they rose in defence of what they perceived was a degradation of their faith & country by someone who does not even belong to the Hindu Religion and I don't believe that branding them as fundamentalists is the correct thing to do or even comparing them to Islamic Fundamentalists who kill innocent men, women and children and who behead people like goats.
Now if you take into notice Tasleema Nasreen and what she did you will realize how different both situations are. Tasleema wrote about the atrocities committed by a Majority Muslim Community in Bangladesh on the Hindu Minority & women in general. These atrocities involved, denial of voting rights, denial of civic amenities, abduction and rape of Hindu women and murder of Hindu men apart from conversions. Case in point being that when Bangladesh was formed it contained a population of 30% Hindus today the Hindu Population in Bangladesh is less than 10%. Why and How did this happen. The Muslim population in India rose from 5% to almost 30% today. Tasleema wrote about Fundamentalist Islam and the human rights violation of the Hindu people in bangladesh and she herself was a Muslim., so did she do a wrong thing? This is what she is being hounded for today by Muslims, for speaking the truth. Now you tell me is there any similarity between the two situations as is made out to be.
Now getting back to Fundamentalism, it is important for you to understand that Hindu's are not Fundamentalists by Nature and neither does their religion preach them to be fundamentalists but it also doesn't teach them to take everything lying down. Islam on the other hand can be quite Fundamentalist in its approach towards non-Muslims, which clearly explains the Jaziya tax and other laws which were enforced on the Hindus during Islamic Rule in India. Another Case in point being that Islamic Terrorism and Islamic Fundamentalism is not an Indian Centric phenomenon, born because of Hindu Extremists as it is made out to be by our politicians and media, instead it is a Global Menace which plagues every Country, be it the European Union, the United Kingdom, the USA , Russia or any other part of the world but these nations have recognized the threat and implemented stringent laws. But why has our Nation not woken up to this threat. The answer is simple, This is no Hindu-Muslim issue, this is vote bank politics which plagues our Nation. And the Hindu people are the silent victims.
Christians continue to proliferate on our soil and continue to carry out mass conversions but when Hindu organizations speak out against it, they are branded as Fundamentalists, so who is the real fundamentalist, those who protest or those who convert?
Thousands of Hindu people have died in terrorists attacks and continue to die. Hindu Temples, place of Pilgrimage, Festivals are all targets of Islamic Fundamentalists. What happened in kashmir, who speaks about the displaced Hindus or about Hindus in others areas of India who are living in a Muslim Majority. Or who takes interviews of Hindu families who have lost loved ones in terror strikes, nobody. Everybody talks about the Babri Masjid demolition as a shame but none speaks of the countless temples and homes of Hindus destroyed in Kashmir. We continue to talk about peace and love with Pakistan and many Pakis enjoy their lives in India but how many Indian enjoy theirs in Pakistan, this entire equation is quite one sided which is why its not working out. We welcome Pakis and choose to forget the extreme number of deaths these very Pakistanis have inflicted upon India and Indians and continue to do so.
Is the sacrifice of those people in vain? Or are we so selfish that we have forgotten the blood of our ancestors, of Martyrs, which has spilled on Indian soil so that one day we could enjoy our freedom since the advent of the Mughals. So many Hindu women committed Johar, why? have we forgotten their blood. So many brave men died on the battle field defending their land and their religion , have we forgotten them today?
Have you ever thought why India, great and glorious India, the golden bird, center of knowledge and learning which contained two of the greatest International Universities, Taxaxila and Nalanda, which gave the education system to the world, where no one was poor, where women were free and where gandharva vivah originated, once a strong great and proud nation, was reduced to the pitiful condition we are witness to today. Do you think it was only the 150-200 years of british rule which did this. Nay the degeneration of India Started much before, since the advent of the mughals, destruction of our temples, our places of learning, our universities and our entire way of life was crushed by the Mughal invaders and this oppression continued for 700 years. Over 1400 generations of slavery. Imagene what the Taliban did in Afghanistan in the 21st century, imagine what happened in India over 1000 years ago? Imagine? Then ask yourself , what have you done to repay the debt which you carry in your blood, the debt of the blood of your forefathers who died defending your faith & your lands. What have you done for your people who continue to die even today, simply because they are stupid and their government doesn't care. Do you repay this debt by defending the likes of Maqbool Fida Hussain?
In Northern Indian there are hardly any Hindu Historical Monuments, why? Why is the Sun Temple of Konark not in the list of world heritage sites, which is a much older and has a much more brilliant architecture than either the Taj, or Humauns Tomb or the Qutub Minar all of which are in that list from India. The Qutub Minar, being built by the rubble of destroyed Hindu temples and this is written in the Encyclopedia and is not false propaganda. I think we have taken this level of freedom, love and brotherhood too far, be slapped on one cheek and turn the other. We will not survive like this and neither will our freedom or our religion.
Geelani, convicted of Masterminding the Parliament attack was sentenced to death by the Supreme court a year back, why has his hanging been stalled by the Govt of India, the answer is simple, Vote Bank Politics. The Muslims are a united and thus a consolidated vote bank, the Hindus though, a fast depleting majority, are divided on caste lines and thus not really a Majority which clearly explains the pandering of Muslims by political parties in our country because being united they are a bigger vote bank.
And they make the Hindus believe through media that nothing is wrong and that its all our fault because if the Hindus see the truth then these political parties will no longer have a free day. This pandering is a dangerous trend because it will in the future become the cause of a lot of strife.
There should be a single law applicable to all the people, why have different law for Hindus and different for Muslims and others. Why this distinction, if the country is one and everybody equal then why different laws? If the Hindus are ready to accept a Uniform Civil Code then why are not the Muslims people ready for this, if they are as liberal as everbody makes them out to be. Infact it is very important, to protect the future of this nation, that such a code be implemented, better face little trouble now and secure the future rather than face no trouble now and destroy the future, don't you think? Or like others you believe "kal kisne dekha hai?" or "are tab hum thodi na zinda honge, hamme kay?" If one law is implemented then there can be no Vote Bank Politics and everybody will truly be equal. The interests of the Nation & of innocent people should be above all, even above a flawed concept of democracy which rests on Vote Banks, don't you think?
My correspondent has raised some interesting points, such as:
- the perceived "difference" in the cases of Taslima Nasreen and Maqbool Fida Hussain
- the so-called "tolerant" nature of Hinduism and thus its non-fundamentalist nature
- the global nature of Islamic terror
- the various wrongs inflicted upon Hindus
- the need for a uniform civil code
- the fact that Geelani, who masterminded the attack on the Indian Parliament, has not yet been hanged, even though he was condemned to die by the Supreme Court
To take the case raised point by point--If anybody is offended by the facts raised by Nasreen or the art created by Hussain, they have an option--do not open that book and do not visit that art gallery. Find an intelligent way to defend your position, other than banning the work and condemming the artist. Hussain's depiction of goddesses as nudes has a long tradition in art, both ancient and modern. The problem is that our education system does not enable people to appreciate the varieties of art housed in our museums. We are merely taught the names of artists--Hussain, Jamini Roy, Souza, Amrita Shergill, Vivan Sundaram--we are not taught to see their work and how it fits into the tradition of Indian and international art.
The fact that Hindus have chosen to act in almost as barbaric a manner as their Muslim fellow citizens did during the Salman Rushdie fracas proves that Hindus can be as fundamentalist (or would like to be as fundamentalist) as their Muslim fellow citizens. Also take a good look at what happened in Gujarat in 2002.
Yes, there is a very strong fundamentalist strain in Islam. And it is there due to several historical factors that go as far back as the Mongol invasion of Baghdad in the Middle Ages (which did much to destroy the questioning and questing strain in Islam) and are as recent as the use, by the western powers, of Islamic fundamentalist ideology, to fight Soviet communism in Afghanistan. Basically, Islam has been facing a crisis from the Battle of Lepanto (16th Century) to the formation of Israel (1948)--this crisis is very similar to that faced by the Hindu society in India from the conquest of Sindh by the Arabs to the takeover of India by the British. Both societies feel endangered and threatened by a stronger power. Their response is to shut out the world--refuse to learn anything new, insist on their own superiority, strike out to destroy. However, shutting out the world does not end the problem--the world has to be understood and engaged with, new technologies have to be learned and mastered till the society that feels threatened realises that it can use peaceful means to assert its will.
Now, when we begin to talk about the so-called greatness of ancient Indian culture, I begin to have my doubts. We all have a tendency to mythologize the past, which we believe to have been better than the present. The commonly held belief of the greatness of Hindu culture is provided by my correspondent--Taxila and Nalanda (both being Buddhist universities--Nalanda is where Hiuen Tsang went to pick up Buddhist texts when he visited India in Harsha's reign); the general belief that there was no poverty--yet Fa Hien speaks of people not having to lock doors (was that because they had nothing to safeguard?); the freedom of women was gradually circumscribed from the Vedic ages onwards--between the 2nd Century BC and the 2nd Century AD it became an accepted fact that women were to remain under male tutelage. This is when the laws of Manu were promulgated. Incidentally, we also must thank him for adding iron to the laws of caste--that is what led a lot of low-caste people to convert in an effort to improve their economic and social lot. When reconversions have taken place, temples built for the reconverted communities have always been separated from those built for caste Hindus. And you're wondering why so many people would rather be Sikh, Christian or Muslim?
Yes, many monuments that once belonged to the ancient period of Indian history (not just Hindu but also Buddhist and Jain) must have been destroyed, if not by the wicked Islamic conqueror, than by time and neglect. If you want to see modern monuments almost crumbling into dust, take a good look at Nehru Place. It was to be a showpiece for Indian technology--I would call it a slum. If Indians can be so careless about their environment today, why should they have been any more careful in earlier ages? And, now that we're talking about Kashmir, do tell me the name of that Kashmiri king (a Hindu!) who went about destroying Hindu temples so that he could take over their wealth? Sounds like an ancient Indian Henry VIII.
We have to continue to work at peace with Pakistan--we are both nuclear power nations and we have to ensure that we do not inadvertantly set off a modern-day Armageddon. I'm sure a lot of Americans and Soviets must have been angry about the numerous efforts to make peace during the Cold War. It's not a sign of weakness or a pandering to vote bank politics, but solid common sense. And the people who come here from Pakistan are not the same who kill civillians and armymen in Kashmir or the ones who plant bombs, not just in Hindu religious places but also in Ajmer Sharif, where everyone goes. These people are like you and me--they want a life of safety and peace.
Re: Geelani--if he has been condemned to death by the Supreme Court, as stated, he must have appealed for a stay of execution or sent a mercy petition to the President of India, as is his right under Indian law. Unlike the US, we do not deprive terrorism suspects or terrorists of their rights under the law. Or would you rather we emulated the US and went in for Guantanamo Bay? This hasn't stopped attacks against the US forces in Iraq.
The uniform civil code is really something that can come about only with time. For those who believe in other faiths, the fact that they live amongst people whose ancestors swallowed Buddhism whole is frightening--take a look at what M. J. Akbar says in India: The Siege Within. Forcing a uniform civil code on Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and Parsis will not work--it will take another sixty years before this happens. Why? Because most of them will not want to be governed by a law code based on Hindu law alone. Their perception is that since Hindus form the bulk of the population, Hindu law will be used to govern their personal lives. Hence the horror of the uniform civil code and the BJP's decision to drop it.