Face to Face with Indianness

India has a rich history and past in terms of its heritage. Culturally diverse though India may be, but it still remains a stronghold of the Hindus. Not in terms of cultural dominance, but sheer following. The present divide between Hindus and Muslims is distressing, but has a history. We cannot forget the ghosts of our past to enter a new era. That does not mean to wage war on each other. Rather, we need to understand and forgive wrong-doings of our fore-fathers and embrace the idea of love and compassion. We tend to hold on to ill-feelings and scars of violence; instead we must honour our spiritually and culturally peaceful past. One must know and understand that such cultural heritage can only develop in a peaceful place. Violence can be part of history and hatred can be a consequence to the same, but their existence in either sect cannot be synonymous with culture.

In retrospect, we may gather that the beginnings of Islamic conquests in India were not one bit peaceful. So, there is a history to the ideology that Muslims are a violent race. The Turkic rulers on their arrival had started a violent rule in northern India, wherein large scale destruction of temples and a killing spree had started and the Hindu King of Delhi was beheaded. These rulers wished to place Islam on the fore. A glorified example of such barbarianism has been documented in the construction of a mosque surrounding the Qutub Minar. This area was a Hindu temple, which was turned into a mosque! The defaced Hindu deities on the pillars of the mosque depict it. Then again, such a rule was rejected and their impact did not last more than a century.

Escaping our history would make us escape our very unique identity that has been developing over millennia. Whether it is the advent of Buddhism, the Islamic conquest, the arrival of Sufism, the teachings of Sikhism, we have been tolerant as a society and that is our true history. We have not let the sword rule for long. The sword has always made way for introducing new and amalgamative culture that has evolved our heritage. The Mughals conquered, but did not kill their way through. They placed learning and arts over everything, and that is why they survived. The Portuguese came to Goa, the Arab Merchants settled around coast of Bombay but could they have ever imagined intertwining if they did not mix within the cultural traditions of this great land? No, they would have been banished as soon as they came, but they respected all that existed and contributed to our sensibilities, hence have left a lasting impact on our lives. The Basilica of Bom Jesus is a living example of how we mixed western and Hindu traditions in building the basilica.

We often wonder whether we would survive a period of religious extremism. We should believe we would. It is in our history that culture stands witness to embracement rather than outright rejection and that should sail us past conflicting times. Violence has never prospered in the long run anyway. Be it the Delhi Sultanate’s early Turkic rulers, or previous marauders, or more recently the British dominion. In today’s time it is even more important that hate cannot feature as an associate of governance. In times of such mistrust it only adds to pain, fury and cultural alienation. We cannot afford to lose our Indianness!

People have not quite forgotten the days of partition which is largely attributed to Muslims for their want of a separate land. Having said so, can Muslims living in our vicinity be held for the doings of those who now live in Pakistan and Bangladesh? Don’t these people have a right over the traditions of our nation? Have they not been a part of nation building? Do we wish to portray that we are India because we are Hindu? The fact is we are India because we had visionaries like Nehru, Patel and Maulana Azad who dreamed and showed us a better way. If they were not around we would end up as another Balkan country. Our might and unity as a country is a testament to our secular fabric.

Yes, the violence that the Hindu Right wing has initiated in present times is a mistake and again shall be rejected by the people. The idea that Barbarianism runs through their blood is a wrong idea they are trying to sow in the minds of the people. Such deep rooted ideologies of hate serve nobody. What our constitution went about doing was to ensure that no one is lesser, but at times often projects that one is so, by allowing religion to get in the way. Our brand of secularism is not to keep religion out of governance, but include all in it. This unique brand of secularism well serves a country of India’s nature which is deep rooted in religion and culture. Destroying it shall destroy India.
Abhik Sen
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