A look at comunalism an endemic problem in India
When I was young I did not recognize communalism as a current issue. Born in what is now Tamil Nad and brought up in Bombay I had no experience of it. True I had read about the Hindu Muslim riots and how it had resulted in the partition of the country but I had blithely assumed that it was all in the past and such events did not occur any more.
I then had to go to Indore and a hostel to complete my schooling as my father moved to a new job at a place without schooling facilities.
The 1965 war with Pakistan took place while I was at this school. It was a very exciting time. First there was the blackout. There being no T.V the radio became central. The news broadcasts of BBC, VOA, Radio Moscow, AIR, and Radio Pakistan were monitored round the clock and the headlines from each put up on blackboards, contradictions and all. There was a definite curfew at night which was breached I suspect, now, with the connivance of the staff who chose to ignore the breaking of the rules. We listened avidly to the Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri’s broadcasts to the nation. Patriotic fervor was everywhere. The classes continued as usual.
Geography was taught by one Mr. Zaidi, a fairly old man one of the oldest teachers at the school. One day at class at the height of the war a classmate of mine got up and said “ Aare musalman apne Pakistan kyon nahi jata idar kyon pada hai” meaning, you muslim why don’t you go to your Pakistan instead of staying here. There was a stunned silence in the class then Mr Zaidi wept. I suspect, now, that he had faced such comments earlier but coming from a student was the last straw. He told us that his brother had migrated to Pakistan but that he had stayed back as he felt that this was his home. He dismissed the class and left the class.
We were quite ashamed and upset by what had happened and the rest of the class beat up the classmate who had upset the old man and warned him against repeating his sentiments ever again. A tacit understanding that this was not to be mentioned was reached. Neither the class nor Mr. Zaidi ever referred to this again.
This at the age of fifteen was my first experience of communal sentiments. After this first encounter it has stayed in the foreground. The newspapers and now the T.V. bringing in more and more incidents, it receded somewhat when a man in Ajmer proudly proclaimed that they had the Darga and Pushkar but no communal riots. Unfortunately even this claim was falsified later. The list impinging on my consciousness grows ever longer Bagalpur, The anti- Sikh riots, Ayodhya and its aftermath, Kashmir, Gujarat and on and on. I do not think that any child now would remain as unaware.
I wonder where these competitive religiosities will end. Each group wants to assert its faith. Hindus, Muslims, Secularists, Communists, etc. all are willing to assert their beliefs and violently.
However it is not these horrendous events that frighten me as much as small events such as when a mother advises a child not to play with another, this other child was a bad lot and a bully. The child wanted to no why, naturally and the mother replied because he is bad, the son’s response is he a Muslim? If the infection reaches a five year old the portent is bleak.
I would like to quote Bertrand Russell on what he called the “Nuclear Peril”. He said “I thought it would only be necessary to make the danger known and that, when this had been done, men of all parties would unite to restore previous safety. I found this is a mistake. There is a motive which is stronger than self preservation: it is the desire to get the better of the other fellow.”
I am afraid that humanity will have to wait for the arrival of ET to give us a common other to fight with.