«ESTHER WAPSTRA Thesis submitted for MA degree Supervisors: Dr. Laurens G. H. Bakker Prof. Paul J. C. L. van der Velde 30 August 2013 COMMUNAL HARMONY ...»
Amongst other things, they are said to be disloyal to India, for example because their most holy religious structure is not in India (see also footnote 167). Their positive appraisal of the temple might be a subconscious psychological strategy to show that they are not against India. Although they are unable to change their reverence for the holy structure in Mecca they can compensated this by asserting that they also highly value Hindu religious structures. This might serve to mitigate their image of being disloyal to India, perhaps not so much as something articulated to Hindus but more to serve as a confirmation towards themselves.
This trying to uphold a positive social identity by finding positive alternatives to the negative stereotypes can be regarded as social creativity, the collective strategy “to enhance the status of the in-group as a whole” by changing “the elements of the comparative situation so as to result in more favourable comparisons...” and resulting in more positive “social identities of individual group members.” (Jackson, Sullivan, Harnish, & Hodge, 1996, p. 142). Or in other words: because the comparison between Hindus and Muslims is negative for Muslims and their Muslim identity is threatened, they will search for alternative comparisons or alternative traits which make the comparison more positive for them. Other alternatives to negate the negative stereotypes by means of social creativity are the mythic reversals. In these mythic reversals negative aspects of the dominant history, or negative traits of Muslims, have an alternative explanation and positive traits of Muslims are instead emphasized. Take for example Aurangzeb, who is often seen as a representative of Muslims, whose behaviour is also representative for the behaviour of Muslims. In the mythic reversal of the history of the Vishwanath temple and Gyanvapi mosque, Aurangzeb is not seen as a zealous, aggressive ruler who is violent to Hinduism, but as a just person who is ready to grant the wishes Hindus in his entourage. In short, it is difficult for Muslims to deny Aurangzeb as their representative, but they have found an alternative way to depict him. The same mechanism can also be found amongst various Muslim groups: to protect their identity as Muslims, some emphasize that they are descendants from high classed Arab, Central Asian, Iranian and Afghan Muslims (ashraf) (Sikand, 2004). We saw in section 3.2.2 that they value their sense of culture and courtesy, whereas they depict Muslims who descent from local converted Hindus (ajlaf) as simple (Kumar, 1987, p.
6. The relation between Hindus and Muslims
In this chapter various aspects of the relationship between Hindus and Muslims will be reviewed. The first section discusses the extent to which both groups have friendly relations as well as stereotypes that exist. It also discusses efforts to maintain a level of harmony in Varanasi. In the next section ways in which Banarasis share in each other’s religion are central. It discusses Hindus and Muslims visiting each other’s sacred structures and takes a look at their participation in religious festivals. Section three considers various perspectives on changes in the relationship between Hindus and Muslims. Finally, section four factors that influence the relationship between Hindus and Muslims are examined. The last section contains conclusions of the chapter.
6.1 Friendship and animosity between Hindus and Muslims
In previous chapter we saw how people are divided in their views about (the coexistence of) the Vishwanath temple and the Gyanvapi mosque. Most people see the co-existence as a symbol of harmony. However, although Muslims do not see it as a symbol of conflict, Hindus are somewhat more neutral in their position. Also, Hindus tolerate and accept the situation slightly, whereas Muslims seem to tolerate and accept the situation more. There is more variation among Hindus while Muslims are more in agreement with one another. The interviews confirmed that some people were outspokenly positive whereas others were squarely negative.
A similar pattern appears when Hindus and Muslims rate their own experiences with Hindus and Muslims (see Figure 18). Typically, Hindus generally have very good personal experiences with people from their own religious community (M=9.4, SD=2.6) and reasonably good personal experiences 9 with Muslims (M=7.9, SD=3.4), whereas Muslims indicate they have positive personal experiences with people from their own religious community (M=9.8, SD=2.6) as well as with Hindus (M=9.6, SD=2.6). 3 Interestingly, the rates of people’s own experiences with people from the other Hindus Muslims religious community should be a good indicator of the relationships between Hindus Hindus Muslims and Muslims in Varanasi at large. However, Figure 18. Personal experiences with Hindus both Hindus and Muslims rate their personal and Muslims experiences with both people from the other religious community higher than the overall personal relationships between Hindus and Muslims in Banaras. This could mean that people either underestimate the strength of personal relationships between Hindus and Muslims in Banaras, or that people exaggerate their own experiences with Hindus and Muslims (see appendix G, Q4-6).123 The more neutral rating of Hindus both about the relationship between Hindus and Muslims and their personal experiences with Muslims could be explained because of two reasons: firstly, they more often indicate a neutral position; secondly, some are very positive and others are very negative which equals out to a more neutral position. Muslims show much less variation in their answers. The divergent position of Hindus is also visible in the interviews. I will illustrate this with the positions of two persons whom we’ve encountered in the previous chapter.
Mr. Abishek Dutta, who runs a sārī business, explains:
[Hindus and Muslims] are like the two separate banks of a river, both the banks of that river can never meet together! Many persons have tried: through behaviour, through speech, through religious innovations, through Sufism, they could never meet!... Kabir tried to unite them, nothing happened!... Did not riots occur after Kabir? There have been more than fifty riots in the city after Kabir! If both were united then why riots occurred? Why there have been knives? Why there is violence again and again over small issues?... Here the people of religious organizations, from the outside they pretend to show that there has been Hindu-Muslim tahzīb [culture] but if you look at their realities then you see that they have been involved in something similar to cut-throat activities!... Kabir has said a verse “Kah Kabīr kaise nibhe ker-ber ko sang, wo to dole mastī men fātat oke ang!”124 Hindus rate their own experiences with Muslims (M=7.9, SD=3.4) higher than their estimate of the personal relationships between Hindus and Muslims in Varanasi at large (M=7.2, SD=3.5). The same holds for Muslims, who rate their own experiences with Hindus (M=9.6, SD=2.6) higher than the they think personal relationships between Hindus and Muslims in Varanasi at large are (M=9.1, SD=2.8).
Hindus and Muslims agree that the business relationships between Hindus and Muslims at large are even better than their personal relationships. Given that people's own experiences are an average of their personal as well as business relationships with people from the other religious community, this makes the difference between own experiences and estimates of relationships between Hindus and Muslims at large bigger (see appendix G, Q4-6) Interview with Mr. Abishek Dutta, Dashashvamedh, 13 January 2012; the soft banana plant and the thorny ber tree may be together in loving hug, but when the wind arrives the thorns of the ber three will leave the suffering banana plant with cuts. This is also mentioned in the Guru Granth Sāhib, the Sikh holy book (“Kabīr mārī mara▫o kusang kī kele nikat jo ber. Uh jẖūlai uh cẖīrī▫ai sākaṯ sang na her.”, “Kabir, I have been ruined and destroyed by bad company, like the banana plant near the thorn bush. The thorn bush waves in the wind, and pierces the banana plant; see this, and do not associate He fairly straightforwardly insists that Hindus and Muslims are incompatible and will never come close to one another. Many people, Kabir too, failed in their attempts to unite Hindus and Muslims.125 However, later in the interview he is more nuanced, asserting that he only talks about Islam as a whole and not about any individual. He adds that there are Muslims amongst his friends as well as amongst his business relations: “Personally a person can be good, he may be, that is not the matter... I have said earlier as well that business is a different matter!... But love cannot happen between you and me.”.
The position of the lawyer, Mr. Hassan Siddiqui, whom I met in his office, seems to be quite the opposite. He maintains that there are communal riots in India, but they
are resolved as if by an automatic mechanism:
[C]ommunalism no doubt it is in Indian society, deep rooted. It is fact. But the communal harmony is more deeper, and more stronger than the communalism.
That is why sometimes, unfortunately, we are compelled to suffer the communal riots. But, very soon, very soon, everyone starts shouting that we are brother, it is wrong, it should not be done, we have to live together, we have to live together and have to die together. So in entire Indian culture communal harmony is very deep rooted.... And this [the idea that there is tension because of the co-existence of the Vishwanath temple and Gyanvapi mosque] is a false creation. And this is, this is eh… this is, this is, not [a] factual position. No Hindu and Muslims are against one another. They are living here with affection... This is a false propaganda. Only few persons are against someone, it means not that the majority of the people are against.126 Throughout the interview the lawyer is lyrical about the relationship between Hindus and Muslims. He argues that Hinduism and Islam essentially have the same philosophy, Hinduism with its well-known mantra ‘aum shantī, aum shantī’ and Islam with its derivation from salām, both meaning peace. Euphorically he elucidates that Indian people “know the art of living”, living together with people from many different religious backgrounds: Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, etc. This is what he calls secularism. In spite of this secularism, he maintains that people in Varanasi with the faithless cynics.”). It is a warning that people are affected by the people in their environment, therefore they should look out for bad company (Guru Granth Sahib, section 40: Shaloks of Kabir, part 6, nr. 88, p. 1369; http://www.srigurugranth.org/1369.html) Kabir is a the poet who was raised in a Muslim weaver family, studied with a Hindu guru (teacher), rejected what he saw as useless customs and norms in Hinduism and Islam in favor of a direct connection with god, and inspired both Hindus and Muslims (Vaudeville, 1974) Interview with Mr. Hassan Siddiqui, Chowk, 27 January 2012 have a spiritual mind-set and are not as much influenced by materialism as people in the West are. He repeatedly calls this the magic of Varanasi: “unique not only to the India, but to the world. It is an example.”.
Whereas Mr. Abishek Dutta mentions the many riots that have happened in Varanasi throughout the years, Mr. Hassan Siddiqui fanatically insists that there have not been any riots in Varanasi due to the Vishwanath temple and Gyanvapi mosque. It is interesting that like the businessman he uses a metaphor of water, but turns it upside down: “The river, the river of fraternity is flowing consistently without a break. In a period of time if any big stone crumbles or falls in the river it means not that the course of river was stopped.”. The statements of the lawyer seem over the top and artificial. Although it raises the question how reliable his account is, at the same time it shows how people might try to uphold the concept of Hindu and Muslim brotherhood.
6.1.1 Good relations, friendship, love between Hindus and Muslims We have already seen how people participate in each other’s religious festivals and even pray at each other’s religious structures. Many people hold that the daily (i.e., non-religious) relations between Hindus and Muslims are generally also good. Mr.
Faisal Banarasi, the madrasa teacher, told me of an incident with a Hindu girl who got an accident and needed medical care. Without any hesitation he brought her to the hospital. He explained that namāz (Islamic obligatory prayer) teaches people to be helpful when one has the opportunity.127 Mr. Irfan Malik, who used to work as a mason but is retired now and whom I met in his home, told me what the
brotherhood between Hindus and Muslims means:
I have such kind of relationship that if I need something I can get from them, and they provide. For example the marriage of my daughter, most of the persons are here with whom I do transactions, that I can say that uncle, I have to manage this and that…, and things become available through their combined supports. Others also feel the same. This way the Hindu-Muslim culture is very good here in Varanasi!128 It is important to note here that although the man uses the word ‘uncle’ he does not mean a familial relation. In India the words ‘uncle’ and ‘aunt’ are used for informal relations, usually for people who are older than the person using the words. Mr.
Yoginder Anzaari, the sārī polisher, told me that he did not have any feeling that he Interview with Mr. Faisal Banarasi, Peelee Kothee, 19 January 2012 Interview with Mr. Irfan Malik, Kashpura, 20 January 2012 was being treated differently because of being a Muslim.129 A sociology professor in BHU, Mr. Ravindra Kaul, is a little more reserved about his relations with Muslims, indicating that he is not so close with them that he visits Muslims and they him, but students feel free to go to him irrespective of religion.130 Yet, many interviewees indicate that they have inter-communal friendships. These friendships go further than just greeting each other and friendliness in casual encounters: people visit each other’s wedding ceremonies and when babies are born.