«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 ...»
In other words, as housewife Mrs. Shabnam Jha illustrates: “in the pleasures and pains.”.131 Interviewees told me they also partake in each other’s food; a waiter who filled in the questionnaire even told me that they cook separate foods: vegetarian for Hindus and non-vegetarian for Muslims.132 On the other hand, Dr. Sushil Kumar informed me that one of the women whom we interviewed, a homeopathic doctor, does not eat in her best friend’s home. They both accept this and it does not influence their friendship. One of the reasons why Hindus might be reluctant to eat at Muslims’ is that the latter consume meat and more particularly beef, which is forbidden for Hindus. A female arts student at BHU, Ms. Theresa Martiz, has a peculiar alternative explanation for why Hindus do not eat anything in Muslim
... they think that Muslim will give them cow’s hair or cow’s meat.... maybe oil of cow, na. Fat, thing. They will mix it to like a, to destroy our religion and to destroy our body and all. So that’s what also they’re also afraid of.... I mean, they’re afraid of, na. That god will punish if I eat [beef].133 When I asked about this to Ms. Harshita Agrawal, the female journalism student, the innocence of her response reflected her honestly not being aware of any such behaviour. She told me that when friends share lunch they know who is vegetarian and who is not, so they might prank each other, but then when someone offers something and the other is about to eat it, they will always say ‘no!, don’t eat it!’134 When I asked interviewees about their personal relationships with people from another religious community they seemed to be quick to tell me that they have more friends from another religious community than from their own. Mr. Yoginder Anzaari, Interview with Mr. Yoginder Anzaari & Mrs. Noura Anzaari, Khalispura, 1 February 2012 Interview with Mr. Ravindra Kumar, BHU, 1 February 2012 Interview with Mr. Abdullah Jha & Mrs. Shabnam Jha, Kachahari, 22 January 2012 Questionnaire 68 Interview with Ms. Theresa Martiz, BHU, 2 February 2012 Interview with Ms. Harshita Agrawal, BHU, 6 February 2012 for example, says that he has “75% social network among them and 25% only in my community.”.135 The same is held by students whom I met in a group of four friends in the garden of the BHU Vishwanath temple. One of them, Mr. Vikram Desai, also asserts: “about 75% of my friends are Muslims, only 25% are Hindus.”, while his friend Mr. Abbas Anzaari indicates that “Most of my friends are Hindus only.”.136 It seems unlikely this is true for most people in Banaras, however, there seems to be a difference between young people and older people. Looking back on the interviews, it seems as if somewhat older people are more inclined to answer in a justifying manner, trying to defend the relations of Hindu and Muslim in Banaras by telling me how many friends they have; on the other hand for students, friendships with people from another religious community seem to be natural, it is almost as if they are offended because they take these friendships for granted. The girl studying
Journalism gives a very plausible explanation for possible generational differences:
My parents, they have seen what happened during Babri masjīd, they know about the issue. It was again Hindu-Muslim communal. So they know what happened there. They know what… so they deeply engrossed thing. They have the deep-rooted prejudice, or whatever you say. Contempt is there. But they did that to India. Or our grandparents. They saw partition. They had witnessed the partition. The freedom movement. So it all creeps up from there.... Aré, they’ve accepted it [her parents] and they, they do not come in close contact with them [Muslims].137 Very interesting is the statement of Ms. Harshita Agrawal who despite many friendships with Muslims, she “never had a chance to visit a Muslim household.”.138 Although quite a few interviewees indicated that they visit each other during good and bad life events, I wonder how many people in fact do. If people visit each other, they have the opportunity to construct a many-side image of people from another religious community. Not having the chance to visit each other might be a factor in contributing to the lack of knowledge about the other and resort to stereotypes and prejudices. Besides, people who are raised with stereotypes and prejudices might be reluctant to visit people from another religious community (see also sections 6.1.2 and 6.5).
Interview with Mr. Yoginder Anzaari & Mrs. Noura Anzaari, Khalispura, 1 February 2012 Interview with Mr. Abbas Anzaari, Ms. Asha Jaisawal, Mr. Vikram Desai, & Mr. Ganesh Kumar, BHU, 17 November 2011 Interview with Ms. Harshita Agrawal, BHU, 6 February 2012 Ibid.
When it comes to love, interviewees again differ in their opinions. Mr. Abishek Dutta,
the sārīs business man, told me:
If I am going to marry a very beautiful Muslim girl then Hindus would consider it as a very bad thing for their community! They would suspend me from the Hindu community and there would be a very huge crying all over India that a Brahmin from Varanasi has married a beautiful Muslim girl! It is alright if I marry a Christian girl, with a Sikh Girl, with a Buddhist girl, but if I marry a Muslim girl then there would be a disaster.139 Mrs. Shabnam Jha contends that Hindu-Muslim marriages have not occurred, she maintains that it is possible, but “people do not want to.”.140 Mr Shekhar Mallal, who works as a social worker, disagrees; he indicates that Hindus and Muslims do fall in love with each other, but it is complicated: “... such examples are very limited. Such things are managed very secretively!”141 In India, traditionally the marriages are arranged: parents look for a suitable wife or husband for their son or daughter, usually someone from the same background (i.e., caste community and religious community). Nowadays many young people still expect to marry in arranged marriage, although the amount of so-called ‘love marriages’ very slowly increases.142 Increasingly, young couples start living on their own instead of in the husband’s parental home. Yet, there is still a taboo on HinduMuslim marriages, perhaps more than mixed marriages with people from other religious communities, as the businessman indicates.
Besides arguments and sentiments from the family concerning taboos on interreligious marriages, there are also practical difficulties with Hindu-Muslim mixed marriages. Hindus are generally quite flexible and accept the way people pray and the god they adhere to as most Hindus believe in sarvā dharmā sambhāvā (all paths leading to truth, be it Hinduism, Islam, or any other, are equal to and harmonious with each other). Yet, although Islam can be said to be tolerating of other religions (Sūra 109:6), according to the Sharīah (Islamic law) Muslim women are forbidden to marry non-Muslim men and Muslim men are only allowed to marry People of the Book (Sūra 5:5), which generally includes Muslims, Christians, Jews, and Sabians Interview with Mr. Abishek Dutta, Dashashvamedh, 13 January 2012 Interview with Mr. Abdullah Jha & Mrs. Shabnam Jha, Kachahari, 22 January 2012 Interview with Mr. Shekhar Mallah, Khalispura, 16 January 2012 In arranged marriages couples are well-nigh strangers to one another. Marriage comes first and love between them gradually develops. In love marriages the partners already know each other and love precedes their marriage (Sūra 2:62 and 5:69).143 If a Hindu girl moves into a Muslim household, she is likely to have to give up praying to Hindu gods as Islam forbids idol worship (Sūra 2:22, 72:20, 74:5) whereas when a Muslim girl moves into a Hindu household, she will have to give up eating beef and is likely to be asked to participate in Hindu festivals, but probably does not have to give up her obligatory prayers to Allah (namāz).144 Another major difficulty is the division of Indian family law in a Hindu law and a Muslim law, each having specific acts for marriage, divorce, child custody, and succession. Couples from mixed religious backgrounds can get married through the Special Marriage Act, 1954. However, because the marriage is announced a month in advance so that people can make objections, it is virtually impossible to elope for couples who want to marry without the consent of their parents. Besides, although the Special Marriage Act, 1954 regulates marriages and divorces it does not regulate anything regarding children, in effect forcing one of the partners to convert to the religion of the other in order to guarantee certainty for their children.145 However, as much as Hindu-Muslim friendships between young people seem to be more common, they also seem to consider love between one another as more natural than older people do. In the girls hostel where I stayed I shared a room with two girls; the best friends of one of them was in love with a Muslim boy, which she accepted without thinking. Ms. Harshita Agrawal told me that she has a Muslim friend who is in love with a Hindu girl and a Hindu friend who is in love with a Muslim girl.
Both couples wanted to get married and had to fight hard against their families. She makes the same argument as the sārī salesman: “Hindu-Sikh is easy. [But for] Muslim especially, marriage outside religion is very difficult.”.146 It caused heated discussions and they were afraid of being disowned, but eventually they could convince their families.
People of the Book are “followers of monotheistic Abrahamic religions that are older than Islam” (Desika Char, 1997, p. 127). Interestingly, an Iranian Sūfī scholar mentions that “... there was a debate among the general Muslim public as to where Hinduism stood, although as mentioned many of the ulema of India definitely considered Hindus as ‘people of the Book’. It goes without saying that in India itself the Muslims certainly did not treat the Hindus as simple pagans or idol-worshippers like those of Arabia but came to respect them as possessing a religion of their own. As already mentioned, many Sufis in India called Hinduism the religion of Adam... [and indentified] Brahman with Abraham.” Nasr cites Al-Jîlî, who says that Hindus do not accept the Islamic prophets and messengers but do worship god in Oneness (Nasr, 1972, p. 139) More Sūrahs speak of the prohibition to worship other deities besides Allah (7:59, 7:65, 7:73, 7:85, 11:50, 11:61, 11:84, 23:23, 23:32, 72:20) http://delhi.gov.in/wps/wcm/connect/DoIT/delhi+govt/community/marriage+certificate+and+registra tion Interview with Ms. Harshita Agrawal, BHU, 6 February 2012 Whether a couple eventually does marry depends on a wide variety of factors, amongst the most crucial is the question how conservative the family is. Not all young couples who are in love might stand the pressure from their families. In more traditional cities like Varanasi it will be more difficult than in modern metropolitan cities like Delhi. The French lady, Mrs. Ama, gives another example: “... my two ustāds (Sūfī teachers), they are Muslim, but you know, they both married Hindu women.... but as I said, you know, both wives were not deeply Hindu and both ustād were not deeply Muslim. You know. And in that case it’s okay. In that case it’s okay.”.147 This section began with two people with opposing opinions about the relationship between Hindus and Muslims in Banaras. One of them argues that “The river, the river of fraternity is flowing consistently without a break.” and that the harmonious relationships between people of different religious communities are exemplary for India and the world.148 The other maintains that the Hindu-Muslim tahzīb is a myth and in fact Hindus and Muslims are like two opposite riverbanks that will never come together. His fierceness again Islam becomes even more pronounced when reading through all his statements and culminates in: “... it is an cancer inside our liver! If we say it in some other way then India has been living with this cancer for more than past 1000 years! There is no treatment for it! If it bursts then we will die!”.149 But even he asserts that his hatred is against Islam as institution in India and not against Muslims individually. At least not the ones he is acquainted with. The question is who represents the Hindus and Muslims of Banaras best.
Of course, the answer is somewhere in the middle. It is striking that most of the people I spoke with are quite positive about relationships between Hindus and Muslims as well as about their own experiences with people from the other religious community. It seems to show that most people are very friendly with one another and friendships between Hindus and Muslims flourish. They visit each other during the big life events such as weddings, the birth of babies, and perhaps to comfort each other when someone passes away. Amongst young people it seems to be even more natural with less obvious distinction between who is a Hindu and who is a Muslims. They know it from one another, but it seems not to matter when they spend time with each other going to the movies, relaxing on the ghāt, or eating Interview with Mrs. Ama, Shivala ghat, 10 February 2012 Interview with Mr. Hassan Siddiqui, Chowk, 27 January 2012 Interview with Mr. Abishek Dutta, Dashashvamedh, 13 January 2012 momos and pānīpūrī at some stall.150 That is the picture most people wanted to show me.
I know there is another side too. An American guy who has been coming to India regularly told me that he sometimes goes out drinking beers with guys and that they tell him much more about their real feelings of hatred. I think that what people tell is always colored in a certain way and only part of the truth. When talking to a foreign girl who is doing research and taping everything said people might be more cautious and try to make the picture a bit nicer than it is; when guys are talking amongst each other after drinking a few beers they might be less restrained but might also exaggerate how much they despise the other.