«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 ...»
On Bakrīd, we worship cow and you slaughter cows! You are slaughtering our emotions by the way! We consider cow as holy mother, we consider cow everything and you slaughter her in front of us then what would not see you from that point of view!... We tolerate if they slaughter goats, we tolerate if they slaughter camels but when they slaughter cows that is the symbol, the energy, the vital force for Hindus than…... The entire culture of the Hindu religion is based on cow and you slaughter her than how would I accept this situation as the Gangā-Jamunī culture, that this is a culture, a civilization? All the sentiments are crushed by it!193 When I was interviewing Mrs. Husna Anzaari and wanted to ask her what was her opinion on the slaughtering of cows by Muslims, Dr. Sushil Kumar who accompanied me during the interview for translation was very hesitant to translate the question because of its sensitivity. Later during the interview he did ask her and she Sawaiyan (or shīr korma) is a sweet dessert of vermicelli cooked in milk with cardamom and nuts that is eaten during Īd-ul-Fitr For an overview of the cow protection movement from the 1880s to the early 1900s see Thursby (1975). From this moment on cow protection became a political tool and was used to drive a wedge between Hindu and Muslim communities. According to him the amount of cows slaughtered also increases incredibly, from 25-30 animals in 1881 to 400 in 1886 (Thursby, 1975, p. 79) Section 295 of the Indian Penal Code states that anyone who “destroys, damages or defiles any place of worship, or any object held sacred by any class of persons with the intention of thereby insulting the religion of any class of persons” will be punished Interview with Mr. Abishek Dutta, Dashashvamedh, 13 January 2012 responded that “Earlier cows were sacrificed but not now. Cow are nor sacrificed in Banaras!”.194 The sensitivity of the issue becomes all the more clear when realizing that the same year cows actually were slaughtered in Banaras.
6.2.3 Discussions on religion Interviewees are very much divided about the topic of having discussions about religion with people from another religion than their own. The pandit and a housewife and her husband firmly state that they do not have any such discussions.
Ms. Harshita Agrawal also maintains that she does not have any discussions on religion because it may arouse strong emotions in people: “People do get sensitive about it, there are people who do.”. She continued, “... then you either avoid talking about those issues altogether to maintain the harmony or you don’t talk to that person much.” and said she prefers to avoid such kind of people. Discussions per se are okay, but many people know too little of the other’s religion to question it.
She argues that if people do have enough knowledge they can “talk like civilized people.”.195 Here again the distinction between the religious aspect and the cultural aspect of religion is made. The student holds that it is okay to have discussions on, for example, how people organize their weddings. People can then compare what kinds of clothes are worn for example. Mr. Shekhar Mallah agrees that religious discussions are avoided “for security reasons.”. He says people do not discuss how religious rituals and activities are managed but do discuss social issues.
Then there are also people who claim they do have discussions on religion. Ms.
Theresa Martiz for example remembers a discussion she had with a Muslim friend.
He mentioned to her that in Islam men are allowed to marry several women and to marry their cousin, although this is strongly opposed to in Hinduism. She told her friend that she disagreed with him but that it does not mean she does not appreciate the religion as a whole. For her, discussions do not seem to carry the sensitivity it might carry for others: “then I don’t hate your religion and hate you people. It’s okay with me.”.196 Apparently, there is a considerable amount of experiencing religion together. NonHindu interviewees I spoke with contend that they do go to the temple or temple compound, although they do not worship they do go there to enjoy the company of friends or to enjoy the atmosphere. Some interviewees mention they even see Interview with Mrs. Husna Anzaari, Varanasi, 13 February 2012 Ibid.
Interview with Ms. Theresa Martiz, BHU, 2 February 2012 Muslims worship or read from Hindu scriptures in the temple. Hindus do not go to mosques, although they might salute the Gyanvapi mosque. However, this is not from syncretic point of view; they consider the place where the Vishwanath temple once stood still sacred Hindu ground. Yet, it is quite common for Hindus to visit dargahs. Many interviewees assert they participate in religious festivals. Muslims might join in the fireworks of Diwali, the throwing of coloured powders with Holi, the immersing of Durga murtis, or the performance of the Ram Lila. On their turn, Hindus might visit Muslims during Eid-ul-Fitr and Bakrīd and join in the distribution of food. On the other hand, the slaughtering of cows with Bakrīd is still a very sensitive subject. Discussions between Hindus and Muslims are an ordinary part of life, but many people indicate they rather avoid talking discussing religions.
6.3 Change in the relationship between Hindus and Muslims
In the last two sections I discussed the relationship between Hindus and Muslims in the profane and religious lives. We saw that many interviewees have good relationships with people from another religious community. They have established friendships and visit each other at important times in their lives. It even seems to be fairly common that people visit each other during religious festivals and some people also visit the religious structures of other religious communities. On the other hand, some interviewees are very critical about the relationship between Hindus and Muslims, if not very hateful about the other. It also seems that Hindus are more negative about Muslims and Islam and Muslims are more open towards Hindus and Hinduism. In this section we will have a look at how people evaluate the relationship between Hindus and Muslims if they compare the current situation with the past.
Some interviewees opine that there has not been a significant change in the behaviour of Hindus and Muslims towards each other. The homeopathic doctor says that bonds between people are strong enough to ensure that whenever incidents might take place there is not really an impact and Mr. Faisal Banarasi tells that the relations are very good now, have been good and will probably be good in the future due to the interconnectedness between Hindus and Muslims in business (see also section 6.4.3). The latter explains that in the Mughal era Hindus and Muslims were treated equally and that whatever polarization there is between Hindus and Muslims is created by politicians. The lawyer, Mr. Hassan Siddiqui, agrees with the madrasa teacher that sometimes people with political motives try to divide Hindus and Muslims, but he emphasizes that Hindus and Muslims are close now and in the past, 800-1000 years back, they were close too.
6.3.1 Neutral perspectives Although there has not really been any change in the relationship between Hindus
and Muslims in the past, the lawyer remarks that the economic conditions changed:
more education, more opportunities for employment and earning a livelihood, more technology. In his opinion this also changed the way people think nowadays compared to about twenty years ago. “Now the youths of India, the young generation of India, is not conservative, is not superstitious, is not bigotry. The young generation of India is very modern, secular, progressive!” in contrary to “the old generation who were existed at that time, they thinks, they think, the matter more religiously.”.197 So even though the relation between Hindus and Muslims has not really changed, Mr. Hassan Siddiqui believes they have become more mature in their thinking, knowing the ‘art of living’ (living together with people from many different religious backgrounds) as discussed in section 6.1. According to him “Now the India has changed... [it will be] showing the path to the world.”.
The BHU sociology professor, Mr. Ravindra Kumar, also recognizes the role of economic development in the relationships between people. He maintains that cohesion of the society is linked to basic needs like clean drinking water, medicines, education, and purchasing power. He warns that “in case there is a rupture in that..
.. [people will resort to illegal practices and] it will have ramifications.”.198 On the other hand, if basic needs are satisfied and people have enough money to live comfortably (e.g., in modern flat apartments), the old structure of society in which people were connected through important life events changes. He gives the example of the sārī business: “I just previously had an artisan and a shopkeeper seller was a Hindu, artist was a Muslim. So their relationship was almost like a family-type.” He fears that as society at large, it will become more segregated and people will forget how to interact with each other. The professor predicts that people will not meet in the old-fashioned way, but new social moments with more shallow contact will emerge, like meeting when going on a morning walk.
6.3.2 Positive perspectives Most people do think the relationship between Hindus and Muslims has changed over the years and most of them see it as an improvement. Interviewees mention three
main indicators that signal that the relationship used to be worse than it is now:
people were fighting, people were negative towards one another, and people did not visit each other. Mr. Anees Abdul Khan mentions that people used to ruin the atmosphere and fight and Mr. Hashim Anzaari indicates that during religious festivals Interview with Mr. Hassan Siddiqui, Chowk, 27 January 2012 Interview with Mr. Ravindra Kumar, BHU, 1 February 2012 like the month Shravanā in which it is very auspicious to worship Shiva there was a lot of tension. He also recalls how suspicious people were of one another. The retired social worker remembers that people used to make negative and ugly comments and used to tease each other. He adds that Hindus did not visit Muslim areas and the head of the Islamic school acknowledges that Muslims were hesitating to go to markets in Hindu areas.
A reason why the situation used to be worse than it is now is that there was a very negative impact of politics. The journalist mentions that “BJP was playing the communal card.”, they were trying to divide Hindus and Muslims and inciting them to violence.199 The sārī polisher, like Mr. Anees Abdul Khan, acknowledges that “That [riots between Hindus and Muslims] had been here in the past, as a creation of the political leaders.” (see also chapter 3).200 Presently, the relation between the Hindu and Muslim communities is much better. A security guard very aptly analyzes “The first point is that people are not fighting with each other! The second thing is that people do not make ugly comments about each other, people treat each other with respect, they do not have dirty feelings about others, they visit each other’s areas! Earlier it had not been so, now people participate in eachothers religious ceremonies.”.201 Most people see the situation in Ayodhya in 1992 as a transition point in the relationship between Hindus and Muslims. Mr. Anees Abdul Khan tells how people nowadays meet each other and participate in each other’s weddings and death rituals. In short, how they share in their pains and pleasures. The security guard adds another point: people are more educated nowadays (see also section 6.4.4) and there is more awareness (e.g., that politicians are creating the problem). Mr.
Rafi Anzaari also feels there is more understanding of the situation:
And the Hindus are also realizing that the temple cannot be constructed there and Muslims are also realizing that the mosque cannot be constructed there!
Then we have, whatever we have to do is to go by understanding! Both the communities understanding this. And the judgment from the court will not be the final verdict in this matter because if that goes in the favor of Hindus that is Interview with Mr. Hashim Anzaari, Bhelupura, 26 January 2012 Interview with Mr. Yoginder Anzaari & Mrs. Noura Anzaari, Khalispura, 1 February 2012 Interview with Mr. Pramod Yadav, Dashashvamedh, 4 February 2012 not implementable! If that goes in the favor of Muslims that is not implementable! What will be implementable there, that will be mutual dialogue!202 According to him, improved security also contributes to the improved relationship.
Journalist Mr. Hashim Anzaari gives yet another example. He relates:
A number of casualties [during riots], in Varanasi, never it was more than twenty. And when it came up to the twenty, entire country started shouting. It is too much, now it should stop. Hindu and Muslim both started shouting: we are brothers, it should be stopped! Peace committees started taking place. And Hindus and Muslims both started coming on the street, on the road, for harmony.203 Probably referring to the soft nature of Banarasis and the delicate Hindu-Muslim culture that had developed (see section 3.3.2) he concludes: “It is not the city of only silk sārīs. The nature of the city is silky.”.
6.3.3 Negative perspectives Some of the people who think that the relationship between Hindus and Muslims has changed regard it as deterioration. The weaver woman indicates that in the past there was love between Hindus and Muslims; that they used to participate in each other’s lives and helped each other out in case of difficulties. Nowadays there is still love but earlier it was better because the younger generation has changed their lifestyle and do not maintain friendship with one another.