«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 ...»
Mr. Abishek Dutta recounts that before the Babri masjid situation in Ayodhya people were living without feeling of insecurity. They used to go for prayer together, first to temple for pūjā and then to the mosque for namāz. Afterwards worshipping in both religious structures they would drink tea together. The housewife agrees that people’s hearts changed after 1992. The businessman maintains that people still interact on daily basis and see each other as brothers, but hatred arrived too and disrupts the sense of unity. Especially in times of tension people hesitate to visit each other. The homeopathic doctor agrees that although people are friends, during times when tension arises they try to know how the other is, but do not visit one another.
Interview with Mr. Rafi Anzaari, Reori Talab, 24 January 2012 Interview with Mr. Hashim Anzaari, Bhelupura, 26 January 2012 Most interviewees hold that the relationship between Hindus and Muslims has changed after the situation in Ayodhya in 1992. Some insist that relationships have deteriorated because earlier people did not feel insecure or because people used to pray together. Other interviewees argue that politics also used to have a very negative impact. Besides, nowadays people are not fighting as they used to, people are less negative towards one another, and people visit each other more. According to them, these factors contribute to a better relationship between Hindus and Muslims, compared to the situation before the Ayodhya affair.
6.4 Factors influencing the relationship between Hindus and Muslims
The previous sections discussed the relationship between Hindus and Muslims in terms of whether they experience friendship or animosity towards one another and how they experience their religion together. In this section four factors that influence the relationship between Hindus and Muslims in Varanasi will be examined.
6.4.1 The co-existence of the temple and mosque In the questionnaire, about 30% of the respondents answers that there was no influence of the co-existence of the Vishwanath temple and Gyanvapi mosque on Banarasi society. Muslims who do notice an influence are more inclined to see a slightly positive influence (M=7.4, SD=2.7). While Hindus are more divided, some indicate a positive and some a negative influence (M=6.0, SD=3.8) (see appendix G, Q7).
The chāī walā, Mr. Kamal Rao, does notice an influence of the Vishwanath temple and Gyanvapi mosque in the city. In his experience the air is never really clear, there is always the potential of unrest which makes him feel there is no real freedom. The insurance agent links the feeling that something might happen any moment to the Ayodhya movement and its culmination in the destruction of Babri mosque in Ayodhya. According to him, before then people used to be friendly with each other, go to temple and mosque and drink tea together. After 1991, he insists, people started feeling more insecure. People also started to assert their communal identity more to show the unity of their religious community.
In an interview with the four students one of the youngsters said that both communities consider the place theirs; Hindus say it is their temple and Muslims say it is their mosque. He indicates that is the reason there are fights now and then.
However, he argues that it is only a few people who are the trouble makers, some anti-social elements. Interestingly, his friend said that there is not a dispute like Ayodhya’s Babri mosque in Varanasi. Even the time the verdict came out was not accompanied with tension: “The day when the decision on Ayodhya was expected, we all, Hindu and Muslim friends were watching television together and laughing silently! We had no concerns with the decision at all!”.204 The pandit does not feel the atmosphere in Varanasi had changed after the destruction of Babri mosque. On the contrary, he feels that if something had to happen to change the situation it would have happened shortly after the Ayodhya issue, but nowadays people are developing an understanding that things are the way they are. Housewife Mrs. Shabnam Jha also does not think there is an influence of the Vishwanath temple and Gyanvapi mosque on the relationship between Hindus and Muslims. And if there is a ‘situation’, she mentions, the mullahs and pandits come together (presumably to discuss the situation and take measures).
Apparently, people are much divided in their ideas about whether the co-existence of the temple and the mosque has any influence, and if so to what extent and whether positive or negative.
6.4.2 Banaras Mrs. Shabnam Jha is the only one who responded that there is no difference between Varanasi and other Indian cities with regard to the relationship between Hindus and Muslims. Mr. Anees Abdul Khan contends that although sometimes the atmosphere turns bad because of the spread of rumours and hatred, usually it is very good in Banaras and much better compared to other cities. This environment of brotherhood has been in Banaras since hundreds of years. The washerwoman also believes that it is better in Banaras. She compares it to Ayodhya and remarks that what happened there could never happen in Kashi, as the city is blessed by Shiva.
The journalist agrees that the atmosphere in Banaras is different, maintaining that people usually live peacefully together. He does admit that sometimes communal issues do arise and people are very suspicious towards each other, but even then the soft, silky character of the city is felt. He explains that the reaction of Varanasi in times of communal violence is illustrative. When in Western Uttar Pradesh communal violence breaks out, the number of casualties goes up quickly: twenty, fifty, one hundred. In Varanasi, communal violence does happen but the number of casualties never goes beyond twenty. When it reaches twenty the whole nation starts to shout that it should stop; Hindus and Muslims in Varanasi start to shout that it should stop.
Interview with Mr. Abbas Anzaari, Ms. Asha Jaisawal, Mr. Vikram Desai, & Mr. Ganesh Kumar,BHU, 17 November 2011; When the verdict of Babri masjid in Ayodhya was about to be released security measures were taken. In Banaras there was a curfew for three days They realize they are brothers and start to set up peace committees and gather in the streets to meet each other in harmony.
Besides relationships in Varanasi being good because of the soft character of the city and the fact that it has been like this for almost a thousand years, a very important characteristic of the city which has its influence on the people living in it is its sacredness: “The mood of this city is very sacred.”.205 Mr. Hashim Anzaari told me that he feels that “If the Delhi is the capital of India, Varanasi is the spiritual secular universal culture of the world.”. He strongly emphasizes the words spiritual, secular, and universal. He articulates the spiritual importance of Banaras, particularly for Hindus; the city that attracts many pilgrims and is said to house more sādhus (holy men) than anywhere else. On the other hand is the aspect of secularity, in the sense of plurality of religions and equal respect for all. The city is not only religiously important for Hindus, but also for Muslims, for whom some of the mosques are very important, as well as for people from other Indian religions (see section 3.2). Thirdly, the spiritual secular character of the city is an example for India and the world, hence its universality.
The leader of the Gyanvapi mosque acknowledged that “Banaras is religiously as important for Hindus as Mecca is for the Muslims!”,206 and therefore Hindus who visit the city should be treated by Muslims as respected guests. That way Hindus will also appreciate Muslims, which will contribute to the maintenance of harmony. He gives the bomb blasts in 2006 as example, saying that the whole country was looking curiously at Banaras to see how people would respond and what would happen.207 Eventually nothing happened because Hindus and Muslims collectively decided that they did not want external forces to take over the city and ruin its peace and harmony. They worked together very successfully and “created an example not only for India for the whole world that established Banaras as a sparkling example of communal peace, tolerance and humanity, [but] that taught a good and positive lesson for other countries as well!”. Mr. Rafi Anzaari punctuates this, underscoring that the whole country looks up to and has respect for Kashi. According to the advocate Varanasi contains all aspects of life, it reflects the totality of world, but adds something unique: “you can visit, evaluate the things and ultimately you will Interview with Mr. Hashim Anzaari, Bhelupura, 26 January 2012 Interview with Mr. Anees Abdul Khan, Peelee Kothee, 25 January 2012 In 2006 there were two bomb blasts, on a railway station and the Sankat Mochan temple (see also section 3.3.2) find in a bowl of water,... in a bowl of Varanasi, you can get the colours of rainbow. Not only seven colours but thousands of colours.”.208 So Banaras contributes to the good relationships between Hindus and Muslims because of its sacredness, making the city an example to India, and because of the soft character of its citizens. A third aspect of Banaras which has a positive influence and is mentioned often is expressed by the retired mason: “It [the situation between Hindus and Muslims] is special in Varanasi! It is so because of the Banarasi sārīs in Varanasi! All are with each other in the business, that’s why it is special!”.209 6.4.3 Business Varanasi is famous for its high quality sārīs; the sārī business has been connected to Varanasi for hundreds of years. Singh & Naik maintain that the textile industry has the second largest share in jobs, following agriculture, almost 25% of Varanasi’s working force is said to be connected to the sārī business. Although some lower caste Hindus weave and some Muslims trade most skilled weavers are Muslims (73%) and most merchants and financiers are Hindus. Despite their excellent skills most of the weavers are poor and live in a poor socioeconomic condition with low wages and long working hours (Kumar, 1989, pp.
147-148; Raman, 2010, pp. 80-87; A. Singh & Naik, 2009, pp. 408-410).210 7 Most respondents are very positive about business relationships between Hindus and Muslims, Muslims (M=10.6, SD=1.3) more than Hindus (M=8.3, SD=3.3; see Figure 19). 1 Answers are about one point higher than the Hindus Muslims extent to which Hindus (M=7.2, SD=3.5) and Personal Business Muslims (M=9.1, SD=2.8) rate personal Figure 19. Personal and business relations between relations between Hindus and Muslims (see Hindus and Muslims Interview with Mr. Hassan Siddiqui, Chowk, 27 January 2012 Interview with Mr. Irfan Malik, Kashpura, 20 January 2012 Banarasi sārīs are world famous for their high quality silk and brocades (embroidery in coloured silk and gold and silver treads) and Banarasi weavers are known for their outstanding workmanship.
Although the sārīs are known worldwide, only 11% are exported whilst most are sold in India. The impressive motifs and designs that were traditionally used are of Persian origin and were introduced during the Mughal period. Following demand of the market they also stepped away from the traditional motifs. In response to the difficult circumstances weavers started using cheaper materials and power looms instead of hand looms to save time (Else, 1988, pp. 73-75; Kumar, 1989, p. 148; A.
Singh & Naik, 2009, pp. 408-410).
appendix G, Q4-5). In line with the survey data, all my interviewees are positive about business relationships between Hindus and Muslims. Even while being hostile against their faith and the mistakes of their grandfathers to destructing the temple temples and raising mosques in their place, Mr. Abishek Dutta feels differently about business with Muslims. Whereas he feels a lot of aversion towards Islam, he indicates that his business relationships with Muslims were very good. His ambivalent stance is very clear when he illustrates that the deep differences between both the communities at present are so deepened that I understand it cannot be bridged at all! But then there is the business, business is such a thing that you have to be together. You would cook and I would eat; this is a different matter. But mentally, it is difficult to bring the hearts together because one has been destroying the other’s temples!211 He gives an example of farming: if the one would farm rice and the other wheat, they would trade to have both. The exchange is not a matter of liking each other, but an economic transaction. In other words: you farm and I eat. The same holds for the sārī business: you weave and I wear. Yet, he adds that although these good relations in business seem to be like brotherhood, he can never trust Muslims completely. The retired social worker disagrees. He believes that that the business created an environment in which people could develop an understanding for each other and deepened the love for each other.
What surprised me a bit when discussing the good business relations between Hindus and Muslims is that it is confirmed as much by Hindus as Muslims. However, the earnings of the latter are much lower, the work is harder, and the work done in worse circumstances (Raman, 2010, pp. 100-107). When I asked him about this, the leader of the Gyanvapi mosque said that they indeed regret it. Yet, he explained: “If we are stuck on this issue they will face loss and the industry suffers! That’s why we have been trying hard and have maintained the growth of this industry even by tolerating all such things.”.212 Mr. Anees Abdul Khan adds that the government is aware of the disadvantaged position of weavers and artisans and does its best to relieve them by launching several programs to enhance their financial position. These schemes help, but are not enough because they primarily benefit the grihasthas (middlemen). According to him, this causes grihasthas to become wealthier, while at the same time poor people who are targeted become poorer. However, they Interview with Mr. Abishek Dutta, Dashashvamedh, 13 January 2012 Interview with Mr. Anees Abdul Khan, Peelee Kothee, 25 January 2012 (presumably meaning Hindus and Muslims) keep interacting and sharing in each other’s pains and pleasures together.