The true minority

I am by nature, very communal. Whenever I get the chance, I blindly set forth about my community. Since I was born in the community of humans, I raise my voice passionately when the human community’s welfare is threatened. I am not interested in any truth above humanity. I do not believe in any other religion except that of humanity. I am a fanatic humanitarian. This is my secularism.

I can take an oath that my respect for Mohammed is not any less than that of a devout Muslim. My respect for Mahavir is no less than that of a devout Jain. I have as much respect for Christ as does a devout Christian. My respect for Guru Nanak is not a wee bit less than that of a Sikh.In the same way, Ram, Krishna, Buddha are my idols. After saying this, I add that the great men of every religion have the most injustice done to them by the fanatic followers of their own religion.

Ram’s followers break the most promises. Krishna’s followers have no shame in taking dowry. Terrorists kill innocent people in the name of Mohammed and Allah. The followers of Christ bombed Hiroshima. Mahavir’s followers do not flinch at the dishonesty prevalent on the counters of their shops. Buddha did not believe in God, but Buddhists have made so many statues of Buddha that the word ‘Buddha’ (Bu-ut) came to mean ‘statue’!

Krishna was troubled most by his Yadav kin. The members of his own Qureshi clan did their utmost to harass Mohammed. They went to the extent of throwing the intestines and waste of dead animals on him.

Revolutionary great men have to bear the harassment of believers. No great man has been born on this earth who has not borne this harassment.

Now let me say something that may not please you. In India today, the minorities have to bear much. Our politicians have made jam out of the word ‘minorities’. But after all, what are the ‘minorities’? Which is the minority that is truly unhappy in India?

In this country, fake Hindus are in militant majority, and tolerant Hindus are in a minority. Fake Muslims are in a heavy majority and Muslims who understand Mohammed are in a minority. This can be said of tolerant people of all religions. Extending this thought, I would like to say that in our country fake secularists are in a majority and genuine ones in a minority. Fake secularists are very talkative and are able to project their untruth in aggressive, strident tones through the media.

Those who are genuine, have no conflict. A true Hindu does not fight with a true Muslim. A true Christian does not fight with a true Hindu. I am willing to bear responsibility for this statement. Conflict is between the fake ones, and is even that conflict genuine?

Let me finish with this. Mohammed’s mosque was made of mud and clay, with a thatch of palm leaves. Today mosques have become grand, but faith has fallen low. Temples are made of marble, but worship has become less gracious. Churches are beautiful, but the prayers less beautiful. Our worship places have become huge but our religions have become narrow. The noise of religion has become loud, but the spirit has become invisible. ‘Religionism’ has increased, but spiritualism has taken a beating.

Can the true ‘minorities’ not come together even to face terrorism? Can we not evade fake secularism to bring to life Gandhi’s ideal of ‘sarva-dharma-samabhava‘?

( from Dr. Gunvant B. Shah’s lecture at the Darul Koran Madrasa in Jambusar, near Vadodara, Gujarat, 16th November 2008.
Also published in Divya Bhaskar Sunday, 30 November 2008)

Translated by Batul Mukhtiar, 6 December 2008

Gandhi V/S Godse

When Martin Luther King was killed in Memphis in 1958, the Chicago Sun-Times published a cartoon. Gandhiji’s ghost tells a bullet-torn Martin Luther King, “Dr.King! These killers are weird. They think they have killed you!” Godse made the same mistake about Gandhiji on 30 January, 1948 at 5.15 pm. Gandhi is an event that continues to live even after he is dead. Those who are dead even while they live may find some things about him weird. It is true that he was a weird man. It is not necessary to agree with all he said, but when he is mocked, it feels as if not he, but humanity is insulted.

On Gandhiji’s 50th death anniversary, the director of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, Minoru Hataguchi came to Mumbai. When the bomb fell on Hiroshima, Minoru was in his mother’s womb, and was saved. I was present at the prayer meeting held on 5th August, 1985, at 8.15 am, exactly 50 years after the nuclear bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. The Peace Memorial stands at the exact spot that the bomb fell. In that moment, these lines formed in my mind:

“In the Peace Park here, there is a crowd.
But there is no jostling.
There are a few noises,
But there is no cacophony.
Here there is peace.
But not a frightening silence.
There is the sun.
But not a sweltering heat.
Here there is prayer without words.
But there are no words without a prayer.”

Around 1920 – 1925, the young Communist S.A.Dange wrote a book: ‘Gandhi V/S Lenin.’ Such books should be written. In 1957, Gopal Godse’s book, ‘Gandhi, Murder and Me’ was banned. Such bans should not be placed. Even Gandhiji would not want that. Bal Thackeray admires Hitler. But one needs as much honesty as Gandhi had even to criticize him. Bal Thackeray himself knows, that he does not have that honesty.

Will we be able to live in a society, where we accept the custom of finishing off those whose thoughts or tendencies may be different from our own? Narsinh Mehta’s words have truth in them: “If we are born of men, then no one can be unhappy, kill the enemy and have a hundred friends.” Martin Luther King says: “If we do not learn to live like brothers, we will die together like fools.” When the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, the physicist Kenneth Bainbridge at the Los Alamos Nuclear Centre in New Mexico said to Oppenheimer after the planes carrying the nuclear bomb had left for Japan: “From today we are all fit to be called the sons of bitches.”

If the man of the age does not seem weird to the people of his times, how can he be a revolutionary or a seer? Is not Ram’s going to the forest in exile, to honor the promise of his father, weird? It was not difficult for Ram to kill Dashrath who gave in to Kaikeyi’s demands, and to become the king himself. Nor was it difficult for Bharat, returning home from his aunts, to accept the crown that fell into his lap, and become the darling of his mother. What would the Shiv Sena call Ram and Bharat? Will they call Ram and Bharat great fools? Will they call the truthful Harishchandra an idiot? If they call these great men fools, then where is the pride of Hindutva? If Hitler is to be praised, then Hiranyakashipu can also be worshipped as an incarnation of God. Only those men who take humanity one step forward on the path of compassion, goodness and love can be called great men.

Gandhiji’s honesty was also doubted. Nehru and Sardar Patel, too disagreed with his insisting on giving Pakistan it’s dues of 55 crores of rupees. We too may disagree. The disagreement was not about giving the money; the disagreement was about Gandhiji’s insistence on giving the money immediately. There was a possibility that the money would be used against us in war, therefore Sardar Patel was uneasy. Sardar and Gandhi had different duties at that time. As the Home Minister, Sardar rightly thought that they were justified in delaying paying the dues at a time of disquiet, and that was an internationally accepted norm. Gandhiji’s insistence was that of a great soul.

It was not wrong that Godse and the Hindu Mahasabha were angry with him. Many Congress leaders also found Gandhi unacceptable at that time, but if a difference of opinion is to be settled by killing someone, then what turn would society take? Can even Bal Thackeray be safe in such a society?

Gandhiji was not the kind of great soul that never makes a mistake, because he was a man. Do we even have the honesty of his mistakes? He took up actions that would benefit the country and the world, with great integrity. Do we follow our own thoughts with such integrity? In such cases, we are even less honest than Godse, because we do not have even his fearlessness.

There is no need to be upset about the plays on Gandhi and Harilal. I had the opportunity of reading the manuscript of Feroze Khan’s play, ‘Mahatma V/S Gandhi’ before it was performed. It is based strictly on facts, and at the same time, it has maintained a subtle discretion. It is not necessary to believe that Harilal did not suffer any injustice. Even admirers do not have the right to take away from Gandhiji’s human-ness. Let us hear Kaka Kalelkar carefully: “ Gandhiji is a man. He was susceptible to human passions. If Gandhiji was an incarnation of God, I swear I would not have worshipped him.”

If we can use our own judgment after watching the plays based on Gandhi, Godse and Harilal, then there won’t be any injustice done to the Mahatma. If Gandhi is an incomplete man, then Godse too is not a complete man. It cannot be expected that Gopal Godse or Bal Thackeray will understand this. They sell the stock of anger. The common man is more sensible than them. There is no need to fear that Gandhi’s thoughts will be suppressed because of a few plays. He experimented with truth, not with plays.

From Prof. Gunvant Shah’s
‘Mahant, Mulla, Padre’@ October 1999

  • Mahant – Hindu priest
  • Mulla – Muslim priest
  • Padre – Christian priest

// posted by Batul @ 8:53 AM June 17, 2006

Max Babi said…
Very thought-provoking article, Batul, as always from the magic pen of a seasoned writer…I entirely agree with his point of view. Before I and you leave this planet, mark my words, Godse and Thackeray will be forgotten. Not Gandhi. Even in nations like Bolivia, the main road of the capital city La Paz is called M.G. Road. How many roads are named after merchants of hate and anger and where?

2:11 PM, June 17, 2006