If only there was adequate interaction between Hindu-Muslims, myths and misconceptions could get cleared

The widening gaps between the two communities could be bridged if there had been a dialogue between them. But would this really suit the present regime?

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Humra Quraishi

I have been writing all along if only the misconceptions to the Muslim community could stand corrected then, perhaps, the communal strains and stress would settle, but, then, that wouldn’t really suit the political ruling lot of the day.

The misconceptions are gaining ground whipping up those typical twisted notions of the ‘other’ along the strain that Muslims are violent and brutal, terror striking, marrying 4 times, producing 40 children. Added to this list is also the communal churned theories that the Indian Muslims played little role in the Freedom struggle, did not suffer during the Partition!

Is there any interaction between Hindus and Muslims beyond the hearsay? In today’s polluted atmosphere where are the occasions or forums or platforms for any of the discussions to help clear the poison around? After all, a middle-class Hindu and a Muslim can only talk or walk or eat together if they are living in the same block or in the opposite building, or working or studying together. With lopsided ratios on these fronts, ‘when’ and ‘where’ to interact with each other!

If only there was adequate interaction between the two communities, myths and misconceptions could get somewhat cleared. Today, deep divisions and polarisation hamper those formal or informal meets between the two communities.

This fact can't be overlooked that moral policing brigades/private senas are officially or un-officially unleashed in several States to thrash Muslim men if they dare to befriend Hindu women. Also, the wild theories that Muslims are ‘appeased’ have added to the polarisation, and given sanction to the hyped one-liner: 'keep- away- from-Muslims!' Of course, nobody even bothers to clear the myth that contrary to the appeasement theories, the stark truth is that a great majority of Indian Muslim have faced at least one if not more humiliating experiences because he or she happens to be a Muslim.

There ought to have been an immediate halt to these myths and misconceptions about the Muslims. Unfortunately, there seems no apparent measures undertaken by the concerned authorities to control the damage, even as myths and misconceptions in circulation are gaining ground, compelling one to add apology-ridden prefixes or to highlight his or her secular credentials!

Tell me, why should the very word ‘secular’ get prefixed to Muslim names and surnames? After all, isn’t it well understood that we, as patriots and concerned and responsible citizens of a democracy, are secular. It comes so very naturally, because we love our country.

Let's clear the myth that Indian Muslims did not suffer during the Partition!

I’d met and interviewed Nida Fazli and was reminded of the details he’d told me of how the Partition had changed the entire course of his life. “Just before the Partition I got engaged to a woman I was in love with, but my family and also that of my fiancé’s, decided to migrate to Pakistan. I was determined not to move from here and stayed had back, though went through a turbulent lonely phase…Very painful years. My fiancé and nor did my family get back and I was all alone here …it was only after several years of loneliness that I found a companion in Mumbai.”

And that legendary singer, Talat Mahmood, was again one of those Indians who did not want to shift to the newly carved country, Pakistan. His father, Manzoor Mahmood, owned an electric fittings cum a gramophone shop in Lucknow, and he was better known as the one who sang Iqbal’s popular tarana ‘Chino Arab hamara/ Hindoostan hamara’, at the Muslim league functions. At the time of the Partition, Talat was in Calcutta with his elder sister and though his entire family migrated to Pakistan, he and his sister opted to stay back in India.

This decision to be forever cut off from his immediate family did affect him. As his niece Rafia Hussain had on an earlier occasion told me that emotional pain in his voice was because of the fact that temperamentally he could not adjust to the ways of the film world. Also, that initial shock that his entire family had migrated to a new country and would be settling down there, had deeply affected him. He was far too sensitive, he’d internalised that pain. But till the very end he was sure that he would never leave his home country. After all, he had opted to stay back at any cost.


And as the late Qamar Azad Hashmi, writer and mother of slain activist Safdar Hashmi, had detailed during the course of an interview, “In common with thousands of people, my family was affected by the Partition; we had to even shift out of our home in Delhi and live in refugee camps set up in Humayun’s Tomb … And though initially I went with my family to Pakistan, but I returned the very next year and got married here. While my husband’s family had moved to Pakistan, he was determined to stay put, though his business suffered tremendously after the Partition. We brought up our children in extremely tough financial conditions.”

Several academics and historians have focused on the fact that hundreds and thousands of Muslims did not want to cross over to the new country, and stayed back. They opted to stay put in India. In one of his books, academic Shamsul Islam has highlighted the fact that a large number of Muslims were not supportive of the creation of Pakistan. To quote him, “ It is true that India was partitioned in 1947 due to Muslim League’s demand for a separate homeland for Muslims. And there is no denying the fact that the Muslim League was able to mobilise a huge mass of Muslims in favour of its demand. But it also true that a large section of Muslims and their organisations stood against the demand for Pakistan. These Muslims against the Partition challenged the Muslim League theoretically and confronted the latter on the streets.”

And as historian Muhammad Mujeeb commented that after the Partition, Muslims “became a smaller minority in India, physically not less, but more vulnerable, by the creation of the separate state of Pakistan, with their loyalties obviously open to suspicion and doubt, and their future nothing but the darkness of uncertainty.”

Historian Mushirul Hasan has also detailed, “Partition was a nightmare. The so called Islamic community in India which had no place in Jinnah’s Pakistan was ‘fragmented’, ‘weakened’ and left vulnerable to right-wing Hindu onslaughts. Despite a creation of a separate Homeland for Muslims, India remained home to a large number of Muslims. Those who remained in India have consistently had their loyalty to India questioned by the Hindu Right or Hindutva camp. The Bible for the Rashtriya swayamsevak Sangh cadres, Bunch of Thoughts, the compilation of the writings of RSS ideologue M S Golwalkar, contains a long chapter, titled ‘Internal Threats’ in which the Indian Muslims are described as threat number one.”

And diplomat-author, Pran Nevile in his memoir ‘Carefree Days: Many Roles, Many Lives’, writes about how Muslims living in Delhi were attacked around the Partition phase-: “By the beginning of September 1947, Delhi was flooded with refugees from Punjab. There was an acute shortage of housing in Delhi. The exodus of about 2000 officers and clerks more than balanced the influx of over 3000 from Pakistan comprising the staff of the railways, Posts and Telegraph department and other central government officers who had decided to opt for India...I was then living as a sub-tenant of a Punjabi family in the Western Extension Area, a new residential complex off Pusa Road which had come up during World War II…By the first week of September, with the influx of over a lakh of refugees in Delhi, the communal situation became tense…I vividly remember how a bulk of Muslim families were driven out of their homes on Ajmal Khan Road and some other areas of Karol Bagh. Here I would like to cite the case of a Muslim family, our immediate neighbours whom we managed to protect. A family of three, Mr. Khan, an executive engineer, his wife and grown up daughter were occupying the government-requisitioned house. Some anti-social elements and groups of refugees were actively involved in attacking Muslim houses identified by local goons. It was on the night of 7 September that we came to know their house could be attacked in the morning. We gave them shelter for the night and early in the morning, our neighbour, a Sikh gentleman, drove Mr Khan’s car and took his family safely to the Imperial Hotel on Queensway. An hour later, the house was ransacked by the goons, who rebuked us for aiding in their escape.”

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