Speaking of Gandhi and Nehru, given that these two personalities do not particularly represent any region or caste in the public imagination, the way Patel represents Gujaratis and Ambedkar represents Dalits, these two have conveniently been made verbal punching bags by Hindu rightists, Muslim rightists, ultra-leftist folks (many of whom love to exaggerate Muslim victimhood and make sweeping negative generalizations about upper caste Hindus) etc., and many people, out of sheer ignorance of facts, have fallen for the lies and half-truths circulated about them. While Gandhi and Nehru are indeed certainly not above criticism, myths need to be busted, for the secular and democratic constitutional setup they left us with cannot be bartered for anything, and genuine intellectuals on the left like the late Justice Krishna Iyer and on the right like Arun Shourie, Makrand Paranjape, Ram Swaroop and Rajiv Malhotra are full of admiration for Gandhi (and Shourie’s expression of admiration for Gandhi much predates his criticism of Modi).
Let me straight away get to the myth-busting with respect to Gandhi-
- He was a British agent out to curb the revolutionaries using violent methods to fight British rule, and it is certain that he did not want to save the life of Bhagat Singh.
This is a popular myth being peddled by Gandhi-haters nearly everywhere. The revolutionaries, resorting to individual acts of violence against policemen and other government officials, did not have any coherent countrywide mass presence to stir up an organized rebellion that would drive the British out of India. To unite such a large country in secrecy to have an armed rebellion on Indian soil would have been very difficult in India, and the scenario cannot be equated to Czarist Russia during the First World War, for instance. The only organized armed rebellion since 1857 that occurred was by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and his Indian National Army (INA) launched from abroad with the help of global powers clashing with Britain.
Besides, Gandhi’s methodology of struggle wasn’t about dialogue as the Liberal League desired, but of resistance that involved economic boycott (which led to much economic loss to England including shutting down of textile mills in that country) and entailed much personal suffering by way of bearing lathi blows and courting imprisonment. The Liberal League maligned Gandhi as an anarchist and strictly supported the policy of only having negotiations. Besides, some people who later in the 1940s, resorted to violence to fight the British, like Jaiprakash Narayan, Rammanohar Lohia and Aruna Asaf Ali, continued to admire Gandhi and have good relations with him (in spite of his disapproval of their methods) and even invoked his legacy on a number of issues once he was no more, and Gandhi himself said that violence was better than cowardice and supported the army action to defend Kashmir in 1947-48. Interestingly, even Bhagat Singh, in spite of his disagreement with Gandhi on a number of issues, did not write off Gandhi’s struggle as being intrinsically worthless or opposed to national interests, and for one, even after adopting violent methods, he participated in a Congress demonstration against the Simon Commission led by Lala Lajpat Rai. In fact, in one of his speeches, Bhagat Singh had given a brilliant analysis of the Swarajist wing of the Congress contesting elections.
Bhagat Singh had been conferred the death penalty by the judiciary for his murder of Saunders, and Gandhi’s pact with the viceroy Lord Irwin certainly did basically not lead to his hanging! As for those who desired that Bhagat Singh not be hanged (almost the entire nation), many among them were at the most only expecting a commutation to transportation for life i.e. being sent off to the Andamans, where there was brutal torture and from where few ever returned. It is impossible for anyone to ascertain what Gandhi and Irwin discussed behind closed doors, but what Gandhi and Irwin told the public later was that Gandhi did press for a commutation of the death sentence, to which Irwin did not agree (understandable from a British standpoint, for leniency towards those who murdered Btritish officers could set a dangerous precedent with life-threatening consequences from the British point of view). Was it worth letting go of the pact for this reason? Perhaps not, for had that been done, we may not have had the Government of India Act, 1935, passed as a consequence of the Second Round Table Conference, which paved the way for the democratic institutions that came to be a part of our constitution after independence, and a non-violent struggle obviously had to be in stages. While addressing the INA, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose proudly recalled how the Congress had governed so well under the Government of India Act, 1935, which proved Indians could govern themselves.
Also, while Bhagat Singh was undoubtedly a great martyr, there were many other revolutionaries across India who suffered and sacrificed as much. Besides, that some have suffered and sacrificed for the country employing violent means does not necessarily imply a policy of benevolence on their part when they come to power, as the case of Stalin clearly demonstrates. Also, while Bhagat Singh was a communist and Subhash Chandra Bose was a socialist democrat, and both were fully secular, Bhagat Singh even rejecting all religions and belief in God, the Hindu right has propped them up as its heroes as I have discussed in some detail here.
Secularism, a belief which Gandhi, Bose and Bhagat Singh shared, is necessary for regressive customs to not get legal sanction and for people to be allowed to think independently. It’s not about the rights of the religious minorities alone (which is very important in itself), but about the state not making laws that violate human rights in the name of religion, of which women, Dalits etc. could have been the target.
As diplomat KP Fabian, not in the least an uncritical admirer of the Congress, points out-
“(I)t was Indians who fired on and killed their compatriots in Jallianwala Bagh and elsewhere; it was the Indians working for the intelligence bureau who penetrated the revolutionary cell including that of Bhagat Singh. Therefore, the British Raj would have found without much effort enough Indians to take on the few Indians who took to revolutionary violence. Bhagat Singh’s idea that acts of revolutionary violence would wake up the population who will rise up against the foreign masters in a sustained and organized manner is less than convincing.”
Savarkar, whom the Hindu right hails, while in the Andamans, wrote a mercy petition and after his release, did not do anything to advance the cause of Indian independence, and his Hindu Mahasabha, which had formerly thanked the British for liberating Hindus from Muslim rule, did not participate in the Quit India Movement, unlike the RSS, which did.
Also, while the movie The Legend of Bhagat Singh was very well-made and is one of my favourites too, the idea that the Congress took to demanding complete independence in 1929 instead of Dominion Status was owing to the popularity of Bhagat Singh, as portrayed in the movie, is completely off the mark. There was a heated debate on this topic in the Calcutta session of 1928 (when Bhagat Singh was largely unknown nationally), in which Subhash Chandra Bose (then a Congress member), supported by Jawaharlal Nehru, had moved a resolution for complete independence defeated by a narrow margin, and it was decided that if the Dominion Status plea wasn’t accepted in a year, the Congress would demand complete independence and launch a mass movement for the same. Also, the demand for Dominion Status was to get more experience in self-rule to get independence in a phased manner.
As for conspiracy theories floated by the likes of Marxist writer Hansraj Rahbar about Gandhi being a British agent, Rahbar’s factual contents are often inaccurate, for instance, talking of the Congress moderates being expelled from the party by the extremists in the Surat session in 1907 instead of vice versa, which was actually the case. No official documents or correspondence within the British government anywhere reflect Gandhi being pro-British, and suggest much to the contrary. Rahbar seemed to desire a violent dictatorship of some communist party. Practically, it would not be accountable to any judiciary or media, and could be as corrupt and exploitative as it wished to, as is the case in China! Also, while China may statistically be ahead of India in terms of many economic indicators, it still suffers from widespread poverty.
- He appeased the religious minorities and helped in the partition of India, being ultra-generous in giving aid to Pakistan.
This is a completely baseless allegation. Gandhi opposed the Muslim League as much as he opposed the Hindu Mahasabha, and was steadfast in his opposition to the partition. However, when a very vast number of Indian Muslims desired partition at any cost, leading to rioting in places like Calcutta in 1946, there was no alternative, for they would have continued fighting for it even after independence, and any attempt to prevent partition by fasting unto death would have only escalated violence, and so, he deployed that weapon effectively to maintain communal harmony instead.
Contrary to what some suggest, Gandhi never opposed the deployment of police forces to quell the Moplah riots earlier in the 1920s. He condemned the Muslim rioters, and he only reminded them that they violated the tenets of their own religion (indeed, the Quran has many verses preaching peace, religious tolerance and human brotherhood like 2:256, 5:2, 5:8, 5:32, 6:108, 6:151, 49:13, 60:8 and 109:6; those suggesting that peaceful verses in the Holy Quran are superseded by violent verses, which the vast majority of practising Muslims globally regard as contextual, would actually do well to note that verse 109:6 appears towards the end of the book, and preaches nothing but peace*) and he appealed to the nation at large to not stereotype all Muslims for the acts of some, which was necessary to prevent further rioting elsewhere in the country.
During the partition riots, among the first places visited by Gandhi was Noakhali where Hindus were being targeted by Muslim extremists.
During the Direct Action Day riots, he was almost killed by a Muslim, but his excellent rendition of a Quranic verse made that Muslim become his disciple. When Gandhi visited Muslims in a relief camp in Old Fort in Delhi during the partition riots, he was greeted with slogans of “Gandhi Murdabad!” He was certainly not admired by communal Muslims, as much as he is accused of siding with them according to sections of the Hindu right.
Mahatma Gandhi’s emphasis on protecting Indian Muslims who desired to stay back in India can be justified on two grounds – one was that many Indian Muslims had genuinely opposed the partition, and the second, flowing from that was that Gandhi wished to create an “idea of India” that was inclusive unlike Pakistan or Nazi Germany, for there is no end to dragging the exclusion in defining who is a “true” Indian, which would be dangerous for a country that is diverse in terms of not only religion but caste, race and language, and we see sectarian and ethno-linguistic clashes among the Muslims themselves in Pakistan.
As for being ultra-generous in giving aid to Pakistan, the amount of 550 million rupees was a due that had to be paid, and had India defaulted on the payment, Pakistan would have taken the matter to the International Court of Justice, leading to much embarrassment for India. Attempts on Gandhi’s life had been made on many occasions even before the idea of partition had surfaced, by Marathi Brahmin extremists who had everything to lose from Gandhi’s non-casteist, secular political ideology, as elaborated in the very well-researched work Gandhi ki Shahadat.
Gandhi even wrote and spoke much on Christian missionaries employing financial incentives to convert people to their faith, which he deemed as unethical and condemned, but was not in the least against Christianity as a faith or Christians in general.
3. Gandhi gavoured Nehru as India’s PM because Nehru was his stooge.
Firstly, Nehru had serious differences with Gandhi over a host of issues, from Gandhi’s usage of religious symbols to economic development models to Nehru’s objection to the idea of seeking Dominion Status before complete independence, and many passages in Nehru’s autobiography border on mocking Gandhi, written during Gandhi’s lifetime.
Gandhi chose Nehru to become prime minister because, as Ramachandra Guha points out-
“(Nehru) most reliably reflected the pluralist, inclusive idea of India that the Mahatma stood for. The alternatives — Patel, Rajaji, Azad, Kripalani, Rajendra Prasad — had, by contrast, somewhat sectional interests and affiliations. But Nehru was a Hindu who could be trusted by Muslims, a U.P. wallah who was respected in the South, a man who was admired by women — like Gandhi, and like no one else, he was a genuinely all-India leader.”
Patel’s administrative acumen apart, that he indeed had traces of a relatively prejudiced mindset reflects in a letter he wrote to Nehru in November 1950 that exhibits his xenophobia towards the mongoloids-
“All along the Himalayas in the north and northeast, we have on our side of the frontier a population ethnologically and culturally not different from Tibetans and Mongoloids. The undefined state of the frontier and the existence on our side of a population with its affinities to the Tibetans or Chinese have all the elements of potential trouble between China and ourselves… The people inhabiting these portions have no established loyalty or devotion to India. Even Darjeeling and Kalimpong areas are not free from pro-Mongoloid prejudices… Bhutan is comparatively quiet, but its affinity with Tibetans would be a handicap.”
Sardar Patel’s assumptions were almost completely off the mark, as I have pointed out here.
Patel is also arguably believed to have had a strain of Hindu rightist tendencies, which had contributed to many Muslims not reposing their faith in the Congress and supporting the Muslim League in its bid to partition the country.
As for C. Rajagopalachari, rightly adored by secular-minded economic right-wingers, many overlook that he was socially conservative and liked women only as being householders.
4. He was anti-Dalit.
He fought for Dalit rights, spent time in Dalit colonies and accommodated them in his ashram. However, he did not see eye to eye with Ambedkar’s politics of separate electorates. There were many Dalits in the Congress, like Jagjivan Ram and Balu, who preferred Gandhi’s approach to fighting untouchability based on rationalism and a humanistic understanding of Hinduism over Ambedkar’s aggressive identity politics. Though the Hindu right has tried to appropriate the legacy of Ambedkar, as it has tried to appropriate the legacies of Bhagat Singh and SC Bose, Ambedkar was critical of Hinduism as a faith, not getting entangled in whether untouchability was a misinterpretation, and converted to Buddhism. It is true that he did criticize Muslim societies over a number of issues, but he was happy cooperating with the communal Muslim League on a number of occasions, as Arun Shourie has pointed out in his book Worshipping False Gods.
Interestingly, the inspiration for leaders of oppressed peoples fighting for justice elsewhere globally, like Martin Luther King (Jr.) and Nelson Mandela was Gandhi, and not Ambedkar.
5. He was a Hindu extremist.
This is indeed an absolutely ridiculous idea floated by Muslim communalists. The mahatma was an admirer of Prophet Muhammad (and I may add, the Quran; he knew the Arabic language and often read the Quran in its original text in that language). Some accuse Gandhi of having made certain negative generalizations about Muslims as people, which may seem to be the case if seen out of context. However, it is necessary to understand that Gandhi clarified time and again that Islam stood for peace and tolerance, and though many Muslims were aggressive, it was because of the sociological factor of a minority psychosis and as for Muslims of non-Indian ancestry, for having descended from nomadic warrior societies. Gandhi also said that the Sikhs were an aggressive lot for their own historical reasons, and going by history, even Christianity had a bloody record, but “not because Jesus was found wanting, but because the environment in which it spread was not responsive to his lofty teaching”.
Gandhi did acknowledge that Islam had produced great soldiers of non-violence. In a speech he delivered at Calcutta (now Kolkata) to a gathering of Indian Christians, he made it a point to mention the following, even though it was not particularly warranted, since the speech was on Christianity and non-violence –
“In my opinion, it is not true to say that Islam is a religion of the sword. History does not bear that out.”
Indeed, leave aside India, tolerant Muslim rulers existed even in the Middle East like Salahadin.
Some of Gandhi’s closest comrades happened to be devout Muslims like Maulana Azad and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (the latter is known as Frontier Gandhi, who was hated by Muslim Leaguers for having opposed the partition and spent much time in Pakistani jails after the partition).
In fact, in Gandhi’s case, he continued to plead for peace between Hindus and Muslims till his last breath, risking his life going to riot-affected areas, appealing for peace to save Muslims’ lives which Jinnah never did, and his very last fast, which was to be unto death, was to stop the killings of innocent Muslims in Delhi, and his prayer meetings included verses from the Quran in spite of protests by Hindu extremists. He did not abandon his tolerance, in spite of being aware of the threat to his life from Hindu (and Muslim) extremists, and it was his strong commitment to ensuring that Muslims who chose to stay back in India get their due that cost him his life, which was taken by a Hindu extremist, who, during his trial, accused Gandhi of being a Muslim-appeaser.
As leading historian Irfan Habib mentioned in a lecture at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) referring to the period of the partition riots-
“Only one man seemed to stand forth to prevent the destruction of this University and massacres of Muslims in western Uttar Pradesh, and that was Mahatma Gandhi. He was insulted when he went to Muslim refugee camps at Jama Masjid and he was insulted when he went to Hindu refugee camps! Day in and day out, he suffered insults. On 13th January 1948, he went on fast. And what were the demands of the fast? One was that Muslims must be protected and those people who had been leading mobs against Muslims must sign that they would not do such thing again. And there were names of RSS and Hindu Mahasabha leaders in his list. And Muslims should be allowed as have not gone to Pakistan to return to their homes so that refugees from Pakistan were being asked to vacate for Muslims. This was the first demand and you can see what a huge demand it was in the circumstances.”
That Gandhi is despised by extreme communalists of all hues demonstrates his impartiality!
6. He was a supporter of the capitalist classes, wanting to prevent the peasantry and workers from getting their rights.
Ironically, it was Gandhi, more than anyone else, who made the Congress a mass organization. Yes, he did not support an aggressively leftist economic agenda, and his idea of trusteeship was utopian, but aggressive Marxism has come to be rejected even in Cuba and China, for private competition is indeed what incentivizes good quality production of goods and services.
6. About Gandhi’s sexual practices
Gandhi did take to sexual practices that fit the textbook definition of adultery. However, he made no secret of the same, and one can criticize him for the same, but one cannot accuse him of being intellectually dishonest. Besides, a pro-BJP website but one that is rational has debunked fake pictures of Gandhi on the social media, as you can see here.
Mahatma Gandhi, arguably the greatest man of the 20th century… a man who shook an empire without the use of force, and gave the peasants of Champaran justice… a man whose frugal lifestyle is hard to emulate by anyone who wishes to do the same to show off… a man who brought millions of Indians, irrespective of religious affiliation and regional denomination, together to fight for a cause and removed the fear of prison from their minds… a man who saw the evils in state centralization much before it had virtually destroyed India’s economy and disintegrated a superpower… a man who rightly continuously advocated the importance of direct economic upliftment in the villages as opposed to the theory of ‘trickle down effect’, which has failed… a man who rightly understood the need for social reforms such as the eradication of untouchability, low status of women, child marriage and drinking and drug addiction… a man who saw the harmful consequences of big technology on the environment, and asserted that the earth has enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed, much before international leaders started talking about ‘sustainable development’ and signed so many protocols and international conventions related to the same… a man who truly understood the nature of parliamentary democracy, which rightly in his opinion was a fish-market with rival elites contesting for power, and asserted that for democracy to be successful, people must be disciplined and enlightened… a man who showed the world the mettle of Indian civilization…
But indeed, no man is perfect, and the same is true for this mahatma. While his concept of a struggle based on truth and non-violence is very much relevant in the context of social reforms, which can actually only come about with the genuine change of heart, the same is not true for politics, which is a power game, and a change of heart can be brought about in individuals, but not in an establishment like a colonial power… it is silly to expect all the millions of Indian people to stay non-violent when their kith and kin were being shot dead by the police, and only a few fetish acts of violence like the one at Chauri Chaura made Gandhi to call off the Non Cooperation Movement… also, his hope that the British would grant autonomy to India if we supported them in World War I was rather impractical… his calling Jinnah ‘Qaid-e-Azam’ or the supreme leader of the Muslim world when his party members were losing to Musim Congressmen in provincial elections and rejecting Subash Chandra Bose’s offer of weakening the Muslim League in Bengal, when it had formed a coalition with the Krishak Praja Party cost India dear and the ‘direct action’ of the Muslim League (before which Jinnah said he wanted India divided or destroyed and after which he said he didn’t want to discuss ethics) led to partition… his concepts of ‘individual satyagraha’ (to not embarrass Britain’s war effort!) and joint trusteeship of capitalists and workers were most impractical… Gandhi’s Khilafat Movement also failed to give reactionary Muslims a modern, secular approach to politics as was evident from the Moplah riots in Kerala, and it was a greater embarrassment for Gandhi when Turkish revolutionaries like Mustafa Kemal Pasha abolished the very institution of the Caliph in favout of secular democracy… also, it is a misconception that India owes its independence directly to Gandhi – Britain’s financial weakness after World War II, coupled with pressure from the new superpowers (USA and USSR) led to the decolonization process the world over, and the reason for India’s speedy independence after the war was the series of revolts in the Armed Forces after the INA trial…
But, rather than leveling healthy criticism against Gandhi for these valid points, much of the criticism against Gandhi we hear of is unfortunately communal in nature. I would request the readers to ponder over these quotations of Gandhi-
“Real disarmament cannot come unless the nations of the world cease to exploit one another.”
“I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.” (implying that we should be open to good influences from other cultures, while retaining our own cultural identity)
“A disciplined and enlightened democracy is the best thing in the world.”
“Law is not to make black white or white black but to enthrone justice.”
“Be the change you want to see in the world.”
“Three quarters of the miseries and misunderstandings in the world would finish if people were to put on the shoes of their adversaries and understood their points of view.”
“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”
*The Quran and Hadiths devote considerable space to talking about honesty (there’s an anecdote of Prophet Muhammad punishing a Muslim for stealing from a Jewish gentleman’s house), kindness, forgiveness, humility and striving for socioeconomic egalitarianism.
Very many mainstream Muslims do indeed believe that Islam is the only religion that can lead to God since the advent of Prophet Muhammad, as mainstream Christians believe the same for Christianity since the advent of Jesus, but that doesn’t entail intolerance towards those of other faiths. To explain this with an analogy, if a certain coaching centre (analogous to Islam or Christianity, going by the mainstream interpretation) claims it is the only one that can get students admitted into say, IIT (analogous to heaven), and even encourages its students to get students of other coaching centres and those not taking any coaching to join that particular coaching centre, it cannot be equated with forcing others to join their institute or killing those not willing to do so. In fact, both the Bible and the Quran preach the message of peaceful coexistence with other religious groups (the relevant verses in the context of the Quran have already been cited, and Rom. 12:18 and 1 Tim 2:2 may be cited in the context of the Bible).
Speaking of apostates of Islam (“ex-Muslims”) criticising their former religion, I know that there is a fairly well-known website run by an apostate and basher of Islam who has even offered a cash prize to anyone who can disprove his allegations against Prophet Muhammad (but there are books by apostates of other religions criticizing their former religions too, the most famous one being ‘Why I Am Not a Christian’ by Bertrand Russell, and there’s also ‘Why I am Not a Hindu’ by Kancha Ilaiah, leveling very strong allegations), but practically, he is the judge of the debate, or to go by what he is saying, the “readership” of the website, a rather non-defined entity. In fact, he has acknowledged that he came across a Muslim who “intelligently argued his case and never descended to logical fallacies or insults” and while that Islam-basher “did not manage to convince him to leave Islam”, that Muslim earned his “utmost respect”, which implies that practically, the Islam-basher is the judge of the debate. Likewise, that Islam-basher has mentioned with reference to a scholar of Islam he debated with, that the latter was “a learned man, a moderate Muslim and a good human being” and someone he (the Islam-basher) has “utmost respect for”. So, that Islam-basher’s critique of Islam, whether valid or invalid, has no relevance in terms of making blanket stereotypes about the people we know as Muslims or even practising Muslims. By the way, that Islam-basher bashes Judaism too. And it is worth mentioning that I have encountered several practising Muslims on discussion groups on the social media, who have, in a very calm and composed fashion, logically refuted the allegations against Islam on such websites. Indeed, several apostates of Islam have explicitly stated that while they personally left Islam thinking that the extremist interpretations are “right” and moderate ones wrong (as is the case with apostates of many other religions), that doesn’t in the least mean that most people identifying themselves as practising Muslims support violence against innocent people (as you can see here and here).
It’s not as though communalists under any banner, except arguably those actually resorting to killing innocent civilians, should be dehumanized or can never be logically made to modify their views, as the must-watch movie Road to Sangam, based on a true story, demonstrates, and to draw an analogy, you can see this video of a Muslim who initially wanted to become a terrorist wanting to blow up Jewish civilians but changed his standpoint about Israel for the better after visiting that country. It is not as though Muslims are another species that can’t be rationally engaged with, the way some extreme anti-Muslim rightists almost make them out to be, portraying Muslims in general as cruel, slimy, backstabbing and aggressive (many Muslims whom the non-Muslim readers would know personally would not exhibit such traits if the non-Muslim readers were to analyze dispassionately, rather than making baseless presumptions, and indeed, most Indian Muslims are of Hindu ancestry and so, they share the same genes as the Hindus – Hindu religious lore also refers to treacherous human beings like the Kauravas wanting to burn the Pandavas in a wax palace; so, treachery was not unknown to India before the advent of Islam, as royal family feuds among the Nanda and Gupta rulers also demonstrate, and some of the worst atrocities in history have been committed by the likes of Hitler and Stalin, who were not Muslims, nor was Chengiz Khan who was an animist), but like many people in other communities in different contexts, some (not all) Muslims are in the stranglehold of anachronistic ideas like a global pan-Muslim fraternity and the upholding of Islamic law, other than having prejudiced notions of an exaggerated sense of victimhood, and I have dealt with how to ideologically combat Muslim extremism in some depth in this article.
Sacrificing animals as a religious ritual is indeed not exclusive to Muslims, and ‘bali’ has existed among Hindus too, something Gautam Buddha (who lived centuries before Jesus and Muhammad) had opposed (and even Emperor Ashok the Great consumed meat of peacocks, which he stopped after embracing Buddhism, though interestingly, Buddhists in China, Japan, Bhutan, Vietnam etc. do consume meat, as do most Sikhs, Christians, Jews and Parsis, and what is halal for Muslims in terms of dietary regulations and the mode of slaughtering some animals is identical to what is kosher for Jews and several sects of Christians, and that is true for the practice of circumcision for males as well, which even has health benefits), and still continues in many Hindu temples across India, especially in West Bengal during the Navratri season. Also, it may interest some to know that the story of Prophet Abraham associated with Id-ul-Zuha is found in the Old Testament of the Bible too, which the Jews and Christians also believe in (those regarded as prophets by the Jews are regarded as prophets by the Christians too, with the addition of Jesus, and those regarded as prophets by the Christians are regarded as prophets by the Muslims as well, with the addition of Muhammad). And obviously, not all of Arab cuisine is non-vegetarian either, with Arab vegetarian dishes like strained yogurt using labneh cheese and sweet dishes like zlabia, popular in South Asia as jalebi!
There are also misplaced notions of Muslims potentially outnumbering Hindus in India, though the Muslim population growth rate is declining (not the population itself, which cannot decline usually for any community), and the population growth rate of Keralite Muslims is less than UPite Hindus, for instance, and yes, even otherwise, if someone sees Muslims potentially outnumbering Hindus in India as a real problem, they should appeal to the Indian government to legally impose a two-child norm for all Indian citizens, irrespective of religion, rather than just generate unnecessary hatred for an entire community and divide the nation. Many Hindus criticize Muslims for having many children because they practise polygamy as permitted by their faith (though census reports have established that Hindus are more polygamous than Muslims, even though it is illegal for the former, and I myself know a Hindu electrician in Delhi who has engaged in bigamy), even though that actually doesn’t make a difference to the number of children as long as the number of reproductive women remains the same. Four women would respectively give birth to the number of children they would, irrespective of whether they are married to one man or four different men! In fact, polygamy is not prohibited by Hinduism as a faith (and, in fact, it was outlawed for Hindus only after independence, and Nehru faced stern opposition for the same from orthodox Hindus). The Puranic lore is full of multiple marriages by a single man – to quote some prominent examples, Krishna had thousands of wives, prominent among whom were Rukmini, Satyabhama and Jambvati; his father Vasudev had two wives, Devki (Krishna‘s mother) and Rohini (Balram‘s mother) and Ram‘s father Dashrath had three wives, besides even Bheem having a wife other than Draupadi (Gatodkach‘s mother) and Arjun too had several, including Krishna‘s sister Subhadra. In fact, the law mandating monogamy for Hindus was introduced only after independence! Also, Islam mandates a limit of four wives and a responsibility of the husband to look after his multiple wives (if he has multiple wives in the first place) equally well, though I do agree that even this is anachronistic today. As for harems, these too have not been a monopoly of Muslim rulers, and the practice has existed among Hindu rulers too, such as in South India, and even among Buddhist rulers in Sri Lanka. And there are indeed many Hindus too, particularly in rural areas and in several cases, even among the urban educated class, who have several children even if they are monogamous. Many educated Hindus who have been public figures, like former president V.V. Giri, former prime minister Narasimha Rao and our very own Lalu Prasad Yadav have all had many children, and even Narendra Modi is the third of his parents‘ six children.
Also, there are some who accuse Muslims of being the only community that carries out inter-cousin marriages, but that is true for Parsis as well and Hindu lore mentions Abhimanyu marrying his maternal uncle Balram‘s daughter (though this is a South Indian folk adaptation not to be found in the Puranic lore, it shows that the idea hasn‘t always been abhorrent in Hindu societies) and Rajasthani folklore has it that Prithviraj Chauhan too eloped with his cousin and while even this is contested by historians, he has never been looked down upon for the same, and even today, this practice exists in South Indian Hindu societies.
I personally know several Muslims who are unprejudiced and are strongly patriotic Indians, and I see no reason to see Indian Muslims loyal to their country as being exceptions to the general norm. In fact, a Hindu acquaintance of mine, who studied at Aligarh Muslim University, told me that while those cheering for Pakistan in cricket were quite a vocal lot there, most Muslims cheered for India, and this was in a Muslim-majority setting where the apparently pro-India majority did not have to conceal its true feelings, and another friend of mine, who is an Assamese Hindu from Guwahati and who is very resentful of the Bangladeshi Muslim influx in his state, told me that on a train journey, he overheard a conversation between two Muslims from AMU bashing the students who cheer for Pakistan. Also, another friend of mine whose father is an Indian Army officer once told me that he loves the entire Muslim community (though I don’t support any stereotyping, positive or negative!), for once, his father was fired at by militants in Kashmir and his father’s driver, a Muslim, rushed to bear the bullet to save his father’s life! He also narrated another anecdote of how a Muslim once donated blood to save his father’s life and asserted that he was not in the least ashamed of the fact that “Muslim blood” (whatever that is supposed to mean!) runs through his veins!
And for those suggesting any marriage between a Hindu boy and Muslim girl as amounting to “love jihad”, they may note that many Muslim women too have married Hindu men, like Katrina Kaif, Sussanne Khan, Zohra Sehgal (formerly Zohra Khan), Neelima Azim (Pankaj Kapoor’s wife), Nargis and leading Mumbai cyclist Firoza, and some have even converted to Hinduism upon marriage, like famous sitarist Annapurna Devi (formerly Roshanara Khan), fashion model Nalini Patel (formerly Nayyara Mirza), Maharashtra politician Asha Gawli (formerly Zubeida Mujawar), South Indian actress Khushboo Sundar (formerly Nakhat Khan) and Bollywood actress Zubeida.
For all residual resentment against Muslims, I’d request you to read carefully (not skim through and judge based on one’s preconceived notions) this e-book of mine available for free download.