Coming from a family of partition refugees, I know that the pain of homelessness is not easy. To be forcibly evicted from the place you were born and brought up in is something you can’t erase from your memory easily. Unfortunately, many people have had to undergo this trauma in our subcontinent, from those who were forced to migrate from or to Pakistan during the partition riots based on their religious affiliation, to the Reang Hindus of Mizoram (who were targeted by some Mizo Christians) who’ve faced much hardship after their displacement too, to those residing in the northeast but having hailed from mainland India, cutting across religious lines, branded as outsiders for not being of a different ethnicity (captured beautifully in the film 19/87 and over which some regret has also been expressed by rational people from the northeast) to those of Chinese ethnicity residing in Assam and West Bengal in the wake of the Sino-Indian War of 1962 (Indians in China, including some Kashmiri Muslims fiercely loyal to India, didn’t have it easy during that period either), to the Muslims of Atali in Haryana and the Muzaffarnagar district of UP and the Christians of the Kandhamal district of Odisha who had to leave their respective villages owing to violence by Hindu extremists (and innocent Hindus were also targeted by Muslim extremists in Muzaffarnagar) to those in tribal areas displaced by the Salwa Judum or the Maoists to the Dalits who migrated from villages like Pura in Bihar to those Hindus targeted by Muslim extremists in rural areas in Pakistan and Bangladesh, and thus moving to relatively cosmopolitan urban areas in their own countries or to India, a Nobel Laureate scientist Dr. Abdus Salam having to leave his country Pakistan for standing up for the rights of his Ahmedia community, the Shias in parts of Pakistan migrating to Iran and so on.
One more example that finds a mention in this list pertains to the displaced Hindus of Kashmir, known as the Kashmiri Pandits. When the secessionist Islamist militancy (the terms ‘Islamist’ and ‘Islamic’ are not the same, ‘Islamist’ referring to a totalitarian ideology of imposing supposedly Islamic values as also a sense of hostility to non-Muslims*) erupted in Kashmir in 1989-90 as a reaction against an allegedly rigged election and suppression of peaceful protests against the same by the Indian state (no, I am not absolving the Indian state of wrongdoings, and it is indeed necessary for all sides in a conflict to accept the truth for there to be reconciliation), hundreds of innocent Kashmiri Hindu civilians were killed on account of their faith and pro-India political convictions, being seen as extensions of the Indian state (like innocent Tamil Muslims in Sri Lanka were targeted by Tamil Hindu secessionist insurgents, for not having shared the same secessionist aspirations), which was especially sad, given there had been near to complete Hindu-Muslim harmony in the Kashmir valley when the subcontinent was engulfed with riots during the partition of India (that led to the creation of Muslim-majority Pakistan) back in 1947, and a Kashmiri Hindu friend of mine once shared with me how his maternal grandfather, who was in Lahore in Pakistan at the time of the partition riots, traveled to his homeland, the also Muslim-majority Kashmir, where it was safe. Many Muslim doctors in the Kashmir valley refused to cure the Kashmiri Hindus injured in attacks by militants in 1989-90, leading them to succumb to their injuries, and the refusal by those Muslim doctors had to do either with endorsement of the militants’ activities or out of fear of the militants, for the militants did not hesitate to shoot down even Muslims they perceived as enemies. The killings of the Kashmiri Hindus by the militants were often accompanied by rapes and other atrocities, other than many non-combatant Kashmiri Muslims shouting slogans from mosques asking the Kashmiri Hindus to leave, especially on the night of 19th January 1990, leading an overwhelming majority of the Kashmiri Hindus who had till then survived the militancy to make an exit from the valley, many of whom subsequently died of sunstroke or underwent serious neurotic disorders.
The tragedy has shamelessly been belittled in victim-blaming discourse by large sections of Kashmir’s separatist brigade, by way of bizarre rationalizations or worse still, a conspiracy theory that they all left their homes to settle in shoddy tents on the instructions of the then provincial governor Jagmohan, who, in the days predating mobile phones and the internet, instructed all of them across the cities, towns and villages of Kashmir in secrecy the day he was appointed (19th January 1990) to leave the valley just to malign the Kashmiri Muslims! The economic class struggle rationalization given as an alternative to the conspiracy theory holds no water either, given that poor Kashmiri Pandits were targeted and asked to leave too, though that treatment was not meted out to rich Kashmiri Muslims merely on account of being rich, and it is completely bizarre and baseless to label all Kashmiri Pandits as having been IB agents, nor is it fair to blame them for the favourable treatment their ancestors got from the Dogra monarchy (going further back in time, their ancestors did also get a raw deal from several Muslim rulers too, and such an argument is not very different from Hindu rightists in the rest of India seeking to exact revenge against today’s Muslims citing wrongdoings by Muslim rulers historically).
Of course, not all Kashmiri Muslim separatists or their supposedly left-leaning supporters peddle this discourse, and among those not doing so are Arunadhati Roy, who has given a passing reference acknowledging the tragedy of the Kashmiri Pandits in her column ‘Land and Freedom’ in the Guardian, Sanjay Kak who has done so in a seminar in the University of Westminster, to even former militant Yasin Malik, in his interview accessible on the blog ‘The Kashmir’, to Basharat Peer in his acclaimed book ‘Curfewed Night’ and articles like this one, and it has been very clearly pointed out even by these supporters of Kashmiri ‘freedom’ that Kashmiri Pandits were targeted for their faith and their pro-India political convictions (which they were and indeed are entitled to, if one supports a plebiscite, which is to happen only if Pakistan gives up POK as per the UN resolution of 1948 many Kashmiri separatists keep on talking about without even having read it).
Those with any doubts on this front would do well to watch this televised interview of militant Bitta Karate in which he confessed to his crimes, and other such confessions of having played a role in displacing the Kashmiri Pandits can be seen in a documentary made by National Award winner Ajay Raina, himself a displaced Kashmiri Pandit who had recently returned his National Award protesting against intolerance to Muslims fanned by the current Modi regime before the Bihar elections.
A Kashmiri Pandit writer Rahul Pandita has exposed the hollowness of this conspiracy theory here. This brilliantly articulated defence by a Kashmiri Muslim writer Sualeh Keen of Rahul Pandita’s book Our Moon Has Blood Clots on the exodus, against the allegations levelled by one Kashmiri separatist Gowhar Fazili is worth a read, in which he rebuts the conspiracy theory and rationalisations for the exodus, and even mentions how Kashmiri Muslims living in localities not in contact with Pandits and others who were very young during or born after the exodus have bought the lies and half-truths circulated. In this regard, this piece by a Kashmiri Muslim is indeed worth a read too, and so is this one. This thread of remarks by Kashmiri Muslims supporting the Kashmiri Pandits’ right to return to the valley on their own terms, offers hope too, a cause we must all support for the sake of justice, as also the cause of convictions for all those militants whose role in the exodus can be established.
The pain and suffering of the Kashmiri Pandits has been documented by very many people from within their community, in books like Rahul Pandita’s Our Moon Has Blood Clots mentioned earlier and the recently released edited book A Long Dream of Home – The Persecution, Exodus and Exile of Kashmiri Pandits, the editors of which are Siddhartha Gigoo and Varad Sharma. While Pandita’s book has received much acclaim and indeed justifiably so in my opinion, the latter contains the accounts of suffering penned by many Kashmiri Pandits, which should not be judged on their literary merit but rather, through the prism of the dark chapter of history they seek to commemorate, which explains their historical memory and challenges they faced to overcome to lead dignified lives. An article by Pandita on this topic can be seen here, and one by Gigoo can be seen here.
However, something else I wish to highlight here is equally important, and that is that such episodes shouldn’t allow us to convert our undoubtedly excruciating hurt into hatred, and that is something that many Kashmiri Pandits and even Gujarati Muslims I know personally have prevented themselves from doing; else, cycles of retribution against innocents have no end indeed. Also, in the context of Kashmir, many Muslims seen as being a little too liberal or having pro-India political leanings too were targeted by militants, examples including Prof. Mushirul Haq, a scholar of Islamic theology, cleric Maulana Masoodi and poet Andur Sattar Ranjoor, and there are also many documented instances of Kashmiri Muslims having protected Kashmiri Pandits in those turbulent times, which even find a mention in Rahul Pandita’s book. Also, the tragedy of the Kashmiri Pandits should not blind us to the tragedy of the Kashmiri Muslims in terms of the human rights violations they were subjected to by rogue elements in our security forces, something we shouldn’t shy away from acknowledging and condemning out of nationalist bias, as I have discussed here, and while the Kashmiri separatist narrative needs to be countered, we should not suggest that the Indian state, while on one hand regarding Kashmiri Muslims as its own citizens (despite many of them not wanting to be the same, and they indeed did not become Indians by choice), has done them any great favour by way of some economic development or protection during natural disasters, which is an obligation and not a favour in any sense for which they need to be made to feel particularly grateful! Also, we shouldn’t mock their aspirations of wanting to create a tiny, land-locked country situated between bigger countries as being unable to sustain itself, to which they respond by citing examples of Nepal and Bhutan. Nor does the argument of many of them studying or working elsewhere in India help as an argument to invalidate their aspirations of ‘freedom’, when Indian freedom fighters like Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (ironically, in spite of their iconic status globally, there are many very misconceptions floated about them today in India by sections of the Hindu right, Muslim right, economic right and even far-left, as discussed here and here), Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose (whose legacy sections of India’s Hindu right have attempted to misappropriate), Asaf Ali, Mohammed Currim Chagla and Sarojini Naidu studied in England! The alternative approach of reaching out to Kashmiri separatists can be seen here.
Also, to my Muslim countrymen, I must say that those of you (I may emphatically assert that I am not in the least generalizing all of you, as is clear from what I have been saying all along in this piece) who wish to demonstrate your “secularism” and “human rights activism” by idolizing anti-AFSPA Manipuri activist Irom Sharmila and wrongly generalizing the Indian security personnel as all being murderous, pervert rogues by pointing to their human rights violations in the northeast (and not only Muslim-majority Kashmir to showcase secularism), just like harping on the problems of Dalits and Adivasis, or Christians targeted by Hindu extremists, ought to speak up more openly against your own politicians like Azam Khan (who hasn’t even been charge-sheeted for his alleged role in the riots in Muzaffarnagar and Sahranpur, unlike Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi, who were duly convicted and spent some years in jail, after which they were rightly or wrongly conferred bail, and my point is not with respect to how much evidence is available in which case for what sentence, but whether the narrative of “Hindu riot-instigating politicians always go scot-free and Muslims are only victims, not perpetrators of riots” is true, and I believe that the issue should be ‘powerful vs. non-powerful’, ‘vote-bank politics vs. the spirit of democracy’ and so on, rather than ‘Hindu oppressors vs. Muslim oppressed’, which would actually be half-true or even false in many contexts), other instances of violence against innocent Hindus (take, for instance, the recent news of a Hindu boy in Bihar being murdered by Muslim extremists for marrying a Muslim girl, or the killings of innocent Hindus in a communal riot in Rampur over a petty issue of some Hindu farmers’ cattle having strayed into Muslim peasants’ farms or how before the Dadri incident, an innocent constable in Maharashtra was killed as a retaliation against the beef ban in that state, or how very many innocent Hindus were killed by Muslim rioters in Muzaffarnagar in 2013 and Gujarat in 2002 and not only the reverse), anti-Jewish hatred within your community, the forced displacement of the Kashmiri Hindus, Shia-Sunni violence (which has occurred in India in places like Lucknow), the intolerance towards Ahmedias who are socially boycotted and occasionally violently targeted in India by Muslim extremists in India and whose right to free speech and freedom of religion is to a great extent legally denied in Pakistan, refusal to accept progressive verdicts of the Supreme Court as in the Shah Bano case, curtailment of females’ rights in Muslim communities in India in different ways, like disallowing them from playing football or acting on stage or forcing them to wear burqas in many cases, non-Muslims not being given equal rights in many Muslim-majority countries and being violently targeted in our neighbouring countries (if such Muslims can shout against injustices by the US and Israel in Iraq and Gaza respectively, they can certainly look at our immediate neighbourhood), blasphemy and apostasy laws in Muslim-majority countries and so on (and for those of you, Muslims, not genuinely caring about the rights of others, why do you expect others to care for the rights of Muslims?). Supporting northeasterners against what one perceives as a common foe with one’s Kashmiri co-religionists (the Indian Army), or riot-affected Christians against one’s common enemy (the Hindu communalists), or deriving cheap thrills by pretending to be concerned for Dalits with the objective of Hindu-bashing does not make one secular, impartial or someone who genuinely cares for universal human rights. The same holds true for left-liberal non-Muslims who try to showcase some intellectual elitism by selectively raising their voice usually against the wrongs of non-Muslim extremists or non-Muslim states.
Here is an excerpt from Rahul Pandita’s book that I wish to produce-
“It was at Geeta Bhawan that I had an experience that could have altered my life forever. One evening I saw some boys and a few elderly men gathering at a ground behind the Bhawan. They wore khaki knickers, and one of them erected a wooden pole in the middle of the ground with a saffron flag on it. Then they formed two rows and put their hands over their hearts and chanted some mantras. One of the men spotted me watching them and signalled me to come towards him.
‘Are you a Pandit sharnaarthi?’ he asked.
He made me sit next to him. Another boy joined us, sitting in front of us on his haunches, listening intently to the man.
‘You’ve been evicted out of your own homes by Muslims. You know that, right?’ he asked.
‘Yes, they evicted us,’ I replied.
‘What does it do to you?’ he asked.
I was not sure what he meant so I kept looking at him. The boy intervened. ‘What Guruji means to ask is whether you feel something inside about it. What do you feel?’
I tried to gauge how I felt about it. For a few seconds, so many images crossed my mind. Of those boys claiming our house. Of the fear on the dark night of January 19. of the searing heat in my room. Suddenly I felt very hot under the collar.
‘I am very angry,’ I said.
He looked at me sternly. ‘How angry?’
‘Say it loud. How angry?’
‘Good,’ he said. ‘Now the question is: what do you want to do about it? Will you accept it silently like a napunsak or do you want to take some action?’ he asked.
Napunsak. Impotent. Suddenly I wanted to do something. Suddenly I wanted a gun in my hand and I wanted to kill. I wanted a bomb in my hand and I wanted to throw it in Lal Chowk at one of the processions.
‘We are from the RSS. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. We will give direction to your anger,’ he said. ‘Come, let’s go join the others,’ he continued, looking at the other men.
We went and stood in front of the saffron flag.
‘Put your hand on your chest,’ the man said.
I had seen them doing this earlier. So I did it exactly as they did. And he made me recite a mantra.
‘Come here every day,’ he said. ‘We meet here every day. We will teach you many things and make a man out of you. A man who is willing to fight for his rights, not only for himself but for his entire community. We are Hindus after all. Have you heard of Parshuram?’ he asked.
I had. I knew some of the verses of a poem about the warrior ascetic’s dialogue with Lord Ram’s younger brother Laxman. I recited some of them. He looked at me, not understanding what I had recited. He did not know those verses. I explained what I had recited.
‘Oh, of course, now I remember,’ he said, breaking into a smile.
‘Come tomorrow, I will see you here,’ he said.
They all shook hands with me.
I was so excited I ran all the way from the ground towards the main building of Geeta Bhawan to look for my father. It was very crowded so it took me some time to find him.
‘There you are,’ Father said the moment he spotted me.
‘Kot osuk gaeb gomut?’ he asked. Where had you disappeared?
That was my father’s favourite phrase when he was mildly angry. I ignored it and began animatedly telling him about my encounter. I was so excited that I did not see his expression change.
‘I am going to see them tomorrow and every day now,’ I went on. ‘They will teach me how to fight the Muslims who made us flee from our home.’
‘Listen, you fool!’ My father tried suppressing his anger, but the tone of his voice hit me like a slap. ‘We are not here to fight but to make sure that you go to school and get your education. You don’t need to worry about anything else. Where we live, what we eat, where the money will come from—none of it is your concern. You just concentrate on your studies. And, yes, tomorrow we are admitting you into a school.
‘And don’t you dare meet those men ever again,’ he hissed.
Years later, I saw Father reading a report on the slain Ehsan Jafri, brutally done to death by a Hindu mob in Ahmedabad’s Gulbarg Society, a predominantly Muslim neighbourhood. As I sat next to him, I read how Jafri had nurtured a nest of barn swallows in his room and to protect them, he would not even switch on the ceiling fan. That day I realized that Father had gifted me something invaluable. Something that enabled me to calmly face an uproariously drunk army general one night in television news studio. We were there to debate human rights violations in Kashmir and I pointed out that there needs to be zero tolerance towards such crimes. ‘How can you say that?’ he barked. ‘It is they who have forced you out of your homes, turning you into refugees.’
I looked him in the eye and said: ‘General, I’ve lost my home, not my humanity’.”
*Terrorism, even terrorism citing a theological basis, is not a Muslim monopoly. As you can see here, very many instances of terrorism globally, even in the name of religion, have been carried out by those identifying themselves as Christians, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus and even Buddhists, the victims of the acts of terrorists from each of these religious groupings not always being Muslims. However, just like most people of these religious groupings are not terrorists or supporters of terrorism, and they do not believe that their religion preaches terrorism, the same is the case with most Muslims (and not supporting terrorism applies to even most of those Muslims with other regressive and not-so-liberal attitudes on issues like gender and homosexuality).
It is possible to quote any scripture (allegedly out of context according to its liberal adherents) to justify malpractices, like some verses in the Bible namely Deuteronomy 13:12-15, Samuel 15:3, Leviticus 24:16 and Matthew 10:34 seemingly advocate violence against “non-believers” and the Purusha Sukta of the Rigved, an ancient Hindu scripture, is taken by some to justify caste discrimination, but these verses do not define the entire religion. This article mentioning an anecdote from the British parliament does make an interesting read in this regard, as does this video make an interesting watch in this connection. There are Quranic verses like 2:256, 5:2, 5:8, 5:32, 6:108, 6:151, 10:99, 49:13, 60:8 and 109:6 preaching peace, religious tolerance and human brotherhood, as does the letter from Prophet Muhammad to the Christian monks of St Catherine’s monastery and there are episodes from Prophet Muhammad’s life, as per Islamic lore, indicative of such an approach too, such as his allowing a woman to throw garbage at him daily and his succeeding in ideologically, winning over her by way of humanitarian affection. Those suggesting that peaceful verses in the Quran are superseded by violent verses (which the vast majority of practising Muslims globally regard as contextual) would do well to note that verse 109:6 appears towards the end of the book, and preaches nothing but peace, and 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, 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, levelling 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, as you can see here and here, there are several other apostates of Islam who have stated that while they personally left Islam thinking that the extremist interpretations are correct and moderate ones wrong (as is the case with apostates of many other religions), they have equally explicitly emphasized that that does not in the least mean that they believe that most people identifying themselves as practising Muslims support violence against innocent people.
And in fact, even speaking of the West, a report submitted by Europol, the criminal intelligence agency of the European Union, showed that only 3 out of the 249 terrorist attacks (amounting to about 1.2%) carried out in Europe in 2010 were carried out by Muslims. Even in the United States, most terrorist attacks from 1980 to 2005 were not carried out by Muslims. And no, I am not in the least seeking to undermine the heinousness of the crimes committed by some in the name of Islam by pointing to others having committed similar crimes under other ideological banners, for a more highlighted wrongdoing is no less of a wrongdoing than a less highlighted wrongdoing (that even Hindu rightists, who cite the tragedy of the Kashmiri Pandits as whataboutism when crimes by Hindu extremists are discussed, need to understand), but only to point out that viewing only Muslims as villains, and that too, all or even most of them, would indeed be grossly incorrect. However, despite jihadist terrorists being a microscopic minority of Muslims, Islamist terrorism has become a bigger global threat for its well-coordinated international network since the 1990s. And, let us not forget that when we had the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, the victims included Ahmed Merabet, a Muslim police officer who died fighting the terrorists (and by the way, there are more French Muslims in the local police, including those who have died fighting jihadist terrorists, than in the Al Qaeda unit in their country), Mustapha Ourad, a Muslim who was one of the magazine staff members killed in that attack and there was Lassana Bathily, a Muslim shopkeeper who gave sanctuary to many innocent civilians during the hostage crisis in Paris that followed. Even in the context of the more recent attacks in Paris, a Muslim security guard Zouheir, risking his own life, prevented one suicide bomber from entering a packed football stadium. More recently, Kenyan Muslims very laudably protected fellow bus commuters, who were Christians, from jihadist terrorists. In India too, most of the terrorism is not by Muslims, 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, and has been a practice among Kashmiri Pandits too, since before the advent of Islam in the valley. 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!
Recently, even the Modi sarkar conceded that there is no evidence whatsoever to justify the Hindu rightist conspiracy theory of the Taj Mahal having been a temple of Lord Shiv. And yes, historically, while many (not all) Muslim rulers have a historical record of intolerance to Hindus, so do many ancient Hindu rulers like Mihirakula and Pushyamitra Shunga have a historical record of intolerance to Buddhists. One may add in this context that there is this totally incorrect notion that Muslims are the only ones who stop non-Muslims from entering some of their holiest places of worship like the Kaba in Mecca, but actually, several Hindu temples, like the Pashupati Nath temple in Nepal, too bar non-Hindus from entering them, while many mosques and Sufi shrines have absolutely no problem with non-Muslims visiting them or even praying there. Also, the conspiracy theory about the Kaba being a Shiv temple have their basis in the writings of one Mr. Oak, who was not even a historian, and he is actually not even taken seriously even by those historians, Indian or of other nationalities, who have saffron or other religious right-wing leanings, and in fact, some votaries of this theory claim that Lord Shiv has been ‘imprisoned’ by Muslims, which refutes the logic that God is all powerful! Oak also said that Christianity is Krishna-Neeti (though ‘Christianity’ as a term does not exist in Hebrew, and came about much later in history!) and many other such ludicrous things! There are websites making claims about non-existent Arabic texts to prove their point. While such propaganda (except the bit about Lord Shiv being ‘imprisoned’!) may please the Hindu chauvinist who desperately wishes to imagine ancient India to be the only centre of human civilization, impartially speaking, one ought to thoroughly dissect it before taking it seriously. These are just completely baseless rants being circulated on the social media that don’t have the backing of any serious historian, not even the most right-wing ones. These conspiracy theories are typical of loony religious rightists, including Muslim rightists in Pakistan attributing 26/11 to RAW and many genuine liberal Muslim intellectuals in Pakistan are dismissed by conspiracy theorists as agents of the CIA, RAW and/or Mossad!
There are also misplaced notions of Muslims potentially outnumbering Hindus in India, thoughthe 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.
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 peruse (not skim through and judge based on one’s preconceived notions) this e-book of mine available for free download.
(Image Courtesy: http://thewire.in/2016/01/17/to-die-while-dreaming-of-return-19364/)