/ Education / Ram Puniyani and his Aman Katha | An Interview

Ram Puniyani and his Aman Katha | An Interview

Peoples Voice on November 10, 2016 - 1:26 pm in Education

Nasiruddin Haider Khan
A Hindi language journalist. Recently he left full time job to devote more time in writing and working with community. His areas of interest are gender, caste, communalism and developmental issues

What do we know about Ram Puniyani and his Aman Katha

He is one and half year older than Independence of our country. Independence had also brought partition of India. He is from other side of divided India. Of course, he and his family have lots of stories to tell about partition but these never turned into stories of ‘hate for other community’. At last, he became a messenger of Aman i.e. peace. At the age of when generally middle class person leads a retired easy and comfortable family life, he has chosen a different path. He travels to remote parts of the land to explore myth and misconceptions, to promote amity through his very own Aman Katha.

A few months back, he was in north-eastern part of Bihar on the invitation of Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan (JJSS) for Aman Katha on the topic of “Ham kaisa Bharat Banana Chahate hain”. In next three days, he addressed three different audiences which include two full day workshops. He was never seen to be tired, always willing and ready to take questions and tried to put his arguments patiently. He did elaborate themes and issues according to the audience he faced. With his communication skills, he easily made his point in every mind.

He is Professor (Dr.) Ram Puniyani. One can talk with him on any emerging social, political or cultural issue. His range of interest is vast. He wrote many books and writes regularly on current issues. He has received many prestigious awards for his work or communal harmony and peace. Here, I have put a long list of questions before him. He addressed all the questions.

Generally, we know very little about the personal life of civil society activists and public intellectuals. They too have a personal journey. Tell us something about your personal life, so that we could know something about your personal journey.

I was born in a refugee family that had migrated from the part of Punjab (Jhang) which is now in Pakistan. We migrated to Nagpur in 1947. My father had a long and hard struggle for keeping the family afloat. We were a large joint family with all its advantages and disadvantages. We grew up in a very caring atmosphere and were also very happy to help our parents in their business.

What was the impact of partition on your family, personal life and relation with Muslims?

From my childhood, I carry a couple of impressions. One was that though we had migrated from Pakistan, not much was talked about the past. The present travails were the major part of the family ethos. The painful narratives of migration did show the anguish and even perishing of many close relatives but no animosity was expressed against Muslims as such. Later I was to have good friends from Muslims as well and one of my close Muslim friends from Medical College days was a good favourite of my mother as well.

Despite being Hindus the neighbours were not very warm in the beginning in our struggling days, though this was to change towards a very affable relationship in times to come. My family was fairly religious, enthusiastic participation in Ram Lila was very pleasant and we used to look forward to it. Also, all other festivals like Diwali were also celebrated with great joy.

How and when you got Inclined towards social issues?

In school, I was fairly OK and was exposed to reading diverse literature. My Chacha (uncle) introduced me to reading newspapers from an early age and I started taking interest in biographies of great people. We brothers and our uncles, we all were sitting in a shop, which also acted as our study room. With this, we were seeing the society from close quarters. While walking to the school we had to go through very poor localities. We did not have too much facilities about books etc. but it never came in the way for pursuing studies.

Gradually the social issues started coming to my thinking process. I used to spend vacations working shop and in reading Hindi literature. This reading became an irresistible passion. The understanding about social issues started unfolding gradually. I was very keen in participating in debate competitions in school for which I had to further read and this added to the understanding of social issues.

By the time I entered college I thought I should devote myself to social issues. College gave me further opportunities to broaden my vision. Apart from college libraries, I joined another public library which helped me getting much needed books of my interest, including those of Hindi literature. Apart from my own studies of college I prepared for Hindi exam Visharad.

With joining the Medical College, on a parallel track, I thought of studying the philosophy of religions. It dawned upon me as to why are people just focusing on religion in which they are born? The answer to this was not simple, I started dabbling in some general books of different religions and roughly started feeling that ‘Humanity is the best religion’. At the same time, I felt that society needs social work and dreamt of becoming a missionary working in some remote places. Life of Albert Schweitzer, a doctor working in Africa, became my inspiration.

Any specific ideology which had impacted your worldview?

Also, I started feeling that the World needs some sort of a World Government and I should work in promotion of this idea and institution of that type. Meanwhile, I started thinking more about poverty as a phenomenon and as to how it can be done away. By chance, I came across a book by US ambassador Chester Bowles, which had a chapter on Communism. That appealed to me to no end. Was thrilled by the idea of a communist society where the basic needs are no problem for the people. This initiated a long journey of reading into Marxism, Leninism, Existentialism and other philosophies about the society. This led me to the understanding that communist revolution is not possible in a society which has roots in democracy, even though elementary. So the society can change only through social movements, the change will come through struggles for rights and dignity in daily life. This brought me close to the fact that democracy is also the prerequisite for the social movements to flourish and to make an impact on policies of the society.

With the demolition of Babri Mosque, I felt that the communal issue is out to erase the democracy in the society and so this must be combated. This led me to the path of reading and grappling with the phenomenon of communalism in India. The issues of caste, gender came to the fore in a very direct manner after I started pursuing this study. In grounding my understanding on nature and threat of communalism works of Indian Historians in interpreting Indian History, more so Medieval and modern helped me a lot. Asghar Ali Engineer’s pioneering work in delineating the communalism in India was a great source of shaping my understanding.

I got a great support in my work and stay in IIT Mumbai. I had joined IIT in 1976 as a physician and later shifted to Bio-Medical Engineering as a faculty member. My struggle to shape my ideas on communalism took place mainly during my sojourn in IIT.

How did you get interested in Social Work?

From my childhood, the neighbouring communities became a big reference point. The poverty around forced me to think. This was aided by my reading habit and exploring various ideologies. The mass upheaval around the student youth movement in the 1970s was the triggering factor in taking the social work more seriously. In due course, while engaging with trade Unions, workers many facets of social life went on becoming clearer. IN 1973 when I was teaching in Medical College Nagpur, I resigned to take up trade union work on a full-time basis. After this on suggestion of my friend Late Praful Bidwai, I decided to shift to Mumbai in early 1976 so that I can be part of workers movement in a more serious way. From 1973 to late 1976 I was practically whole time worker first in Nagpur and later in Mumbai. During this time apart from the trade union work I took up reading about socialist movement more seriously; leading to constant churning of my understanding about society. With joining IIT, I tried to combine both the work with my regular job.

How did you get the idea to leave the job and take up social work full time?

I had first given up the job in 1973. With the demolition of Babri Mosque, I had decided to engage with the efforts to counter the threat of communalism. Earlier also I had decided that as soon as my family, children get stabilised and I save some nominal amount, I will give up the job to work full time. As I started getting more involved in anti Communal work, my resolve to give up job and take up social work started becoming stronger. It was a calculated giving up of the job this time, based on how much I could save by this time to be able to sustain myself in the social work.

Generally, Pravachan (Discourse) is done by saints, sadhus, religious people; it is also in the realm of religion, so how did you get the idea of giving a discourse on Aman Katha-Harmony Tales ?

When I started getting involved in anti-communal work, it became clear that communal violence is due to the hatred prevailing in the society. The hatred is spread by communal forces based on misrepresentation of history and its distorted presentation of the present. I wanted to counter this. Initially, I started writing different pamphlets related to the communal problem, Facts versus Myths’. I wrote on this theme for Indian history. This was based on the contributions of eminent historians of India. Then I thought of bringing out popular books, illustrated with cartoons and pictures. This later idea took the shape of Graphic novels on Communalism and terrorism. The illustrations and graphic presentation to my write-up were given by my friend Sharad Sharma.

All this while I wanted to toy with the ideas through which the truth of history and reality about stereotypes about other communities can be reached to other communities. Once a security guard in the building where I stay asked me for some book so that he can read. This was a big challenge as most of the books did not aim at the mass level, which can be accessed by average person. Then I remembered the small pocket books like Hanuman Chalisa type books which can be read and kept in the pocket as well. Here the idea of Aman Katha started taking shape. While talking to different sections of people I started adapting my talks to the level of the audience. The classical narrations done by religious people does not have an interactive format. I thought of making these more and more interactive to keep the attention of people and to see that the dialogue mode continues all through. I found the response of people to such methods is good and kept reefing it.

What issues you take up in these talks, Peace Discourse?

The aim of these talks is to make the people think and to urge them to go beyond the obvious. What is apparent may not be real is the core of this method. To unravel the truth I try, to begin with asking people, audience, and question related to what they think about various myths, stereotypes and biases which are prevalent in the society. The audience perceptions about the history, e.g. temple destructions, forcible conversions, the atrocities of Muslim kings, the size of Muslim families, the tragedy of India’s partition, why was Gandhi killed, what is the issue related to Kashmir and the global phenomenon of terrorism. Many of these topics come up from the side of the participants in these meetings and I try to give a shape to the discussion in which the audience has an equal role to take the discussion forward and make the picture complete. The meetings generally end with the discussion on what directions should be taken in the future for bringing in peace, prosperity and dignity of all the people.

India is an Independent country. There is Constitution. Citizens have equal rights. There is freedom of expression then why is there a need to have talks like this?

Yes on paper all that you are saying is true and ideally, it should be there in practice also. As we know the famous adage. ‘Eternal vigilance is the price of Liberty’ same way we cannot take all these values for granted. In India the communal forces have been working from last near to a century. One of the hallmarks of their work is to propagate a sectarian concept of India, i.e. a Hindu nation. Built around this they have popularised the whole construct as per which the values of democracy are subtly undermined and the religious minorities are relegated to a subsidiary position.

In the conception which developed around freedom movement led by Gandhi, there is inclusive nationalism. This nationalism regards all the people of this land as equal citizens, equal Indians. In the concept of Hindu nationalism, only Hindus are the original and rightful inhabitants of India. Muslims and Christians are regarded as alien and to be having lesser rights. The myths have been constructed around the rule of Muslim kings and their role in history. Similarly, an alternative idea of Hindu nation has been made to occupy the social space and this has become very assertive during last few decades. The word of mouth propaganda and use of social media by the section people has intensified the problem. Since these have a place in popular perceptions, since myths and stereotypes have developed around these distortions, the need has come up to talk about these basic things despite the values of Indian constitution.

Do you think such talks have an effect?

There is no uniform response to such meetings. One can say that a large section of those attending these talks goes with a new way of thinking, new facts to think and reshape their ideas. Many start questioning their earlier held belief. They also think at an individual and group level during these sessions and realise how simple things of history and present have been given the communal twist. I can say that majority of those attending these sessions go with a new pattern.

Apart from this large group, there is a smaller group who may not positively react to what they hear in the meeting. What happens in these cases is that in their minds also some basic questions crop up and a process of rethinking begins. Many of these people respond after some time to affirm that what they interacted had some impact on them. And yes there is always a smaller section that remains recalcitrant and does not change at all. But surely the large sections have a positive impact.The real challenge here is that we are not able to reach the large mass of population because of the inadequacy of our efforts.


Today those shouting the loudest about patriotism are the ones who kept aloof from the process of nation building

How do you see the present atmosphere in the country?

The last couple of years has seen a worsening of the political scenario with the Modi Sarkar in power. With BJP led NDA coming to power and with BJP having a majority on its own all its affiliates, the RSS combine, has become active and all sorts of statements against minorities and those disagreeing with them have been coming out. The tall pre-election promises have bitten the dust. There is a great disappointment among the people due to worsening economic situation, failure to create new jobs and policies which are directed against the average people.

The insecurity amongst minorities has gone up. Some intellectuals were murdered (Pansare, Dabholkar, Kalburgi) and others from the progressive stream; JNU scholars etc. are under constant attack, University autonomy is being trampled. The issues of Beef eating love Jihad, GharWapasi have been dominating the scene. To add to this the Universities are being attacked one by one. Beginning with FTII, IIT Madras, JNU, and HCU there is an attempt to kerb the autonomy of Universities to stifle free thinking and to foist the RSS ideology and to impose RSS affiliated students Union ABVP in different places of learning. There is a constant pattern in which the complaints are lodged by ABVP against the progressive student’s unions; these are taken up by the local BJP leaders who bring the pressure on Universities to punish the progressive student’s Unions. The crushing of the strike on the FTII Union, the attack on JNU, HCU are the glaring examples of this.

Along with this new emotive issues are being created around Nationalism, patriotism. The assertion that ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ has to be chanted to prove one’s patriotism is the sign of growing domination of Hindutva politics, Hindu nationalism. The periodic occurrence of incidents where these issues are used and propped up to wipe out the democratic space is very much there. The RSS elements from Sadhavi, Sakshi, Yogi and Kailash Vijaywargiya type, which are called fringe by some, are to the foretelling us that they are not fringe but the core of Hindu nationalism.

Words Communalism and Secularism are used very often: are these mere words or something else?

Communalism is used for sectarianism being practised in the name of religion. Secularism is an attempt to preserve the plural values inherent in our Constitution. These words have deeper ideological meaning and are a reflection of the political agenda and goal of certain social groups.

Communalism has rooted itself through the divisive issues like Ram Temple, Shah Bano case, Love Jihad, GharWapsi etc. This communal ideology is based on the narrow understanding that peoples of one religion form a nation. This ideology spread hatred towards the people of other religion, leading to hate other and consequently violence, in which innocents are the victims, which in turn leads to polarisation of communities along religious lines. This is becoming a major phenomenon of the society.

Secularism is an ideology where the state is not guided by the institution of religion. Where the state respects the religious diversity and upholds values of pluralism. The social groups and ideologies holding on to communalism attack the secular ideology and the politics inherent in those values.

Currently, there is a lot of discussion on Nation, Patriotism. What is the concept of nation; there are many concepts of nation today!

Yes, the concept of nation and patriotism are being hyped into emotional issues. A sort of hysteria is being created around those issues. This has been observed regularly more so after the attack on Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). As such nation is a modern concept, applying to the people of a geographical area who come together and pursue their common goals for a better society. Patriotism, the loyalty towards the nation state has been cultivated among the people. There is no uniformity in the levels of patriotism. Incidentally, those shouting the loudest about patriotism are the ones who kept aloof from the process of nation building. India did gradually become a nation during the colonial period. Prior to this, we had Kingdoms; the pattern of King and the subjects was based on birth based hierarchies. These hierarchies are political social, and gender based.

With British colonising this area, with the rise of modern industries and education the newer groups of people: Industrialists, workers and modern educated classes come together and struggle against colonial powers for Indian nation, based on liberty, equality and fraternity.

The earlier classes; those of landlords, kings and upper caste saw the new changes as a threat to their social hegemony and opposed the social-political changes aimed at Liberty Equality and Fraternity. They grouped themselves and wore their religion on their sleeves as far as nationalism is concerned. They tried to promote traditions, values inherent in feudal times and the earlier hierarchies of caste and gender in a newer language. They remained aloof from the process of formation of Indian nation; they harped on Muslim nationalism and Hindu nationalism.

Today in India with the new ruling dispensation, Modi Sarkar, the Hindu nationalists are asserting themselves and questioning the concept of the Indian nation, the concept which is inclusiveness and based on equality. As far as India is concerned this nation is a modern concept, while the Muslim nationalists and Hindu nationalists harp on imaginary past glories to hide the concepts of inequality which are inherent in their political agenda.

What is the concept of Nation in our Constitution?

The one’s harping on past glories and values are now devising patriotism tests and imposing it in an intimidating way. This patriotism test is totally out of the gambit of values of Indian Constitution, which uses the word, ‘We the People of India’. And in this ‘We’ all the people irrespective of their religion, caste and gender are equally important parts.

The Constitution is very explicit on the concept of nation, it is ‘We’. And this We are all the citizens. This ‘We’ is the foundation of India, Indian Constitution. In contrast, the We of communalists is based on single religion and is restricted to elite upper caste males of the society.

What is the meaning of terms patriotism, nationalism? These terms are very much in use currently.

These terms have become dominant in social discourse since the present Government brought up the issues around JNU. After February 9th Meeting, where the masked men raised pro-Kashmir-Anti India slogans, the student leaders like Kanhaiya Kumar were framed as anti-National and arrested. The charges of sedition have been put against some of them.

As such the concept of nationalism came up during the British period as the ideology of the Anti-Colonial movement. This was Indian Nationalism. Then there were Muslim Nationalists and Hindu Nationalists, who came up simultaneously but were not part of the anti-British movement. As such Constitution gives us the right to criticise the policies of state and the words like nationalism are not part of the constitution. The terms like sedition are used for those who spread disaffection against the state and incite violence or indulge in hate speech. Currently, this clause is being used against all those disagreeing with the ruling Government. Right from beginning In North Eastern states, there was a lot of criticism of state and there were separatist groups. Same is the story of Kashmir from last many decades. The first major voice of secession was from Tamil Nadu when Hindi was declared as the national language.

Shouting anti-India slogans is not secession; this coupled with incitement to violence is what sedition is.


Caste system among Hindu is the highest form of intolerance

Now all the wings of RSS know that it’s their government, so that can get away with it easily

You say that India was having a syncretic culture before the British came: The conflict between Hindu and Muslims began after the British came, tell us in detail.

The Indian society, where there were different Kings ruling in different parts of the sub-continent were mixing with each other irrespective of their religion. Kings or landlords were ruling for the sake of power and wealth. The loyalty of the employees of Kings was not based on religion. The diverse people in society were also mixing with each other at the level of culture and religion, religious practices.

Islam first came to India through Arab traders in Kerala’s Malabar Coast. People here had many religious traditions. Kings later had affiliates and employees based on loyalty and association. Akbar had Raja Mansingh as his commander in chief, Birbal and Todarmal as his high ranking court officials. In Aurangzeb’s court, the number of Hindu officials rose to 34%. Rana Pratap had Hakim Khan Sur as his general and Shivaji had Daulat Khan and Ibrahim Gardi among others as his generals. His confidential secretary was Maulana Haider Ali.

Many Muslim poets, Ras Khan Rahim wrote poems in praise of Hindu gods, Hindustani music has contributions from both Hindus and Muslim doyens. The food habits also got intermixed and synthesis at the level of religion expressed in the form of Bhakti and Sufi traditions. Hindu and Muslims both were upholding these traditions. Poets like Tulsidas announced that they can live in a mosque while worshipping their Lord Ram.

British wanted to pursue the policy of divide and rule and commissioned the writing of History along communal lines. British policies sowed and later encouraged the seeds of divisiveness between Hindus and Muslims. They were the ones who recognised the organisation of Muslim Nawabs, Muslim League as bang representatives of Muslims. And that encouraged Hindu elite to come up with communal Punjab Hindu Sabha, Hindu Mahasabha and RSS in due course.

It is said that in India the Dalits and Muslims have been taken care of, appeased for the sake of votes. It is also said that Hindus have been bypassed, how far is this true?

This is a mere propaganda. If we see right from the beginning, with the formation of Indian National Congress, the Hindu communalists said that taking the Muslims in Congress is appeasement. As far as Dalits are concerned the reservation at various levels has slightly helped them. Still, if we see the social indices we will realise that Dalits are far behind in economic and social indices. The party which has ruled the country for the longest number of years has been compromising at times and genuine implementation of reservation policies has not taken place.

For any policy to be successfully implemented it is necessary that the ruling centres at different levels should take that policy seriously. In India, the upper caste bias in the jobs and matters of economic policies has ensured that Dalits don’t get their due in the right proportion.

As far as Muslims are concerned, it is true that various parties have tried to appease the fundamentalist leadership of Muslims. As far as employment policies and social policies are concerned Muslims have been the victims of marginalisation as reflected in Gopal Singh Commission, (1980), Sachar Committee (2006) and Rangnath Mishra (2007) commission reports are concerned. The Muslim community has lagged behind and suffered insecurity due to communal violence and economic marginalisation.

As far as Hindus are concerned they are also not a uniform community, some of them, the upper layers have benefitted a lot while the rock bottom has stagnated. This stagnation of section of Hindus is not due to the partiality of the state towards Muslims and Dalits (which is not there anyway) but due to the economic policies which are oriented for the benefit of upper sections of society.

It is alleged that in the name of fundamentalism Hindu groups are targeted while Muslim groups are overlooked by secular people. Don’t you think there are fundamentalist/ Orthodox sections among Muslims also?

This perception is again due to the constant propaganda. The orthodox sections have grown over a period of time and they have good communication network. If we see the organisations like VHP, Bajrang dal have been growing stronger. The secular people do realise that there are both Muslim and Hindu communalism. Both of them polarise the communities. The Majority communalism is offensive and creates a mirage of Hindu hurt, it projects the Hindu hurt which is more of a construct.

Minority communalism is dangerous as well but its threat is much less compared to the majoritarian communalism. Minority communalism is more of a defensive reaction which leads to separatism of sorts, while majority communalism presents itself as nationalism and tried to subvert democratic nationalism Minority communalism keeps the Muslim community in the grip of backwardness.

They both have to be opposed and secular ethos need to be promoted and projected among all the communities.

Why the issues like Love Jihad, Ghar Wapsi, Cow protection, Intolerance and now Nationalism: have started to come up all of a sudden: How do you see it?

Except for Intolerance and Nationalism, other issues have been there for quite some time. In the wake of the projection of Ram temple issue, which yielded rich electoral dividends for BJP, these issues have been used as polarising points. Communalism thrives on emotive issues. It is not concerned with the core needs of deprived sections of society, so the issues of this variety are propped up. The intensity of these issues has started becoming more dominating with BJP Government coming to power. Now all the wings of RSS know that it’s their government, so that can get away with it easily. So we see all their Sadhvis, Sakshis and big mouths are talking with bigger vehemence.

These actions of RSS combine led to an atmosphere where general tolerance towards dissenting voices started taking horrific shape leading to murders and intimidating. The murders of Dabholkar, Pansare, Kalburgi and then Akhlaq acted as a trigger for many outstanding personalities to return their words and articulate their feeling by calling it growing intolerance. Nationalism as a slogan has been thrown up in the wake of the attempt of RSS to stifle dissent and to create one more emotive slogan which can be used to divide the society.

In the prevalent times, some people feel the present atmosphere one is reminded of fascism in Europe. Some others feel fascism can never come to India. What is your opinion?

The liberal space is declining, the democratic norms are being trampled, the university autonomy is being killed, the minorities are feeling insecure, the scholars are feeling uneasy: these all indicate the erosion of democratic space. The major hallmark of fascism is the storm troopers which implement the intolerant politics on the streets and they know they will get away with that. When we compare the present atmosphere with the one which was there during the dreaded emergency of 1975, the major difference is that now the state authoritarianism is being supplemented by the violence on the streets. When Kanhaiya Kumar, supposed to be under the protection of the police, is beaten up in the court premises by lawyers or lawyers look alike, it shows that this is something more than what was there during 1975 emergency.

The political phenomenon doesn’t repeat but they modify their form. India ‍will not see the gas chambers of Europe but a modified pattern may slowly erode the values of Constitution. Still, many safeguards are there which may prevent a full-fledged fascism. It’s a touch and go battle.

If you see the acts of violence, you can see the name of Muslims and Islamic organisations, those using the name of Islam more often being there, why so?

The acts of terror have come to fore more so after the 9/11 tragedy in which nearly three thousand innocent people lost their lives. Today’s phenomenon of global terror is the offshoot of Taliban- Mujahideen- Al Qaeda. They were trained in Madrassas located in Pakistan and funded by America. The major reason for this was that US wanted to confront Soviet armies in Afghanistan. The whole syllabus for brainwashing of this organisation was made in Washington. America funded it richly (8000 million Dollars and 7000 tonnes of remnants).

If you notice terrorism is located mainly in the parts of the globe which are rich in oil. You can also register that largest number of victims of these acts are Muslims in various countries. Al Qaeda can be regarded as the root organisation from whose ideology ISIS and other offshoots have sprung up. It is a design of global hegemony to control the oil wealth which is manifesting as “Islamic Terrorism’, interestingly this word, which combines religion and terrorism was coined by US media in the wake of 9/11 2001.

Does Islam Promote Terrorism?

No religion promotes terrorism. Primarily terrorism is a political phenomenon. There are certain interpretations of all religions which are used to promote intolerance while there are other interpretations which promote peace and amity. This applies to most of the broad umbrellas which are called religion.

It is said that Hindus are tolerant and that intolerance of Hindus is a reaction to fundamentalism-intolerance of Muslims.

Let’s see that such generalisations are not true anywhere in the World. No community is uniform in its attitude. In the same Hindu religion, we saw the prevalence of caste system, which is the highest form of intolerance. We can see Hindus like Gandhi on one hand and Hindus like Togadia or Sadhvi Prachi on the other. Among Muslims also we can see Maulana Abul Kalam Azad who practised inclusive values and we can also see the likes of Jinnah who talked of a separate state for Muslims. We even today had Muslims like Asghar Ali Engineer on one side and AkbarUddin Owaisi on the other.

As representative groups, we can see the all-inclusive national movement with Hindus and Muslims both working together and we had formations like Hindu Mahasabha and RSS working for exclusive nationalism, Muslim or Hindu respectively.

The claim that some organisation is a representative of the whole community is wrong again. As all Hindus are not with RSS, all Muslims are not with Owaisi’s party. Each one claims that they are reacting to the other; the point is they have their own agenda due to which they behave like and use the others’ attitude as a justification for their own actions. Still majority communalism of RSS is more offensive today.

What message will you like to give to the organisations which do not work in the name of religion?

We need to bring back the social agenda to the basic needs of society and issues of equality with dignity. The issues related to employment, livelihood, health and education have to be brought to the fore. This requires that the identify issues are not given importance in the political arena.

The identity issues have come to fore mainly due to the prevalence of feudal relations, and dominance of clergy. The communal politics, aiming at doing away with the democratic space operates more on the propaganda of ‘Hate Other’, which again is based on distorted perception of history and present. This needs to be undone by the spread of proper understanding of the history of medieval India, and the causes of present patterns, which have become cultural but have roots in economic derivations. So we need to bring to fore matters related to mixed culture, differences between kingdoms and democracy, the difference between religion and politics in the name of religion. This message has to reach to the people of society at large and this can be done through programs of awareness building through lectures, seminars, social interactions, festivals, film screening and through other cultural means.

Different organisations need to build a programmatic unity on the basis of secularism and democracy. The narrow differences need to be given a go by and a broad platform to promote pluralism, democracy and human rights needs to be built through social movements. This can effectively check the rising tide of communal politics.

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