Q : Even after all these years as an independent nation, communal tension in India has not abated. What is your diagnosis?
A : The main reason for Hindu-Muslim tension is that the Indian Muslim is yet to identify himself fully with India, its people and its culture. Let the Indian Muslim feel and say that this is his country and these are his people, and the problem will cease. It is a matter of changing his psychology.
Q : Muslims live in many countries but riots occur only in India.
A : That is not a fact. There is Muslim problem in Russia and also in China. I remember, more than 30 years ago there was a serious clash between the Chinese and the Muslims in Sinkiang. The trouble was allegedly started by Muslims, and the Chinese, it was reported, hit back hard. Something like a million people died. Even recently there were similar reports from Sinkiang.
The Muslims must realize that we are all one people and it is the same blood that courses in all our veins. They are not Arabs or Turks or Mongols. They are only Hindu converts. The Hindu suspects the Muslim because the Muslim forced the Partition of India. To this day there are Muslims shouting 'Pakistan Zindabad' in India. How many of them shout 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai? I know of Indian Muslims who garlanded their radio sets when the victory of the Pakistani hockey team over the Indian team in the Olympics was announced!
Q : Don't you think that by harping on the differences between Hindus and Muslims, you are only encouraging Muslims to consolidate themselves as a separate entity?
A : The Muslims are already consolidated. They think separately, act separately and plan separately. It is the Muslim who think that all non-Muslims will go to hell after death.
Q : That is not so. Some bigoted Muslims have given a wrong interpretation to the tenets of Islam. Maulana Azad had given a new and modern interpretation.
A : And how many Muslims bothered to follow Azad? The secular Hindu is the rule; the communal Hindu is the exception. But among Muslims, the communal Muslim is the rule and the secular Muslims the exception. That is the difference.
Q : You condemn the Muslims for looking to Pakistan. But there are many Hindus looking to China and Russia.
A : I condemn them too, equally strongly.
Q : But how do we solve the problem? There are sixty million Muslims in India. Do we drive them out?
A : The problem can and must be solved by Indian Muslims owning the country and its ancient culture as theirs. Indian history did not begin with Mohammed Ghazni.
Q : Who will teach the Muslims to identify themselves completely with this country and its culture?
A : You and I, all of us.
Q : And how do we do it, by beating them?
A : Beating is of two kinds. A mother beating her child, and an enemy striking a man. We have not done any beating. But if and when we do teach by beating, it will be like the mother's out of love and solicitude for the child's welfare.
Q : But it was a Hindu who killed Mahatma Gandhi.
A : Yes. But as you must be knowing, in the autumn of 1947, the Government had reports of certain Muslim groups wanting to kill him. Some Muslims had been threatening the Mahatma in his Bhangi Colony residence at Delhi. The Congress leaders asked us to help and we organized a round-the-clock vigil till the Mahatma moved to Birla House.
Q : Obviously, you want the ascendancy of the Hindus. Do you want to demand amendment of the Constitution for the purpose?
A : There is no question of the ascendancy of any one. What we want is a healthy society. Ours is a Constitution which gives equal rights to all and there is no need to amend the Constitution. The Hindu is born secular. He accepts the truth that there are different paths to God realization.
Q : Why do you always talk of Hindus? Why not Indians? Why don't you include Muslims in your work?
A : During the freedom struggle our leaders tried to win over Muslims even when Maulana Mohammed Ali said that the worst Muslim was better than the best Hindu, including Mahatma Gandhi. In the process the Hindu became very much a 'Hindustani'. But did the Muslim respond? Did he also become a 'Hindustani'? No!
Almost all parties are all the time encouraging the Muslims to maintain their separate identity just because they want their bloc vote. Is that the way to make 'Hindustanis' out of them? It is obvious that the attitude of Hindus has to be set right first, before we attempt setting right the Muslims. Therefore I am concerned with Hindus, and not Muslims.
Q : What is the fault of Indian Muslims, just the fact that some of them wanted Partition? Most Muslims repent that past. Why not forget Partition?
A : We can't afford to. The Muslim looks upon Partition only as a springboard for further aggression.
(With Pressmen at Bangalore, November 1965)
Q : After all, the Hindus and Muslims are brothers. So why not consider Partition as just a brotherly division of their properly?
A : But, have you ever heard of children cutting up their mother saying that she is their 'common property'? What depths of depravity!
Q : Why should we blame Muslims for Partition? After all it was the Hindus who conceded it.
A : And who demanded it? It was conceded at gun point.
Q : Surely, the Muslims have become a part of our life.
A : I am not questioning it. But why should they behave as they are doing? As a matter of fact, in no other country in the world, the way of living etc., of those countries have changed. In Iran, Turkey and other countries their original dress, language, view of life etc., have remained the same. But in our country everything, even thinking also, is changed.
If this change was not there, there would have been no Muslim problem at all. It has cut them off from the main national current.
Muslims should have no objection to bringing Islam in line with reason, and so facilitate their passage back into the mother society. For example, Islam lays down that a child born between 280 days and 2 years after the termination of the marriage is legitimate. Is this not unreasonable? After all, it is established that a child takes not more than 280 days to be born. Why can't they accept established facts? A Muslim judge of one of our High Courts objected to even a small obvious reform like this. There is the rub. Once Muslims rationalize Islam, there will be no difficulty. For, all are agreed on the unity of God and the necessity of surrender to God.
Q : Probably because there are Muslim countries, we have to show special consideration to the local Muslims.
A : This outlook of showing special consideration and of praising and publicizing predominantly the Muslim goodness is dangerous. The name of Abdul Hameed is publicized too much, but others who displayed equal valor are not much in the news. Our leaders are suffering from a peculiar Muslim-infatuation!
Q : It may be to boost our seculars!
A : Then that is artificial patchwork. In documentaries the picture of Muslims praying for our victory is shown. Why this special treatment to them? If they are a part of our life then it should have been shown and proclaimed that the whole country is praying, fighting and sacrificing. This patchwork only betrays that we treat Muslims as a separate peculiar minority.
(With an American, 1950)
Q : Muslims and Christians belong to this land. Why do you not consider them as one of your own?
A : Suppose one of our countrymen goes to America, settles there and wants to become a citizen of America, but refuses to accept Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson and others as his national heroes. Do you then call him a national of America? Tell me frankly.
Q : Of course, no.
A : Why should not the same criterion be applied to our country also? How can you say that we should call such people nationals who, while living here, work against the honor and traditions of the country, and insult our national heroes and objects of national veneration?
(With friends at Bangalore, November 1956)
Q : What exactly do you mean by 'merging of the non-Hindus in the main-stream'?
A : They should experience the same 'sense of belonging', as the Hindus do, to this country, its people, its culture, tradition and history and also its past memories and future aspirations. If, after fulfilling all these, anybody says that he has studied the Koran or the Bible and that way of worship strikes a sympathetic chord in his heart, he is welcome to follow it. Thus he has his choice in a portion of his individual life. For the rest, he must be one with the national current.
Q : You have talked of the mainstream of national life. Kindly define what you mean by it.
A : We have been in existence as a nation for scores of centuries. There are some fundamentals on which our national life is resting. Those were enunciated by the Hindu seers. That is the mainstream. We want all people to come to the mainstream of national life but not to lose their identity.
Q : What do you mean by identity?
A : Many persons came to this country from various parts of the world. They have chosen to stay here, live here. They have adapted themselves to the life here, the ideology and the philosophy here. Some have even made their own contribution towards enriching this mainstream. The Muslims, unfortunately, stayed apart.
Q : What is the existing position ? Are they separate ?
A : What else can one say ? Otherwise, there would have been no communal riots; there would have been no Partition also; there would have been no demands for flying the Muslim Flag from the Red Fort. It is a matter of regret that these tendencies are encouraged.
Q : Why do you think Muslims are separate ?
A : We do not regard them separate. It is they who regard themselves as separate.
Q : They also say the same thing.
A : This is wrong. Who started the fissiparous tendencies ?
(With friends in Andhra, 1960)
Q : There were nationalist Muslims in Congress.
A : Shall I quote the attitude of some very important Muslims who were Congress leaders also ? Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan who is renowned as the Frontier Gandhi has said that his reason for cooperating with the Congress was that Mahatmaji and other Congress leaders had assured him that when the British are ousted, he would be helped to found a separate state called Pakthunistan under the framework of Pakistan.
The other example can be of Maulana Azad. His ideas are too well-known today, and are published in his book 'India Wins Freedom'. He has not expressed a single word of grief, pain or sorrow for the various atrocities committed by Muslims in Noakhali District, nor for the great killings of Calcutta and the gruesome murders in Punjab. He has expressed opinions even against the Mahatma, the Sardar and Jawaharlal. He has also implied in his various observations that if the Muslims had followed him rather than Jinnah he would have made them virtually masters of the whole land, whereas Jinnah was satisfied with only a portion of it. This indicates clearly, why they were in the Congress.
Q : Muslims also desired that the British should quit. So are they also not patriotic ?
A : But their motive was different. They thought that they were once the conquerors, and that should again become the rulers of this country. That is why they began to put forth their demands one after another, so that, when the British would quit they should have power concentrated in their hands, and the Hindus relegated to the position of servility, as they were for seven or eight hundred years in the past.
(Talk with Dr. Saifuddin Jeelany, a noted Muslim Scholar, February 1971)
Q : Don't you think that solution to the Hindu-Muslim problem must be found especially at this critical moment when the country is faced with dangers from all sides ?
A : So far as the work for the country is concerned, I do not distinguish between Hindus and Muslims. But how do people look at this problem ? Probably these days everyone thinks that he would be able to push forward claims or privileges for his own community by exploiting political situations. If this could be remedied, and the people became political from a patriotic - only patriotic - point of view, then all troubles will end in no time.
Q : Has this problem anything to do with the Muslim grievance that they are not getting their due share in the country's affairs ?
A : I can understand that the Muslims should be given their due share, as everyone else. But this does not mean demanding various rights and privileges. I have heard about the demand of a Pakistan in every state. The president of a Muslim organization was reported to have said that he planned to see his flag fluttering over the Red Fort. He never contradicted the report. Such are the things which irritate those who think in terms of the country as a whole.
Look at their stance on Urdu. Fifty years ago Muslims in various states spoke and studied the local languages. They never thought that they had a different 'religious language' of their own.Urdu is not a 'religious language' of the Muslims. Urdu is a hybrid product, evolved during the Mughal rule. It has nothing to do with Islam. It was in Arabia that Islam was born. The Holy Koran is in Arabic. If at all there is a 'religious language', for the Muslims, it is Arabic. So, why this emphasis on Urdu ? It is because, on the strength of one common language Muslims are sought to be united into a political force. That is all. Such a political force is bound to go counter to the interests of the country.
Some Muslims say that Rustom is their national hero. But Rustom was a Persian hero. He has nothing to do with them. He was born long before Islam. If he could be considered a hero by the Muslims, why not Sri Rama? I say, why don't you accept this history ?
Pakistan celebrated the 5,000th birth anniversary of Panini who was born in that part which is now in what is called Pakistan. If Pakistanis can claim Panini as one of their great forefathers, why should not our local Hindu Muslim - I call them 'Hindu Muslims' - say that Panini, Vyasa, Valmiki, Rama, Krishna are all their great ancestors? There are so many people in the Hindu Dharma who do not believe in the Divine Incarnation of Rama and Krishna. But they believe that they are great personalities, worthy of emulation. So what does it matter if Muslims do not believe that God incarnated Himself? Why should they not consider such personalities as their national heroes?
According to our ways of religious belief and philosophy, a Muslim is as good as a Hindu. It is not the Hindu alone who will reach the ultimate Godhead. Everyone has the right to follow his path according to his own persuasion. Let me give you the instance of the previous Shankaracharya of the Shringeri Math, His Holiness Shri Chandrasekhara Bharati Swamiji. An American approached him to be converted to Hinduism. Swamiji asked him the reason. The American replied that he was not satisfied with Christianity, that it left his spiritual longing unquenched. The Acharya asked him : "Have you honestly practiced Christianity? Try it first. If it does not satisfy you, then come to me".
That is our attitude. Ours is a non-proselytizing Dharma. In almost all cases, proselytization is motivated by political or some such gain. We reject it. We say : This is the plain Truth; if you choose, follow it.
This so-called 'minority' problem is not one of Muslims only. It is also within the Hindus themselves. For example we have the Jains, we have what is known as the Scheduled Caste people some of whom followed Dr. Ambedkar and became Buddhists and are trying to claim that they are separate. As a minority happens to have certain political privileges in our country, everyone wants to prove that he is a minority and claim those privileges. This cuts the whole country into so many fragments which may well spell our ruin. As a matter of fact we are heading for it.
When some people look at things from the point of view of political aggrandisement, dangerous difficulties crop up. But once this aggrandisement is given up, our country becomes one and we can meet the challenge of the whole world.
Q : Materialism in general and communism in particular threaten to engulf our country. Don't you think that Hindus and Muslims, as believers in God, should act as a united bulwark against these dangers?
A : This is almost the very question which was put to me some time ago by a gentleman from Kashmir. I think his name is Nazir Ali. He is a good man. I met him at Aligarh, He said to me that this threat of godlessness in the guise of communism is overtaking us all and we, who believe in God, should get together and meet that threat. I said, "I perfectly agree with you but the difficulty is that we have, as it were, broken the image of God and each one has got his own piece. So what is to be done? You think of God in one particular way. The Christian thinks in another. The Buddhist says there is no God; there is only Nirvaana. The Jain will say it is Shoonya. Then so many of us will say that we worship God in the form of Rama, Krishna, Shiva etc. How do we ask all these people to believe in one common God? Have you any recipe for this?" Now this Kashmiri gentleman is a Sufi which I take to be a thinker and God-minded man. You will be surprised to know his answer. He said : "Why all of them can't embrace Islam?"
I replied, "Don't you think that some will say, why not join Christianity" I, devoted as I am to my Dharma, may say, why not all become Hindus? It comes to the same thing, and the problem will never end". He then asked me what was my suggestion.
I said, "Follow your own religion. But there is one substantial philosophy which does not belong exclusively to the Hindu or to the Muslim. Call it whatever you like. It says that there is one Single Power, one Single Existence which is Truth, which is Bliss. It is the Creator, Sustainer and Destroyer. All our conceptions of God are only our own limited conceptions of that Ultimate Reality. So that bedrock of Ultimate Reality can join us all together. It does not belong to any one religion. On this account everyone can accept this as common basis. Religion is only a way of worship. This basic faith is not a mere way of worship. This is a philosophical understanding of the universe. The God of Islam, Christianity and Hinduism is thus the same and we are all His devotees. As a Sufi you should accept this as a reasonable basis". He had no answer to this. Then we parted and there the whole matter ended. That is our misfortune.
Q : We know that both Hindus and Muslims have a vast amount of goodwill for each other. In spite of this, occasional frictions of varying magnitudes do occur. What steps, in your opinion, should be taken to minimize or altogether stop these?
A : One of the causes of these frictions is the Cow. I do not know why the Muslims should go on harping upon their so-called right to slaughter the cow. They need not. As a matter of fact, it is not their religious injunction. That was only a way of spiting the Hindu in the old days. Why should it continue now? Can we not share each other's festivals? Our most popular festival which brings various strata of society together is the Holi. Suppose in this Holi festival a Muslim is sprinkled with a little colored water, do you think that the injunctions of the Koran are violated? Why not regard it as a social affair? The Hindus have been taking part in various Muslim festivals such as the Urs in Ajmer. But suppose we ask Muslims to come and take part in Satyanarayana Puja, what will happen? Once, the DMK people took a Muslim minister to Rameshwaram. He was accorded all the conceivable honors by the temple authorities. But when the tirtha and prasaadam were given to him he threw them away! Why should he do so? Suppose he had taken the prasaadam, would it have violated his religion? We have to learn to adopt an attitude of respect for one another.
We must respect, not merely tolerate, all other faiths. Ours is not Sahishnutaavaad, but Sammaanatavaad.
Q : Who among us, you think, is best equipped to pioneer this effort of bringing about harmony between Hindus and Muslims : the politicians, the educationists or the religious leaders?
A : The politician is the last man! The same could be said of the religious leaders also. At present, in our country, there are religious leaders in both communities who are extremely narrow-minded. So we want a third type of individuals who will be religious in spirit, and non-political, and will have an integrated national concept in their minds. Religious they should be. Without the religious background, nothing can be achieved.
Politicians are playing their own game by dividing the people more and more. It is they who emphasize caste, and accentuate 'Hindu-Muslim tension'. In all such communal matters the villain of the piece is the politician. Unfortunately he has become the leader of the people whereas persons of great merit, character and devotion to God who should have been the real leaders of the people, are nowhere.
Q : Don't you think that the Hindus, as the majority community, have a special and greater responsibility to create an atmosphere of inter-communal harmony?
A : Yes, certainly, But consider the difficulties. Our leaders are prone to put the blame upon the Hindus and absolve the Muslims. This makes the Muslims more aggressive in their communal outlook. So, I say both must share the responsibility.
Q : What immediate gesture do you suggest on the part of both the communities to bring about harmony?
A : Education on a mass-scale, giving the right understanding of religion-not the non-religious education that is being imparted nowadays by our politicians, but good, religious education. Give people true knowledge of Islam. Give people true knowledge of Hinduism.
Then, teach history as it is. Set right the present distortions. If there was aggression from the Muslim invaders in the past, say so, and also that the aggressors were foreigners and have nothing in common with the Muslims here. Let our Muslims here say that they belong to this land and that the past aggressors and their aggressions are not part of their heritage.
Instead of being taught what is true, the Muslims now are taught the distorted version. Truth cannot be hidden for long. However long you hide it, ultimately it comes out and creates only far worse feelings. Therefore I say teach history as it is. If Afzal Khan was killed by Shivaji, say that a foreign aggressor was killed by a national hero.
Q : Much has been said about 'Indianisation' and a lot of confusion has arisen over it. Could you please tell me how to remove the confusion?
A : 'Indianisation' was of course the slogan given by Jana Sangh. Why should there be such confusion? 'Indianisation' does not mean making all people Hindus.
Let us realize and believe that we are all the children of this soil coming from the same stock, that our great forefathers were one, and, that our aspirations are also one. This is all, I believe, the meaning of 'Indianisation'.
Q : Don't you think it is high time that a meeting took place between you and such Muslim Indian leaders as would cooperate with you in finding ways and means to remove this communal discord once for all? Would you like meeting such leaders?
A : I would not only like, I welcome it.
(With the Editor, The Illustrated Weekly, November 1972)
Q : There is one thing which bothers me about the RSS. It is your attitude towards the minorities, particularly the Christians and the Muslims.
A : We have nothing against the Christians except their methods of gaining converts. When they give medicines to the sick or bread to the hungry, they should not exploit the situation by propagating their religion to those people. I am glad there is a move to make the Indian churches autonomous and independent of Rome.
Q : There are six crore Indian Muslims here with us. We cannot eliminate them, we cannot drive them out, we cannot convert them. This is their home. We must reassure them - make them feel wanted. Let us win them over with love......
A : I would reverse the order. I would say the only right policy towards Muslims is to win their loyalty by love.
A delegation of the Jamat-i-Islami came to see me. I told them that Muslims must forget that they ruled India. They should not look upon foreign Muslim countries as their homelands. They must join the mainstream of Indianism.
Q : How?
A : We should explain things to them. Sometimes one feels angry with Muslims for what they do; but then Hindu blood never harbors ill-will for very long. Time is a great healer. I am an optimist and feel that Hinduism and Islam will learn to live with each other.