Masses are not infected…

In a joint sting operation, Tehelka magazine, and Headlines Today, a TV channel, have unmasked the Karnataka-based fundamentalist organization Sri Ram Sene as just another mercenary outfit, willing to stage a communal riot for a fee. The Sene has been making waves in recent years as moral police in Bangalore, which has emerged as India’s Silicon Valley. It is making use of Valentine’s Day to remain in the news. Also by targeting girls visiting bars.

While there is no denying that Sri Ram Sene has its own pack of hoodlums that it can unleash at will, the masses in that south Indian State don’t appear to have swayed by Sene rhetoric. They still have their hearts in the right place essentially because of the impact of the Bhakti cult and Sufi Islam on Hindus and Muslims so much so that they would ignore its calls for communal riots.

Consider the following: Hubli (also in Karnataka) had hit the headlines twice every year (on Independence Day and Republic Day) for the wrong reasons for much longer than anyone could remember. On January 26, 1995, the Anjuman-e-Islam hoisted the national flag in the Idgah Maidan on its own, and thus out paid to controversy over hoisting of the national flag on a piece of land leased out to Muslims by the then state government.

Again, as riots ravaged Mysore City for three days in 1986 and authorities prepared to clamp down a day-and-night curfew, Hindus and Muslims in their thousands marched for unity. Led by past and present councilors, mayors and deputy mayors belonging to both communities, they walked together on the main roads.

In 1988, a Hindu gifted a loudspeaker to a small mosque in Avani village in Mulbagal taluk of Karnataka. Significantly, the village had only 19 Muslim families; while all mosques in the surrounding areas had loudspeakers, the one in Avani had none. The head of the mosque referred the offer to the Rector of Dar-ul-Uloom Sabil-ir-Rashid, Maulana Abu Saud, in Bangalore. The debate over the desirability of acceptance for a mosque of a gift from a Hindu ended when the Rector gave the green signal, adding “there is no intolerance among Hindus here”.
The Rector cited the example of a mosque built in another nearby village. It came up some distance away from the main road. A house belonging to a Hindu stood in between. The Hindu, therefore, offered to sell the house for a mere Rs.10, 000 even though it could have fetched at least ten times as much.

Why would the Hindu offer to sell his house to a Muslim if he did not have as much respect for Islam as for Hinduism? By the same token, why would a Hindu gift a loudspeaker for use in a mosque to attract the faithful for prayers if he did not think that God dwelt everywhere, in every shrine no matter to which religion it belonged?

Do these specific cases not show the vigorous interaction of the Bhakti cult and Sufi Islam imparting sanity to Indians even when they are sought to be provoked into communal animosity by vested interests?

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Journalist, South Asian Analyst
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