Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Forgiving Gujarat

Two ideas by Mike Ghouse and Ram Puniyani, November 26, 2007
My article is inspired by Mr. Puniyani's article, which follows;

Mike Ghouse, November 27, 2007

Indeed Mahatma Gandhi, Prophet Muhammad, Jesus Christ and several spiritual teachers have believed in the power of forgiveness. Jesus and Gandhi are quoted often; let me give the example of Prophet Muhammad.

When the Prophet was traveling from Mecca to Taif, he was pelted with stones to a point of excessive bleeding, it is said that he could not even remove his blood solidified shoes. His associates and Angel Gabriel were anxious to go out and punish the miscreants. The prophet stopped them and said something to this effect. Let's not punish them, it is not the answer; instead let's pray that God give them guidance and goodwill.

The wisdom is simple: there is hope that people will do better if we give them a break and appeal to their goodwill. Give them a chance to recognize their mistakes without demanding a pound of flesh.

In the tradition of the Prophet, I genuinely ask the People of Gujarat to forgive the perpetrators of the Crimes, it takes a big heart to do it, but when they do it, there is peace in it and hopefully an opportunity for the criminals do their Praischit (repentance) in their own way. We need to help them release from their pain, so all of us can work on living with good will. Let' not dig in our heels, let's step out and reach. Goodwill gives birth to goodwill.
This appeal goes out to both Hindu's and Muslims of Gujarat. The few, who are burning with revenge to go back and destroy each other, really don't care about themselves, Gujarat or India. The people of Gujarat are one family; no one can step on other's dead body and achieve personal, spiritual, business and moral success.

Why does it make sense to forgive?

Hate and revenge is binding, when you hate the other person, you cannot be good to yourselves as you are loaded with the poison called hate, then you cannot be good to your family, your community or your state. Useless you are tied down to the Khooti (anchor bolt for tying animals) called hate, every moment and at every turn, you are occupied with revenge. Why load yourselves with it? Not only that, you are also worried about being attacked by the other or the law reaching out to you someday, and without any doubt, the guilt that you carry around your neck, which makes you do weird things.

You simply cannot be happy with hate and anger eating you alive. Put that energy in forgiveness, it is liberating. Both the religions in this instance; Sanatana Dharma and Islam incessantly preach to achieve liberation. One speaks about the ultimate freedom human beings achieve with the stoppage of the cycle of birth in lower forms, the other talks about God sending you in to a state of eternal bliss. Both systems assure entrance to the kingdom of God, if you do good things to the others.

How would Justice be served?

Those who have committed the crimes must be given the chance to do their praischit and atonement. Put them to work for making the lives of others better for a period of five years or put them in the jail for a similar period of time. If Jai Prakash Narayan or Mahatma Gandhi were alive, they probably would have suggested the same.
Better yet, let it be open to the criminals to step forward and volunteer, let them have the chance to achieve the inner peace. Hate breeds hate, love breeds love. In hate no one will live in peace, in the other option they will. Mahatma Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.” And the Qur’aan states,” the one who forgives is dearest to God”.

I appeal to the Muslims of Gujarat in particular to take that first step; there is a beautiful universal prayer that Muslims say after every prayer.

To paraphrase it:
Dear God, please forgive me, my parents, my teachers,
Those who bow to you, surrender to your guidance,
Please forgive the living and the dead,

Time for the healing process must begin and it is time now. The Hindus will follow it up. There is no way goodness does not produce results, you must have the patience, peace will come and every one will be better off in Gujarat, forgive we must.

May God bring peace to all.
Mike Ghouse

... and now Mr. Puniyani's article.

Gujarat Muslims - Way ahead
Ram Puniyani

Many a voices have emerged from a small section of Muslim community which is arguing that Muslims should unilaterally forgive the pain they suffered during the carnage of 2002. This section says that we should draw from the reality of Gujarat where the religious and other community leaders have refused to apologize for the crimes committed in the name of Ram. Also that the state apparatus is so communalized that chances of getting justice are bleak, and how long a community can live in such a state of pity and victim hood, it affects their self respect and dignity. This section does see that civil rights groups are fighting for the rights of Muslim minority against odds, irrespective of their religion.

One can appreciate the personal magnanimity of those who personally suffered serious losses due to violence against them, like Mrs. Gladys Stains who personally forgave the killers of her husband and children. Jesus and Gandhi urged the people to put another cheek forward when slapped on one. One has to see the difference between personal magnanimity and the political assault of a section of people to victimize the weak. One has to see that the communal violence is not just violence against person but is also a part of political agenda of some. The crimes against a person can not be forgiven in law, as justice is the basis of tranquility and peace in society. The question is, can such a position of individual/ individuals to forgive the crimes against them be acceptable to major sections of victims in Gujarat? Many a religious teaching do emphasize on forgiveness. Are such things applicable to the situation of those facing Gujarat Muslims?

There are many a precedents where the culprits have been forgiven. South Africa was the major experiment, where truth and reconciliation commission undertook a massive exercise in this direction. The starting point there was that the culprits confessed to their crimes. Reconciliation followed. Personally putting forward another cheek when someone slaps is based on the basic human understanding that the one slapping you has a potential for reforming, will have remorse of his actions and will feel apologetic about what he has done.

In Gujarat the things are very different. The communalization of society was going on from many decades. The demonization of Muslim minority went unhindered for a long time, and violence was used as a method of polarizing communities. Later Dalits, Adivasis were co-opted to unleash on the Muslim community by clever social engineering. The truth of this has been reconfirmed by Tehelka expose (Novemember 2007). Modi used the pretext of Godhra to unleash the genocide. The state machinery is totally communalized, no rehabilitation, no justice for victims, and there is a deliberate marginalization of Muslims to the status of second class citizens! Today in Gujarat not only are communities polarized, the partitions between communities are becoming worse and deeper by the day. No body is asking forgiveness as the criminals, Modi downwards, believe, that what they did was for their religion, was right, and was needed to teach 'them' (Muslims) a lesson. There is also an un-spelt understanding that they will anyway be protected by the mighty arm of the Hindu Rashtra of Gujarat. So whom are you going to forgive?

The problem is essentially that of violation of democratic rights and civil liberties. Problem is that Gandhi's Gujarat has been manipulated to become Godse-Modi's Gujarat. Modi, the mass murderer, is hero for large sections. He is acquiring a halo around him duly helped by a section of media. The alternative pole, the one of Congress is more interested in electoral arithmetic and so far has been behaving as B team of RSS combine. The defense of democracy and forthright stand for secular values has been put on the backburner.

One can understand the painful sigh of a section of Muslims, some of whom may be thinking on these lines. This section, seems to have accepted and internalized the second class status and seem to be willing to be on the bent knees to live in this Hindu Rashtra, where Indian constitution is present by its absence. Can there bee peace without justice? Can there be dignity and self respect if the injustice is inbuilt into the social system and is institutionalized to the core?

Are the civil rights groups working just for minority community? The work of civil rights groups is more a defense of democratic rights and civil liberties than just a defense of rights of this or that religious group. It is more a question of defending our constitution and not just the rights of minorities. Can we call it a democratic society if a large section has to reconcile its status as the one of a second class citizen? RSS combine is celebrating this relegation of minority rights, as now more and more villages of Gujarat are putting the hoarding of 'Welcome to so and so village Hindu Rahtra of Gujarat'.

While totally empathizing with this section of Muslims one has to turn the criticism to the larger democratic polity. What have we done to our democracy? How is the status of democracy judged? One of the parameters is to see as to how safe and secure the minorities are. At another level the acceptance of such position of Muslims is a sign of total surrender of democracy to the religious fascism, which is on ascendance more so in Gujarat. And this intimidation of minorities is just the beginning. As we witnessed in Germany, the same thing is being played here in the slow motion. Jews were the first target, followed by communists, trade unionists and later sections of Christian minorities. Here in India the order planned by RSS combine is Muslims, Christians, Secularists and other weaker sections of society, in that order.

When Gujarat is facing elections and many forecasters are talking of Modi's return, the time has come to put all our energies to save democracy there. The time that we get over the diffidence, that Modi is too clever to be defeated, that the polarization has gone too far to be repaired. These may be part of the deliberate propaganda of the well oiled machine which organized Gujarat pogrom. We need to reassert that there is no substitute for democracy. The treatment of ills of democracy is more democracy and more democracy. National integration means that we have the overarching national, Indian community in which any injustice to one is the injustice to all. Any undermining of the rights of one section tantamount to erosion of the values of our freedom movement and the principles as given in our Constitution, which these communal elements do not hold by.

Even today the chasm between the religious communities can be bridged by broadening the awareness about our syncretic traditions, Bhakti and Sufi. There is an urgent need to remind people that Hindus and Muslims have lived together for centuries. What has been propagated is opposite of this that there is a centuries old fight between Hindus and Muslims. Even today there is a need to remind people every where that freedom movement was the movement in which all communities participated equally. We need to remember that Hinduism of Gandhi and Islam of Maulana Abul Kalam unites people while Hinduism of Godse-Modi-RSS and Islam of Jinnah-Muslim League-Taliban divide the people.

It is never too late to counter the negativity injected by communal forces and bring back the humane values ingrained in our plural history to ensure that the process of remorse, reconciliation and justice comes to the fore, and Muslims feel as much at home as any one else. That a section of our society is made to think that one sided forgiveness is the only way out just shows that our system is deeply infected and needs to be cleansed by the spirit of Indian ness. And that's where all the conscientious and aware citizens believing in democracy have to stick together, for getting justice for all and to soothe the wounds of those thinking of unsolicited, unilateral forgiveness.

Your comments:
Mike Ghouse

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