The dawn of a new Eid: one burdened with fear, shame and indifference
This Eid was different. The days preceding it and the day itself had the shadow of hate hanging over it.
That shadow being referred to is not a reference to the Muslims who donned black armbands to offer their prayers - something which the country ought to hang its head in shame for for forcing its largest minority to do so on their most pious day.
A dark cloud
This Eid has been different to those from the past years for primarily one reason: the forces of darkness and the forces of hate have been successful in questioning even those from the majority and other religions as to why they even dare to wish their Muslim brethren 'Eid Mubarak'.
Social media is a major testimony to this phenomenon. Earlier, certain elements would keep to themselves on this festival by not participating in it, perhaps by ranting at home about how the government has wasted 'precious man hours' by declaring the day a holiday.
But this is 2017, a year where more and more Indians are connected and vocal in their outrage on platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter.
A friend summed up the mood with this couplet that was signed off with the customary greeting of Eid Mubarak: “Mil ke hoti thi kabhi Eid bhi Diwali bhi. Ab ye halat hai ki dar dar ke gale milte hain.” (Eid and Diwali were always celebrated together, but times are such that we now hug each out of fear).
This reporter was compelled to write this piece primarily because of how aghast he felt looking at his Facebook wall on the day of the festival.
A post from a Himachal Pradesh University professor, who was a journalist with a prominent Hindi paper known for its stand on secularism and constitutional provisions till a few years, read: “Copied from the wall of a friend, it says Kafirs (Hindus etc) are ineligible to celebrate Eid. Eid is only for Muslims, the believers who have undergone a month long fasting (roza), done zakat (daan), read all their namaznamaz during the period. As per holy Quran, others including non Muslims (kafirs) are not eligible to celebrate Eid."
In the comments below, the gentleman got an apt response from a Christian friend: "The timing of your post is suspect. I am sure it is not done out of innocence. At a time when so much hatred is being spread around in the name of religion lets not resort to provocative posts. Mazhab nahin sikhata apas mein bair karna. ..hindi hain hum watan hain hindustan hamaara. .hamaara ...koi kuch bhi kahe aaiye hum sub Eid,Diwali,Christmas,Gurupurab, Buddha jayanti, Mahavir jayanti, Guru Ravidass jayanti khushi se manate rahen...”
While attempting to iron out certain misconceptions a friend had on how Eid is celebrated, where the latter admitted that he had been in the wrong, a journalist friend living in Australia jumped into the argument.
This friend belongs in the camps of Modi bhakts; fans of Prime Minister Narendra Modi who believe he can do no wrong. What he wrote is atypical of what those who have been successfully brainwashed by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and other right-wing organisations.
"The correct meaning of secularism is separation of state and religion - not "tolerance of all religions" which is a perception created by congress to support its vote-bank politics, playing on the self-hatred of colonized Hindus. So if you were truly secular, perhaps you wouldn't be wishing anyone on any festival,” is what he wrote.
This was followed with another post saying, “The etiquette is always a non-believer wishes a believer. And the believer reciprocates. Never the other way around, otherwise you are seen to be in some ways imposing your beliefs on others. So I really shouldn't wish a Muslim Shubh Deepawali unless he/she comes forward and wishes me. Then I am free to return the greeting. I would always wish all my Muslim friends Eid Mubarak and Merry Christmas to Christians.”
And the last one, “But I think this new-found penchant that my Hindu friends have to wish each other Merry Christmas, Eid Mubarak etc is a manifestation of their self-hatred, instilled by the British and their missionaries, exploited by the Nehru-Gandhi family to further the divide and rule policy. It's a political statement which is deeply couched in the belief that it's not okay to be a Hindu. You should watch idiocy. A fascinating satire on how spin and lies - when repeated - becomes the known - truth.”
The difference between Nehruvian secularism and the globally accepted western definition was something most RSS and BJP leaders have ranted about in their depositions before the Justice Liberhan Commission that was probing the demolition of the Babri Mosque in 1992.
It is a matter of study how these rants have travelled from the confines of Vigyan Bhawan Annexe in Delhi where these hearings took place to spaces on social media. This is how deep the agenda of hate has become.
The way things are progressing, amidst the silence of the government and its ideological support, to such fissures that are being created in the social fabric, not wishing each other of festivals will be the new normal.
So will be questioning those who still talk of a common ethos along secular lines.
During a stint in Gujarat - the Sangh parivar's Hindutva laboratory - it was clear how such disturbing phenomenon had eventually become the new normal.
Around 2003-2004, one could see boards outside Hindu dominated localities where the Sangh Parivar outfits had substantial presence announcing “Hindu rashtra ki xxx locality mein Hindu bhaiyon ka swagat hai.” (Hindu brothers are welcome in this locality of Hindu Rashtra).”
Advertisements of apartments and flats came with a small rider at the bottom, saying, "Kewal Hindu bhaiyon maate." (only for Hindu brothers). Even today the Sangh Parivar affiliates refer to Ahmedabad as 'Karnavati' and it won't be as a surprise if the city is rechristened.
Coming back to this Eid, what needs to be celebrated is the rustic wisdom of the common man who still believes in plurality and interdependence.
During a visit to Solan in Himachal Pradesh where the annual Shoolini Devi fair was being celebrated in the name of the local deity over the weekend, you could see a large number of Muslim hawkers selling their wares on the road side. Their meals were taken care of by the langar organised at several places by the devotees.
It was only when a hawker and his wife were asked how the fair had gone for them that got the response, “It is all because of this goddess and her devotees that there has been a huge footfall and we have earned well to celebrate Eid.”