The Ibadatkhana Movement
Justice Katju writes about Emperor Akbar’s famous ‘Ibadatkhana’ or House of Worship in his capital Fatehpur Sikri, in which scholars of different religions discussed with each other rationally and amicably, and pointed out what each religion has contributed to benefit mankind.
The Ibadatkhana Movement, which will be launched from the Bay Area of California on 9th November, is of historical importance in the destiny of the Indian subcontinent.
As I said in my article ‘India’s National Aim ‘ published in indicanews.com, in this world there are really two worlds, the world of the developed countries (North America, Europe, Japan, Australia and China), and the world of the underdeveloped countries, which include India.
Our national aim must be to transform India from the ranks of the underdeveloped countries, and uplift it into the ranks of the developed, highly industrialised countries. Without doing so, we will remain condemned to widespread poverty, massive unemployment, appalling child malnourishment, 50% of our women being anemic, almost total lack of proper healthcare and good education for our masses, increasing farmers distress (leading to large number of farmers suicides) etc.
But achieving this national aim will require a mighty revolutionary united struggle of our people against the forces, both internal and external, which do not want India to emerge as a highly developed, modern industrial giant, like China, and will oppose this process tooth and nail. Because they fear that if that happens their own vested interests will suffer.
So national unity is absolutely imperative if India is to progress and achieve the aforesaid objective.
As pointed out in my article ‘What is India’, India is broadly a country of immigrants, like North America, whose 92-93% population are descendants of immigrants (most of whom came from the north west), and this explains its tremendous diversity. So many religions, castes, languages, ethnic and regional groups etc. This diversity makes it easy for our country’s enemies to polarise our society and spread caste, religious, lingual and ethnic hatred among us. All genuinely patriotic Indians must understand this, and expose those nefarious elements who wish to divide us, the way the British divided us by their wicked divide and rule policy.
Unfortunately today in India, a political party is in power which is rabidly anti minority (despite all their hollow and misleading talk of (‘Sabka saath and Sabka vishwas’). Lynching and attacks on Muslims has been going on unabated ever since this party came to power, and Christian churches have been vandalised.
This strikes at the very root of our nation’s identity as a country of diversity, and it may lead to more Partitions. For instance, to demand all India beef ban, as some BJP leaders have proclaimed, means alienating the Christian people of the North East, who eat beef as a source of cheap protein, apart from alienating the people of Kerala and Goa, who may, if this demand is implemented, secede from India.
In my article Emperor Akbar, the real Father of the Indian Nation I pointed out how the great Emperor Akbar (1542-1605) united India by his policy of suleh-e-kul, or universal toleration of all religions (proclaimed in the 16th century when Europeans were massacring each other in the name of religion), and that is the only correct policy which can keep our country united and take it on the path of progress.
In 1575, Emperor Akbar built his famous ‘Ibadatkhana‘ or House of Worship in his new capital Fatehpur Sikri, in which scholars of different religions discussed with each other rationally and amicably, and pointed out what each religion has contributed to benefit mankind.
This gave some of us in the Bay Area in California the inspiration to start an Ibadatkhana Movement here with an Ibadatkhana Function on 9th November. In fact we are indebted to the Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) of Dallas for giving us this idea, as in Dallas they are celebrating Eid-Diwali function on 9th November.
Diwali is on 27th October, Eid un Nabi or Eid al Milad (the birthday of Prophet Muhammed) is on 10th November, Gurpurab or the birthday of Guru Nanak is on the 12th November, and Christmas is on 25th December. So we in the Bay Area decided to expand on the concept of NRIs in Dallas, and celebrate Gurpurab and Christmas too on 9th November, apart from Diwali and Eid un Nabi.
We call upon Indians all over the world, particularly in North America, to do the same by celebrating Ibadatkhana function on 9th November. Details as to how it may be celebrated can be obtained from Tasawwar Jalali, Chairman of the Ibadatkhana Committee on his id [email protected] and [email protected].
India is today standing at a crossroad in its 5000 year old known history. It can either keep on the course set by its present neo-fascist reactionary leaders, or it can go on the correct path shown by the great Emperor Akbar of giving equal respect to all communities, groups and sects.
The former path means oppressing minorities (especially Muslims), marginalising and isolating them, and giving them no space in public life. Though Hindus constitute 80% of India’s 1.35 billion people, 20% are non Hindus. Under the present dispensation, these 20% are to be regarded only second rate (if not third rate) citizens, living in constant fear of attack by the Hindu majority (somewhat like Jews under Nazi Germany).
In fact the ruling party in India only pretends to represent Hinduism. Its leaders have little idea of the great Hindu intellectualism of the past (Sanskrit as a language of Science ‘ and India were once leaders in Science)
All they have in their heads is hatred of minorities.
The other path, shown by Emperor Akbar, is the path which the Ibadatkhana Movement, begun by some NRIs in the Bay Area of California, represents. This is the path of keeping India united, by tolerance and giving equal respect to all religions and communities.
We of the Ibadatkhana Movement will combat tooth and nail the path of intolerance, spreading religious hatred and polarisation being pursued by the present political leaders of India. We believe this path will only throw India into a dark abyss and is disastrous for our country.
We have launched the Ibadatkhana Movement from outside India, although it relates to India. This is because in the present surcharged communal atmosphere in India, there was no free space in India to launch it from there. Free speech has directly or indirectly been gagged in India. And the media is largely sold out. So the best space available is in the free atmosphere of America.
Several preparatory meetings have been already held under the Chairmanship of Tasawwar Jalali, and the next one is on Tuesday, 22nd October in San Jose.
All those who love India (which includes Pakistan and Bangladesh) and wish to see it prosper, are invited to join the Ibadatkhana Movement, and hold Ibadatkhana Functions on 9th November all over the world.
Markandey Katju is a former judge of the Supreme Court of India. He was also the Chairman of the Press Council of India.