Celebrating Festivals Together Is The Best Antidote To Hatred And Communalism
Upto 1857 Hindus and Muslims used to celebrate each other’s festivals such as Holi, Diwali, Eid, etc. together. In 1857, the great Mutiny (also known as the war of Independence) broke out, in which Hindus and Muslims jointly fought against the British.
After suppressing the Mutiny, the British rulers decided that the only way to control India was ‘divide and rule’. Hence they steadily and systematically injected the communal virus into our society, year after year and decade after decade, with the result that many Hindus and Muslims began believing the British propaganda and started regarding each other as enemies, and stopped celebrating each others’ festivals.
Even after Independence in 1947 some elements like some political parties have been trying to polarise society on caste and communal lines to create vote banks.
Since India is a country of great diversity, because it is broadly a country of immigrants, like North America, we must combat communalism, since it disrupts the very fabric and identity of India, and thereby weakens it. We have to administer antidotes to the communal poison which has been injected into our society since 1857. One of the ways of doing so is celebrating religious festivals of all communities together, and this is what I have been propagating for long.
When I was a lawyer (1971-91) and judge (1991-2004) in Allahabad High Court, the High Court Bar Association used to organise a Holi-Eid Milan every year in the High Court premises, in which Hindi and Urdu poetry would be recited, and songs sung. When I became a judge of the Supreme Court, I organised joint Kavi Sammelan and Urdu Mushaira as Diwali-Eid celebration in the Supreme Court lawns. I myself keep one day roza every year in Ramzan (usually on the last Friday of the Holy Month of Ramzan), and appeal to all non Muslims to do so.Similarly, I appeal to non Hindus to keep one day fast during Navratri. When I was in America, I was informed (probably in September 2019) by an NRI Tamilian friend Shakthi who lives and works in Dallas, Texas, that the NRI community in Dallas are going to jointly celebrate Eid ul Milad (birthday of the Prophet) and Gurpurab (birthday of Guru Nanak) since both these dates were occurring in proximity.
This gave me the idea that we should widen this celebration in California (where I was staying then with a relative), and hold a joint celebration for Eid ul Milad, Gurpurab, Diwali and Christmas, since these festivals of Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and Christians were occurring in proximity. I explained my idea to my friend Tasawar Jalali, who lives in San Jose, California, and is the Chairman of Ibaadatkhana, an organisation which promotes inter faith harmony. Tasawar and others (including Narendra Singh who is Gen Secy of Ibaadatkhana) agreed with my suggestion, and a grand function was held on 8th December, 2019 in Chandni Banquet Hall, Fremont, California to jointly celebrate Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism and Christianity. Many representatives of different religions attended and spoke in the function.
Thereafter also several global webinars havee been held by Ibaadatkhana to promote secularism and interfaith harmony. I appeal to people of all communities in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, as well as NRIs living abroad, to jointly celebrate each others’ festivals, and thus help in smashing the attempts of those wicked people who are trying to create religious hatred and polarise our people on religious lines.
Markandey Katju is a former judge of the Supreme Court of India. He was also the Chairman of the Press Council of India.