The brutal killing of Kamlesh Tiwari, president of the Hindu Samaj Party, is redolent of communal frenzy in general and two unfortunate incidents in particular of 1920s that shook the nation. Tiwari was killed allegedly for his anti-Prophet statement a few years ago. Some clerics had issued fatwa for his head and announced an award. Tiwari had made an offensive statement about Prophet Mohammad in reaction to Azam Khan’s statement about Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) volunteers that they remain bachelors, as they are homosexual. Tiwari was arrested and prosecuted under Section 153-A and 295-A of the Indian Penal Code and also National Security Act. He remained behind the bars for many months but the Allahabad High Court granted him bail finding the slapping of NSA against him illegal.
It is a body blow to the communal amity, which began looking up due to some recent heartwarming incidents. It has taken place at a time when the judgment of the Supreme Court is awaited on the vexed Ayodhya issue, and it is expected of the two communities to keep a weather eye on the communal atmosphere so that nobody is able to puncture the modus vivendi.
Tiwari’s killing reminds of 1920s when the communal fire was blazing in the country. So, prominent leaders of both Hindu and Muslim communities were making sincere efforts for many years to free the country from its chokehold. On April 4, 1919, Arya Samaji Swami Shraddhanand delivered a speech before a large gathering on national solidarity and Hindu-Muslim unity from the pulpit of Jama Masjid. Thus, he had the distinction of being the only Hindu saint to have addressed from there and he began his speech with the recitation of Veda hymns. Mahatma Gandhi undertook a 21-day fast for the Hindu-Muslim unity from September 18 to October 8, 1924. It was his first fast for this cause. Maulana Mohammad Ali organised a conference of all religions in which it was pledged not to hurt the religious sentiment of anyone and if someone did it, nobody would settle score on their own as it is not only illegal but also against the injunctions of religion. Gandhi broke his fast in the midst of the chanting of the Gita and the Quran. Mohammad Ali also purchased a cow from slaughterhouse and gifted it to Gandhi as a gesture of harmony.
However, these efforts failed to sensitise people as subsequent events jolted the nation’s conscience. Swami Shraddhanand might have addressed a large gathering from the minarets of Jama Masjid but he soon fell to a Muslim assassin’s bullets. He earned the wrath of Muslims for his movement of shuddhi and sangathan under which Muslims, who had converted from Hindus were re-converted to their old faith. Maulana Mohammad Ali complained to Gandhi about it. Gandhi asked the Swami about it to which he replied that he would stop doing so if Muslims stopped converting Hindus to Muslims. When Gandhi conveyed Shraddhanand’s reply to Ali, he shot back that Muslims were doing it for long whereas it was a new phenomenon for Hindus.
Amidst the raging controversy, on December 23, 1926, one Abdul Rashid shot him dead at his home. Two days later, Gandhi moved a condolence motion at the Gauhati session of the Congress which read: “If you hold the dear memory of Swami Shraddhanandji, you would help in purging the atmosphere of mutual hatred and calumny. You would help in boycotting papers which foment hatred and spread misrepresentation. I am sure that India would lose nothing if 90 per cent of the papers were to cease today…Now you will perhaps understand why I have called Abdul Rashid a brother and I repeat it. I do not even regard him as guilty of Swamiji’s murder. Guilty indeed are all those who excited feelings of hatred against one another. For us Hindus the Gita enjoins on us of equi-mindedness; we are to cherish the same feelings towards a learned Brahman as towards a chandala, a dog, a cow or an elephant.”
But all the expression of love could not improve the situation. The situation further worsened when Mohammad Ali himself came forward to help Abdul Rashid in the court. Again in 1927, publication of a book ‘Rangila Rasul’ touched off storm. It was about the marriages and sex life of Prophet Muhammad. Pandit M A Chamupati, an Arya Samaji, was the author of the book but it was published anonymously. It was written in retaliation to a pamphlet published by a Muslim which demeaned goddess Sita as a prostitute. Publisher of ‘Rangila Rasul’ Mahashe Rajpal was arrested and prosecuted on the complaint filed by some Muslims. But he was acquitted in April 1929, as there was no law criminalising insult to religion. It did not attract Section 153-A of the IPC either, as it did not cause any clash between the two communities. However, one Ilm-ud-din stabbed Rajpal to death in the court itself. Ilm-ud-din was sentenced to death and executed. Under the pressure of the Muslim community, the government added Section 295-A to the IPC making hate speech a criminal offence. Now, this is one of the most abused laws.
Kamlesh Tiwari has been killed when the apex court is going to pronounce its judgment on the vexed Ayodhya case. It may have huge socio-political implications. It has already caused tremors in the Indian politics for several decades. So, communal amity must be preserved come hell or high water. The embrocation of love soothes the most excruciating pain caused by any animus – communal, racial, caste or any such thing. And this is the defining feature of the Indian philosophy encapsulated in ‘Sarva dharma sambhava’. Humanity transcends any barrier, howsoever rigid. It is not impossible for enemies to embrace each other and history is replete with such stories.
There are incidents galore to prove that love demolishes all boundary and hatred. Leaders of the two communities should come forward to give a kiss of life to communal relations.