This starts as a beautiful story. Once upon a time, there was a tiny village in South Arcot’s district of Tamil Nadu, called Bampralayam. Now Bampralayam is like hundreds of villages in South Arcot: it is peopled with Hindu Vanniars, a caste slightly higher than the untouchables, poor, living off agriculture, usually a few meagre fields of cashew nuts. But then Bampralayam happened to be near Pondichery, where many westerners live.
Thus Bampralayam prospered: its inhabitants learned trades needed for Pondichery: carpenters, masons, craftsmen, a few of its children attended some of Pondichery’s schools and were educated along with western kids and in time graduated and went into white collar jobs. From a few cycles 40 years ago, Bampralayam has today motorcycles, tractors, cars, vans, cable TV, cell phones, etc. The main road of Bampralayam which used to boast only shady huts, became lined-up with fancy shops which sell everything, from vegetables to handicrafts.
And then the unavoidable happened: a Kashmiri Muslim from Chennai heard about Bampralayam and its new found prosperity, and understanding that he could make a packet with so many westerners passing though Bampralayam, he opened the usual shawls & carpets’ shop in the village. Now Bampralayam never counted a Muslim amongst its population in its 1200 years of recorded history; but in the true Hindu tradition, this one was welcomed and nobody raised an objection, although he was competition for some of the other shops. Our Kashmiri Muslim, seeing his success, called his cousin in Kolkata, who came and opened another shop; and that one phoned his friend in Mumbai, who also landed-up and opened a third shop. Still nobody found anything to say, even when it became known that they also dealt in drugs which they sold to the youth. Kashmiris are sociable fellows and they quickly made friends with Westerners, most of them blissfully unaware of the political situation in India, so business was booming, till they were twelve Kashmiri shops in Bampralayam. And again nobody complained, even when the fellows started doing their naamaz in their backyards. “Isn’t God everywhere and isn’t He Krishna, as well as Allah”, said one of the villagers?
But one day, Bhoumi, one of the young boys of Bampralayam, who had gone to study in Delhi, told his parents when he came back, about the fact that not only no Hindus were allowed to buy land or start a shop in the Valley of Kashmir, where the shopkeepers came from, but that four hundred thousand Hindus, were chased out of the Valley by terror, many of them having been murdered and that many were still living as refugees in camps in Jammu and Delhi. His parents started talking to their friends and there was the first hint of resentment against the newcomers.
Then some elders of Bampralayam heard that Muslims of Kashmir rioted when the Government allotted some land in Amarnath, one of the most sacred and ancient Hindu pilgrimages, high in the Himalayas. Bhoumi’s father went to see a group of Bampralayam Kashmiris having tea, and told them that Hindus never complained about their government giving billion of rupees in subsidies to Indian Muslims so that they can perform the Haj in their most Holy place, the Mecca. “But when Hindus, he continued, need shelters, toilets and basic facilities at height of 15.000 feet to worship at one of the holiest places of Hinduism, why do you Kashmiri Muslims deny it to us” ? The Kashmiris looked a bit uneasy, then replied “that anyway the Amarnath ice lingam had been discovered by a Muslim shepherd and that Muslims have always welcomed their Hindu brothers to Armanath”. But this did not convince the Bampralayam man who had heard from his son that many grenade attacks had happened over the years against the Amarnath pilgrims. And anger started mounting in Bampralayam.
So it is all a question of reciprocity. Most Hindus are peace-loving people. The average Hindu that you meet in a million Indian villages, such as Bampralayam, is easy-going and accepts you and your diversity, whether you are Christian, Muslim, Parsi or Jain, Arab, French or Chinese. He goes about his business and usually does not interfere in yours.
In fact Hindus take it a little further: they hate trouble and go out of their way to avoid it. Have you noticed how every time there is a possibility of a strike or trouble, Hindus stay home? Or how – forget about rioting – Hindus never speak-up, complain or protest in a united manner. Not only that, but everywhere in the world, Hindus are hounded, humiliated, routed, be it in Fiji where an elected democratic government was twice deposed in an armed coup, or in Pakistan and Bangladesh, where Muslims indulge in pogroms against Hindus every time they want to vent their hunger against India (read Taslima Nasreen’s book “Lalja”). In Assam, Tripura, or Nagaland, Hindus are being outnumbered by Bangladeshi illegal immigrants and terrorized some of them, while local governments often turn a blind eye. Their temples are being taken over in many states like in Kerala or Karnataka, and the donations appropriated by the state governments.
Yet, in 3500 years of known existence, Hindus have never military invaded another country, never tried to impose their religion upon others, by force or even by induced conversions. No, it has rather been through peaceful invasions that Hinduism has stormed the world, whether in the East, witness Angkor Vat, or in the West today, where the by-products of Hinduism, yoga, meditation, ayurveda, pranayama, spread by great gurus such as Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, have been adopted by millions.
Thus Hindus, who accept everybody, welcome all religions, allow Indians from other parts to trade next to them, as it happened in Bampralayam, do not receive in return any gratitude and the same respect. On the contrary, they get mocked at, bombs are planted in their markets, their trains; their temples, their five star hotels get attacked, they are chased out of their homelands; television and newspapers make fun of them, their own politicians ostracize them… Hindus recognize the fact that God may manifest at different times under different names, the concept of the avatar – Krishna, Buddha, Mohamed or Jesus Christ. Indeed, Hindus gave refuge to all persecuted minorities of the world from the Parsis, to the Jews (India is the only country in the world where Jews were not persecuted, or killed bar the 26/11attack on the Nariman house in Mumbai) to the Armenians and the Tibetans today.
So recently, the elders in Bampralayam went back to confront the Kashmiris, but now in anger: “You people have been the most brutal and ruthless in our country: you razed our temples, killed our people, enslaved our women and children. But still, we accepted you – and at Partition, many Indian Muslims chose to stay here in India, for they knew that they would get the freedom of speech and religion that we Hindus are denied in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia. Yet today, you continue to bully us, chasing our brother and sisters from the Valley of Kashmir, rioting and burning all over India, every time you are dissatisfied, keeping silent when Islamists attack our hotels or temples. On top of that, you portray yourselves as martyrs, like Shah Rukh Khan who is idolised by millions of Hindus, yet complains that because he is a Muslim, he is discriminated against. And lately, you deny the very truth that Vishwaroopam dared to depict,: that in the name of your Holy book, your coreligionists kill and maim all over the world and have just coldly executed 39 innocent westerners in Algeria”.
This time the Kashmiris kept quiet and looked down. But Bhoomi, who was present, saw that they did not agree at all and that they would not change…