By Dr. Aslam Abdullah
Among the ruling elites of India comprising mainly people of the so-called upper castes is the growing notion that India is meant to be ruled only by people approved by them or from amongst them. They believe as propagated by the Hindu nationalist organization the Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh (RSS) that Christians, Sikhs, Muslims, Buddhists, Jains, and even pagans were forced to renounce Hinduism and renounce their belief in the supremacy of Hinduism and Rama and Krishna, the two deities whose origin and existence is part of the Hindu folklore. Since non-Hindu religious minorities were forcibly converted, hence, it is the obligation of upper castes to bring them back to Hinduism and make them pronounce the glory of Ram and Krishna.
With 30 percent of Indians belonging to non-Hindu religious minorities and some 50 percent coming from the castes described lower castes and tribes described scheduled, the task of reconversion is a monumental task. But this is the task that the RSS and its affiliated groups have given a priority.
I am an Indian by birth and I was born in a Muslim family. I have no reason to believe that my forefathers came from Arabia or Central Asia. I have no hesitation in accepting the Hindu heritage of my forefathers. I am not aware if they were forcibly converted from Hinduism to Islam. But what I can say is that I validate their conversion and admire them for believing in Islam and passing on to their generations till i was born. Now it is my obligation to live their legacy and commitment and pass it on to my next generations.
I admire them for their decision to accept Islam because that was the only avenue available in India in those dark ages to live as dignified human beings. As members of non-upper castes, I am sure, many of the peers of my forefathers were living the miserable life like the people designated as lower castes by Hindu religions. They were living outside the pale of human civilization. They had no dignity. Their job was to serve the upper castes in every possible way. Their women were like sexual objects for their men. They were not allowed to protest if their daughter or wives or mothers or sisters were raped. They were not allowed to even visit the areas of the upper caste unless they have to remove their feces and dirt. They were not allowed to drink water from their wells. They were not even allowed to visit the temples to pray to deities. In fact, the tradition of killing a low caste person for reading the holy scripture set by Rama was there to perpetuate the religiously sanctioned in humanity.Manu Smiriti, the book that degrades lower castes, was the law of the day.
In this inhuman and choking condition, Islam came with its ideals of equality, humanity, and prosperity. It told people that human beings are equal and people cannot be termed as low and high based on their birth. People achieve a higher status in the eyes of God because of their good deeds and upright character. It told them that women are not the property of anyone. They have an independent identity and are equally responsible for their action and life. It told them that religious institutions are not to be monopolized by people claiming to be upper castes. It told them in the eyes of God all are his creation and no one is to be deprived of his or her dignity because of his or her birth. It challenged the false notion propagated by the upper caste Hindus that menial jobs are to be performed only by the lower caste. It demolished the idea that birth status has anything to do with the nature of work people choose to do in life. It liberated them from the injustices their forefathers had lived for thousands of years in the name of God and his message.
It was the right decision of my forefathers to abandon a faith that divided human being into low and high based on their birth. I have no hesitation to admit that over the years, many of my forefathers succumbed to the menace of Hindu hierarchy and they created the false divisions of Ashraf and Azlal. They promoted discrimination on the basis of their birth. They went against the decisions and intentions of their forefathers.
My forefathers did not accept Islam to prove their superiority over others. They accepted Islam because they wanted equality, respect and dignity, and upper mobility in life in every sphere even in religious matters.
So the upper castes have no right to question me or my forefathers. Because we believe that by accepting Islam, we strengthened India as a country that stands for equality, justice, and humanity, something that Hinduism, as promoted by those who shout Jai Sri Ram, cannot offer. The very fact that religious minorities are being forced to say Jai Sri Ram is itself a proof of the intolerance and hatred such groups show to God and humanity.
I am glad that my forefathers did not accept Ram as a glorified one because of his killing of a lower caste as reported in Ramayana. I am glad they renounced Hinduism. I am glad, that they used their conscientious to liberate them from the bondage of upper castes. I hail their decision and I stand by them. I will never say Jai Shri Ram and I will proudly declare that my forefathers did the right thing to challenge the upper caste hegemony on God.
I believe that I am not alone in my assertions. Muslims of India in general support this position. There are millions and millions who reject Hinduism because of its castes and disrespect to human beings who do not belong to the upper castes.