Cultural nationalism is not anti-Muslim
Courtesy: Rediff.com, August 07, 2009
by: L. K. Advani, Leader of the Opposition, Indian Parliament
..Cultural nationalism holds that India’s national identity is defined by its unifying and integrating culture, which transcends its religious and other diversities. This is not something I learnt from books.
I was born and grew up in an environment of cultural nationalism. In the first phase of my book [‘My Country, My Life], which deals with the first 20 years of my life that I spent in Sindh, I have described how the social and cultural ethos of Sindh was informed by a remarkable harmony and peaceful coexistence between Hindus and Muslims.
This was primarily due to two factors: the Sindhi language and the propagation of religious tolerance by both Hindu spiritual leaders and Muslim Sufi saints. All the great Hindu and Muslim poets and saints communicated their inspiring ideals through Sindhi.
I have illustrated in my book the best traditions of Sindhiyat by referring to the teachings of Shah Abdul Latif ‘Bhitai’, who is universally regarded as the greatest Sindhi poet of all times. He composed poems in praise of Rama. I have also referred to Sachal Sarmast, who described himself as a ‘Jogi’ and advocated brotherhood among Hindus and Muslims under one single benevolent God.
I have described how the Sufi tradition is deeply ingrained, even today, in my wife Kamla’s family. Her mother was a devoted follower of the famous Sufi saint, Sain Qutab Shah, whose dargah in Hyderabad she regularly visited. She used to sing Sufi kalaams, gurbani and songs about Ram and Krishna with equal piety.
My wife’s sister Sarla and her husband visit Pakistan almost every year to pay obeisance at the dargah of Sain Nasir Faqir, another widely respected Sufi saint.
Kamla would never miss having darshan of Sain Noor Husain Shah, the post-Partition custodian of Sain Qutab Shah’s dargah, whenever he visited India. Indeed, when I went to Pakistan in 2005, Sain Noor Husain Shah, who was in Dubai [ Images21 ] at the time, specially flew down to Karachi to bless my family.
As even Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru has acknowledged in his ‘Discovery of India’, the Indian civilisation — indeed, the very name ‘India’ — owes its origin to the great Sindhu River. Let me recall an interesting incident, which I have quoted from a book by Bhagwan S Gidwani, one of the greatest Sindhi historians. He writes:
‘In my student days, at Sadhbela, a famous Hindu temple, at Sukkur in Sindh, I saw Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. He was at a langar, the community meal. Recently, a South Indian friend questioned me: How come, no one asked Bhutto, why he was there? For us, it was not too uncommon in Sindh to see Hindus in dargahs and Muslims at Hindu holy places.’
Talking about langars, let me mention that Kamla and I organised Akhand Paath of the Guru Granth Sahib, followed by langar, at our house in 2006. Pratibha, our daughter, sang ‘Satnam Wahe Guru’ on that day. I invited Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh for the function and he was gracious enough to accept my invitation.
I am mentioning this here — and I have mentioned it in the book too — because reading of the Guru Granth Sahib and going to gurdwaras was a common practice among Hindus in Sindh.
Hence, Cultural Nationalism is about recognising, accepting and feeling proud about the shared cultural heritage of India.
I therefore take this occasion to appeal to my Muslim compatriots: Understand cultural nationalism in the right perspective. The tragic Partition of India in 1947, on the basis of the spurious ‘Two Nations’ theory, created problems in Hindu-Muslim relations in India, besides engendering problems in the relations between India and Pakistan. It is time to remove prejudices and rebuild unity based on our common cultural heritage...