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Farmers of Hatred
By Mukul Dube

Swami Agnivesh and Rev. Valson Thampu have argued (Indian Express, 26 April 2002) that fear is the key force which the Sangh Parivar uses to keep the Hindutva madness going. The historian Tanika Sarkar says (Economic and Political Weekly, 13 July 2002) that a "breathless climate of terror and counter-terror is the cement that consolidates Hindu unity under Sangh terms". What is crucial is that underlying this fear, this terror, is a staggering ignorance which is deliberately cultivated by the farmers of hatred.

Nikhlesh Kumar, who teaches sociology at the university in Shillong, grew up in a business family in the old walled city of Delhi. It was believed by Hindus then, he says, that Muslims would spit into food before they served it. Decades later, he was with two Muslim friends, both Sunnis. One said to the other that he never ate anything served by a Shia. Why? Of course, because Shias spat into food before they served it. And don't we all know that Hindus have nothing better to do than spit into the food of others? A damned great nation of spitters we are. 

Why should one person spit into another's food? There is nothing to be gained by doing that, no earthly benefit. Yet people, entire social groups, are accused of doing it habitually, as a cultural trait. Why should I accuse someone of doing something so pointless and stupid? The reason is obvious: it is entirely natural for me to believe anything, anything at all - the more irrational, the better - of those whom I do not know and who I therefore fear and hate as only the unseeing can.

From growing up in central India in the 1950s, I remember several such utterly absurd myths. Sikh men, according to one, smelt of rancid butter because they greased their beards. In a fantastic jumbling up of abdominal organs, the vaginas of Bengali women were said to reek of rotten fish. And so it went: Muslims cursing one other group, Hindus cursing another, in private probably each cursing the other.

The common factor was that neither knew a thing about those whom they so abused and vilified. Not a thing. They had never been out of their small town, and they may well never have set eyes on a living, breathing specimen of the species of which they spoke. The only mass entertainment of the time, radio and films, both tended to encourage stereotyping. They are no better today.

Some twenty-five years ago, a couple I know had an immensely difficult time renting accommodation in Delhi. One of them was a Muslim, so potential landlords "naturally" feared the piling up of mountains of animal bones outside their homes. In point of fact, the Muslim half of that couple ate no meat while the Hindu half was a devoted carnivore. But that could hardly have cleared away the entirely bogus myth that the spotless Hindus were historically vegetarian and the equally ridiculous belief that filthy Muslims live on nothing but flesh.

U. Vindhya, a lawyer and teacher in Visakhapatnam, was in Scandinavia recently. She tells a heart-warming story of how people from our subcontinent gathered to listen to the Sufi compositions of Bulle Shah. Here were people from "enemy" nations listening to music together, eating together, wishing together -calling upon their different divinities where necessary - that war would be avoided. 

What explains this? The simple fact that they were people like one another, they shared a great deal, and they could see, hear and touch one another. Just ordinary people, not monsters to be feared. I cannot feel blind fear for those whom I know to be no different from me - only a natural human kinship. The real monster is ignorance, and the farmers of hatred feed the beast well. 

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