With majoritarianism in India ascendant, and rising insecurity among Muslims, a group of likeminded people belonging to non-Muslim communities celebrated Eid on Wednesday, to express solidarity and to assert the importance of communal harmony in the country.
“Gestures are important now,” said Meha Dhondiyal, from Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh. “We always take it for granted that Muslim friends will come over to our house during the Hindu festival of Diwali, and we go to their house for Eid, but now it is important to make an open gesture of participating in each other’s festivities.”
Dhondiyal gave an open call to observe the fast on the last Friday of Ramadan on May 31, to express solidarity with Muslims. Her post went viral, and what started as an individual initiative became a clarion call with many joining her.
“Friends from different parts of India came forward. The narrative of hate is not the only narrative in India. We respect each other’s cultures and traditions, and India can never become a majoritarian state,” she said.
The return of Narendra Modi as prime minister of the country in the recently held election, and the huge victory of his Hindu right wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) worried India’s 20 million-strong Muslim population. What happens to secularism if Hindu majoritarianism becomes the norm?
To counter this, people in different parts of the country have launched social media campaign #nafrat ke Khialf (voice against hatred).
Delhi-based Jayshree Shukla, a heritage guide, fasted for 11 days during Ramadan this year “to express solidarity with the Muslims of India.”
On Eid, she gave gifts to her Muslim driver and friend, who took her to all the Muslim areas of Delhi for her to explore.
“Ramadan and Eid for me are a chance to express my solidarity with Muslims, at a time when they are at the receiving end of the rising specter of majoritarianism in India,” she told Arab News.
Praveen Khabtiyal of Mumbai said: “Going to a Muslim friend’s house on Eid is not something new, we have been doing this for years. But this is a gesture of solidarity.”
The young businessman kept fast on the last Friday of Ramadan, responding to Dhondiyal’s call for communal harmony on social media.
He told Arab News: “The idea of one single narrative of nationalism is alien to India.”
Prominent social activist, John Dayal, a Christian, has also been very proactive “to show Eid as an index as to how secular we Indians are.”
Eid for him is “a yardstick to show how all religions are equal in India. It’s a tribute to the syncretic culture of India.”
Lucknow-based Shivalika added “Eid time is special. I wanted to demonstrate my participation in the festivity to assure my Muslim friends that they should not be scared, so I kept fast on the last Friday of Ramadan to express my solidarity with Muslims in India.”
Dehradun-based fashion designer Ved Amrita said: “Both Hindu and Muslim fought for the freedom of the country, they have been shaping the destiny of the nation together. There is no need for Muslims to feel unwanted in India.
“Through Ramadan and Eid, I want to assert the core of the Indian culture which is communal harmony.”
Delhi-based Dr. Anwar Sadat said added: “Eid comes as an occasion to assert communal bonding. I make it a point to invite my Hindu friends to the festivity. Our Eid is incomplete without the visit of my Hindu friends to my house. This is the strength of India, and we should stand together to preserve this core value.”