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Not true: India's syncretism 'developed' by Gandhi, Bose, Nehru; it's pre-British

By Osman Sher* 

According to Dr Ram Puniyani all the three great leaders of modern India, Gandhi, Bose and Nehru, believed in an independent India that would bring together different philosophical, religious, and cultural principles and practices. True, but this syncretism has not been limited only to modern times.
In fact, it is the hallmark of the Indian culture and governance. It had started as early as 550 BC with the rule of Bimbisara and Ajatashatru, the rulers of Magadh (South Bihar) and the first Empire builders, when Buddhism and Jainism took birth, and the rulers were believed to be followers of both the religions along with their own Vedic religion. The people too accepted both the religions with no friction in the society.
History is replete with instances of syncretism of the rulers, both by words and actions. As it will be a dissertation to make a mention of all those here, I would suffice to give the instances only of two greatest rulers of the subcontinent, Asoka and Akbar.
Asoka’s preaching on rock edicts is full of respect for other religions. However, to quote only one, he writes in Rock Edict VII:
“But Devanumpriya (Beloved of the gods or Asoka himself)) does not consider gifts of honor to be as important as the essential advancement of all sects. Its basis is the control of one’s speech, so as not to excel one’s own sect or disparage that of another on unsuitable occasions...
"On such occasions one should honor another man’s sect, for by doing so one increases the influence of one’s own sect and benefits that of the other man, while, by doing otherwise one diminishes the influence of one’s own sect and harms the other man’s...therefore concord is to be commended so that men may hear one another’s principles.”

Akbar expressed his views on the religion and his people as:
“Although I am the master of so vast a kingdom, and all the instruments of governments are in my hand, yet since the greatness consists in doing the will of God, my mind is not at ease in this diversity of sects and creeds; and apart from this outward pomp of circumstances, with what satisfaction, in my despondency, can I undertake the sway of empire?"
In the General Council of the learned men, he addressed:
“We ought, therefore, to bring them all into one religion in such a fashion that they be both ‘one’ and ‘all’ with the great advantage of not losing what is good in any one religion, while gaining whatever is better in another. In that way honor would be rendered to God, peace would be given to the people, and security to the Empire.”
Episode of hatred among communities started with British, who had a purpose: divide the nation in religious groups
Therefore, by culling the best features of all religions, he gave his Deen-e-Ilahi in 1582.
Since the dawn of history, India has never experienced communal riots and mob lynching on the basis of religion. At the highest level, efforts have been made by the kings and the regional rajahs themselves to create harmony among the communities.
Setting aside the episodes of struggle for political powers and the ensuing brutalities at higher level, strife and agitation at ground level have been generally absent. Even the British could not twist the history in this regard. Any modern writing or verbal speeches to the contrary are mere propaganda and travesty of history.
Undoubtedly, this episode of hatred among the communities had started with the British, who had a purpose: divide the nation in religious groups, do not face their combined resistance, and rule comfortably. But the policy of the present government is without any purpose and is centred round pure hate.
One more point towards Dr Ram Puniyan's learned piece of writing. He is of the opinion that the present Government is only against Islam and Christianity because they are “foreign religions”. It is not so simple to say that there are only two religions. People are encouraged to perpetrate atrocities on their own fellow- religionists, the Dalits, because Manusmriti says so.
Nay, the Sikhs, the Buddhists, and the Jains are in the queue.
---
*This is a rejoinder to Ram Puniyani's article, distributed by JanVikalp

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