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Vijaya Pushkarna
Vijaya Pushkarna


The Sufi model of peace-making

The Sufi model of peace-making (FILE) A scene from the Sufi Sutra music festival in Kolkata | Salil Bera

As cries for action against those inciting, fomenting and indulging in hate games and crimes of communal shades grow louder, the Modi government has finally decided to step in. According to Minority Affairs Minister Najma Heptullah, the government plans to conduct a national-level Sufi conference, followed by smaller ones, in order to 'promote peace'. The suggestion that help may be sought from the Indian Council for Cultural Relations suggests that soulful renderings by well-known Sufi singers, possibly including Bollywood playback singers, is on the cards.

Sufism, according to the Wikipedia, is a concept in Islam, defined by scholars as the inner, mystical dimension of Islam. Others contend that it is a perennial philosophy of existence that pre-dates religion, the expression of which flowered within the Islamic religion. Sufism, which is said to be 1,000 years old, is also said to be the reason why Islam spread in South Asia, and in India.

Years ago, the government had similar ideas of dealing with pro-Kashmiri and pro-Pakistani elements in Jammu and Kashmir. The idea was floated by the late Balraj Puri who advised the government informally on all things to do with Kashmir. As I was covering the state regularly then, I had discussed it with him. “If we take them back to the glorious years when Sufism came to the Valley, all problems will be solved. Because there was no Islam, and everyone was everyone else's brother,” he suggested. I was appalled at the oversimplification of it all!

Clearly, the government saw sense in dropping it. It is one thing for people to sit in harmony and listen—at that point in time—to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, or now Abida Parveen or Rahat Fateh Ali . But to expect to wipe out from the roots, the communal hatred assiduously sown and grown by the watchdogs of religion, is not just foolhardy, but paints the image of this government as juvenile.

It is matched only by the strategy of our neighbour Pakistan, in dealing with their non-state actors who keep the pot boiling on Indian soil, obstructing peace moves between the two countries. The former Pakistan foreign affairs minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri revealed in his book Neither a Hawk Nor a Dove: An Insider’s Account of Pakistan’s Foreign Relations Including Details of the Kashmir Framework, that the Pakistan government, instead of taking action against them ( file charges, arrest, conduct trial and punish), refer them to psychiatrists.

If only terrorism was a mental health problem.

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