THE THING became clear in Nellore when
the problem confronted me in a concrete shape. The relations between
the two were none too happy. They fought only about two years ago
over what appeared to me to be a small matter. It was the eternal
question of playing music whilst passing mosques.
The question of music before mosques,
and now, even arati in Hindu temples, has occupied by prayerful
attention. This is a sore point with the Musalmans as cow-slaughter
is with the Hindus.
The trouble about music is fast
growing every day. A letter I had in Surat says that, as it is not
obligatory on a Hindu to play music, he should stop it before
mosques to spare the feelings of the Musalmans. I wish the question
is as simple. Not a single Hindu religious ceremony can be performed
without the accompaniment of music. Some ceremonies require the
accompaniment of music. Some ceremonies require the accompaniment of
continuous music. No doubt, even here due regard ought to be had for
the feelings of the Musalmans. The music may in such cases be less
noisy. But all this can be an ought to be done on the basis of ‘give
and take’. Having talked with a number of Musalmans in the matter. I
know that Islam does not make it obligatory for a Musalman to
prevent a non-Musalman from playing music near mosques. Nor is such
a thing on the part of anon-Musalman calculated to injure Islam
Music should never, therefore, be a bone of contention.
I have heard of a peremptory demand
for total cessation of music soft or loud, at any time what so over
in front of mosques. There is, too, a demand for the stopping arati
during prayer hours in temples in the neighborhood of mosques. I
heard in Calcutta that even boys passing by a mosque early in the
morning and reciting Ramanama were stopped.
I hold that we may not dignify every
trifle into a matter of deep religious importance. Therefore, a
Hindu may not insist on playing music whilst passing a mosque. He
may not even quote precedents in his own or any other place for the
sake of playing music. It is not a matter a vital importance for him
to play music whilst passing a mosque. One can easily appreciate the
Musalman sentiment of having solemn silence near a mosque the whole
of the twenty four hours.
Either continuous music arati or the
repeating of Ramanama is a religious necessity or it is not. It if
is a religious necessity, no prohibition order by a court of law can
be held obligatory. Music must be played, arati must be made and
Ramanama repeated, cost what it may. If my formula were accepted, a
procession of the meekest men and women, unarmed even with lathis,
would march with Ramanama on their lips, supposing that that was the
bone of contention, and draw down on their heads the whole of the
Musalman wrath. But, If they would not accept that formula they
would still proceed with the sacred name on their lips and fight
every inch of the ground. But to stop music for fear of a row or
because of an order of court is to deny one’s religion.
But then there is the other side to
the question. Is continuous playing of music, even while passing
mosques at prayer time, always a religion necessity? Is repeating
Ramanama a similar necessity? What about the charge that the fashion
nowadays is to organize processions purely for sake of irritating
Musalmans, and to make arati just at the time of the prayer, and to
utter Ramanama not because it is held religiously necessary but in
order to create an occasion for a light? If such be in the case, it
will defeat its own end and naturally the zest being wanting, a
court’s order a military display or a shower of brick bats would end
the irreligion show.
A religious necessity must, therefore,
be clearly established. Every semblance of irritation must be
avoided. A mutual understanding should be sincerely sought. Any
where it is not possible, an irreducible minimum should be fixed
making due allowance for the opposite sentiment, and then, without
seeking the intervention of courts or in spite of a prohibition
order, a fight must be put up for that minimum. Let no one charge me
with every having advised or encouraged weakness or surrender on
matters of principle. But I have said, as say again, that every
trifle must not be dignified into a principle.
Use of Compulsion
Hindu and Musalmans prate about no
compulsion in religion. What is it but compulsion if Hindus will
kill a Musalman for saving a cow? It is like wanting to convert a
Musalman to Hinduism by force. And, similarly, what is it but
compulsion if Musalmans seek to prevent by force Hindus from prayers
music before mosques? Virtue lies in being absorbed in one’s prayers
in the presence of din and noise. We shall both be voted irreligious
savages by posterity if we continue to make a futile attempt to
compel one another to respect our religious wishes.
And just as the Hindus cannot compel
the Musalmans to refrain from killing cows, so can the Musalmans not
compel the Hindus to stop music or arati at the point of the sword.
They must trust to the good sense of the Hindus.
But the Musalmans should never expect
to stop Hindu music by force. To yield to the threat or actual use
of violence is a surrender of one’s self-respect and religious
conviction. But a person, who never will yield to threat, would
always minimize and, if possible, even avoid occasions for causing
For the Hindus, cow-protection and the
playing of music even near the mosque is the substance of Hinduism,
and for the Musalmans cow-killing and prohibition of music is the
substance of Islam. It is, therefore, necessary that the Hindus
abandon the idea of compelling Musalmans to stop cow-killing, and
the Musalmans the idea of compelling the Hindus to stop music.
The middle class people must be
prepared for a beating, if they wish to play music in the teeth of
opposition, or they must befriend Musalmans in a self-respecting
In many places, however, the Musalmans
have forcibly sought to stop Hindus from playing music. This is
clearly intolerable. What is readily yielded to courtesy is never
yielded to force. Submission to force is irreligion. If the Hindus
stop music for fear of a beating from the Musalmans, they cease to
As a Hindu, I would certainly advice
Hindus, without any bargaining spirit, to consult the sentiment of
their Musalman neighbor, and wherever they can, accommodate him. I
have heard that in some places the Hindus, purposely and with the
deliberate intention or irritation the Musalmans, perform arati when
the Musalman prayers commence. This is an insensate and unfriendly
act. Friendship presupposes the utmost attention to the feelings of
a friend. It never requires consideration.
It is clear that we have not arrived
at the stage when a pact is even a possibility. There can be, it is
clear to me, no question of bargain about cow-slaughter and music.
On either side, it must be a voluntary effort and therefore, can
never be the basis of pact.
The general in this respect may be
said to be this, that where the Hindus have long been deliberately
observing the custom to stop music before mosques, they must not
break it. But where they have been playing music without
interference, the practice should continue. Where trouble is a
apprehended and facts are disputed, both communities ought to refer
the matter to arbitration.
When a court of law has prohibited
music, the Hindus should not take the law in their own hands. And
the Musalmans should not insist on stopping music by force.
Where the Musalmans refuse to yield,
or where the Hindus apprehend violence, and where there is no
prohibition by a court of law the Hindus must take out their
processions with music accompanying, and put up with all the beating
inflicted on them. All those who join such processions or who form
the musical band must thus sacrifice themselves. They will thereby
defend their faith and their self-respect.
The regulation of cow-slaughter and
playing of music must be left to the goodwill of the respective
communities. Each practice would assume a becoming proportion with
the growth of the tolerant spirit.
For me, music before mosques is not on
a par with cow-slaughter. But it has assumed an importance which it
would be folly to ignore. It is for the Musalmans to say what would
spare Musalman feelings. And if complete stoppage of music before
mosques will be the only thing that will spare the Musalman
feelings, it is the duty of the Hindus to do so without a moment’s
thought. If we are to reach unity of hearts, we must each be
prepared to perform an adequate measure of sacrifice.
They (music before mosques,
cow-slaughter etc.) are questions of law. I want to capture your
hearts and see you welded into one. If this is attained, everything
else will be right itself. If your hearts are not united nothing can
be right. Your unfortunate lot will then be slavery.
I had to listen not without shame and
sorrow to the statement that Muslim friend made to me. He said with
a sign that there is nothing left but a kind of subjection to the
Hindu majority, and that might have to suffer in silence the playing
of music before mosques whilst they were offering prayers. I shall
have no such despair on the part of Muslims. The friend, who made to
remark, did not realize that unconsciously implied that the Muslim
majority would inflict duty in all humility, irrespective of what
the other majority does in the other state. I suggest, therefore,
that until the Prime Ministers of Pakistan and the union agree upon
another course in both the states, the practice that was followed
during the British regime, often under compulsion, should be fully
and voluntarily impose their will on the minority are foolish and
are vastly mistaken. If, therefore, you want to consolidate the
prevailing goodwill, you will see to it that you act on the square
under all circumstances.