By Abdus Sattar Ghazali
Justice Markandey Katju, a retired judge at the Supreme Court of India, has launched Ibaadatkahna movement to promote peace in South Asia.
Ibaadatkahna, a non-partisan movement, was launched on December 8, 2019 at a unity dinner held at the Chandni Restaurant, Newark CA.
The Unity event was attended by people from various faiths. Justice Markandey Katju was the key note speaker. Ibaadatkahna is the brainchild of Justice Markandey Katju.
Other speakers included Mr. Javed Ellahie, an accomplished attorney and the council member at Monte Sereno City Council; Dr. Jasbir Singh Kang, a medical doctor and a prominent community leader of the Punjabi American community in Yuba City, CA and Prof. Randolph Langenbach, Prof. at the UC Berkeley. He has served as Senior Analyst for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
A lively question and answer session followed the main speeches. Popular Bay Area activist Maryam Turab and journalist Ritu Jha were the moderators.
The agenda of the event was to highlight growing communal intolerance in the region and to bring people of differing thoughts on one platform. From Kashmir to Kartarpur, lynching of minorities, and growing communal tensions.
Justice Markandey Katju explains Why Ibadatkhana movement was launched from outside India?
He says: “We have launched the Ibadatkhana Movement from outside India, although it relates to India. This is because in the present surcharged communal atmosphere in India there was no free space in India to launch it from there. Free speech has directly or indirectly been gagged in India, the media is largely sold out. So, the best space available is in the free atmosphere of America.”
The Ibadatkhana was a meeting house built in 1575 CE by the Mughal Emperor Akbar at Fatehpur Sikri to gather spiritual leaders of different religious grounds so as to conduct a discussion on the teachings of the respective religious leaders.
According to Justice Markandey, Ibadatkhana was very forward-looking idea, well ahead of its time but something that can be quite relevant today as it can help strengthen the secular backbone of our country. If there is a fabric for our nation with such diversity it is definitely woven by a set of threads that include religions, belief systems, culture, customs, and languages. Ibadatkhana could be a wonderful concept to keep that fabric intact in a country like India with such tremendous diversity, particularly at a time when that fabric is under threat of disruption by certain forces.
Justice Markandey Katju
In his speech and question answer session Justice Markandey Katju pointed out up to 1857, there were no communal problems in India; all communal riots and animosity began after 1857. He went on to say that no doubt even before 1857, there were differences between Hindus and Muslims, but there was no animosity as the Hindus were going to temples and the Muslims going to mosques. In fact, the Hindus and Muslims used to help each other; Hindus used to participate in Eid celebrations and Muslims in Holi and Diwali.
According to Justice Katju, the British collector would secretly call the Hindu Pandit, pay him money, and tell him to speak against Muslims, and similarly, he would secretly call the Molvi, pay him money, and tell him to speak against Hindus.
In 1909, the ‘Minto-Morley Reforms’ introduced separate electorates for Hindus and Muslims. The idea was propagated that Hindi is the language of Hindus, while Urdu of Muslims, although Urdu was the common language of all educated people, whether Hindu, Muslim or Sikh up to 1947.
When the British left India, they divided us so that we may remain backward and weak, and not emerge as a modern powerful industrial state (for which we have all the potential). This was the real reason for creating Pakistan.
Justice Katju said this time of the year is a very interesting time as the next few months bring together four significant religious dates when we had Diwali on October 27, the birthday of Prophet Mohammed (Eid un Nabi or Eid al Milad) on November 10, Gurpurab, the birthday of Guru Nanak on November 12, and Christmas on 25th December.
In Dallas, Texas the NRI community is planning to celebrate Eid-Diwali Milan on November 9.
Some people in the Bay Area of California gathered in San Jose in October and decided to take the concept of inter-faith celebration a step further, and also celebrate Gurpurab and Christmas along with Diwali and Eid.
It was also decided to imbibe into it the concept of Ibadat Khana or House of Worship that Mughal Emperor Akbar started in Fatehpur Sikri in 1575 with an idea to bring the teachings of various religions in a commonplace to discuss and learn.
Indian Reunification Association
The story of Ibadatkhana will be incomplete without the mentioning Justice Markandey Katju’s ideas about the partition of India in 1947 which he considers a British conspiracy. He says: When the British left India, they divided us so that we may remain backward and weak, and not emerge as a modern powerful industrial state (for which we have all the potential). This was the real reason for creating Pakistan.
Justice Markandey Katju believes that India, Pakistan and Bangladesh must reunite for their mutual good. He first announced his idea about reunification in 2012.
He wrote an article titled “Pakistan is a fake country, will reunite with India one day”, in India Today on April 7, 2013 arguing: Pakistan is a fake country and one day India, Pakistan and Bangladesh will reunite. It may take 15-20 years. Those who have divided us will not easily allow us to reunite. They will still want us to keep fighting. But we will reunite in the next 15-20 years under a strong secular modern-minded government.”
Not surprisingly, in April 2017, in a Twitter exchange with senior journalist R Jagannathan, Justice Markandey Katju ended up calling Mahatma Gandhi a ‘rascal’ and a ‘British agent.’
In April 2017, Justice Markandey Katju announced formation of an organization called IPBRA (Indo-Pak-Bangladesh Reunification Association).
Earlier on December 8, 2015, Justice Markandey Katju wrote: When I first mooted the idea of reunification, many people scoffed at me, and said I was day dreaming. But the same was said of Mazzini when he put forward the idea of Italian unification, something which was later achieved by Garibaldi and Cavour. German unification was achieved under Bismarck.
Some people object that much water has flown after 1947, and hence reunification of India now is not feasible. But German reunification was achieved in 1990 after a separation of 45 years. Vietnam was reunited in 1975 after 30 years. China has still not given up its claim over Taiwan.
Of course, reunification will not be achieved easily or immediately. It will take time, maybe 10-20 years. Those who divided us will not allow us to reunite easily.
On February 5, 2019, Justice Markandey Katju alongwith a little known person, Yuhunna Lakhnavi, founded the Indian Reunification Association (IRA). The object of this Association will be diametrically opposed to the ‘ Akhand Bharat ‘ concept of the RSS. Justice Markandey Katju says hhile the RSS wants a united Hindu India, this Association wants a united secular India, in which religious freedom is guaranteed, but religious bigotry and extremism is not tolerated and is crushed.
Unity Event Resolution
The Unity dinner participants passed a resolution saying “the Ibadatkhana movement is a response to the dark clouds of religious polarization and oppression of minorities in the Indian subcontinent that has amplified in recent years and threatens the very core secular fabric of the region and may engulf the entire region.”
“Ibaadatkhana movement will strive to transform and uplift the region from the ranks of the underdeveloped countries and bring the region to the ranks of the developed and highly industrialized countries. Without doing so the people of the subcontinent will remain condemned to massive poverty, hunger, unemployment, lack of healthcare, good education, farmers distress, and other ills of poverty,” the resolution said adding:
“Transformation and uplifting can only be achieved by creating strong unity among people and through sustained struggle of people. Stand united against forces that seek to destroy the unity amongst people by taking advantage of the diversity and creating hatred and animosity based on religion, caste, language, and race.”
To achieve its goal of unity, the resolution said that yhe path of suleh-e-kul, the secular path shown by the great Mughal Emperor Akbar is the correct path to maintain unity among the people of diverse ethnicity, culture and religion.
The Ibadatkhana resolution demanded immediate restoration of democratic rights of all minorities, Muslims, especially Kashmiri Muslims, Kashmiri Pandits, Sikhs, Dalits and Christians.
On the current siege of Kashmir, the resolution condemned “undemocratic revocation of Article 370 and suppression of 8 million Kashmiri’s who are under unconstitutional detention and curfew since August 5tth 2019.”
It demanded “immediate restoration in Kashmir of internet and pre-paid mobile services, immediate release of all political prisoners and innocent youth detained under preventive and sedition laws on false and fabricated charges, violating the fundamental right of liberty guaranteed by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, immediate restoration of freedom of speech and of the media guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a), lifting of curfew and doing all else necessary to enable Kashmiris to lead a normal civilized lives.”
The resolution pointed out that Ibaadatkhana movement is the result of collective effort of conscious individuals inspired by humanity and secularism and is geared towards upholding dignity of the people of all religions and races.
The Unity Dinner House resolved that December 8th will be observed internationally as Ibaadatkhana Day every year. The House approved the appointment of Tasawar Jalali as the Chairman of the Ibaadatkhana Foundation.
13 December 2019