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Relating Dara Shikoh to modern India

Relating Dara Shikoh  to modern India
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It is time for soul-searching: The occasion was a three-day seminar of academics and intellectuals in Delhi which examined the role of Dara Shikoh in...

It is time for soul-searching: The occasion was a three-day seminar of academics and intellectuals in Delhi which examined the role of Dara Shikoh in the context of history as in present times. A The first of its kind, the seminar was organized at the initiative of the Anjuman Taraqqi Urdu (Hind) in collaboration with the National Council for Promotion of Urdu. The focus of the discourse was on the battle of succession between the two Princes of Mughal times 350 years back, but coupled with an authentic reappraisal of the past in the contemporary context.A The keynote address was delivered by historian, Prof Irfan Habib, while Gopal Gandhi gave the valedictory address. The focal point quickly shifted from the 'if' of history to the sequence of events leading to India's emergence as a modern and secular State. Dara Shikoh was a Sufi devoted to deep study of the Hindu and Islamic texts in a quest to find a larger space of mutual understanding between the two major national mainstreams. Dara had learnt Sanskrit from the Hindu erudite of his times, Pt Kevinacharya in particular; Mullah Shah Badakhshi and Mian Mir were his Sufi preceptors the. A Thus he became an ardent advocate of political and spiritual integration and stressed the need for understanding the Islamic message through the prism of the Upanishads. No surprise; however revolutionizing his thinking could have been, Dara aroused the anger of the powerful and entrenched orthodoxy of the times. He was accused of heresy and profanity. This guaranteed Aurangzeb's ascendancy and the rest is history. This in sum formed the theme of the three-day discourse Gopal Gandhi took to the ingenious route of addressing Dara through an 'e-mail' which assumed the form of a dialogue. Accordingly, what was pointedly unintelligible to Dara in Gopal Gandhi's mail were the two expressions� Pakistan and fanaticism! In all, more than 50 academics participated in the seminar.
While there was no specific reference to terror, violence, or the security problem, the underlying tenor of the discourse revolved round the bitter harvest that became the lot of the nation following the Partition of the country. The forces of disruption have continued their activities in different forms ever since. There was not much mention of Pakistan too during the deliberations, but there were unmistakable signs of a painful realization of an "inheritance of loss" on the part of the speakers with their firm resolve to strengthen the forces of integration. A serious exercise of this nature pinpoints the need for follow-up action by others in the field. A fast-changing situation does require solutions without forgetting the lessons of the past and building anew with greater zest. A Gopal Gandhi did exactly that: while comparing the intolerance of the medieval era with the example of Mahatma Gandhi, his great grand-father, who fell to the assassin's bullet soon after freedom.A Yet, the Partition notwithstanding, there are solid reasons for India to look at its map of progress with a measure of satisfaction. Not much substance is left in the hyphenation of India with Pakistan any more: now one speaks of India and China, not as military rivals but in the context of Asia's economic resurgence. A The nation is a collective participant in the process of forging ahead, the minorities included. A However, what we have on hand is not a 'Muslim Problem' but various problems facing them, as is the case of other sections of society in varying degrees. On more positive side, the minorities have shown free assertion of their rights; more notably, they have understood the relevance of and participation in the elections and its impact on the voting pattern to help keep the communal forces at bay. Opinion-leaders have an important place in the scheme of things. There is an oft-heard complaint of lack of proper guidance of the minorities by those who matter in political and electoral decision- making. A The social and cultural educators too have an important role to play in this scenario. It is in place that the initiative for holding a seminar of this kind should have come from the 110-year-old Anjuman Taraqqi Urdu, an organization nurtured by Hyderabad-based Maulvi Abdul Haq and evolving as an institution of national importance.
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