Many Hindus gathered at Lakemba Ramadan night markets in Sydney to share their connection with Muslims in India.
“Growing up in Calcutta, our house was next to a mosque, and the sound of the Azan was what my mother woke up to in the morning. Evening Azaan is when she lit her lamp,” remembered Prof Devleena Ghosh, a Hindus for Human Rights initiative, in her ‘Love letter to Muslims’.
Professor Ghosh said she remembered the sweets being exchanged at Diwali and the Biryani that came at Eid.
“It is not that there weren’t fights, there weren’t riots, but they were the tensions of people living close together with different belief systems who were finding ways to coexist. I don’t remember India where people are lynched because of their religion all the time, maybe on occasion. I don’t remember India, where you have to hide your faith to find a job. I don’t remember India where you have to be a vegetarian to get a rental house. I don’t remember an India where eating beef is a death sentence. So please don’t spoil what was a beautiful, at least an idea that our independence leaders had,” said Professor Ghosh.
Hindus for Human Rights ANZ president Shanti Napier-Raman recalled Rabindranath Tagore’s storey Kabuliwala.
“My earliest memories of being aware of growing up with Muslims and having a deep connection was a short story Kabuliwala which is about a beautiful relationship between a much older Afghan man and a little girl in a very Hindu background in Bengal and their relationship that grew over the years,” said Dr Napier-Raman.
“This is such a lovely story; when I read it in Hindi, I just cried as an eight-year-old. I still remember this, so this is my kind of love letter to my Muslim friends,” she said.
Nandita Suneja said as a former journalist, she had systematically seen how this divisiveness and hate had been mainstreamed into people’s psyche and politics there.
“I think that’s one of the things that turn me off media, and I just left it. It is funny when I think of Muslims; I don’t think of others because there is no other,” Ms Suneja emphasized.
Greens Senate candidate David Shoebridge was also present at the event. He said it was a privilege to stand beside Hindus for Human Rights and reflect on all of our cultures.
“It is a privilege to reflect on our culture’s commitment to genuine multiculturalism, to more than a show democracy but a genuine democracy, freedom of media, freedom of speech for an independent judiciary, the values that I thought were genuinely shared between India and Australia,” said Mr Shoebridge.