I started keeping roza (fasting) three years back, and now several of my Hindu friends too fast.
But I am often asked why being a Hindu, I keep one roza in the month of Ramzan every year?
Sometimes the question is asked bluntly, sometimes subtly, but among my Brahmin relatives, it’s often a reason for great curiosity.
Firstly I would like to clarify that it’s not an original idea of mine. Justice Markandey Katju has often extolled Hindus and Muslims to observe each other’s festivals for promotion of communal harmony. A Hindu bureaucrat friend has been keeping the Alvida Jumma roza since college days. Thus three years back I made an appeal on social media for non-Muslims to come together and keep one roza for solidarity with the Indian Muslims. To my surprise many of my Hindu friends answered the call and we go on increasing every year. We all keep at least one roza every Ramzan, some even keep more. By now we are a group of Hindus and Christians, women and men who believe in keeping roza for peace and harmony and in solidarity with our Muslim citizens.
For me it’s not a religious idea. I believe in each person’s private relationship with their believe in Almighty, without any external pressure. Nor are rituals important to me, unless they have deep personal meaning. I have Hindu and atheist friends who keep the roza and Muslim friends who do not, to each their own faith and rituals.
However, though my family doesn’t keep the roza with me they have never shown any distaste for my choice and treat it normally with iftar specially made for me.
For me, keeping the roza is a statement of solidarity with our Indian Muslim minorities. It’s an acknowledgement of our joint heritage, the ganga-jamuni tehzeeb of India which is interwoven within communities which is embedded deep within India’s soil. Where Raskhan praises Krishna and Ramayana is translated in Urdu. Where Akbar celebrated Holi and everyone waits for Eid.
Even while growing up in Lucknow, a city with a joint tehzeeb, we always celebrated Eid at our Muslim friend’s homes while they celebrated Diwali with us. The roots of this joint heritage are very deep. Just like Diwali and Holi belong to Indian Muslims, the non Muslims are also a part of the holy month of Ramzan.
But most importantly in current times, keeping a roza is my political statement of solidarity with the beleaguered Indian Muslims who are facing injustice and majoritarian hate from the Hindutva forces. In today’s time where we are hearing unprecedented bigotry like sabziwallahs boycotted for their religion or innocent Muslims lynched by mobs on basis of rumours, It’s a small gesture to say that a counter narrative of harmony and tolerance exists among many Hindus. That all of us don’t hate or discriminate against our fellow citizens. That not everybody is a follower of the Hindutva philosophy (borrowed from the Nazis) which is so contrary to the core idea of the 3000 old tolerant Hinduism which believes in multiple paths to God. It’s a political statement that India belongs to all its citizens equally… whether Hindus or Muslims or Christians.
And that though the climate of hate and bigotry permeates us today; and tolerant voices are muted; yet just as we stand with you in hunger and thirst, we will stand together with our Muslim brethren in their quest for justice and equality too.