WHAT ABOUT THE WOMEN IN THE STORY?

It would have been a lot easier for the judge to convert his Muslim mistress to Hinduism (“A House Divided,” India Currents, June 2007) than to ask his entire family to convert to Islam. Why didn’t he follow that approach?

Besides, isn’t bigamy a crime in India? It may well be that the judge converted to Islam to lawfully keep his second wife under Islamic practice, which does not make him a martyr but an opportunist.

Is it socially acceptable in India for a man to have a mistress, and to publicly bring her home as a second “wife”? In most places, men keep their mistresses discreetly in some apartment to avoid humiliating their wives and children.

Perhaps the reason why the judge couldn’t find matches for his children was not because the mistress was a Muslim. Perhaps people felt that the judge had poor ethics—in perpetrating a misdemeanor or felony (bigamy), and in publicly demonstrating contempt for his poor wife. They would be right on that count.

Why is the editor not concerned about the oppression and exploitation of women (both wife and mistress) exhibited by this man? Weren’t there any women around who could slap him in public for being such a chauvinist?

After thinking this through, I fail to feel any sympathy for this monstrous man. He should have been tarred and feathered.

Julia, via the internet

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RECONCILING A DIVIDED HOUSE

Arvind Kumar’s thought-provoking editorial (“A House Divided,” India Currents, June 2007) has hit the nail on the orthodox Hindu head. The intolerant, obscurantist, ultra-orthodox Hindu priests and their establishment are also responsible for many Hindus leaving their beautiful, humane, and most tolerant religion. These self-styled protectors of Hinduism have harmed the religion no less than those who directly or indirectly converted, and continue to convert, Hindus to Islam and Christianity.

Who could forget what happened to East Bengal Hindus who, centuries ago, were converted by the Muslim Nawab who was rebuffed when his daughter wanted to marry a young man from a Brahmin family. He wanted his whole family to become Hindu so that his beloved daughter could marry the Brahmin boy, but the priests would not permit that. This hard-line approach resulted in the young man himself converting to Islam and ruthlessly converting the vast Hindu majority.

We should also not forget that in this era some priests would not allow an Indira Gandhi inside a temple; some others would carry out “purification” because a Hindu minister’s Christian wife had visited the temple; they would bar a Parvati Khan, a devotee of Shiva, from a Varanasi temple, and also bar from their temples Yesudas—the man whose Hindu bhajans are sung in numerous temples. Can you beat it? This dogmatic approach is utterly shameful and unacceptable, yet I don’t hear loud voices against it.

And think of it: in the latter part of 19th and early 20th century reformers such as Swami Dayananda Saraswati (the Founder of Arya Samaj) started a “Shuddhi” campaign and Swami Shraddhananda carried it further but people like Mahatma Mohan Das Gandhi opposed it. Shuddhi was mainly to get converted Hindus back into the old fold.

The most important part of Shuddhi was accepting the returnees and newcomers into mainstream Hindu society and forging marital bonds the same day if they were of marriageable age. “Roti and beti” relations were the backbone of that re-conversion and conversion, but that practice was not followed later. This lack of full acceptance by the traditional Hindu society contributed to the present situation in no small measure that your article rightly states.

The Hindu mindset has to change drastically. The following story illustrates my point further: A man went to Swami Dayananda complaining that a Muslim, who kills cows and eats beef, was being converted to Hinduism (which forbids beef-eating). Swamiji’s reply was: He will stop killing cows and eating beef once he is accepted into the Hindu fold.

That spirit must be revived and propagated in right earnest to help stop the exodus from the Hindu fold. It is also important because India can remain a tolerant, and all-inclusive society, only as long as Hindus remain in majority. (The conditions for Hindus and other non-Muslims in Muslim-majority countries and Muslim-majority areas of India are well known; Christian-dominated states are a little better.) Reconciliation requires it urgently, and positively.

Yatindra Bhatnagar, San Leandro, Calif.

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