In this godforsaken place that we call our home, humans have done some atrocious things. It is easy to become a cynic now, more than ever. We have to literally wade through a foul heap of depressing, horrifying and inhuman stories that fill up the pages of our newspapers, to find that one heart warming story that helps you stay optimistic and keep dreaming about a better tomorrow for humanity.
I am a daily reader of Dawn, an English language newspaper from Pakistan to keep updated about the country’s happenings. But every day I open their website, I feel dreadful thinking about what horrible stories I get to read that day. The pages are filled with stories about India-hating politicians, about ultra conservative religious zealots or heart wrenching stories about kids who are denied polio vaccine by their own mothers because the Mullah preached that the vaccination program was western conspiracy to sterilize Muslims. But yesterday, Dawn published a rare story about communities living in a religious tolerant environment in today’s Pakistan.
The story of Mithi
Mithi is a small hamlet in Sindh province of Pakistan. Before partition in 1947, Sindh region had huge population of Hindus and all communities- Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians had peacefully co-existed side by side for centuries. After partition, the demographics of Sindh and Punjab had drastically changed. Sindh now has an overwhelming majority of Muslim population, however there are small islands like Mithi in the Thar desert where Hindus are still in majority. Hindus makeup 80% population of Mithi and rest of them are mostly Muslim.
Mithi has been in a time capsule which went largely unaffected by the ruptures raged between the communities due to violence following the partition and the rising religious intolerance in the rest of the country. Here people of all communities live peacefully and they have had not a single case of religious conflict so far as anyone can remember. They are not only tolerant of each other but actively participate in each other’s festivals. Here Hindus enthusiastically fast on Ramzan days with their Muslim brothers and Hindu youth lead the procession on Muharram. Muslims reciprocate their respect for Hindu sensibilities by not slaughtering cows and do not use loud speakers for Azaan when Hindus are worshiping in their temple. They both celebrate Eid and Diwali by exchanging sweets and play Holi together. If Gandhiji was alive, this story would have brought tears to his eyes. One main reason for this inter faith harmony is the influence of Sufism on Sindhi culture which strongly advocates that the essence of all religions is the same truth.
But ironically, even this feel good story had not prevented Indian and Pakistanis engage in a comment-war in the comment section of Dawn website. Indians(read Hindus) proclaimed that this religious harmony had been possible only because Mithi had majority Hindus and that where ever Hindus are in majority there would be peace and that is not the case with Muslims. And Pakistanis cited the Godhra carnage, Babri Masjid, Ghar wapsi, love jihad campaigns of Hindu extremists to prick the bubble of Indian readers. A story about religious tolerance became an avenue for chest thumping and mud slinging between the respective religious followers. Ahh why did I have to read through the comments, it has again turned me in to a cynic. Lesson learn’t- nothing good comes out of reading comments on the internet!
May there be thousands of Mithis blossoming all over the word, think of how ‘sweet’ the world would be!