Ibaadatkahna, a non-partisan movement, has been launched at a unity dinner held at the Chandni Restaurant, Newark CA, to promote peace in South Asia.
The Unity event was attended by people from various faiths. Ibaadatkahna is the brainchild of Justice Markandey Katju who explained why Ibadatkhana movement was launched from outside India?
He says: "We have launched the Ibadatkhana Movement from outside India, although it relates to India. This is because in the present surcharged communal atmosphere in India there was no free space in India to launch it from there. Free speech has directly or indirectly been gagged in India, the media is largely sold out. So, the best space available is in the free atmosphere of America."
The Ibadatkhana was a meeting house built in 1575 CE by India's Mughal Emperor Akbar at Fatehpur Sikri to gather spiritual leaders of different religious back grounds so as to conduct a discussion on the teachings of the respective religious leaders.
According to Justice Markandey, Ibadatkhana was very forward-looking idea, well ahead of its time but something that can be quite relevant today as it can help strengthen the secular backbone of our country. If there is a fabric for our nation with such diversity it is definitely woven by a set of threads that include religions, belief systems, culture, customs, and languages. Ibadatkhana could be a wonderful concept to keep that fabric intact in a country like India with such tremendous diversity, particularly at a time when that fabric is under threat of disruption by certain forces.
Justice Markandey Katju
In his keynote speech and question answer session Justice Markandey Katju pointed out up to 1857, there were no communal problems in India; all communal riots and animosity began after 1857. He went on to say that no doubt even before 1857, there were differences between Hindus and Muslims, but there was no animosity as the Hindus were going to temples and the Muslims going to mosques. In fact, the Hindus and Muslims used to help each other; Hindus used to participate in Muslim religious festival of Eid celebrations and Muslims in Hindu religious festivals ofHoli and Diwali.
According to Justice Katju, the British officials would secretly call the Hindu Pandit, pay him money, and tell him to speak against Muslims, and similarly, they would secretly call the Molvi, pay him money, and tell him to speak against Hindus.
In 1909, the 'Minto-Morley Reforms' introduced separate electorates for Hindus and Muslims. The idea was propagated that Hindi is the language of Hindus, while Urdu of Muslims, although Urdu was the common language of all educated people, whether Hindu, Muslim or Sikh up to 1947.
When the British left India, they divided us so that we may remain backward and weak, and not emerge as a modern powerful industrial state (for which we have all the potential). This was the real reason for creating Pakistan.
Justice Katju said this time of the year is a very interesting time as the next few months bring together four significant religious dates when we had Diwali on October 27, the birthday of Prophet Mohammed (Eid un Nabi or Eid al Milad) on November 10, Gurpurab, the birthday of Guru Nanak on November 12, and Christmas on 25th December.
In Dallas, Texas the Indian community is planning to celebrate Eid-Diwali Milan on November 9.
Some people in the Bay Area of California gathered in San Jose in October and decided to take the concept of inter-faith celebration a step further, and also celebrate Gurpurab and Christmas along with Diwali and Eid.
It was also decided to imbibe into it the concept of Ibadat Khana or House of Worship that Mughal Emperor Akbar started in Fatehpur Sikri in 1575 with an idea to bring the teachings of various religions in a commonplace to discuss and learn.
Indian Reunification Association
The story of Ibadatkhana will be incomplete without the mentioning Justice Markandey Katju's ideas about the partition of Indian sub-continent in 1947 which he considers a British conspiracy. He says: When the British left India, they divided us so that we may remain backward and weak, and not emerge as a modern powerful industrial state. This was the real reason for creating Pakistan.