‘THEY WOULD NEVER WANT US TO GO AWAY’
This is the second of a four-part series, based on a conversation between Yoginder Sikand and Daulat Ram Bhagat
Hindus and Dalits are in a minority in Doda, and our relations with our Muslim neighbours are good. Unfortunately, this is not widely known to people outside. My daughter married a man from Kathua, an area almost entirely populated by Hindus and Dalits. Her in-laws told me, “how can we come with the marriage party to Doda?” They thought Doda was infested with militants and that the local Muslims were all anti-Hindu and would not spare them. But, eventually, 70 of them came and they were so impressed with the hospitality of the local Muslims that they had to completely change their opinion. Many of them stayed in the houses of our Muslim neighbours, who insisted that they should do so. They treated them as honoured guests. Even the bridegroom stayed in a Muslim neighbour’s home. You will never see this sort of love anywhere else.
We do not fear local Muslims at all. The propaganda about Muslims wanting to drive Hindus out of Doda is wrong
True, some terrible incidents have happened in recent years, but I must say that these are largely instigated by outsiders. We do not fear local Muslims at all. We trust them completely. The bjp propaganda about Muslims wanting to drive Hindus out of Doda is wrong. At least in Doda tehsil, the local Muslims would never want us to go away. As far as I know, most militants generally do not touch people who have not informed on them or opposed them. There have been some massacres of Hindus in Doda in recent years, but local Muslims have condemned these and have said that Islam does not allow the killing of innocents. No true religion can.
About a third of the Hindu population of Doda are Dalits; most are poor and many of them are peasants and manual workers. A small number are government employees. The Meghs are the largest Dalit community in Doda, followed by the Mahashays or Doms and Jogis. Although they are all treated as ‘low’ by the so-called Savarna Hindus, there is no unity among these castes, and they practice forms of untouchability among themselves. Many Meghs, for example, do not eat food cooked by Doms.
Traditionally, and till fairly recently, dominant caste Hindus — Rajputs, Brahmins and Banias — used to practice strict untouchability not just towards Dalits, but also to Muslims. A few continue to do so. Before 1947, many Muslims and most Dalits were poor agricultural labourers and tenants; many times they would be forced to render begar or unpaid labour. The Dogra Raj was a period of great oppression for Dalits and also for many Muslims. So, the Dalits are really grateful to Sheikh Abdullah for saving us from Dogra oppression and ‘upper’ caste domination. The land reforms he instituted gave us ownership over some of the lands we tilled as tenants. That is why most Dalits have always voted for the National Conference.
To be continued next week
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