If there are a few people in this country who turn non-issues into issues and disturb the social fabric, tarnishing the image of India, there is no dearth of people who do vice versa. Kunwar Shekhar Vijendra, Pro Chancellor, Shobhit University, whom this scribe met the other day on November 26, 2009, is a man with a difference. He is not only a firm believer in India’s exemplary pluralistic thought but also tries to practice it in his usual routine life. He is, in fact, an incurable optimist in communal harmony.
He hails from Gangoh, known for exemplary communal harmony. Gangoh lies in a belt known for producing well known personalities like Hazrat Qutub Alam Gangohi, Baba Hari Das, Sulaiman Gangohi, Rasheed Ahmed Gangohi and Maulana Qasim Nanotvi. The last two are known to play a pivotal role in the foundation of Darul Uloom Deoband, an internationally renowned Islamic seminary. These personalities also remained in the forefront of the Independence struggle since 1857. To him, Gangoh is not only a qasbah but a composite culture itself. That’s why there is found here no communal feeling among the followers of different religions, and it has emerged as the best example of communal harmony and co-existence.
“I am a Hindu by faith but I fast on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramazan every year since my childhood,” he acclaims. And, this is not limited to a token demonstration of one’s inner feeling and respect for other religions but found in his every day life and practices.
Recalls Kunwar Shekhar: “Recently there were a number of Muslim guests from Pakistan to my residence. They belonged to an elite class. The guests included a young boy and girl. Surprised over our attitude of co-existence, they asked as to does this really exist in the Indian society as a whole. Then I offered them to go to mandir, gurudwara and masjid, along with my own children and see from their own eyes the scenes of co-existence and tolerance. Astonishingly, they asked: Would they not kill us as we are Muslims? When I assured them full satisfaction, they agreed to go to the places of worship. Their astonishment vanished when after reaching mandir and gurudwara and getting introduced, the Hindu and Sikh priests welcomed and narrated them the Hindu and Sikh teachings of co-existence and harmony. Similar was the experience of my own children accompanying these guests while visiting Delhi’s historic Jama Masjid. Some responsible persons at the mosque too welcomed my Hindu children and showed the mosque with much interest. The result was that these children came back more than satisfied about the plural character of India.”
What Kunwar Shekhar says is the general feeling. The Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama said at the three-day long 18th annual conference of the Vitro-Retinal Society of India in Palampur on November 26 that the world must learn religious harmony from India.
Kunwar Shekhar was in the Soviet Union during the last days of Mikhail Gorbachev’s regime. He has so much regard for other religions that he presented her teacher of Russian language, Fatima, a Muslim lady from Daghistan, a gift of a small copy of the Holy Quran carried from his home country. He says: “Even being a staunch Communist, she accepted my offer with respect. I don’t know whether she is now alive or not.” Recalling her peculiar way of teaching, he avers: “She taught me through indications, hints and symbols without taking the help of English language.”
Kunwar Shekhar Vijendra is among a few persons who don’t live with the history, rather tries to change the course of the history. He wonders as to why today’s children find their heroes in Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Aishwarya Rai and other cine stars instead of Gandhiji and other national heroes as well as religious figures.
In connection with the centennial celebration of the publication of Gandhiji’s 1909 book “Hind Swaraj”, Shobhit University in collaboration with Indian Council of Gandhian Studies, Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan and Hinsa Mukt Bharat Andolan organized on November 15, 2009 a seminar, inaugurated by its Vice Chancellor Dr Anoop Swarup and participated by Additional Solicitor General of India Bishwajit Bhattacharyya; Gandhian scholars Dev Dutt and Anil Mishra; Indian Council of Gandhian Studies Chairman Prof N Radhakrishnan; and Prof Pradeep Mathur among others. A large number of students enthusiastically participated in the programme and shared their feelings. They were overzealous to know about the writing of Gandhiji much before his coming back to India from South Africa and attaining the prefix of “Mahatma” to his name.
Says: Kunwar Shekhar: “Our national heroes have not lost charisma, rather we have lost them. Even today if we make them the topics of our discussion, there is no reason as to why our children won’t take interest in them.” It is to point out that Shobhit University announced on this occasion to introduce “Gandhian Way of Journalism” in its course of study.
It pains Kunwar Shekhar to see the decline in values, particularly moral values and discipline among the new generation. That’s why the topic of the seminar was “Education for Nation-Building and Civilizational Issues in ‘Hind Swaraj’”.
The only slogan of this man is “Each One Teach one”. One hopes that in an era of moral and value degeneration, his dream would one day take a shape and become a reality.
—A U Asif can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org