Justice Markandey Katju: An appeal to Pakistanis and Bangladeshis for Holi

Justice Markandey Katju

By Justice Markandey Katju–

(Justice Markandey Katju is a former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman of Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own)

Holi, the festival of colors, is on March 25 this year, and I appeal to Pakistanis and Bangladeshis of all communities to celebrate it. Before 1857, Hindus would participate in Eid and Muharram, and Muslims in Holi and Diwali together, and there were no communal feelings among them. There were no communal riots or animosity till that time.

In 1857, India’s first rebellion to regain Independence broke out, in which Hindus and Muslims jointly fought against the British. After suppressing what the British called “Mutiny,” the colonial masters decided that the only way to control India was to divide and rule; that is, create animosity between Hindus and Muslims.

It will be important to recall an incident that occurred before 1857 during the reign of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah of Avadh, the capital of which was Lucknow.

Muharram and Holi once fell on the same day. Muharram is an occasion of ghami or sorrow (for Imam Husain, grandson of the Prophet and his 72 followers who were killed in the battle of Karbala by the forces of the tyrant Yazid), while Holi is an occasion of celebration (the festival of colors, marking the beginning of spring).

The Hindus of Lucknow decided not to celebrate Holi that year out of respect for the sentiments of their Muslim brothers and sisters, who were in grief.

The Nawab took out the tazia from the Bada Imambada in Lucknow in a procession and buried it in Karbala, a site in Lucknow with the same name as the place where Imam Husain was martyred.

Having done so, he asked why people were not playing Holi. After being told the reason, the Nawab said that since our Hindu brethren have respected the sentiments of the Muslims, it is also the duty of the Muslims to respect the sentiments of Hindus, and declared that Holi must be played the same day.

He was the first to start playing Holi and it was played all over Avadh by both Hindus and Muslims, although it was also Muharram.

The Mughals and other Muslim rulers and their subjects (including Muslims) would celebrate and play Holi with great gusto. There are many accounts and paintings to prove this, as given here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

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