Uttar Pradesh assembly election result brings to mind Munshi Premchand’s essay, Sampradayikta aur Sanskriti (Communalism and Culture). In this treatise he wrote: “Communalism always invokes culture as it is ashamed of its true form, and wears the mask of culture like a donkey dons a lion’s skin to keep animals of jungle under its control.” Premchand’s concern emanated from his deep knowledge of the north Indian society that despite its veneer of cultural harmony had a deep religious schism, particularly between Hindus and Muslims. He repeatedly emphasised upon the need for communal harmony and contested prejudices involving cow slaughter, Urdu, Islamic practices, and conversion used for ‘othering’ Muslims. The ingrained prejudices have been magnified by Hindutva politics in the recent decades for political gains.
Hindi writers of post-Independence India stood steadfast to safeguard and enrich the vision of modern India. The mainstream literature of both Hindi and Urdu languages was broadly secular and non-communal in nature. The tradition and heritage of the progressive writers movement helped navigate the occasional communal outbursts, but it was never the permanent reality of society. Nor did the discrimination of the Muslim community ever become an accepted norm.