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19 1 “Knives,Daggers,andBullets CannotDestroyReligion” Bombay was rife with fear and foreboding. The British had wielded the partitioner’s ax. Reports of horrific bloodletting in northern India, particularly Punjab, had turned the cosmopolitan city into a battleground of real and imagined hostilities along purportedly religious lines. Four good Punjabi friends, three Hindus and one Muslim, were parting company . Mumtaz was going to Pakistan, a country he neither knew nor felt anything for. His decision to leave was sudden but unsurprising. Relatives of his Hindu friends in western Punjab had suffered loss of life and property. Overcome with grief upon hearing of his uncle’s murder by Muslim gangs in Lahore, Jugal had told Mumtaz that he would kill him if violence broke out in their neighborhood. After eight days of stoic silence, Mumtaz announced that he was setting sail for Karachi within a few hours. Jugal fell into a deep silence. Mumtaz became excessively talkative; he started drinking incessantly and packing as if departing for a picnic. When the time came for him to leave, they all took a taxi to the port, which was bustling 20 I Stories with mostly destitute refugees heading for Pakistan. As they stood on the deck of the ship sipping brandy, Jugal begged Mumtaz to forgive him. When Mumtaz asked whether he really meant that he could kill him, Jugal replied in the affirmative and apologized. “You would have been sorrier if you had killed me,” Mumtaz asserted philosophically, “though only if you had realized that it wasn’t Mumtaz, a Muslim and a friend of yours, whom you had killed but a human being. If he had been a bastard, you would have killed him, not the bastard in him; and if he had been a Muslim, you would have killed him, not his Muslimness. If his corpse had fallen into Muslim hands, the graveyard would have an additional grave but the world would have one human being less.” “It is possible that my co-­ religionists would call me a martyr,” Mumtaz continued, “but I swear upon God, I will leap out of my grave and refuse a degree for which I took no exam.” “Muslims in Lahore killed your uncle and you killed me in Bombay. What medal do you or I deserve? What medal is your uncle’s killer in Lahore worthy of? I would say that those who died, died a dog’s death and those who killed, killed in vain.” Becoming more emotional, Mumtaz explained that by religion he really meant the faith that distinguishes human beings from beasts of prey. “Don’t say that a hundred thousand Hindus and a hundred thousand Muslims have been massacred,” he told his friends. “Say that two hundred thousand human beings have perished. The great tragedy is not that two hundred thousand people have been killed. What is tragic is that the loss of life has been futile. Muslims who killed a hundred thousand Hindus might think they had eradicated Hinduism, but it is alive and will remain alive. 21 “Knives, Daggers, and Bullets . . . .” Similarly, the Hindus who murdered one hundred thousand Muslims may rejoice at the death of Islam when actually Islam has not been affected in the least bit. Those who think religion can be hunted down with guns are stupid. Religion, faith, belief, devotion are matters of the spirit, not of the body. Knives, daggers, and bullets cannot destroy religion.”1 Mumtaz then related the story of Sahai, a staunch Hindu fastidious in his habits and a paragon of ethical behavior despite making a living as a pimp. Sahai had come to Bombay from Madras to make enough money to launch his own retail cloth business. Caring and honest to a fault, he had opened accounts for each of the girls who worked for him. One day soon after the troubles began, Mumtaz found Sahai bleeding to death on the footpath in the Muslim locality of Bhindi Bazaar. Afraid of being implicated in the murder, Mumtaz considered running away. But the dying man called out his name and gave him a packet containing ornaments and money for a Muslim prostitute, Sultana. Mumtaz duly delivered the packet to a teary-­ eyed Sultana, along with her patron’s message urging her to leave for a safer place. After his Hindu friends disembarked from the ship, Mumtaz waved at them from the deck. One of them thought Mumtaz was waving at Sahai, eliciting Jugal’s wistful reply: “I wish I were...


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