That unity is strength is not merely a copybook maxim but a rule of life is in no case so clearly illustrated as in the problem of Hindu-Muslim unity. Divided we must fall. Any third power may easily enslave India so long as we Hindus and Mussulmans are ready to cut each others' throats. Hindu-Muslim unity means not unity only between Hindus and Mussulmans, but between all those who believe India to be their home, no matter to what faith they belong.
I am fully aware that we have not yet attained that unity to such an extent as to bear any strain. It is a daily-growing plant, as yet in delicate infancy, requiring special care and attention. The thing became clear in Nellore when the problem conforonted me in a concrete shape. The relations between the two were none too happy. They fought only about two years ago over the question of playing music whilst passing mosques. I hold that we may not dignify every trifle into a matter of deep religious importance. Therefore a Hindu may not insist on playing music whilst passing a mosque. He may not even quote precedents in his own or any other place for the sake of playing music. It is not a matter of vital importance for him to play music whilst passing 'a mosque. One can easily appreciate the Mussulman sentiment of having solemn silence near a mosque the whole of the twenty-four hours. What is a non-essential to a Hindu may be an essential to a Mussalman. And in all non-essential matters a Hindu must yield for the asking. It is criminal folly to quarrel over trivialities. The unity we desire will last only if we Cultivate a yielding and a charitable disposition towards one another. The cow is as dear as life to a Hindu; the Mussulinan should therefore voluntarily accommodate his Hindu brother. Silence at his prayer is a precious thing for a Mussulman. Every Hindu should voluntarily respect his Mussulman's brother's sentiment. This however is a counsel of perfection. There are nasty Hindus as there are nasty Mussulmans who would pick a quarrel for nothing. For these we must provide panchayats of unimpeachable probity and imperturbability whose decisions must be binding on both parties. Public opinion should be cultivated in favour of the decisions of such panchayats so that no one would question them.
I know that there is much too much distrust of one another as yet. Many Hindus distrust Mussulman honesty. They believe that Swaraj means Mussulman Raj, for they argue that without the British, Mussulmans of India will aid Mussulman power to build a Mussulman empire in India. Mussulmans on the other hand fear that the Hindus, being in an overwhelming majority, will smother them. Such an attitude of mind betokens impotence on either's part. If not their nobility, their desire to live in peace would dictate a policy of mutual trust and forbearance. There is nothing in either religion to keep the two apart. The days of forcible conversion are gone. Save for the cow, Hindus can have no ground for quarrel with Mussulmans. The latter are under no religious obligation to slaughter a cow. The fact is we have never before now endeavoured to come together to adjust our differences and to live as friends bound to one another as children of the same sacred soil. We have both now an opportunity of a lifetime. The Khilafat question will not recur for another hundred years. If the Hindus wish to cultivate eternal friendship with the Mussulmans, they must perish with them in the attempt to vindicate the honour of Islam.
- Young India, 11-5-1921