India’s body politic has been poisoned with communalism. Bombay after Babri Masjid, Gujarat after Godhra, Muzaffarnagar, Ballabhgarh are all manifestations of this poison. If India is to truly emerge as a powerful modern state, with its people enjoying decent lives, communal amity is a must.

It was to take a step towards this amity that I made an appeal on Facebook and my blog on June 30. In this I urged all non-Muslims around the world to observe roza on July 4, as a token of respect and solidarity with our Muslim brethren. The response that followed was heartening.

Several Hindus in India declared on Facebook that they’ll follow my call, and many Indian Muslims commented that they’ll fast for a day during Navratri. Appreciation poured in from Pakistan too, where eminent journalist Hamid Mir tweeted my appeal and that got retweeted several times.

Communities come together

I have been keeping roza for a day during Ramzan for several years. This year, since I was in the US during the Islamic holy month, I discussed my idea with some Hindu non-resident Indians in California’s Bay Area who decided to join in. July 4 was chosen as the date for the fasting.

As the day arrived, my Hindu friends and I adhered to the observances. We got up around 3.30 am and ate Sehri, the pre-dawn meal, before 4.11 am (the time keeps changing by one minute daily throughout Ramzan). I ate two scrambled eggs, a bagel, and drank a glass of cold milk and a glass of water. And then, till 8.35 pm, the time of iftaar, we had neither food nor water.

We broke our fast at the residence of Syed Ali, the CEO of a multibillion dollar company, and his gracious wife Shaista in Saratoga in Bay Area. About 50-60 persons from all communities attended the iftaar, including a Sikh gentleman, Baldip Singh, who was earlier with the Aam Aadmi Party.

At 8.33 pm, Athar Ali, a cousin of our hostess, spoke to us about the significance of Ramzan and roza, and at precisely 8.35 Syed Ali offered me a date, which I ate happily. Everyone then partook of the iftaar. The Muslims among us lined up as Athar Ali said the prayers. After that, we had an excellent dinner prepared by Shaista and her friends.

Let's end false propaganda

I am a humble disciple of the great French political philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau who believed in the inherent goodness of people. I too think that 99% members of all communities – whether Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh or any other – are good by nature. They are, however, vilified by the bigoted acts of the remaining 1%.

We have to end the false propaganda that all Muslims are terrorists. People in the subcontinent are tired of communalism and religious bigotry, and are realising the great harm it does. To counter this poison, each of us needs to act. Non-Muslims observing roza for one day during Ramzan and non-Hindus observing vrat for one day during Navratri could be one such antidote.