For me, the word Eid brings back only one real memory : reading Munshi Premchand’s famous short story “Eidgah”. Hamid, the little fatherless boy goes to the Eid festival with his friends at the end of Ramzan. But he has too little money and wanders around, considering what to buy even as his friends gorge upon sweets and pick up toys and trinkets. Finally, the day is nearly over and the market is about to close and Hamid still hasn’t bought anything. Ultimately, what does Hamid buy? He buys a “chimta”, a pair of tongs so that his old grandmother doesn’t get her hands burned while making roti everyday.
A heart touching story, the true “idea of India”, embodied in the works of great writers like Premchand. I read this story in a simplified form as a kid, along with other of Premchand’s stories like “Motor ki cheetein” (read it…it’s really funny!), “Namak ka Daroga” and “Bade Ghar ki beti”. My favorite was Bade Ghar ki beti, the tussle created in a middle class household by the coming of a new bahu from a rich family and the amount of ghee that she is used to putting in the food!
Anyways, Premchand’s story “Eidgah” also surfaced in my Hindi textbook at some point, somewhere in eighth grade. I also believe we had to read an English translation at some point in school.
Okay, but here is a question : we all know that Muslims fast daily for the whole month of Ramzan. I am still calling it Ramzan by the way, not Ramadan. No Indian Muslim around me said “Ramadan” when I was growing up. If you would rather use the Saudi term because some radical preacher on youtube told you to say it that way, then go to Saudi Arabia.
So what about the kids? What about little kids, some as young as nine years of age, who are being made to go through the daily torture of fasting during Ramzan? Shouldn’t there be a PIL in some court to stop this?
I was quite sure that given the large legions of NGOs and human rights organizations dedicated to humanity, activists worldwide must have filled up courts with petitions to help the children. After all, they always want to help the children : the children of Gaza, the children of Syria. What kind of “activists” wouldn’t care about children?
So, I went online to see what is being done about this, to protect vulnerable young kids. Quite shockingly, I was able to find precious little that is being done, that too in Western democracies that take great pride in their human rights records. And nothing whatsoever in India.
The only concrete step I could find was this example of a private school in Britain that asked parents to desist from making their kids fast during the holy month.
Kids are fainting in school! We have to do something about this! Imagine how children are suffering during the Indian summer, tormented by hunger and thirst. It is rather shocking that in the whole world I could find just ONE example of somebody doing something about such ritual torture of children. And none at all in India, home to 150 million of the most peaceful Muslims in the world.
In my experiences with the Indian media, I have discovered that Muslims in particular care deeply about human rights. No other community in India is as peaceful and as committed to human rights as Muslims.
Perhaps it is time for India’s peace loving Muslims to come together and file a PIL in the Supreme Court to ban minor children from fasting during Ramzan. And if that fails to happen for some mysterious and totally unexplained reason, I am sure most of our human rights organizations and NGOs will be happy to file such a PIL on their behalf.
Mercifully, Indian courts of late have been very receptive to pleas regarding the rights of children.
Even in the case of adults, the Supreme Court has chosen to throw a layer of protection around them and decided how high they can climb on top of each other. As the Supreme Court rightfully asked in a case involving Jallikattu :
Exactly! What is the necessity to have young children suffering daily fasts at the peak of summer? Being woken up at 3 AM to eat in a hurry…then being kept hungry and thirsty all day. All day! Just imagine not being able to have water during the summer day. And then, the fast is broken at night in a round of binge eating. Is this really what we should be doing to the kids? A daily torture for a month and encouraging an extremely unhealthy lifestyle?
I see it as a civic duty of celebrities in media and academia to come out publicly against kids having to fast during the summer. Aamir Khan for instance, could totally do an episode of Satyameva Jayate about how kids feel the pangs of hunger and thirst.
As the Honorable Supreme Court would have observed in all its wisdom : What is the necessity?