The martyrdom of Imam Hussain and his followers is considered to be the greatest sacrifice in the history of mankind. There is a consensus that the incident was a war on principles and can never be forgotten.
A majority of people are unaware that a group of Hindus also sacrificed their lives in support of Imam Hussain at Karbala. It is believed that a trade caravan from the Subcontinent was travelling to the surroundings areas of Karbala where Yazid’s forces encountered Imam Hussain. Rahib Dutt, a Hindu from Lahore, was among those who decided to participate in the war.
Like any other religion, Hinduism urges its followers to support those who are oppressed or facing cruelty and injustice. According to the Bhagavata Purana, if a man persecutes another human being, God won’t be pleased with him even if he is a devout worshipper.
Adhering to these beliefs, the Hindu traders decided to join Imam Hussain when they realised that he was leading a small group of people. Although Rahib Dutt was captured by Yazid’s forces and forcibly deported to India, his seven sons and two companions sacrificed their lives in a heroic manner to protect Imam Hussain and his family.
After returning to his India, Rahib Dutt founded a new community that raised awareness among Hindus about the sacrifices made by Imam Hussain. The community is known as the Hussaini Brahmins. A large number of Hussaini Brahmins resided in Lahore before Partition. They are now settled in various parts of the Subcontinent – including Sindh, Lucknow, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Ajmer Sharif. Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt also reportedly belongs to same community. During his visit to Lahore, his father Sunil Dutt had mentioned the sacrifice of Rahib Dutt in support of Imam Hussain.
According to Sunita Jhingran, a classical singer, who claims to be a descendant of Rahib Dutt “our ancestors fought on the side of Imam Hussain because he was fighting against the oppression of people under Yazid’s rule”.
Every year, the Hussaini Brahmins observe Muharram via the ritual mourning. They keep a fast on the tenth of Muharram. They show solidarity with their Muslim brethren to promote interfaith harmony and also raise slogans against Yazid’s cruelty.
The Hindu community in Sindh shares a special bond of respect with Imam Hussain. Local Hindus wear black dresses until the tenth of Muharram. They offer to volunteer their services to safeguard the Muharram processions.
Lakshmi Bai, the Rani of Jhansi, was one of the leading figures of the War of Independence in 1857 and it is widely believed that she gained the courage to resist British imperialism due to the inspiration of the greatest sacrifice of Imam Hussain. Under her rule, Muharram was marked with great solemnity. According to various historians, Muharram was also observed in different Hindu-ruled princely states in the past.
Mahatma Gandhi, a prominent figure in the Independence Movement, had also showed his respect towards Imam Hussain in the following words: “I learnt from (Imam) Hussain how to attain victory while being oppressed”. He also vowed that: “If I had an army like the 72 soldiers of (Imam) Hussain, I would have won freedom for India in 24 hours”. Many Hussaini Brahmins also played a pivotal role in the freedom struggle against the British rule.
The greatest sacrifice had an impact on almost every part of the world and there is valuable literature available in different languages. A number of Hindu poets also paid tribute to Imam Hussain through their poetry. Some of them include Jai Singh, Mathur Lucknawi and Kunwar Mohinder Singh Bedi.
Imam Hussain’s sacrifice not only carries a message for a specific community but also bears a lesson for all humankind. Today, people all over the world declare Imam Hussain as a role model to resist injustice and cruelty. We need to learn many lessons from the martyrdom of Imam Hussain. First, there must not be a compromise on principles and we must support the truth at any cost. Second, surrendering our lives in the path of God is the ultimate sacrifice.
We must also be prepared to render sacrifices for Pakistan so we can transform it into a developed, progressive and democratic country that is based on the golden principles of tolerance, harmony and justice.
The writer is a member of the National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.
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