By Shachi Rairikar
While delivering the 12th Lal Bahadur Shastri Memorial lecture, External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh said, ?Recollection of ancient wrongs of Muslim rulers is both fallacious and pernicious: there is no evidence to suggest the sustained persecution of Hindus by Muslim rulers.?? Mr Singh said that in support of these assertions there are frequent references to Indian history based on selective readings of old events and episodes and that indeed, the picture is quite the opposite.
Such an irresponsible statement made regarding the history of the country without any factual backing leaves us with too many questions. Does Mr Singh believe that sustained persecution did not take place because there is no ?evidence? to support of the same? Or does he believe that there was persecution but it was not ?sustained?? Or does he believe that the wrongs of Muslim rulers did not qualify to be termed as ?persecution??
What qualifies to be the ?evidence? of historical facts or acts? Are not the writings of contemporary historians and travellers, the ruins of dismantled temples, the damaged statues of deities, the prints of palms of young women who threw themselves into burning pyre, evidence of the sustained persecution of the Hindus? Or do we need to excavate the entire country on the lines of Ayodhya to prove the obvious? Or do we need video tapes of the likes showing the Iraqi prisoners being abused by American army to prove that there was ?persecution?? Unfortunately, we didn?t have Tehelka in those days which could have provided us with video tapes that would be acceptable ?evidence? for Mr Singh.
After the invasion of Sind by Mohammed-bin-Qasim in the 7th century, the saga of large-scale bloodshed and violence continued with a series of terrible invasions by Muhammad of Ghazni in the 11th century. He was followed by Mohammed Ghori who ravaged India and left it to his Turkish generals. Then followed the incursions of the Moghul hordes of Chenghiz Khan. One of the most terrible invasions was under Timur in 1398. Then came on the scene a new invader in the person of Babar, who invaded India in 1526 and established the Mughal rule. In 1738, Nadir Shah invaded Punjab. He was followed by Ahmad Shah Abdali who invaded India in 1761, crushed the forces of the Marathas at Panipat. Is not a period of more than eight centuries of Islamic rule long enough to be termed as ?sustained?? Every successive Muslim ruler or invader, starting from Mohammed-bin-Qasim, engaged in atrocities over Hindus?only the degree or scale of the cruelty varied.
Mohammed Ghori ravaged India and left it to his Turkish generals. Then followed the incursions of the Moghul hordes of Chenghiz Khan.
Or is it that the atrocities committed by the Muslim rulers do not qualify to be termed as ?persecution?? Thousands of people fell to the Islamic sword, thousands of women and children threw themselves into burning pyre to save themselves from dishonour, many more were raped or taken as concubines, slaves or as one of the thousands of wives in the king's harem. Men and women were sold off at mandis in Persia and Arabia. The poet, Amir Khusrau, testified that ?the Turks, whenever they please, can seize, buy or sell any Hindu?. Hindu temples and places of worship were demolished and replaced with mosques and dargahs. Firoze Shah Tughlak personally confirms that the destruction of pagan temples was done out of piety and writes: ?On the day of a Hindu festival, I went there myself, ordered the executions of all the leaders and practitioners of his abomination; I destroyed their idols temples and built mosques in their places.? Discriminatory tax called jaziya was levied on the Hindus.
Ibn Battutall, the medieval Berber traveller, said that the name ?Hindu Kush? meant ?Hindu killer,? a meaning still given by Afghan mountain-dwellers. Afghanistan was a part of the Hindu civilisation. Millions of Hindus were killed here and the remaining forcibly converted to Islam. To the Hindus this mountain range was known as Paariyaatra Parvat, but when the last Hindu king of Kabul was killed, the Muslims ruled this land and then called these mountains the Hindu Kush.
Guru Nanak Dev himself was an eye-witness to the havoc created during the invasions of Babar. The large-scale massacre, barbarous treatment of prisoners including women broke the heart of Guru Nanak. Guru Nanak, in his famous epic named Babarvani, describes the atrocities of Babar and his men in Punjab. In a hymn, he asks God that when there was such suffering, killing, such shrieking in pain, did not He feel pity?
There are many more writings that give evidence of barbarous atrocities of Muslim rulers. Does all this not amount to persecution? If not, then Mr Singh needs to revamp his vocabulary of English language.
Are we engaged in selective readings of old events and episodes as suggested by Mr Singh? Are Ayodhya, Mathura and Kashi isolated events? There is evidence to show that at least 30,000 temples were demolished all over India. According to Dr B.R. Ambedkar, the Muslim invaders razed to the ground Buddhist monasteries with which the country was studded. Was Padmini the only woman who had to jump into the sacrificial fire, choosing death over dishonour? The print of the palms on the walls of forts and palaces are reminders of thousands of Hindu women and children sacrificing their lives in the pyre for the sake of their honour. Was Guru Tegh Bahadur the only religious saint to be martyred by the Muslim rulers? Dr B.R.Ambedkar writes that a very large number of Buddhist monks were killed outright by the Muslim commanders while many more fled to neighbouring countries. Thousands of Hindu and Jain priests were massacred as their temples were desecrated.
Were Ghazni, Ghori, Timur, Aurangzeb the only cruel Muslim tyrants? The fact is that all Muslim rulers including Alaudin Khilji, Firoze Shah Tughlak, Babar, Humayun, Jehangir, Shah Jahan and invaders like Mahmud Ghazni, Mohammed Ghori, Chenghiz Khan, Ahmed Shah Abdali, Nadir Shah practised atrocities on the Hindus. Historical writings are replete with accounts of the cruelties of Muslim rulers. Even, the so-called Akbar the Great?whose rule is said to have been secular and tolerant of the Hindu faith?had a victory tower erected with the heads of the captured and surrendered army of Hemu after the second battle of Panipat. Later, Akbar again slaughtered more than 30,000 unarmed captive Hindu peasants after the fall of Chittor on February 24, 1568; it is a number confirmed by Abul Fazl, Akbar?s court historian. The writing of Fra Bartholomew, a renowned Portuguese traveller and historian, who was present in Tipu?s war zone in early 1790 and records of contemporary churches show that Tipu Sultan, who is portrayed as a hero of Hindu-Muslim amity and a staunch freedom fighter against the British, committed atrocities on Hindus and brutally converted Hindus to Islam.
Muslim rulers including Alaudin Khilji, Firoze Shah Tughlak, Babar, Humayun, Jehangir, Shah Jahan and invaders like Mahmud Ghazni, Mohammed Ghori, Chenghiz Khan, Ahmed Shah Abdali, Nadir Shah practised atrocities on the Hindus.
Will Durant, the well-known American historian writes in the book The Story of Civilization: Our Oriental Heritage that the Islamic conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. It is a discouraging tale, for its evident moral is that a civilisation is a precious good, whose delicate complex order and freedom can at any moment be overthrown by barbarians invading from without and multiplying from within. Almost all the Muslims of South Asia are descendants of the weaker elements of the population who had succumbed to forcible Islamic conversion. The Islamic historians and scholars have recorded with great glee and pride the slaughters of Hindus, forced conversions, abduction of Hindu women and children to slave markets and the destruction of temples carried out by the warriors of Islam during a.d. 800-1700. Millions of Hindus were converted to Islam by the sword during this period.
Saying that there was no evidence to suggest that Muslim rulers had persecuted Hindus and that, instead, the picture was quite the opposite is propagating myth to serve selfish vested interests. It is misleading an entire generation which amounts to cheating of the highest order. Not only is it disrespect shown to the memories of thousands of innocent Hindus who were the victims of one of the bloodiest holocausts of world history, but also disrespect shown to the Muslims of Indian sub-continent most of whose predecessors were forcefully converted to Islam. We cannot change a fact of history, however painful it might have been, by not acknowledging it. Pretending that a problem did not exist is not the solution to the problem. The only way to solve a problem is to face it. Turning a blind eye to it will only allow the situation to further deteriorate.
Selective readings of old events and episodes of history is done by secularists and Leftists to believe and make believe the myth propagated by them for their selfish motives that the Islamic rulers were just and benevolent to the Hindus. A few examples of the generosity of Akbar and Tipu Sultan cannot form the basis to give a clean chit to the entire Muslim rule in India. In their hunger for minority votes, the secularists and Leftists indulge in minority appeasement through distortion of history. What appears to be politically correct to them is in fact factually or historically wrong. Just as the sustained persecution of Hindus by Muslim rulers is a fact of Indian history, another fact of Indian history is the oppression of the so-called Dalits by the upper castes. Will Mr Singh or his secular bogey dare to deny this fact of history?
Of course not! Because this distortion will not suit them politically. On the contrary, he and his scribes will manipulate this fact to blow it out of proportion to play the Dalit card and lure the Dalit vote bank. The upper caste Hindu society is fractured and does not form a consolidated, powerful vote bank, so they can be always put into a position of disadvantage while writing history. Facts of history can go for a toss. Vote-bank politics is the name of the game and distorting history is one of the crucial cards played in the game.
Playing around with history is a luxury which no nation can afford to indulge in. History is above vote-bank politics. It is a means to connect a nation with its roots. A nation developing on the foundation of falsehood is bound to grow in the wrong direction. Swami Vivekananda had said, ?It is out of this past that the future has to be moulded.? In order to mould the future correctly, the past needs to be studied and comprehended in the correct perspective. History can neither be saffron nor red, right nor left, communal nor secular. Facts of history as found in contemporary writings, archaeological evidences, ancient architecture and buildings must be acknowledged and accepted as these are without any manipulations or modifications. Every generation in every nation has the right to know its past correctly, as it was, and no power in the world has the right to tamper with these facts of history. Any kind of tampering with history is an unpardonable crime against the nation and humanity.
(The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)