Monthly Archives: November, 2015

The Biggest Misconception About Birds. Where do birds sleep?

52176f5948168bbefcb98010ff5e71baWhen I talk to people about birds, one misunderstanding comes up again and again, one thing that everyone seems to get wrong. Not dumb people, either. Dumb people get a lot of things wrong. These people think of themselves as smart people, and by and large, they are. Th2c2fc5a6a030ed8830cfad2c3efcbfbcey’re just not bird people.

What is this avian misconception? I hope you’re sitting down because here it is: Birds don’t sleep in their nests.

They don’t. The mental image is a cute one—a little bird, tuckered out after an early morning of worm-getting, peeling back a tiny leaf blanket in its cozy little nest—but it’s just not the case. Nests (for birds that even make nests—many of them don’t) are for keeping eggs and chicks in place. When nesting season is over, nests are a mess—splattered in the droppings of the fledglings and, in some cases, a dead chick. These messes can attract parasites and predators, and birds just don’t need the nests anymore.

So where do birds sleep? Lots of places. When birds settle down to sleep, it’s called “roosting,” and the main things they’re looking for are safety and warmth. Songbirds have to keep off the ground to avoid cats and things, and out of the open to avoid owls. Dense brush or foliage does fine. Bigger birds have more options and can sleep on the water, on a branch, or even just right on the ground.

Few roosts are completely safe, though, so some birds have developed the ability to literally sleep with one eye open. The eyes of most birds (unlike in humabird001ns) send information to only one side of the mind. Unihemispheric slow-wave sleep allows birds to slide one hemisphere of their mind into a deep sleep while leaving the other hemisphere awake and alert. Birds can turn USWS on and off depending on how safe their roost is: For example, when a large flock of ducks is roosting on an open lake, the birds in the safety of the center of the flock may shut down completely, while the more vulnerable birds at the edge of the flock may enter USWS to stay alert. What’s more, scientists suspect that some birds use USWS to sleep while in flight.

OK, so birds don’t sleep in their nests. Let’s get more specific than that. There are a lot of different kinds of birds, and they roost in different ways. So you’ll be able to really dazzle ‘em at your next cocktail party, here’s how a bunch of different families of birds really do prefer to roost.

Geese and ducks. A coyote would love nothing more than to run up on a big, fat, delicious, sleeping goose. Their bigness and fatness, along with their webbed feet, make it impossible for waterfowl to sleep in the safety of a tree.

Gorgeous Rembrandt-Inspired Portraits of Women With Unusual Animals

Gorgeous Rembrandt-Inspired Portraits of Women With Unusual Animals

Most of the time, geese and ducks sleep at night right on the water. Eagles and hawks aren’t a threat because they also sleep during the night, and any predator swimming after the birds would send vibrations through the water, waking them up. Small islands work, too. Waterfowl also sleep on the shore, usually standing on one leg (tucking the other one up into the warmth of its feathers).

Baby Hawk

Baby Hawk

Herons and egrets. These big wading birds really have only equally large predators to worry about: alligators and eagles. Sometimes herons and egrets roost in the shallows, relying on vibrations in the water to warn them of reptiles, but they’re most often seen roosting in large flocks in waterside trees.

Shorebirds. Spending most of their time out on open beaches, birds like sandpipers and plovers are vulnerable to dive-bombing raptors even when they’re awake. Not being equipped to sit in trees or float on the water, sleeping is an even more dangerous proposition. Shorebirds simply do the best they can, roosting on open beaches in large flocks (to help raise alarm) and almost certainly using USWS to keep alert.

Hawks, eagles, and owls. You know that old joke about where the 800-pound gorilla can sit? Well hawks and eagles follow the same rule: anywhere they want to. ab84d3502acc3c58cbfe418f6024a601Big raptors don’t have to worry about predators so long as they’re off the ground, so they’ll usually just find a tree branch somewhere. Owls also sleep in trees, usually during the day, either in dense foliage (to keep the light out) or, for certain species, in tree cavities.9ca11edc69c5190774c98ff4842ec931

Grouse and quail. Sleep is perhaps most dangerous for these guys—all fat and juicy and, typically, with a poor ability to fly. Everything eats them. They sleep in the safest places they can find and use USWS and camouflage in their defense. Birds that live where there are trees, like spruce or ruffed grouse, will fly up and sleep on tree branches. Where there aren’t trees but only smaller vegetation, birds like willow ptarmigan will sleep in the vegetation. Where there’s nothing at all, no trees or bushes, say, and the land is covered in snow, birds like white-tailed ptarmigan will trust in their all-white plumage and nestle down right there in a snowy hillside.

Woodpeckers. Most woodpeckers roost in tree cavities, either ones they’ve used as nest holes or sometimes ones they’ve chiseled out just for sleeping. Lots of birds roost in tree cavities, or really any hole or covered area, for that matter. Humans have helped, creating lots of protected nooks under roofs, bridges, barns, and ledges.

Crows, swallows, swifts, starlings. These birds aren’t closely related, but they share some incredible communal roosting behaviors. Some species, for social or safety reasons or for warmth, choose to sleep together—sometimes in gigantic flocks. The spectacle of these flocks gathering at dusk is amazing to some people, eerie to others, but impossible to look away from. Check out these videos of hundreds of crows in Maryland, thousands and thousands of tree swallows in Florida, these chimney swifts wheeling into a middle school in Wisconsin.

Pretty much everything else. The bulk of the remaining birds—more than half of all bird species—are perching birds from the order Passeriformes. Classic bird-birds: sparrows, warblers, cardinals, jays, buntings, etc. For the most part, all these perching birds use dense vegetation—bushes, hedges, trees—to sleep. They just fly in at dusk, grab hold of an appropriately-sized twig, and conk out.

How do perching birds stay perched on their perch while they’re asleep, you might ask? Evolution, of course. Passerines have developed “flexor tendons” in their legs that involuntarily clasp shut when a bird squats on a perch. The tendons won’t relax until a bird straightens its leg, so a bird physically can’t leave until it’s ready. The grip is so tight that some birds, like this hummingbird, have been seen sleeping upside down. Looks plenty comfortable to me, and no nest required.


Obscureness of the Hindu Nobility Under Aurangzeb; The Response of Modern Research

It’s very regretful to see the way scientific research is being sidelined nowadays and highhanded promotion of unethical and unscientific research practices in various disciplines is underway. History seems to be the most victimized one of these disciplines and is being devalued to be an instrument in the hands of the communal forces. The sixth Mughal emperor Aurangzeb continues to be targeted from various dimensions and his policies are the focal points for some Right wing cliques. Thus we see him often accused of closing the doors of official employment on the Hindus of his time, viz. Rajputs, Marathas, etc.

Obscureness of the Hindu Nobility Under Aurangzeb; The Response of Modern Research

Obscureness of the Hindu Nobility Under Aurangzeb; The Response of Modern Research

There is no reason to believe that a discussion on Aurangzeb is an attempt to take  sides with him. He had murdered two of his brothers, imprisoned his father, partly altered the religious policy of his predecessors, imposed discriminatory taxation, especially the Jizya, or poll tax on non-Muslims and destroyed some temples, notably Keshav Rai at Mathura. As against this, he continued many grants to temples, such as to those of Vrindavan. Other grants to temples or orders making concessions to them have also been published.
Foreign travelers coming to India in his reign generally drew a picture of a tolerant government rather than of a land of religious persecution. Communalists on both sides made him a figure he was not. On the one hand Muslim communalists projected him as a pious, religious zealot who wanted to rescue Islam in India by implementing the rules of Shari’th. On the other hand, Hindu communalists conceptualized him as a fanatic who wished to shift India from a Darul Harb to Darul Islam by strictly following the Shari’th and excluding the Hindus from the administrative positions.

Obscureness of the Hindu Nobility Under Aurangzeb; The Response of Modern Research

Obscureness of the Hindu Nobility Under Aurangzeb; The Response of Modern Research

But both arguments are fallacious since Aurangzeb was neither a pious one nor a fanatic, the point which is expected to be cleared by the present discussion is whether there was any change in Aurangzeb’s attitude towards the Hindu nobility, if yes, was the change in the form of increase or decrease and what could be the reasons behind it. Like all other historical discourses, the current discussion also begins with a glimpse into the historiographical background of the subject.

Though himself a critical and rational historian Sir Jathunath Sarkar, in his pioneering work A History of Aurangzeb went on to say that Aurangzeb’s religious bias and increasing lack of balance in the recruitment of Rajputs who consisted the major part of the Hindu nobility, generated a ‘Hindu Reaction’ which he could not defeat or defend and which ultimately led to the decline of the Mughal empire. Sarkar has given his view based on what sources were available at his disposal.
S.R.Sharma, who is generally counted among the biased and uncritical historians in his Religious Policy of the Mughal Emperors followed the similar argument and endeavored to illustrate the argument by bringing some quantitative rather than qualitative data which suggested a complete decline of the Hindu nobility. Sharma has given a list of 160 Hindu mansabdars of 1000 zat and above under the reign of Aurangzeb and argued that this was the same figure under his predecessor Shahjahan though the total number of mansabdars doubled. On the other hand historians like I.H.Quaishi accepted the Sarkar-Sharma hypothesis of a decline in the position of the Hindu nobility and projected this as an achievement rather than a lapse on the part of Aurangzeb.

Obscureness of the Hindu Nobility Under Aurangzeb; The Response of Modern Research

Obscureness of the Hindu Nobility Under Aurangzeb; The Response of Modern Research

However Professor M. Athar Ali, who undertook his research when more source materials became available, has come forward with a comprehensive scrutiny of the sources and a detailed survey of the Mughal nobility, which helped him to show the fallacy of the early hypotheses. He found that despite Aurangzeb’s attempts to project himself as a staunch follower of the Shari’th and his deliberate religious bias or discrimination, there was only a slight decline in the Rajput nobility. And the Hindu nobility as a whole improved tremendously that by the last phase of his rule there were more Hindus in service proportionately than under any other Mughal emperors. He also found that the slight decline in the Rajput nobility was caused not only by Aurangzeb’s religious bias but also by a number of other factors such as the political realities of the empire, its socio-economic realities and so on and so forth.
Athar Ali, in his magnificent work The Mughal Nobility Under Aurangzeb has given detailed lists of the Rajput nobility in particular and the Hindu nobility in general. As far as the Rajput nobility is concerned, communalist historians like I.H.Quraishi and S.R.Sharma have argued that in the war of succession of 1658-59 itself, Aurangzeb had raised an outcry against the Hindu or Rajput nobles and due to his orthodox mentality Rajputs were alienated. But their fabrication has been proven wrong as a detailed and critical study of the sources will show that the nobility(Hindus and Muslims) were equally divided in their support to Aurangzeb and Dara Shikoh. Of the total 124 mansabdars of 1000 zat and above who supported Aurangzeb in the war there were 9 Rajputs, whereas of the total 87 nobles of Dara, there were 22 Rajputs. But of these 22 Rajputs many of the influential ones like Mirza Raja Jai Sing of Mewar and Jaswanth Sing of Marwar were indirectly supporting or even helping Aurangzeb.
This has been well demonstrated by the recent research on the Udaipur Documents, the letter Prince Akbar wrote to his father, etc.
In short at the time of the war of succession, Aurangzeb treated the Rajputs well and made great efforts to win over their support.
Coming to the early years of Aurangzeb’s reign, that is up to 1666, the year Shahjahan died we see that Aurangzeb had been following the same policy of the time of war of succession. He treated some of the Rajputs with special considerations. Mirza Raja Jai Sing and Jaswant Sing were promoted to the highest rank of 7000/7000. Jai Sing was made the viceroy of Deccan and Jaswanth Sing was appointed as the Governor of Gujarat, the posts usually reserved for the Mughal princes. If Aurangzeb was a fanatic, he wouldn’t have done such promotions and it can be easily comprehended that rather than any religious consideration he was promoted by the concern of consolidating his position through showering of possible promotions.
But right from the second half of the 1660s an obvious change is seen in the religious policy of Aurangzeb inducing him adopting certain amount of restrictions in the recruitment and promotion of the Rajputs. Thus by the end of the first phase of Aurangzeb’s reign (1659-1678), their proportion among the nobles holding the rank of 1000 and above declined from 18.7 per cent under Shahjahan to 14.6 per cent and the old proportion was not maintained. The new religious policy had its reflection also in the way the emperor handled the question of succession to the Marwar throne and the consequent Rathor rebellion, that he tried to confine the Rajputs within their watan jagirs, without granting them any further imperial jagirs.
But here one thing should be clear that it’s utterly nonsense to argue that the Rathor rebellion was a Rajput rebellion resulting from Aurangzeb’s religious bias and attempts to destroy all the Rajput kingdoms, as is being assumed by Jathunath Sarkar. In fact only the Rathor section of the Rajputs and for a while the Sisodias had turned against Aurangzeb and the rest still supported him against the Rathors. S.R.Sharma’s argument that after the Rathor rebellion of 1678, Aurangzeb followed a special discriminative policy towards the Rajputs is also false. Indeed there was only a slight decrease of 2 per cent in the second phase of Aurangzeb’s reign as we see 12.6 per cent Rajputs of the total mansabdars of 1000 zat and above in the second phase(1679-1707) vis-a-vis the 14.6 per cent of the first phase.
However here one question remains; why did Aurangzeb  adopt a new religious policy of little bit bias and discrimination towards the Rajputs? Recent researches show that it was not due to the fanaticism of the emperor but due to the fact that he wanted to preserve his diminishing prestige. Earlier he had assumed the territorial conquests as the possible way of showing his strength but seeing almost all the conquests ended in failure he found no option other than seeking a new policy of projecting himself as an ardent follower Shari’th so that he could appease the ulema and the Muslim nobility.
Next, taking the Hindu nobility as a whole into the account one can notice that during the first phase of Aurangzeb’s reign there was 21.6 per cent of the total mansabdars of 1000 zat and above, whereas during Shahjahan’s time it was 22.4 per cent, so a slight decrease happened but again due to the aforementioned reason that the emperor put certain restrictions on the recruitment and promotions of the Rajputs who composed the majority of the Hindu nobility. In the second phase, we see that the proportion of the Hindu nobility had rose into 31 per cent, the largest figure in the Mughal history. But it doesn’t mean a change in the religious policy or attitude of the emperor since he had kept on the same policy of restricting  promotions to the Rajputs throughout the second phase.
But this was a result of the Deccan campaign when Aurangzeb was forced to recruit large number of Marathas in order to ensure their submission. Still one can’t deny the fact that despite the paucity of promotions, Rajputs in large number remained with Aurangzeb and helped him up to the last moments.
Concluding the discussion one can say that a detailed study of the new sources and evidences would suggest that there was no considerable decline in the position of the Hindu nobility in general or the Rajput nobility in particular, to the extent that Aurangzeb could be castigated for fanaticism or bigotry. Instead there was a slight change or decrease in the promotion and recruitment of the Rajputs not just because of the much acknowledged religious bias or discrimination of Aurangzeb but also as a byproduct of the economic realities such as the least possibility of further territorial expansion after the outbreak of rebellions in 1660s and the consequent necessity to satisfy the majority nobility’s demand for promotions by shutting down the minority, the Rajputs.

Penning a ‘New’ Past: Revival or Reinterpretation ?

‘As the Muslims came to India, they brought with them, nothing, but, a barbaric rule; their brutal armies plundered the whole of the countryside, killed innocent people indiscriminately, spilled blood on every street, vandalised  and burned to ashes every living city and village; desecrated the worship places of every other religion, faith and school of thought, and committed a hell lot of atrocities, adopted the most oppressive form of rule possible, and all the other things they did were for no good damn reason.’

This is the image of the medieval India which dominated by the Muslim rule has been created by various forms of art and literature like books, articles, dramas, movies and TV serials and every other thing you can get your hands or eyes on. Although all these forms are indeed deadly, the worst I think are the three latter ones, for they use the medium of images which leave a lasting effect on the viewer’s mind. In most of the shows such as ‘Dharti Ka Veer Yodha-Prithviraj Chauhan’, ‘Veer Shivaji’, ‘Bharat ka Veer Putr- Maharana Pratap’ or ‘Jodha Akbar’ such an image is portrayed of the Muslim rulers that one cannot imagine of anything more brutal and atrocious than these Medieval Indian Rulers. They are shown as sinister, full of brutality, oppressing innocents, and assaulting women. On the other hand are their counterparts, who are pure, ideal for everything, who just can’t make any mistake; the flag bearers of peace and justice.

 Penning a ‘New’ Past: Revival or Reinterpretation ?

Penning a ‘New’ Past: Revival or Reinterpretation ?

In this course to demonize the medieval Indian history, one of their favourites is the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. He is seen as an oppressive, intolerant ruler; who held extremely orthodox religious views, with no sense and interest in culture and demolished the temples. Now let us take the account of the facts. Large number of Non-Muslims were there in Aurangzeb’s court as officials and advisors. To be true, there were more Non-Muslims in his court than in Akbar’s; who according to the popular belief is considered a tolerant ruler. He demolished temples, yes he did, but not for religious purpose, but for political ones. The temple were not only the places of worship, they were also used for various socio-political purposes. The temples were used to discuss the political matter, plan strategies; the ones used for this purpose were demolished. Aurangzeb noted, that in Islamic Shariah temple discretion wasn’t permitted, He wrote in 1659 CE: “According to the Shariah [Islamic law], and the exalted creed, it has been established that ancient temples should not be torn down.”  If some temples were demolished in military campaign then many others were built and funded by the state. State made donations for temples and maths; donations were also made in the name of Brahaman priests of which still the records survive. These include the farmans of Emperor Aurangzeb from the temples of Mahakaleshwara, Ujjain, Balaji Temple, Chitrakut, Umanand Temple, Gauhati and many others. These farmans were issued between 1659 CE to 1685 CE.

In ‘Islam and Indian Culture’, Mr BN Pande refers to a farman issued by Emperor Aurangzeb on 5th Ramdan, 1071 AH. In this, 178 bighas of land was allotted to Jangams (a Shaivaite sect). It reads “… under the order of the Emperor to the effect that 178 bighas of land in pargana Banaras is allotted to Jangams to help in their maintenance. ……. so they may utilise it and may pray for the continued existence of the kingdom of the Emperor.”

Another land-grant to a Hindu religious teacher in 1098 AH by the Emperor Aurangzeb is mentioned by Mr Pande in the same book. It says “…. two plots of land measuring 58 dira ….. are lying vacant without any building and belong to Bait-ul-mal we have, therefore, granted the same to Ramjivan Gosain and his son as inam…. he should remain engaged in contemplation of God and continue to offer prayer…”

So, taking in account the facts, we realise what the actual scenario had been.

What is happening today is like penning down an altogether NEW PAST, the one which never actually existed. It isn’t revival – it is reinterpretation, the one which serves selfish interests thus revealing the foul mentality. The hour is in need to shatter the false image, so that people may get to know the realities and don’t see the other community with suspicion and hatred, allowing the society to exist in peace.

‘In this unending fabric of history, one yarn appears black and the other red, stained in ink and blood. This weaves nothing, but sad tales. . . .’

Images: Second Seminar of Itihas Ke Karigar Conducted Successfully

The second seminar of Itihas Ke Karigar proved to be a great success, thanks to the active participation of the audience. Some very interesting issues were discussed.


Itihas Ke Karigar Seminar

Itihas Ke Karigar Seminar

The inquisitive audience

The inquisitive audience

Lubna Irfan discussing the social and economic factors behind Aurangzeb's actions.

Lubna Irfan discussing the social and economic factors behind Aurangzeb’s actions.

Hisham Islam talking on "Revival or Reinterpretation"

Hisham Jameel Siddiqui talking on “Revival or Reinterpretation”

Anupama Thapliyal giving an overview.

Anupama Thapliyal giving an overview.

Shamim K K speaking on the composition of nobility under Aurangzeb

Shamim K K speaking on the composition of nobility under Aurangzeb

Speakers answering the questions raised by students

Speakers answering the questions raised by students

Itihas Ke Karigar Seminar

Itihas Ke Karigar Seminar

Aurangzeb is Dead, long live the Road?


Amidst all the chatter about the changing of the name of Aurangzeb Road to that of Abdul Kalam, two types of arguments about the 6th Mughal Emperor are propping up, and as a student of medieval Indian History both arguments not only infuriate the historian in me but also sadden me about how we have still not yet moved ahead of the naïve acts of Herofication and vilification of historical Characters.

One set of arguments portray Aurangzeb as a devout, pious, religious ‘muslim’ who was the only sensible Mughal, working for the cause of Islam. Another set of arguments try to project him as a devout ‘muslim’ too, but an iconoclast who was the destroyer of temples, ironically both these extremes sound strikingly similar and serve the same purpose of communalizing the present.


History: Breeding Ground for Communalists

Indian history, especially Indian medieval history has been the breeding ground of communalists. As much as I hate to refer to people in terms of them being merely ‘Hindus’ and ‘Muslims’, when talking about the present scenario, I am but helpless before this divide constructed very subtlety by our long gone colonial masters. While the Muslim communalists bank on the return of ‘past glories’ to Muslims as the means of mobilizing masses, they also have the ‘fear’ of complete domination by so called ‘Hindu majority’ to bank on. On the other hand Hindu communalists have no such ‘fear’ to propagate as they are already in majority, and here is where the past comes into play where these communalists invoke the past injustices of the so called Muslim monarchs and then mobilize the masses to ‘correct’ the wrongs of the past. Here is where Humanity and History lose and short term political ends win.

The easiest target for such parasites of hatred is Aurangzeb, however what these people tend to forget is that in those times (like in our times), the actions were motivated mostly by political and economic ends in mind, and like present times they were enveloped in a cloak of religious justifications.


Religion: Not so much in the mind of a Politician

“The evidence I assembled did not in any sense exonerate Aurangazeb, but I think it did set different limits within which the Emperor’s personal preferences and decisions had impact: and it suggested a number of other factors, besides the one of religious bias…”  says Athar Ali in his book The Mughal Nobility Under Aurangzeb, where he tried to give a new perspective to the actions of Aurangzeb.

Certain examples from the past may help in clarifying things.

Aurangzeb during the war of succession, issued a nishan(royal order issued by a prince), which is found in Udaipuri records, to Rana Raj Singh, which from the perspective of modern historians sounds like the preamble of independent India, where Aurangzeb claimed the equality of all people, irrespective of their caste and faith. He even asserted the legacy of his enlightened great grandfather Akbar in this document to forge political alliance with the Rajputs, thus it becomes clear that the cause of propagation of religion was hardly in his mind.

Another very interesting fact that most of the people tend to overlook is that most of the temple demolition took place where there were political disturbances, rebellions or potential threats to the authority of the monarch. One instance that has been conveyed to us by Waqa-i-Ajmer(reports of news-writers of Ajmer covering the period of Rathor rebellion of 1679-80) would bring a whole new perspective to iconoclastic tendencies of Aurangzeb, the rebellion broke out mainly on the issue of succession to the throne of Marwar and Aurangzeb’s involvement in it, Rani Hadi one of the leading queens of the deceased ruler offered to destroy all the temples of Jodhpur and erect mosques if  her claimant was made the successor, this ‘tempting’ proposal was rejected by the Emperor without a second thought.


Religious justifications to Political actions

In medieval times, unlike in present, religion and politics were not segregated, these ideals of secularism dawned upon the world only with the coming of Reformation and became popular only with the rise of liberalism, the entwined nature of religion and politics can be understood by studying Akbar’s theory of kingship, where the king was the representative of God on earth and it was his duty to establish God’s justice, thus the legitimacy to the political rule came through religious justifications, thus to assert political authority one had to assert religious authority too. Destruction of temples was a means to strike fear and awe in the hearts of the vassals and rebels.

Contemporary historians of Aurangzeb, in order to attach a sense of glory and legitimacy to the emperor, tend to give religion as the reason of his acts, accepting all these sources without critical analysis would only create a distorted and biased picture of the past that would haunt the present.


Asserting religion to cope up with political troubles

Aurangzeb, by imprisoning his father and by murdering his brothers, destroyed the aura and authority attached to the Mughal throne and he had to give justifications for his coup of 1657-58, and for that he first tried to give military successes as the justification but by 1666 this attempt had failed and whatever gains Aurangzeb made were soon lost, it was then that the need of invoking religion as a legitimizing force came up. Aurangzeb also couldn’t afford to displease any section of nobility, especially not the ones who exercised great influence amongst the masses and played key role in the act of king making, namely the Ulema, and it might have been to please these sections that jizya was re-imposed after a long time after his accession.

The calls for the protection of religion and jihad were often voiced when a military campaign was to take place in order to rally the troops behind the monarch. Aurangzeb even tried to call the campaign against the Muslim kingdoms of Deccan as jihad by highlighting their vicious un-Islamic practices and portraying himself and his state as the ideal one. He also did not hesitate to play with the superstitions of his people during Satnami rebellion when the rumours of Satnamis possessing supernatural power had demoralized his army, he claimed to be a Zinda-Pir in order raise the spirits of the soldiers and was called ‘Alamgir Zinda-Pir’.  Thus it becomes evident that military and territorial gains motivated the 6th Mughal Emperor much more than religion.

Economically speaking Aurangzeb’s were hard times, with the unending campaigns in Deccan and continuous rebellions in the empire, some of his acts like that of banning music and discontinuing official history writing were due to economic considerations and religion was merely a face saving explanation to them.


Aurangzeb: A despot with his own shortcomings

Aurangzeb was a despot, a politician and an imperialist who tried his best to maintain the proper functioning of his empire. It is true that some of his policies might have conveyed a sense of discrimination to the ‘non-muslims’, but there was no great consequence of it, this becomes clear from the Rajput support to Aurangzeb during the Rathor rebellion, and also from the significant number of Marathas and Rajputs in his nobility.

Aurangzeb was not a hero, nor was he a villain. He had blood on his hands, even of his own brothers, but so did numerous other despots of this dynasty and of dynasties before it. He might have stitched caps but he also led campaigns to gain territory and treasure. One thing that nobody can deny is that Aurangzeb had to encounter innumerable difficulties which were not so significant during times of his predecessors, there were rebellions (Jats, Satnamis, Sikhs, Afghans), there was be-jagiri-where the state had shortage of land grants to give to its servants and on the top of it there was the Deccan Ulcer. Thus there is much more to this monarch than destruction of temples.


Names, identities and Politics

It is easy to blame things on a dead man and even easier to divert popular attention to artificially constructed issues. Aurangzeb is dead, Abdul Kalam is too, they both contributed to history in their own capacity, that’s what they should be remembered for, not for them being just ‘muslims’ or good or bad ones. We need to get over this false consciousness that religion motivates all actions of human beings, it might at times, but mostly it is used as a cover up for pure political or economic ends.

In all this chatter of changing road names have we stopped for a moment and thought how much does the name of a road matter to a child starving to death on a similar road?

Know the reasons behind our tears!

We cry for many reasons. An argument or a fight with a loved one, an untimely death, physical pain, loneliness, frustration, break-ups and sometimes even when we’re happy.

cryingThe tears simply flow even when we try our best to hold them in Many people have likened this to a tap being left open somewhere inside us. But, has it ever struck you why? Why do we cry?

Biologically speaking, men have more testosterone, which inhibits tears. On the other hand, women have more prolactin, which stimulates tears. But it’s not just these two hormones that decide whether you cry or not.

You’ll be surprised to know that there are actually three different types of crying that exist, involving different mechanisms and chemicals. Yes, an emotion so simple has its types as well! They are:

Basal Tears: A protein-rich antibacterial liquid is constantly secreted by the lacrimal gland present in the outer edge of the eyeball. When we blink, the liquid is released, which then lubricates the entire eye surface. By lubricating the eye, basal tears protect them.

Reflex Tears: These tears protect the eyes from irritants such as wind, smoke, and chemicals. They also help flush out random speck of dirt or any object that gets into the eye. A good example of reflex tears are those that you cry while chopping an onion.

Emotional Crying: These tears are produced in such a large quantity that they overflow and overwhelm the nasal canal of the tear ducts and flow down our cheeks. This type of crying occurs in response to stress, frustration, sadness, and happiness, and any other emotion that evokes tears.

Apart from prolactin and testosterone modulating your crying, other hormones and neurotransmitters play a role as well, the likes of serotonin induced by the emotion of love, ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) which leads to the production of cortisol in order to flush out stress from your body and mind and testosterone and prolactin that kick in and rise and fall as we age.

Rise of Communalism in India: Tracing vestiges of the past

Rise of Communalism in India: Tracing vestiges of the past

Rise of Communalism in India: Tracing vestiges of the past


To understand the condition of communally charged times we today live in we need to trace our steps back as historians to the time when it all started. To ask the question if it all started at the same time or is the communal atmosphere a culmination of various processes that pull India apart. When did it become inevitable for “muslims” to have a separate nation of their own and was that nation the true manifestation of dreams of people who fought for it. Why would Ram Chandra Guha call independent India an unnatural nation? What is so unnatural about it?

Here I’ll try to make sense of the events that led to the freedom of united India into two separate nations, divided on the lines of religious affiliations.

The elections of 1937:

It has been said that most of the communalists before 1937 operated within a liberal framework, only after 1937 did the Hindu Mahasabha, the Muslim League and RSS veered towards extreme or fascist communalism. The question arises of the reason of this shift, which can be searched in the elections and results of elections of 1937. In 1936 All India Congress Committee decided to contest elections but left the decision of office acceptance for later. While the Socialist Party members were averse to the acceptance of office, the right wingers wanted Congress to accept office and form the ministries. While office acceptance raised great expectations it also brought power to right wingers who tried to rid congress of the clutches of socialists. And it was due to the pressure of these right wingers that not a single muslim representation was there in these 1937 congress ministries in 8 provinces. This became the basis of the idea of muslim Alienation by the Congress, which had until now been subtly expressed in the absence of major muslim participation in Civil Disobedience and Quit India Movement.  Moreover it has been noted that Congress and Hindu Mahasabha shared their cadres till the 1930s which would have made muslims apprehensive of the actions of Congress.

Dismal performance of Muslim League in these elections in muslim majority areas of Punjab and Bengal due to the presence of class based parties like Unionist Party and Krishak Praja Party, led Muslim League to launch a mobilization plan on the lines of religion. The passage of Shariat Application Act 1937 with spirited advocacy by Jinnah in the Central Legislative Assembly  provided a symbolic ideological basis for Muslim Solidarity on a national scale, transcending all divisive internal political debates.

Thus we see that when protesting against India’s drawing into World War 2 the Congress ministries resigned in 1939, Jinnah celebrated it as a “Deliverance day”.


The blurred idea of Pakistan:

In theory communalists, both majority and minority bank on the concept of a homogenous identity of a community which overshadows all other identities.  And it can be said that the idea of the utopic land of Pakistan was to some extent an elite manipulation of the masses, the intensity of emotions involved had more to do with the political and economic anxieties of various classes than with a profound urge to create an Islamic state.  Pakistan was presented as “a peasant utopia” which would bring in liberation for the Muslim peasantry from the hands of the Hindu zamindars and moneylenders, here again the basic reason was of social and economic in character. Moreover, it has been argued that Jinnah’s stand though belligerent was still inclined towards negotiation with Congress, his major public pronouncements in 1938 were ‘a model of communal moderation’. In an article published on 19th January 1940, he did not refer to Hindus and Muslims carving out their separate destinies, but commented ambiguously on two nations ‘who both must share the governance of their common motherland’.

Thus it can be positively concluded here that the idea of Pakistan as a separate nation sovereign in itself was not very clear, because viceroy Linlithgow could find no genuine enthusiasm for Pakistan among the muslim Leaguers even in 1942, he concluded that they would be content with Pakistan within some sort of a federation.


The Fateful Conference at Shimla:

Prior to the conference at Shimla that sealed the fate of the millions of muslims calling themselves Indians, in 1944 there was a huge blunder on part of congress that was that of the recognition of the demand of Pakistan as legitimate, where in April 1944 C. Rajagopalachari had proposed a plebiscite of the adult Muslim Population in muslim majority areas to assess if they wanted to join Pakistan and in July 1944 Gandhi proposed talks with Jinnah on the ‘Rajaji formula’ which amounted to an acceptance of Pakistan demand. But the talks failed due to non-compliance of Jinnah.

Thus the British intervention in June 1945 to start negotiations led to the Shimla conference, where Jinnah claimed for Muslim League the exclusive right to nominate all the Muslim members in the cabinet of an entirely Indian executive council, with the viceroy and commander-in-chief as the only British members. Congress, which then had Abul Kalam Azad as the president, however, refused Jinnah’s demand for that would amount to an admission that Congress was a party only of the caste Hindus.


The misinterpretations of the cabinet mission of 1946:

Ayesha Jalal argued that at no point between 1940 and the arrival of Cabinet Mission in 1946 did either Jinnah or Muslim League ever coherently define the Pakistan demand. But it was the very vagueness of the demand that made it an excellent instrument for a muslim mass mobilisation campaign in the 1940s, where everyone could interpret it in its own terms, where for peasants it was freedom from Hindu overlords , for the corporates it meant ending of Hindu competition.

The cabinet mission arrived in India to discuss two issue:

  1. The principles and procedures for the framing of a new constitution for granting independence.
  2. The formation of an interim government based on widest possible agreement among Indian political parties.

But it was seen that the two political parties had become more intolerant about their contradictory political agendas, with Muslim League Legislator’s Convention defining Pakistan as a “sovereign independent state” consisting of the muslim majority provinces and congress declaring that complete independence for united India as its demand.

After wide consultation across political spectrum a three tier structure of loose federal government for the Union of India, including both the provinces and the princely states was offered. Constitution would be settled for three levels of Union, Group and Province, the provinces would have the right to opt out of any particular group but not out of the Union. On July 6th,   Muslim League accepted it on the assumption that the basis and foundation of Pakistan was inherent in the plan. Congress announced conditional approval to this on July 6th but on 10th of July it declared that congress agreed to nothing else other than participation in the Constituent Assembly.

This event marks the shift of League from constitutional politics to agitational one. This was the beginning of the frenzy and madness with which Partition is today remembered.



Looking at the series of events that led to the ultimate division of a colony into two nations we can conclude here that religious fervour was basically a cloak in the guise of which many political and social ends were served by the people in position of power to manipulate masses, not all the muslims of undivided India dreamt of a Pakistan. The clever mixture of the propagation of terror and fear, the incapability of secularists, the economic and social desperations and the political manoeuvring were some of the reasons behind the creation of Pakistan but one can never truly find reasons for the inhuman massacres that were associated with it.  Violence was both the cause and consequence of Partition and this Partition was to haunt Indian nation was a long unending time.

Protector of Cow, Protector of Nation, Protector of Women: It has always been the same ‘Hero’

Protector of Cow, Protector of Nation, Protector of Women: It has always been the same ‘Hero’

Protector of Cow, Protector of Nation, Protector of Women: It has always been the same ‘Hero’

Wandering very near the fringes of oversimplification of complex ideas, I can not help but see the world divided into two groups, the protector and the protected, with glorification of the protectors to the extent of their being worshipped. But we have rarely stopped to ponder over the question of protection. From what do we need protection and why?

If we try to ask this question, our voices are hushed back into our throats by horrifying instances of violence around us. With a Hindu nationalist organization equating Rape of a woman to the Slaughter of cow and failure of the masses to counter or even recognize the disgusting, inhuman tone of this remark, we need to wonder how far have we deviated from the ideal of a sensitive sensible society.

Importance of cow in particular and cattle in general grew from the Rigvedic times. In fact, according to historian R.S. Sharma, there are so many references to cow and bull in Rig Veda that the Rig Vedic people can be called a predominantly pastoral people. Most of their wars were fought over cows. Even the term for war in Rigveda is gavishthi which means search for cows, in those times cow seems to have been the most important form of wealth. Gradually cow seized to be the cause of violence and land took its place. Since we aren’t pastoral anymore, the logic of protection of cow, today, with the devotional strings attached, relates to the need of protection of God. Protection of Whom by man has caused innumerable deaths of His creation. Only cause that nears the amount of violence done for the protection of god is that of the protection of nation.

The concept and term of rashtra for territory can be traced back to the later Vedic times. And across the waves of time, kingship has been unapologetically linked to Divinity. With king being the representative of the Superior Being on earth, he became the ‘protector’ of land and its inhabitants.  And obeying King became obeying God, this in addition to giving legitimacy to the ruler gave him not only a temporal authority over his subjects but also a moral and spiritual one. In ancient and medieval times protection of the rule of the King meant the protection of God. With time, this glorification of protection of King’s authority faded and with the national struggle and the emergence of nation states emotions were attached to nations, and killing in the name of protecting them became an honor.

In justifications of such bloodshed in the name of nation or god, we often find mention of ‘vulnerable women’. This ‘vulnerable woman’ is a voiceless creature who can’t think and who always needs a protector to keep her breathing. For women in ancient philosophy, there has been assigned no greater role than the service of husband. Even her spiritual and religious existence breathes life with the ceremony of marriage which is recognized by legislators as taking the place, for women, of the sacrament of initiation prescribed by the Veda. And in return of her selfless devotion to her better half, she gets ‘protection’ by him. Whether it be the logic of need of respecting and protecting women just because of them being daughter, wife, sister or mother of ‘somebody’ or  the propagation of idea of a veil to protect against lustful gaze we somehow still can’t rid ourselves of the tendency of deciding what a woman needs.

History is filled with instances of people using the slogan of women’s vulnerability, national pride and religious fervor to further their political and economic ends. What comes as a surprise is how we haven’t learned anything. The act of attributing positive traits to women which highlights them mostly as innocent vulnerable beings and nonetheless justifies their subordination by the protector falls in a broad category of what sociologists call benevolent sexism. And often the protected group consents to the “need” of being protected due to propaganda of fear. And with this discourse we grow into a society where glory to the sword is praiseworthy, where fear rules. Amongst the tools of avarice and fear used for controlling people, fear has always been the easiest and most effective instrument of the oppressors to keep the oppressed in their place, and this need for the creation of fear lies at the core of the propagation of the instances glorifying protection and protectors. It is this protection that manifests itself in the form of violence.

The irony is how when we don’t agree on anything ever, we all agree on violence. Attackers of Charlie Hebdo were protecting their religion, Dylann Roof was protecting his women and nation when he attacked the African American church, the sorry story is the same everywhere, it always has been the same with varied degree of passion and execution and madness. But what nobody notices is how in justifications to these acts of violence we have dehumanized women, and how in protecting god and nation, we have failed to protect the humanity.

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