Category Archives: 1001 AD-2000 AD (1000 Years) Indian History

The Faqir who Read Half the Kalma

The complex of the Jama Masjid, Delhi, a symbol of one of the most glorious times witnessed by the Indian civilization houses the grave of a heretic. The alleged Jewish priest who read half the qalma and got executed by Aurangzeb, the alleged Muslim bigot, Sa’id Sarmad, lies beneath the sacred earth of the great congregational mosque, listening to and crying at, the enormous amount of  pain and prayers hurled at him every day, coming from all faiths and none. Saint Sarmad is remembered as one of the intellectual companions of another heretic, Dara Shikoh, the could-have-been philosopher king of India. Though it is well known that Dara had serious leanings towards comparative study in religions yet what is little known is that a Jewish priest who went about naked had a role in the formation of his intellectual imagination.

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It is claimed by scholars that Sarmad was an atheist and agnostic of sorts who didn’t believe in God and went about naked dismantling the social set up of his times. Ones’ mind wanders to what the “Saint” would have felt at being classified with atheists and at becoming the object of being prayed at and to, the collection of his verses which are known to the world by the name of Rubaiyat-i-Sarmad (1949) gives a slight peek into the working of the mind of this intriguing man. To stay true to the spirit of the time, it would be unjust to take his words literally when Sarmad claims to be a Sufi, a Catholic priest, a Buddhist monk, a Jewish rabbi, an infidel, and a Muslim at the same time. This might also suggest that the man belonged to all religions and none. And it can be agreed too that the naked fakir was a critical thinker of the highest order. He, when presented before the court of the newly enthroned Aurangzeb, and asked to read the Kalma to save his life, read half of it. La Ilaha, meaning, there is no god. And left it at that and when further questioned about it he claimed that he had till then reached only that stage of knowing god that he knows none and once he knows It he would recite the entire Kalma. This kind of critical spirit was the most dangerous weapon that could have existed, and it still is the most dangerous one to those who want to maintain the status quo and who feed off the ignorance of the minds of the people, be it the political establishment or the religious superstructures, nothing troubles them more than a man who could dare to think on his own without intermediaries. Thus execution of Sarmad was necessary. It would be unjust to not mention how Sarmad writes about his relation with God, his attitude towards God, seems definitely of the order of one of a Sufi in real search of truth, he claims that his poor heart desires nothing but union with the God. But his idea of God, wasn’t the idea that was being shoved down his throat by the orthodoxy.

On reading Sarmad it clearly surfaces that his battle was with the great bearded obnoxious orthodox Mullas who had caused the decay of the innocent minds, he says it clearly, “He who understands the secrets of the Truth, became vaster than the vast heaven; Mulla says, Ahmad went to heaven; Sarmad says, ‘Nay heaven came down to Ahmad”’. In these verses, giving his apparently heretical remark about the contested issue of Prophet Muhammad’s Miraj, he clearly seems disillusioned from the Mullas who do not really as much worry to seek the truth but to gain on their personal level from political establishment and the common ignorant folks.

He also comes close to the stand of Mansur Al Hallaj’s ‘I am the truth’ (An’al Haq) in his quest, he claims, that if your faith is pure than the entire world would be in your control. Thus execution of Sarmad becomes even more necessary than had been the execution of Mansur Al Hallaj, the 10th century mystic who was killed on the grounds that he claimed himself to be the God, because the latter had already found the answer, An’al Haq, and that answer didn’t match the established idea of truth, with Sarmad however the issue is even more dangerous he hadn’t found the truth, he was looking for it. He was looking for answers to believe in the remaining half of the Qalma and that was to come through, through a critical evaluation of every established structure around him, including the political one.

Thus for the survival of the establishment, Sarmad had to die and he was executed in 1660. Sarmad died a death where he was lost also because of the meager amount of information left behind about him; his ideas have been lately rediscovered and rethought about.

The question whether Sarmad was an example of a Saint which wanted to find the God and Truth in it through his own way or if he was a heretic anarchist who aimed at disrupting the established social and political order is a question that needs to be asked, thought and rethought again and again till one can come to a conclusion, but there are serious reasons to believe that he was a man who had had enough of the religious and even spiritual deterioration that had set in during the 17th century India and that is why though he speaks more or less the same things that the great sufi mystics of earlier times say yet he leaves no reason to be associated with them, he claims, “Whether an ascetic or anything else, I’m concerned with the Beloved only(God); Really I have no business with rosary or sacred thread. This woollen cloak (suf) which conceals hundreds of evils under it, I shall never put it on, as it is a disgrace”.

To sum up it needs to be said in defense of the saint who read half the Kalma that his actions were probably motivated by the most serious issue that ruins any society, the decay and rotting of its intellectual class. Sarmad was probably closer to the true idea of God than the idea the people who killed him had, people who killed him claiming he believed in none.

The acquisition is symbolic of the rise of Dalits and the fall of Muslims in India. That’s how Sadia Dehlvi, the writer who was born in the Shama Ghar in 1957, describes it.

Shama Ghar  – Sardar Patel Marg a street occupied by the Delhi’s powerful elite Now owned by Mayawati of BSP. Shama Ghar — named after the Urdu magazine Shama that its previous owners published — that occupied the corner spot on the famed road.

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Outside, in his little paan and bidi shop, Mohammed Sultan recalls the transformation. Running the shop from the same spot for 25 years, he has seen it all — celebrities like Meena Kumari, Nargis and other Bollywood actors who filtered in and out of the famous landmark building that was also once referred to as Delhi’s Taj Mahal, the numerous mushaira sessions and parties in those days, and then the packing and moving, the demolition, and the trumpet of the elephant. Sultan lived in the help’s quarters those days. “It was a beautiful white house. It was painful for the family to sell it. I have never seen any of the members come back again,” he said.

The acquisition is symbolic of the rise of Dalits and the fall of Muslims in India. That’s how Sadia Dehlvi, the writer who was born in the Shama Ghar in 1957, describes it.

Her father Yusuf Dehlvi owned the house, but had to sell it to the BSP around 2002 after he fell on hard times and the Urdu film magazine, Shama, brought out by Shama Publishing House, was no longer a profitable venture. The glorious tradition of a house that was a culture hub ended in 1987 when there was a rift in the family and its fortunes took a beating. It’s a hard subject for her to revisit. She hasn’t even crossed the street since the house was sold.

“Life has to go on. Nobody in the family wants to talk about it. I will say one thing. The house has been lucky for Mayawati,” said Dehlvi. “You have to respect her as a woman who came from nowhere. It is a symbol of social mobility.” “Dalits have done better. They have moved one notch up,” she said.

There are rumours that the house was sold for Rs 22 crore. While Dehlvi said she could not confirm the figure as she wasn’t part of the negotiations, she added it was sold for “very little.” “Mayawati has struck gold with it,” Dehlvi said.

 

 

Our Idea of India

We the students of History, in strong terms condemn the authoritarian abuse of the basic human rights and civil liberties that is being carried out in the name of nationalism. As students of History we hold the idea of critical spirit in high esteem and refrain from categorizing the dynamic ideas of nation, nationalism and patriotism in narrow criteria limited by the understanding and the benefit of one section of the population. We enquire into the possibilities of understanding a single concept through various diverse aspects and in the process we, more often than not, contradict ourselves and when we do, we don’t stop, we work towards a solution, this ‘working towards a solution in our opinion reflects the idea that we call India.

A political miracle, India, for us is reflected in dialectic interaction of various strands of thought. It is this privilege of being able to disagree with the powerful is what is under threat due to authoritarian acts of arresting a student leader, stifling critical voices and maiming our beloved democracy. Self-criticism is one of the major elements that push the human race forward and it is this right that is being denied to us. We condemn this act and we struggle towards a society where self-criticism and debate is appreciated and upheld. We work towards what Constitution of India has promised to us. For us the Indian Nation is manifestation of dialogue and debate on every aspect, it is only through this spirit of dialogue and debate that a diverse country like India has come into being and has survived. We uphold the idea of India, We struggle for its survival. It is the Rule of Law based on Justice that we struggle for not Rule of Fear.

Ibn Khaldun: The Father of Historiography

Abd ar-Raḥmān ibn Muḥammad ibn Khaldūn al-Ḥaḍramī better known as Ibn Khaldun was a Muslim Arab historian and thinker born in Tunis, Tunisia on 1st Ramadan 732 AH i.e. 27 May 1332.  The fourteenth century scholar is considered as the founding father of various fields of social sciences which include historiography, sociology, demography and economics. He is recognised to be the greatest amongst the historiographers of all times and across borders; and has none but Vico who can be considered as his equal.

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Ibn Khaldun was a Yemenite Arab by descent and traces his ancestry to Hadramawt, Yemen. Through genealogy provided by Ibn Hazem he traces his lineage to Wail ibn Hajr who was a companion of the Holy Prophet ﷺ and amongst the oldest Arab tribes of Yemen.  His forefather Khaldun as a part of Arab conquest went to Al-Andalus (Spain) and subsequently settled there with his family. The family of Ibn Khaldun had held various high offices in Seville but had migrated to Tunisia after the fall of Seville as a part of Reconquista. Thereafter his family in Tunisia held important offices and in this family with a rich history of politics and scholars Ibn Khaldun was born.

Ibn Khaldun at a very young age dived into the vast ocean of knowledge. His initial studies were under his father. As he belonged to an upper class family he got an opportunity of getting educated by some of the finest teacher of the Maghreb of that age. He studied and memorized the Qur’an, Arabic linguistics, Fiqh (Jurisprudence), Hadīth, Sharia (Law), rhetoric and poetry and received certificate in all of them. He also studied logic, mathematics and philosophy and the works of Ibn Rushd (Averroes), Ibn Sina (Avicenna), Ar-Razi and At-Tusi.  The great scholar continued his studies till the age of 17 when a great intercontinental plague spreading from Samarqand to Mauritania also hit Tunisia due to which he lost his parents. At this point of time Ibn Khaldun started his political career.

In the tumultuous political condition of Maghreb, Ibn Khaldun had highly unstable political career. He constantly had to switch sides in order to secure his position from downfall. Therefore in his political life with the rise and fall of various power groups he sometimes moved up to important offices while at other times he faced down fall but this helped him to get a deeper insight of the politics and the rise and fall of dynasties and empire and the civilisation as a whole. He began his political life with a humble post at the court of Tunis. Thereafter he held various post at Fez, Granada, again at Tunisia and spent his last years in Eygpt holding various positions and serving sixth time as a Malikite Qadi at the time of his death.

It was in 1375 tired from the political alliances Ibn Khaldun found solitude to devote himself to scholastic work in the remote locality of Qalat ibn Salamah in present day Algeria. Here away from other preoccupation he wrote his magnum opus Al Muqaddimah (Prolegomena) which is an introduction to his work on universal history (i.e. Kitab al Ibar) but is in itself considered an independent work. In this brilliant work he discussed the historical method which he believed to be necessary before working on the project of universal history.  Ibn Khaldun considered history as a science which isn’t separate from other sciences like economics, sociology, politics and theology which shouldn’t be mixed with superstition and was against the uncritical acceptance of data.

In regard to the historical method Ibn Khaldun makes following points in Al Muqaddimah :

  1. History is a science.
  2. History has a content and the historian should account for it.
  3. The historian should account for the elements that gather to make the human history.
  4. He should also work according to the laws of history.
  5. History is a philosophical science.
  6. History is composed of news about the days, states and the previous centuries. It is a theory, an analysis and justification about the creatures and their principles, and a science of how the incidents happen and their reasons.
  7. Myths have nothing to do with history and should be refuted.
  8. To build strong historical records, the historian should rely on necessary rules for the truth comparison.

In Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Charles Issawi and Oliver Leaman writes regarding Ibn Khaldun’s approach: “He analysed in detail the sources of error in historical writings, in particular partisanship, overconfidence in sources, failure to understand what is intended, a mistaken belief in the truth, the inability to place an event in its real context, the desire to gain the favour of those in high rank, exaggeration, and what he regarded as the most important of all, ignorance of the laws governing the transformation of human society.”

Arnold J Toynbee, an English historian described Ibn Khaldun’s Al Muqaddimah as “a philosophy of history which is undoubtedly the greatest work of its kind that has ever yet been created by any mind in any time or place.”

Ibn khaldun also created a new science ‘Ilm al-Umran’ i.e. science of culture and in his book he also gave his concept of asabiyyah i.e. social cohesion. According to this concept the cohesion spontaneously arises amongst the tribes or small kinship group which can be intensified by religious ideology and caries the group to the power but has within itself seeds of its own downfall which maybe psychological, sociological, economic or political and is thus replaced by another group with stronger cohesion. Therefore is also considered founding father of sociology. History according to him was an endless cycle of rise and fall of societies, of flowering and decay.

Ibn Khaldun continued his scholastic work in Eygpt too, both as a professor at Quamḥiyyah College and as a Malikite Qadi. During his stay at Eygpt, being sent on campaign Ibn Khaldun met Timur in 1400 CE and wrote on certain topics of history for him. In 1406 CE, Ibn Khaldun died in Cairo, Eygpt and was buried in cemetery outside Bab al-Nasr. Ibn Khaldun being the father of historiography with no equals in this science indeed stands unrivalled in the field.

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 ?

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. . . .’

– See more at: http://www.itihaskekarigar.com/2015/11/08/penning-a-new-past-revival-or-reinterpretation/#sthash.hJL3ECnl.dpuf

A short historical perspective of Kashmir issue

 

 

The Britishers  which ruled in India more than 100 years. There were some states Kashmir was among one of them. Basically it was a property or gift was given by British government to the maharaja Gulab singh as he provided better services to the British government and helped them in the first Anglo-Sikh war of 1846, he was rewarded  the state of Jammu and Kashmir by paying rupees of 75 lakhs according to the treaty of Lahore. The British government put some conditions before maharaja  Gulab singh that he had to pay certain kinds  of services such as  goats, shawls, wool etc and he could not signed any treaty with the foreign without the informing the British government. So, he became the hereditary Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir state. His successors ruled till 1947 and its last maharaja Hari singh. People were not happy with with the despotic and aristocratic rule of maharajas.They did not have rights and liberties but they had also to pay certain kinds of services without returns. It was under the leadership of sheikh Muhammad Abdullaha, the people started opposing the maharajas rule and demanding democracy, self-determination and freedom. It was in 1947 the India was partitioned, one Pakistan became free in 14, august 1947 and India that is Bharat became free in 15, august 1947 A.D. It was a provision in the independence act of 1947 that princely states had the option to join either India or Pakistan or remained independent .The Maharaja of Kashmir wanted to remain independent. He did not want to join India or Pakistan, but it is very controversial issue as some of the scholar has opinion that he wanted to join the Pakistan dominion based on the fact majority of the population was Muslim.it was according to the census of 1941  the Muslim population in Jammu and Kashmir was 77 percent, 20 percent were Hindus and 03 percent were Sikhs and Buddhists. Kashmir issue was basically territorial as well as  Ethnic  conflict between India and Pakistan  as well as  china is also involving as china demanded the Aksai chin and Shaksan valley. Kashmir was invaded by Pashtu tribesmen on 20 October, 1947  which were supported by Pakistani government and aided by them. The condition of valley deteriorated. It was maharaja Hari Singh who send Sheikh Muhammad Abdullaha to the centre to ask India for help against these tribals. India sent   his forces to the valley to remove tribalsmen from Kashmir valley. It was on 26,0ctober 1947 Kashmir became the integral part of India but there is also controversy that the instrument of accession was not permanent as it was provisional, conditional and temporary. Even the people of Kashmir demanded for. They were not given the right of self-determination. They were not treated according to the provision of Indian independence act that princely states had the option to join either India or Pakistan or remained independent. Their wishes, wills, rights, liberties were curtail which were the basic human rights but this can be counter on the fact there is no unanimous decision among the people of Kashmir. Some demanded to remain independent, some wanted to join Pakistan and some wanted to remain with India. so, Jammu and Kashmir became the water-melon for India, China and Pakistan as they want to eat it by cut into pieces as China was cut into pieces by European powers in the 20th century.

Growth of Communalism in Independent India

 

 

Introduction:

National Movement was not able to counter forces of communalism adequately or evolve an effective strategy against them but it was only because of the strong secular commitment of the national movement that despite the traumatic event of partition and carnage that it accompanied, independent India made secularism a basic pillar of its Constitution,  state and society.

One would have to trace steps back to the time when consciousness of separate ethnic identities started developing in the minds of people to understand the colossal issue of ethnic conflict in independent India.

“Before British officials started to record a Punjabi’s religion, the latter did not necessarily or primarily think of himself as a Muslim, Hindu or Sikh. If asked who or what he was, he might have mentioned his zaat or village before speaking of his religion.” (Gandhi, Rajmohan 2013)

Rajmohan Gandhi, in his book on Punjab history makes this remark which throws light on the concept of identities in the past. When and how these identities became a staple food of political manipulations and manoeuvring is the matter to be thought of.

As a part of imperial design of establishing the stronghold of the empire in the subcontinent, India’s colonial masters created and perpetuated myths about peoples, along with this there was a greater emphasis on homogenising certain ‘communities’ and differentiating them from others through the creation of and perpetuation of knowledge and fear. There have been convincing arguments on the idea of construction of group categories by knowledge elite and its promotion by the powerful, the methods of arriving at a census by categorization and classification may be one such example.

How have these tools of control and manipulation survived into independent India and what pressure they exert on the society and culture would be the matter of deliberation.

 

Trajectory of communalism in independent India:

The occurrence of communal violence in the post-independence period has been classified into various phases:

  • The calm decade of 1950-60 with sporadic instances of violence
  • The rising of communal tensions gradually across the next decade of 1961-70
  • The ‘peaceful’ period of war and emergency from 1971-77
  • Violent years of 1978-80 ending in Moradabad violence killing 1000 people
  • The most communally charged decade starting in 1980 culminating in the destruction of Babri Masjid in 1992 and letting loose the demon of communal violence across the country

Congress managed to dominate in the first two decades after independence because of welfarist industrialisation and institutionalizing democratic rule, but gradually Congress took to slow decline, challenges from above and below undermined congress’ dominance. The rise of political Hindutva questioning the very principles of Nehruvian model and expanding influence in civil society by the extension of shakhas forms the background of the mobilization by these Hindutva elements of masses against corruption and Emergency of 1970s.

After the dismal performance of Jan Sangh in 1984 elections, a more aggressive policy of Hindutva was adopted. Since the 12% of largest religious minority of the country was small to terrorise the population of subjugation by them, the Hindutva adopted a different approach of criticizing the State of ‘Muslim appeasement’ and ‘Unfair treatment’ of Hindus.

The issue of absence of Uniform Civil Code has been brought up time and again as the manifestation of discrimination against Hindus. The case of Shah Bano that came into limelight because of this absence of Uniform Civil Code where a Muslim woman considered eligible for receiving alimony under the general civil laws was deprived of it due to the application of Muslim personal laws, this case unleashed a series of debates between progressive and conservative muslims. Fearing the loss of support base in muslim fundamentalists the congress government legislatively overturned the ruling of Supreme Court which insisted on the supremacy of Indian Penal Code, this was used by the Hindu communalists for propagating the idea of Muslim appeasement by the Govt. and it was to neutralize this and to appease the Hindus that locks of Babri Masjid were opened.

 

 

The secularism of Indian constitution

A secular state with substantially secularized laws resting on secular constitution co-exists with a civil society in which the religious influence is pervasive; this creates the highly tensed atmosphere in India.

Secularism was defined in a comprehensive manner during the national movement, one which meant the separation of religion from politics and the state, the treatment of religion as a private matter for the individual, state neutrality towards or equal respect for all religions, absence of discrimination between followers of different religions, and active opposition to communalism. And since Indian constitution was to a huge extent an attempt at materializing the promises and legacy of National Movement, it had secular spirit from the very beginning. Though the term secular was added only by the 42nd Amendment in 1976, the idea of the constitution was secular from the very beginning, adding the term might just have been an act to asserting that essence.

However, one very major problem with the Indian Constitution has been the gap between the ideals enshrined and the prevalent practices and worsening the problem was the ignorance and illiteracy of the masses.

One needs to define Indian secularism and communalism and their practices before going any further, Secularism in India translates into state power directed against the political use of religion.

  • Secularists and their political organizations respect the religious beliefs of others, as long as they keep clear of politics. Secularists do not blame either Hindus or Muslims as communities for riots but they blame the politicians, Hindu and Muslim where they find either or both responsible and non-communal factors as economic conditions.
  • Indian secularists are also nationalists who believe and teach that there is an Indian history that encompasses all the peoples of the subcontinent, thus secularism is the issue of a particular kind of nationalism, that of composite nationalism.

But with the constant rise in communal forces over the years, there has been an active communalisation of the society, this communalisation not always results in communal carnage but the creation and propagation of fear and the idea of other-ness of a community compromises the idea of  secular India that was perceived.

  • Communalism is essentially and ideology, a set of beliefs which falsely represent the interest of a social group. Religion or religious ideology has nothing to do with communalism; communal politics is the politics of communal identity. The example of Hindutva claiming to represent 85% of the Indian population suggests the gross ignorance by communal forces of multiple identities with in this so called majority of theirs. The idea of majority changing from issue to issue and programme to programme is non-existent to the communalists.

But more important is understanding the meanings of secularization, and communalization.

Secularization implies co-existence between secular and sacred, and in India it would mean a many sided process involving the progressive decline of religious influence in economic political and social life of human beings, and even over their private habits and motivations.

Communalism in a society like India, means a competitive de-secularization. And as communalism has its symbolic equivalents in cultural, political and social terms, secularism lacks any such symbolic representation and that might be the reason of its slow penetration in the society. Secularism might be equated to the development of modern civil society, and it would be wrong to confine the hindrance to growth of  this civil society in just two dimensions of religion and caste, which is affected by diverse cultural, regional, class and group identities.

 

Manifestation of Communal forces

Communalization not always results in communal violence, there might exist strong currents of communal animosity in a society but not riots or violence, there might be various economic and political reasons behind this prevalent communalism, but the demographic factor plays a decisive role in the behaviour of not only the communities in question but also the political parties. Extensive studies have been undertaken by various scholars in the reasons of the eruption of violence and its relation with various non-religious causes:

  1. Civil Society as deterrent to Communal Strife: It has been argued that when local networks of civic engagement exist between the communities tensions and conflicts are regulated and maintained and when they are missing communal identities lead to endemic and ghastly violence.(Varshney 2002). These networks can be broken down into two parts:
  • Associational forms of engagement in organizational setting, which are significant in cities.
  • Everyday form of engagement as unorganized setting, effective in villages.

and both these forms of engagements promote peace but the capacity of associational form to withstand national-level shocks is substantially higher. These civic links also, according to Ashutosh Varshney, prevent the manipulation of ethnicity by political elite for political purposes, because if electorate is ‘inter-ethnically’ engaged, the politicians may be unable and unwilling to polarize.

Before going any further we would stop here to define what civic society basically is, civic society in any society is the space which exists independent of the state and makes interconnections between individuals possible. Civic space is organized in associations that are modern and voluntaristic, though civic society is highly modern in character but modernity is a necessary but not a sufficient precondition for the rise of civil society and some forms of association that might be on traditional lines but that serve modern ends should be considered a part of the civil society.

Inter-communal engagement leads to the formation of institutionalized peace system.

It has also been argued that due to presence of a strong civic society in villages the communal tensions hardly ever materialize in violence there, with 4% rural death in overall communal rioting in the period from 1950-1995, and it was only during Ayodhya movement that communal violence penetrated villages since independence, but the picture has significantly altered after the Muzzafarnagar violence. Ashish Nandy has maintained the link between the traditional and rural India and he argues that somewhere somehow, religious violence has something to do with the urban industrial vision of life and the political process arising out of it, this refers to the non-religious basis of communal violence.

 

  1. Violence as the result of political manoeuvring: The idea of riots, pogroms and ethnic strife arising out of popular discontent leads to the displacement of blame from the actual perpetrators of violence who benefit from it ultimately, this is called by Paul Brass as blurring of responsibility and it is this vagueness of communal violence which makes it so effective for serving hidden political, economic and social ends. The riots, it has been argued, have 3 phases, one of rehearsal/preparation, then of enactment/activation and last of explanation/interpretation, and it is the last one that shapes the consciousness of masses and proves the effectiveness of the act, which is marked by diffusion of blame widely contributing to the perpetuation of violent productions in future.

Brass, argues that an Institutionalized Riot System operated in areas where riots are endemic, like Aligarh and Meerut. There exists a vicious circle of political/economic/social rivalry, communal solidarity or polarization and riots. This vicious circle chokes the political parties standing for secular principles and practices. It should be noted here that these kinds of circles play a significant role only in places where the population size of ‘rival’ communities is considerable, thus demography plays a decisive role in the process of riot production.

In addition to that another factor that plays a significant role in the proper enactment of riots and pogroms is the existence of a Police-Politician-Goon nexus, where goons are used as the means of starting the violence and the inactivity of the police forces and of the armed forces results in numerous deaths of minorities that could have been avoided only if the police or armed forces acted on time. The low representation of minorities in the armed forces and the communal feelings harboured by the officers adds up to this nexus.

 

  1. The Violence around Votes: Arguing very near the argument of Brass, Wilkinson has claimed that ethnic violence far from being relatively spontaneous eruptions of anger are often planned by politicians for clear electoral purposes. He goes on to say that political end may also motivate politicians to maintain peace and control violence at times and incite it at others. Democratic states protect minorities when it is in their electoral interest to do so, politicians in government would supply security to minorities when minorities are in important support base of that party or in the support base of their coalition partners Wilkinson has proposed a criteria of 6months on either side of elections as a proximity measure of violence.

This argument encompasses all the political parties there are, and not spares even the ones claiming to be organized on secular lines, it has been proved by incidents in Indian history that all parties, whether organized on secular or communal lines, often resort to use of violence on ethnic grounds as means of political benefit. Often class wars are manipulated into religious ones The ‘occasionally communal’ character of certain parties en-cashes the consistent work of communal parties and ends in chattering of trust of the affected sections in so called messiahs of secularism, the stand of ‘soft-Hindutva’, which Congress adopted by allowing the unlocking of the Babri Masjid gate and by the ambiguous invocation of ‘ramrajya’ by Rajiv Gandhi set loose a series of violent clashes that led to the worst communal havoc India has seen since Independence.

 

The rise of the Hindutva :

When in 1949, Rashtra Swyamsevak Sangh (RSS) got back its legality, it had agreed to a number of limitations put up by the Government. RSS had limited itself to cultural activities and Ram had been central to its cultural programme from its very inception in 1925, but the mobilisation of masses on the issue of Ram-Janm-Bhoomi gained momentum only in 1980s. Ram in two avatars of Ram-lalla and Warrior Ram has been propagated as a symbol of Hindutva. Hindutva and Hinduism are two different things with Hindutva aiming at propagation of an ideology that bestows a single identity on the country and it banks on symbols and stereotypes, thus it can be stated here that while Hindutva represents use of religious identity for communal ends, Hinduism represents traditional religiosity. The all-encompassing tradition of Hinduism benefits the Hindutva elements to claim the support of 85% of Indian Population.

The Sangh parivar which has evolved numerous organs overtime in response to the challenges that came their way have played a marginal role in the politics of national level for a long time since independence but the trend has changed. RSS-BJP-VHP-Bajrang Dal equation forms the backbone of the Hindutva phenomenon in India, with Bhartiya Janta Party acting as the political organ, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad as the social one and Rashtrya Swayamsevak Sangh as the ideological organ. The proponents of Hindutva claim to be true secularists and call the so called secular parties and organizations as pseudo secularist, they stand on absolute opposition to the idea of composite nationalism rather they talk of a Hindu Rashtra where non-Hindu should respect and imbibe Hindu culture and language, giving independence to all the religions under the over-arching Hindu umbrella is what true secularism for Hindutva forces stands for.

The parivar has always upheld the autonomy of its constituent bodies, but the political rise of BJP as a national party can be only understood by looking at the intense mobilisation and groundwork undertaken by the RSS and VHP cadres.

 

Conclusion:

The multi-dimensional character of the communal forces in India and their multi-dimensional motives and effects that they produce can only be understood by understanding the Indian civil society and India state and the areas of their interaction. While the communal forces on the extremes of both the Majority and Minority communities keeps pulling India apart, there has been a constant decay in the activity of the secular forces in the country, with the so called secular parties giving in to the communal and political pressures.

Reading the growth of Communal forces another trend that comes to the front is the rusted criminal justice system which lends the recommendations of numerous Inquiry committees ineffectual. This further reduces the trust of the common man in the System of governance.

The tattered fabric of Indian social order needs much more mending, the disparity in representation of minorities in administrative and civil bodies, the backwardness in terms of education and skill in minorities is still prevalent. The gap between the ideals enshrined in the constitution and the level of consciousness of masses needs to be filled but the benefit that this gap provides the politicians of our times forms the main hindrance in this process.

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

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