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26 May, 2005
A major part of the history of India is characterized by two major foreign rules: the Islamic invasion and the British occupation. The Islamic invasion started with the assault of Muhammad bin Qassim in 712 on the order. The fall of Islamic rule started with the British East India Company's capture of Bengal in 1757, during the days of Industrial Revolution in Europe. The British rulers took almost 150 years to capture the entire sub-continent from the hands of its Muslim rulers.
Since childhood, the people of the subcontinent keep hearing stories of the British occupation of India and their 190 years of exploitative imperial rule but the stories of the Islamic invasion and centuries of Muslim domination are rarely being mentioned and discussed. This amazing policy of silence regarding the Islamic invasion of the subcontinent is interesting. And whatsoever is discussed about the Islamic rule in India is all good and dandy and often glorious. Recently, a group of people from the subcontinent have launched a call to celebrate "The Siraj-ud-Dowlah Day" which will be an occasion to glorify the sacrifice of Siraj-ud-Dowlah, the last Nawab of Bengal. He was defeated by the British mercantile mercenaries in 1757 in the battlefield of Polashi (Plassey), which marked the beginning of the British rule in India. The celebration of such an event will definitely be another opportunity to vilify the British occupation of India as well as to glorify the rule of the last Muslim Nawab in Eastern India.
In recent years, some people from the sub-continent have been daring to delve into the "other episode" of foreign invasion of India, i.e., the Islamic conquest, which hitherto has remained mostly shrouded in a policy of silence or denial and a de-facto prohibition. While the liberals and the rationalists of the subcontinent are adamant against critiquing the fallout of the Islamic conquest, they have no problem criticizing the British occupation and exploitation of India with extreme vigor. They take refuge in the tradition of silence or negation about the fallout of Islamic invasion and rule of India and yet, they are highly vocal in condemning the fallout of the British occupation. Interestingly, however, some people have recently started asking for putting the fallout of Islamic invasion and rule of India in the spotlight alongside that of the British occupation.
There has been too much of talk about the "divide and rule" policy of the British Raj where British administrators had created division between Hindus and the Muslims during their rule in India. An overwhelming majority of the sub-continent people believe this policy to be the root cause of communal troubles that we witness in India today. There is a deeply entrenched belief that the concept of religious intolerance between the Hindus and the Muslims was totally absent in India until the British devised this malevolent scheme to keep the Hindus and Muslims engaged in fighting each other. Many people in the sub-continent believe that this was a clever ploy so that they (the British) could continue to rule India while the people remained divided over religious disharmony. There cannot be any bigger untruth than the assertion that religious intolerance never existed in Indian soil until the British invented it. The truth is that religious tolerance and harmony hardly ever existed in the sub-continent throughout the centuries of Islamic rule. Destruction of temples, oppression and forced conversion of the Hindus, especially around the urban areas all over India, were common phenomenon during the Islamic rule. The Bahmani sultans in central India made it a rule to kill 100,000 Hindus a year. In 1399, Teimur killed 100,000 Hindus IN A SINGLE DAY, and many more on other occasions [Negationism in India]. Even during the late period of the Islamic domination of India, Emperor Aurangzeb (rule 1658-1707) re-imposed the "religion tax or Jiziya" on the Hindus and other people of indigenous religions. Aurangzeb was a champion destroyer of Hindu temples. Amongst the famous temples he destroyed were: the Kashi Vishvanath, one of the most sacred places of Hinduism, Krishna's birth temple in Mathura, the rebuilt Somnath temple on the coast of Gujurat, the Vishnu temple, overlooking Benares that was replaced with the Alamgir mosque (Alamgir is another name of Aurangzeb), and the Treta-ka-Thakur temple in Ayodhya. Aurangzeb's own official chronicles have recorded mind-blowing figures of temple destruction. Aurangzeb had ordered his provincial governors to destroy all schools and temples of the pagans and to make a complete end to all pagan teachings and practices. The Aurangzeb's chronicle sums up the temple destructions as follows:
"Hasan Ali Khan came and said that 172 temples in the area had been destroyed... His majesty went to Chittor and 63 temples were destroyed. Abu Tarab, appointed to destroy the idol-temples of Amber, reported that 66 temples had been razed to the ground.."
Aurangzeb did not stop at destroying temples only, their users were also often wiped out; even his own brother, Dara Shikoh, was executed for taking an interest in Hindu religion. The Sikh Guru Tegh Bahadur Singh was beheaded because he objected to Aurangzeb's forced conversions. Even during the rule of Mohammad Shah after Aurangzeb's death, Persian ruler Nadir Shah invaded of India (1738-39) and killed an estimated 200,000 people in Northern India alongside plundering and looting.
Even very late in the Mughal rule, ruler Haider Ali
[1722-1782] of Mysore used to order destruction of Hindu temples.
In most incidences, after a mosque was destroyed, the remains and
especially the remains of the destroyed idols were used as
materials for the construction of the mosque. There have been
descriptions of slaughtering the Hindu priests or the protectors
of the temples as a ritual for purification of the place of
idol-worship with the blood of the infidels. Such vivid
descriptions of savagery mostly come from the works of the Muslim
historians and writers, one of them include even the highly
liberal and benevolent disciple of great Sufi dervish, Nizamuddin
Awliya. A few examples of barbaric atrocities of Muslim invaders
and rulers of India, recorded by the Muslim historians
themselves, are listed below:
Shahab-ul-Din, King of Ghazni (1170-1206), put Prithwi Raj, King of Ajmer and Delhi, to death in cold blood. He massacred thousands of inhabitants of Ajmer who opposed him, reserving the remaining for slavery [The Kamiu-t Tawarikh, by Ibn-Asir]. Historian Hasan Nizami in his Taj-ul-Ma'sir gives the following account of Ghouri's Lieutenant Qutbuddin Aibak's activities:
....after the suppression of a Hindu revolt at Kol (modern day Aligarh) in 1193 AD, Aibak raised "three bastions as high as heaven with their heads, and their carcasses became food for beasts of prey. The tract was freed from idols and idol worship and the foundations of infidelism were destroyed."
In 1194 AD Aibak destroyed 27 Hindu temples at Delhi and built the Quwwat-ul-lslam mosque with their debris. According to Nizami, Aibak "adorned it with the stones and gold obtained from the temples which had been demolished by elephants".
In 1195 AD the Mher tribe of Ajmer rose in revolt, and the Chaulukyas of Gujarat came to their assistance. Aibak had to invite reinforcements from Ghazni before he could meet the challenge. In 1196 AD he advanced against Anahilwar Patan, the capital of Gujarat. Nizami writes that after Raja Karan was defeated and forced to flee, "fifty thousand infidels were dispatched to hell by the sword" and "more than twenty thousand slaves, and cattle beyond all calculation fell into the hands of the victors."
The city was sacked, its temples demolished, and its palaces plundered. On his return to Ajmer, Aibak destroyed the Sanskrit College of Visaladeva, and laid the foundations of a mosque which came to be known as 'Adhai Din ka Jhompada'.
Conquest of Kalinjar in 1202 AD was Aibak's crowning achievement. Nizami concludes: "The temples were converted into mosques... Fifty thousand men came under the collar of slavery and the plain became black as pitch with Hindus."
Amir Khusru, a disciple of the great Sufi Nizamuddin Awliya and recognized to be a liberal Sufi Muslim himself, writes in his Tarikh-i-Alai:
"Here he (Malik Kafur) heard that in Bramastpuri (Chidambaram) there was a golden idol- He then determined on razing the temple to the ground- It was the holy place of the Hindus which the Malik dug up from its foundations with the greatest care, and the heads of brahmans and idolaters danced from their necks and fell to the ground at their feet, and blood flowed in torrents. The stone idols called Ling Mahadeo, which had been established a long time at the place and on which the women of the infidels rubbed their vaginas for (sexual) satisfaction, these, up to this time, the kick of the horse of Islam had not attempted to break. The Musulmans destroyed in the lings and Deo Narain fell down, and other gods who had fixed their seats there raised feet and jumped so high that at one leap they reached the fort of Lanka, and in that affright the lings themselves would have fled had they had any legs to stand on."
The famous historian Will Durant has written in his 'Story of Civilization' that "the Mohammedan conquest of India was probably the bloodiest story in history".
India, before the advent of Islamic imperialism, was not
exactly a zone of complete tranquility and peace like many other
parts of the world. There were plenty of wars fought by Hindu
princes. Despite all these wars, the Hindus had observed some
time-honored conventions sanctioned by the Sastras. The Brahmins
and the Bhikshus were never molested. The cows were never killed.
The temples were never touched. The chastity of women was never
violated. The non-combatants were never killed or captured. A
human habitation was never attacked unless it was a fort. The
civil population was never plundered. War booty was an unknown
item in the calculations of conquerors. The martial classes, who
clashed, mostly in open spaces, had a code of honor. Sacrifice of
honor for victory or material gain was deemed as worse than
Islamic imperialism came with a different codeâthe Sunnah of the Prophet. It required its warriors to fall upon the helpless civil population after a decisive victory had been won on the battlefield. It required them to sack and burn down villages and towns after the defenders had died fighting or had fled. The cows, the Brahmins, and the Bhikshus invited their special attention in mass murders of non-combatants. The temples and monasteries were their special targets in an orgy of pillage and arson. Those whom they did not kill, they captured and sold as slaves. The magnitude of the booty looted even from the bodies of the dead, was a measure of the success of a military mission. And they did all this as mujahids (holy warriors) and ghazls (kafir-killers) in the service of Allah and his Last Prophet.
It is estimated that the Islamic conquest and rule in India may have resulted in killing of an estimated 50-80 million Hindus and other indigenous religion people. Such savagery can only be compared to the one committed by the Spaniards in the South American continent. Koenraad Elst estimates that out of the population of native Continental South America of 1492, which stood at 90 million, only 32 million survived; terrible figures indeed but who talks about them today [Negationism in India]? Such a towering figure of destruction of human lives by the Muslim rulers of India may appear a suspect. However, in the war of independence of Bangladesh, the Pakistanis killed 2-3 million people in just 9 month in the age of modern civilization and the world hardly took a notice of it. Hence, it is hardly impossible that Islamic rulers might have had condemned up to 80 million indigenous people to death in a vast region in a long span of almost 1000 years in the medieval age of barbarity.
The British rulers, on the other hand, ruled India mostly following a strategy of economic exploitation, which was mainly aimed at producing revenues for funneling to Britain. This was achieved by imposing high taxes on the farmers and often forcing the latter into cultivating cash-crops (jute, cotton, tea, oil seeds) useful for the Industries in Britain but not for the Indian farmers. This had caused great hardship and suffering to the Indian farmers including famines. Religious persecution, as unleashed by the Portuguese (in Goa) and the Islamic rulers, was never a part of the British rule. Although there was an clandestine and unofficial complicity to Evangelical Missionary activities, including clandestine effort to convert the Indian soldiers. Yet there is no record of mass destruction of mosques, temples or monasteries by the British rulers or mass killing of the native people for their religions or for not converting to Christianity. Neither did the British rulers ever allowed the Hindus or the Muslims to destroy either Muslim mosques or the Hindu temples throughout the great part of their rule in India.
However, one prominent but ignored (and even often condemned by the Muslims) aspect of the British rule was the long-due empowerment of the Hindus over the Muslims after centuries of iron-handed ruling and subjugation of the indigenous Indians by the Muslims. Although they kept the critical power and positions in British hand, they did give the next level of power to the hands of the Hindus, including allotment of the Zamindari activities mostly to the Hindus. This again, was not so much unjust. Hindus got those jobs because they were more educated and efficient and with their number were more authoritative to do the job of tax collection. Muslims, on the other hand, never conformed to modernity and never took interest in modern secular education introduced by the British terming it un-Islamic and were left behind.
It should be recognized that the Hindus and other indigenous people were the rightful owner of India both in terms of their number and in being the indigenous people, and the power, if not shared, should have been at the hands of the Hindus. The British Raj did a good deed towards the empowerment of the Hindu over the Muslims after centuries of subjugation and brutal suppression by the Muslim rulers.
The much hyped up "divide and rule" policy of the British has been consumed voraciously by the Hindus and the Muslims, the progressive and the obscurantist, and the liberals and the zealots alike. Yes, in the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, the Hindus did not participate as vigorously as did the Muslims. Why should they, anyway? Muslim rulers were still ruling some good parts of India. Was it going to be a wise a decision for the Hindus to join hand with the Muslims to drive away the British and establish the Nawabi and Mughal rule once again? They were definitely more privileged under the British Raj than they were under the Muslim rulers. The slavery of the Muslims once again was not a better choice, and the Hindus did just the right thing. The British rulers might have had exploited the huge chasm that existed between the Hindus and Muslims as a result of immense atrocities on the majority indigenous religion people and of massive destruction of their religious institutions by the Muslim invaders all throughout the Islamic domination of India.
Only at the fag-end of the British rule in India, the Hindu-Muslim tension flared up in a dangerous way. There has been a lot of talks and condemnations of the British role in creating Hindu-Muslim divide - yet the contribution of the British rulers in this Hindu-Muslim tension and in the resulting riots in the run-up to independence of India has not been clearly established. What we know for sure is the fact that, as Britain was counting days to end her imperial rule in India, the Muslims started a vigorous campaign for a separate state fearing that they may have to be under the majority Hindu rule in an independent and democratic India. They could never really forsake their pride of subjugating and persecuting the Hindus for centuries. That was why they needed a separate state. As this religious zealotry of the Muslims got strength, there arose the nationalistic Hindu zealotry, and that led to the much of the tension and blood-bath between the Hindus and the Muslims.
And what else the Hindus could do? Muslims came to India as barbaric invaders and ruled for centuries. In the process, Muslim rulers mercilessly oppressed and even killed the indigenous people in great numbers, looted their properties, destroyed their religious institutions and symbols, took them as slaves and raped their women. Now, when British are about to leave they wanted to divide their country as well. That was the perfect ground for giving rise to religious zealotry amongst the Hindus, and for the first time in the history of the Indian subcontinent, the Hindus, as a religious identity, raised their heads as a militant force to deter the instigatory Islamic zealots from dividing their country. The world witnessed what happened as a result of that. Let us point fingers to the right place instead of blaming the British for everything that happened around the Hindu-Muslim tensions and riots in the run to the independence. It is important to sort out the facts from the hypes and lies. It is time that we bury the hypes and lies in which our intellectuals and the commoners have indulged in for too long.
Yet, the British Raj had its own share of cruelty, whatever may be the magnitude. The bulk of the cruelty, that the British inflicted, was during the event of Sepoy Mutiny or the first war of independence in 1857. Surely, the British atrocity in the Sepoy Mutiny was gory. But atrocities were committed by both sides involved in that war. It should be understood that in the 1857 war, the British became more vindictive and cruel only after the Cawnpore (Kanpur) episode when Nana Sahib betrayed and some 210 women and children in his custody were butchered with knives and hatchets into pieces and thrown down a well. This cold-blooded murder of the innocent women and children enraged the British, including the public in Britain, so much so, that every captured rebel soldier, guilty or not, was ordered to be hanged or blow them from the mouth of cannons if facilities existed. The latter was a traditional practice used by the Muslim rulers which the British rulers had banned considering barbaric but they reintroduced it following the Cawnpore incidence. Thus, although the British committed brutality in putting down the Sepoy Mutiny, it never affected the non-combatants and the innocent women and children as was the case with Islamic brutality in India.
It should also be understood that major cause of discontent that lead to the Sepoy Mutiny, was all the good things the British Raj did in India, including the abolition of child marriage, Sati Daha and female infanticide and hunting down the deadly Thuggee cult (a cult of Kali who used to do robbery and strangulation to death of their victims, mainly travelers). Even the much-prided Indian Railway system, which started operating in the early 1850s preceding the Sepoy mutiny, was also a cause of discontent, since it was seen as a demon introduced by the British for keeping the Indians subjugated.
Another salient point that must be understood is: despite being largely an economically exploitative and often suppressive, the British Raj instituted a system of educational and cultural intellectualism that allowed the blooming of all the literary and scientific achievements, which the people of the sub-continent are proud of today and would continue to be proud of for a long time to come. Those Nobel laureates, the great literary giants like Tagore, Nazrul and Allama Iqbal and the other famous scientists of the subcontinents, including Professor Abdus Salam, were groomed by an educational and intellectual culture which was instituted solely by the stewardship of the British rulers. This glorious phase of intellectuality in India has largely died off, since the British have left. The Dhaka University, once known as the "Oxford of the East", has now lost all its prestige as an eminent educational institution with severely fallen standard in every discipline of studies. The Qaide-e-Azam University of Pakistan, which was a vibrant campus for intellectual exercise and science education, has become nothing but a University of theological interest. So is the case with the famous Muslim-administered Aligarh University in India.
India, on the other hand, since the British have left, although has maintained some good standard in education and science, yet has failed to keep up with the pace of progress and advancement in the international stage. It may be long wait before we will see another Nobel laureate emerges from the Land of Tagore, the Chandra Shekhars, Hargobind Khorana and Abdus Salam. Nor will we see very often the likes of genius scientists like Jagadish Chandra Bosu, Satyan Bose and Prafulla Chandra Roy et al. to emerge from India. Even the latest Nobel laureate from the subcontinent, Prof. Amartya Sen, was groomed in the educational environment left by the British Raj in the forties and early fifties. The great reformers of tradition and culture of the Indian society, namely Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Ishwar Chandra Bidyasagar, were also the product of intellectual and educational culture created by the British.
Furthermore, the British should be credited for the admirable railway and road communication systems in India. They instituted the modern legal and judicial systems in India. And of course, the much prided democracy - the largest democracy in the world - is also what the British left behind. One must ask the question: what would have been the situation in India if the British did not come and Islamic rulers had continued to rule India? Witnessing what is going on in the world vis--vis Islamic world, one thing that can be said for sure is that the Muslims would still be ruling India with an iron-hand. Satis would probably have still been burned and child marriage would have been widespread, since it is compatible with Islam. Education system would be characterized by the madrasas. Indeed, India had a very high standard in education and science in pre-Islamic India. But the Muslim invaders and rulers destroyed all schools and educational institutions and converted them into madrasas. As a result, India did not make any notable contribution in these areas throughout the centuries of Islamic rule. And given how the minorities are being treated in the Muslim countries and what happened to the Hindus in Bangladesh (~33% in 1947 to ~10% now) and Pakistan (~15% upon 1947 independence to ~1% now), one can be certain that Hindus would still have been doing the slavery and experiencing subjugation under the Muslims if the British never stepped onto India.
One may rise objections that such brutal and potentially explosive facts should not be spoken about lest it causes religious tensions. For this particular reason the modern historians of India, mostly from the leftist background, are probably indulging in the policy of silence, avoidance or cover-up about the Islamic atrocity in India. Yet, those who agree to the atrocities of the Muslim conquerors attempt to lighten the air by offering lame excuses such as temple destruction by the Muslim rulers were not because of hatred against the Hindus but for plundering the valuables and wealth kept there. But it is a fact that the Hindus hardly ever used to keep their valuable assets in temples. Neither does that explain as to why tens of thousands of Hindus were slaughtered on many occasions. Yet those Islamic historians, who chronicled the Islamic atrocities often under the patronage of many rulers and sometimes by the rulers themselves, never cited any such reason for the destruction of temples. Plundering the wealth kept in a temple does not require razing down the temples either. Such apologetic excuses also do not explain why mosques had to be build at the sites of many famous temples after their destruction. In fact, Indian Geological Survey has identified hundreds of mosques across India that used materials for construction from destroyed temples. A Geological Investigation team has recently confirmed the presence of structures of temple beneath the very controversial Babri mosque of Ayodhya.
Yet, it could the preferable for some people to negate the Islamic atrocities in India or maintain silence about them hoping that such a policy would maintain a semblance of harmony and peace between the Hindu and Muslim communities. Although this appears a sensible idea, yet at the same time such policy negates the recognition of such a gigantic sacrifice by our forefathers of the Indian subcontinent. If we fail to recognize this gravest of tragedy in the recorded history of India, it will be a terrible injustice to those who had to sacrifice their lives in such a tragic manner. Yet, recognition of a tragedy has always borne fruit, whilst failure to do so has resulted in repetition of the same. For the same reason, the secular patriotic Bangladeshis and freedom fighters are so eager to have the tragedy and sacrifice of Bengalis in 1971 war of independence recognized by the perpetrators (Pakistan) and by the world. For the same reason, we have the Holocaust/WWII museums in Israel, New York and Germany. Japan have recognized and apologized for the atrocities they committed in the World War II recently after 60 years of negation. Germany and Italy has recognized and apologized for their atrocities during the WWII time and again. And this recognition is not only meant for justice and recognition of those who had fallen in the said tragedies but also for preventing such tragedies from repeating in future.
Recognition of the fallout of Islamic invasion of India may be argued against fearing that it may ignite explosive violence. Yet for the sake of justice and recognition of the tragic sacrifice of our forefathers, the modern world must be able to recognize and apologize for what happened in the aftermath of Islamic occupation of India. So should the world recognize the victims of any other tragedy, be it the fallout of British occupation of India or of the barbaric Spanish crusade in the South America or of the barbaric Christian atrocities in the so-called Holy Land! If the recognition and condemnation of the British atrocities in India is not a problem, there should not be problem in recognizing and condemning fallout about of Islamic invasion. In stead, recognition of the latter tragedy becomes a moral responsibility for the sake of fairness and justice. One may argue that recognition of the tragedies of WWII and the construction of WWII and Holocaust Museums may cause tension and violence between the Neo-Nazis/White Supremacists and the Jews and for that reason, we should keep away from doing such things and maintain silence about those tragedies. Same could be said about the Bangladesh independence struggles of 1971 fearing that it would cause trouble and tension between Bangladeshi and Pakistanis. Yet, WWII memorials and Holocaust museums are being created not only as recognition of sacrifices of the fallen but also in the hope that they will act as reminders as well as deterrents for such tragedies from repeating in the future. By this parity of reasons, whether it is the tragedies of burning of millions of Satis in India, or burning millions of so-called witches by the Clergy in Europe, or the massacre of millions by Genghis Khan or the tragic fallout of the Islamic conquest in India - they should be recognized as wrongs, they should be recognized and memorials should be built not only as a symbol and gesture of honoring the sacrifice of the fallen but also as a reminder to the current and future generations so that such terrible tragedies never happen again.
There is a strong argument that talking about such forgotten tragedies may ignite the victims, namely the Hindus in India, into violent actions. Yet, these are the fact recorded proudly by the Islamic historians and rulers of India and available in original form in libraries around the world and a section of the Hindus in India are becoming aware of these tragic facts and a section of those informed Hindus are forming those radical Hindu organizations such as RSS, Kar Sevaks and VHP etc. who are seeking revenge by trying to rebuild their destroyed temples at the site of now-standing mosques. Why these people are turning violent once they get to learn about those hushed-up tragedies? It should also be recognized that highly educated and rich Hindus, such as members of the VHP, are funding these militant Hindu organizations. But why? The answer is simple. Those atrocities were terrible and heart-rending and when Hindus suddenly get to find out what has happened to their ancestors centuries ago, they feel shocked, they feel indignation against Muslims and they want revenge in whatsoever way that might be.
However, recognition of those terrible tragedies that fell on the Hindus of India after Islamic invasion and during the Islamic rule is likely to go a long way in pacifying indignant section of Hindus. An apology would advance that cause immensely. Being grown up as a Muslim, I know there is a good deal of angst amongst Muslims against the Hindus because of the Hindu Zamindars' oppressive and harsh activities in the days of the British rule. But the harshness caused by the Hindu Zamindars to Muslims is ignorable if compared to what happened to the Hindus in the days of Islamic invasion and rule of India. The Zamindars were harsh on the Hindu subjects as well - thanks to the British. However if Muslims can recognize the atrocities caused by the Islamic invaders and rulers on the Hindus, their own indignation against the Hindus vis-Ã -vis the Zamindari activities would surely be reduced, which can help strengthen relationship between both communities. Yet the facts about the Islamic atrocities, unrivalled in the history of India, are coming out into the public domain anyway - thanks to the historical details left by the Muslims historians and rulers themselves. The sooner the people of India and the Muslims in particular take steps to recognize those terrible atrocities to honor the victims, the better it is for harmonious relationship between the Hindus and Muslims living there.
1. Rewriting Indian History
by Francois Gautier
2. Story of Civilization by Will Durant
3. Negationism in India: Concealing the record of Islam by Koenraad Elst
4. History of India
5. Facets of India: Ancient and Modern
6. Indian Rebellion of 1857, Wikipedia