Negationism in India Concealing the record of Islam: Some Excerpts
The next generation of political leaders, especially the left-wing that was to gain control of Congress in the thirties, and complete control in the fifties, would profess negationism very explicitly. The radical humanist (i.e. bourgeois Marxist) M.N. Roy wrote that Islam had fulfilled a historic mission of equality and abolition of discrimination, and that for this, Islam had been welcomed into India by the lower castes. If at all any violence had occurred, it was as a matter of justified class struggle by the progressive forces against the reactionary forces, meaning thefedual Hindu upper castes.
This is a modern myth springing from an incorrect and much too grim picture of the caste system, a back-projection of modern ideas of class struggle, and an uncritical swallowing of contemporary Islamic apologetics, which has incorporated some voguish socialist values. There is no record anywhere of low-caste people welcoming the Muslims as liberators. Just like in their homeland, the Muslim generals had nothing but contempt for the common people, and all the more so because these were idolaters. They made no distinction between rich Pagans and poor Pagans: in the Quran, Allah had promised the same fate to all idolaters.
By contrast, there is plenty of testimony that these common people rose in revolt, not against their high-caste co-religionists, but against the Muslim rulers. And not only against heavy new taxes (50% of the land revenue for Alauddin Khilji, whom the negationists hail as the precursor of socialism) and land expropriations, but especially against the rape and abduction of women and children and the destruction of their idols, acts which have been recorded with so much glee by the Muslim chroniclers, without anywhere mentioning a separate treatment of Hindu rich and Hindu poor, upper-caste Kafir or low-caste Kafir. Even when some of the high-caste people started collaborating, the common people gave the invaders no rest, attacking them from hiding-places in the forests. The conversion of low-caste people only began when Muslim rulers were safely in power and in a position to reward and encourage conversion by means of tax discrimination, legal discrimination (win the dispute with your neighbour if you convert), handing out posts to converts, and simple coercion. Nevertheless, the myth which M.N. Roy spread, has gained wide currency.
Firstly, it was not all that serious. One cannot fail to notice that the Islamic chroniclers (including some rulers who wrote their own chronicles, like Teimur and Babar) have described the slaughter of Hindus, the abduction of their women and children, and the destruction of their places of worship most gleefully. But, according to Habib, these were merely exaggerations by court poets out to please their patrons. One wonders what it says about Islamic rulers that they felt flattered by the bloody details which the Muslims chroniclers of Hindu persecutions have left us. At any rate, Habib has never managed to underpin this convenient hypothesis with a single fact.
Secondly, that percentage of atrocities on Hindus which Habib was prepared to admit as historical, is not to be attributed to the impact of Islam, but to other factors. Sometimes Islam was used as a justification post factum, but this was deceptive. In reality economic motives were at work. The Hindus amassed all their wealth in temples and therefore Muslim armies plundered these temples.
Thirdly, according to Habib there was also a racial factor: these Muslims were mostly Turks, savage riders from the steppes who would need several centuries before getting civilized by the wholesome influence of Islam. Their inborn barbarity cannot be attributed to the doctrines of Islam.
Finally, the violence of the Islamic warriors was of minor importance in the establishment of Islam in India. What happened was not so much a conquest, but a shift in public opinion: when the urban working-class heard of Islam and realized it now had a choice between Hindu law (smrti) and Muslim law (shariat), it chose the latter.
Mohammed Habib's excise in history-rewriting cannot stand the test of historical criticism on any score. We can demonstrate this with the example of Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi (997-1030), already mentioned, who carried out a number of devastating raids in Sindh, Gujrat and Punjab. This Ghaznavi was a Turk, certainly, but in many respects he was not a barbarian: he patronized arts and literature (including the great Persian poet Firdausi, who would end up in trouble because his patron suspected him of apostasy, and the Persian but Arabic-writing historian Albiruni) and was a fine calligraphist himself. The undeniable barbarity of his anti-Hindu campaigns cannot be attributed to his ethnic stock. His massacres and acts of destruction were merely a replay of what the Arab Mohammed bin Qasim had wrought in Sindh in 712-15. He didn't care for material gain: he left rich mosques untouched, but poor Hindu temples met the same fate at his hands as the richer temples. He turned down a Hindu offer to give back a famous idol in exchange for a huge ransom: I prefer to appear on Judgement Day as an idol-breaker rather than an idol-seller. The one explanation that covers all the relevant facts, is that he was driven to his barbarous acts by his ideological allegiance to Islam. There is no record of his being welcomed by urban artisans as a liberator from the oppressive Hindu social system. On the contrary, his companion Albiruni testifies how all the Hindus had an inveterate aversion for all Muslims.
In Communalism and the Writing of indian History, Romila Thapar, Harbans Mukhia and Bipan Chandra, professors at Jawaharlal Nehry University (JNU, the Mecca of secularism and negationism) in Delhi, write that the interpretation of medieval wars as religious conflicts is in fact a back- projection of contemporary religious conflict artificially created for political purposes. In Bipan Chandra's famous formula,communalism is not a dinosaur, it is a strictly modern phenomenon. They explicitly deny that before the modern period there existed such a thing as Hindu identity or Muslim identity. Conflicts could not have been between Hindus and Muslims, only between rulers or classes who incidentally also belonged to one religious community or the other. They point to the conflicts within the communities It is of course a fact that some Hindus collaborated with the Muslim rulers, but that also counted for the British colonial rulers, who are for that no less considered as foreign oppressors. For that matter, in the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw the Nazis employed Jewish guards, in their search for absconding Jews they employed Jewish informers, and in their policy of deportation they even sought the co-operation of the Zionist movement: none of this can disprove Nazi- Jewish enmity. It is also a fact that the Muslim rulers sometimes made war among each other, but that was equally true for Portuguese, French and British colonizers, who fought some wars on Indian territory: they were just as much part of a single colonial movement with a common colonial ideology, and all the brands of colonialism were equally the enemies of the indian freedom movement. Even in the history of the Crusades, that paradigm of religious war, we hear a lot of battles between one Christian-Muslim coalition and another: these do not falsify the over-all characterization of the Crusades as a war between Christians and Muslims (triggered by the destruction of Christian churches by Muslims).
After postulating that conflicts between Hindus and Muslims as such were non-existent before the modern period, the negationists are faced with the need to explain how this type of conflict was born after centuries of a misunderstood non-existence. The Marxist explanation is a conspiracy theory: the separate communal identity of Hindus and Muslims is an invention of the sly British colonialists. They carried on adivide and rule policy, and therefore they incited the communal separateness. As the example par excellence, prof. R.S. Sharma mentions the 19th -century 8-volume work by Elliott and Dowson, The History of India as Told by its own Historians. This work does indeed paint a very grim picture of Muslim hordes who attack the Pagans with merciless cruelty. But this picture was not a concoction by the British historians: as the title of their work says, they had it all from indigenous historiographers, most of them Muslims.
The original source material leaves us in no doubt that conflicts often erupted on purely religious grounds, even against the political and economical interests of the contending parties. The negationists' tactic therefore consists in keeping this original testimony out of view. A good example is Prof. Gyanendra Pandey's recent book, "The Construction of Communalism in Colonial North India". As the title clearly says, Pandey asserts that communalism (the Hindu-Muslim conflict) had been constructed by the British for colonial purposes anmd out of colonial prejuidices, was later interiorized by Indians looking for new, politically profitable forms of organization in modern colonial society. This is like saying that anti-Judaism is a construction of modern capitalists to divide the working class (the standard Marxist explanation for all kinds of racism), while concealing the copious medieval testimony of anti-Judaism on undeniably non-capitalist grounds. Prof. Pandey effectively denies a millenniumful of testimonies to Islamic persecution of the Indian (Hindu) Kafirs.
2.5 Foreign Support For Indian Negationism
Some foreign authors, influenced by Indian colleagues, have also added a big dose of negationism to their work on Indian history. For instance, Percival Spear, co-author (with Romila Thapar) of thePenguin History of India, writes: "Aurangzeb's supposed intolerance is little more than a hostile legend based on isolated acts such as the erection of a mosque on a temple site in Benares."
........ destroyed temple. He ordered all temples destroyed, among them the Kashi Vishvanath, one of the most sacred places of Hinduism, and had mosques built on a number of cleared temple sites. All other Hindu sacred places within his reach equally suffered destruction, with mosques built on them; among them, Krishna's birth temple in Mathura, the rebuilt Somnath temple on the coast of Gujrat, the Vishnu temple replaced with the Alamgir mosque now overlooking Benares, the Treta-ka-Thakur temple in Ayodhya. The number of temples destroyed by Aurangzeb is counted in 4, if not in 5 figures. According to the official court chronicle, Aurangzeb "ordered all provincial governors to destroy all schools and temples of the Pagans and to make a complete end to all Pagan teachings and practices". The chronicle sums up the destructions like this:"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."
In quite a number of cases, inscriptions on mosques and local tradition do confirm that Aurangzeb built them in forcible replacement of temples (some of these inscriptions have been quoted in Sitaram Goel: Hindu Temples, vol.2, along with a number of independent written accounts). Aurangzeb's reign ws marked by never-ending unrest and rebellions, caused by his anti-Hindu policies, which included the reimposition of the jizya and other zimma rules, and indeed the demolition of temples.
Aurangzeb did not stop at razing temples: their users too were levelled. There were not just the classical massacres of thousands of resisters, Brahmins, Sikhs. What gives a more pointed proof of Aurangzeb's fanaticism, is the execution of specific individuals for specific reason of intolerance. To name the best-known ones: Aurangzeb's brother Dara Shikoh was executed because of apostasy (i.e. taking an interest in Hindu philosophy), and the Sikh guru Tegh Bahadur was beheaded because of his objecting to Aurangzeb's policy of forcible conversions in general, and in particular for refusing to become a Muslim himself. Short, Percival Spear's statement that Aurangzeb's fanaticism is but a hostile legend, is a most serious case of negationism.
An example of a less blatant (i.e. more subtle) form of negationism in Western histories of India, is the India entry in the Encyclopaedia Brittannica. Its chapter on the Sultanate period (which was much more bloody than even the Moghul period) does not mention any persecutions and massacres of Hindus by Muslims, except that Firuz Shah Tughlaq "made largely unsuccessful attempts to convert his Hindu subjects and sometimes persecuted them". The article effectively obeys the negationist directive that "characterization of the medieval period as a time of Hindu- Muslim conflict is forbidden".
It also contains blissful nonsense about communal amity It also contains blissful nonsense about communal amity in places where the original sources only mention enmity. Thus, it says that Bahmani sultan Tajuddin Firuz extracted tribute payments and the hand of the king's daughter from the Hindu bastion Vijayanagar after two military campaigns, and that this resulted in "the establishment of an apparently amicable relationship between the two rulers". Jawaharlal Nehru considered the induction of Hindu women in Muslim harems as the cradle ofcomposite culture (his euphemism for Hindu humiliation), but it is worse if even the venerable Encyclopedia considers the terms of debate as a sign of friendship. At any rate, the article goes on to observe naively that peace lasted only for ten years, when Vijaynagar forces inflicted a crushing defeat on Firuz. In this case, the more circumspect form of negationism is at work: keeping the inconvenient facts out of the readers' view, and manipulating the terminology.
An American historian's book is introduced thus: "In this book [Public Arenas and the Emergence of Communalism in North India], Sandra Freitag examines one of the central problems of modern Indian history, the Hindu-Muslim conflict, with new and provocative insight. She challenges long-standing interpretations by defining this conflict as a developing social process groups, not simply Hindu or Muslim, in highly specific local contexts bound together in a changing institutional order."
This sophisticated verbiage cannot conceal that the book's approach is merely the standard secularist version propagated by Indian establishment historians since decades. There is nothing new and provocative about a book that claims to explain communalism without touching on its single most important determinant, viz. the doctrine laid down in Islamic scripture, and that blurs the clear-cut process of India's communalization by Islam with the help of scapegoats like colonialism.