When James Mill periodized the Indian History into Hindu Period, Muslim Period and British period, he not only gave the tool to British to pursue their policy of ‘divide and rule’, he also gave the potent weapon to the future pursuers of communal politics to intensify the divisive policies in the future. The Muslim communalists later claimed that India was ruled by Muslims and Hindu communalists claimed that Muslims are foreigners and this has been the land of Hindus from times immemorial.

One was reminded of the deep penetration of this communal view of History when, Yogi Aditaynath, the CM of Uttar Pradesh announced that the upcoming Mughal Museum in Agra to be recast as Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Museum. As per him such a historical museum is a reflection of subservient mentality and the symbol of ‘mentality of slavery’. The Mughal Museum’s foundation was laid by Akhilesh Yadav, the earlier Chief Minister of UP. The Museum was to come up near TajMahal in Agra and was to show the cultural aspects and armaments of Mughal kings. The aim was to give a boost to tourism industry in UP.

Same Taj is downgraded now by the Hindu communalists. One P.N.Oak has been trying to propagate that it was Tajomahlaya, Shiv Tample, which was converted into Mausoleum by Shahjahan. The fact as recorded by Tavernier, a French Jeweller his travelogues tell us that Shahjahan built it in memory of his wife Mumtaj Mahal. The same is also inferred from the account books of Shahjahan’s Court, which give a details break of regular expenses for the construction of this tomb. The land was acquired from Raja Jaisingh with due compensation.

As Yogi came to power he omitted Taj from the places of importance in UP. His recent utterances that remembering Mughals is symbol of slave mentality are in tune with the communal ideology which regards Islam as alien religion and Muslims as foreigners. As such we see that Indian History has been looked up in three particular ways. One was the Gandhi-Nehru, Indian nationalist interpretation where India is a place of rich diversity. The Muslim kings who ruled parts of India ruled here and lived here as the part of the land. Most of the Muslim kings respected the diverse religious tradition prevailing here.

Mahatma Gandhi points out, “the Hindus flourished under Moslem sovereigns and Moslems under the Hindu. Each party recognized that mutual fighting was suicidal and that neither party would abandon its religion by force of arms. Both parties, therefore, decided to live in peace. With the English advent quarrels recommenced.”

Similarly Jawaharlal Nehru in his book Discovery of India shows the thick interaction between Hindus and Muslims leading to what he famously termed as ‘Ganga Jamani Tehjeeb’, the beautiful portrayal of this is seen in the serial Shyam Benegals’ ‘Bharat Ek Khoj’.

Does this period, in which some parts of the country were ruled by Muslim Kings, (not only Mughals, there were the ones’ from others dynasties also Ghulam, Khaljis, Gazanavid’s. and in South Bahamanis, Haider and Tipu) are a period of slavery? While some kings like Mahmud Gazanavi, Mohammad Ghori, Ghengis Khan did plunder for wealth, the kings who ruled here became the part of this land. They presided over a system of exploitation, like any other king, in which the producer was the farmer. This was true of any king, anywhere for that matter.

This period in no way can be called a period of slavery of the country. Country’s slavery begins with the British, who ruled here and plundered our wealth and implemented the policy of super exploitation of peasantry. Shashi Tharoor has done a good job (An Era of Darkness) in showing as to how India contributed nearly 23% of global GDP and British brought it down to mere 3% by the time they left. On the plus side of British rule was that while social structure did not change in pre British period, during British rule social changes towards democratic society did start taking place with the introduction of railways, communication, modern education, modern Judiciary etc.  

The communalists, Muslim and Hindus take off from the British in interpreting the History as a fight between Hindus and Muslims, and twisting it in a way where their own selves are shown to be the real owners of the land and also victims of the other community. The British plunder and impositions are hidden under the carpet in their scheme of understanding.

At yet another level Ambedkar sees the Indian History primarily as the clash between the values of equality of Buddhism against the caste and gender hierarchy inherent in Brahmanism.

All Hindus kings were not great and all Muslims kings were not villains. Akbar and Dara Shukoh stand out as upholders of diversity, picking up from other religions, while Shivaji ensured that the taxation on poor peasants is curtailed.

As such the real heroes of Independent India are those who contributed to building of Modern India. The three major streams of this are Gandhi, who united the country in the bond of anti colonial struggle, Ambedkar who endeavoured for social equality and democratic rights, and Bhagat Singh who stood for for the cause of poor while giving fighting against British rule in India. It is these values which should inspire the modern India and not the values of Kings, which are essentially based on social inequality and taxation of peasants. All the positive developments strengthening pluralism and diversity with equality are the principles and values we need to look up to in times to come.

Mughal museum was just a small attempt to uphold the cultural background of our lived past and in no way symbol of subservience or of slave mentality. Unfortunately we are living in times where full attempts are going on to erase the symbols; like this upcoming Museum along with changing the names of cities (Allahabad, Faiazabad, Mughal Sarai), the Muslim contribution to Indian culture.

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED

When Babri Mosque was being demolished in broad day light, the slogan being chanted by the leaders was, Yeh to Kewal jahnki hai, Kashi Mathura Baaki hai (This is the beginning, Kashi Mathura are next on the line).  Supreme Court despite giving the same land to those who demolished the Mosque did call it a crime. The Ram Temple was used to the hilt for electoral purpose and for dividing the society along religious lines. The faith that ‘Lord Ram was born precisely at that spot’ was constructed. This constructed faith formed the base of politics and later the judgement of the Courts.

Having achieved this milestone of religious nationalism, now what next? As such there is no dearth of divisive issues, issues based around identity, issues which demonise the religious minorities, marginalise them and give a boost to sectarian nationalism, some of these are permanently on the agenda like, love jihad, (added on by land jihad, corona jihad, civil service jihad etc.) holy cow, large families, Uniform Civil code among other. There is a regular addition to such issues, through which the majoritarian politics aims to show the majority community as the victim of minorities.

In that sense the issue of Kashi and Mathura are potent issues, which can add on to the already existing plethora of identity issues. In Kashi, abutting the wall of Vishwanath Temple is Gyanwapi Mosque. Some say this was built at the time of Akbar and others say it was Aurangzeb during whose reign it was built. In Mathura, Shahi Idgah mosque stands next to Krishna janma Bhumi Temple. As per the section of Hindu belief the Holy Trio is Ram, Shiva and Krishna which are the most important deities. So the places of importance become Ram (Ayodhya), Shiva (Varanasi) and Krishna (Mathura) which are the three major places to be retrieved.

While the current narrative being popularized is that scores of temples have been destroyed by the invading Muslim rulers of these at least three have to be retrieved as per Hindu Nationalists. There have also been talks and formulations floating that Jama Masjid in Delhi and Jama Masjid in Ahmadabad are also the places, which have been built on Hindu places of worship. The temple destructions have been dealt with by many scholars of History and Archaeology. Temples have been destroyed for political rivalry, assertion of one’s rule and for wealth. It is not only Muslim kings who destroyed Hindu temples, some of them gave generous donations to Hindu temples. Firmans of King Aurangzeb tell us of scores of temple where he gave donations, to recount just couple of them- Kamakhya Devi in Guwahati, Mahakal in Ujjain, and Lord Krishna in Vrindavan. He also destroyed a mosque in Golconda when the local ruler refused to give him the tribute for three consecutive years.

D.D. Kosambi points out (Quoted in ‘Religious Nationalism’, Media House 2020, page 107) that Raja Harshdev of 11th Century Kashmir who appointed a special officer, Devottapatna Nayak, to uproot gold, silver and precious stones studded idols during his regime. Richard Eaton tells us about rival Hindu kings destroying the defeated opponents Kuldevata (Clan god) Temple to build temple of their own clan God. In Srirangatnam Maratha armies destroyed the Hindu temple and Tipu got it repaired! Somehow selective communal historiography has ensured the temple destruction becoming a major seed of divisive politics in India.

If we go a bit further back into history the clash between Buddhism and Brahmanism led to destruction of thousands of Buddha Viharas. Recently while levelling the ground for Ram Temple ground breaking many remnants of Buddha Vihar were found. Historian Dr. M.S. Jayaprakash points out “Hundreds of Buddhist statues, stupas and viharas have been destroyed in India between 830 and 966 AD in the name of Hindu revivalism. Both literary and archaeological sources within and outside India speak volumes about the havoc done to Buddhism by Hindu fanatics… many Hindu kings and rulers took pride in demolishing Buddhist images aiming at the total eradication of Buddhist culture.”

In this backdrop where do we go from here after we have seen the mayhem created around Lord Ram Temple in Ayodhya? The social and political fallout of the whole issue has pushed our democracy several steps backwards. It has relegated the religious minorities in to the cocoon of second class citizenship.

As Akhil Bhartiya Akhada Parishad has declared that it will initiate the campaign for liberation of Kashi and Mathura, it has also said that in due course the arms of Sangh Parivar will be asked to join in. At the moment RSS is saying that it is not keen on the issue, but it seems it is a matter of time when it will jump into the Kashi-Mathura fray and deepen the impact of the campaign to be launched by Akhada Parishad. Already calling the mosques as two “symbols of slavery”, BJP leader and rural development and panchayat raj minister in Karnataka K.S. Eshwarappa had said on August 5 that “a symbol of slavery disturbs our attention and points out that you are a slave”. He reiterated his stance and said, “… All Hindus across the world have a dream that those symbols of slavery should be removed on the lines of Ayodhya. The masjids in Mathura and Kashi will be destroyed too and temples will be rebuilt.”

As such legislation is in place which states, “prohibit conversion of any place of worship and to provide for the maintenance of the religious character of any place of worship as it existed on the 15th day of August 1947, and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”

Temple politics has dragged us into the politics, which is against plural, democratic ethos. The success of right wing forces to increase their clout through Ram Temple campaign may further, prompt them to go in this direction, which is detrimental to the progress and development of the country. The hope is that the majority people oppose such issues being rekindled again.

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED