A Nation of Apologists

I’ve often wondered as to what our country would’ve been like had it not been subjected to the Muslim invasions and British onslaught. Frankly, it’s really hard to even contemplate such a scenario since our consciousness has been imprinted with an indelible mark of all those things that are foreign to our original Dharmic culture. Now, I’m not making a case that perhaps, everything foreign that has befallen our nation throughout the medieval and modern ages is corrupting and wrong, or for that matter, morally degraded, however, it does make a compelling case to investigate some of the perverted sense of morality that has creeped in. But then, a detailed discussion on that topic is a story for another day.

Having said that, it does raise a question about our study of History in general, especially of the medieval period. It is a general belief that the history is written by victors, and, there is a high probability that the ones who loose are generally glossed over, no matter how much they have contributed to the formation of a society. Such has been the case in medieval India too, but, there has been a peculiar pattern, a twist, if you will. The victors in this case, mostly Muslim invaders, have left chronicles citing instances of their cruelty, atrocities committed against the locals (Hindus), understandably so, since they were acting on behalf of the divine, propagating the will of the ‘Allah’. In fact, there have been instances of one-upmanship to raise the bar of cruelty than the previous ruler, all in the name to curry favor from the ‘true one’, on the judgment day. Some of the most salient names being, Mohd. Bin Qasim, Mahmud Ghazni, Mohd. Ghauri, Babur, Aurangzeb, Ahmad Shah Abdalli and so on.

This leads us to the pertinent point that in the current day, when we have a seemingly ‘secular’ governance set up, how should the students of History, especially in schools, be taught the subject. It appears that back in the 60s/70s, History in schools was taught with the motive of actually giving the students, a fair assessment of what happened back then in a non-partisan way. However, in the 80s, this changed. History became more secular and the text books were revised to take out the parts that portrayed Mulsim rulers/invaders in extremely bad light. All that was left was that the Muslim invaders used to come, loot, rape, kill and leave, no details. The Tuglaks and Mughals, who made this region, their “home”, suddenly became benevolent rulers who gave much culture to India as we see today, in form of Art, Food, Music, Architecture etc (as if we did not have all this already). The most atrocious thing they committed was charging Jizya from the Dharmic folk, to let them live in peace and harmony. There was brotherhood among Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims and the rulers ensured that communal harmony was maintained. There are individual chapters dedicated to some of the Mughal rulers, however, some of the actual benevolent and peaceful personalities have been completely glossed over, for instance, Dara Shikoh. I can guarantee that most of the people would not even know who this guy was. To put things in perspective, he was the elder brother of Aurangzeb, a seemingly secular person of that age, a rightful heir to the throne and was mercilessly killed by Aurangzeb, who later usurped the throne. It is then, a travesty that we have a city (Aurangabad) and a road named after the most brutal of Mughal rulers’, Aurangzeb, who not only forcefully converted the masses to Islam, put numerous to sword (including his family) and destroyed thousands of Hindu temples.

But, the bigger tragedy is, due to secularization of History, even when there are historic records or ‘farmaans’ available (in Persian), which clearly contain the Royal decrees issued back in the day, such an evidence is clearly ignored and the apologists try to present alternate interpretations. One such striking case is that of destruction of Kashi Vishwanath temple. There is a document available citing the confirmation by the general authorized to raze down the structure and build the Gyan Vapi mosque on it, but, the apologists have diluted the history so much that a random document (farmaan) is being circulated on the social media, which states that Aurangzeb had explicitly asked not to destroy the temple. If this were true, then, why a mosque stands where the temple was supposed to be located poses a serious challenge to commonsense. Apologists would have an answer for this too, it was done out of the camaraderie, the locals shared, to have a Mandir and a Masjid, side by side as a sign of communal harmony. I believe there are more similar versions out there. A more contemporary example is in form of introducing Yoga in schools, which was originally supposed to include ‘Surya Namaskar’. However, since the Muslim board had objected to it citing it as un-Islamic, it is being proposed to be removed from the process. Now, there are two fundamental problems here, one, that Yoga has it’s roots in Dharmic Shastras and no matter what the apologists say, it’s a part of Hindu culture. Two, why is the essence of the Yoga process being changed just because some random people don’t approve of it?

We boast of having a Minority Commission, which is responsible for the welfare of religious minorities (mostly Muslims and Christians). Taking a quick peek at History reveals that we’ve been ruled over by Muslims for about 800 years and by Christians for about 200 years. Globally, Christianity is practiced by ~2 billion, Islam by ~1.5 billion and Hinduism by ~950 million. Given these facts, one really wonders as to how the first two religions constitute a minority, and, an oppressed one at that. Moreover, if we are all Indians, what is the whole point of a commission that is based on religion? And, what exactly is the role of this commission, given that all the religions have equal freedom under our ‘secular’ Constitution. The reservations based on religion are then, an anti-thesis to the social fabric. Why is it that we talk about women rights but can not have an open debate on Uniform Civil Code? Isn’t this akin to corrupting the minds and sowing the seeds of a separate identity, thus leading the people into an identity crisis, which is what, a country like Pakistan is going through. Frankly, there is a need for an honest assessment by asking ourselves a question, are we not, a nation of apologists?