By Ram Puniyani
The emergence of a communal consciousness in the social space is very frightening. The prevalent ‘social common sense’ looks at history through the prism of Kings’ religions, and that too in a very selective way. This version picks and chooses from events to construct a past that suitable to its ideology. This has been at the root of the hatred that has built up among communities and inevitably leads to violence that kills the innocent and polarizes communities for electoral benefits.
The same ideology looks down upon inter-religious marriages and cultural expressions that unite the people. Currently, marriages between Muslim boy and a Hindu girl are denigrated as ‘Love jihad’. To cap it all, the baby born from such a marriage is being hurled abuses at, instead of being ushered in with blessings and love.
The arrival of Taimur
On 20th December, 2016, Kareena Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan were delighted with the birth of their son. They named him Taimur (also pronounced Timur). Within a few hours, social media exploded. Many communalists wished ill for the baby. These communalists seem to be pained by the name Taimur as he had invaded Delhi in 1398.
And it is these ‘crimes’ that are being brought upon the Muslims of today.
Taimur, Ghenghis Khan, and Aurangzeb in particular, are presented as the major villains of Indian medieval history. Ghengis Khan was a Mongol, creator of the Mongol Empire who was a Shamanist (or a Tengrist), not Muslim, who had also killed and plundered the plains of north India. Aurangzeb is regarded as a tyrant who imposed Jizia, forcibly converted people to Islam and destroyed Hindu temples. And it is these ‘crimes’ that are being brought upon the Muslims of today. However, one should remember that these Kings belonged to different religions and did not always undertake these actions in the name of religions.
The plunder of wealth and associated killings are part of the invasions of Kings. They hardly belong in the religious sphere. Plunder and killing was not a monopoly of any particular king from one religion or region.
The concepts of today do not apply to this period as it was a ‘free for all’. Everything depended on the strategy of the king and his alliances. For instance, one knows that it was Babar who was invited by Rana Sanaga to ally with him to defeat Ibrahim Lodi. The Muslims kings had many courtiers who were Hindus in top rungs of power, and vice versa, in the subcontinent.
Shivaji the ‘hero’
In India today, Muslim Kings (or Kings with Muslim sounding names), are presented as villains. At the same time Shivaji, Rana Pratap and Govind Singh are projected as the heroes for Hindus. While Shivaji is being eulogized as a great national hero, it’s interesting to note that initially there was a great resistance to accepting Shivaji in Gujarat and Bengal. These are two areas where Shivjaji’s armies wrecked havoc.
Nonetheless, today, to say that Shivaji was also looting and plundering is tantamount to insulting ‘national icon’. And yet, Bal Samant, who was close to Bal Thackeray, devotes nearly 21 pages in his book ‘Shivkalyan Raja’ to the chapter on the looting by Shivaji. He quotes from Dutch and British sources to give the account of massive plunder and looting by Shivaji’s army. Similarly, the massive carnage by Ashoka in Kalinga is well known. So, why are Muslim Kings different?
The rewriting of history
With communal ideologies holding sway, interpretations have also changed. The looting by Shivaji’s army has been described by Narendra Modi as looting of Aurangzeb’s treasury! The account of Maratha armies destroying Shrirangpatanam Hindu temple is being hidden in the margins of consciousness. Similarly, the first war of Independence in 1857, has suffered the fate of distortion. While Savarkar, the Hindutva ideologue describes is as the First war of Independence, Golwalkar another major ideologue of Hindutva says that the rebellion failed as it was being led by a Muslim, Bahadur Shah Jafar, who could not inspire Hindu soldiers. Of course, we know that the revolt failed because the Punjabis and Gorkhas came to the rescue of the British.
Similarly, the first war of Independence in 1857, has suffered the fate of distortion.
Communal ideology creates a distorted and selective version of history with religion becoming the primary motive in this narrative. Taking it to murkier depths, some commentators have gone to the abysmal low of calling a child a terrorist and a jihadi. All newborns deserve a warm welcome into this universe. And yet, those who stoop to these lows continue to control the narrative. It is for us to fight back against this division and promote unity. We must stop blaming the children for the sins of the past and instead, look to the future.