Inventing a history: Hindu-Muslim conflict

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Crescent International

Dhu al-Qa'dah 12, 1416 1996-04-01

Special Reports

by Crescent International (Special Reports, Crescent International Vol. 25, No. 2, Dhu al-Qa'dah, 1416)

HINDUTVA is specifically a post-colonial development which took birth under the impact of British Orientalist scholarship and which imparted a great deal of its own meaning and political content to Hinduism. Just as in the case of Islam, in the case of Hinduism too, Orientalism was acting as the academic arm of political Imperialism, only that while Imperialism did not succeed in imposing its meaning and content upon Islam, it did succeed to a large extent in inventing its own synthetic brand of Hinduism, now called Hindutva.

Hinduism and Hindutva are certainly not one and the same. The Indian law does not allow the use of Hindu or any other religious appeal, but such ban does not include Hindutva. That is how Hindutva forms part of the BJP manifesto. The mother of an arch Hindutva leader, Bal Thackeray, died recently and he was so upset with this act of God that he said he felt like revolting against Hinduism. However, he took care to state it did not mean he was reneging on Hindutva.

The traditional Hinduism was ecumenical, syncretic, and Indo-Aryan with Arab, Persian and Turkish embellishments which it acquired after it came into contact with Muslims. It was very private but willing to adapt and accommodate any new theology in its pantheon. The neo-Hinduism of Fort William College, Calcutta was narrow, intolerant and specifically anti-Muslim.

Hinduism is a vast spectrum of races, tongues, ideas, history and identities, it’s a coalition and not a singular socio-political entity. The creation of a new ‘Hindu’ rashtra was an imperialist necessity: an entity that they could use as an ally against Muslims. They had deposed Muslim political power and it is Muslims who were continuously challenging their imperialist rule. However, this new ‘nation’ had to be necessarily anti-Muslim in its psyche and ethos. But imperialist scholars had a problem there- of creating hostility of which there had been little.

It is the most significant fact of Indo-Muslim history that although Muslim rule in India covered a period of almost 1,000 years, in which there were good rulers as well as bad rulers and there were also occasional wars between the Muslim power in Delhi and one or the other Hindu raja who chose to defy the central power, yet it is not a history of ruler versus the ruled. It is a history of mostly just and caring rulers where even a humble washerman could knock at the gate of the Emperor’s fort and obtain justice against the Empress, where the state made regular benefactions to support Hindu shrines and temples and accorded full respect to the belief and way of life of the various people. It is interesting that all ‘reforms’ in Hindu religion were enacted by the British while Muslim had left them totally untouched, to be reformed by the society itself.

The Hindu author, Girilal Jain, admits (The Hindu Phenomenon, UBSPD, New Delhi, 1994) that ‘the well-known British historian [Sir Henry] Elliot wondered why the Hindus had not left any account which could enable us to gauge the traumatic impact the Muslim conquests and rule had on them.’ [History of India from its own Historians (8 Volumes), 1867.]

Jain offers his lame explanation ‘that when Hindus fought and lost, they did not throw up prophets of woe and doom’. However, the simple truth is that if Hindu history is so remarkably free of any anti-Muslim annals and if Hindu chronologists did not leave the kind of account, Elliot had been looking for, it is for the logical reason that those who had lived through and witnessed that history had not suffered from ‘any traumatic impact’ of ‘the Muslim conquests’. Normal people do not write about pains they have not experienced.

Therefore, having produced a Fort William College Hinduism, imperialist historians took upon themselves also to invent an entire new version of Indo-Muslim history of despotic Muslim rulers persecuting and killing their Hindu subjects so that the latter day paranoid writers could ‘throw up prophets of woe and doom’ for events which had never happened.

For example: the Mogul Emperor Babar is accused of demolishing a sacred Hindu temple in modern Ayodhya and building in its place a mosque named after him, the Babari Mosque. Babar had not destroyed a temple. He had destroyed the temple which marked the exact spot where his parents had conceived (sic) and given birth to the Hindu deity Rama.

This is the kind of history and social time bomb which imperialist scholarship has left behind even though there is no archaeological or historical evidence about Ayodhya being the birthplace or capital of Rama’s kingdom. Babar never visited the place and even otherwise there was no question of anyone building a mosque in place of a temple that never existed. A panel of four eminent Indian archaeologists and historians, three Hindus and one Muslim, described the entire episode surrounding Rama’s birth place as progressive reconstruction of ‘imagined history based on faith’.

But it was more than mere imagination, it was part of imperialist deconstruction of Indian history. On 9 October 1857, the British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston (1784-1865) wrote to the Viceroy of India, Lord Canning: ‘Every civil building connected with Mahommedan tradition should be levelled to the ground without regard to antiquarian veneration or artistic predilection.’(Canning Papers.)

Muslim rule had given political oneness to India. The British introduced bureaucratic centralism in place of what used to be a devolved system of government. They deconstructed Hinduism. They deconstructed Indo-Muslim history. They deconstructed the administrative structure. They deconstructed Indo-Muslim philosophy of governance. Not surprisingly by the time they had departed, India had ceased to be one country.

Courtesy: Impact International, London.

Muslimedia - April 1996-August 1996

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