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Did Babar love India?

Vinod Kumar


There is an extremely disturbing and alarming trend amongst the Indian intellegentsia to glean from history what suits their bias. Rather than accept the historical fact that the Muslim invasion of India has, by almost all accounts (including the historical writings of the invaders themselves), been the bloodiest in the history of the World, these "scholars" try to project a more "respectable" account of the Islamic invasion of India.

Anyone who rejects this rosy picture of history is immediately dismissed as being a Hindutva freak. Thus, when even a respected journalist like Naipaul, dares to speak the truth, he is accused of succumbing to the Hindutva propaganda. Amulya Ganguli in one of articles in The Hindustan Times claims that Naipaul has a "warped vision of (Indian) history" and yet it is actually Ganguli who distorts Indian history by trying to present Babur as someone who loved India.

Ganguli claims that "There is nothing in Babur-nama to indicate that Babur "despised" India. Citing Babur's description of India flora and fauna, Ganguli tries to prove Babur loved India. That, if anything is a tremendous stretch. Five years of Babur's memoirs prior to his fifth and final expedition to India are missing -- so we shall never know what his exact motives were, but one thing that is clearly evident from the portions of the Babur-nama that have survived is that what Babur liked most about India, were its "masses of gold and silver" and the large revenue (52 krurs -- estimated by Erskine to be 4,212,000 British Pounds).

The following couplet, taken from the Babur-nama, might give some clue as to why Babur came to India:

"For Islam's sake, I wandered the wilds,

Prepared for war with pagans and Hindus,

Resolved myself to meet the martyr's death,

Thanks be to God ! a ghazi I became."


Unable to bear the heat and other travails of the country, soon after coming to India, a large section Babur's army wanted to return to Kabul. This naturally concerned him. He summoned all his generals, took counsel, and and made a stirring speech: "By the labours of several years, by encountering hardship, by long travel, by flinging myself and the army into battle, and by deadly slaughter, we, through God's grace beat these masses of enemies in order that we might take their broad lands. Why after all this should we abandon countries taken at such a risk? Was it for us to remain in Kabul, the sport of harsh poverty?"

Loathing Hindustan, Khwaja Kalan, one of his generals left India with thefollowing couplet inscribed on the wall of his residence in Dihli:

"If safe and sound I cross the Sind,

Blacken my face ere I wish to for Hind"


Babur longed for Kabul and what he thought of Hindustan is evident from the following verse written to Mulla Ali Khan who had gone there:

"As for you have gone from this country of Hind,

Aware for yourself of its woes and its pain,

With longing desire for Kabul's fine air,

You went hot-foot forth out of Hind.

The pleasure you looked for you will have found there

With sociable ease and charm and delight;

As for us, God be thanked ! we are still alive,

In spite of much pain and unending distress;

Pleasure of sense and bodily toil

Have been passed-by by you, passed-by too by us"


Babur contemplated leaving India several times -- he was here only for four years -- but he was not going to leave his empire which he had built with so "much hardship" and "great slaughter" and where he had found immense wealth on a mere whim without securing it properly. What he could not do -- leave Hindustan -- while alive, he did after his death by leaving  instructions that his body be conveyed and buried in Kabul. India, for him was a place to be conquered for Islam. And he wrote: "by the help of our victorious soldiers the standards of Islam have been raised to the highest pinnacles."

Babur's heart was always in Kabul and Tramontana as he expressed in hisletter to Khwaja Kalan who, as stated above, had left for Kabul earlier:

"Boundless and infinite is my desire to go to those parts. Matters are coming to some sort of settlement in Hindustan. This work brought to order, God willing! My start will be made at once. How should a person forget the pleasant things of those countries?"

Ganguli describes Babur's visit to temples on September 29, 1528, in Gualiar which is described on page 613 of his memoirs translated by Beveridge and comments "There is little to suggest from these passages that Babur was full of animus against the Hindus." But Ganguli in his zest to "glean from history what suits his bias" conveniently forgets to tell the readers what Babur did a day earlier on September 28, at Urwa described on the preceding page.

In Babur's own words "Three sides of Urwa are solid rocks, not the rocks of Biana but one paler in colour. On these sides people have cut out  idol-statues, large and small, one large statue on the south side being perhaps 20 qari (yds) high. Urwa is not bad place; it is shut in; the idols are its defect; I for my part, ordered them destroyed."

He also conveniently forgets to talk about the transformation of a temple into a mosque at Sambhal and in Ayodhya on Babur's orders.

And what did Babur think of India and its people?

He did not like the heat of India, he found its towns and country "greatly wanting in charm", "its people have no good looks, no manners, no genius, in work no symmetry or quality, no good horses, no good dogs, no grapes, no musk melons or no first rate fruits, no good bread".

Two things Babur liked very much: Hindustan as stated by him has "masses of gold and silver" and yields immense revenue. He called them "abject and mean" , "wretched" . He ordered repeatedly pillars of pagan headsto be built.

He abolished all taxes on Muslims throughout all the territories -- though its yield was more than the dreams of avarice. Why? It was, he believed "a practice outside the edicts of the prince of Apostles (Muhammad)".

And what did he wish for the Hindus?

"God willing! Soon will be dashed the gods of the idolaters" It goes without saying that he did not abolish the tax on Hindus.

At Chandiri, Khwafi Khan records a massacre by Babur, saying that after the fort was surrendered as was done on the condition of security for the garrison from 3,000 - 4,000 pagans were put to death by Babur's troops.

"It was a cruel age when criminals and spies were routinely ordered by the rulers to be buried or skinned alive or impaled or trampled to death by elephants" Ganguli wrote. "These were barbaric times".

No, the times were not barbaric -- the invaders/rulers were barbaric. The massacres of the likes of 100,000 Hindu captives in one day by Timurlang have never been witnessed before or after in the history of the World.

Long before the advent of Islam, a foreign traveler had noted of India "another feature of the ancient warfare was that the non-combatants were left unmolested." Exception to this rule were rare.

On the question of balancing act of history, Ganguli asks Naipaul: "what advice will he give to the Jews to balance the six million deaths of their  relatives and friends in the Holocaust? . The Holocaust was a medieval act of barbarism committed in the 20th century."

The Holocaust of the Jews was by all accounts an act of barbarity. Ghastly and horrendous as it was, the sustained massacres, barbarities and cruelties committed on the Hindus that lasted off and on for almost a millennium were of an even larger magnitude.

Neither Naipaul, nor anyone else, has to give any advice. The Germans don't claim the Holocaust to be the "glory" of the Germans. They don't identify themselves with Hitler, the perpetrator of the crimes or his ideology. Nor do they seek their "heritage" in him or his ideology. All Germans today unanimously, in no uncertain terms, condemn the barbarities of those days.

Denial of Holocaust is a crime in Germany. They have set up Holocaust memorials. In Germany today one would not find a single institution or even a street named after Hitler. They have apologized to the Jews for the crimes committed against them.

And that is exactly what Naipaul and the Sangh parivar whom Ganguli maligns so badly would like the Muslims to do: Condemn those acts of barbarities and completely dissociate themselves from them instead of seeking those barbarities and cruelties as their heritage.