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Prof. Vijay Prashad and Hindu Holocaust Museum
Prof. Vijay Prashad in his article Hindu Holocaust (News India Times, Sept. 25, 2009) about Francois Gautier’s fund raiser on August 16, 2009 in New Jersey for a Hindu Holocaust Museum in Pune, India has made many assertions and statements which have no evidence in contemporary or even subsequent recorded history. To keep the response reasonable length let me address a few of the issues covered by him and let the readers make their own judgment.
Prof. Prashad wrote, and I quote the entire paragraph:
"Between Hindus and Muslims there has not been an endless rivalry for social power. When Islam enters the subcontinent, it does not come in the saddlebags of the Ghaznis or the Ghouris, but amongst the rumble of goods brought by traders. Early conversions are not by the sword but by the merchants . There was killing, but that was as much for reasons of warfare and plunder as for reasons of God and tradition. An interested reader might want to look at the distinguished historian Romila Thapar's superb book "Somnatha: The Many Voices of a History" (Penguin, 2005). There, Professor Thapar shows us that Mahmud Ghazni's destruction of the Shiva temple in 1026 was driven not so much by a fanatical religious belief but because his father, Subuktigin, needed money to sustain his faltering kingdom in Central Asia. Now it is certainly true, as historian Mohammed Habib put it, that there was "wanton destruction of temples that followed in the wake of the Ghaznavid army."
Actually this paragraph covers the gist of his arguments.
Let us discuss these one by one.
1. No social rivalry between Hindus and Muslims:
To the contrary there never was any equivalence between the two ever after the Muslims started invading India. In all Muslim chronicles, almost without exception, Hindus are referred to as infidels – a derogatory term in Islam.
Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, a very prominent Muslim leader in the nineteenth century asked Muslims to support British Raj as opposed to free India where, by default, Hindus being majority would have an upper hand. For Muslim scholars for Muslims to live under the Hindus was unacceptable.
Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (the originator of two nation theory) had said in 1888, as quoted by Sir Penderel Moon on page 11 of his tome, 'Divide and Quit'. India, he said, is a country"inhabited by two different nations" and there would necessarily be a struggle for power between them, if the English were to leave India. "Is it possible, he had asked, "that under these circumstances two nations - the Mohammedan and Hindu - could sit on the same throne and remain equal in power? Most certainly not. It is necessary that one of them should conquer the other and thrust it down. To hope that both could remain equal is to desire the impossible and the inconceivable."
On the issue of Hindu Muslim relations, no body could have put it better than what Jinnah articulated in his famous Presidential address to Muslim League conference in Lahore in 1940.
He said there never was any common ground between the Muslims and the Hindus or desire on the part of Muslims to live as equal with Hindus whom they had ruled for centuries. Hinduism and Islam are two different and distinct social orders. It is only a dream that the two can ever evolve a common nationality. "The hero of one is the foe of the other. There is nothing that binds them together." Enumerating all the differences between the two, he went on to say that "to yoke two such nations under a single State must lead to growing discontent and final destruction of any fabric that may be so built up for the government of such a state." (India’s Partition – Process, Strategy and Mobilization, edited By Mushirul Hasan, Delhi, 1998, pp.56)
Jinnah stressed there was never one India and Hindus and Muslims had never lived as one unit. History is testimony that last twelve hundred years have failed to achieve unity and during the ages "India was always divided into Hindu India and Muslim India. … The present artificial unity of India dates back only to British conquest and is maintained by the British bayonet" -- he went on to say. (ibid. pp. 56)
Even Alberuni, thousand years ago, when there was not much Muslim presence in India, could see there was no common ground between Hindus and Muslims. He starts his book by discussing the differences between the Hindus and the Muslims. He enumerates these differences at length throughout the book. Warning his readers he wrote "the readers must bear in mind that the Hindus entirely differ from us in every respect…… The barriers which separate Muslims and Hindus rest on different causes." ((Sachau EC, Alebruni’s India, New Delhi, 1993, pp. 17 – 26)
Dr. Ambedkar in his books and frequent writings had alluded to Muslim's macabre hostility against Hindus. He highlighted the fact that the word 'but' used by Muslims to refer to any idol was a corrupt form of "Budh" because there were hundreds of statues of Buddha in Afghanistan and across the Middle East which were the first target of iconoclast of Islam. That explains the use of the term 'but-shikan' by Ghazanavi, Ghauri and other invaders. The destruction and pillage of the famous Buddhist Seminary and University of Nalanda is another example of the grossness of the wanton damage caused by Muslim invaders.
Ethnic cleansing of Hindus by Muslims has continued even in recent history, both in Pakistan and Bangladesh - even in Kashmir. In that sense there has been a renewal of Hindu Holocaust. In Pakistan the Hindu /Sikh population has plummeted from 23% in 1947 to less than 2% today. In Bangladesh, it has dwindled from 35% to 8% during the same period. During the same period Muslims have multiplied fast in India. And the shame of Hindus having been ethnically cleansed from Kashmir Valley, an important part of our bogus secular state, still torments Hindu hearts!.
In fact, throughout history Islam has always used 'gross savagery' and open recourse to terrorism as force multipliers e.g. building towers of the heads of hapless Hindus beheaded by Muslim invaders of which accounts are there in history books written by Muslim chroniclers. (Baburnama, Delhi, 1998, pp. 573, 576 – to cite one example) And the use of terror and savagery continues with renewed vigor even today. The most morbid example of savagery in recent times was the beheading by Ilyas Kashmiri (a commander of Pak-sponsored terror group) of an injured Indian army officer (after capturing him on February 26, 2000). Ilyas Kashmiri went back to Pakistan with the head of the hapless Indian army officer and presented it to top officers of Pak army. Gen. Musharraf had given a cash reward of Rs. 1 lakh. Pictures of Ilyas Kashmiri holding the head of the Indian officer were published in Pakistani newspapers. Maulana Zahoor Ahmed Alvi of Jamia Muhammadia, Islamabad, even issued a fatwa supporting slitting the throats of Indian army officers in a similar manner [Source: News item, 'Musharraf rewarded militant who killed Indian', (Indian Express New Delhi, September 21, 2009, page 4).
Can Prof. Vijay Prashad deny these irrefutable facts?
2. Islam came with Muslim traders:
Yes, in India there were traders from Arabia long before Islam was born. These traders by virtue of their being Arabs, became Muslims when Arabia became Islamic in the seventh century. Thus, one can say Islam came to India with the traders. Yes, during the trading period, there was no animosity against the Muslims or Islam. When did this animosity begin? It was discussed by Alberuni a thousand years ago in his famous ‘Indica’ which we shall cover later. Not that there was any resistance against but there were no conversions to Islam among the general population to speak of. Initially Arabs, and later on Muslim, traders married local women. Even Arab records show that India (read Hindu) kings gave Muslims land to build their mosques and preach their new religion. However, it might be mentioned that there is no evidence of reciprocity of giving lands to Hindus or other religions in Arabia after the birth of Islam. To the contrary, Prophet Muhammad’s one of the last three wishes/instructions to Muslims was to "expel all pagans from the Arabian Peninsula." (Sahih Bukhari, New Delhi, vol. 4, p. 260, Chapter H 393)
What caused the animosity between Hindus and Muslims?
In the very first chapter of his book, Indica, Alberuni discusses the differences between Hindus and Muslims, as written above. Alberuni observes some of the reasons of Hindus’ repugnance of Muslims are complete banishment of Buddhists from countries, from Khurasan, Persis, Irak, Mosul and Syria, first by Zoroastrians and then by Islam. And then Muhammad ibn Kasim entered India proper, conquered the cities of Bahmanwa and Multan and went as far as Kannauj – "all these events planted a deeply rooted hatred in their hearts." (Sachau EC, Alebruni’s India, New Delhi, 1993, pp. 20-21)
Then he talks of Mahmud Ghaznavi: Sabuktagin weakened the borders of India and afterwards his son Mahmud marched into India during a period of thirty years and more. Mahmud utterly ruined the prosperity of India and performed those wonderful exploits (emphasis mine), by which the Hindus became like atoms of dust scattered in all directions, and like a tale of old in the mouth of the people." Alberuni says "their scattered remains cherish, of course, the most inveterate aversion towards all Muslims." (ibid, pp. 22)
These are not even the tips of the proverbial iceberg, to understand what was done to Hindu by Muslim invaders and then rulers. One has to read the entire history recorded by the Muslim invaders and rulers and other Muslim chroniclers to understand its full impact. After each invasion, the survivors were offered conversion to Islam or death and many converted. If circumstances allowed, many converted back to their original faith. All through Muslim rule starting from bin Kasim, with a few exceptions, Jiziya was imposed on non-Muslim subjects the burden of which fell the heaviest on the poor. This, at times, led to mass conversions of the entire castes. Islam might have come with the traders but it did not result in any conversions to Islam. It were the invasions and subsequent Muslim rule which did.
Politically motivated opinions that have no basis in recorded history or wishful thinking that reflect how the things should have been, in their flight of fancy imagination, is not history. It is, at best, sheer fiction. Sadly, Prof. Vijay Prashad’s characterization of Hindu Muslim relations fall in this category. History is what actually happened; fiction has no place in it.
3. Reasons for temple demolition:
Prof. Prashad quotes Professor Thapar showing us that Mahmud Ghazni's destruction of the Shiva temple in 1026 was driven not so much by a fanatical religious belief but because his father, Subuktigin, needed money to sustain his faltering kingdom in Central Asia.
It is unimaginable that Sabuktagin would have a kingdom in Central Asia in 1926 after he died at Toormooz on his way to Ghizny from Balkh in Shaban AH 387 (August AD 997).
In history of Islam Mahmud enjoys a very high position. He was given the titles of Ameen-ul-Millat, defender of the faith and Yameen-ud-Daulat, the right hand of the state by the Caliph of Baghdad – the titles which had so far not been bestowed on any prince far or near, notwithstanding their intense desire to receive such an honor. (Tarikh Yamini, The History of India as Told by its own historians, Vol. 2, New Delhi, 1996, pp. 24)
The plunders of Mahmud are legendary. When he displayed his loot from India, he was declared "the richest monarch ever in history".
It is often said he was interested only in plunder and he was not much of a religious person. Neither his record nor his Muslim chroniclers agree with this characterization. From all contemporary records the only inference one can draw is that he was a zealot Muslim and is so regarded by Muslim scholars. As accepted even by Prof. Thapar and quoted by Prof. Prashad that he plundered Somnath temple – but actually the plunder and destruction of Somnath temple was of relatively small scale in relation to other temples and places he plundered and destroyed.
The case in point is the temple at Mathura. Mahmud was enchanted by the grandeur of this temple. Utbi, secretary of Mahmud, in his Tarikh Yamini described it as:
"The Sultan next directed his attacks against the sacred city of Mathura. The city was surrounded by a massive stone wall, in which were two lofty gates opening on to the river. There were magnificent temples all over the city and the largest of them all stood in the center of it. The Sultan was very much struck by its grandeur. In his estimate it cost not less than 100,000,000 red dinars, and even the most skillful of masons must have taken 200 years to complete it. Among the large number of idols in the temples, five were made of pure gold, the eyes of one of them were laid with two rubies worth 100,000 dinars, and another had a sapphire of a very heavy weight. All these five idols yielded gold weighing 98,300 mishkals. The idols made of silver numbered 200……. He seized all the gold and silver idols and ordered his soldiers to burn all the temples to the ground. The idols in them were deliberately broken into pieces. The city was pillaged for 20 days, and a large number of buildings were reduced to ashes." (Tarikh Yamini, The History of India as Told by its own historians, vol 2, New Delhi, 1996, pp. 44)
Mahmud Ghaznavi invaded India at least sixteen times and each time he left a trail of tears, human suffering and devastation. The tale of his invasions as recorded by his secretary Utbi is blood curdling. This is how Utbi describes one scene and this is not, by any means, an isolated example:
"Many infidels were consequently slain or taken prisoner in this sudden attack, and the Muslamans paid no regard to the booty till they had satiated themselves with the slaughter of the infidels and worshippers of sun and fire. The friends of God searched the bodies of the slain for three whole days, in order to obtain booty." (ibid. pp. 49) The search for booty was secondary to killing.
Another place Utbi writes: "The blood of the infidels flowed so copiously, that the stream was discoloured, notwithstanding its purity, and people were unable to drink it." (ibid. pp. 40)
I can understand Mahmud’s penchant for wealth. Many people have insatiable thirst for wealth. Prof. Prashad might ask himself what would drive a man to reduce to ashes such a marvelous structure and break the idols to pieces if he was only interested in wealth? And killing on such a large scale and so brutally?
Mahmud not only plundered and destroyed the Somnath temple, he ordered the upper part of the idol to be broken and the remainder to be transported to his residence, Ghazni, with all its trappings of gold, jewels, and embroidered garments. Part of it has been thrown into the hippodrome of the town, together with the Chakrasvamin, an idol of bronze, that had been brought from Thanesar. Another part of the idol from Somnath lies before the door of the mosque of Ghaznin, on which people rub their feet to clean them from dirt and wet." (Sachau EC, Alebruni’s India, New Delhi, 1993, part II, pp. 103)
One would ask Prof. Thapar if the purpose of Mahmud’s plunder of Somnath was "driven not so much by a fanatical religious belief but because his father, Subuktigin, needed money to sustain his faltering kingdom in Central Asia" why would he spend it in transporting broken pieces all the way from Somnath to Ghazni?
Prof. Prashad quotes Prof. Habib who admits that there was "wanton destruction of temples that followed in the wake of the Ghaznavid army." I am not surprised by it. Muslims historians are more open and honest about the Muslim rule in India and its depredations than their Hindu compatriots – the very Hindus who were at the receiving end for centuries. I wonder if Stockholm syndrome has anything to do with it! Coming back to our subject, temple destruction did not end with Mahmud – it was just the beginning. These continued all the way till Aurangzeb – the last great Mughal emperor. We will not go into those details in this article.
Even today, the demolition of Bamiyan Buddha statues is a stark reminder of what drove Muslim invaders of India to demolish Hindu temples? There was no wealth hidden in Bamiyan Buddhas that the world knows of.
In this so far we have covered only a very small part of Prof. Prashad’s article and not even scratched the surface of what Hindus had gone through Islamic rule. Will Durant has called the Muslim conquest of India the bloodiest story in history. The extent of destruction of Hindu temples and massacres is beyond all human imagination and a museum to their memory would be a just reminder to all humanity of what might happen if one is not prepared to learn the lessons from the past.
In the beginning of the article, Prof. Prashad wrote: "They claim that over the past thousand years, millions of Hindus were killed, with the intention to wipe Hindus off the map." Actually this is a very mild statement and does not even come close to state the facts. According to some estimates Hindus killed by Muslims over the centuries is about 80 million and the number of temples demolished into tens of thousands. Timur Lang’s massacre of 100,000 helpless Hindu prisoners in one day by hands has no parallel in world history. (Malfuzat-e-Timuri, History of India as told by its own historians, vol. III, Delhi, 1996, pp. 436)
4. Hindu Holocaust Museum:
Prof. Prashad also wrote: "The idea of the Hindu Holocaust casts the Hindu as history's victim, who should now become history's aggressor to avenge the past." It is evident that Prof. Prashad is drawing his own conclusions without any evidence or basis. Making a museum to portray the atrocities suffered by the Hindus in the past does not imply they want to become "history’s aggressors to avenge the past." Jews have built Jewish Holocaust museums, are they avenging the past? There are Black history museums all over the US. This does not mean that these are meant to enslave the Whites "to avenge the past". A museum is to remind the future generations of what happened – to reflect the good and the bad; the pride and the shame. All countries have museums. Actually it would have been only fair that such an idea had come from the Muslims to show their disapproval of what their ancestors had done to humanity for the sake of Islam. But that did not happen and is not likely to happen either. If not the Muslims, then this idea of Hindu Holocaust Museum should have come from liberal progressive elite of independent India.
It is not surprising that Francois Gautier who is leading the movement for a Hindu Holocaust museum is a Frenchman. He is the living legacy of French progressive liberalism that waged the struggle against religious fanaticism in the eighteenth century. Instead of making light of Gautier’s work, the liberal progressive elite worldwide should join forces with him in exposing the depredations caused by religious fanatics in India. Let India be the starting point and then continue work elsewhere.
Prof. Prashad would do a great service if instead of spending his valuable time and energy in criticizing Francois Gautier, he was investigating what drove some people, in today’s day and age, to demolish two thousand years old Bamiyan Buddhas – a work of art and human endeavor.
A sad reminder that the days of demolition of infidel idols are not over yet.
Copyright: Vinod Kumar
September 25, 2009
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