In the land Of Gandhi -- denial of history
This is in response to Rafiq Zakaria's "In the land of Gandhi" (HT March 27, 2002). I join Rafiq Zakaria in condemning the violence that erupted in "the land of Gandhi". The need for communal harmony cannot be overemphasized but denial of history is not likely to produce what we so desperately seek. It only increases the ire of the Hindus.
Zakaria wrote 'some of the Muslim rulers destroyed Hindu temples, smashed idols and looted the treasures hidden in the places of worship'. He denies that any of them 'massacred the Hindus -- except Timur, who killed hundreds of both Hindus and Muslims.' He goes on to repeat 'none of them took the life of a Hindu on religious grounds.’
In espousing such sentiments, Zakaria is not alone. Many other Muslim and "secular" writers today share the same view.
The above premise is wrong on all counts. The destruction of Hindu temples and idols was done not only by "some" of the Muslim rulers -- "most of the Muslim rulers" would have been more accurate. And secondly, the treasures were not "hidden in the places of worship" as if these were something illegally obtained -- these were openly and proudly displayed.
The destruction of Hindu temples was for religious reasons mainly -- not for just plundering the wealth. The destruction of Bamiyan Buddhas -- an expensive exercise which involved moving heavy artillery to remote mountain side -- is its latest manifestation. There were no treasures in the Bamiyan Buddhas and these are no medieval times either. The Buddha statues were destroyed as the Taliban said "these statues are un-Islamic and an insult to Islam." The same is true of the Hindu temples.
If the destruction of Hindu temples was just for the wealth in them, there was no need to disfigure the stone idols and at times carry the broken idols to far off places to be kept in front of mosques so that the faithful can tread upon them.
Zakaria's assertion that none of them took Hindu lives on religious grounds is completely baseless. When he (Hajjaj) got King Dahir's head, the instructions of Hajjaj, the governor of Baghdad and sponsor of the campaign, to his cousin Bin Kasim were very specific. Hajjaj wrote: "The Great God says in the Koran 'O true believers, when you encounter the unbelievers, strike off their heads.' The above command of the Great God is a great command and must be respected and followed." He later repeated "My distinct orders are that all those who are fighting men should be assassinated, and their sons and daughters imprisoned and retained as prisoners."
Al Utbi, secretary to Mahmud Ghaznavi in his Tarikh e Yamini on the massacre at Thanesar records "The blood of the infidels flowed so copiously, that the stream was discoloured, not withstanding its purity, and the people were unable to drink it. The victory was gained by God's grace who has established Islam for ever as the best religion, not withstanding that idolaters revolt against it.. praise be to God, the protector of the world, for the honour he bestows upon Islam and Musalmans."
These two are not the exceptions. Time after time, Muslim rulers offered Islam or death to the infidel Hindus. And they have all left "excellent" records of their killings of the infidels. How can Zakaria not know?
Now let us turn our attention to Timur who Zakaria wrote killed "hundreds of both Hindus and Muslims." Fortunately, Timur also has left us excellent record of his expedition to India in his Malfuzat-e-Timuri -- how many he killed and why? Whether he had any preference for killing one over the other?
Timur did not stay in India to rule. Then why did he come? Was plunder the sole objective?
He wrote in his memoir:
"About this time there arose in my heart the desire to lead an expedition against the infidels, and to become a ghazi; for it had reached my ears that the slayer of infidels is ghazi, and if he is slain he becomes martyr. It was for this reason that I formed my resolution… but I was undetermined in my mind whether I should direct my expedition against the infidels of China or against the infidels and polytheists of India……. In this matter I sought an omen from the Koran and the verse to which I opened was this: 'O Prophet, make war upon the infidels and unbelievers, and treat them with severity."
So, his main purpose to come to India was to kill the infidels and become a ghazi. So much for 'not killing on religious grounds'.
About his killing "hundreds of both Hindus and Muslims"(?), let us see what he did in his own words.
On the siege of Diplapur, Timur wrote; "In a short space of time all the people in the fort were put to the sword, and in the course of one hour the heads of ten thousand infidels were cut off. The sword of Islam was washed in the blood of the infidels, .."
On his capture of Loni: "Many of the Rajputs placed their wives and children in their houses and burned them, then they rushed to the battle and were killed" Timur gave orders "that the Mussalman prisoners should be separated and saved, but that the infidels should all be despatched to hell with the proselytizing sword."
Let us now move to the siege on Delhi.
There were at this time about 100,000 Hindu prisoners in the camp of Timur. When advised "that on the great day of battle these 100,000 prisoners could not be left with the baggage, and that it would be entirely opposed to the rules of war to set these idolaters and foes of Islam at liberty", Timur proclaimed "throughout the camp that every man who has infidel prisoners was to put them to death, and whoever neglected to do so should himself be executed and his property given to the informer. When this order became known to the ghazis of Islam, they drew their swords and put their prisoners to death. 100,000 infidels, impious idolaters, were on that day slain."
This is probably the most gruesome act in the entire history of the world, but while talking about Timur, Zakaria evidently suffers a loss of memory.
After his victory, Timur records, on Friday and Saturday (December 26 and 27) "nearly 15000 Turks were engaged in slaying, plundering, and destroying…. the spoil was so great that each man secured from a fifty to a hundred prisoners, men, women, and children. There was no man who took less than twenty."
He does not fail to mention " Excepting the quarter of saiyids, the ulama, and the other Musulmans, the whole city was sacked."
One can feel the sense of "great accomplishment" in his words on killing of thousands - not hundreds -- of infidels. And the lives of Muslims are spared. Zakaria assigns the violent acts of Timur to the vagaries of 'medieval times'. Medieval times had nothing to do with Timur killing Hindus -- he did so to become a ghazi. It was the same spirit that propelled other Muslims to do the same.
The key to improve communal harmony is not the denial of history. To the contrary, it should be publicized and propagated and the responsibility for this lies with Muslim intellectuals themselves. The Muslim period of India should be declared the dark ages.
The Muslims of India should learn their lesson from Germany and what they have done with Hitler. Denial of Hindu Holocaust which left over 80 millions Hindus dead and tens of thousands of Hindu temples demolished and plundered should be made a crime.
End of matter