Wednesday, August 31, 2022

On Ganesha Vinayaka Chaturthi

Best wishes on Ganesha Vinayaka Chaturthi. Lord Ganesha has played a vital role in the writing of the Mahabharata.

Since Veda Vyasa was intimately acquainted with the characters of the Mahabharata, he was asked by Lord Brahma to write the story of their deeds. Vyasa said that the story was long and complex, and he would require the assistance of a scribe. Lord Brahma then suggested the name of Lord Ganesha who was known for his writing skill. Lord Ganesha said that he would accept the task on one condition: Vyasa would have to dictate without any break.

To ensure that his composition of the verses would match the speed of Lord Ganesha’s swift writing, Vyasa made a counter-condition—that Lord Ganesha would write only after he had grasped the meaning of the verses. After a few verses, Vyasa would throw in a difficult verse. In the time that it took Lord Ganesha to grasp the meaning of the difficult verse, Vyasa would compose several new verses in his mind. This explains why the Mahabharata consists of a mix of easy and difficult verses.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

The Lucifer Principle

If you want to know what causes barbaric nomads to unite under the banner of a new religion founded in the desert wasteland of Arabia and smash into the civilized world, carving out a vast global empire and converting hundreds of millions of people to their desert religion, you should read Howard Bloom’s 1995 book, The Lucifer Principle. Here’s an excerpt from the book’s Chapter 1, “Who is Lucifer?”: 

“Nature does not abhor evil; she embraces it. She uses it to build. With it she moves the human world to greater heights of organization, intricacy, and power.
“Death, destruction, and fury do not disturb the mother of our world; they are merely parts of her plan. Only we are outraged by the Lucifer Principle's consequences. And we have every right to be. For we are casualties of Nature's callous indifference to life, pawns who suffer and die to live out her schemes. 

"One result: from our best qualities come our worst. From our urge to pull together comes our tendency to tear each other apart. From our devotion to a higher good comes our propensity to the foulest atrocities. From our commitment to ideals come our excuses to hate. Since the beginning of history, we have been blinded by evil's ability to don a selfless disguise. We have failed to see that our finest qualities are often the generators of the actions we most abhor--murder, torture, genocide and war. 

“For millennia men and women have looked at the ruins of their lost homes, at the people precious to them whom they will never see alive again, and they have asked that spears be turned to pruning hooks and that mankind be granted the gift of peace; but prayers are not enough. To dismantle the curse that mother nature has built into us we need a new way of looking at man, a new way of reshaping our destiny.”

Bloom shows in his book that when a large group of people become united under a single religion or ideology, they transform into a brutal super-organism, which will devour everything that stands in its path and create a new order. As the group grows, its tactics become more and more brutal.

Monday, August 29, 2022

The Terrorists Eat Their Own

Stallone with Afghan mujahideen

In Rambo III

In the last three decades, three-fifths of the high-casualty terrorist attacks have been orchestrated by Muslim groups—ironically, Muslims were the biggest victims of terrorism in this period. 

The United States government organization, the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), has declared in its 2012 report that, in the first decade of the twenty-first century, the jihadists have killed more Muslims than non-Muslims. The report notes: “In cases where the religious affiliation of terrorism casualties could be determined, Muslims suffered between 82 and 97 percent of terrorism-related fatalities” between 2007 and 2011. 

According to this report, the top five countries which suffered the greatest number of fatalities in 2011 were: Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, and Nigeria. In their quest for power, the terrorist groups have been eating their own.

PS: The attached picture is of Sylvester Stallone with Afghan mujahideen in the movie Rambo III. Made in 1988, with the blessing of the American government, this movie depicts the Afghan mujahideen as the good guys who fight for freedom and are pro-West.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Petroleum: The Devil’s Excrement

First oil well in Saudi Arabia

struck in March 1938

“It is the devil’s excrement. We are drowning in the devil’s excrement. Ten years from now, twenty years from now, you will see, oil will bring us ruin.” ~ Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonzo, Venezuela's oil minister in the early 1960s, made this lamentation in 1975.

The oil exporting states of the Middle East, Arica, South America, and Asia are plagued by tyranny, corruption, economic woes, and an unending cycle of lawlessness and political instability. Iraq, Iran, Syria, Algeria, Nigeria, Sudan, Columbia, Venezuela, Libya, Angola, and Yemen have been devastated by tyranny and decades of civil war. 

The connection between oil and tyranny, and oil and violence is obvious. But the connection between oil and religion (Islam) is also obvious. 

Many of the oil exporting nations are Islamic—the Middle East holds more than half of the world's proven oil reserves. Some observers have posited that Islamic traditions, not oil, could be the real cause of the authoritarianism, gender inequality, lack of economic reforms, religious fundamentalism, and violence in the Middle Eastern nations.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Reagan’s Misadventure in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Reagan with Afghan Mujahideen

in the Oval Office (1983)

From the 1920s to the 1980s, jihad was a noble mission for the American government. The Americans did not equate jihad with terrorism; they thought that they could use the jihadists to destroy communism and Westernize the world. They associated the problem of terrorism with communism, not with Islam. After the Ottoman Empire’s dissolution in 1922, America’s greatest enemies were the communists states, while most of the Islamic states were close allies. 

President Ronald Reagan was so enthusiastic about supporting the Afghan mujahideen, who had jihadist ties, that in 1982 he dedicated the launch of Space Shuttle Columbia to “the people of Afghanistan.” In 1983, the leaders of the Afghan mujahideen groups were invited to the White House where they met Reagan in the Oval Office. Reagan’s administration funded the mujahideen groups, armed them with cutting edge weapons, glorified them as freedom fighters in government reports, and trained them in the art of insurgency, sabotage, and terrorism.   

Till the early 1970s, the Pakistani government used to claim that their country was secular. The Islamization of Pakistan happened during the reign of General Zia-ul-Haq, who came to power in 1977, through a military coup. When Reagan became the president in 1981, he declared that Zia’s regime was America’s "front line" ally against the Soviet Union. With America’s full support, Zia promoted the mujahideen groups in Afghanistan and groups like the Jamaat-i-Islami in Pakistan. He changed Pakistan’s laws to Islamize bureaucracy, education, economy, and media. 

Since the Afghan mujahideen were waging a war on the Soviet Union, they were the good guys for the Americans. The Reagan administration poured weapons worth billions into Pakistan and Afghanistan to strengthen the jihadist groups. This American policy had terrible consequences for India. After the jihadists had driven the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan, they turned their attention to India. In the late 1980s, terrorist violence escalated in Kashmir and other parts of India. Thousands died, and the Kashmiri Pandits were forced to flee from the Kashmir valley. 

There was transformation in American view of jihad after 9/11. When America itself was attacked on 9/11, the American government suddenly woke up to the fact that the jihadists were not the good guys or the allies of the West. The word “jihad” acquired a pejorative meaning in America and Western Europe. Islamism replaced communism as the ideology of anti-Western groups, and the American media started depicting the jihadists groups as the perpetrators of terrorism.

Friday, August 26, 2022

The Battle of the Sexes: Patriarchy versus Feminism

Simone de Beauvoir

By using the facts of world history, between 1800 and 1990, it is possible to argue that patriarchy can coexist with democracy, that it can facilitate rapid technological progress and economic growth, and that it can inspire good art. But every argument has a counterargument—when you posit that the world was patriarchal between 1800 and 1990, you will have to acknowledge the existence of the counterargument for patriarchy: feminism.  

Women are not an endangered minority, like the Jews in the Middle East. In all nations, there are as many women as men. In a democratic society, every citizen has one vote—this should grant men and woman an equal stake in the political system, and make both patriarchy and feminism irrelevant. But Neo-Marxist and Neo-liberal thinkers (like Simone de Beauvoir and Toni Morrison) were successful in making the case that patriarchy was authoritarian and violent, and feminism liberal and peaceful. After 1950, patriarchy started declining and there was growth in feminism. 

Can feminism coexist with democracy? Can feminism facilitate the kind of technological progress, economic growth, and artistic trends that the world has seen between 1800 and 1990? In the twenty-first century, feminism has conquered the political centerstage in all advanced democracies. It seems that patriarchy has been permanently discarded into the dustbin of history—but this has led to economic stagnation, and fall in technological and artistic standards. Also, there is no lessening in authoritarianism; people continue to be unequal and unfree.

The experience of the twenty-first century shows that feminism is as authoritarian as patriarchy. Feminism does not empower women; it does lead to gender equality; it does not strengthen democracy; it does not lead to technological progress and prosperity. Feminism is not conducive for happiness; feminist communities face the problem of drug abuse and depression. The biggest drawback of feminism (from my point of view) is that it inspires abysmal art (feminist books, paintings, music, movies are abysmal).

Thursday, August 25, 2022

The Hindu Poet Who Wrote Pakistan’s First National Anthem

Jagan Nath Azad

Pakistan’s first national anthem, Tarana-e-Pakistan, was written by a 30-year-old Hindu poet, Jagan Nath Azad. Muhammad Ali Jinnah was acquainted with Jagan’s work in Urdu poetry but he had not met the poet. In the first week of August 1947, Jinnah asked his staff to bring Jagan before him. Their meeting happened on August 9. 

Jagan had no clue why he had been brought before Jinnah. He was taken by surprise when Jinnah asked him if he had a song that could be used for Pakistan’s national anthem. He had such a song which he recited. Jinnah liked the song and he decided on the spot that it would be Pakistan’s national anthem. On the night of August 14, 1947, immediately after Pakistan became independent, Jagan’s Tarana-e-Pakistan was broadcast on Radio Lahore. 

In 1954, Pakistan officially adopted a different national anthem, “Qaumi Tarana,” written in Persian language by Hafeez Jalandhari in 1952. Jagan’s Tarana-e-Pakistan was forgotten. At the time of independence, the district where Jagan was born (the small town of Isa Khel in Mianwali District, Punjab) went to Pakistan. He migrated to India and settled in Delhi where he became a government servant.

In his Foreword to the 1993 book, Jagan Nath Azad – Hayat Aur Adabi Khidmaat, Dr Khaliq Anjum (author and general secretary, Anjuman Taraqqi-e-Urdu Hind), writes: 

“Not many people know that, while still in the land of his birth, Azad sahib wrote Tarana-e-Pakistan at the behest of the people with authority in Pakistan… What can be a greater honour, particularly for a non-Muslim, than having his Tarana broadcast from Radio Lahore immediately after the announcement of Pakistan's establishment on the night of 14 August 1947?”

Why did Jinnah award the momentous task of composing Pakistan’s first national anthem to a non-Muslim? There can be two reasons: first, by using a song composed by a Hindu, Jinnah was sending a signal to the world that he was a modern secular leader and thinker, not a religious fundamentalist; second, he got confused by Jagan’s surname “Azad,” which is used by both Hindus and Muslims—Jinnah might have believed that Jagan was a Muslim.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Mahatma Gandhi’s First Trip to Kashmir

Hari Singh in 1931

Hari Singh, the Maharaja of Kashmir, had in his personal capacity invited Mahatma Gandhi to visit his state at a time when the First World War was still going on and the latter had returned from South Africa. Gandhiji accepted the Maharaja’s invitation after more than 30 years, and decided to go to Kashmir in the first week of August 1947. At that time, India was hurtling towards independence and division, and a civil war was raging between Hindus and Muslims throughout the country. 

Why was Gandhiji going to Kashmir at a time like this? The answer to this question is not clear. Hari Singh did not want to receive Gandhiji in the state at this time. He wrote to Viceroy Lord Mountbatten, requesting that Gandhiji should cancel his trip. But Gandhiji insisted on going to Kashmir. On July 29, before leaving for Kashmir, he declared at a meeting in Delhi: “I am not going to tell the Maharaja to join India and not Pakistan. The people of Kashmir are the true owners of Kashmir.”  But there was certainly a political agenda behind his visit.

Gandhiji arrived in Srinagar, via Rawalpindi, on August 1, 1947. At that time it was not clear which way Kashmir would go. Hari Singh wanted the state to become an independent country, but the most popular politician in the state, Sheikh Abdullah, was in prison and he had not clarified his position. While he was in the state, Gandhiji had meetings with the prime minister of Kashmir, Ramchandra Kak, and with Hari Singh and his son Karan Singh. He also met Sheikh Abdullah’s wife, Begum Akbar Jahan, who requested him to get her husband released from prison. 

Kak was hostile towards the Congress party. He was responsible for arresting Sheikh Abdullah. When Jawaharlal Nehru tried to appear as Abdullah's counsel, Kak barred Nehru from entering the state. On August 11, within days of Gandhiji’s visit, Hari Singh fired Kak and placed him under house arrest. The senior officials in the state, such as the Chief Secretary, the Chief of the Army Staff, and the Inspector General of Police, were also fired. Janak Singh, who was close to Nehru, was nominated as Kashmir’s new Prime Minister.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children: Depictions of History, Hinduism & Islam

Salman Rushdie

“What is the relationship between society and the individual, between the macrocosm and the microcosm? To put it another way: do we make history, or does it make (or unmake) us? Are we the masters or victims of our times? Saleem Sinai makes an unusual assertion in reply: he believes that everything that happens, happens because of him. That history is his fault. This belief is absurd, of course, and so his insistence on it feels comic at first…

“Perhaps we are all, to use Saleem’s phrase, ‘handcuffed to history’. And if so, then yes, history is our fault. Many people—Thomas Jefferson, Alexis de Tocqueville, H. L. Mencken—are credited with some variation of the notion that ‘people get the government they deserve’, but maybe it’s possible to make an even broader assertion and say that people get the history they deserve. History is not written in stone. It isn’t inevitable or inexorable. It doesn’t run on tramlines. History is the fluid, mutable, metamorphic consequence of our choices, and so the responsibility for it, even the moral responsibility, is ours. After all: if it’s not ours, then whose is it? There is nobody else here. It’s just us.” 

~ These lines are from Salman Rushdie’s introduction to the 40th edition of Midnight’s Children

The novel’s protagonist and narrator Saleem Sinai, born at the moment when India became independent, believed that everything that happened in the past was related to his life. He believed that history was never limited to the past; it played a role in the present. Midnight’s Children is in no way anti-Islamic. Like every book by Rushdie, this book is rooted in Islamic culture, history, and religion. In fact, Hinduism (and to some extent Christianity) are presented in a negative light throughout most of the novel; only Islamic culture gets a favorable treatment. This is obvious from the characterizations of Saleem and Shiva who lead each other's potential lives. 

Saleem was of the “nose” and Shiva was of the “knees,” according to the prophecy given at the time when Amina (Saleem’s mother) was pregnant. A seer predicts: “There will be two heads—but you shall see only one—there will be knees and a nose, a nose and knees.” Amina feared that she would give birth to a monster, a two-headed child. But the seer was predicting the intertwining of two lives: Saleem and Shiva. Shiva was born at the exact moment when Saleem was born—the moment of India’s independence. He was the biological son of Dr. Aziz and Amina but was switched at birth with Saleem, by nanny Mary Pereira. Saleem grew up in a rich and cultured household, while Shiva was raised in a slum by Wee Willie Winkie, a poor accordionist.

The leading characters in the novel are Muslim. Just three of the important characters are Hindu (all three are named after Hindu Gods and Goddesses): Shiva "of the Knees,” “Parvati-the-witch,” and Padma Mangroli. The characterization of Shiva, Parvati, and Padma is negative—they are not outrightly villainous and boorish, but they are not cultured. Saleem married Parvati, but despite being a real witch, she failed to make him fall in love with her. So she started an affair with Shiva. After separating from Parvati, Saleem began a relationship with Padma, whose name is derived from the River Ganges and Goddess Laxmi, and who serves as the audience for his narrative.

Monday, August 22, 2022

An Advance Review of Shah Rukh Khan’s Pathaan

In all fairness, I only saw Pathaan’s trailer. But I absolutely hate it. I won’t be watching it. In this movie, there are no real Pathans, a la Alauddin Khalji. There is just lily-livered Shah Rukh Khan attempting to appear menacing and macho, and failing in the attempt miserably. 

Centerpiece of the trailer are the car chase scenes. Shah Rukh is desperate to imitate Mad Max. But he is not mad enough to drive like Max. He is downright woke; he is like a posh and snotty brat with febrile ego and a jumbo jet sized sense of entitlement. With his face, de-aged by botox and makeup, and his body, puffed up by fake six-pack abs, he appears very creepy. 

As far as the movie’s romantic angle goes, the cockroaches prancing on your kitchen floor might be more passionate and cool than bratish Shah Rukh serenading the undead, unfun, under-talented Deepika Padukone. John Abraham’s performance is unpleasant like a mosquito bite. He contributes as much as Shah Rukh in normalizing creepiness.  

The movie is a lazy attempt to make the Pathans seem hip. Wasn’t it the Pathans who devastated India during the Middle Ages: Shah Rukh wants us to forget the violence and plunder of the Khalji dynasty, the Lodi Dynasty, the Sur Empire, and the Durrani Empire. Nice try Shah Rukh, but it won’t work. Those who know history will be disappointed and furious. #boycottPathaan 

This is the worst movie trailer ever. It is crystal clear from the trailer that Pathaan is puerile, pathetic, and downright unentertaining—the kind of movie which gives you a massive headache and makes you ask: Will I watch a Bollywood movie again? If you are not a simpering-drooling-vapid fan of disgusting Bollywoodian gutter-swill, the answer will be: No. #ShahRukhKhan #Pathaan

Sunday, August 21, 2022

The Historic Blunder of 1937 & the Direct Action Day

Sarat Chandra Bose

India lost a major part of Bengal, with terrible consequences for Bengali Hindus, in 1937, when the Congress Party made a historic blunder. Despite emerging as the largest party in the 1937 election for the Bengal Legislative Assembly, the Congress Party refused to form a government. The tally was: Congress Party, 54 seats; Muslim League, 40 seats; Krishak Praja Party, 35 seats. 

Sarat Chandra Bose, the leader of Bengal Congress, wanted to form a joint government with Krishak Praja Party and some independent candidates. He pleaded with Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru that they should allow him form a government. The Congress Party failed to act on his proposal. 

At that time, the Congress Party was a divided house, and a cold war was raging between Nehru and the Bose brothers (Sarat and Subhas Chandra Bose). It is said that Nehru feared that if Sarat was allowed to form a government in Bengal, then the power of the Bose brothers within the Congress Party could surpass his power. It was important for Nehru to maintain his pole position in the Congress; his ambition was to be India’s first prime minister. He told Sarat that the Congress would sit in the opposition. 

The failure of the Bengal Congress to form a government allowed the Muslim League to grab the opportunity. They formed a government in coalition with the Krishak Praja Party. Abul Kasem Fazlul Huq, the leader of the Krishak Praja Party, became Bengal’s first prime minister. Immediately after acquiring power, the Muslim League started using the government’s machinery to strengthen its supporters, and weaken the Hindu communities. 

Sitting in the opposition benches, the Congress Party did little to stop the Muslim League from misusing the government machinery. This led people to believe that the Muslim League was the party of power in Bengal, and they started moving away from the Congress Party. In a letter (dated April 4, 1939) to his nephew Amiya, Subhas Chandra Bose wrote: “... Nobody has done more harm to me personally and to our cause in this crisis than Pandit Nehru…”

By the end of the 1930s, the Muslim League’s position in Bengal had improved considerably and the Congress had suffered a decline. In 1943, the Muslim League was in a position to form a government on its own, with Sir Khawaja Nazimuddin, a close confidant of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, as the prime minister. In 1946, H. S. Suhrawardy took control of the Muslim League in Bengal. 

In the election held in 1946, the Muslim League, led by Suhrawardy, won 113 seats, while the tally of the Congress, led by Sarat Chandra Bose, was 86. Thus, in the decisive period when India was hurtling towards independence, Suhrawardy was occupying the powerful position of prime minister in the crucial frontline region of Bengal. He moved decisively to promote his supporters in key positions in Bengal’s bureaucracy and police. 

In July 1946, Jinnah announced that August 16 would be the Direct Action Day. With this call for direct action, he had stirred the communal fury of the Muslims. This was a call for violence against the Hindus. It was clear that Suhrawardy’s government was with the groups which were planning large-scale violence in Bengal, but the British government did not deploy its military. 

August 16 is often described as the start of the “The Week of the Long Knives.” Most historians have blamed the members of the Muslim League, Suhrawardy in particular, for the mass killings which began on the Direct Action Day. Sir Frederick John Burrows, the British Governor of Bengal in this period, condemned Suhrawardy for misusing the police force for directing violence against Hindus. More than 10,000 people were slaughtered within four days following the Direct Action Day. Thousands of women were raped, mutilated, and murdered. 

A day after the violence had commenced in Bengal, the Hindu groups in Calcutta mobilized under the leadership of Gopal Chandra Mukhopadhyay (Gopal Patha) to defend themselves. There was large scale killing and destruction of property by both sides. When Suhrawardy saw the violent response from the Hindu groups, he sued for peace. A peace was negotiated but it did not last. The killings spread to other parts of the country; the violence continued till August 1947.

Saturday, August 20, 2022

The Date When the Muslims Became a Minority

Lt. Gen AAK Niazi signing 

the Instrument of Surrender

In the Middle Ages and the early modern age, the Muslims were not a minority in the Indian subcontinent. Their number was much less than the Hindu population, but they did not believe that they were a minority—they saw themselves as conquerers of new territory and the propagators of Islam. They believed that the whole world belonged to Islam. 

Even after August 15, 1947, when India and Pakistan became independent, the Indian Muslims did not see themselves as a minority. In their speeches and writing, the prominent Muslim intellectuals and politicians in India and Pakistan predicted that India’s democratic experiment was a madness that won’t last for long and that an Islamic regime would soon be established. They exhorted the Muslims to seek inspiration from the tales of the Mughal sultans who had once ruled over large areas of the Indian subcontinent.

The realization that they were a minority in India dawned on the Muslims (the Muslim intellectuals and politicians) after the 1971 war in which the Indian army decisively defeated the Pakistani army, and Pakistan got divided into two parts, with Bangladesh becoming an independent nation. It became clear that the bond of Islam was not strong enough to keep West and East Pakistan united. With the breakup of Pakistan, the idea that India would one day become an Islamic country died, and the Muslims started seeing themselves as a minority.

The Muslims became a minority in India on 16 December 1971—this is the day when the Pakistani military surrendered to the Indian military in what remains to date the largest surrender of soldiers since the Second World War.

Friday, August 19, 2022

On India’s Frog-in-the-well Foreign Policy

Modi and Netanyahu (July 2017)

For decades after independence, India took a frog-in-the-well approach to foreign policy because of Jawaharlal Nehru’s two utopian convictions—first, his conviction that capitalist nations are imperialistic and the communist nations are peaceful; second, his conviction that India must maintain its secularism by disarming the Hindus and appeasing the Muslims. 

Nehru was India’s first prime minister, and also the longest serving foreign minister. For seventeen years, from 1947 to 1964, he kept the portfolio of foreign minister with himself, and became the architect of India’s frog-in-the-well approach to foreign policy. 

Due to his suspicion of capitalism and blind faith in communism, Nehru disregarded the horrors of Stalinism and Maoism and took India into the Soviet block. In theory, India was part of the non-aligned group of nations, and free of the Soviet and American blocs, but in reality, the country was nothing more than a Soviet submarine floating in the Indian Ocean. Much of India’s economic potential and geopolitical power was frittered away in supporting the Soviet communists. 

In 1954, President Eisenhower offered American assistance for modernizing the Indian army and making it capable of taking on the Chinese. Nehru refused to let the Indian army be tainted by the touch of the American capitalists—he argued that there was no need to modernize the Indian army, since the communists would never attack us. The myth that communists are peaceful was shattered in 1962, when the Chinese invaded India and took possession of Indian territory.  

Nehru died in 1964, apparently from a broken heart caused by the “Chinese betrayal,” but India continued to pursue Nehruvian foreign policy till 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed. With the end of the Soviet Union, the myth that the future of the world was communist was shattered, and India, freed at last from Soviet control, began to make overtures towards America and Western Europe, and that led to far-reaching economic and political changes in the country.  

To keep the Muslim population happy, Nehru made support for Palestine and opposition to Israel a fundamental pillar of his foreign policy. Muslims comprise just 15 percent of the country’s population, but the interests of the 85 percent Hindu population, many of whom consider the Israeli Jews as their natural allies, was ignored, and for much of twentieth century India was part of the cabal of Islamic nations which openly called for Israel’s annihilation. 

The Islamic nations, including the Palestinians, were led by warlords and religious fundamentalists—India, being a liberal democracy, had nothing in common with these tyrannical regimes. The people of India got absolutely no geopolitical, economic, or technological benefit from their government’s policy of supporting the Palestinians and condemning Israel—what they got was global opprobrium for being on the side of tyrannical regimes which sponsor terrorism.

After 1988, India was facing the problem of terrorism sponsored by Pakistan, Afghanistan, and some Middle Eastern and North African regimes. Between 1988 and 2015, thousands of Indians died in terrorist incidents. The Kashmiri Pandits were forced to flee from their ancestral homeland in the Kashmir valley. Instead, of condemning the terrorists, the Islamic countries glorified them as Mujahideen and Fedayeen (soldiers of Allah who fight for the Islamic cause). 

The Muslim influence on India’s foreign policy was so powerful that no Indian prime minister dared to visit Israel. The unwritten Nehruvian rule that no Indian prime minister shall ever set foot on Israel’s soil was finally broken in July 2017, when Narendra Modi visited Israel on an invitation from Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Acharya Kripalani: On The Orgy of Violence in 1947

Acharya Kripalani and Sardar Patel

During his speech before the Congress Working Committee on 15 June 1947, Acharya Kripalani talked about the terrible atrocities perpetrated on women and children in the orgy of communal violence that had engulfed the Indian subcontinent. He said:

“I have seen a well where women with their children, 107 in all, threw themselves to save their honor. In another place, a place of worship, fifty young women were killed by their menfolk for the same reason. I have seen heaps of bones in a house where 307 persons, mainly women and children, were driven, locked up and then burnt alive by the invading mob… The fear is not for the lives lost, or of the widows’ wail, or the orphans’ cry, or of the many houses burned. The fear is that if we go on like this, retaliating and heaping indignities on each other, we shall progressively reduce ourselves to a stage of cannibalism and worse. In every fresh communal fight the most brutal and degraded acts of the previous fight become the norm.” (History and Culture of the Indian People: Struggle for Freedom, by R. C. Majumdar; Page 781)

Historians have described this violence as the birth pangs of two nations, India and Pakistan. More than one million people died. Close to two million lost their homes. Hundreds of thousands of women were raped and mutilated. There was a massive exchange of population in the two new countries: between 10 to 20 million people were displaced. 

It can be argued that the violence that India experienced in this period was minor in face of the 120 million lives consumed in Europe during the First and the Second World Wars, and the tens of millions of lives consumed by Stalinism in the Soviet Union and by Maoism in China. But there was something exceptionally macabre about the Indian violence—it was not orchestrated by state level actors; it was orchestrated by the masses who were filled with anger, suspicion, and fear. Ordinary people, most of them armed with homemade weapons, were in the streets to kill those who were of another religion.

In his book, R. C. Majumdar blames the Islamic supremacist doctrines of the Muslim leaders and the naive utopianism of the Hindu political leadership for the violence. He notes that while Mahatma Gandhi was preaching “Hindu-Muslim” brotherhood, the Muslim ideologues like Mohammad Iqbal were preaching the doctrine of Islamic supremacy. Blinded by their idealism, Gandhi and other Hindu politicians failed to make an objective assessment of the radicalization that was happening in the Muslim communities. They failed to take measures for defending the Hindu communities. Here’s an excerpt (page 792 of Majumdar’s book):

“It would, perhaps, not be unreasonable to hold that an important contributing factor to the tragic events that took place was the failure of Hindu leaders to make a proper assessment of the feelings and attitude of the Muslims and a realistic, instead of idealistic, approach to the Hindu-Muslim problem, to which attention has been repeatedly drawn in this volume. The difference between these two kinds of approach may be best illustrated by the ‘Hindu-Muslim Brotherhood’ preached by Gandhi and the ‘requisites of Indian nationality’ from the Muslim point of view, as expounded by Muhammad Iqbal.”

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Salman Rushdie’s Portrayal of Indira Gandhi

Feroze and Indira Gandhi

In his book, Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie has used the imagery of a witch, who is known by the sobriquet “the Widow,” for characterizing Mrs. Indira Gandhi. Published in 1981, when she was the prime minister, the book contains several passages which berate her tyrannical policies during the 21-month period, from 1975 to 1977, when she imposed a state of emergency on India. 

As if depicting Mrs. Gandhi as a tyrannical witch was not enough, the early edition of Midnight’s Children contained (in Chapter 28) a sentence which heaped further indignity on her. Here’s the controversial sentence which makes the allusion that Mrs. Gandhi’s was cruel towards her husband Feroze Gandhi: “It has often been said that Mrs. Gandhi's younger son Sanjay accused his mother of being responsible, through her neglect, for his father's death; and that this gave him an unbreakable hold over her, so that she became incapable of denying him anything.”

There was nothing new that Rushdie was saying in this sentence. Most biographers of Indira Gandhi have said that her marriage with Feroze Gandhi was painful to both. They mostly lived apart. Feroze Gandhi died at the age of 52 in 1960.

Mrs. Gandhi was so pained by the sentence in Rushdie’s novel and by her portrayal as a tyrannical witch that she threatened to sue him and his publisher Jonathan Cape. According to the account that Rushdie has given in his Introduction to a new edition of Midnight’s Children, his lawyers told Mrs. Gandhi’s lawyers that they would retaliate by dragging her before a British court and creating a political scandal. The dispute was settled out of court when Rushdie agreed to remove the offending sentence from later editions of Midnight’s Children

Indira Gandhi’s unsavory portrayal in Midnight’s Children might have played a role in motivating her son Rajiv Gandhi, who became the prime minister after her assassination in 1984, to ban Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. According to news reports, Rajiv banned the book because Rafiq Zakaria, Syed Shahabuddin, and a few other Muslim leaders advised him that this book would hurt Muslim sentiments. But I believe that his decision to ban the book was motivated by his desire to punish Rushdie who had tarnished his mother’s reputation in Midnight’s Children.

Within ten days of its publication on 26 September 1988, Rajiv Gandhi banned The Satanic Verses from being sold in India—thus, India became the first country to ban this book. The Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a death-fatwa against Salman Rushdie more than four months after Rajiv Gandhi had banned The Satanic Verses.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

The Communal Politics of Muhammad Iqbal

Muhammad Iqbal is India’s most popular Urdu poet. An abridged version of his poem, “Sare Jahan Se Achha Hindustan Hamara,” is played as a patriotic marching song for the Indian Armed forces. It is said that Mahatma Gandhi sang this song 100 times while he was imprisoned in Yerawada Jail in Pune in the 1930s. This song has been featured in several Bollywood films; it has been sung by major Indian artists, including Lata Mangeshkar. 

After independence, Indians accepted Iqbal’s poems even though he was an Islamic supremacist. He had no sympathy for Hindus; his political ambition was to ensure that Muslims prevailed over the idolatrous Hindus in the Indian subcontinent. A powerful politician, he held number of high positions in the All India Muslim League. During the 1920s and 30s, he was the principal ideologue of Islamic supremacy. After the creation of Pakistan in 1947, Iqbal was named the country’s national poet. He was also named "Mufakkir-e-Pakistan" (“The Thinker of Pakistan”).

In his book, History and Culture of the Indian People: Struggle for Freedom, historian R. C. Majumdar notes that Iqbal was the primary architect of the violent division of the Indian subcontinent and the creation of Pakistan. 

On page 536 of his book, Majumdar writes: “The most important consequence of the doctrine preached by Iqbal was the slow but steady growth of the idea of a separate homeland for the Muslims in India.” Majumdar is talking about Iqbal’s doctrine of pan-Islamism and Islamic supremacy. Iqbal rejected the idea that the conflict in India was between the Indians and England. He believed that the real conflict was between Hindus and Muslims. (Page 534). 

Iqbal preached that Islam was a unique religion because in it political power was inseparable from religious doctrine. He believed that Islam transcended all national boundaries. He said: “I confess to be a Pan-Islamist. The mission for which Islam came into this world will ultimately be fulfilled, the world will be purged of infidelity and the worship of false gods, and the true soul of Islam will be triumphant, .. . This is the kind of Pan-Islamism which I preach… Islam as a religion has no country.” (Page 534)

During his Presidential Address at the Allahabad session of the Muslim League in December 1930, Iqbal suggested that Muslims would violate the tenets of their religion if they shared political power with Hindus or any non-Muslim group. For him, it was unthinkable that Muslims should live in a democratic country where they were not in majority. He insisted that Muslims must fight for the creation of an Islamic system based on sharia. Here’s an excerpt from his address: 

“The religious ideal of Islam… is organically related to the social order which it created. The rejection of the one will eventually involve the rejection of the other. Therefore the construction of a polity on national lines, if it means a displacement of the Islamic principle of solidarity, is simply unthinkable to a Muslim. This is a matter which at the present moment directly concerns the Muslims of India.” (Page 535) In his speech, Iqbal justified the “Muslim demand for the creation of a Muslim India within India”. (Page 536).

[The quotes in this article are from History and Culture of the Indian People: Struggle for Freedom, by R. C. Majumdar.]

Monday, August 15, 2022

The Religion of Peace in Our Time

Peace dove statue

Togo, Africa

The notion that Islam is a religion of peace is the most popular cliche of our time. But in the Middle Ages and the early modern age, Islam was not called the religion of peace. Why just Islam—earlier than the twentieth century, there is no record of any religion, including the peacenik religions like Buddhism and Judaism, being granted the lofty title, “religion of peace.” Islam was enshrined with the title “religion of peace” in the 1920s, due to the efforts of Indian scholars and politicians who were fighting for India’s independence. 

In his 1927 essay (published in Young India), Mahatma Gandhi wrote: “I do regard Islam to be a religion of peace in the same sense as Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism are.” In 1930, the Indian scholar Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi published his book The Religion of Peace. The book’s introduction begins with this declaration: “Islam is a religion of peace. Peace cannot exist without goodwill and toleration.” But the notion of Islam being a religion of peace did not gain currency in the West, and after India’s violent partition in 1947, this notion lost its appeal among Indiana. 

In the 1970s, the Islamic countries of the Middle East, flush with petroleum revenues, started investing in a project for rebranding Islam as the world’s only “religion of peace.” The irony is that these Middle Eastern countries were simultaneously spearheading global movements which aimed to establish Islamic supremacy in non-Islamic countries. 

Initially, the use of the phrase “religion of peace” for Islam was confined to the Islamic scholars, but after 9/11, this phrase was adopted by the leftist intellectuals and journalists in America and Western Europe—they started a worldwide campaign to ignore the violence being orchestrated by the Islamic movements and depict Islam as a religion of peace. Once this phrase was adopted by the Western leftists, it became popular in India. Most Indian intellectuals, who tend to blindly ape the intellectual trends of the West, started calling Islam a religion of peace. 

By 2005, the phrase “religion of peace” had become synonymous with Islam in most democratic countries. This was despite the fact that 90 percent of the wars, riots, and insurgencies from 1970 onwards were being fueled by Islamic grievances. The terrorism that the world has experienced after 1990 was mostly motivated by Islamic movements. In the twenty-first century, the countries with significant Islamic populations have a high level of authoritarianism (most are ruled by dictators), low levels of socioeconomic development, and are mired in political and religious violence.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

The Islamization of the West

It is not surprising that the long arm of the fatwa caught up with Salman Rushdie in New York. America is fast becoming the global epicenter of Islamization. Joel Richardson’s 2009 book, The Islamic Antichrist, is on the correlation between the prophecies regarding end of days in Biblical and Islamic texts. In the book’s Chapter I, “Why This Book? Waking up to the Islamic Revival,” he suggests that America might become an Islamic country by 2050. Here’s an excerpt:

“The annual growth rate of Islam in the U.S. is approximately 4 percent, but there are strong reasons to believe that it may have risen to as high as 8 percent over the past few years. Every year, tens of thousand of Americans convert to Islam. Prior to 2001 most reports have the number at roughly twenty-five thousand American converts to Islam per year. This may not sound like much, but this yearly figure, according to some Muslim American clerics, has quadrupled since 9/11. That’s right: since 9/11 the number of American converts to Islam has skyrocketed.”

According to Richardson, most conversions are happening in America’s urban areas. He writes: “The greater Chicago metropolitan area for instance is home to well over 350,000 Muslims. Greater New York City has twice that number with over seven hundred thousand Muslims.” He rues that many of the new converts were getting radicalized. America’s elite universities and mosques are as guilty of producing Islamic radicals as the madrasas in non-Western countries. He offers similar statistics for the nations in Western Europe.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

The Fatwa Catches Up With Salman Rushdie

Fatwas, like diamonds, are forever. The long arm of a fatwa caught up with Salman Rushdie after 33 years. Except durability, fatwas and diamonds have nothing in common. In the 1953 movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Marilyn Monroe sang, “diamonds are a girl's best friend.” It would have appeared macabre if the words of her song were, “fatwas are a girl's best friend.” 

I have read several of Salman Rushdie’s books, including The Satanic Verses, which he published in 1988 and which snagged him the fatwa in 1989, turning him into an international celebrity. The issue of the “satanic verses” (satanic suggestion) is the biggest and the oldest controversy in Islam. In the last 1400 years, the “satanic verses,” which praised the three Pagan goddesses of Arabia, were interpreted by Islamic theologians in all sorts of ways. Most modern Islamic theologians have cast doubt on the historicity of the incident which led to these verses. They claim that these verses are a myth. 

The issue of satanic verses is a theological minefield. Rushdie stepped on this minefield when he published The Satanic Verses, even though his book has little to do with the actual theological controversy in Islam. His book is on alienation and identity crisis.

Truschke’s Glorification of Aurangzeb & Denigration of Brahmins

Kashi Vishwanatha Temple

Audrey Truschke has written the worst book ever on Aurangzeb. The one saving grace of her book Aurangzeb: The Man and the Myth is its brevity. I did not have to spend more than five hours reading it. In the book’s Chapter 1, “Introducing Aurangzeb,” she sets the tone for her book by lashing out against her favorite whipping boy: Hindutva. She imposes on the BJP the sinister sounding label of “Hindu nationalist party,” and she excoriates the BJP leaders for renaming Delhi’s Aurangzeb road. 

Having performed the ritual of blaming the Hindutva forces, she goes on to make this comment: “We need a fresh narrative about Aurangzeb. Here I offer one such story.”

It is pertinent that she should call her book a “story.” Indeed, her book is a story; it does not come remotely close to being a work of history. She has written a novel which has as its protagonist a character called Aurangzeb. Her Aurangzeb does not resemble the historical Aurangzeb, who, in his quest for political power, tortured and slaughtered tens of thousands of people, including his own brothers and other close relatives. He imprisoned his father. Wars and genocides against Hindus were a constant feature of his reign—according to historian Jadunath Sarkar, during Aurangzeb’s reign India’s population saw a steep decline. 

Truschke’s Aurangzeb is a complete antithesis of Jadunath Sarkar’s Aurangzeb. Her Aurangzeb is an avuncular figure—elderly, wise, kind, and loving. In several passages in the book, Truschke surprises her readers (readers like myself who have read Sarkar) by arguing that the conflict between Shivaji and Aurangzeb was the former’s fault. She absolves Aurangzeb, laying much of the blame on rulers like Shivaji. She blames Hindus for the violence that happened in this period. She seems to lament that Aurangzeb and rulers like Shivaji did not end up happily ever after. 

She insists that Aurangzeb did not destroy temples and commit genocide of Hindus; she insists that he protected the temples and he loved Hindus. In the final section of Chapter 1, she writes, “Aurangzeb did not destroy thousands of Hindu temples (a few dozen is a more likely number). He did not perpetrate anything resembling a genocide of Hindus… He protected the interests of the Hindu religious groups, even ordering fellow Muslims to cease harassing the Brahmins.” 

In Chapter 4, “Administrator of Hindustan,” Truschke presents Aurangzeb as the epitome of piety, culture, and sophistication, and Shivaji as a man who was looked down upon “as an uncouth upstart” by not only the Islamic political elites but also the Rajputs. She writes: “Indeed, unlike most Rajputs, Shivaji lacked exposure to Persianate court culture.” But why should Shivaji accept Persianate court culture? He was not a vassal of Aurangzeb. He was a Maratha warrior and an independent ruler—what is wrong with him living by the tenets of his Indian culture?

Truschke wants her readers to believe that Aurangzeb destroyed only those temples which were involved in rebellion. In Chapter 6, “Overseer of Hindu Religious Communities,” she claims that Aurangzeb destroyed the Vishvanatha Temple in Benares because the local landlords rebelled against his rule and some of them were “implicated in Shivaji’s escape” from Agra in 1666. The destruction of Keshava Deva Temple in Mathura, she insists, was also due to political reasons—the Brahmins there were collaborating with Shivaji and they had been patronized by Dara Shukoh, Aurangzeb’s elder brother and his main rival for Delhi’s imperial throne. 

In one particularly silly passage in Chapter 6, she claims that Akbar was more serious about preserving the Sanskrit texts of Hinduism than the Brahmins. She vacuously writes: "Akbar took Brahmins to task for misrepresenting Hindu texts to lower castes and hoped that translating Sanskrit texts into Persian would prompt these arrogant leaders to reform their ways.” In the following paragraph, she delivers an obnoxious racist rant against the Brahmins: “Aurangzeb similarly evinced concern with elite Brahmins deceiving common Hindus about their own religion and was perhaps especially alarmed that Muslims were falling prey to charlatans. Brahmins may even have profited financially from such ventures."

She suggests that Aurangzeb ordered the building of Gyanvapi Masjid in the exact place where the Hindu temple had been razed because he wanted to punish those who had rebelled against his authority. “The Gyanvapi Masjid still stands today in Benares with part of the ruined temple’s wall incorporated in the building. This reuse may have been a religiously clothed statement about the dire consequences of opposing Mughal authority.”

Thus, according to Truschke, the Brahmins were responsible for India’s woes—Aurangzeb destroyed India’s temples because the Brahmins were bad. She makes the case that the Hindus made a mistake by cooperating with the Marathas and other Hindu kings and rebelling against Aurangzeb’s regime. There are passages in which she is blaming Hindu kings for destroying the temples of rival Hindu kings: “Hindu kings targeted another's temples beginning in the seventh century, regularly looting and defiling images of Durga, Ganesha, Vishnu, and so forth.” 

In the book’s final Chapter 8, “Aurangzeb’s Legacy,” she presents Aurangzeb as a progressive and secular ruler. She writes: “He was not interested in fomenting Hindu-Muslim conflict—a modern obsession with modern stakes—but he was fixated on dispensing his brand of justice, upholding Mughal traditions, and expanding his grip across the subcontinent.” The first part of Truschke's statement contradicts the last part—she fails to acknowledge that Aurangzeb could not uphold Mughal traditions and expand his grip across the subcontinent without decimating the Hindus. 

Truschke has criticized Jadunath Sarkar in several passages—this is because her aim is to refute Sarkar’s history of Aurangzeb. But her history or story of Aurangzeb smacks of ignorance, frivolity, and racism—her book does not come close to Sarkar’s detailed, masterful, and scholarly work. This is how I would summarize her book in three lines: Truschke’s book is a brazen project to whitewash history and humanize Aurangzeb. It is a hatchet job on rulers like Shivaji and the Hindu masses who suffered during Aurangzeb’s reign. Truschke is not a serious historian.

PS: The image used in this article is a 1915 picture of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple that was destroyed on Aurangzeb’s orders in 1669. In 1780, the temple was rebuilt by the Maratha ruler, Ahilyabai Holkar of Indore. This temple has recently been renovated.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

The Flop Called Laal Singh Chaddha

Aamir as Laal Singh Chaddha

Laal Singh Chaddha has flopped because it is a dumb, horrible, and crappy remake of Forrest Gump. This movie’s screenplay is more asinine than it needs to be. Its dialogues are irritating; its songs are nauseating. Aamir Khan’s performance is pretentious and inane. Kareena Kapoor’s performance is stupefyingly hideous. Some movies cause a headache; Laal Singh Chaddha is so awful that it causes a full body ache. This is the worst Bollywood movie of the year so far. 

As an actor, Aamir belongs to the dustbin of Bollywood history—and as a political thinker (ranter), he belongs to the special hell which is reserved for tyrants, nihilists, and Marxist journalists. I will admit, every time I see Aamir on TV, smugly and pretentiously pontificating on politics, culture, and Hinduism, I want his films to flop and all trace of them to disappear into the bottom of the Indian Ocean. In his interviews, Aamir sermonizes like an intellectual, and pretends to be an expert on Indian issues; sadly, the journalists who interview him lack the integrity to inform him that he’s not.

The one good thing about Laal Singh Chaddha is that it is such a super-duper flop that there is little chance of Aamir daring to plague Indians with a sequel. Maybe he will stop making movies; maybe he will stop giving interviews. #BoycottLaalSinghChaddha

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

V. D. Savarkar On Mahatma Gandhi’s Politics

V. D. Savarkar

Between 1927 and 1929, V. D. Savarkar wrote the monograph titled The Gandhian Confusion. As the title suggests, this monograph is his furious and passionate outburst against the confusion (anarchy) created by Mahatma Gandhi’s style of politics. In Chapter 1, “The Way to Freedom,” Savarkar begins his tirade against Gandhiji with these words:

“When, about a year and a half, Mahatmaji announced that, renouncing politics, he would devote himself to the constructive programme of Khadi, every patriot—fed-up with his crazy and wasteful politics and disappointed at the loss caused by that politics in the past six years and at the misdirection our country suffered due to the confusion—had indeed felt a bit relieved. It was believed that, at least now onwards, Gandhiji would cease to meddle unduly in politics that is beyond the ken of his knowledge, intelligence and power; stay away from the anti-national agenda of dampening the spirit of our youth with the useless quibbling over ‘ahimsa’, ‘asahakarita’, ‘vidhayak karyakram’ etc. and just stick to his Charkha. 

"But you see him attending the National Congress, upholding that old crazy programme and dispatching utterly trash letters with reference to the Nagpur Satyagraha and thus continuing to dabble in politics in spite of his declaration—‘I won’t be in active politics.’” 

In Chapter 2 of his monograph, “Gandhiji and these Naive Hindus,” Savarkar alleges that Gandhiji defended Abdul Rashid: 

“How natural it is that when Gandhiji called Abdul Rashid ‘bhai’ (brother) and infuriated the whole Hindu world, he spoke in his defense! Every actor has to act in such a way to give the best justice to his role. We all know that the whole world is a stage and we all are the actors. As Gandhiji is playing the role of a Mahatma (a noble soul) it is but natural that his dialogues should be such as to lend colour to that role and not like a petty mortal like Samartha Ramdas who says, “To be proud of what is just is not to be proud at all. Because justice and injustice can never be equal,” and defends the caste into which he is born.”

In December 1926, Abdul Rashid had killed the Arya Samaj leader Swami Shraddhanand. I don’t think Gandhiji defended Abdul Rashid, but he failed to denounce him in strong language. In his article, “Hindu-Muslim-Tensions: Causes and Resistance,” published in Young India in 1922, Gandhiji had criticized Shraddhanand. Conservatives like Savarkar felt that, by his criticism, Gandhiji had emboldened and encouraged the Islamic hardliners and that led to Shraddhanand’s assassination.

In Chapter 3, “Which is the Religion of Peace?” Savarkar rejects Gandhiji’s contention that Islam was a religion of peace. He summarizes the violent history of Islamic conquests in a couple of paragraphs and notes that the invaders destroyed thousands of temples in India and forcibly converted a large part of the population. He points out that there is no historical record of the Marathas, Rajputs, and Sikhs breaking any mosque or forcibly converting the Muslims, and then he sarcastically asks: “So, which one is the religion of peace – Hinduism or Islam?”

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Cultures Don’t Survive

Descent of Ganga

“Cultures don't survive, cockroaches do. The second we stopped being cockroaches, the whole species went extinct.” 

“Civilization is just a lie we tell ourselves to justify our real purpose. We're not here to transcend. We're here to destroy.” 

~ William to his host doppelgänger in Westworld (Season 4, Episode 7)

William is being cynical and nihilistic, but there is an element of historical truth in his statements. A society of cultured people seldom survives. The invaders, plunderers, and destroyers often prevail—they often manage to cause irreparable, irreversible damage to the ancient cultures.  

In the seventh century, when Islam arrived in South Asia, the population of the Indian subcontinent was 400,000,000—56 precent of the world’s population was living here. In the eighteenth century, when the Mughal Empire declined and power in most parts of the Indian subcontinent went to the British and Hindu groups, the population was just 140,000,000. (I have used the figures from Wikipedia’s “Demographics of India” page.)

Thus, between the seventh and the eighteenth centuries (the period of Islamic invasions and dominance), the population fell by 65 percent. This calamitous decline in population happened because people were dying in large numbers due to wars, riots, starvation, political prosecution, lawlessness, and psychological problems. Despite suffering terrible atrocities for more than a millennia most people did not give up their religion and Hinduism survived.

PS: I have used an image of Raja Ravi Varma’s 1890 painting, Descent of Ganga with this article. Even though this painting is not related to the subject of my article.

Monday, August 8, 2022

Jadunath Sarkar’s History and the Truth About the Mughals

Jadunath Sarkar

In 1915, during his Presidential speech at a historical conference in Bengal, Jadunath Sarkar talked about his approach to writing history: 

“I would not care whether truth is pleasant or unpleasant, and in consonance with or opposed to current views. I would not mind in the least whether truth is, or is not, a blow to the glory of my country. If necessary, I shall bear in patience the ridicule and slander of friends and society for the sake of preaching truth. But still I shall seek truth, understand truth, and accept truth. This should be the firm resolve of a historian.” (Quoted in The History and Culture of the Indian People, Vol. 7, by R.C. Majumdar)

Prominent Indian historians like Romila Thapar and Irfan Habib have tried to whitewash the Mughal period. They have presented the Mughal dynasty as a series of good kings. Sarkar’s attitude towards history is different—in his books, he takes an objective look at the Mughals. He does not try to whitewash the intolerance, decadence, sadism, and religious fundamentalism of the Mughals. He has produced some of the most balanced and informative books on the Mughals. 

In his 1917 book Anecdotes of Aurangzeb and Historical Essays (page 12), Sarkar writes: 

“On 2nd April, 1679, the jazia or polltax on non-Muslims was revived. The poor people who appealed to the Emperor and blocked a road abjectly crying for its remission, were trampled down by elephants at his order and dispersed. By another ordinance (March, 1695), all Hindus except Rajputs were forbidden to carry arms or ride elephants, palkis, or Arab and Persian horses. With one stroke of his pen he dismissed all the Hindu clerks from office. Custom duties were abolished on the Muslims and doubled on the Hindus.”

Sarkar informs his readers about Aurangzeb’s attacks on Hindu faith. On page 11 of his book, he reveals that in April 1669, Aurangzeb had ordered his provincial governors to “destroy the temples and schools of the Brahmans… and to utterly put down the teachings and religious practices of the infidels.” Sarkar talks about several major Hindu temples, including the Vishwanath temple at Benares and the Kesav Rai's temple at Mathura, that were pulled down on Aurangzeb’s orders. 

In the books of most historians the information regarding Mughal atrocities is suppressed—those who have not read historians like Sarkar would not know the truth about the Mughals. In the 1940s, Sarkar could see that Bengal was hurtling towards a communal disaster. In a letter to Dr. G. S. Sardesai, Sarkar expressed his pessimism. He wrote: “The administration is hopelessly inefficient and dishonest and as no improvement can be expected in the course of things, the future of the Hindus here (Calcutta or Bengal) is unspeakably dark.”

Sunday, August 7, 2022

The Profound Revolution: The Battle of Plassey

1762 painting of Clive meeting Mir Jafar 

after the Battle of Plassey

The Islamic invasions of the Middle Ages had no other justification except to convert humanity and establish a global Islamic order. Colonialism had no other justification except to Westernize humanity and establish a global Western order. After the crusades and the Spanish Reconquista, India became a major battleground between Islam and the colonialists. 

The first Islamic attack on Indian soil happened in 636 AD. The Arab armies had subdued Persia, Syria, Turkey, Egypt, Carthage, and Spain in just 80 years. But so ferocious was the Indian resistance that despite several attempts over a period of three hundred years, the Arabs could not conquer India. It is true that Muhammad bin Quasim captured Sindh in 712, but after his death, the territory went to the Rajputs. Five hundred years after the first Arab attack, the Turks and the Pathans managed to conquer a significant part of Indian territory. 

The Indian resistance to the Islamic invasions never ceased. The Islamic regimes were constantly under attack. In the 17th century, Maratha power arose in central India. Within three decades of Aurangzeb’s death in 1707, the Marathas became the biggest and most powerful empire in India, and then a stalemate was reached between the Hindu and the Muslim forces. Neither side was in a position to completely subdue the other and claim all of India. British Colonialism arrived in an India that was deeply divided between warring Hindu and Muslim forces. 

The first batch of British traders landed in India in 1608, at the port of Surat. But the British became a colonial power after they defeated Siraj-ud-Daulah at the Battle of Plassey in 1757. In the ongoing contest between the Hindus and the Muslims, the British victory at Plassey had the impact of tilting the balance of power in favor of the former. 

Under the influence of their religious leaders, the Muslims had refused to learn English, and they maintained a sullen distance from the British. But the Hindu community was largely open-minded and inclusive—they eagerly learned the new language and became exposed to Western philosophy, science, and political doctrines. They came up with new interpretations of their ancient literature, philosophy, and religious texts. They founded new reform movements, educational institutions, and global trading companies.

Within three decades of Plassey, the Hindu population had marched fifty years ahead of the Muslims in terms of intellectualism, wealth, science, and political acumen. In the middle of the nineteenth century, the Hindu renaissance was underway.

Saturday, August 6, 2022

A Note on the Indian Dark Age

Poster of the 1952 movie 

Anand Math

Like the Europeans, the Indians too had their Dark Age, which extended from the tenth century (the rise of the Ghurid dynasty) to the eighteenth century (the decline of the Mughal dynasty). The Islamic rulers had conquered a significant part of India, but their face was always turned towards the Arabian desert. They did not assimilate with the Hindus; they did not become Indianized; they never overcame their nomadic and militaristic character. 

In this Dark Age of eight hundred years, the Hindus became disconnected from their ancient philosophy, culture, and political systems. Many of India’s important temples and universities were destroyed. This resulted in the Hindu mind becoming barren. The Hindus lost their political and creative instinct, and their religious zeal. They withdrew from the public arena—the fields of politics and culture—and retreated into politically ineffective and socially fractured cults. 

A significant section of the population became skeptical about the philosophy,  practices, and political potential of Hinduism and they converted to Islam.  

Hindu renaissance began in the middle of the nineteenth century, and it had a decisive impact on Indian literature, philosophy, education, and art. Western and Hindu scholars investigated the ancient Hindu texts and came up with new commentaries. Most Hindus had little knowledge of their Vedic and Upanishadic past—a series of essays and books published in this period led to historical and cultural awakening. The philosophy of aggressive Hinduism developed by Pandit Sasadhar Tarkachuramani, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, and others became very popular.

In the twenty-first century, the Hindu renaissance is more than 160 years old (taking 1860 as the beginning), but it is still in progress.

Friday, August 5, 2022

The Consequence of the Loss of Ancient Gods

Great Sphinx of Giza

The civilization of the Egyptians is as ancient as the civilization of India’s Hindus and the Ancient Greeks. But the Egyptians lost their Gods, and therefore they lost connection with their ancient culture, which gave birth to the awe-inspiring Pyramids. 

Such is the pull of Islam that, in the twentieth century, the Egyptians abolished the ancient name of their country. In 1958, when they formed a political union with Syria (including the Gaza Strip), they tried to Arabize themselves by adopting the name United Arab Republic. The Egyptians retained the name United Arab Republic even after the union of their country with Syria was dissolved in 1961. Then in 1967, they went to war with Israel over a piece of land—Palestine—that had no connection with Egypt. In 1971, President Sadat, brought back the old name Egypt.  

Islam is the only religion that possesses the pull to make people as ancient as the Egyptians give up their traditional religion and their sense of historical continuity. Christianity does not make people renounce their past to the extent that Islam does. When the Europeans converted to Christianity (after the fourth century), they did not renounce their Greek and Roman heritage. They continued to use the legal systems, cultural ideas, political systems, and Greek and Roman mythology. Modern Europeans and Americans take pride in their Greek and Roman heritage. 

There is an important lesson for Hindus in this—if the Hindus lose their Gods, then they might lose their ancient heritage and their country. The Hindu Gods are the providers of our Hindu identity. Film actors like Aamir Khan, who portray Hindu Gods in a denigrating manner in their films, are not the well-wishers of the Hindus. By denigrating Hindu Gods, they are trying to subvert the culture and politics of this country. Their films should be boycotted. #BoycottLaalSinghChaddha