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Silly Point : After Aurangzeb, who?

Where is India’s policy towards Islam?

A small news item tweeted that Aurangzeb Road in Lutyens’ Delhi which houses some of the richest men in India has been renamed by the New Delhi Municipal Council as “A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Road”. This is not the first time that Aurangzeb has been targeted by Hindutva enthusiasts or Sikh leaders. Typical of the reaction was a comment by a friend close to the RSS, “Imagine naming a prominent avenue after Aurangzeb, the butcher of Islam. It is like naming Wall Street after Hitler. If they had to honour one of the sons of Shah Jahan, why not choose Dara Shikoh who translated the Upanishads into Persian?”

A similar controversy envelops Akbar who tried to subjugate the Rajput states by conquest of territory or the maidenheads of nubile Rajput princesses and has a prominent road named after him, while Maharana Pratap is not invested with the aura of the heroic personality that he so richly deserved.

All this is typical of India’s ambivalent attitude towards Islam and Muslim heroes. The fact is that many of the invaders who conquered parts of India or looted the country were Muslim. They left a long trail of destruction in their wake. According to an estimate by Konrad Elst and Francoise Gautier, 800 million Hindus were killed between AD 1000 and 1800. I have not come across any figure of the amount looted in the numerous raids by the Ghaznis, the Ghoris, the Mongols, the Taimur Langs and the like, but it must have been in millions of rupees.

At the same time, Islamic leaders have this abiding impression that the global expansion of Islam was halted by the huge landmass of the Indian subcontinent. Islamic scholars have portrayed the Brahmins as crafty ideologues who were able to keep their flock together in spite of the jaziyas and the qatl-e-aams ordered by the Muslim invaders. They forget the tremendous allegiance to Hinduism shown by the leaders of the community, while Islam could only browbeat the poor Sudras into conversion.

They tend to gloss over the terrible stories of inhuman repression by the Muslim rulers as in the brutal murder of Guru Tegh Bahadur in a kadhai of boiling oil or the internment alive of the seven-year-old and five-year-old children of Guru Gobind Singh in a wall. Or the skinning of Banda Bairagi with red hot iron salakhs. Or the similar treatment meted out to Sambhaji Maharaj. Their only sins, not forswearing Hinduism and accepting Islam instead.

The current confusion in the Hindu psyche is directly descended from the attitude taken by important leaders like Gandhi and Nehru during the freedom struggle

The current confusion in the Hindu psyche is directly descended from the attitude taken by important leaders like Gandhi and Nehru during the freedom struggle. The Mahatma took Jesus literally with regard to the turning of the other cheek to your tormentors. So the more Jinnah and the Muslim Leaguers fulminated against the Hindus, the more Gandhi tried to placate them with passive resistance. In 1946, when the future of India was still being debated, much to the consternation of Patel, Nehru and Azad, Gandhi offered the Prime Ministership of an undivided India to Jinnah. One shudders to think of the consequences of this course of action!

Fortunately, Nehru did not follow the Mahatma in his frequent forays into the arid terrain of theoretical morality. But even he created the totally gratuitous concept of minorities in the Constitution. This blossomed into the support given to institutions like the Aligarh Muslim University considered by some perspicacious observers as the fountain- head of Muslim communalism and fanaticism in the country. Another major source of bitterness and hate are the madrassas which tend to keep the Muslim children in a perpetual state of sanctified illiteracy. The State has given enormous sums of money to subsidise the Haj pilgrimage, the only such subvention given to believers of any religion.

Interestingly, the Christians, Muslims and Sikhs manage their own shrines, while state after state has taken over the management and control of Hindu shrines. The civil code of the Hindus was totally revamped by Nehru who saw himself as a latter-day Manu, in the teeth of opposition by stalwarts like Purushottam Das Tandon, while the directive principle of a uniform civil code for all citizens of India is not making any progress because of the opposition vented by Islamic clerics. The triple talaq, abolished even by Islamic countries as the foundation of male oppression of womenfolk, still survives in secular India.

The most decisive step of Partition, although too drastic and taken with utmost reluctance as a kind of final solution to the problem of Islam, was not implemented with bona fide intentions and full vigour. All the Muslims were supposed to migrate to Pakistan, but only 4.1 million did, leaving the bulk of the Muslims in India. The Hindu population in Pakistan was reduced from 15 per cent in 1947 (before the impact of Partition was felt) to 1.6 per cent in 1951 and then stabilised at 1.6 per cent in 1998, while the percentage of Muslims in India fell from 25 per cent in 1945 (in undivided India prior to Partition) to 10.4 per cent in 1951 and subsequently rose steadily to 14.2 per cent in 2011.

Behind the poison mouthed by persons like Owaisi, there is an unwritten text, namely, the historical fact that Muslims ruled India for almost eight centuries. They strongly feel that when the British left, they should have restored the status quo ante and handed the sovereignty back to Muslims. They do not pause to consider the minor point that the current male successor to the throne of Bahadur Shah Zafar might be plying a tonga in downtown Lucknow. Considering that many devout Muslims hold the belief that the final goal of their faith is to convert the whole world to Dar-al-Salam (Land of Islam), India is the obvious place to start.

THAT explains the tenacity of the rulers of Pakistan, whether civilian or military, to dismember India by hook or by crook. They tried to wrest Kashmir by force in three bloody wars. They send out a constant stream of terrorists to bleed and destabilise India. They have manipulated a demographic solution in Kashmir by forcing the entire community of seven lakh Kashmiri Pandits out of the Valley. Now they are targeting Jammu where new Muslim colonies are coming up in droves with Pakistani money. They are also forging a grand nexus with all the secessionist forces in the rest of India.

Islam does not have only an ugly face to frighten its potential victims. It also has a benevolent visage which features the Sufi saints, like Khwaja Mohiuddin Chisti of Ajmer and Sheikh Nuruddin alias Nund Rishi of Kashmir, the Urdu poetry that pokes mild fun at the Kaaba and the masjid, the Sheikh Sahib and the Brahmin. It has apologists like Maulana Wahiduddin Khan who says, “All terrorists are Muslims, but all Muslims are not terrorists.” He says that the injunction to kill or convert the Kaafirs was not aimed at the Hindus: it could not have been, as there were no Hindus in the Arabian desert. Kaafir meant one who did not believe in God, not one who did not follow the path of Islam.

And what of the rumour that all Bollywood film producers have been advised by Dawood Ibrahim and his coterie of dons to give the top stellar roles only to the Khans and that all Muslim actors have necessarily to append Khan to their names to convey the impression that they belong to royal families? They have also been directed to marry Hindu girls. The whole strategy is an extremely subtle one. The attempt is to make Love Jihad possible by subverting the loyalty of Hindu girls to men of their own religion.

What is India’s response to this Islamic onslaught? I am sure that clever bureaucrats in the MHA must have written learned papers with inputs from the academicians of JNU and so on, but what have we done? The fact of the matter is that there is no coherent proactive policy to ensure that Islam does not sweep India under a vast tsunami of conversion.

The only response comes from the Sangh Parivar. But the approach is ad hoc, tardy and ham-handed. Take the ghar wapsi programme. It entails influencing girls who have been enticed or cajoled by Muslim boys into marriage. Only a small percentage can be persuaded to return. But even if it is a handful, a tremendous publicity campaign accompanies the initiative. The impression given is that the persons concerned are doing it not out of a commitment to the cause but primarily to score brownie points with the big guns at Nagpur.

LOOK at the controversy over the phrase ‘Vande Mataram’ which is a salutation to the Motherland. Or the fracas over the Surya Namaskar, which is a yogic asana performed with the body facing the rising sun. In both cases some Muslim hardliners have taken the specious plea that Islam forbids its followers to pay homage to anyone other than Allah. What the Prophet forbade was not the show of respect to venerable individuals or institutions like the parents, the teacher and the nation. But our governments, of whatever hue, in a bid to preserve their vote banks, have bowed down to such unreasonable demands.

Similarly, there is little prospect of the most ignominous genocide in the history of the country involving Kashmiri Pandits, the oldest residents of the Kashmir Valley, being reversed. What has been offered is a ghetto-like existence in a walled township which no self-respecting individual will stomach.

There is a theory doing the rounds which hails the advent of Modi as the beginning of a new era (even the legendary Nostradamus has been pulled into the witness box) when India will become a superpower. Hindus will stop practising their ancient habits of tolerance and peaceful coexistence which, according to some foreign scholars, constituted a kind of “death wish” for the entire community.

There is little prospect of the most ignominous genocide in the historyof the country involving Kashmiri Pandits, the oldest residents of the Kashmir Valley, being reversed. What has been offered is a ghetto-like existence in a walled township which no self-respecting individual will stomach

There are a few assorted straws in the wind. The Maharashtra government has banned the slaughter of bulls as a corollary of the ban on cow slaughter. India has ostensibly ordered its armed forces to give a befitting reply to violations of ceasefire along the LoC with Pakistan. Pakistan has been told in no uncertain terms that India cannot accept the Hurriyat as a legitimate third party in the talks on the future of Kashmir. There have been some provocative statements by leaders of the Sangh Parivar and Modi has maintained a stoic silence to pleas that he should chastise them. Modi has made personal gestures like presenting the Bhagvad Gita to some heads of State, admitting that Swami Vivekananda is his main source of inspiration or releasing a digitised version of the Ramcharitmanas.

But that is about all. India is miles away from the kind of policy which Australia (for example) has pronounced from the housetops, telling Muslims in no uncertain terms that they voluntarily migrated to that country. No one went out to invite them. If they wish to stay on, they would have to obey Australian laws. Their children would have to attend government schools and recite the prayers to God even though their religion permits them to pray only to Allah! Or else, they are free to leave.

Basically, Modi has a problem. As a former swayamsewak of the RSS, his heart is with the Hindus. But his stint as Prime Minister has already brought home to him the compulsions of electoral arithmetic. There is not even a whisper now about the rebuilding of the Ram Mandir at Ayodhya, or the promulgation of a common civil code, or the abrogation of Article 370 and many such promises made in the BJP’s election manifesto.

Even the Sangh Parivar is reluctant to upset the applecart. Earlier, they used to chant, “Mandir wahin banayenge” (we shall reconstruct the temple at the same site). Since they assumed the mantle of silence, I sometimes jocularly ask the Shakha Adyaksha of the RSS shakha in my colony on my morning walk, “So, Guptaji, where are you rebuilding the mandir?” Guptaji smiles a wan smile and sheepishly avers, “In the same place, Sir.” I shout back a query, “When?” There is no answer. Guptaji has hastened away.

The Sangh Parivar can, therefore, at best give minor pinpricks to the proponents of Islam by banning beef and renaming the streets. The million dollar question now is: After Aurangzeb, who?

MK Kaw is a former Secretary, Government of India. (The views expressed are those of the columnist.)

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