Will Durant

“Bloodiest story of human history” and its long shadow on a resurgent India

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Never since the bloodbath of the Partition in 1947 which cost two million lives have Muslims and Hindus been so disenchanted with each other as of now and understanding its complexity could steer clear a resurgent India from becoming a prisoner of its past.

Rioters have taken to streets, cost lives and burnt public property worth millions since the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) was passed by the Parliament in the closing days of 2019. Despite Indian prime minister Narendra Modi putting all doubts to rest with a rousing speech to a mammoth crowd in the Capital, there has been no letting up on the angst on either side.

The Act in essence eases up the citizenship process for the persecuted religious minority, including Hindus, in three Islamic republics of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan but its opponents want Muslims covered too even though they are not in minority in these countries and there are other avenues for them to gain Indian citizenship.

First students of a few Muslim educational institutions and then the rioters have made violent headlines and now supporters of the Citizenship Act are filling up the streets, albeit peacefully, but there is little mistaking that Muslims and Hindus are standing on the two sides of the great divide.

“Bloodiest story of human history”

Hindus historically resent almost a millennium-long persecution (8th to 18th century) at the hands of Muslim invaders who forged empires and inflicted what historian Will Durant described as the “bloodiest story of human history.” The wounds festered further when India was amputated of its western and eastern parts on the call of Muslim leaders on religious grounds by the departing British in 1947. The newly-formed Pakistan since then has forced India into four wars and supplied terrorists to turn Kashmir into a killing field. That scores of riots between the two since independence has claimed more than 10,000 lives has only bloodied the nation’s fabric.

Hindus further simmer that the Congress party, which ruled most in independent India, has “appeased” Muslims with funds and doles, created a minority affairs ministry with a separate budget and yet championed “secularism” from the rooftop. Muslims have control on their religious and educational institutions but the same is denied to Hindus. Hindus fear that such “appeasement” could cause another break-up of India like it did at the independence.

Muslims, on their part, largely detest the rise of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which Hindus view as essentially one of its own.  The party is in its second term with full majority under a hugely popular prime minister Narendra Modi who arguably has done more for Indian Muslims than Congress. Yet a series of events, such as overturning of triple talaqs (instant divorce), abrogation of special rights to Jammu and Kashmir and the favourable judicial verdict for a temple for Hindus’ deity Lord Rama in Ayodhya, has made sizeable number of Muslims long-faced.

A doctored Liberal narrative

The Liberal discourse, which controls the narrative, has largely tried to whitewash India’s violent experience with Islam and tried to present a composite Hindu-Muslim history though the truth is the great tradition of India’s ascetics and saints never caught the fancy of Muslim hearts. Nor India’s rich philosophy mattered to Muslim invaders but for a handful of notable exceptions.

Indian and Muslim literatures have largely run a parallel course. Pre-Muslim Indian history or Hindu heroes find no mention in Muslim annals. Muslim rulers have largely been indifferent to India’s magnificent traditions of sculpture. Some synthesis in language and music, or architecture, has been spruced up as proof of harmony. But it’s a stretch of imagination. Oppressors have never been seen indigenous by natives anywhere in the world. For example, Thanksgiving Day carries completely different connotations for White Americans than it does for Red Indians. While one celebrates it as the day when Pilgrim Fathers stepped on to the American soil, the Red Indians view it as a day of mourning.

The present disquiet has reopened the old wounds. While it is true that Indian Muslims by and large are peaceful, as perhaps are their majority in the world, yet it only takes a few to cause upheavals around the globe and bring Islam’s violent historical past on to the centrestage. Muslims need a credible, constructive leadership, at least in India, which speaks up against entitlement, support moves which free up their women from hardliners, and backs the long-pending Constitutional demand of a Uniform Civil Code which could help get rid of a few regressive Sharia (Islamic) laws. Till a voice emerges from within for one people, one nation, the historical suspicion of two-nation theory, which gave birth to Pakistan, would remain fresh in the mind of Hindus.

Liberals ensure that anything that makes Muslims uncomfortable must be branded as “hate” or “Islamophobia.” This puts the reformation on back-burner. Till it’s encouraged, societies around the world would be convulsed into turmoil, be it in Europe or in India.

 

Are you “fringe or “mainstream”, Mr Varma?

Pavan Varma–his snobbery must never be mistaken for gravitas, never homespun but unmistakably Western—writes in Times of India that “fringe” and “mainstream” is one and the same thing when it comes to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He gives instances to imply that BJP is promoting sectarian violence, artistic intolerance, rewriting history and imposing public morality.

At the outset, Varma must decide whether he is a “fringe” or “mainstream” of BJP. After all Janata Dal (United) is in power in Bihar because of BJP’s support and Varma is its national general secretary. If BJP is anathema to him, why lounge with them? And conversely, by tolerating a “fringe” like him, doesn’t “mainstream” (BJP) show itself to be different and plural? How “fringe” and “mainstream” then is the same for BJP? Any idea, sirji?

A BJP MP from Maharashtra goes public in his criticism of Narendra Modi and paints the town red. Yet, this “fringe” is never pulled up by the “mainstream.” How would Varma describe this “fringe” and “mainstream” as the same?

Dr Subramaniam Swamy is a Rajya Sabha member because of thinly disguised support of the BJP. Yet, he loses no opportunity to lash out at arguably number two in the BJP government, Arun Jaitley. Why the “fringe” Swamy and the “mainstream” Jaitley aren’t the same in this instance?

In trying to impress his case, Varma treats the questioning on “Taj Mahal” as virtually blasphemy. If the spirit of questioning is met with the same “intolerance” that Varma exhibits then the world would still have been flat and earth still the centre of universe.  He has objection to Islamic rule—around 800 years– being called a period of “extreme exploitation, insane barbarism, and unprecedented intolerance. “

Varma, a History student, probably hasn’t heard of Ibn Batuta who gives a contemporary account of 14th century Delhi where decapitated and mutilated bodies are strewn at the door of palace of Sultan, daily. Nor that Batuta was given scores of Hindu sex slave girls for his pleasure. Varma probably has also not heard of historian Will Durant who wrote in his Story of Civilization, “the Mohammedan conquest of India was probably the bloodiest story in history.” Or more contemporary V.S. Naipaul who lamented that Hindu civilization was “mortally wounded” and “ancient Hindu India” was destroyed by these invasions.

Yet Varma wouldn’t allow us the blasphemy of questioning “Taj Mahal” or “Islamic rule.” He has problem with “fringe” Dina Nath Batra on his conviction of ancient India and the “mainstream” Narendra Modi sharing the belief. While  modern giants of quantum physics today acknowledges the contribution of Vedas; if a Fields Medal (mathematics Nobel) winner concede that Sanskrit texts and ancient seventh century mathematician Brahmagupta  helped his quest, Varma would like us to believe his bogus and compromised intellectualism and not these verified truth. Such moribund persons would still mock at Ram Setu even as modern science is beginning to accept its existence.

Varma would do well to examine the “fringe” and “mainstream” overlapping of Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal or Pinaryi Vijayan in Kerala. We await his verdict on “fringe” Jignesh Mewani and “mainstream” Rahul Gandhi on caste polarization. He can enlighten us with his views on “fringe” abuses of our elected Prime Minister by “mainstream” AAP, SP and BSP leaders.

It’s time our myopic intellectuals get a ball transplant.