Tuesday, July 31, 2012

India: Fissures In Assam: Sons Of Soil Vs Bangladesh Intruders – OpEd

B. Raman

The persisting fissures in Assam, which periodically lead to outbreaks of communal violence, are not between Indian Muslims and non-Muslims. They are between Indian sons of the soil, whatever be their ethnicity, religion or language, and Bangladeshi intruders.

The failure of successive Governments to deal effectively with continuing illegal immigration from Bangladesh by sealing the border, by strengthening border controls and by identifying and throwing back the illegal immigrants is giving rise to understandable concerns in the minds of the sons of the soil that they are being inexorably reduced to a minority in their own homeland.

There are even suspicions and fears of political and administrative connivance in facilitating the illegal migration and the integration of the illegal migrants with our own citizenry. The extent of these suspicions and concerns was evident from the observations of a Bodo student in an NDTV debate on the night of July 28,2012. He alleged that due to inaction by successive Governments the Muslims constitute 75 per cent of the population in certain areas.

While his figures seemed to be exaggerated, officials in our intelligence and security establishments agree that the failure of the State and Central Governments to counter head-on the problem of illegal immigration is eroding our internal security machinery in the North-East.

There are similar suspicions and concerns in the Rakhine State of Myanmar over the non-stopping illegal immigration of Muslims, known as Rohingyas, from Bangladesh. The anger among the sons of the soil over these intruders from Bangladesh periodically leads to outbreaks of violence between Muslims and non-Muslims.

There was one such outbreak recently in which there were about 80 fatalities and the internal displacement of a large number of persons who live in camps. A state of emergency was proclaimed by the Myanmar Government in the entire State and the Army was deployed to restore and maintain order and communal peace. Despite this, total normalcy has not yet been restored.

The Myanmar Government, security forces and political leaders including Aung San Suu Kyi have been maintaining firmly that the problem in the Rakhine State is one of effective enforcement of law against foreign intruders. Suu Kyi, who is a strong defender of the ethnic rights of Myanmar’s ethnic minorities, has steadfastly refused to recognise the Rohingyas as an ethnic group of Myanmar. They are looked upon as intruders from Bangladesh who have no right to enjoy the same rights as the citizens of Myanmar.

Despite pressure from the UN , the Organisation of Islamic Countries and Western non-governmental human rights organisations, the Myanmar Government has been firmly adhering to the view that these illegal migrants should either go back to Bangladesh or migrate to other countries that might be prepared to accommodate them.

Compared to India, Myanmar is a weak country. In spite of that, it has stuck to its position that it cannot extend the same protection and legal benefits to illegal migrants as it extends to its sons of the soil.
We call ourselves a big power. We pride ourselves on our national strength. And yet, we do not have the national will to act firmly and decisively against the Pakistan-based terrorists and the Bangladesh origin illegal migrants who are slowly corroding our internal security.

The failure to admit and address the problems posed by the presence of a large number of Bangladeshi intruders in Assam and the continuing further intrusion is due to various factors such as political opportunism, political and administrative complicity with the intruders and an inability and unwillingness to understand the strategic threat posed by them to peace and harmony in Assam.

The problem is rendered even more explosive by the insensitive attitude of the indigenous Muslims of Assam. They are one of us. They are our co-citizens entitled to the same rights and protection as you and I. But their misplaced feelings of religious solidarity with the Muslim intruders from Bangladesh and their tendency to downplay the extent of illegal migration and the threats posed by the migrants are creating suspicions in the minds of the non-Muslim sons of the soil.

The indigenous Muslim sons of the soil should identify themselves with the feelings, suspicions and concerns of the non-Muslim citizens. They should be in the forefront of national solidarity. Otherwise, the wedge between the Muslim and non-Muslim sons of the soil could grow wider and create more tensions and violence.

It is time for the Governments at the Centre and in the State, the political parties, the administration and leaders of the indigenous Muslims to do a serious introspection over the gathering concerns in Assam and act unitedly against the intruders from Bangladesh. Ideas being floated by some think-tanks orchestrated from outside India for regularising the stay of the migrants by issuing them work permits are harebrained and should not be touched.

The only solution is stopping further illegal immigration through border fencing and identifying and
throwing out those who have already come in. There is no question of their illegalities being regularized.

B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai and Associate, Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com

Monday, July 23, 2012

Putting the Fallouts of the Islamic Invasion and British Occupation in Perspective

Alamgir Hussain

A major part of the history of India is characterized by two major foreign rules: the Islamic invasion and the British occupation. The Islamic invasion started with the assault of Muhammad bin Qassim in 712 on the order of Hajjaj, the governor of what is now Iraq, and it took until 1690 for the Muslim rulers to conquer India completely. The fall of Islamic rule started with the British East India Company's capture of Bengal in 1757, during the days of Industrial Revolution in Europe. The British rulers took almost 150 years to capture the entire sub-continent from the hands of its Muslim rulers.

Since childhood, the people of the subcontinent keep hearing stories of the British occupation of India and their 190 years of exploitative imperial rule but the stories of the Islamic invasion and centuries of Muslim domination are rarely being mentioned and discussed. This amazing policy of silence regarding the Islamic invasion of the subcontinent is interesting. And whatsoever is discussed about the Islamic rule in India is all good and dandy and often glorious. Recently, a group of people from the subcontinent have launched a call to celebrate "The Siraj-ud-Dowlah Day" which will be an occasion to glorify the sacrifice of Siraj-ud-Dowlah, the last Nawab of Bengal. He was defeated by the British mercantile mercenaries in 1757 in the battlefield of Polashi (Plassey), which marked the beginning of the British rule in India. The celebration of such an event will definitely be another opportunity to vilify the British occupation of India as well as to glorify the rule of the last Muslim Nawab in Eastern India.

In recent years, some people from the sub-continent have been daring to delve into the "other episode" of foreign invasion of India, i.e., the Islamic conquest, which hitherto has remained mostly shrouded in a policy of silence or denial and a de-facto prohibition. While the liberals and the rationalists of the subcontinent are adamant against critiquing the fallout of the Islamic conquest, they have no problem criticizing the British occupation and exploitation of India with extreme vigor. They take refuge in the tradition of silence or negation about the fallout of Islamic invasion and rule of India and yet, they are highly vocal in condemning the fallout of the British occupation. Interestingly, however, some people have recently started asking for putting the fallout of Islamic invasion and rule of India in the spotlight alongside that of the British occupation.

India, before the Islamic invasion, was one of the world's great civilizations that matched its contemporaries, both in the East and the West, in the realms of philosophy, mathematics, and natural science. Indian mathematicians discovered the number zero and algebra (Bijganita in Sanskrit). After the Islamic invasion, these texts were translated into Arabic and Persian and were transmitted to the Islamic world and ultimately to Europe via Spain. Muslims mistakenly and unfairly take credit of these contributions to Mathematics and Science as their won. India's sculptures were magnificent and sensual and her architectures were ornate and spellbinding. Following the Islamic invasion, many of these indigenous achievements, became part of so-called Islamic civilization.

There has been too much of talk about the "divide and rule" policy of the British Raj where British administrators had created division between Hindus and the Muslims during their rule in India. An overwhelming majority of the sub-continent people believe this policy to be the root cause of communal troubles that we witness in India today. There is a deeply entrenched belief that the concept of religious intolerance between the Hindus and the Muslims was totally absent in India until the British devised this malevolent scheme to keep the Hindus and Muslims engaged in fighting each other. Many people in the sub-continent believe that this was a clever ploy so that they (the British) could continue to rule India while the people remained divided over religious disharmony. There cannot be any bigger untruth than the assertion that religious intolerance never existed in Indian soil until the British invented it. The truth is that religious tolerance and harmony hardly ever existed in the sub-continent throughout the centuries of Islamic rule. Destruction of temples, oppression and forced conversion of the Hindus, especially around the urban areas all over India, were common phenomenon during the Islamic rule. The Bahmani sultans in central India made it a rule to kill 100,000 Hindus a year. In 1399, Teimur killed 100,000 Hindus IN A SINGLE DAY, and many more on other occasions [Negationism in India]. Even during the late period of the Islamic domination of India, Emperor Aurangzeb (rule 1658-1707) re-imposed the "religion tax or Jiziya" on the Hindus and other people of indigenous religions. Aurangzeb was a champion destroyer of Hindu temples. Amongst the famous temples he destroyed were: the Kashi Vishvanath, one of the most sacred places of Hinduism, Krishna's birth temple in Mathura, the rebuilt Somnath temple on the coast of Gujurat, the Vishnu temple, overlooking Benares that was replaced with the Alamgir mosque (Alamgir is another name of Aurangzeb), and the Treta-ka-Thakur temple in Ayodhya. Aurangzeb's own official chronicles have recorded mind-blowing figures of temple destruction. Aurangzeb had ordered his provincial governors to destroy all schools and temples of the pagans and to make a complete end to all pagan teachings and practices. The Aurangzeb's chronicle sums up the temple destructions as follows:

"Hasan Ali Khan came and said that 172 temples in the area had been destroyed... His majesty went to Chittor and 63 temples were destroyed. Abu Tarab, appointed to destroy the idol-temples of Amber, reported that 66 temples had been razed to the ground.." Aurangzeb did not stop at destroying temples only, their users were also often wiped out; even his own brother, Dara Shikoh, was executed for taking an interest in Hindu religion. The Sikh Guru Tegh Bahadur Singh was beheaded because he objected to Aurangzeb's forced conversions. Even during the rule of Mohammad Shah after Aurangzeb's death, Persian ruler Nadir Shah invaded of India (1738-39) and killed an estimated 200,000 people in Northern India alongside plundering and looting.

The Islamic assault on India started in the early 8th century, on the order of Hajjaj, the ruler of present-day Iraq. Starting in 712 the raiders, commanded by Muhammad bin Qasim, demolished temples, shattered sculptures, plundered palaces and killed vast numbers of men. It took three whole days to slaughter the inhabitants of the city of Debal followed by taking their women and children to slavery, including the taking of young women as sex slaves. After the initial wave of violence, however, bin Qasim tried to establish law and order in the newly-conquered lands, and to that end he even allowed some degree of religious tolerance. But upon hearing of such humane practices (contrary to the Koranic doctrine), his superior, Hajjaj from Baghdad objected, writing:

"It appears from your letter that all the rules made by you for the comfort and convenience of your men are strictly in accordance with religious law. But the way of granting pardon prescribed by the law is different from the one adopted by you, for you go on giving pardon to everybody, high or low, without any discretion between a friend and a foe. The great God says in the Koran [47.4]: "0 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. You should not be so fond of showing mercy, as to nullify the virtue of the act. Henceforth grant pardon to no one of the enemy and spare none of them, or else all will consider you a weak-minded man."

In a subsequent communication, Hajjaj reiterated that all able-bodied men were to be killed, and that their underage sons and daughters were to be imprisoned and retained as hostages. Muhammad bin Qasim obeyed, and on his arrival at the town of Brahminabad massacred between 6,000 and 16,000 men.

Muhammad bin Qasim's early exploits of slaughter and destruction were revived in the early eleventh century, when Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni conquered Punjab in 17 attempts of plundering expeditions between 997-1021. Alberuni, the great Islamic scholar whom Mahmud brought to India, depicted Mahmud's invasion of India as:

"Mahmud utterly ruined the prosperity of the country, and performed there wonderful exploits, by which the Hindus became like atoms of dust scattered in all directions, and like a tale of old in the mouth of the people. Their scattered remains cherish, of course, the most inveterate aversion toward all Moslems."

The acts of destruction of Hindu temples and Buddhist monasteries etc. by the Muslim invaders in India have no parallel in the history of any conquest. While blasting the British for their atrocities in India, French journalist and political author Francios Gautier writes, "The British were certainly not the Muslims, whose ruthlessness and atrocities have never been equaled in India's history. Nevertheless, they did their fair share of harm to India, which has not yet really recovered from two centuries of Raj. ["Facets of India: Ancient and Modern"].

Even very late in the Mughal rule, ruler Haider Ali [1722-1782] of Mysore used to order destruction of Hindu temples. In most incidences, after a mosque was destroyed, the remains and especially the remains of the destroyed idols were used as materials for the construction of the mosque. There have been descriptions of slaughtering the Hindu priests or the protectors of the temples as a ritual for purification of the place of idol-worship with the blood of the infidels. Such vivid descriptions of savagery mostly come from the works of the Muslim historians and writers, one of them include even the highly liberal and benevolent disciple of great Sufi dervish, Nizamuddin Awliya. A few examples of barbaric atrocities of Muslim invaders and rulers of India, recorded by the Muslim historians themselves, are listed below:

Shahab-ul-Din, King of Ghazni (1170-1206), put Prithwi Raj, King of Ajmer and Delhi, to death in cold blood. He massacred thousands of inhabitants of Ajmer who opposed him, reserving the remaining for slavery [The Kamiu-t Tawarikh, by Ibn-Asir]. Historian Hasan Nizami in his Taj-ul-Ma'sir gives the following account of Ghouri's Lieutenant Qutbuddin Aibak's activities:

....after the suppression of a Hindu revolt at Kol (modern day Aligarh) in 1193 AD, Aibak raised "three bastions as high as heaven with their heads, and their carcasses became food for beasts of prey. The tract was freed from idols and idol worship and the foundations of infidelism were destroyed."

In 1194 AD Aibak destroyed 27 Hindu temples at Delhi and built the Quwwat-ul-lslam mosque with their debris. According to Nizami, Aibak "adorned it with the stones and gold obtained from the temples which had been demolished by elephants".

In 1195 AD the Mher tribe of Ajmer rose in revolt, and the Chaulukyas of Gujarat came to their assistance. Aibak had to invite reinforcements from Ghazni before he could meet the challenge. In 1196 AD he advanced against Anahilwar Patan, the capital of Gujarat. Nizami writes that after Raja Karan was defeated and forced to flee, "fifty thousand infidels were dispatched to hell by the sword" and "more than twenty thousand slaves, and cattle beyond all calculation fell into the hands of the victors".

The city was sacked, its temples demolished, and its palaces plundered. On his return to Ajmer, Aibak destroyed the Sanskrit College of Visaladeva, and laid the foundations of a mosque which came to be known as 'Adhai Din ka Jhompada'.

Conquest of Kalinjar in 1202 AD was Aibak's crowning achievement. Nizami concludes: "The temples were converted into mosques... Fifty thousand men came under the collar of slavery and the plain became black as pitch with Hindus."

Amir Khusru, a disciple of the great Sufi Nizamuddin Awliya and recognized to be a liberal Sufi Muslim himself, writes in his Tarikh-i-Alai:

"Here he (Malik Kafur) heard that in Bramastpuri (Chidambaram) there was a golden idol- He then determined on razing the temple to the ground- It was the holy place of the Hindus which the Malik dug up from its foundations with the greatest care, and the heads of brahmans and idolaters danced from their necks and fell to the ground at their feet, and blood flowed in torrents. The stone idols called Ling Mahadeo, which had been established a long time at the place and on which the women of the infidels rubbed their vaginas for (sexual) satisfaction, these, up to this time, the kick of the horse of Islam had not attempted to break. The Musulmans destroyed in the lings and Deo Narain fell down, and other gods who had fixed their seats there raised feet and jumped so high that at one leap they reached the fort of Lanka, and in that affright the lings themselves would have fled had they had any legs to stand on".

The world famous historian, Will Durant has written in his 'Story of Civilization' that "the Mohammedan conquest of India was probably the bloodiest story in history".

India, before the advent of Islamic imperialism, was not exactly a zone of complete tranquility and peace like many other parts of the world. There were plenty of wars fought by Hindu princes. Despite all these wars, the Hindus had observed some time-honored conventions sanctioned by the Sastras. The Brahmins and the Bhikshus were never molested. The cows were never killed. The temples were never touched. The chastity of women was never violated. The non-combatants were never killed or captured. A human habitation was never attacked unless it was a fort. The civil population was never plundered. War booty was an unknown item in the calculations of conquerors. The martial classes, who clashed, mostly in open spaces, had a code of honor. Sacrifice of honor for victory or material gain was deemed as worse than death.

Islamic imperialism came with a different code - the Sunnah of the Prophet. It required its warriors to fall upon the helpless civil population after a decisive victory had been won on the battlefield. It required them to sack and burn down villages and towns after the defenders had died fighting or had fled. The cows, the Brahmins, and the Bhikshus invited their special attention in mass murders of non-combatants. The temples and monasteries were their special targets in an orgy of pillage and arson. Those whom they did not kill, they captured and sold as slaves. The magnitude of the booty looted even from the bodies of the dead, was a measure of the success of a military mission. And they did all this as mujahids (holy warriors) and ghazls (kafir-killers) in the service of Allah and his Last Prophet.

It is estimated that the Islamic conquest and rule in India may have resulted in killing of an estimated 50-80 million Hindus and other indigenous religion people. Such savagery can only be compared to the one committed by the Spaniards in the South American continent. Koenraad Elst estimates that out of the population of native Continental South America of 1492, which stood at 90 million, only 32 million survived; terrible figures indeed but who talks about them today [Negationism in India]? Such a towering figure of destruction of human lives by the Muslim rulers of India may appear a suspect. However, in the war of independence of Bangladesh, the Pakistanis killed 2-3 million people in just 9 month in the age of modern civilization and the world hardly took a notice of it. Hence, it is hardly impossible that Islamic rulers might have had condemned up to 80 million indigenous people to death in a vast region in a long span of almost 1000 years in the medieval age of barbarity.

The British rulers, on the other hand, ruled India mostly following a strategy of economic exploitation, which was mainly aimed at producing revenues for funneling to Britain. This was achieved by imposing high taxes on the farmers and often forcing the latter into cultivating cash-crops (jute, cotton, tea, oil seeds) useful for the Industries in Britain but not for the Indian farmers. This had caused great hardship and suffering to the Indian farmers including famines. Religious persecution, as unleashed by the Portuguese (in Goa) and the Islamic rulers, was never a part of the British rule. Although there was an clandestine and unofficial complicity to Evangelical Missionary activities, including clandestine effort to convert the Indian soldiers. Yet there is no record of mass destruction of mosques, temples or monasteries by the British rulers or mass killing of the native people for their religions or for not converting to Christianity. Neither did the British rulers ever allowed the Hindus or the Muslims to destroy either Muslim mosques or the Hindu temples throughout the great part of their rule in India.

However, one prominent but ignored (and even often condemned by the Muslims) aspect of the British rule was the long-due empowerment of the Hindus over the Muslims after centuries of iron-handed ruling and subjugation of the indigenous Indians by the Muslims. Although they kept the critical power and positions in British hand, they did give the next level of power to the hands of the Hindus, including allotment of the Zamindari activities mostly to the Hindus. This again, was not so much unjust. Hindus got those jobs because they were more educated and efficient and with their number were more authoritative to do the job of tax collection. Muslims, on the other hand, never conformed to modernity and never took interest in modern secular education introduced by the British terming it un-Islamic and were left behind.

It should be recognized that the Hindus and other indigenous people were the rightful owner of India both in terms of their number and in being the indigenous people, and the power, if not shared, should have been at the hands of the Hindus. The British Raj did a good deed towards the empowerment of the Hindu over the Muslims after centuries of subjugation and brutal suppression by the Muslim rulers.

The much hyped up "divide and rule" policy of the British has been consumed voraciously by the Hindus and the Muslims, the progressive and the obscurantist, and the liberals and the zealots alike. Yes, in the Sepoy Mutiny (Shipahi Biplob) of 1857, the Hindus did not participate as vigorously as did the Muslims. Why should they, anyway? Muslim rulers were still ruling some good parts of India. Was it going to be a wise a decision for the Hindus to join hand with the Muslims to drive away the British and establish the Nawabi and Mughal rule once again? They were definitely more privileged under the British Raj than they were under the Muslim rulers. The slavery of the Muslims once again was not a better choice, and the Hindus did just the right thing. The British rulers might have had exploited the huge chasm that existed between the Hindus and Muslims as a result of immense atrocities on the majority indigenous religion people and of massive destruction of their religious institutions by the Muslim invaders all throughout the Islamic domination of India.

Only at the fag-end of the British rule in India, the Hindu-Muslim tension flared up in a dangerous way. There has been a lot of talks and condemnations of the British role in creating Hindu-Muslim divide - yet the contribution of the British rulers in this Hindu-Muslim tension and in the resulting riots in the run-up to independence of India has not been clearly established. What we know for sure is the fact that, as Britain was counting days to end her imperial rule in India, the Muslims started a vigorous campaign for a separate state fearing that they may have to be under the majority Hindu rule in an independent and democratic India. They could never really forsake their pride of subjugating and persecuting the Hindus for centuries. That was why they needed a separate state. As this religious zealotry of the Muslims got strength, there arose the nationalistic Hindu zealotry, and that led to the much of the tension and blood-bath between the Hindus and the Muslims.

And what else the Hindus could do? Muslims came to India as barbaric invaders and ruled for centuries. In the process, Muslim rulers mercilessly oppressed and even killed the indigenous people in great numbers, looted their properties, destroyed their religious institutions and symbols, took them as slaves and raped their women. Now, when British are about to leave they wanted to divide their country as well. That was the perfect ground for giving rise to religious zealotry amongst the Hindus, and for the first time in the history of the Indian subcontinent, the Hindus, as a religious identity, raised their heads as a militant force to deter the instigatory Islamic zealots from dividing their country. The world witnessed what happened as a result of that. Let us point fingers to the right place instead of blaming the British for everything that happened around the Hindu-Muslim tensions and riots in the run to the independence. It is important to sort out the facts from the hypes and lies. It is time that we bury the hypes and lies in which our intellectuals and the commoners have indulged in for too long.

Yet, the British Raj had its own share of cruelty, whatever may be the magnitude. The bulk of the cruelty, that the British inflicted, was during the event of Sepoy Mutiny or the first war of independence in 1857. Surely, the British atrocity in the Sepoy Mutiny was gory. But atrocities were committed by both sides involved in that war. It should be understood that in the 1857 war, the British became more vindictive and cruel only after the Cawnpore (Kanpur) episode when Nana Sahib betrayed and some 210 women and children in his custody were butchered with knives and hatchets into pieces and thrown down a well. This cold-blooded murder of the innocent women and children enraged the British, including the public in Britain, so much so, that every captured rebel soldier, guilty or not, was ordered to be hanged or blow them from the mouth of cannons if facilities existed. The latter was a traditional practice used by the Muslim rulers which the British rulers had banned considering barbaric but they reintroduced it following the Cawnpore incidence. Thus, although the British committed brutality in putting down the Sepoy Mutiny, it never affected the non-combatants and the innocent women and children as was the case with Islamic brutality in India.

It should also be understood that major cause of discontent that lead to the Sepoy Mutiny, was all the good things the British Raj did in India, including the abolition of child marriage, Sati Daha and female infanticide and hunting down the deadly Thuggee cult (a cult of Kali who used to do robbery and strangulation to death of their victims, mainly travelers). Even the much-prided Indian Railway system, which started operating in the early 1850s preceding the Sepoy mutiny, was also a cause of discontent, since it was seen as a demon introduced by the British for keeping the Indians subjugated.

Another salient point that must be understood is: despite being largely an economically exploitative and often suppressive, the British Raj instituted a system of educational and cultural intellectualism that allowed the blooming of all the literary and scientific achievements, which the people of the sub-continent are proud of today and would continue to be proud of for a long time to come. Those Nobel laureates, the great literary giants like Tagore, Nazrul and Allama Iqbal and the other famous scientists of the subcontinents, including Professor Abdus Salam, were groomed by an educational and intellectual culture which was instituted solely by the stewardship of the British rulers. This glorious phase of intellectuality in India has largely died off, since the British have left. The Dhaka University, once known as the "Oxford of the East", has now lost all its prestige as an eminent educational institution with severely fallen standard in every discipline of studies. The Qaide-e-Azam University of Pakistan, which was a vibrant campus for intellectual exercise and science education, has become nothing but a University of theological interest. So is the case with the famous Muslim-administered Aligarh University in India.

India, on the other hand, since the British have left, although has maintained some good standard in education and science, yet has failed to keep up with the pace of progress and advancement in the international stage. It may be long wait before we will see another Nobel laureate emerges from the Land of Tagore, the Chandra Shekhars, Hargobind Khorana and Abdus Salam. Nor will we see very often the likes of genius scientists like Jagadish Chandra Bosu, Satyan Bose and Prafulla Chandra Roy et al. to emerge from India. Even the latest Nobel laureate from the subcontinent, Prof. Amartya Sen, was groomed in the educational environment left by the British Raj in the forties and early fifties. The great reformers of tradition and culture of the Indian society, namely Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Ishwar Chandra Bidyasagar, were also the product of intellectual and educational culture created by the British.

Furthermore, the British should be credited for the admirable railway and road communication systems in India. They instituted the modern legal and judicial systems in India. And of course, the much prided democracy - the largest democracy in the world - is also what the British left behind. One must ask the question: what would have been the situation in India if the British did not come and Islamic rulers had continued to rule India? Witnessing what is going on in the world vis--vis Islamic world, one thing that can be said for sure is that the Muslims would still be ruling India with an iron-hand. Satis would probably have still been burned and child marriage would have been widespread, since it is compatible with Islam. Education system would be characterized by the madrasas. Indeed, India had a very high standard in education and science in pre-Islamic India. But the Muslim invaders and rulers destroyed all schools and educational institutions and converted them into madrasas. As a result, India did not make any notable contribution in these areas throughout the centuries of Islamic rule. And given how the minorities are being treated in the Muslim countries and what happened to the Hindus in Bangladesh (~33% in 1947 to ~10% now) and Pakistan (~15% upon 1947 independence to ~1% now), one can be certain that Hindus would still have been doing the slavery and experiencing subjugation under the Muslims if the British never stepped onto India.

One may rise objections that such brutal and potentially explosive facts should not be spoken about lest it causes religious tensions. For this particular reason the modern historians of India, mostly from the leftist background, are probably indulging in the policy of silence, avoidance or cover-up about the Islamic atrocity in India. Yet, those who agree to the atrocities of the Muslim conquerors attempt to lighten the air by offering lame excuses such as temple destruction by the Muslim rulers were not because of hatred against the Hindus but for plundering the valuables and wealth kept there. But it is a fact that the Hindus hardly ever used to keep their valuable assets in temples. Neither does that explain as to why tens of thousands of Hindus were slaughtered on many occasions. Yet those Islamic historians, who chronicled the Islamic atrocities often under the patronage of many rulers and sometimes by the rulers themselves, never cited any such reason for the destruction of temples. Plundering the wealth kept in a temple does not require razing down the temples either. Such apologetic excuses also do not explain why mosques had to be build at the sites of many famous temples after their destruction. In fact, Indian Geological Survey has identified hundreds of mosques across India that used materials for construction from destroyed temples. A Geological Investigation team has recently confirmed the presence of structures of temple beneath the very controversial Babri mosque of Ayodhya.

Yet, it could the preferable for some people to negate the Islamic atrocities in India or maintain silence about them hoping that such a policy would maintain a semblance of harmony and peace between the Hindu and Muslim communities. Although this appears a sensible idea, yet at the same time such policy negates the recognition of such a gigantic sacrifice by our forefathers of the Indian subcontinent. If we fail to recognize this gravest of tragedy in the recorded history of India, it will be a terrible injustice to those who had to sacrifice their lives in such a tragic manner. Yet, recognition of a tragedy has always borne fruit, whilst failure to do so has resulted in repetition of the same. For the same reason, the secular patriotic Bangladeshis and freedom fighters are so eager to have the tragedy and sacrifice of Bengalis in 1971 war of independence recognized by the perpetrators (Pakistan) and by the world. For the same reason, we have the Holocaust/WWII museums in Israel, New York and Germany. Japan have recognized and apologized for the atrocities they committed in the World War II recently after 60 years of negation. Germany and Italy has recognized and apologized for their atrocities during the WWII time and again. And this recognition is not only meant for justice and recognition of those who had fallen in the said tragedies but also for preventing such tragedies from repeating in future.

Recognition of the fallout of Islamic invasion of India may be argued against fearing that it may ignite explosive violence. Yet for the sake of justice and recognition of the tragic sacrifice of our forefathers, the modern world must be able to recognize and apologize for what happened in the aftermath of Islamic occupation of India. So should the world recognize the victims of any other tragedy, be it the fallout of British occupation of India or of the barbaric Spanish crusade in the South America or of the barbaric Christian atrocities in the so-called Holy Land! If the recognition and condemnation of the British atrocities in India is not a problem, there should not be problem in recognizing and condemning fallout about of Islamic invasion. In stead, recognition of the latter tragedy becomes a moral responsibility for the sake of fairness and justice. One may argue that recognition of the tragedies of WWII and the construction of WWII and Holocaust Museums may cause tension and violence between the Neo-Nazis/White Supremacists and the Jews and for that reason, we should keep away from doing such things and maintain silence about those tragedies. Same could be said about the Bangladesh independence struggles of 1971 fearing that it would cause trouble and tension between Bangladeshi and Pakistanis. Yet, WWII memorials and Holocaust museums are being created not only as recognition of sacrifices of the fallen but also in the hope that they will act as reminders as well as deterrents for such tragedies from repeating in the future. By this parity of reasons, whether it is the tragedies of burning of millions of Satis in India, or burning millions of so-called witches by the Clergy in Europe, or the massacre of millions by Genghis Khan or the tragic fallout of the Islamic conquest in India - they should be recognized as wrongs, they should be recognized and memorials should be built not only as a symbol and gesture of honoring the sacrifice of the fallen but also as a reminder to the current and future generations so that such terrible tragedies never happen again.

There is a strong argument that talking about such forgotten tragedies may ignite the victims, namely the Hindus in India, into violent actions. Yet, these are the fact recorded proudly by the Islamic historians and rulers of India and available in original form in libraries around the world and a section of the Hindus in India are becoming aware of these tragic facts and a section of those informed Hindus are forming those radical Hindu organizations such as RSS, Kar Sevaks and VHP etc. who are seeking revenge by trying to rebuild their destroyed temples at the site of now-standing mosques. Why these people are turning violent once they get to learn about those hushed-up tragedies? It should also be recognized that highly educated and rich Hindus, such as members of the VHP, are funding these militant Hindu organizations. But why? The answer is simple. Those atrocities were terrible and heart-rending and when Hindus suddenly get to find out what has happened to their ancestors centuries ago, they feel shocked, they feel indignation against Muslims and they want revenge in whatsoever way that might be.

However, recognition of those terrible tragedies that fell on the Hindus of India after Islamic invasion and during the Islamic rule is likely to go a long way in pacifying indignant section of Hindus. An apology would advance that cause immensely. Being grown up as a Muslim, I know there is a good deal of angst amongst Muslims against the Hindus because of the Hindu Zamindars' oppressive and harsh activities in the days of the British rule. But the harshness caused by the Hindu Zamindars to Muslims is ignorable if compared to what happened to the Hindus in the days of Islamic invasion and rule of India. The Zamindars were harsh on the Hindu subjects as well - thanks to the British. However if Muslims can recognize the atrocities caused by the Islamic invaders and rulers on the Hindus, their own indignation against the Hindus vis--vis the Zamindari activities would surely be reduced, which can help strengthen relationship between both communities. Yet the facts about the Islamic atrocities, unrivalled in the history of India, are coming out into the public domain anyway - thanks to the historical details left by the Muslims historians and rulers themselves. The sooner the people of India and the Muslims in particular take steps to recognize those terrible atrocities to honor the victims, the better it is for harmonious relationship between the Hindus and Muslims living there.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

What lies in our future?

Pakistan’s future has never seemed more uncertain than it appears today. The country faces difficulties on many fronts. The economy is weakening; it appears highly unlikely that the governing coalition in Islamabad will be able to take the steps to bring growth back to the level needed to absorb two million additional workers that join the work force every year. The IMF has recently estimated that the economy needs to expand by seven per cent a year to keep unemployment from increasing. It expects that rate of growth at 3.4 per cent in 2012-13. The country’s external situation is weakening as it gets ready to service the large amount of accumulated debt, in particular, the amount owed to the IMF.

The recent agreement with the US on opening the NAATO supply route to Afghanistan will bring some financial rewards. The Obama Administration will send Congress a request to appropriate $1.2 billion for Pakistan. This money is owed to Islamabad for the services that have already been provided. Pakistan estimates the owed money at more the $3 billion. There is, however, no mention of the flow of funds from the Kerry-Lugar-Bermen bill, which was supposed to put Pakistan-US relations on a firmer ground. Even if Congress acts with dispatch — not certain that it will, given Pakistan’s very low reputation in that body — it might ease the financial situation for a while. But the basic arithmetic will not change. Pakistan spends more than it collects in taxes; it buys more imports that it is able to earn from exports.

In fact, exports are doing poorly and the trade deficit has widened. While Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, the new prime minister, has made solving the deepening energy crisis his first priority, prospects don’t look promising. Electricity shortage has resulted in loadshedding of more than half of the day in many areas, particularly in Punjab. There are also shortages of natural gas. The people are becoming restive and many have taken to demonstrating in the streets. The State Bank of Pakistan has begun to lose reserves and the rupee is under pressure as its value has declined by more than five per cent in 2012.

There are no signs of any easing of tension between the government led by President Asif Ali Zardari and the senior members of the judiciary. The Supreme Court has been relentless in pursuing cases of alleged corruption by members of the administration, including the president. It forced Yousaf Raza Gilani out of premiership and has begun to move against his successor.

“The point is that the prospect of disaster, no matter how obvious, is no guarantee that nations will do what it takes to avoid that disaster,” wrote Paul Krugman, the Nobel Laureate, in a recent column in The New York Times. His reference was not to Pakistan but to Europe, where a dithering leadership was letting the continent slip towards an economic abyss. But the possibility of disasters on several fronts does not seem to have focused the minds of the policymakers in Pakistan, either. There is a consensus both inside and outside Pakistan that most systems in the country are now dysfunctional. The most worrying development of recent years is the emergence of extremism, a movement joined in by those who are working towards a radical change in the system of governance. For them, liberal democracy the rest of the world has decided is the best way to govern is an anathema. These groups and people have to be reintegrated into society. Their anti-state activities have cost the economy dearly and ruined the country’s reputation in the international community.

It would take a multi-pronged approach to bring Pakistan out of the deep crisis it faces at this time on many fronts. In the area of economics, public property will have to address the issue of poor governance. It will need to deal with the failure of the state to raise sufficient resources for delivering public goods to an increasingly frustrated and disgruntled citizenry. It must overcome serious shortages of goods and services critical for industrial output as well as household consumption. There is work to be done to reduce interpersonal and inter-regional income inequalities. Physical infrastructure needs to be improved and what has already been built needs to be maintained. It has not fully dawned on the policymakers that global warming is likely to prove disastrous for Pakistan, making the already stressed water situation even more problematic. The list of ‘dos’ is a long one.

Experiences from other parts of the world show that appropriate sets of economic policies and good quality leadership can quickly turn the situation around. This happened in Latin America in the 1990s. It is happening now in some parts of Africa. But these changes always occur when those who lead are committed to improving general welfare and not their own economic situation and that of their families and close associates. It requires political will to take difficult decisions when they are not favoured by some powerful segments of society. Most of these conditions don’t exist in Pakistan. But they may appear as a consequence of the cleaning of the political house that may result from the next general election.  One can only hope that this wait will not be a long one.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Nepal Gearing Up for a Hindu Revolution

When Nepal lost the Hindu statehood three years ago, it marked the decline of nationalism also. When the King had failed to serve the country, that space was hijacked by the deadly ideology of communism/ Maoism

by Dipin Damodharan

Every nation has its own identity or what we called soul, and only that identity it can nurture its society. As far as the Himalayan country Nepal is concerned, that identity or soul lies in the very concept of Hinduism.

When Nepal lost the Hindu statehood three years ago, it marked the decline of nationalism also. When the King had failed to serve the country, that space was hijacked by the deadly ideology of communism/ Maoism. They have succeeded in brainwashing a particular group of Nepali society and now the command of this old Hindu nation lies in the hands of the so-called revolutionaries.

But the great Nepali citizens who bear the legacy of Buddha not seem to be happy in the instable, timid rule of Prachanda and Co. who has been wiping out their indigenous traditions and cultural symbols with their alien communist ones.

A survey conducted in 2010 clearly depicted the Nepali mood. 52.2% of people participated in the survey called for the restoration of Hindu Statehood.

The signs of displeasure have becoming evident now as more and more protest symbols, that show the insecurity of Nepal citizens, appeared on the walls of Nepal streets recently. The Communist endeavours to control and capture the Hindu cultural centres came out to irritate the budding nationalists and traditional Royal loyalists in the same manner.

Nepal is slowly but concretely gearing up for a Hindu revolution. The youth has realized that it is the time for them to rise from lethargy to a national renaissance. It has to be happened also. When we look at the history of Nepal it is crystal-clear that the country has its roots in Hindu culture. The great Indian King Janaka’s Mythila Kingdom that mentioned in Indian Hindu scripture Ramayana now belongs to Nepal, the Kingdom of Gautam Buddha’s (the founder of Buddhism) father, Kapilavasthu, now located in Nepal. Along with India Nepal also shares the legacy of the grand Indian Mourya Empire.

The mountain people share a lot of cultural similarities with the Indian people, in terms of worship, way of living, etc. When they cross the borders, they never feel that they are in an alien land. But the Maoists have ruined all these bonds with the support of China by inculcating the drastic ideology of communism.

How can the land of Buddha be a Communist citadel? How Nepali people can consider their real brothers, the Indians, as their unforgivable enemy? Unfortunately, all these happening in Nepal under the tutelage of Communist rule.

To add-on, the dragon nation China is rapidly expanding their tentacles across Nepal in diverse fields in the guise of companies like Huawei. The recent incident, Nepal’s rejection of India’s appeal to start a second consulate in the Himalayan Republic, also points out the growing Chinese influence there. But the Nepali students and youth are not ready to give up their land.

Inspiration from the RSS

Even though the term modern nationalism was coined by Johann Gottfried Herder in the late 1770s, the origin of Nepali nationalism can be traced back to the early 1990s. It assumed an organized form in 1992 when some college students had given life to Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), an organization akin to that of India’s powerful Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Since its origin HSS has been getting the mental and ideological support from the RSS.  

When RSS was founded by great visionary Dr Keshav Rao Baliram Hedgewar in 1925, it succeeded in attracting people of all ages. Similar to that HSS is attracting people of all facets of society cutting the barriers of age, caste etc.

Like RSS, HSS also believes and propagates that selfless service to nation is the highest form of worship. They aimed at extending Hindutva to a comprehensive concept from just a religious identity. Many political thinkers have the opinion that HSS will soon become a common platform for anti-Maoists.

A substantial cog of Nepali society is of the view that the 2006 Jan Andolan movement was only against King Gyanendra, not against Nepal’s Hindu state hood. But in the backdrop of that movement Nepal was declared as a secular state also.

When most of the Muslim nations and Christian nations in the world have been curtailed the freedom of other religions, the erstwhile Hindu Nepal was an exception. All other religions were free to propagate their ideology here, yet the so-called secular world joined their hands with inhuman Maoists to declare Nepal as secular. Since then the people have been feeling unsafe in the country. The Hindu nationalists should exploit this annoyance very well, then only they will be able to take their movement forward.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Islamist ascendancy

Charles Krauthammer

Post-revolutionary Libya appears to have elected a relatively moderate pro-Western government. Good news, but tentative because Libya is less a country than an oil well with a long beach and myriad tribes. Popular allegiance to a central national authority is weak. Yet even if the government of Mahmoud Jibril is able to rein in the militias and establish a functioning democracy, it will be the Arab Spring exception.


Tunisia and Morocco, the most Westernized of all Arab countries, elected Islamist governments. Moderate, to be sure, but Islamist still. Egypt, the largest and most influential, has experienced an Islamist sweep. The Muslim Brotherhood didn’t just win the presidency. It won nearly half the seats in parliament, while more openly radical Islamists won 25 percent. Combined, they command more than 70 percent of parliament — enough to control the writing of a constitution (which is why the generals hastily dissolved parliament).

As for Syria, if and when Bashar al-Assad falls, the Brotherhood will almost certainly inherit power. Jordan could well be next. And the Brotherhood’s Palestinian wing (Hamas) already controls Gaza.

What does this mean? That the Arab Spring is a misnomer. This is an Islamist ascendancy, likely to dominate Arab politics for a generation.

It constitutes the third stage of modern Arab political history. Stage I was the semicolonial-monarchic rule, dominated by Britain and France, of the first half of the 20th century. Stage II was the Arab nationalist era — secular, socialist, anti-colonial and anti-clerical — ushered in by the 1952 Free Officers Revolt in Egypt.

Its vehicle was military dictatorship, and Gamal Nasser led the way. He raised the flag of pan-Arabism, going so far as changing Egypt’s name to the United Arab Republic and merging his country with Syria in 1958. That absurd experiment — it lasted exactly three years — was to have been the beginning of a grand Arab unification, which, of course, never came. Nasser also fiercely persecuted Islamists — as did his nationalist successors, down to Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and the Baathists, Iraqi (Saddam Hussein) and Syrian (the Assads) — as the reactionary antithesis to Arab modernism.

But the self-styled modernism of the Arab-nationalist dictators proved to be a dismal failure. It produced dysfunctional, semi-socialist, bureaucratic, corrupt regimes that left the citizenry (except where papered over by oil bounties) mired in poverty, indignity and repression.

Hence the Arab Spring, serial uprisings that spread east from Tunisia in early 2011. Many Westerners naively believed the future belonged to the hip, secular, tweeting kids of Tahrir Square. Alas, this sliver of Westernization was no match for the highly organized, widely supported, politically serious Islamists who effortlessly swept them aside in national elections.

This was not a Facebook revolution but the beginning of an Islamist one. Amid the ruins of secular nationalist pan-Arabism, the Muslim Brotherhood rose to solve the conundrum of Arab stagnation and marginality. “Islam is the answer,” it preached and carried the day.

But what kind of political Islam? On that depends the future. The moderate Turkish version or the radical Iranian one?

To be sure, Recep Erdogan’s Turkey is no paragon. The increasingly authoritarian Erdogan has broken the military, neutered the judiciary and persecuted the press. There are morejournalists in prison in Turkey than in China. Nonetheless, for now, Turkey remains relatively pro-Western (though unreliably so) and relatively democratic (compared to its Islamic neighborhood).

For now, the new Islamist ascendancy in Arab lands has taken on the more benign Turkish aspect. Inherently so in Morocco and Tunisia; by external constraint in Egypt, where the military sees itself as guardian of the secular state, precisely as did Turkey’s military in the 80 years from Ataturk to Erdogan.

Genuinely democratic rule may yet come to Arab lands. Radical Islam is the answer to nothing, as demonstrated by the repression, social backwardness and civil strife of Taliban Afghanistan, Islamist Sudan and clerical Iran.

As for moderate Islamism, if it eventually radicalizes, it too will fail and bring on yet another future Arab Spring where democracy might actually be the answer (as it likely would have been in Iran, had the mullahs not savagely crushed the Green Revolution). Or it might adapt to modernity, accept the alternation of power with secularists and thus achieve by evolution an authentic Arab-Islamic democratic norm.

Perhaps. The only thing we can be sure of today, however, is that Arab nationalism is dead and Islamism is its successor. This is what the Arab Spring has wrought. The beginning of wisdom is facing that difficult reality.