The questions raised by Mr. Uday

Chand-Fiza case cannot be the total explaination of Islam in India. Relgions spread by multiple mechanisms. As Swami Viviekanand explains, the main reason of spread of Islam is the caste system.  Conversions were not the aim of Kings (except Ashoka) Formation of Muslim community took place in various stages.  To begin with it started emerging along Malabar coast when the Arab traders used to come for trade during Seventh Century A.D. They had a religious influence and many people through their interaction took to Islam. Arab army conquered Sind early in 8th Century, but it had a marginal impact on the society.

During 11th and 12th Centuries Turkish invasion brought in a larger influence of Islam. Initially this resulted in emergence of Muslim military aristocracy.  But this spread was restricted in numbers. Another small trickle came from Hindu upper-classes, some of whom became Muslims either out of conviction, or (mainly) out of hope of reward from the Muslim ruler.

But the main conversions came from the poor low caste untouchables, who despite being the formal part of Hindu fold were under the severe oppression and repression of upper caste Brahmins and Brahminism. To quote Vivekanand “Why amongst the poor of India so many are Mohammadens?  It is nonsense to say that they were converted by the sword. It was to gain liberty from Zamindars and Priests…..” (Collected Works-Vol 8-Page330).  Later the converts swelled in number due to the impact of Sufi saints, who used local customs and rituals to propound humanistic aspects of Islam.

As far as Kings are concerned to look at them just as Hindus and Muslims will not explain the whole phenomenon. Primarily they were kings, ruling for power and wealth. Incidentally Babar had come to this part of the world on Invitation from Rana Sanga, who in turn was fighting a battle with Ibrahim Lodi, Babar and Rana Sanga Allied to defeat Ibrahim Lodi. Kings had their own calculations in allainces

It is alleged that Hindus and Muslims kept fighting with each other. Many examples are quoted for this. We will try to understand some of these. One such major fight, which forms the base of our ‘understanding’ is the battle between Rana Pratap and Akbar. Rana Pratap is glorified as a brave and glorious Hindu king fighting against Islam. Why did this battle take place? Was it for some religious motive? To begin with, was it a Hindu-Muslim battle? Raja Mansingh represented Akbar in this battle. Shahajada Salim assisted him in this battle. Rana Pratap had Rajput soldiers under him and Salim had Muslim soldiers. On the other hand, Rana Pratap’s major associate was Hakim Khan Sur. Rana Pratap had Rajput soldiers under him and Hakim Khan Sur had Muslim soldiers under him. So on both the sides we see Hindu and Muslim soldiers and generals. The battle took place not on the issue of religion, but on the ground of designation. Akbar was expanding his empire and was offering different designations to different kings. He offered the Panch Hajari (One who can keep five thousand soldiers) status to Rana Pratap, which he refused to accept, as he was demanding the status of Das Hajari (Ten thousand soldiers). Later Jahangir offered the same status Das Hazari to Rana Pratap’s son Amarsingh and Amarsingh gladly became Jahangir’s associate. But the communalists see it only through the jaundiced eyes of religion and present a picture, which projects it in a totally distorted light.

Similarly Shivaji is also presented as an Anti-Muslim king. This is far from truth. His army, especially Navy had many a Muslim soldiers and his lieutenant Siddi Sambal is very famous for his association with Shivaji. Similarly his confidential secretary was Maulana Haider Ali, and the person who helped him to escape from Agra fort captivity was a Muslim Prince Madari Mehtar. He had great regard for a Sufi Saint Hajarat Baba Bahutthorwale and Fr. Ambrose Pinto of Surat. In front of his fort in Raigad, while on one hand, he constructed Jagdishwar temple, similarly he also got a mosque built. He had instructed his armies that during their plunder campaigns if they came across some holy book, they should not defile it but instead return it to the person belonging to that religion. A story is told about his army plundering Kalyan and during the plunder raids, his army abducted the beautiful daughter-in-law of the Subhedar of Kalyan. This Muslim woman, it is told, was presented to Shivaji as a gift. Deviating from the practices of other kings, Shivaji got annoyed with his army and equated the women to his mother. He ordered his generals to send her back with honor to her husband’s house. Can such a person be labeled as anti-Muslim by any stretch of imagination?

To explain part of the psyche of section of Muslim community it is imporant to understand the phenomenon of terrorism, which may not be obviouus from the surface: it has many factors and terrorism is a symtom of disease, because of which the section of Muslim community points its finger to Israel and US.

Last few years have seen many attacks of terror, more so after the ghastly tragedy of 9/11, 2001. Since then many formulations have also been popularized, like all Terrorists are Muslims. The impact of this formulation on the popular psyche has been immensely negative.

After all what is terrorism, is it due to religion or a religious community? As such it is difficult to define terrorism, as some people whom we regard as terrorists, others may regard as freedom fighters, those fighting for a particular cause. LTTE a terrorist organization is looked up a fighting for the cause of rights of Tamils by some. Roughly one can say terrorism is an act which may be done by a state, a group or and individual for a political motive and due to this innocent people get killed. This act is a part of political statement or political purpose. Those acts where there are no deaths but people feel intimidated can also be called as terrorism.

Terrorism is different from communal violence. In communal violence a communal group spreads hatred against a community, and average layers of society are mobilized to attack the minority groups. The Gujarat carnage, Mumbai violence the current Orissa violence (2008) fall in this category. Terrorism is planned secretly and its execution comes as a surprise, communal violence is built up and its perpetrators are easy to locate. In case of Mumbai violence an intense hate atmosphere against minorities was built up through section of media and by word of mouth and then average people were made to believe that minorities are a threat to them and so they should be attacked. In Mumbai it happened in the wake of Babri demolition and in Gujarat it happened after the Godhra train burning. Simply speaking in the latter those guilty of train burning should have been punished but an atmosphere was created against the whole community and poor sections were mobilized to attack them.

Currently in Orissa, the make believe perception that Christian missionaries are converting by force and fraud is ruling the popular mind. As such if we see there is not a single case in the police record where the complaint against missionaries for conversion are registered. Christianity is a very old religion in India and today there population is mere 2.30%. This population of Christians has been on decline from the 2.60 of 1971 to today’s 2.30%. Wadhva Committee report which went into the killing of Pastor Graham Stains in 1999, showed that the Pastor was not involved in the acts of conversion and that the Christian population in his area of work was fairly stable. This perception about missionary work has been used to instigate the violence against a tiny minority of the country.

As such terrorism is due to social, economic, political reasons and terrorists have come from all the religions. Let’s recall the killer of Mahatma Gandhi, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. Similarly today’s biggest terrorist organization is Liberation Tiger of Tamil Elam. The Irish republican Army constituted mainly by Christians has been indulging in the acts of terror in Ireland for long time.

Terrorists are not born. Some youth take to the path of terror due to gross injustice or to such a perception, done to them or their community. This is associated with a feeling that society-state will not give them justice. This was witnessed in Guwahati, in November 2007. A group of Adivasis had come to city for demanding their rights over land and forest resources. They were not only beaten up, also one girl accompanying them was molested. A week later an Adivasi National Liberation front was formed which planted bombs in Guwahati Rajdhani express and in this 7 people were killed. We remember that after the Mumbai violence a group of frustrated-dejected people took help of underworld to plant the bombs in Mumbai trains.

There is another reason of terrorism, and that pertains to the political goals of dominant nations or dominant groups. In the decade of 1970s, when the Russian army occupied Afghanistan, US in order to fight back the Russian army and to control the oil wells, set up Madrassas in Pakistan to indoctrinate the Muslim youth. The indoctrination module was made in Washington. According to this the youth were made to believe that Russians/every Non Muslim is a kafir, killing kafirs is Jihad and sacrifice for Jihad will take you to Jannat (heaven) where 72 virgins will be welcoming you. After defeating the Russian armies the Al Qaeda turned against other South Asian countries and also against US itself. India is a victim of the offshoots of this particular as they now firmly believe what was taught to them in the Madrasssas, specially set up to indoctrinate them, in the territory of Pakistan by the US.

The other major cause of terrorism is ethno-national, like Srilanka-Jaffna where LTTE came up, in Kashmir, where the issue of autonomy of Kashmir turned to become ethno national one’s, the North East where the integration of NE into Indian stream gave the hiccups of terrorism. Similarly Irish Republican army also came up to due ethnic injustices.

Lately we saw the involvement of some Hindutva elements, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and others in the acts of terror related to the blasts in front of the mosques, Malegaon, Ajmer Dargah etc. This again is due to the indoctrination of the mind by the political process, by ideologies which are totally anti democratic and look at politics in the colors of religion. Here the indoctrination has been done that a particular community is under threat due to another community. One knows that the threat is not due to religious community, but since this politics is based on communal principles they attribute all the reasons to religion and so the misconception are deliberately produced resulting in violence.

The type of terrorism which we witnessed in Mumbai (Nov 2008) is the left over of the Al Qaeda type groups, the indoctrinated one’s. Let’s remember that once a person is indoctrinated for the political goals, the reversal of such process is practically impossible. Toady the country is the victim of this insane process, which has been the result various global and local political an economic processes.

The need is that we look beyond the symptom of terrorism and try to look at the deeper disease which is infesting the social fabric. Just tightening the security wont do as the terrorists are willing to loose their life for ‘their’ cause. We have also seen that some global powers may be assisting and promoting them. So we need to revive the role of United Nations at global level and see that the places where terror camps are going are brought to book be international agency. Locally we must ensure that the culprits while being punished without any discrimination; we ensure that our politics is based on ethical and moral values. All those projecting that they are working for religion, religion based nationalism have to be discarded as our principles must be that Religion is a private matter and it should not be mixed with politics. The basis of our political logic has to be the values of Liberty Equality and Fraternity. At global level a democratic arrangement between different nations and undermining the hegemony of dominating nation states has to be aimed at.

To label to whole community in a uniform color is unfair. All communities are very diverse and have different type of elements. The discriminiation which has been going on against the Muslim minority is the instrumental casue of some of the triats which we see in the cmmunity.

While talking of Hindus and Muslims as two antagonistic communities, we also forget the deeper interaction between these communities at cultural, social and religious levels, which gave rise to the Bhakti and Sufi traditions, which gave rise to adoption of each others custom and traditions.

While peole, communities were fighting with each other at some level, there was a deeper interaction. The rise of Hate Other idelogy and mind set starts building up after the British came and implemented their divide and rule policy for which they introduced communal historiography, looking as Kings as representatives of their relgios communities, which is a very flawd perception.

Later with the rise of terrorism, post 9/11 the global demonization of Muslim community has added on to the communal perceptions prevalent here. It is US media which introudced the word Islamic terorrism. The biggest terrorist organization during last decade had been LTTE. There was the phenomenon of Khalistan movement and other terrorist acts where it was not labelled in the name of religion, it is only after 9/11 that the word Islamic terrorism and severe demonization of Muslims came up.

One does not have to be a Sanghi to follow the prevalent social common sense which is there all around.

-Ram Puniyani

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Comments on “The questions raised by Mr. Uday

  • राम जी,

    बहुत ही उमदा आलेख। बधाई। कमाल का रिसर्च वर्क……. लेकिन हैरान हूं यह देख कि किसी भी ब्लॉगर ने इस पर कमेंट देना वाजिब नहीं समझा……

  • sandeep sharma says:

    earlier read your book ” sampardayikta- ek sachitar parichay” and that looked to be really baseless and factless and only anti Hindu Organistaions( or congress centric). but this article is worth reading. congrats for being a mature writer.


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