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Suppressing Indian History

The anniversary of Ayodhya has come and passed. Once more, many of India’s intelligentsia felt that the destruction of the mosque has signalled the end of a certain tolerant India, for which secularism was the unifying factor and has planted a dangerous seed of Hindu “nationalism” in India’s psyche. Yet, one should remember that the Hindu ‘fundamentalists’ did not kill a single soul in Ayodhya, whereas the bombs planted a while later in revenge by Indian Muslims with the help of Pakistan, killed more than 350 innocent human beings. In fact, during its long history, Hinduism has been one of the most peaceful creeds in the world, accepting the reality of different beliefs, never trying to convert -even in a non-violent manner, like the Buddhists did in Asia – and submitting itself rather meekly, except for a Shivaji, a Guru Gobind or a Rani of Jhansi, to numerous invasions. The same thing cannot be said about Islam, whatever N. Ram says in Frontline. Many historians, amongst them Will Durant, Louis Frederick, or Alain Danielou, have remarked that the Muslim invaders were so certain that they were doing their holy duty by razing temples and killing Hindus, that they had recorded down carefully and proudly their deeds in their own archives.

Mahmud of Ghazni, for instance, who patronised art and literature, would recite a verse of the Koran every night after having razed temples and killed his quota of unbelievers. Firuz Shah Tughlak, personally confirms that the destruction of Pagan temples was done out of piety and writes: “on the day of a Hindu festival, I went there myself, ordered the executions of all the leaders and practionners of his abomination; I destroyed their idols temples and built mosques in their places”. Aurangzeb did not just build an isolated mosque on a razed temple, as Romila Thapar would like us to believe, he ordered all temples destroyed, among them the Kashi Vishvanath, one of the most sacred places of Hinduism and had mosques built on a number of cleared temples sites. All other Hindu sacred places within his reach equally suffered destruction, with mosques built on them. A few examples: Krishna’s birth temple in Mathura, the rebuilt Somnath temple on the coast of Gujurat, the Vishnu temple replaced with the Alamgir mosque now overlooking Benares and the Treta-ka-Thakur temple in Ayodhya. The number of temples destroyed by Aurangzeb is counted in 4, if not 5 figures. This is a small excerpt of his own official court chronicles: “Aurangzeb ordered all provincial governors to destroy all schools and temples of the Pagans and to make a complete end to all pagan teachings and practices”. Or:: “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, their users were also wiped-out; even his own brother, Dara Shikoh, was executed for taking an interest in Hindu religion and the Sikh Guru Tegh Bahadur was beheaded because he objected to Aurangzeb’s forced conversions. As we can see Romila Thapar and Percival Spear’s statement of a benevolent Aurangzeb is a flagrant attempt at negationism (the negation of historical crimes). Even the respectable Encyclopedia Brittannica in its entry on India, does not mention in its chapter on the Sultanate period any persecutions of Hindus by Muslims, except “that Firuz Shah Tughlaq made largely unsuccessful attempts at converting his Hindu subjects and sometime persecuted them”.

Indian school books seem to have taken their cue from the Encyclopedia Brittannica , as there is hardly any mention of this dark aspect of India’s past. But why does India negate its history? We know that Nehru and Gandhi wanted to keep Pakistan within India and wished to avoid the splintering away of Muslim groups. But was it a good enough reason to suppress information about Muslim atrocities during ten centuries of bloody invasions and the massive destruction of Hindu temples ? On the contrary this has only created more terrorism. Denying and suppressing the history cannot keep the harmony. In its place, truth and reconciliation are necessary. Hiding the truth denies sympathy to the victim, civilization and culture. A nation unless, it is ready to face its own history – the Good and the Bad, the Courageous and the Cowardly – can never bloom into its full plenitude. Hidden aspects of its own history sooner or later will surface and bring with them the guilt, anger, regret, which are the necessary ingredients to wipe-off that particular black karma. In Germany, for instance, Germans have been reminded again and again about the atrocities committed by the Nazis during World War II, and that has brought a sense of guilt, which has acted as a deterrent to future atrocities

The Jews have constantly tried, since the Nazi genocide, to keep alive the remembrance of their six million martyrs. This has got nothing to do with vengeance. Do the Jews of today want to retaliate upon contemporary Germany? No. It is only a matter of making sure that history does not repeat its mistakes, as alas it is doing today in India : witness the persecution of Hindus in Kashmir, whose 250.000 Pandits have fled their 5000 year old homeland, or the oppression of Hindus in Bangladesh and Pakistan. To remember, is to be able to look at today with the wisdom of yesterday. No collective memory should be erased for appeasing a particular community. Hiding the facts and justifying past Muslim crimes has led to terrorism in the Indian sub-continent. Muslims were never held accountable. One of the first steps to curb violence is to make one aware of past mistakes. Guilt in the culprit and forgiveness in the victim can put an end to self-righteousness and the kind of terrorism we see today in Kashmir, in spite of India’s peace overtures.

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