A Quick Question- when did Hindus revenge themselves?

We just wrapped up another podcast but I listened this time and didn’t say anything. It was really dense and informative!

As I was clearing away everything (well past my bedtime) a random thought popped into my head.

At what point pre-1947 did Hindus (or Sikhs) revenge themselves on Muslims? What I’m trying to establish is that was there a justifiable fear on the part of the Muslim League to assert that a Hindu-majority India would be a no-go zone.

I’m specifically excluding the Partition events but I’m looking for a Hindu equivalent of Direct Action Day, where legions of Hindus set themselves on Muslim localities.

My distinct impression is that these mob riots emerged in the bad blood post Partition. In comparison to the Greeks, Israelis or even now the Chinese; Hindus and Indians have been particularly partial towards their Muslim population.

At any rate this is my short note and remember I’ll be (iA) live blogging tomorrow’s lecture.


I’ve discovered the South Asian Centre at Cambridge and I’m rather kicking myself for not availing it sooner. I missed an interesting talk on Lahori resistance in the 19th century on Monday.

I’ll try to live blog the lectures where I can; there’s also the Shahnama Institute and the Ancient India & Iran Trust.


I’ll try to live blog lectures where I can and of course ask speakers onto Podcasts (I’m still pending some questions to Professor Foltz but since there weren’t too many, I’ll putting that on ice for now).

If commentators are interested in particular lectures please do let me know so I can make sure to attend.

19 thoughts on “A Quick Question- when did Hindus revenge themselves?”

  1. ” What I’m trying to establish is that was there a justifiable fear on the part of the Muslim League to assert that a Hindu-majority India would be a no-go zone.”

    Mostly after UP election in late 30s i think. Congress-ML had an alliance , and after winning UP in BJP style (against Brits backed Zamidars) ,Congress abandoned the league(and formed the Govt alone) , and asked individual members to desert ML (including i think Fareed Zakaria;s dad) . Politics is about representation first and foremost , and even if the Congress would have brought “Madina ki Riyasat” to muslims, they would still be issues. You can see that currently in India with BJP and the South and East regions of India.

    “I’m specifically excluding the Partition events but I’m looking for a Hindu equivalent of Direct Action Day, where legions of Hindus set themselves on Muslim localities.”

    The Hindus didnt have to anything like that because they were not losing power, in Centre. The ML was in power in Bengal while not in power in the Centre, so they did what any losing power would do , strike back in their “areas”. That’s how sikhs reacted to losing power in Punjab during partition , but unlike Bengal they were a minority , so they faced reprisal as well.

  2. The fear of north-Indian Muslims was largely based on the rhetoric being espoused by the early prominent Hindu Nationalists.

    “To keep up the purity of the race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic Races — the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by.” – Golwalkar

    “Germany’s crusade against the enemies of Aryan culture will bring all the Aryan nations of the world to their senses and awaken the Indian Hindus for the restoration of their lost glory.” – Sarvarkar

    “The foreign races in Hindustan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but those of the glorification of the Hindu race and culture, i.e., of the Hindu nation and must lose their separate existence to merge in the Hindu race, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu Nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment, not even citizen’s rights.” – Golwakar

    1. On a tangent here, but were all the early Hindu Nationalists Marathi Brahmins ?

      If I remember correctly all the people convicted of assassinating Gandhi were also Marathi Brahmins.

      1. Certainly most of the central players were. For better or worse, it’s probably fair to say that the backbone of Hindu nationalism is Marathi. There’s multiple reasons as to how this could have come about. Justice Ranade alludes several times in the Rise of the Maratha Power that Maharashtrians had consolidated an organic nationhood and volk identity (predating the 16’th century), which with the benefit of today’s hindsight, one could argue was much more Westphalian than anything else developing in India at that time, if at all. Hence, one could argue that if a unitary Hindu nationalism was to have arisen anywhere in India, the path of least resistance would have been through a Marathi mind.

        1. Unlike others, kokanastha brahmins also understood real state power which they had managed for themselves in the peshwa regency period. Moreover, being brahmins and having caste-mates throughout the subcontinent, they possibly had a grander conception of a civilization-wide nation state than what would emerge from a proper maratha.

      2. After Tilak’s death, Marathi brahmins felt increasingly sidelined from the Congress. So went for alternate ideologies.

        Also there imprint on Hindu nationalism is exaggerated. For vast majority of their lifes Marathi Brahmins have been unable to influence power in their own state, forget grand theory of them influencing Hindu nationalism. Hindu nationalism is a dud without UP /Bihar. A political ideology without power is worthless, and that is how Hindu nationalism was seen pre 80s-90s, until the Gangetic belt hooked on to it.

        1. Chicken and egg. Some of what you’re raising is certainly true about Hindu nationalism as a modern phenomenon (with pan Indian appeal). Some of it is not — my point above concerned the roots of how it began

          “For vast majority of their lifes Marathi Brahmins have been unable to influence power in their own state,”

          is not a valid assertion (read Girmit’s point above). Marathi Brahmins (both Deshastha and Konkanashtha) were actively involved in statecraft for the better part of two centuries.

          1. I dont disagree on marathi brahmin influence , i just feel its a bit exaggerated, INCLUDING its early days. The older ram temple movement along with Digvijaynath of Goraknath, Hindu press, Hindu Mahasabha et all contributed to the nascent hindu nationalism formation. In its early days of Hindu nationalism the Mahasabha was the more potent political power than RSS (whose founder himself was a member of Mahasabha) .

            On Marathi Brahmin influence within the state, lets agree to disagree. I was talking about post rise of Hindu nationalism/Post Independence and not necessarily from Peshwa period of 1800s and all. Lot of communities have a sense of their importance (same as how Tam-Brahm see themselves in Tamil Nadu politics )while a discernible look at Maharashtra political map and its history tells a different story.

          2. That is true of modern day Maharashtrian politics. But early Maratha state was a handiwork of Marathas(the caste), Konkanastha Brahmins and Kayasthas. Maratha gentry were kinda smart when they allied with husbandmen of Deccan to form was unified caste giving them numerical superiority.

  3. It has been argued that muslims were a disenfranchised class under the rule of ranjit singh. I think ayesha jalal has recently written about the roots of south asian jihad going back to that period of reversal of muslim power.

    1. The Sikh army, famously used the Badsahi Mosque in Lahore as horse stables.

      And some animosity from the Afghan-Sikh wars.

      Then again there is also “Guru Ki Maseet” in India which is a mosque built by the 6th Sikh Guru, so it doesn’t follow that there would necessarily have to be acrimony between the religions.

  4. After Gandhi withdrew his support for the Khilafat movement in 1922 following the mob torching of a police station by Khilafat and Congress supporters, trust and amity between Hindus and Muslims disintegrated. There were multiple communal riots across India particularly in Punjab, Bengal and UP nearly every year going up to 1939. It was in this atmosphere that the RSS was founded. However it was not fear of religious persecution that led Jinnah to start pushing for Pakistan in the late 30s. It was fear that in a Hindu-dominated state, all political power would be kept by the Hindu majority and Muslims would thus have very curtailed prospects of advancement. The final break was triggered by the Congress party refusing to include Muslim League politicians in their state governments following the elections of 1937. This followed a period of Muslim political demands such as Muslim majority Sindh being given a province separate from Bombay being routinely rejected by Congress. After that he believed separate states were the only option.

    1. I don’t think Indian view of outsiders was ever as crystallised against Muslims as you are thinking.

      Indian elite certainly thought of Turco-Moghals as outsiders. Marathas did, and so did Sikhs and many Rajputs. The feeling of them being outsiders never really went away, in spite of a lot of rapprochement and realpolitik (esp under Akbar, who has the best reputation of all Moghals among India’s elite).

      But a Muslim weaver in Lucknow, Muslim fisherman in Chennai or a Muslim wheat farmer in Punjab were just seen as locals by their non-Muslim counterparts. See this:


      PS: The problem with the Turco-Moghals ultimately was that they tried to supplant the Sanskritic high culture of India with a Perso-Arabic one. That would have never worked.

      Insist on preaching the Quran in Sanskrit/local languages and Muslim conversion rate will grow manifold in India.

  5. Curious about the June 12th lecture just to find out how “white noise, seances, and colonial linguistics” are related.

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