Epoche and detachment in analysis

I want to make a short and quick comment about a style of argumentation that I’ve noticed in people from the Indian subcontinent (though not exclusive to them). In addition to verbosity, there tends to be an aggressive hyperbolic emotionality. That’s fine if you want to scream on cable television, but it’s really hot air that doesn’t move a conversation forward.

I’ll bring up the class example with the Mughals.

Muslims in the subcontinent admire the Mughals, on the whole, and take pride in their accomplishments. Whether you think that that pride is warranted or not, it is there, and it makes it difficult for Indian Muslims to evaluate the Mughals with any degree of detachment. The fundamental reality is to a great extent the Mughals were a colonial and alien power that control the subcontinent for centuries. To some extent, they were more foreign than some of the post-Delhi Sultanate Muslim kingdoms. The Mughals imported Turkic warriors and Persian bureaucrats for many centuries, and for decades continued to speak Chagatai Turk among themselves. Up until Aurangzeb, they were keen on conquering their ‘ancestral’ homeland. The Mughals had a racial caste system, and continued to differentiate between the foreign Muslims, and those of native subcontinental stock (arguably native Indian Muslims did better under some of the Delhi Sultanate successor states).

But what about Hindus? Whereas Muslims get very defensive about their “Mughal ancestors,” many Hindus detest them because they were colonial interlopers. I think it is a reasonable assertion, but then Hindus take a step further. Along with their precursors, the Delhi Sultanate the Mughals killed millions and engaged in a campaign of mass rape and murder. Often if the Hindus are talking verbally there is a lot of emotion in their voice, and I wonder if they are going to cry. The reality is the genetics is clear that Hindus have almost no West Asian ancestry, and the fraction of Indian Muslims is quite small. If the Mughals were raping a lot, they were quite sterile.

The reality is it seems to me that though the Mughals synthesized themselves with India, for much of their early and mature period they were more a colonial skein over the substrate of India, the vast majority of which remained loyal to its indigenous religious traditions. This means that their interaction with the natives was mostly a matter of resource extraction, that is, rents.

I don’t know if more discussion with help India resolves its internecine religious fractures. Probably not. But I wish people would comport themselves like they were actually trying to discuss, rather than emotionally screaming at each other.

7 thoughts on “Epoche and detachment in analysis”

  1. One of the most striking things about India, for which Hindus should feel some collective pride, is that they were able to accomplish what Christians in Egypt and Syria, Zoroastrians in Persia and central Asia, Manichaeans in Turkestan and animists in West Africa failed to accomplish: they held onto their religion (most of them, anyway) in spite of centuries of Muslim rule, and then another century and a half of enthusiastic evangelization efforts by the British. The Indian heartland remains majority Hindu today and in much of India it’s an overwhelming majority. Rather than focus on the rape, murder and temple desecration (which as you note, Razib, seems to be wildly exaggerated), why not focus on the positive? Vietnamese suffered a lot at the hands of America during the Vietnam War, but these days there doesn’t seem to be much anti-US sentiment there, because at the end of the day the Vietnamese won. To a large degree, so did the Hindus.

    1. The Vietnam comparison is a bit disingenuous.

      1. Vietnam was not partitioned into North and South with active persisting enemities after the war. The North won and renamed the largest city after their revolutionary leader.

      2. No active minority in Vietnam that identifies themselves as descendents of Americans.

      3. American constitution is less hostile towards communism than the Quran is towards polytheists.


      The solution comes from Hindus and Muslims moving away from religiously driven identity.

      But I think both India (with rise of Hindutva) and Pakistan (foundational) currently rely on a religiously driven identity as a legitimizing narrative.

      Potentially Bangladesh can be the South Asian leader in this regard. But as it stands they seem to still worse than India in terms of murdering Atheists and protection of minorities.

      Overall I think this gets worse before it gets better.

  2. Lets put it this way. Gujrat riots , demolition of babri masjid is not forgotten by muslims or the left. Though many riots did happen even under non bjp . What gets highlighted is , what is of importance to them.
    It could be no more than one incidence to become a prime time tv show for an entire week if not a month and more and is put on a list. Entire academic research projects, part of education in a semester or an entire chapter in a course.

    In all, in guarat riots, death toll is less than 1050 people out of which 250+ were hindus, 700+ were muslims. It then becomes a question, how much bigotry , murder, rape , systemic terror is enough to remember.
    Not to mention blasphemy laws existed then as well(admitted by richard eaton himself ), which really is a form of systemic terror. Anyone can fling it and the death mark is on you. Even in the modern world, it really is unique to see how girls of non muslim background get kidnapped, raped and converted in pakistan. And what deep trauma it inflicts on their families.

    None of this would matter, if people moved away from taking “pride” as you pointed out. Which too is emotional and irrational in equal measure. None of this would matter if people accepted secular critique of their faith or of these rulers and empires. Since none of that exists, this double standard is exploited rightly so. You should not expect people to take irrational pride on their “achievements” and expect others not to look down on the ways it hurt them.

    Where we disagree is here, you think truth matters by itself. I think it takes politics to create a climate where truth is valued . politics is necessary to get society and cultures to respect truth. And that political action to get people to respect truth is built on highlighting those forms of critique. Critique of Christianity and its excesses by atheists in the west is not entirely historically accurate. For example on slavery, slavery existed in other societies, cultures, religions as well. But the way to negate the universal claim of Christianity requires criticizing slavery. Neither has it been with respect to Hindus and missionaries and colonized left /liberal alliance. Infact , as has been said many times here. Uniquely, autonomy is denied to Hindus in India in many places.

    “Karnataka | An FIR has been lodged against 5 priests of the Deval Ganagapur temple. They created certain websites and were collecting money from people. It’s a govt temple which comes under the Muzrai dept. By doing so they cheated the govt: Isha Pant, SP Kalaburagi”

    The methods applied are commensurate. And so it is fair. This is not a critique of mughals as much as critique of islam and mughals as a part of it.

    You can stop here. But if you need empirical facts on how discussion about mughals are a big thing in India right now, I will post again.

  3. Yes i have this inside deep. when on TV i hear indian muslims says mughals were secular and all that, i just burn,, , ,and helpless. this si one of reason i left secularism

  4. It would be interesting to compare how other asian cultures think about similar empires. Are the Iranians or Chinese for example proud of the accomplishments of the Timurid Empire or the Qing empire, or do they think of them as colonial and alien powers?

    This is probably not a fair compariosn as the Turkish empires in Iran were Persianized and the Manchus in China Sinicized to such a great extent. Hindus in the Indian subcontinent would look at the Mughals in a very different way if they were Indianized Hindus instead of Persianized Muslims.

    1. The closest comparison for the Chinese would be Yuan Dynasty. There is no love for them there. And Persian hostility towards Arabs and Turks is well known.

      1. I don’t understand Pakistan. Pakistan goes as far as naming a ship after Timur (PNS Taimur (F263)) when even the Persians have no love for him. This is as absurd as the Chinese naming thier AC after
        Genghis Khan.
        The ironic thing about it is that Timur did far more damage to territory which is now a part of Pakistan than India. Besides his famous sack of Delhi he raided Punjab constantly while most of what is today India was unaffected.

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