The last few days have seen two separate terrorist incidents in France, both involving Muslim youth (both refugees, not French-born Muslims) beheading (or trying to behead) French civilians because of perceived outrage over blasphemy. In the first shocking incident a teacher named Samuel Paty tried to do what good teachers do; he was teaching about freedom of expression and wanted to show the cartoons that led to the murderous assaults on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. He told his Muslim students that if they felt uncomfortable seeing those cartoons, they could step outside the class. There is no indication that he himself said anything that could be construed as an attack on the prophet. But the very fact that he showed the famous cartoons in his class was enough to rile up at least one of the Muslim student’s parents, who started to outrage on social media, which led a Chechen youth named Abdullah to travel a 100 km, find the teacher by paying his students to point him out and then beheaded him on a public road before being shot dead himself.
If this was not bad enough, today another “refugee” (this one from Tunisia) went on a stabbing/beheading spree at the basilica of Notre Dame in Nice and killed 2 women and a 55 year old sexton. Another person, this time in Saudi Arabia, stabbed a guard at the French consulate before being arrested. At the same time there have been massive protests in Bangladesh, a mock beheading at a girl’s school in Pakistan, official protests from Pakistan and Turkey and boycotts of French products all across the Muslim world. Continue reading Why do Muslims React More to France Than to China?
Even though the comment thread on my previous blog post – Playing with Fire was the immediate trigger for me writing this post, but I have been meaning to wade into this topic for some time. History writing in India has been a controversial topic especially since the ascendency of Hindutva. NCERT books on history are often blamed for preventing the “Truth and Reconciliation” between the Hindus and Muslims. While these criticisms have some merit, I often feel they’re overstated and straw-manned. Left-Liberal historians – Messrs Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib, Satish Chandra has been the favorite punching bag of Hindutvavadis in general. A lot of times people get carried away in hubris while punching these histories. Generalizations and misrepresentation of writings of these historians are rife in the Hindutvavadis.
I will go through Medieval India by Satish Chandra (class 11 history), Romila Thapar’s Medieval India (class 7), and Medieval history book by Nios (by multiple authors).
This piece focuses on the treatment given to Pre-Delhi Sultanate Muslim Invaders – the famous Ghazis of Islam. My recollection of textbooks is that the Mughals (except Babur and Aurangzeb) are glorified to a certain extent – especially Akbar, but none of the previous Muslim rulers are. I may be wrong – I am yet to read those chapters and will be posting about them later.
Mohammad Bin Qassim :
The Ummayad General doesn’t get much mention in these texts as by most accounts the Arab conquests of Sindh were at most localized events and did not have lasting consequences beyond Indus. Yet the one mention he gets in the Medieval history NCERT book isn’t something which appears positive.
NIOS book – Module 2 – Page 134 History Module 2: “Arabs were also attracted by the wealth of India. Arab merchants and sailors had brought back stories of great wealth of India. However, the reason for the invasion of Sindh was to avenge the plunder of Arab Ships by pirates of Debol. King Dahir refused to punish the pirates. Hajjaj the governor of Iraq despatched an army under Muhammad Bin Qasim. He arrived in Sind in AD 712, and besieged Debol which was situated on the sea coast. After crossing the Indus he marched forward. At Rawar, Muhammad Bin Qasim attacked Dahir who was defeated. Arabs killed a large number of fleeing soldiers. Dahir was also caught and killed. Muhammad Bin Qasim now proceeded forward and within a short span he conquered various important places in Sind including Brahmanabad”
Mahmud of Ghazni:
In Satish Chandra’s Medieval history, the period from 1000-1200 is called the Age of Conflict. The intra-Turkic conflict between Muslim and Non-Muslim Turks before the consolidation of Turkic sultanates also finds mention in the chapter. Additionally, he notes “The Islamized Turkish tribes were to emerge as the greatest defenders and crusaders of Islam. The love of plunder went side by side with the defense of Islam. About Mahmud – Mahmud is considered as a hero of Islam & the ghazi spirit further increased during his time. In India his memory is only of a plunderer and destroyer of temples. Mahmud also posed as the great But-shikan or destroyer of images. Mahmud also broke the Shivlingam and ordered parts brought back to his capital.”
In Romila Thapar’s Medieval history, Mahmud doesn’t get a positive treatment. Thapar says “One of the attacks which is frequently mentioned was the destruction of the Somnath temple. Destroying temples had another advantage – he could claim as he did that he had obtained religious merit by destroying images. In 1030 Mahmud died and people of North India felt relieved“. After this Thapar does state his achievements for his capital and state along with his patronage of scholars like Firdausi and Al-Birauni.
NIOS book – Module 2- gives a slightly more neutral characterization of Mahmud “Mahmud enriched his treasury by looting the temples of Nagarkot, Thanesar, Mathura and Kanauj. The attack against Nagarkot in AD 1008 has been described as his first great triumph. In AD 1025, Mahmud embarked on the most ambitious Indian campaign, the attack on the Somnath temple in Saurashtra. Mahmud captured the city after grim struggle in which more than 50,000 defenders lost their lives. His attacks on India were an attempt to fulfil his ambition to make Ghazni the formidable power in the politics of Central Asia. Mahmud’s raids into India were only to acquire the famous wealth of India.“
In Satish Chandra’s book – The Ghurid invasions and Mohammad’s legendary battle against Prithviraj Chauhan finds considerable space given to it. The analysis is neutral and doesn’t get into speculations beyond a point. The other exploits of Mohammad and Qutubuddin Aibak are explained in some detail. The author makes no claims of iconoclasm except in the case of Bakhtiyar Khalji in Bihar and Bengal. About Khalji he writes “he destroyed some of the great Buddhist monasteries at Nalanda and Vikramshila“. Additionally, he notes “Neither was really concerned with Islam, though neither scrupled over the use of Islam to justify their plunder of Indian cities and temples“
In Romila Thapar’s Medieval history – she also focusses on the Battle of Tarrain and appears neutral towards Mohammad Ghori and the Ghurids in general.
NIOS book also gives a neutral and brief analysis of Ghurid invasions and capture of North India.
Romila Thapar’s Medieval History is meant for 7th standard and hence doesn’t have the details seen in Satish Chandra’s 11th standard history book. Satish Chandra’s book captured a lot of facets of these invasions including religious. Reading these chapters, it is fair to conclude that none of these books glorify these early Muslim Ghazis. It can be fairly argued from Hindutva point of view, that Islam’s role in these conquests is understated (especially in Thapar’s Medieval History). But that book is meant for 12-year-old kids.
On the broader reading of history, I guess Islam is necessary but not sufficient in explaining the Turko-Afghan invasions of India in the 11th and 12 centuries.
Unless you are living under a rock, you will have noticed the Babri demolition conspiracy verdict. All 32 accused including the firebrand Ashok Singhal and Uma Bharti were acquitted of the conspiracy charge. A conspiracy charge is notoriously difficult to prove in Indian court even with Political will, in this case from an objective perspective, the charge was unlikely to stick owing the excessive burden of proof required to prove conspiracy.
I came across this interview of Advani with Prannoy Roy from 2000.
After six years of Modi Shah, Advani appears like a fresh of breath air (to my liberal ears). Notwithstanding his role as the prime mover of the Ram Janmabhooni movement which left trails of blood across the country, Advani appears significantly liberal to my eyes in 2020. The willingness to talk to the enemy (as seen in a range of interviews given to aggressive media), comparatively more respect to democratic ethos and institutions, and an overall soft spoken-ness.
However, the interview leaves us with the question – Is Advani telling the truth?
There seem to be three potential chain of events which led to the culmination of the demolition of Babri Masjid.
The aim of the Rath Yatra by Advani was always to demolish the mosque and the previous years were spent in raising support for the demolition of the mosque. This was the narrative the most far left and far right in India believe. In other words, the whole movement was a conspiracy under a facade of Rath Yatra.
The leadership of the movement – namely Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, and to a lesser extent Vajpayee under the umbrella of RSS (this included the current Prime minister) never really planned to break the mosque. Their aim was to mobilize the Hindu over and above their caste boundaries. The mobilization has political benefits as well as social benefits in response to Islam. However, during the movement, a small group actually conspired to break the mosque. That means if there was a conspiracy, either the top leadership was kept in dark or the top leadership turned a blind eye towards it. This seems to the claim made by Advani and Vajpayee where both of them on record called the demolition of the mosque as the saddest day of their life.
The mass movement got carried away in hubris. After years of chest thumbing, for the karsevaks – this was the moment to go down in the history and they did.
If either of 2 and 3 is true, it is fair to say the BJP and Sangha Parivar leaders were playing with fire and when the fire got out of control it burned every one to a certain extent. Though today even if the fire was unintended, the fruits of the fire continue to be reaped.
For a large part of history, the inhabitants of the Arabian peninsula were on the fringe in the rise and fall of empires. They alternated raiding and trading as this wheel of fire rolled on across the dunes. But eventually, the Arabian caravan would be equipped with both sword and word to make haste across the Old World in a relentless raid that would change both history and humanity.
Yet just as quickly as the prized Arabian horses would gallop into newly conquered lands, the Arabs would soon scatter leaving their language, faith, and the prestige of their roots behind in strange lands. Tribalism trumped their newfound unity and the Arabs would once again retreat into their wildernesses and pilgrimages.
Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on Libsyn, Apple, Spotify, and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!
You can also support the podcast as a patron. The primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else. This website isn’t about shaking the cup, but I have noticed that the number of patrons plateaued a long time ago.
This episode features Akshar and Mukunda talking to Cliff Smith and Sam Westrop of the Middle East Forum. We get into topics surrounding the relevance of the Deobandi movement, how Islamism percolates between South Asia and the West, and the political ramifications of Islamism in the US and the UK.
I finally completed Dr Ambedkar’s fascinating book on Pakistan after reading it on and off for years. Though he comes across as an essentialist in some of his arguments, many fault-lines Dr. Ambedkar points out hold true even 70 years after the publication of the book.
(I plan to write about that book sometime later – but especially for those who don’t identify with Hindutva I will highly recommend that book)
Dr. Ambedkar says the following in this book PAKISTAN OR THE PARTITION OF INDIA during his polemic against Purdah.
The evil consequences of purdah are not confined to the Muslim community only. It is responsible for the social segregation of Hindus from Muslims which is the bane of public life in India. This argument may appear far fetched and one is inclined to attribute this segregation to the unsociability of the Hindus rather than to purdah among the Muslims. But the Hindus are right when they say that it is not possible to establish social contact between Hindus and Muslims because such contact can only mean contact between women from one side and men from the other
This is the core motivation that has lead to the popularization of term Love-Jihad. The anxieties of Hindus are not motivated largely by the fear that “Muslims will abduct their daughters and sisters and forcibly convert them”. That exists largely in the straw-man.
In my previous two posts, I traced the roots of India as a civilization state and proposed a framework which would seek to retain modern India’s classical Anglo-liberal framework but embellish it with Dharmic values. In this third and final post, I will seek to demonstrate how these seemingly contradictory systems could be reconciled in a coherent Anglo-Dharmic liberal conservative framework. I will also analyse Indian domestic and foreign policy from a liberal conservative perspective. Before doing that, it is worth examining how liberal conservatism would deal with the third great tradition that has influenced Indian history: Islam.
The Muslim Question
The ledger of the Nehruvian state’s interactions with and treatment of Indian Muslims is decidedly a mixed bag. On the positive side, it is to the Nehruvian state’s credit that Indian Muslims were able to see themselves as full and equal participants and stakeholders in the Indian Republic. It is easy to underestimate today how difficult and challenging this would have been in the immediate aftermath of the partition and vivisection of India in 1947. It would have been easy to let hatred and vengeance take over in the aftermath of a bloody division. The Congress party under the stewardship of Pandit Nehru ensured that the better angels of our nature prevailed and the Muslims who remained in India were treated with tolerance and compassion. The basic framework of the Indian Constitution, in particular the golden triangle of equality, freedom and liberty, ensured full and equal citizenship and freedom of worship for Indian Muslims. The wisdom and sagacity of the founding fathers of the modern Indian Republic who were the architects of this framework must be applauded.
Decided to start reading India in the Persianate Age: 1000–1765. It’s a fast and easy read (and, it’s an affordable book for a nonspecialist like me who only spends $100 or more on genetics texts). I jumped ahead in a few passages, which seem to be adaptations from papers I’ve read from the author before.
In relation to discussions on this weblog and comments I’ve made:
1) The author describes islands and pockets of wholly Muslim peasants in eastern Bengal observed by the Mughals in the 16th century. These Mughals indicate that these people are not truly Hindu or Muslim, at least initially. This is line the common thesis that Islamicization is a function of the weak to nonexistent integration of these frontier peasants into Indian culture. Mughal observers also note the physical appearance of these people: small, dark-skinned, and beardless. This seems entirely accurate (I cannot grow a beard!).
The author observes that tax receipts over several decades in Bengal exhibited a pattern that is suggestive of a massive population increase in the east and stability in the west. In fact, there were two-fold increases in the east at the same time that districts in the west declined by 10%.
The thesis by the author, which seems broadly creditable, though not proven, is that the transition to high-intensity rice agriculture in the plains of the eastern delta, and in particular east of the Padma, arrived after the Mughal expansion into the reason. As such, the transition to a “higher religion” occurred under Islam, and therefore these people became Muslim (at least nominally). The analogy that is obvious here would be the Christianization of the Montagnards and other Southeast Asian “hill people” during the colonial period, as they had been detached from Theravada Buddhist civilization.
2) The author deploys a similar model, with modifications, for western Punjab. The model here is that Jat who moved up from Sindh abandoned obligate pastoralism and engaged in agriculture, and fixated upon the tombs and shrines of Islamic eminences. Due to the emphasis on paternal lineage, the author observes that the Islamicization of names occurred quantitatively over 300 years, from the 15th to the 18th century (initiation to completion).
The main qualm I have with this model is this: the Jats/people of Punjab do not look to be from Sindh if modern Sindhis are representative of ancient Sindhis. In the language familiar to readers of this weblog Sindhis are enriched for “Iranian-related ancestry” vis-a-vis Punjabis, who are enriched for “steppe.” The Jats in particular are highly enriched for “steppe” ancestry. Going by genetics alone this model is difficult to accept, though as noted in this space it does seem that caste-like stratification has ancient roots in this region, and so that may serve as some explanation.
Note: The model in Bengal implies that Islamicization and Hinduicization occurred in East Bengal simultaneously. That is, most of the sponsors of agricultural reform and intensification happened to be Muslim, but some were Hindu, and in the case of Hindu sponsored developments the regions became Hindu. Further investigation though would be warranted for Bengali Brahmins in the eastern regions, who would then presumably be migrants from the western zone, because it is hard to credit animistic tribes needing the services of literate priestly elites.
Our moon has blood clots is a gripping biographical tale by journalist Rahul Pandita – which recounts the horrors faced post-1986 Kashmir by the Kashmiri Pandit community at hands of Pakistan aided Islamists. The subtle changes in some Kashmiri attitudes towards the Pandits since the 1980s are brilliantly conveyed through small incidences from the author’s childhood. The book tells the other side of the Kashmir story which has rarely received attention in the global political and even local social circles. The terror emanating nightly from the local mosques jumps out of the pages very effectively. All the killings are from 1989 onwards are told separately and serially which is very impactful in recreating the reign of terror- the pandits must have felt in their ancestral homeland. The Islamist nature of killings is also highlighted (how some pandits were killed with nails hammered to their foreheads). The book also highlights how the silent observers of the valley, who may have not approved the brutalization of Pandits, rarely put up a fight supporting their neighbors. The continuing tragedy of the Pandits at the hands of Jammu residents and negligent central and state government is also narrated from personal and observed experience. The ethnic cleansing of Kashmir in 1947 at hands of Pakistan supported tribesman is also connected to the book narrative through another POV. The passage where the author narrated his personal journey back to his house leaves the reader in a sad and dazed state. The author’s Hindu culture and heritage are always present in the backstory and hence the pain at the potential loss of Kashmiri pandit culture in the refugees creates a particularly poignant moment in the book. The author’s sufferings, however, aren’t translated into bigotry against Muslims (Kashmiri or non-Kashmiri). The reference to Gujarat 2002 riots (author’s father’s recollections at the lynching of Ehsan Jafri) in the juxtaposition of Pandit anger at suffering is handled with consideration of human rights as the author explained once on television debate. (I have lost my home, not my humanity).
There are few things in the book which could have been handled slightly differently for a better effect IMO. The narrative structure of the book is not perfectly linear – which could’ve been handled differently – but that’s a personal preference and many might view it differently than me. The 1947 story could also be helped a bit by putting it into the larger Partition story of 1947, even though this occurred 2 months after the worst slaughter of 1947. However, these criticisms don’t blunt the impact this book will make on any reader. The book not only makes you feel the pain of the Pandits but also makes you want to work towards preserving the Kashmiri Pandit culture and heritage (especially in the valley). There really is no solution to the Kashmir valley question problem till the Pandits return to their ancestral homeland from where they were brutally driven out.
The only personal connection I have had to the Pandits is because of the Kashmiri Pandit Quota present in Maharashtra Education enacted by the Shivsena BJP government of 1995 on Balasaheb Thackeray’s insistence. Slapstik or anyone else with Kashmiri connections – Could you please add your comments on Pandita’s telling of the story – both in Book and other media. For me, he serves as a Northstar to navigate polarized debates on twitter and social media in general – for example, his coverage of Delhi Riots & 2019 election.
Yesterday I read a piece in Web portal Newslaundry (of which i am a disappointed subscriber). While i agreed with some parts of the argument I found the oversimplification and ideological bias to be very stark and mildly unpalatable. Particularly what struck me was the referring to Yogi Adityanath as Ajay Bisht.
about that time Uttar Pradesh chief minister Ajay Bisht showed up in Karawal Nagar and told a bustling audience that “their ancestors broke this country apart”, meaning Muslims.
Being a reasonable follower of politics I know that Yogi Adityanath was once called Ajay Bisht before he took the name Adityanath as the head of Gorakhpur Muth. The use of name Ajay Bisht is clearly a polemical ploy to get virtual cheers from the people on your side of the debate but what it foolishly ignores IMO is the reverence Hindus in general have for Yogis, Sadhus and Godmen.
The problems of this polemic are twofold:
Some people who are uninformed maybe confused by use of name Ajay Bisht. Even a minute incoherence which diverts from the thrust of the argument could be seen as counterproductive.
It prejudices minds of readers who are not necessarily partisan but find this un-name calling unpalatable.
In my readings and listenings over the years, the only people who had scornfully referred to un-named religious men have been people like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. However one doesn’t need to defend these folks for their consistency as their all out attack on religion is as even handed as humanly possible.
This discussion goes well into the truly sad self goal by the Indian Liberals viz. the Delhi Riots 2020 book launch. One of the arguments for this is made in here. (Again in Newslaundry which to my disappointment is going truly into the Wokesphere). This argument is so lame and so pre-Internet IMO that it doesn’t even bother confronting the real outcome of Bloomsbury de-platforming Delhi Riots 2020 – increased popularity and unnecessary (from liberal pov) martyrdom of the authors. What could’ve been criticized as an one sided and hyperbolic book has become a Free speech issue. And Liberals have ceded a lot of moral ground here. Contrast this with the much more objectively problematic book on 26/11 – RSS ka Shadyantra, 26/11 which did not receive any meaningful criticism from the liberal side despite being the complete PIGSHIT. The book could’ve objectively & legally banned from publishing IMO as it compromised the national position on 26-11 and Pakistan but it wasn’t. The extend to which the RSS opposed that book was that they filed a court complaint and the author/publisher had to apologize – yes its the so called Fascists who take the legal route. The whole outrage over the pulping of Wendy Doniger’s book is put in nice perspective with this incident. The reason I personally endured parts of Doniger’s spurious Freudian extrapolations is because of the noise that book generated. Same will happen with the Delhi Riots 2020 for many non-partisan people.
Some smart liberals have stood up against this virtue signaling masquerading as moral righteousness. Examples – Here and Here but they have been childishly dismissed by the left as Both-siders between Good and Evil. What is surprising for me is how deracinated some people have become to count this instance as a liberal victory. As if getting plaudits from your own tribe matters as a victory. But in these polarized echo chambers even a (BOT)tish liberal POV articles by folks like Aakar Patel & Shivam Vij are well received. Lets not even start with how people like Rana Ayyub and Sagarika Ghose earn so much money and fame.
On the whole, based on interactions i have had with Hindutva supporters, most don’t support the extreme narrative espoused in books like Delhi Riots 2020. From a purely reductionist point of view – 40/53 causalities have been Muslim and the overwhelming number of people facing prosecution are also Muslims. Such hard facts are irrefutable even if people on the Right are moderately honest (which most are). However what has enraged most people on the right is the calling of Delhi 2020 riots- Pogromsor comparing them to Gujarat 2002. Journalists like Rahul Pandita and even bleeding heart liberals like Rajdeep Sardesai were viciously attacked from the left when they pointed out that both communities had suffered from the riots. If such an atmosphere persists I wouldn’t be surprised if more One sided books like Delhi Riots 2020 are written, published and widely read. Had I been the marketing in-charge of release of Delhi Riots 2020, i couldn’t have come up with a better plan for a wider readership.
What is tragic about these antics is that people on the right are more likely to believe extreme and conspiracy theorist narratives as a natural function of this controversy. But till LIBERALS continue with virtue signaling over readable and nuanced arguments, liberals(like me) are bound to be pushed rightwards.