A query came on a pronouncement by Professor #RomilaThapar that “Muslims enslaved Hindus for last 1000 yrs” is unacceptable and a myth. Our response is as follows:
It is not ‘slavery’ that is the issue. The problem is a false notion of #Islamicsupremacy from which derive a number of toxic ways of behaviour which, given the chance, toxify the minds of the believers into committing acts which are nowadays unacceptable by a civilised society.
RomilaThapar’s lecture at the JNU protest against the #Modi government insists that the British created the idea that Hindus were enslaved by the Muslims while the facts were otherwise. The problem with this simplistic way of recounting history does not take into account the #Islamicsupremacist notion which underlay Muslim rule in India. When the #Afghans set up a sarkar in Delhi in the 1100s till the time that the #Mughals lost power to the #Marathas in the 1720s, the their rule was entirely based on the notion of Islamic supremacy. Every now and then there did come a Muslim king in different parts of the country who tried to integrate a little bit with the locals, every now and then there was also some osmosis of local ideas into the practise of Islam. But the osmosis, and the efforts to integrate with the locals, did not undercut the idea of Islamic supremacy. At best the osmosis and integration, such as it existed, was considered a deviation. As Muzaffar Alam has shown in great detail in his book on the political language of Islam, such efforts were constantly derided and far too frequently did rulers try to rectify their commitment to Islamic supremacy by indulging in acts of symbolic violence against Hindus. The transfer of power in India from the Mughals to the Marathas was for far too short a period, and its provenance on the ground far too episodic, for us to presume that the Marathas were ‘rulers’ of anything but a small swathe of land in the Solapur-Kolhapur-Pune-Nashik region. The best that can be said is that from 1730s India was essentially an unruled land. The defeat of the Marathas at the hands of the British in 1803 provided the first glimmers of a systematic government taking over rule in India. Already in their limited domains in the Bengal Presidency the British had been conducting experiments of setting up a modern, rule based system of governance. Now this systematic, ruled based system of governance was extended in diverse forms over other parts of the land. This is what signalled a proper end of Mughal rule over India. And almost immediately we have a spate of incidents in British ruled territories in which communal clashes broke out because the local Hindus decided to occupy public spaces for the celebration of their religious festivals or that the Muslims were stopped from occupying public spaces for religious purposes. The former used to be frowned upon till now; the latter was the norm. #MaharajaRanjitSingh, the coeval ruler of Punjab, was one who stopped the occupation of public spaces for various Muslim religious practises. Across the country, in a number of towns, Hindus rajas and grandees in various localities started taking out Dussehra processions– as a celebration of the victorious armies of Rama. Some of these celebratory processions continue to be with us till today such as the Kullu Dussehra, the Dussehra procession of Mysore, the procession at Varanasi. The roots of the Sikh occupation of the Ram janmbhoomi in order to liberate it from the taint of the Babri masjid too lay in this desire to overthrow the last remnants of Islamic supremacy.
Quite a few contemporary British who cohabited extensively with Muslims took note of the fact that the loss of Islamic supremacy had caused humiliation and hurt to the Muslims. The efforts by Syed Ahmed Khan to push Muslims towards science and modern knowledge were appreciated for being a constructive way of dealing with the loss. However, the discovery of pan-Islamism by the first generation of students who came out of the Mahomedan Anglo Oriental College demonstrated that merely asking Muslims to take to science and modernity was not sufficient to keep them away from falling back into beliefs that Muslims were specially discriminated against ever since the lost of Islamic supremacy. In the aftermath of the Non-Cooperation Movement of Gandhi the notion of Islamic supremacy was reasserted by the likes of Mohammed Iqbal. A number of Muslim intellectuals of the time did warn of the dangers inherent in the kind of sentiments that Iqbal used to express. However, such voices got lost. The likes of Shibli Nomani and his acolytes were simply ignored. Even divines with an aristocratic lineage, like Abul Kalam Azad were sidelined by the more vocal of the Muslims who preferred to continue building upon the narrative of Islamic supremacy, its loss and the need for a land that was exclusively for Muslims.