8. The misuse of history
8.1 Caught in the act of distorting historyThe Ram Janmabhoomi/Babri Masjid issue has highlighted several more fundamental problems which will have to be dealt with decisively. Perhaps the most important one is the intellectual dishonesty which dominates India's official ideology and its arena of public debate. One area where this dishonesty has been having a free ride during the last several decades, is history-writing. A case in point is the JNU historians' statement on Ayodhya, published in November 1989: The Political Abuse of History.
In a reply77 to the JNU professor' statement, Prof. A.R.Khan has exposed a number of attempts at distortion and deceit in their statement. I may cite the simplest and clearest case: they try to pass off the fact that Babar's diary doesn't mention the Ayodhya temple demolition as proof that it never took place. While this reasoning correctly presupposes that mentioning temple destruction would be perfectly coherent with Babar's enthusiasm for pious acts of Kafir persecution, it disregards the fact that the pages reporting on the relevant months have been lost. This fact of the missing pages is well-known to anyone familiar with the subject. But instead of admitting that Babar's own testimony is lost, they pretend that his absent testimony warrants some conclusions.
In their re-reply78 to Prof.Khans critique, they had on choice but to admit that Babar's testimony is just not available. Nevertheless, in a newspaper column one of them, Harbans Mukhia, has re-employed the discredited argument once more.79 The secularist Muslim writer Asghar Ali Engineer has also used it80, but I will give him the benefit of the doubt: he may have naively trusted the authority of his "eminent JNU historians."
Another attempt at distortion, in the context of Muslim rulers' patronage for Hindu instutions is pointed out by Prof.Khan as follows:"It may be noted that in the first two evidences the authors have deliberately concealed the fact that both the diwans [ prime ministers] were Hindus. [By contrast], while mentioning about the gifts by the officials of the Nawabi court to Hindu priests (in their third evidence), they have not forgotten to state that the officials were Muslims. This not only amounts to concealment of evidence but also distortion of evidence."81 I would concede that this selective highlighting of useful elements in the context of a polemic is not all that outrageous if it occurs once. But in the case of the JNU historians, it forms part of an over-all pattern of wilful misrepresentation of the facts.
A.A. Engineer's book on the Ram Janmabhoomi affair, Babri Masjid Ram Janmabhoomi Controversy, is merely a collection of newspaper columns on the subject, or rather a selection, for the above mentioned pertinent critiques by dr. Harsh Narain, A.K. Chatterjee and Prof. A.R. Khan (historians equal in rank to the JNU statement signatories), as well as the relevant articles by Arun Shourie, Ram Swarup, Sita Ram Goel and Jay Dubashi, have been carefully omitted, eventhough they had been published well in time for inclusion in mr. Engineer's anthology. The only two pro-Hindu articles which he has designed to include, both published in the RSS paper Organizer, were selected for their containing a few weak arguments and poor comparisons, which he then takes on in his introduction. Where of course he does not offer any criticism to the JNU historians' statement nor to any other article included in his volume. As a presentation of the debate, mr. Engineer's book is on a par with the JNU professors' presentation of the historical facts : it is a distortion.82
The secularists just go on upholding the statement of their JNU friends as the definitive scientific judgment on the matter. Two weeks after Harsh Narain's article had been published and had disproven the Janmabhoomi myth concoction thesis, the Illustrated Weekly decided to publish the already well-publicized JNU statement once more. Even after A.R. Khan's reply had exploded the objective and scientific pretence of the JNU historians, the whole secularist crowd kept on quoting the eminent historians. More than half a year later, the leftist paper Mainstream still quotes them as "several eminent historians whose professional honesty nobody questions."83 Well, I for one do question their professional honesty.
8.2 Some recent mythsWhen Romila Thapar tries to make gullible readers believe that Mahmud Ghaznavi only desecrated temples for their wealth84, she must know (assuming, as all her quoters do, that she is competent historian) that Mahmud is revered by the Muslims as a devout Muslim, that he calligraphed Quran text "for the benefit of his soul", and that he actually refused a huge ransom which Hindus were ready to pay if he agreed to give back an idol, instead of breaking it. Mahmud preferred breaking idols to selling them, even if that meant foregoing wealth. So her theory of Mahmud's economical rather than religious motives is at best an unscientific imposition of Marxist dogma upon the facts of Indian history, otherwise a deliberate lie.
She is of course in the good company of Jawaharlal Nehru, who declared that "as a matter of fact, Mahmud was hardly a religious man. He was a Mohammedan, of course, but that was just by the way".85 And he in turn only followed the lead given by Mohammed Habib and the Aligarh school of historians, who tried to whitewash Islam by blaming external and personal factors for the crimes to which Islam had prompted its champions.
In the case of their purely concocted grand theory of pre-Muslim persecution of Buddhism by Hindus, we see our leftist historians throw all standards of source criticism to the wind. Such is their eagerness to uphold this convenient hypothesis, and their care not to endanger what little supportive testimony there is. After all, from the millennia of pre-Muslim religious pluralism in India, there are not even five testimonies of such persecution, so these few should be scrupulously kept away from criticism.
Therefore, the fact that the very first testimony of Pushyamitra Shunga's alleged persecution of the Buddhists dates from three centuries after the facts, is not treated as a ground for some caution with this evidence. Nor is any alternative interpretation of his alleged behaviour (e.g. that his anger was not directed against Buddhism but against the corruption that was overtaking the monasteries) being explored, the way all kinds of mitigating explanations are invented for the Islamic crimes. The allegation is simply repeated, and amplified, in all secularist history-books.
Hsuen Tsang's contention, from hearsay, that the Shaiva king Shashank had persecuted Buddhists and felled the Bodhi tree, also goes unquestioned. Yet, his story is just visibly untrustworthy : he claims that a replanted sapling of the Bodhi tree (which, from his story, must have been felled only a few years before his own arrival) miraculously grew overnight into a mature tree. Remember that secularist historians reject myths and irrational beliefs? What Hsuen Tsang got to see with his own eyes was a tree far bigger than a recently replanted sapling could have been: an indication that the tree had never been felled in the first place. Yet, so many secularist history books go on declaring that "fanatical Shashank felled the Bodhi tree", in defiance of proper historical criticism.86
When it comes to dealing with the history of persecution and temple destruction by the Muslims, secularist historians throw all regard for hard evidence to the wind and replace it with a purely deductive (which is typically medieval) approach : Islam is tolerant, therefore the destruction and persecution cannot have taken place.
Thus, Sushil Srivastava writes :"It has been contended by the British observers that the desecration of the Hindu temple at Ayodhya was undertaken to extend Islam in India. This contention clearly indicates that the destroyers of the temples were religious fanatics well versed in the dictates of their religion."87 The contention is well-founded: many Muslim conquerors, including Teimur and Babar, quoted from the Quran in their announcements and descriptions of their jihads. Many Muslim rulers were encouraged into jihad by court clerics whose knowledge of the Quran is above suspicion.
But mr. Srivastava knows it all better: "However, the Quran clearly states that prayers offered at a contentious place will not be accepted. A mosque constructed on the site of a temple would definitely be a contentious place. Thus, the whole purpose of constructing a masjid on the site of a mandir would be self-defeating... In this context, I would like to advance my view that it is highly unlikely that even the contentious mosques in Varanasi and Mathura are located on the exact sites of temples. Near the location of a destroyed temple, possible ; on the same spot, not likely."
Mr. Srivastava's hair-splitting about whether a mosque is built on top of or just next to a destroyed temple, is quite beside the point. Especially for the people who see their temple destroyed, it doesn't make the slightest difference. Moreover, his totally undocumented theory is purely deductively based on a book he clearly doesn't know at all: the Quran.
Whatever ban on building mosques in contentious places there is in the Quran (i.e. none) or at least in the Hadis, exclusively concerns conflict within the Muslim community, or with a community with which it has a treaty (like the Jews in the first Medina years). The Quran in no way forbids the taking or destroying of Pagan temples. To put all doubts concerning the absolute non-respect for Pagan places of worship to rest, it will suffice to point out that the Kaaba itself is a "contentious" place of worship, taken from the Arab polytheists who strongly resented this, and Islamized by breaking all the 360 sacred idols in it.
Mr. Srivastava's purely deductive (also called dogmatic) position leads him to disregard well-known hard evidence. The contentious Gyanvapi mosque (as well as many others) visibly stands on the place of a Hindu temple : the latter's walls are partly still standing and form part of the mosque's wall. But our secularist historian unstoppably goes on deducing : "Could a devout Muslim like Babar, knowledgeable of the tenets of the Quran, have allowed such a faux pas as the construction of a mosque bearing his name at the spot where an important temple had existed ?" For secularist true believers, such rhetorical questions clinch the issue.
8.3 Disregarding the evidenceA fresh case of utter disregard for hard evidence is the central argument of the reply88 by the inescapable JNU historians to dr. S.P. Gupta's archaeological arguments89 for the pre-existence of a temple at the Babri Masjid spot. Dr. Gupta had written that the pillar-bases and the glazen ware can be accurately dated; and of course, with the available archaeological high-tech, as well as with the knowledge of art history, they can. But the JNU historians simply disregard the dating and declare that the fact that the pillar-bases were found in the upper layer, "would certainly not make them as early as the eleventh century since the uppermost levels would be comparatively recent". Well, compared to the Valmiki or the Ram era, from which nothing was found during these excavations, unless Ram is put later than the eighth century BC (a fact noted with satisfaction by the JNU historians in their well-known statement), the eleventh century is rather recent. It depends on very local factors whether old objects can be found just below the surface rather than deep down ; the sheer depth at which an object is found, is not a dating method. They themselves do not come up with an alternative scientific dating method, even while dismissing dr. Gupta's results.
As for the pottery, of which dr. Gupta says that it "can be firmly dated : some belong to the thirteenth, some the fourteenth and some the fifteenth century", they have no comment on his dating methods, but assert : "This style of pottery first comes into use in Persia and therefore cannot date to an earlier period in India". Actually, the JNU historians just haven't done their homework on this count. What only appeared in Iran in the fifteenth century, was a specific type of glazen war, china, but less refined kinds of glazen ware had been around since the eleventh century.
The JNU historians even assert : "Thus the evidence of the pottery would point to the bases being constructed not earlier than the fifteenth century and possibly even a later period." That later period would then be when the Babri Masjid was already standing there, but in JNU historiography there is nothing against the co-existence of temple and mosque right on the same spatial location. Anyway, they go as far as deducing the age of the building from the age of the pottery. That means that if you have a computer in your house, this proves that your house cannot possibly be older than the manufacture of the computer. And all this funny JNU argumentation is based on the non-motivated disregard for the scientific dating of the pillar-bases to the eleventh century and the pottery sharves to the thirteenth to fifteenth century. Either they should have accepted those datings, or they should have shown the method by which they were obtained, to be unsound.
In a lecture90 just after the publication of the JNU historians' reply, dr. Gupta has explained : "Several of the temple-pillars existing in the mosque and pillar- bases unearthed in the excavations conducted in the south of the mosque (although in the adjoining plot of land) show the same directional alignment. This will convince any student of architecture that two sets of material remains belong to one and the same complex. Secondly, the archaeological history of Islamic glazed ware in India goes back to the eleventh century, not the fifteenth ; in the fifteenth only a particular type of glazed ware was brought to India. Here at Ayodhya one kind of Islamic glazed ware was even a local imitation of the thirteenth century. Therefore, when we observe that here we recovered Islamic glazed ware of different periods, from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century, from below the floor level of the mosque, we are telling the truth of archaeological discoveries."
One point of progress was that in this round of the debate (December 1990), the JNU historians already had to admit that there had been a building there. And that is new. In their well-known statement they had declared : "So far, no historical evidence has been unearthed to support the claim that the Babri mosque has been constructed on the land that had been earlier occupied by a temple." Now, the interesting thing is that the archaeological findings on which dr. S.P. Gupta has reported in the article to which the JNU historians have replied, date from years before their original statement. What is more, one of the main sources for their statement was Prof. B.B. Lal's report on the same findings, in which it is, clearly though briefly, stated that remains of a pre-Masjid building had been found.91 When they said there was no archaeological evidence, they were bravely lying.
The noted indologist Iravatham Mahadevan, also editor of Dinamani, in a lecture in Madras on 4/12/90, has drawn attention to the fact that while the JNU pamphlet starts off by citing Prof. Lal's conclusions on the ancient settlement issue, though without mentioning him by name, it is surprisingly silent on his other major finding -- that a temple (or at least some building) had existed at the Masjid site. Mr. Mahadevan squarely held the JNU historians guilty of what they try to lay at the door of others : "political abuse of history". 92
8.4 Historians arguing ad hominemThe JNU historians in their reply try to escape by stating that it is B.B. Lal who changed his version of the findings. They quote his report : "...the site was again occupied around the eleventh century A.D. Several later medieval brick-and-kankar lime floors have been met with, but the entire late period was devoid of any special interest." And they comment : "These earlier statements contradict his present claim to having found the pillar-bases of what may have been a temple at the site, a claim recently made by him in the RSS magazine Manthan (October 1990)". These earlier statements rather prove that there was a building on the spot. Even this earlier report in no way excludes that this building "may have been a temple", especially considering its location. And in the Manthan article, B.B. Lal does not claim anything new, and does not positively state that it must have been a temple : this cannot be proven from the pillar-bases, only from other types of evidence, such as the use of the black pillars in the Babri Masjid. B.B. Lal has not changed his stand at all. The evidence that a building was replaced by the Babri Masjid was there in his earlier report, on the basis of which the JNU historians had claimed the non-availability of any archaeological indication of a pre-existent temple.
The JNU historians stoop so low as to insinuate that Prof. Lal is distorting evidence to suit certain political compulsions : "Could it be that the requirements of VHP politics have occasioned this new claim ?" And also : "One wonders why, if there was any such evidence, B.B. Lal is only revealing it now. Could it be that because of the politics of the Janmabhoomi, it is being claimed as fresh evidence ?" And that from historians who themselves have distorted evidence in order to satisfy certain political compulsions : apparently a case of what psychologists call projection.
Dr. Mahadevan's remarks on the Ayodhya affair and against the JNU historians, have received support from another archaeologist, Muhammed K.K., deputy superintending archaeologist of the ASI Madras circle. He writes : "...Mr. Mahadevan's comments were really an objective analysis of the archaeological data. I can reiterate this with greater authority, for I was the only Muslim who had participated in the Ayodhya excavation in 1976-77 under professor Lal...I was at the Hanuman Garhi site, but I have visited the excavation near the Babri Masjid and seen the excavated pillar bases. The JNU historians have highlighted only one part of our findings while suppressing the other." He adds that destroying mosques to right historical wrongs is wrong, but :"Ayodhya is as holy to Hindus as Mecca is to Muslims. Muslims should respect the sentiments of their millions of Hindu brethren and voluntarily hand over the structure for constructing the Rama temple."93
Another top archaeologist who has come out against the JNU historians' high-handed intervention in the archaeological debate, is Prof. K.V. Raman, head of the Madras University Archaeology Department. Noticing that the most vocal ones among the JNU historians are not archaeologists or even specialists in medieval history, Prof. Raman reiterates that the report published earlier was not the complete report and focused mainly on the period presumed to be that of the Ramayana. So the question is merely whether Prof. Lal has recorded his recently divulged findings in the so far unpublished report : "When Lal says he has indeed done so, I see no reason why anyone should doubt him on that score."94
The JNU historians also try to raise suspicions against Dr. Gupta : "In his excavation reports, B.B. Lal mentions those who excavated along with him, and curiously, despite his insisting that he was part of the team, the name of Dr. S.P. Gupta is conspicuously absent." Well, what an allegation. Do the JNU historians really think that dr. Gupta would risk his academic reputation by making a false claim of having participated in this research ? They themselves of course can get away with blatant lies, because they are shielded by a politically motivated press against any criticism that would threaten their eminence. But real scientists do not count on such exemptions. The fact of the matter is that Dr. Gupta was involved in the research as an observer, and that in his article against which the JNU historians sent their reply, he has merely claimed that he "was for some time connected with the research work done at the site", which is impeccably truthful.
In his lecture, Dr. Gupta has replied to the JNU insinuations : "In 1975-76 our primary aim was to find out the antiquity of the site, and not the temple. Hence the brief reports did not mention it. It is common knowledge that when we excavate, we record everything we find and all of them appear in the final report. That is why we are extremely sorry to see the oblique attack on us as if we are 'planting' evidence now which never existed before. But then finally, does it really speak highly of my friends to tell people that I was not present in the excavations ? Ask the director of excavations, he will say that since I belonged not to the Archaeological Survey of India staff but to the National Museum, I could not be designated as a regular member of the team, I had the status of an 'observer'. But then what ?" The unacademic attitude of these JNU historians, who are stronger in character assassination95 than in historical method should make it clear to their critics that there is no reason to feel inhibited when it comes to exposing them. They really deserve to be shown up in public as the impostors they are.
For the rest, the JNU historians' latest attempt to wriggle out from under the inconvenient evidence, is just pitiable. For instance, they state that the presence of the pillar-bases just next to the mosque is no proof that there are more of them underneath (why not demand excavations underneath to settle that uncertainty ?). Their suggestion is, in effect, that there stood a small building with only a very few pillars there (on an elevated spot overlooking the temple city), just next to an empty spot where later the Masjid was built. Apart from being one more ad hoc theoretical construction incoherent with all we know, this is another case of hair-splitting about the exact location, which disregards the central point (that remains unaffected by their hypothesis) that a pre-existent building was demolished and that it has made room for the Babri Masjid.
Moreover, if the pillared building was only standing next to the Masjid site, why wasn't it left standing ? The entire JNU argument is a patchwork of such untenable ad hoc constructions.
8.5 Broadcasting distortionsFor all its untenability, the secularist version of history does manage to get amplified continually in the press. The historical debate in Indian Express in the first week of December 1990, which allowed the readers to hear both sides and to make up their own minds, was ignored by most papers, and what much came through, was a systematical distortion.
The Times of India gave no coverage to dr. Gupta's findings, but invited other scholars to air their counter-opinions. In an article with the misleading title "Ayodhya may be Buddhist site"96, they announce that Prof. R.S. Sharma "has strongly dismissed the validity of evidence regarding the existence of an eleventh century Ram temple at Ayodhya". When you read on, you find that he really only denied that it was a Ram temple. Disregarding the presence of distinctly non- Buddhist symbols like the trishul on the black pillar- stones, he opines that remains of a Buddhist temple were used in the Babri Masjid. So, at any rate there was a building, and it was a Kafir temple.
Further down the article, a Prof. V.N. Mishra, director of Deccan College in Pune, is also quoted as saying that Dr. Gupta's findings are inadequate and unconvincing, but again this turns out to merely refer to the status of the building as a Ram temple (on the doubtful ground that no contemporary Ram temples in Uttar Pradesh have been found), not to its existence or its religious or even its specifically Vaishnava character.97
What the readers did not get to read, is that Prof. Mishra is a prehistorian, not at all involved in research concerning the pre-Babri period, and that he was not really interviewed but gave his outsider's opinion casually during a group conversation, not knowing that his opinion would be printed on the Times of India front-page. He has expressed his indignation at these undeontological methods of quoting people without telling them beforehand, and moreover misquoting them.98 It just goes to show what unscrupled vipers these secularist journalists are.
That Ayodhya was a chiefly Buddhist town, is an information which Prof. Sharma has taken from the Chinese travellers Fa Hsien and Hsuen Tsang. He cites Hsuen Tsang's highly slanted figures without any critical sense (at least according to the Times of India version of the interview) : Ayodhya had one hundred Buddhist and ten non-Buddhist temples. That the historically attested Jain temples alone already add up to ten, does not seem to make him more cautious in dealing with Hsuen Tsang's highly partisan (and in some places just fabulating) report.
At any rate, nobody had ever doubted the Buddhist presence in Ayodhya. But that is not the point. The point for the Times of India's Arvind N. Das is, to bracket or even replace the facts of Muslim destruction of Hindu places with a postulated Hindu destruction of Buddhist places : "The historical evidence of the flourishing of Buddhism at Ayodhya and the existence of the Babri Masjid on a mound, typical of the remains of Buddhist stupas in Mohenjo-Daro and elsewhere, provides strong indication to historians and archaeologists that indeed the archaeological remains found in Ayodhya could well belong to Buddhist monasteries which were destroyed by Brahminical onslaught." (this is apparently the journalist's own insertion, for further on in the article, we see Prof. Sharma suggesting it was a Shaiva temple)
Here, we are facing a central item in the secularist disinformation campaign : the theory that all religions (which the Marxists plan to weed out), with the possible exception of Islam (the proto-socialist religion of equality and brotherhood), were all equally intolerant and given to persecution. Or in the newer and somewhat less anti-religious version : all religions except Hinduism are basically tolerant, but they have been persecuted by the Brahmins and that is why Brahminism has come to dominate India.
To support this theory, all kinds of fantastic exaggerations and pure lies are launched. Thus, the Economic Times manages to rhetorically ask :"If the Hindus want to demolish mosques which were built on temple sites, should Buddhists ask for the rebuilding of Nalanda University which the Hindus destroyed ?"99 Now, everybody with some education should know that Nalanda University was destroyed in the wake of Mohammed Ghori's conquest of North India. To be more precise, it was destroyed and its staff and students exterminated to the last by Mohammed Bakhtiyar Khilji in 1200. It is not Hinduism but Islam that "banned Buddhism from its homeland".
But what to make of this misdirected allegation : is it
utter dishonesty or utter ignorance ? Either way, it is
actively or passively part of a disinformation campaign
concerning Hindu history, perversely calculated to make
Hindus feel guilty for the kind of crimes Islam
perpetrated against them, thus to paralyze and pre-empt
criticism of Islam and similar ideologies.
Mrs. Ambedkar could have been saved the embarrassment of her utterly unfounded claim102, if the prominent Indian historians had done an honest job of debunking the Ambedkarist version of history (which is very much a "myth claiming the legitimacy of history", and "used for political purposes", against which the JNU historians normally take out crusades). Instead, they have ensured that the myth is now spreading into the collective consciousness via schoolbooks and newspapers.
Another approach to blur the stark contrast between Muslim intolerance and the general Pagan tolerance, is to admit the fact of the temple destructions, adding that all ancient conquerors asserted their authority by destroying temples, and that Muslim temple destruction was just an application of this general rule. Thus, Partha S. Ghosh writes :"It was a common practice in ancient and medieval times, when the concept of sovereignty was not so well-defined, particularly in territorial terms, to assert one's sovereignty over a region by destroying the religious places belonging to the faith of the earlier rulers and then by building one's own on their ruins. It was primarily a political activity and had little to do with religious faith as such."103
If it was a common practice, it should be easy to verify. But when you go through ancient history, you find almost nothing of the sort. On the contrary, you find that systematically the gods and religious places of even enemy peoples were respected.
In feudal China, the ruling house of a defeated state was not be exterminated, even if its survival meant a political risk : the religious reason for this taboo was that family's ancestral gods had to continue to be worshipped, which only their descendants could properly do. Ch'in Shih Huang violated this rule, and that is one of the reasons for his utter condemnation by the Confucian tradition.
There is in Chinese history one case of alleged religious persecution for purely economical reasons. In the eighth century, a Tang emperor abolished all Buddhist monasteries. They had been exempt from paying taxes, but through donations and legacies, they had become big landholders with enormous revenue, which was all escaping the public treasury. So, the monasteries were abolished as a strictly institutional measure. The monks were not put to the sword, or forbidden to practice and teach Buddhism. It was simply not a case of religious persecution, which is a phenomenon quite alien to the entire Chinese civilization.
The Romans, when they conquered a city, took care not to offend the local gods, and payed a visit to their temples. When they occupied Israel, they took care not to break the Jews' taboo on depicting animal life : of the legions, only those with a tree (rather than an animal) symbol in their standards were posted in Jerusalem. The few religious persecutions in the Roman empire were indeed politically motivated. When the Christians and the Jews, egged on by apocalyptic preachers, expressed their belief that the end of the empire was near, refused to pay respects to the emperor's statues, and even rose in armed rebellion, they were indeed suppressed and persecuted.
When Caesar occupied the Celtic West of Europe, he found that the Druid class was the backbone of this society (the parallel with the Brahmins in the perception of the missionaries is quite exact) : therefore, he persecuted the Druids. However, that campaign had no religious dimension for Caesar: in his description of the Celtic religion, he mentions the Celtic gods by the names of their Roman equivalents, for he understood fully well that there was no fundamental but merely an ethnic difference between the Roman and Celtic religious traditions.
So, whereas the secularist historians claim that religious places were systematically destroyed as a symbol of political sovereignty, in fact the few cases of such destruction took place when the religious centres were effectively centres of political power or rebellion. The rule was respect for priests and temples, but this rule was made subordinate to the rule that centres of political resistance to the empire have to be broken. As a religious centre, the Second Temple in Jerusalem was never destroyed; only when it became a centre of rebellion, the Romans overcame their "superstitious fear" or respect for the alien god that lived in this temple, and moved in to destroy it. Of the hundreds of religions that have existed in the Roman empire, hardly a handful have ever been the object of persecution and temple destruction.
In pre-Muslim Indian history, we again see that after victory, kings systematically went to perform sacrifice in the temple of defeated opponents. And we know that Ram sacrificed to Shiva, the god of his enemy Ravana (after killing Ravana, he also put a member of Ravana's family on the throne, as was the ancient Hindu custom). In fact, with the massive evidence of respect for all temples and all gods, we are still waiting for the Nehruvian historians to come up with the very first example of a Hindu king who "asserted his sovereignty over a region by destroying the religious places belonging to the faith of the earlier rulers".
Even Pushyamitra Shunga, of whom it is unreliably said by a very non-contemporary source that he had Buddhist monks killed, allowed Buddhist universities to flourish in his kingdom. Even he is not described to have demolished temples on the occasion of his political take-over, his alleged acts of persecution are ascribed by his detractors to purely sectarian fanaticism.104 The one apparently reliable report of religious persecution in pre-Muslim India, about the Tamil king Kun Pandya (Arikesari Parankusha Maravarman, 670-710) who had Shaivas killed, then converted (under the influence of his wife's guru Sambandar) and had Jains killed, is also not linked to any assertion of political authority : he was already safely in power.
So, the sweeping allegation of a common practice of temple destruction as a symbol of political self- assertion, is not based on the facts of history, and goes against abundant evidence to the contrary. A historian who proposes this theory, violates all standards of historical method, and must be deemed either incompetent or dishonest. But even if such a general rule had existed : the Muslim pattern of temple destruction does not conform to it.
When a Muslim ruler conquered another Muslim country, he did not go and destroy the chief mosques. Never, Conversely, Muslim rulers often had temples destroyed when their rule was firmly established and not in need of any assertion. For instance, the Christians of Damascus were at first allowed to keep their cathedral (itself a converted Pagan temple), under the general conditions imposed on zimmis (protected Jews and Christians). However, the Muslim clerics couldn't stand the sight of this proud non-Muslim building, and demanded its conversion into a mosque. The Christians payed huge ransoms in order to be allowed to keep their church, but finally the Caliph gave in to the pressure and had the church converted into a mosque. Financially he lost on it, and politically he didn't need it : the reason for the Muslim take-over of this place of worship was of a different nature, neither economical nor political, but theological.
When under Muslim rule, rebellious princes or generals had used mosques or Sufi centres as head-quarters of their conspiracies, this never led to the destruction of these places of worship. When these places housed wealth, still they were not plundered. But thousands of temples that did not house any conspiracy nor for that matter any wealth , were nonetheless destroyed. If Aurangzeb needed a symbolical act of destruction to assert his authority, why was he not satisfied with destroying only the most important temple of Varanasi, why did he destroy so many of them ? The theories that Muslim rulers plundered only for wealth, or only to assert their authority, have holes in them on all sides.
The far simpler explanation, corroborated by all the available documents, is that they had a theology of temple destruction, and that this led them to a behaviour pattern unknown in Pagan cultures : proportionate to their military might and to their fervour in the faith, they systematically destroyed Pagan temples. It didn't matter whether these temples had any riches in them or any political significance : in every case it was a scripturally ordained act of great merit to weed out Paganism by destroying Pagan temples and centres of learning, as well as by killing or forcibly converting the Pagans themselves.
If we accept this simple and well-attested fact, then secularist scholar Partha S. Ghosh can get a straightforward answer to his question : "Do we ever look back to rationalize why after all there are no ancient Buddhist temples in North India when Buddhists had ruled the country for several centuries ?"105 Yes, why ? Why are there absolutely no Buddhist temples left in Afghanistan, in Turkestan ? Nor Brahmin or Zoroastrian or Manichaean temples, for that matter ? This secularist scholar does not seem to know that the Buddhist monasteries and universities were destroyed and exterminated to the last, in India just as well as in Central Asia, by none other than the Muslim armies. So, the answer is that, while Buddhism had been partly reabsorbed into Hinduism, and had partly continued as a separate tradition under Hindu dynasties, the Muslim conquerors finished it off totally.
So, mr. Ghosh may be the Director of the Indian Council of Social Science Research, but as an independent scholar I am not impressed by such titles and positions. His view of the history of religion and persecution is thoroughly flawed. But then, maybe he can't help it, because it seems he picked up his views on history from the JNU "eminent historians whose professional honesty nobody questions". And so many more innocent young people are equally being misled by the Nehruvian (i.e. Marxist plus nationalist Muslim) history distorters.
8.7 Up against undeserved authorityIntellectually, these Nehruvian historians and pressmen stand thoroughly discredited. But they have power positions in the media and in the education and research establishments, so they still manage to black out criticism and alternative opinions. A recent example of their power is the nomination of a successor to Leftist Muslim historian Irfan Habib as head of the Indian Council of Historical Research. The expected choice was Prof. G.C. Pande, former vice-chancellor of two universities. But the secularist intelligentsia launched a campaign against him : "RSS connections loom large"106. It is said that Irfan Habib contacted the Shahi Imam, who in turn had a chat with his friend V.P. Singh, prime minister. At any rate, G.C. Pande's name was scrapped from the list of candidates. This is also one more example of the unscrupled connivance between secularists and Muslim communalists.
The status and pretence of these Nehruvian historians should be openly challenged, as has been done by Prof. A.R. Khan in his rejoinder to the JNU historians' well- known statement.107 All secularists have tacitly agreed to absolutely ignore his shattering reply to the eminent historians' pamphlet.108 They know they have been beaten at the intellectual level, but they use their power over the public arena to ensure that these challengers remain in the margins.
In their re-reply to Prof. Khan's critique, the JNU historians wrote haughtily : "Mr. Khan's misrepresentation of our views on these matters is, we presume, not a deliberate attempt to malign us, but due rather to an unfortunate lack of familiarity with historical sources and an inability to comprehend the language of our argument..."109 In other words: whatever your arguments, you can't prevent us from authoritatively putting you in the role of a pitiable nitwit.
Personally, I think I do comprehend the language of their argument. But unlike Prof. Khan, I also do advocate a deliberate attempt to malign the Nehruvian historians. Not the kind of maligning that they themselves indulge in, taking their cue from Lenin's own advocacy of lies and disinformation as weapons in the revolutionary struggle. Not throwing swearwords at people, not stigmatizing them with a label (except those they give to themselves, like secularist), not trying to suppress their opinions. On the contrary, the stress in a genuine intellectual debate should always be on the contents of people's arguments, no matter what label they have come to carry. A careful scrutiny of their statements and historical theories is all that is needed to expose them and explode their eminent status.
This scrutiny may also take into account their record of academic support for (i.e. conferral of respectability on) the classic lies of Communism : the murder of thousands of Polish officers in Katyn, long blamed on the Germans with support from historians ; the secret protocol in the 1939 Hitler-Stalin pact, allotting the Baltic states and Eastern Poland to Stalin (a Belgian Marxist historian denied the protocol's existence in the very week when the glasnosted Soviet authorities published its full text); the economical successes of Stalin and of Mao's Great Leap Forward ; the Chinese historical claim on Tibet as well as on some Indian territory ; and others.
What about, for instance, the rather different treatment meted out to Mahatma Gandhi in the successive editions of JNU historian Bipan Chandra's work on India's independence struggle : could it be that the change in the partyline and Moscow's increasing regard for the Mahatma, rather than new research findings, was responsible for the shift ? All this should be checked. Just a factual record, something like "From Katyn to Ayodhya : Leftist historians' record of support for politically motivated lies", would go a long way in undermining their totally undeserved hold over the intellectual arena.
The way they have obtained and handled their power positions also deserves some scrutiny. Take the case of the project allotted by the government to the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), about the history of the freedom struggle in 1937-47. As The Week has reported, this project was started in 1974, and should have resulted in the publication of 10 volumes by 1984. The first volume was published in 1985. It was prepared by non-Marxist dr. P.N. Chopra, and branded as unsaleable (though it fetched Rs. 2 Lakh in royalties) by the Marxist-dominated review committee. Chopra was hounded review committee in 1987, as too sympathetic to Congress and not interested enough in the trade unions' involvement. He explains : "I could not be a party to suppression of historical facts. That was why they turned against me."
But more intriguing than the predictable fact that the Marxists were intolerant of anyone not toeing their line, is the fact that after sixteen years and Rs. 2.5 crore, only two volumes were completed (of which only one was published), and that by a non-Marxist member. According to a press report, the list of people involved in this expensive project contains the top names in secularist historiography : Prof. R.S. Sharma, first chairman of the ICHR ; dr. s. Gopal, who was in charge of the project under Prof. Sharma's tenure, and remained "its chief editor for over a decade without producing a single line"; Irfan Habib, AMU historian and ICHR chairman ; Prof. Bipan Chandra and Prof. K.N. Panikkar, who, with six others, were appointed in 1987 when dr. Gopal had resumed the charge of the project, with the promise to the government of finishing by 31 December 1991. The promise was not kept and the government decided to call off the whole project, in spite of Prof. Habib's reportedly high-handed attempts to get yet another extension.
This is how The Week explains this strange lack of productivity of these lavishly sponsored Communists :"Right from the beginning, ICHR has been in the hands of Communist historians. They had more than an academic interest in the period under study (1937-47), since the Communists are accused of betraying the freedom struggle and of siding with the British during the Quit India movement. Their idea apparently was to get the project shelved so that they could bury their past, or interpret the period from the Communist angle..."110 Now that the money has been wasted, it is certainly a good thing to shelve this project of publishing ten volumes of Communist history falsification. At any rate, such adventures should be investigated and given some well deserved publicity.
And then, the falsehood of the grand secularist vision of Indian history should be exposed. As a concrete starting-point, their facile way of equating the numerous cases of persecution by Muslim rulers with the handful of similar acts by Pagan rulers, should be exposed.
Thus, the way Romila Thapar equates Mahmud Ghaznavi with Harsha of Kashmir (twelfth century) as being both temple plunderers111, can be shown up to be in gross conflict with the contemporary testimonies about the two. Of Ghaznavi, it is well-attested that he was a devout Muslim, that he refused ransom for an idol, that he deliberately committed numerous acts of sacrilege in Hindu temples with no profit whatsoever attached, and that he of course never plundered mosques. By contrast, Harsha plundered temples of his own religion, Hindu as well as Buddhist. He did not demolish them, or force Brahmins to eat beef or Buddhist monks to have sex, or any other deliberate act of sacrilege. For Harsha it was purely a matter of filling the treasury, and for Mahmud it was a matter of humiliating and destroying Paganism. This conclusion is inescapable from the contemporary reports about Harsha and Mahmud. Romila Thapar's explanation that Ghaznavi's behaviour was essentially the same as Harsha's, can only rest on an utter incompetence in reading the source material, or in a deliberate attempt to distort history.
What is more, if at all one wants to compare Harsha's behaviour with that of the Muslim rulers, one should face the connection that the contemporary historian Kalhan explicitly makes. Commenting on Harsha's temple plundering, he writes :"Prompted by the Turks in his employ, he behaved like a Turk". At face value, that seems to confirm the Nehruvians' equating of Harsha's and Mahmud's behaviour. Yet, the Nehruvians historians gloss over it (and we know by now that there is a system in their glossing-over), because on closer analysis, it seems that Kalhan does not make a detailed distinction between desecrating a temple by plundering it (as Harsha did), and desecrating it by more precise (and non-profit) acts of sacrilege, such as hanging a cow's tongue around an idols' neck (as Mahmud did). Kalhan is simply saying that the very idea that a temple need not be respected, was borrowed by Harsha from the Muslim Turks. These already had a well-established reputation for temple desecration, and that is a fact to which the Nehruvian historians prefer not to draw the readers' attention.
For another example, Harbans Mukhia should not be allowed to get away with his statement that "the demolition of temples in enemy-territory was symbolic of conquest by the sultan... many Hindu rulers also did the same with temples in enemy-territory long before the Muslims had emerged as a political challenge", for which he gives as proof : the above-mentioned Harsha of Kashmir, and Subhatavarman (Paramara king 1193-1210) who attacked Gujarat and destroyed many Jain temples at Dabhoi and Cambay112.
While the latter could be an illustration of the destruction of temples in enemy-territory (though no reason for singling out Jain temples is even attempted), he did not act this way "long before the Muslims had emerged as a political challenge": much of North India had freshly been conquered and thousands of temples destroyed by Ghori and Aibak. And Harsha also was already under Muslim influence, as stated explicitly in the contemporary report, and moreover, he didn't plunder in enemy-territory but in his own kingdom (an early example of the now-prevalent Hindu cowardice rallying against Hindu institutions and following the Muslim lead). So, here we have a case of a history professor who does not realize that the proofs he cites have hardly any logical connection with the thesis he proposes; or who is so assured about his eminence that he doesn't expect readers to notice the faulty reasoning.
From a criticism of the Nehruvians' behaviour in such case studies in religiously motivated persecution and destruction, we may then move on to the more general statements about religion as a determinant in shaping India's military, political and social history. Let us consider, for instance, the profoundly mistaken view that "monotheism [i.e. Islam] implies equality". Like several Aligrah historians, Harbans Mukhia has propounded this view113 in the context of explaining Islam's role as a social reform movement, giving a lead to many other secularists in academe and in the press. This view is so visibly untrue that one cannot really imagine an intellectual propounding it without some ideological compulsion overruling his intelligence.
Obviously, monotheism does not abolish the differences in the universe. The Pagan world-view was aware of the different realms of nature, the different levels of integratedness from the atoms up to the Whole, and indeed also the differences within humanity. Each phenomenon was represented by personifications of its typical characteristics, so the plurality of the cosmos was represented by a plurality of gods. Now, the postulate that all these personifications or gods are to be forgotten and that only Allah is to be worshipped, does not make any difference for the plurality in the cosmos and in society : plants and animals are still different realms of nature, and rulers and commoners have also not merged.
In the monotheistic Jewish society, there were still kings, priests, traders, free servants and slaves. In Christianity, a stratified feudal society was sanctified by Christian theologians . The Christian concern for social action is a recent invention, made necessary by the finding that in Europe the working-class was attracted by atheist socialism, and that in Asia the strategy of first converting the elite was a total failure, so that a way to the hearts of the lower classes had to be devised.
So, there is nothing intrinsically equalitarian in monotheism. Relating the concept of equality with conceptual monotheism may be a somewhat complicated intellectual exercise which a Marxist-trained mind is not ready for, so eminent Prof. Harbans Mukhia may be forgiven this lapse. But the postulate that specifically Islam is a religion of equality, is an ideological and totally un-historical concoction. From a history professor, this cannot be accepted.
The first case of sharp inequality fostered by Islam that comes to mind, is the Islamic treatment of women. While equality in the most modern sense between men and women was never the rule anywhere, at least women used to enjoy more freedom and autonomy in most societies than they do in Islam. At this point, Muslim apologists have come up with the unbelievable contention that in tribal Arabia, it had been even worse than in Islam ; which is readily disproven by the case of Mohammed's first wife Khadija, who had inherited a trading company of which she herself was in charge, with Mohammed as her employee. The apologists' contention that polygamy under Islam was in fact a progress compared to pre-Islamic pagan society is altogether untenable. A Muslim man can have 4 wives plus X concubines : compared to what can 4+X be a decrease? The traditional, non-modern justification that this polygamy provided the best security to the numerous widows (who must have become especially numerous in the high-intensity warfare which Mohammed newly introduced among the Arabs)114, was a more reasonable explanation.
For a second example of inequality, Islam is in world history the absolute champion of slavery from European slave-traders who shipped black slaves from Africa to America, mostly bought these slaves from Arab slave- catchers. One of the first things the Belgian king Leopold II had to do in his Congo colony (though not out of any noble motive), was to defeat the Arab slave- catchers.115 This was as late as the end of the nineteenth century. But even today, some Muslim countries tolerate the outright practice of slavery. In 1989, reporters found out that hundreds of children belonging to the black non-Muslim Dinka tribe in Southern Sudan were being sold into slavery, after the army of the Islamic government had slaughtered their fathers. In Indian history too, many lakhs of Hindus have been sold into slavery.
Forcing Kafirs into slavery was of course a common practice. But even among Muslims, the master-slave relation existed. The only case where slavery was abolished, was where a Muslim was slave to a Kafir. Since Islam is a doctrine of domination, it could not tolerate that a Kafir lorded it over a Muslim.116
It is significant for the boundless arrogance which Islam inculcates in its proponents, that Islam is now being advertised as a religion of equality even among the black Africans. "Islam is the religion for Africa", colonel Kadhafi proclaimed in a speech in which he promised support to the South-African blacks; even when the South- African word Kaffer (nigger, but even more derogatory), is simply the Islamic term Kafir, which was applied to the black slaves by the Arabs and borrowed by the later European colonizers. And nobody dares to go in and remind those Africans of what the Muslim have done to them, the way the lower castes in India are continuously being fed anti-Brahmin history.
But the point is, while one cannot blame the Muslim propagandists for painting a rosy picture of the religion they try to sell, we now see eminent historians spreading this utterly untruthful item of propaganda, in books which are required reading in many universities. They even lecture others and call them communalists if they don't swallow these Islamic-cum-Nehruvian lies.
In another important respect, Islam is even more antithetical to equality. We will not bother about the superiority which the Arabs feel vis-a-vis the non-Arabs (as when Kadhafi lambasted some Quran interpretation by "someone who is not even an Arab", meaning Khomeini), nor about the inequality between Ajlaf and Ashraf (vulgar and noble), between Sheikhs and Sayyids and other such subdivisions in the Muslim community : these are just human phenomena of differentiation to which no heavy conclusions need be attached. The one crucial inequality which Islam has brought is the radical and absolute inequality between Momins and Kafirs, believers and non- believers.
This is a very central point in Islamic theology. Humanity is divided into two : the Momins are bound to go to heaven, and in the lower world should lord it over the Kafirs, and these are bound to go to hell forever, and in this world may be subjected to all kinds of injustice. For a hundredfold testimony of this persistent doctrine of absolute inequality, it suffices to check the true untailored sources of Islamic doctrine, the Quran and the Hadis. It is against those sources that the claims of Islam as a religion of equality have to be checked. The claim for Islam as a religion of equality will then stand utterly disproven, because authentic facts are more eminent than even the JNU historians.
Once the support of the Nehruvian historians to such utter falsifications of history is tackled and exposed, they have no chance of saving their reputations or even the hold of their theories over the public arena. They have gone too far in their distortions of history, so they are very vulnerable. If they have held out in the role of oft-quoted "eminent historians" for so long, it is only due to the slackness and timidity of the Hindu intellectuals.
Only because of a configuration of forces peculiar to India have the anti-Hindu historians been able to completely dominate the scene. In most free countries, they would have been exposed long ago. Take the case of veteran Leftist historian Prof. R.S. Sharma. In the Ayodhya debate, he has played a fairly prominent role, with his book Communal History and Rama's Ayodhya, published in December 1990, with his interviews and public statements on the matter, and with his participation for the Babri side in the VHP-BMAC discussion on the historical evidence.117 That he has in his writings totally ignored the abundant documentary evidence, has not stopped the press from citing him as a great authority. But what does the international historical scene think about him ?
The Dutch historian and indologist Andre Wink writes, referring to Prof. Sharma's chief claim to fame, his book on Indian Feudalism in the early medieval period : "R.S. Sharma's Indian Feudalism has misguided virtually all historians of the period... Sharma's thesis essentially involves an obstinate attempt to find 'elements' which fit a preconceived picture of what should have happened in India because it happened in Europe (or is alleged to have happened in Europe by Sharma and his school of historians whose knowledge of European history is rudimentary and completely outdated)... The methodological underpinnings of Sharma's work are in fact so thin that one wonders why, for so long, Sharma's colleagues have called his work 'pioneering'."118 In a world where the wind of free inquiry blows, Marxist dogmas cannot hold out for long. They have been abandoned, except in those places where an artificial authority is attached to them by a partisan intelligentsia.
From his high pedestal, Prof. Sharma could afford to disregard the "very few authors whose work effectively addresses the feudalism thesis in a critical manner", and he "appears to have been in no mood to take heed of criticism levelled at his work". This disregarding and ignoring of counter-evidence is tactically the best way to prolong your dominant position (which is why this tactic was adopted by most secularists in the Ayodhya debate): it denies publicity and respectability to the critic's alternative thesis. But to the progress of science, this upholding of dogma and suppression of debate is detrimental. According to Prof. Wink, the effect has been this : "Under the impact of the feudalism thesis the historiography of the period is still in utter disarray."
On the Ayodhya issue too, popular and governmental perception has been brought into utter disarray by the concerted efforts of a small but powerful group of committed Hindu-baiters, including the same Prof. R.S. Sharma, who have hammered into the public consciousness a suspicion against the well-attested facts of the matter. With all their eminence and authority, they actually managed to turn facts into myth and concoction. But as you can see from the comment of a competent outsider, the authority which these Hindu-baiters enjoy, is highly undeserved and based on something else than scholarly merit.
So, in my opinion, the dominance of these Nehruvian and other Hindu-baiters need not last much longer. Their eminence will go down as soon as the debunking of their central myths has come centre-stage in the intellectual arena (which means that an issue-centered critique will suffice to do most of the job). And that can go unexpectedly fast, there are plenty of occasions at which the readers are interested enough to pick up an alternative thesis, if only it gets competently presented to them.
For a promising example, Meenakshi Jain has done an admirable job of debunking a number of cherished misconceptions (consciously spread in the colonial and missionary interests) concerning the caste system, as part of a debate in Indian Express triggered by the Mandal Report.119 While casteist politicians will go on for some time to use these misconceptions in their rhetoric, the intellectual questioning of the (widely prevalent) anti-Brahmin and anti-Hindu casteist view of Indian history has started, and it is bound to affect every caste-related debate soon.120
Another recent myth which is easy to debunk on the strength of the authentic texts, is that Buddhism and Jainism were social reform movements and reactions against Brahminism. Buddha and Mahavira were religious critics of the ritualism of some Brahmins which had degenerated to mere form, with the spirit lacking (which is a very ordinary development in traditions and societies after some time). But they didn't claim to bring anything new, they merely restored the spirit which some Brahmins had become too uninspired to uphold. Buddha is quite explicit about merely walking the same path as all the Awakened ones before and after him, entirely in the sanatana spirit. Both Buddha (Awakened one) and Mahavira (Great Hero of self-conquest) were long-established titles before Gautama and Vardhamana came to carry them. Both revivers of Vedic spirituality were positively uninterested in social reform. While Brahmins played a role in society and codified social order in Dharma Shastras, these Shramanas (monks) concentrated entirely on Moksha, liberation of consciousness, and they considered worldly concerns, such as social reform, as foolish waste.121
Once this Marxist-inspired myth of Buddhism and Jainism as social reform movements gets debunked, the authority of those who publicly identify with this myth will also be questioned. The same counts for other such myths, artificially created by politically motivated people : once the myth goes its proponents lose their aura of authority. While a scrutiny of the individual record of the big-mouth secularists may be useful as long as this debate remains as nasty as it is now, it is the issue- centered criticism which will blow the secularists' authority away very soon.
The myth of Brahmin oppression, the myth of Buddhism as a social reform movement, the myth of the Buddhist-Brahmin power struggle, the myth of the economical motives for the Muslim conquests and destruction, the myth of the non-existence of an indigenous and nation-wide Hindu culture, the myth of the social reforms brought by Islam, the myth of Hindu-Muslim amity, the myth of Nehru and of India as a a nation in the making, the myth of the Composite Culture, the myth that communalism is a British creation, all these myths are bound to give way once a substantial number of Hindu intellectuals apply their minds to them in a serious and scientific way, and then use the available channels to speak out.
[Back to Contents Page] [Back to VOI Books] [Back to Home]