by Umar Shariff
Recent media flashings are echoing with comments of hatred against the Moghuls and their contributions by the likes of Adityanath Yogi (chief minister of Uttar Pradesh) and Sangeet Som (a political leader of the BJP). Even a common layman can understand the motives behind such comments; nothing other than playing hate politics dividing communities to magnify their own vote banks. But hey, this is not 1992 or 2002 (the years of demolition of the Babri Masjid & Gujarat riots). Things have changed a lot since then. People now have access to unadulterated news; despite the aura of so many charismatic liars on television primetime shows. People today want solutions to their practical problems such as poor city infrastructure, deteriorating education system, malfunctioning health services and not to forget – a dwindling economy due to demonetisation of currencies and demonization of the entire Indian economy through GST and Hitlerian policies.
Yogi has removed Taj Mahal from the list of tourist destinations in Uttar Pradesh, and Som has acclaimed that it was built by the traitors. These politicians merely want to make headlines through such disparaging statements that cause detrimental outcomes to the general masses. They throw in such topics to be debated, so that the real topics of debate such as infrastructure, healthcare, quality education and waning economy are forgotten. For your kind information, these politicians have no genuine concern for the masses in general. Sangeet Som and Yogi Adityanath have blood on their hands. The infamous politician Sageet Som was in the news back then for causing riots in Muzaffarnagar. And he was also in news for running slaughter houses where cattle were slaughtered and the beef being exported. Yogi Adityanath has criminal cases registered against him in the past, and has the curse of the poor people of Uttar Pradesh, whose children have died in great numbers due to negligence shown by his government hospitals. Hence, their similitude is like that of the naughty bullies of a school who want to become famous by causing havoc on the premises. Consequently, they are not to be taken too seriously; however, we must analyse the subject at hand in depth.
Taj Mahal is one of the seven wonders of the world, and a declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The city of Agra finds an augmented place on the world map due to this glorious monument, which was built by the then Moghul ruler Shah Jahan. India as we see today was not the same within the borders set by our leaders at the time India got Independence from the British Raj. The vicinity of India covered much more area than what we have with us today, which included parts of today’s Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Burma and other neighbouring lands that we see beyond the Indian borders of today. Indians were even known to have ruled lands of today’s Iran and the areas between. Hence if one were to understand the identity of India based on the ancient civilizations, the laws and customs during the times of the last few millenia were different from what we see today.
In ancient world, the kings conquered lands to establish their political supremacy, and they ruled their lands to improve the quality and prosperity of their subjects. There was no concept of Indian nationalism or an integrated India then. Hence, when the Wodeyars were ruling in the South India then, they were not concerned with the rule of the Marathas in the areas of Maharashtra. They didn’t have a federal system that governed all the provinces and kingdoms ruled by the kings of the Indian soil. Most of the states within the Indian precinct were involved in conquering and defending their territories from each other; although they were people from the same Indian subcontinent of the present India. Hence, the Cholas, Cheras, Pallavas and all such kingdoms of the past used to fight amongst themselves to expand their territories with the sole purpose of ruling a bigger chunk of land. Even the Mauryan Dynasty that eliminated the Nanda Dynasty is part of the same history. King Ashoka, who is highly respected by the Indians today, is held by history as a person who had killed one lakh Hindus in Kalinga, and later taken one lakh Hindus as captives of war. Was Ashoka not a traitor in the essence of this definition to have killed so many Indians? Probably not, because we see Ashoka as an Indian contributing some very positive things to the spirit of India after the battle of Kalinga.
The valor and appreciation that we associate with Ashoka today is evident from the fact that we have Ashoka Chakra as part of our national flag. Going by this convention, labeling Moghuls as traitors is both illogical and hypocrisy; because on the one hand we pay utmost respect to the national flag that contains the Ashok Chakra, and on the other hand, we hoist the national flag on Red Fort, which was built by Moghuls. If denouncing Moghuls and their legacy is logical because of the perceived belief that they killed Hindus, isn’t patronizing Ashoka and his legacy, who did the same, hypocrisy? Hence, history must not be evaluated based on today’s operative systems; but must be understood based on geo-political systems of the ancient world.
Back then in the past world of the ancient India, the kings were not essentially communal as being portrayed by the likes of Yogi & Som. Let me share certain glimpses of some ground shaking facts:
Akbar, the grandson of Babur, was a Moghul king who had Raja Mansen as his army commander in Chief. Raja Mansen was a Hindu who stood against Rana Pratap Singh’s army. Akbar’s council consisted members such as Birbal, Todarmal and other Hindu advisors who supported the Muslim king Akbar.
Tipu Sultan, popularly known as the Tiger of Mysore, was a Muslim who had Hindus as his advisors and army men. Pandit Poorniah was given the high post of “Mir Asaf” in his kingdom. He even had the kingdom’s treasury under the custody of Krishna Rao, who happened to be a Hindu. Tipu Sultan had close ties with even the French Army. Nepolean Bonaparte was a close friend of Tipu Sultan. By the way, Napoleon was a Christian.
Even Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, who was a Maratha ruler, had Muslim generals in this cavalry and infantry. He also had Muslim men serving on other posts in his kingdom. Shivaji was even a good friend of the Nizam of Hyderabad, and the dual jointly attacked Tipu Sultan. In retrospect, Nizam was a Muslim who joined hands with the Hindu Peshwas and attacked another Muslim king, Tipu Sultan.
Aurangzeb and Adil Shah were contemporaries, but were rivals to each other. Emperor Aurangzeb had Hindu Rajputs serving in his army, even while fighting the Hindu Marathas. So, this was a glimpse of the ancient India. The kings back then ruled their lands, made treaties with other kings who preferred peace and were not seen as a threat to their respective kingdoms, and fought those who didn’t seem favourable for their kingdom’s safety and security. To reiterate, during those days, the land of today’s India was ruled by hundreds of independent kingdoms.
Let’s reminisce another important datum of history that can never be erased by the ones like Yogi and Som. In 1857, during the Sepoy Mutiny, the Hindus and Muslims together joined hands and rebelled against the British East India Company; both the Hindus and the Muslims had accepted Bahadur Shah Zafar as their leader to accede power after ousting the British. Now this says it all; the fact that the Hindus and the Muslims chose the last Muslim Mughal King Bahadur Shah Zafar as their leader distinctly proves that Moghuls were not communal in their approach, nor a threat to the survival of a secular society.
For those who are averse to Moghuls, here is another powerful information of truth. The Moghuls were aboriginally Mongols. They were the descendants of a non-Muslim Mongolian ancestor group that had invaded the Muslim lands of Baghdad in the 1200s, plundered the Muslims and pillaged their cities. The Mongols under the leadership of Chengis Khan had destroyed the Abbasid Caliphate (with its capital at Baghdad) of the Muslims. After destroying them, the Mongols learnt the religion of the Baghdad people, and many of them embraced Islam. It is one of the rarest incidents in world history where the vanquishers of a nation adopted the religion of the conquered nation. That’s probably the only unexpected turn that has impacted our perception of the Moghuls today. These non-Muslim Mongolians worshipped nature and many among them had adopted to various twisted philosophies. When a section of these people became Muslims, they entered Panipat under the identity of Moghuls. Eventually, the ones who had once plundered the Muslim nations came to India and built a Muslim nation. That’s the plan of the One Who controls all events of this world – the plan of God Almighty.
Coming to the issue of Taj Mahal and Shah Jahan, I do not say that Shah Jahan was an angel. Like any other ruler who has a good and a flip side, he too had his share of shortcomings. He too is guilty of making some historical blunders that must be paid off in future. In my opinion, the construction of the Taj Mahal in the memory of his dead wife Mumtaz was a national waste. Instead, he could have built universities and educational institutions in his wife’s memory, which could have elevated the status of his people. People who visit Agra very well know and revel in the abyssal contrast between Taj Mahal’s grandeur and the city’s slums and dirty roads devoid of any respect to traffic regulations. I would blame the Moghuls to have taken a backseat when it came to develop the nation through education and social upliftment. They were neither concerned nor spent enough time and resources in research and development, which ultimately served as cakewalk for the British to conquer them through their enhanced knowledge of science and technology.
Well, history is to be read with a positive approach and correct perspective to it. We must benefit from the good events, and denounce the evil deeds irrespective of who the doer was. These historical misdeeds must not be made a scapegoat to take revenge with the ones connected to a group or clan. Let me conclude with an example: if you come across a tree that was planted by a sinner of the past, it is neither practical nor logical to cut the tree that he had planted. What is logical and practical is to benefit from the tree. That is Dharma. The Hindus, Muslims and Christians have contributed equally for the development of this land. If we were to remove all the rails and the railway routes designed and constructed by the British simply because we hate the British oppression, we will not be punishing the British by our actions; but will be punishing ourselves by our foolishness. So, leave the Taj Mahal alone; for it gives us Rs 25 crore income annually (and Indian needs every pie of it after demonetization!). To end on a positive note, let’s hope that the Hindu-Muslim divisive politics do not work in India anymore, God-Willing. The people of India wish to see the politicians perform. If they perform well, they will be retained; or else trashed by their own people for good.
Umar Shariff is the Director of Mission Possible for Justice & Rights (MPJR), a Bengaluru-based human rights group.