Mohan Bhagwat is right: Brits are to blame for India’s Hindu-Muslim divide
The RSS leader once again made a positive statement about Indian Muslims when addressing some Muslim intellectuals in Mumbai. This author has always maintained that only Mohan Bhagwat can tame the unconditional infantry of the Hindutva and initiate the perestroika of the Hindutva. Liberal academics are not yet impressed because of the inconsistency of Bhagwat’s statements and because some BJP leaders continue to make highly provocative statements. The recent reference to “abba jaan” by the UP CM regarding the distribution of food was not only factually flawed, but was also a clear case of hate speech.
Bhagwat himself receives brigbats from Hindutva groups and activists. Bhagwat has also been criticized for his statement about Hindus and Muslims with the same DNA.
In his last speech, Bhagwat rightly criticized the British for sowing the seeds of communitarianism in India. He said the British had told Muslims that in a predominantly Hindu state they would be at the mercy with no power, position or influence. They also convinced Hindus of the dangers of staying with Muslims, who they say are extremists by nature. After 1857, the British adopted a systematic divide-and-rule policy. Lord Elphinstone said that “divide et impera was the ancient Roman motto, and it should be ours”.
The British realized that despite the Mughal exploitation of the peasants, people still considered them their own. Thus, they first encouraged enmity between Muslims and Sikhs and downplayed the cordial relationship between Akbar and Guru Amar Das. Second, the British twisted history to show how Muslim rulers have always discriminated against Hindus. To weaken the freedom movement, after 1870 and especially after the formation of the Indian National Congress in 1885, the British changed their attitude of distrust towards Muslims and attempted to assert themselves as their saviors.
Modern Hindu-Muslim identities were a British creation and the 1871 census contributed greatly to this. The British divided Bengal in 1905 to split Bengali nationalism and brought the MacDonald Prize communal with separate electorates, which ultimately led to partition. British officers pulled the strings behind the scenes to facilitate Simla’s deputation led by the Aga Khan of 35 prominent Muslims and the formation of the Muslim League in 1906. Lady Mary Minto’s diary referred to a senior’s statement. manager who attended this meeting: “A very big thing happened today. A statesman’s work that will affect India and Indian history for many years to come. It is nothing less than the withdrawal of sixty-two million people from joining the ranks of the seditious opposition. “
Unlike the British and the Taliban, India’s Muslim rulers had shown tolerance and helped create the country’s composite and syncretic culture. Sharia law was not strictly enforced by Muslim rulers. The sovereignty of the king, rather than that of God, was the central concept of their art of government.
After the conquest of Sindh in 712, Arab rulers treated Hindus on an equal footing with “people of the book” – Jews and Christians. Hindu places of worship were protected, the subsidies given to Brahmins by the first Hindu kings were maintained, and Hindu priests received a share of the taxes. Likewise, there is no genuine evidence of large-scale forced conversions through state proselytizing activities. No authoritative source even tells us about the massive voluntary conversions of Sufi saints, as Muslims generally believe.
Although Islam forbids the worship of idols, the Delhi Sultanate did not hesitate to build Hindu temples. In 1353 Firoz Tughlaq built a sun temple in Gaya. Its Sanskrit inscription mentions the name of the sultan twice. During the reign of the Tughlaq (1320-1413), several Hindus were appointed provincial governors. During the Delhi Sultanate, the hugely important revenue department was largely in the hands of Khatri Hindu officers.
Akbar’s attitude towards non-Muslims can be deduced from the following decree he issued: “If a Hindu woman fell in love with a Mohammedan and changed her religion, she should be forcibly taken away from him and returned to his family. People should not be molested if they wish to build churches and prayer rooms, idol temples or fire temples.
The remarkable work of my teacher Athar Ali on the composition of the Mughal nobility proved with authority that in 1595, out of 279 Mansabdar, 47 (16.8%) were Hindus and up to 75 Shiites. During Jahangir’s reign, out of 172 major mansab holders in 1621, 17.4% were Hindus. During the reign of Aurangzeb ‘, the figure reached 31.06 percent. Even the Marathas included about one sixth of Aurangzeb nobles of 1,000 zat (horsemen) and above.
In 1584, Akbar issued a farmer ordering his officials not to allow the slaughter of animals during the 12-day Jain Paryushan festival in the vicinity of Jains. Jahangir, out of respect for Jain subjects, used to refrain from non-vegetarian food on these days.
The ruling elite of all religions oppressed peasants, looted and sometimes, for purely political reasons, destroyed religious places. But there was no state policy to promote hatred and hostility between Hindus and ordinary Muslims. Bhagwat is right. The British created this hostility. If the RSS is interested in true nation-building, it must lead the battle against communitarianism and prevent today’s dispensation from power from continuing Britain’s divide-and-rule policy.
The author is Vice-Chancellor, NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad. Opinions are personal.