Aurangzeb :: The worst thing to happen to the “Idea of India”

There is serious evidence, on going through the Quran, that its ‘as it is’ and ‘non-contextual’ (of that period and situation) interpretation can, and evidently has, led to complete intolerance of Islam over other faiths and people following those faiths. This is a certainly one of the most important causes of terrorism globally.

*There is no other true way*

One key point that comes out during discussions with orthodox muslims is the fact that they believe there can be no other true interpretation of God, and the purpose of life, than the one they have as has been offered by Muhammad. Everyone else is wrong, they say, and there is no room for Self-inquiry, with the possibility of this leading to new answers. Answers are all laid out already – and simply need to be followed.

While a lot of other religions and intra-religious faiths within hinduism as well, take such a hard stance to spiritual pursuits of other people, the trouble arises when this difference in world-views (or God-views) reaches the point of intolerance of the other, and precipitates as aggression and violence.

This has been the case in both Islam and Christianity, and from what I know, in the Jewish faith as well. This has happened in the past with some of India’s Hindu kings as well, who were completely intolerant to Buddhism and Buddhists, and ordered their persecution. However, stories of such kings found doing circles in Srilankan and Tibetan Buddhist monks “seems to be” (and I welcome my readers to help me correct my knowledge of history) at best exaggerated.

Purpose of this article

I write this to help build religious harmony and tolerance between Islam and Hindusim in India. I will attempt to show reason on why muslims need to with hard look at history, thus needing to soften their stand on Babri Masjid/Ram Janmabhoomi, Kashi Vishwanath and other such key temple complexes which are the central flash-points of conflict currently in India.

The purpose of this article is invite muslim leaders and secular thinkers, to put themselves in the shoes of hindus, and then stand in judgment of their popular sentiment about Babri Masjid and other similar examples. Then

  • an opportunity for dialogue between the two communities can open up, on how to move forward
  • we can say, what was done in the past was shameful and against Islam
  • there will be an opportunity with muslims to soften their stand possibly, leading to voluntary relocation of some of the mosques standing in place of these temples or occupying, whether in use or not
  • a message to the hindus can go – that they need not repeat the same nonsense

Aurangzeb

Aurangzeb, in this discussion, in context of India, stands head and shoulders above all muslim invaders, kings and zealots who came to India plundering its resources, people, temples, lifestyles and destroying its social and spiritual fabric.

Proof of such destruction of Hindu temples across the region

It is often pointed out that no such thing was done by Aurangzeb, and that this version of history is contrived and incorrect to push forward the saffronisation agenda.

I recently came across a blog on Aurangzeb and the mess he created in India. The research done by Francois Gautier on Aurangzeb is based on farhans (original edicts) by Aurangzeb, preserved at the Bikaner Museum in Rajasthan.

His research led to a series of paintings and sketches to visually represent the destruction of hindu temples, their forced and coercive conversions, the brutal dismemberment of his enemies, and imposing strict interpretations of Islam leading to killing of philosophers and ban on music. Here are some links of these exhibits:

Exhibit No. 2: Prince Dara Shukoh translating the Upanishads

Exhibit No. 3: Scene of Captive Dara being paraded in Delhi

Exhibit No. 4: Dara Shukoh’s farcical trial and verdict

Exhibit No. 6: Keshava Rai Temple. “Even to look at a temple is a sin for a Musalman”, Aurangzeb

Exhibit No. 7: Demolition of Kalka’s Temple – I. Siyah Waqa’i- Darbar Regnal Year 10, Rabi I, 23 / 3 September 1667

Exhibit No. 8: Demolition of Kalka Temple II. Siyah Akhbarat-i-Darbar-i-Mu‘alla Julus 10, Rabi II 3 / 12 September 1667

Exhibit No. 9: General Order for the Destruction of Temples. (9th April 1669)

Exhibit No. 11: Demolition of the temple of Viswanath (Banaras). August 1669 A.D.

Exhibit No. 12 i – ii – iii : “During this month of Ramzan (1080 A.H./January-February 1670) ….. the Emperor ….. The reviver of the Faith of the Prophet issued orders for the demolition of the Dehra of Keshava Rai in Mathura. In a short time the destruction of this strong foundation of infidelity was accomplished and on its site a lofty mosque was built. ….. the idols large and small of the temple were brought to Agra and buried under the steps of the mosque of Begum Sahib” (Maasir-i- ‘Alamgiri, 95-96); http://according-to-mughal-records.blogspot.com/2008/06/exhibit-no_6075.html, http://according-to-mughal-records.blogspot.com/2008/06/exhibit-no_4763.html

Exhibit No. 13: Demolition of Keshava Rai temple at Mathura. (13th January – 11th February 1670)

Exhibit No. 14: Demolition of Somnath temple

Exhibit No. 16: Reimposition of Jizyah by Aurangzeb. (2nd April 1679)

Exhibit No. 17: “Burial of Music”. The musicians, wailing and lamenting carry the ‘bier’ of music in Aurangzeb’s presence. “Bury it so deep that no sound or echo of it may rise again”, Aurangzeb, (Muntakhab-al Lubab, p.213)

Exhibit No.19: Aurangzeb orders cart-loads of idols brought from Jodhpur to be cast under the steps of Jama Masjid. (May 1679)

Exhibit No. 20: Demolition of Jagannath Rai (Jagdish Temple), Udaipur and its brave defence. R.Y. 23rd of Aurangzeb’s reign (26th September 1679 – 14th September 1680)

Exhibit No. 22: Destruction of sixty-three temples at Chittor. On Monday, the 22nd February /1st Safar, the Emperor went to see Chittor; by his order sixty-three (63) temples of the place were destroyed

Exhibit No. 23: Orders for the destruction of temples on the bank of Maharana’s lake, Udaipur. Siyah Akhbarat-i-Darbar-i-Mu’alla Julus 23, Zilqad 29 / 23rd December 1679

Exhibit No. 24: Orders for the demolition of Jagannath Temple, Orissa. Siyah Akhbarat-i-Darbar-i- Mu‘alla Julus 24, Jamadi I, 23 / 1st June 1681

Exhibit No. 25: Large scale destruction of temples in the environs of Udaipur (January 1680)

Exhibit No. 26: All the temples on the way to be destroyed. Siyah Akhbarat-i-Darbar Julus 25, Ramzan 18 / 21st September 1681

Exhibit No. 27: Demolition of Bindu-Madhav Temple at Banaras. Siyah Akhbarat-i-Darbar-i- Mu‘alla Julus 26, Ramzan 20 / 13 September 1682

Exhibit No. 28: Problem of converting closed temples into mosques in Burhanpur district. Siyaha Akhbarat-i-Darbar-i- Mu‘alla R.Yr. 25, Shawwal 10 / 13th October 1681

Exhibit No. 29: Order for demolition of the temple at Goner (Amber). Siyaha Akhbarat-i-Darbar-i- Mu‘alla Julus (R.Yr.) 24, Rabi I, 17 / 28th March 1686

Exhibit No. 30: Demolition of the Jagdish temple at Goner (Amber) – II. Siyaha Akhbarat-i-Darbar-i- Mu‘alla Julus (R.Yr.) 24, Jamadi I, 5 / 14th May 1686

Exhibit No. 31: Muslims exempted from paying Zakat Siyah. Akhbart-i-Darbar-i- Mu‘alla Julus (R.Yr.) 10, Zilqad 2 / 16th April 1667

Exhibit No. 32: Restriction on atishbazi. Akhbarat-i-Darbar-i- Mu‘alla Julus 10, Shawwal 24 / April 9th 1667

Exhibit No. 33: Musalmans to replace Hindu officials as cure for ineffectiveness of prayers. Siyah Waqai Darbar Julus (R.Yr.) 10, Muharram 18 / 1st July 1667

Exhibit No. 34: Hindu Chowkinavis and Amins of the Haft-chowkis to be replaced by the Musalmans. Akhbarat Dargah-i- Mu‘alla Julus (R.Yr.) 9, Jamadi II, 28 / 15th December 1666

Exhibit No. 39: Aurangzeb orders the execution of Sarmad, a Jewish Armenian Philosopher who accepted Islam but stood for freedom of conscience.

Exhibit No. 40: Large number of conversions by Faujdar, Bithur. Grant of saropas and cash sanctioned by Aurangzeb. Akhbarat-i-Darbar-i- Mu‘alla Julus (R.Yr.) 10, Shawwal 26 / 11th April 1667

Exhibit No. 41: Coercion in Conversion – Case of the chief of Manoharpur. Siyah Akhbarat-i-Darbar-i- Mu‘alla Julus 24, Jamadi I, 7 / 16th May 1681

There is also a history paper written by Rajiv Verma on Destruction of Hindu Temples by Aurangzeb, which provides historical references.

A message to the readers

This is not meant to be a hate article.

This is a result of a dialogue between an orthodox muslim friend who during our series of discussions on Islam and Hindusim, denied that there was any such things done by Aurangzeb. It is such denial which leads to nonacceptance of each other’s anxieties. Gandhi used to say that the ability of hindus and muslims would be determined by the understanding they can have for each others anxieties.

I believe the Hindus have no real scars and have moved on, and moved forward with many things (which is a great thing ofcourse), yet there are some sensitive points in memory like Babri Masjid, which are a result of popular sentiment of people associated with someone who is as dear to the Hindus as Muhammad is to Muslims.

There needs to be movement forward by muslims in showing tolerance and acceptance now.

A faraway place called home

Another article which establishes our stand on Tibet and our outright rejection of the convoluted Tibet-policy of this current Indian government.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story/297727.html

———————-

Can exile ever be an apolitical condition, asks Tridip Suhrud

Edward Said begins his reflections on exile by stating, “Exile is strangely compelling to think about but terrible to experience. It is the unhealable rift forced between a human being and a native place, between the self and its true home: its essential sadness can never be surmounted.” Being in exile is not a romantic notion, its purpose is not to humanise the world, despite the most evocative literature that exiles from the times of Ovid have created.

Exile is not a condition of one’s choosing. Either one is forced into exile or one is born in exile. Exile in its classical sense of banishment has come to be replaced by modern political categories — the refugee, the displaced, the immigrant. The sheer scale of anonymous refugees and displaced persons that the 20th century created through its wars, its totalitarian states and developmental projects somehow does not allow us to reflect on the irreparable and interminable loss of exile.

It is a condition that is marked by deep longing, and a sense of estrangement. Longing for the home that is no longer available and being estranged from the place that gives one refuge. Without this longing, without the need to return, without the promise that one would eventually return, the exiled would become an émigré, not that the immigrant does not long for home or does not feel strange in the adopted land. As Dante said, only the one in exile knows “how salty another’s bread tastes and how hard it is to ascend and descend another’s stairs.”

The Dalai Lama speaks of himself and his people as a people in exile. He also says that Tibet today is a community built on suffering and exile. As the Dalai Lama, he has twin responsibilities. He is to his people a manifestation of Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of compassion. So long as the people of Tibet have faith in the institution of the Dalai Lama, he is duty bound to lead them spiritually and as a spokesperson of their struggle for justice. His being in exile places on him the second responsibility. He must keep the possibility of eventual return alive. Not as longing but as promise.

When Pranab Mukherjee, as external affairs minister, characterises the Dalai Lama as a ‘respected guest’ and then advises him to refrain from political involvement, he displays astonishing ignorance about both the institution of the Dalai Lama and responsibilities of one who is in exile. A person in exile cannot but be political. It is politics itself that has created the condition of exile.

The people of Tibet have a right to their politics, however uncomfortable that might be to the Indian state. And as India finally affirmed, political protest is a way of life in a democratic society, and this right is available in equal measure even to those in exile. It is available to the people of Tibetan origin against the apathy of the Indian state as much as against Chinese repression.

Let us remind ourselves of another of our famous émigrés who more than a hundred years ago, in distant Johannesburg, took a pledge in the name of god to fight injustice unto death. That act, which we celebrate officially, was also an affirmation of the right of the émigré and of the exiled to assert political and cultural rights. It is natural that such great acts make, to borrow from Salman Rushdie, ‘a great noise in the mind, the heart.’

A people in exile will try and recreate home in a new land as a people in search of their roots, past, land and heritage often do. A certain kind of inwardness is written in this process. This inwardness is the only source, however feeble, to contain estrangement. Simon Weil spoke of the need for rootedness as one of the least recognised of human needs. The little Tibet of Dharamshala is one such attempt, without which the promised return would become even fainter.

That the Dalai Lama sought refuge in India, and continues to remain in exile in India and that India promised him refuge is not only an accident of geography. Spiritually, the Dalai Lama cannot be in exile anyplace else but India. For him, India is the land of two masters, one Gautam and the other Gandhi. He has often spoken evocatively of his debts to the two. He is in this sense exiled at a place that could have been his only home outside of Tibet. He is exiled at home.

The writer is a social scientist based in Ahmedabad

Why Tibet Matters

This is a wonderful eye opening article, very well reasoned out for creating a much more radical Tibet policy by the Indian government – for reasons much beyond politics alone – and covering matters of India’s integrity and Spirituality.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story/296828.html : by Sonia Jabbar for the Indian Express.

—————–

To sacrifice Tibet’s interests would be to sacrifice our own.

Sonia Jabbar

Is Tibet a nuisance for India, and when it negotiates with China on the border issue, should India unhesitatingly sacrifice Tibetan interests to secure our own? While there has been much talk about the burden of hosting the Dalai Lama and 1,85,000 Tibetan refugees for 50 years, few have acknowledged India’s debt to them and why repaying that debt is not only a moral imperative but a strategically self-interested one.

The first is a civilisational debt. When the Dalai Lama teaches from the works of the Vikramshila or Nalanda masters, he always prefaces his teachings with, “these are Indian treasures. We have only been its guardians in Tibet for a thousand years, and now that the teachings have faded in India we have brought them back intact. This is the gift we return to India.” It is no small gift.

Few will recall the sacking of Nalanda, the destruction of thousands of birch-bark books or the fact that Buddhism itself disappeared from Indian soil after the 13th century. Ask an educated Indian whether Shantideva, Atisha, Nagarjuna, Aryadeva, or Vasubandhu mean anything to them and chances are you’ll draw a blank. Ask a Tibetan teenager and you’re likely to hear the history of the Indian Buddhist masters and the journey of their teachings to Tibet from 7th-11th century AD.

Nalanda, once the greatest centre of Buddhist learning from the 5th to 12th centuries, today lives in spirit not amongst its archaeological remains in Bihar, but in the vibrant Tibetan colleges of Sera, Drepung and Ganden, relocated in Karnataka after the Tibetan exodus of 1959. These are modeled on the Nalanda tradition, transmitting India’s ancient treasures to meritorious students, many of whom are poor Indian Buddhists from the Himalayan belt.

The second debt is strategic and vital to India’s future. The Government of India has been at pains to ‘reiterate’ that they have ‘always’ considered Tibet an integral part of China; our Communists have insisted that the ‘disturbances’ are China’s ‘internal matter.’ The fact is that the ‘always’ is only five years old, and the ‘internal matter’ a crumbling fantasy.

In November 1950, Nehru informed the chief ministers, ‘When news came to us that the Chinese Government had formally announced military operations against Tibet, we were surprised and distressed. Immediately we sent a note of protest [to Chou En Lai on 26/10/50] and requested the Chinese Government not to proceed… To use coercion and armed force, when a way to peaceful settlement is open, is always wrong. To do so against a country like Tibet, which is obviously not in a position to offer much resistance and which could not injure China, seemed to us to add to the wrongness of this behaviour.’

India unilaterally ‘recognised’ the ‘Tibet Autonomous Region,’ as ‘a territory of China,’ for the first time during Vajpayee’s China visit in 2003. Before this, India’s terminology in official documents was deliberately left ambiguous. In 1954 India described Tibet as a geographic location: ‘the Tibet region of China.’ In 1988, the Rajiv Gandhi government brought it closer to China’s position, but still kept it vague enough with, ‘Tibet is an autonomous region of China.’ The 2003 declaration toes the Chinese line word-for-word.

What are the implications of accepting Tibet as an ‘integral part of China’? First, leaving aside the distortion of Tibet’s long history of independence, the declaration contravenes the treaty obligations between British India and Tibet, which we have inherited under the Indian Independence Act of 1947. Two treaties directly affect our territorial integrity: the 1904 Convention Between Great Britain and Tibet, which recognises the boundary between Tibet and Sikkim, and the Anglo-Tibet Treaty of 1914, in which India recognised Tibet as an independent nation under the suzerainty (as opposed to sovereignty) of China. In return, Tibet was to respect the Mc Mahon Line, the eastern boundary between Tibet and Arunachal. Until the Chinese invasion of Tibet, both agreements held and the border was peaceful.

China has never accepted Sikkim and Arunachal as parts of India, even today claiming the latter as its own. But when two countries have concluded an agreement between them, China has no locus standi as a third country. A sovereign state is one that negotiates and sign treaties with other states. Once a state exists it cannot simply be wished away simply because another nation has invaded it.

That the world does not wish to challenge China’s illegal occupation of Tibet thus rendering it a de facto (not de jure) part of China is another matter. However, it is pertinent to ask why the Government of India is so solicitous of China’s national interests at the expense of our own. If China refuses to recognise the treaties signed by India and Tibet, there is no reason for India to recognise the 17-point 1951 agreement, thrust upon Tibet under Chinese gunpoint. China possesses no other legal documents to prove its claims over Tibet.

We have learned few lessons in foreign policy. India unilaterally surrendered its influence in Tibet in the 1954 trade agreement with China by removing its military personnel from the Tibetan trading towns of Yatung and Gyantse, giving up Indian rest houses, land, and Tibet’s communications including the postal, telegraph and public telephone services operated by the Government of India. The agreement had a validity of eight years, and it is no coincidence that its expiry coincided with the 1962 war. If those who parrot the ‘Tibet is an integral part of China’ line paused to think, they would realise that they are unwittingly conceding China’s claim over 83,743 sq km of Arunachal territory.

The Dalai Lama’s ‘middle way’ position has been clear since the mid-’80s: autonomy and not independence. It begs the question why, if China is willing to pursue a ‘one country, two systems’ policy in the Han-majority areas of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau, is it so hysterically opposed to the Tibetan proposals. In 1999 Wang Lixion, a prominent Chinese intellectual, pointed out that an independent or autonomous Tibet under the influence of the Dalai Lama, ‘would naturally orient it towards India,’ taking 2.5 million sq km or 26 per cent of China’s land mass away from China’s sphere of influence into India’s. To lose this vast swathe of land would be to ‘expose [China’s] fatal underbelly.’ It should be understood that it is not on its demerits that the Dalai Lama’s proposals are being rejected, but because of India’s potential influence.

While one is not advocating India’s lebensraum or hostilities with China, one should be aware that China controls the headwaters of many Indian rivers that originate in the Tibetan plateau. India is already facing acute water shortages. China has already anticipated its future water problems by damming the headwaters of the Sutlej and Brahmaputra. While the ‘thirsty’ provinces of Xingjian and Gansu will undoubtedly benefit by China’s plans to divert the waters of the Brahmaputra, India needs to wake up well before our rivers begin drying up.

It is time we recognised that Tibet and India’s destinies are entwined. To sacrifice Tibet’s interests would mean to sacrifice our own. There is no need to go down that road again.

The writer is a journalist who has studied Buddhism for the last 20 years