Itihaas
July 5, 1998
Akhilesh Mithal

Time for a New Look

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The disillusionment of supporters of the RSS with its governance or lack of it is pitiful to behold.

 

 

 

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How will chroniclers recording the history of India in the end of the 20th Century view the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh rule? In the future history will be served to the reader in “comic” form. Inspiration will come from foreign models like Asterix and Tintin.

It will be said that “the end of the 20th century saw the rule of Thackeray and Thakre; Balasaheb in the Sachivalaya of Mumbai and in Maharashtra generally and Kusha Bhau in the Central Secretariat and the government of India”.

As humour is not the strong point of totalitarian and fascist parties no references will be allowed or made to the ham-handed duo Thomson and Thompson who represent the British plainclothes detective police in Tintin! The disillusionment of hitherto hidden or manifest supporters of the RSS with its governance or lack of it is pitiful to behold.

There is no joy in saying “I told you so!” All we can say is what history bears witness to which is that “minds narrowed by communalism and hearts diminished by sectarianist hate cannot deliver the goods for a great country like India.”

This applies to whatever has ever been India, that is Pakistan and Bangladesh included.The history of India which is common to the whole of the sub-continent as well as the fragment called “Pakistan” illustrates our case. We shall go from the present or the recent times to the past.

The horrors of the present to the danger of the past. Communal strife was engineered by the “divide and rule” policy of the British as a counter to the movement for increased Indian participation in the process of ruling and governance.

Arya Samaj founder, Swami Dayanand Saraswati wrote a book called Satyartha Prakash which had vituperations and condemnations of all non-Arya Samaj beliefs and practices including the Sanatana or traditional dharma of the Hindus. This abuse was found disconcerting by everyone and most offensive by the Muslims.

The peak or climax of this incendiary activity by the communal and misguided Hindus came with the publication of a most virulent and poisonous attack on the holiest of holies, the Prophet (on whom be peace) Muhammad Ahmad himself.

The author kept his identity hidden but the purport of his publication can be judged by the title, “Rungeela Russoul”. If memory serves aright the publication was by a Rajpal Malhotra. He had to pay the price for the offence of trauma and hurt caused to Muslims.

A carpenter’s apprentice, Ilmuddin stabbed him to death. The case became most celebrated. Ilmuddin was sentenced to death by the sessions court and the appeal was argued by Muhammad Ali Jinnah in the Punjab High Court.

The death sentence was upheld. The case split the Hindus and the Muslims by a hitherto unknown intensity of hatred. Jinnah must have felt the heat through his ice-cool Anglo-Saxon exterior. The Muslims agitated for the dead body of Ilmuddin and the crowds that followed his cortege were huge.

The mutual suspicion and hatred generated bodies like the RSS and the Muslim League “National Guard”. The non-violent parties like the Khudai Khitdmatgars or Red Shirts raised by Frontier Gandhi, Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan in Peshawar were targeted by extreme brutality by the British.

Their massacre in Kissa Khaanee Bazaar was like Jallianwala Bagh, one of the bloodiest moments of the British Rule in India. In contrast, neither the RSS nor its opposite numbers amongst the Muslims and the Sikhs ever fought the British.

They provided no inspiration or martyrs for the freedom of India. In 1947 the Muslim League got its objective, Pakistan. The people of India, Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs paid its price in blood. Although Jinnah spoke in secular terms as the first head of State his followers soon drove all Hindus and Sikhs out.

They made blasphemy a capital offence and proving it easy for the one making the allegation. The non-Muslims were disenfranchised. The distorted history fed into young and impressionable minds has made the Muslims of Pakistan a community fractured into sharp and mutually hurtful splinters.

The Muhajirs and the Sindhis; the Sunnis and the Shias; the Punjabis and the rest seem to be killing and rioting with gay abandon as if to demonstrate that once discrimination is canonised it leads to smaller and smaller identities and greater and greater strife.What suffers is governance.

The people, like Liberty and Freedom, are an indivisible whole. If one section is terrorised and ill-treated all others are affected. The kind of progress India and Pakistan could have made if they were one is difficult to imagine as wonder takes over the mind.

But even the fractured hurt and tortured fragment would have performed much better without hatred and fear of the other. The mission of Gandhi after a partition he could not stop was to try and extinguish the raging fires of hatred between the Hindus and Muslims.

This did not suit those whose existence depended on hatred and they killed him. Today, both India and Pakistan present a sorry picture to the world. There is hardly any idealism left in either country.

Communal hatred is the only impulse that can be seen. The RSS have collected a huge war chest (Rs 2,000 crore?) and the quality of the propaganda material they alone produced for the last election shows how well-heeled they are.

There is a rumour that their allies like the criminals in Uttar Pradesh and corrupt politicians at the Centre make noises whenever they want more money and their demands have to be met. The politics of blackmail is with us. It is time to look back and see what internal weakness and disunity can do. The 13th or early 14th century in India was a time of consolidation and of great building activities.

Across the Himalayas the Mongols swept over a huge tract of Eurasia and left heaps of slain burnt habitations and desolation behind them. In 1258, they attacked Baghdad, the centre of the world of Islam, and killed the Caliph (Khalifat-ul ul Momineen). India was saved from this holocaust because Alauddin Khilji raised an army which could withstand all the assaults of the redoubtable Mongols.

The Khiljis were succeeded by the House of Tughluq. The second ruler, Fakhruddin Muhammad Jauna Shah (Muhammad bin Tughluq) used talented people of Indian origin to staff the highest offices of the realm.

The result was that chroniclers who believed in the “birthright” and “superiority” of the people of Turki and Afghan ancestry, people like Zia Buraney and Ibn Batuta gave bad press to Farhruddin Muhammad Jauna Shah. When Jauna Shah died his realm spread from coast to coast and north to south.

Firoz Shah succeeded and substituted men of talent with those who were personally loyal to him. Decline set in and when the Sultan died after an increasingly boring reign in 1381, there were two of his progenies and in different parts of the empire.

He appears to have spent more time and money on pills and potions for longevity than upon training successors. Across the Himalayas Amir Teymour Gurgan of the Barlas tribe of Turks was looking for the joy of battle and the enjoyment of loot.

He had been on the throne since 1370, (when he was 34) and been consolidating his hold on Central Asia. He now had a formidable battle hardened army and great experience of war. He also had an excellent network of spies in foreign lands which might be interesting and profitable to attack such as India and China.

In 1397 a confidential report from Dillee gladdened the old warrior’s heart. Each one of the institutions like revenue collection, army maintenance, discipline and order amongst the nobles and the army was in a shambles. The Centre had given way.

Two brothers from the nobility ruled from Deopalpur and Dillee and attacked nobles and acquired their areas without any action being taken against them. Sarang Khan of Deopalpur besieged and won Multan from Khizr Khan.

There was no reaction from Sultan Mahmoud because he was associated with Sarang’s brother Mallu Khan in Dillee. Sultan Mahmoud of Dillee was an object of derision even among the inhabitants of his own seraglio. Given this information it would be natural to assume that Teymour would attack without delay and at the center of the Sultanate.

That he did not and instead sent his 15-year-old grandson on a probing\testing mission to Uchch shows the awe and regard established by the armies of India in the times of Alauddin Khilji and the first two rulers of the house of Tughluq.

Teymour himself followed in 1398 and his invasion during 1398/1399 was the horror story which frightened Indians until 1857/1858 when British atrocities caught up with his and took pride of place.

Some idea of the magnitude may be derived from the fact that 100,000 prisoners enslaved en route to Dillee were slaughtered just before the battle for the city was joined. A man of God who had never hurt any living creature until that day had to kill his 15 slaves or face the wrath of Teymour.

Readers should consider that the population of the world was a fraction of what it is today. The number killed in Dillee in December 1398 was larger than those at Hiroshima or Nagasaki. The horror can be imagined. When there is no idealism at all “might” becomes “right” and everyone suffers.

Thus, idealism is, ultimately the most potent weapon to support practical, everyday politics. Perhaps the RSS of India and the Muslim League of Pakistan should now realise the futility and the horrors of the path they have chosen and desist from sectarian communalism. It is time for a fresh initiative for peace and amity.

Akhilesh Mithal, 1991-1998. All rights reserved.
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