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Academic Hinduphobia Going Mainstream

We would urge all pseudo academicians who profess to know India better than Indians themselves, to let us be.

Introduction

Last weekend while firming our plans for Inferno, we chanced upon an  article. We could not help reading it with uninterrupted amusement, for, right from the click-bait headline to the nearly 900 words that followed, the post was full of apparent errors! Despite being used to the masalafication of mainstream media, witnessing this Bollywoodisation of History, in print, seemed unreal! Perhaps commercial art certainly does not know boundaries and seeps in everywhere; otherwise, why would a professional academic indulge in such unabashed academic Hinduphobia?

The piece had all the ingredients of a Bollywood movie. An unreal hero and a caricatured villain, a glamorous item girl, few  supporting characters, the meaningless rap and the mandatory special effects! The actual plot was missing, of course, even as the one that the writer has been apparently working on for years, was being firmed! If you glance through some of his earlier published work, you will realise what we mean!

We perused some of his writing and felt compelled to pen our observations , for, a thorough reading of the article threw up myriad instances of suppression and/or misrepresentation of facts.

Historical Inaccuracies in the Article

India, as we know it now, did not exist in the past. This can hardly be overemphasised in any study or writing on India. The natives believed in something referred to as Sanatana Dharma which in the new world’s transliteration-without-a-care-for-the-sanctity-of-meaning is loosely termed as Hinduism. Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism are offshoots of that way of life and are native to this land. Islam and Christianity charged into India through traders, raiders and crusaders! The natives converted or were converted. Thus, a majority of the population of present day India comprises of  people of various religions who come from the same civilisation. This is apparent in the cultural identity which has hitherto been above religious identity but which, in the last few decades, is slightly shifting due to the worldwide phenomenon of Islamism.

Launching the year-long birth centenary celebrations of Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay, last month in Kozhikode, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told a BJP conclave – Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay Ji ne kaha tha,”Musalmanon ko na puraskarat karen, aur na hi unko tiraskrit karen, balki unka parishkar karen. Muslamoanon ko na Vote ki mandi ka maal aur na hi na koi ghrina ki vastu samjhein,use apna samjhen”.

Translated correctly it would mean,”Do not reward Muslims, do not shun them but adorn (add value to /empower) them[1]. Dont look at Muslims as wares in the marketplace of votes, but consider them your own”. Any person who understands Hindi well would get this.

The writer of the article mentioned earlier, instead picked up on one of the meanings of parishkrit which means purification, and then went ahead to write his elaborate piece. If only he had deigned to look up what Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay, the avowed secular humanist, had actually said 50 years ago, he might have desisted from using the most popular SEO keyword of Modi to peddle his piece. Deendayal Upadhaya’s next statement reads,”Aarthik Yojanaon tatha aarthik pragati ka maap samajh ke upar ki seedhi par pahonche hue vyakti nahi , balki sabse neeche ke star par vidyamaan vyakti se hoga”. [2] Loosely translated, it would mean, “The scale of economic development has to be gauged by the progress of the person at the lowest rung of society, not of the one at the highest level of society”.

So without actually finding what Pandit Upadhyay actually meant, the author pounced on parishkar and linked purification to the Shuddhi ceremony conducted by Arya Samaj founded by Swami Dayanand Saraswati. The irony is that had he bothered to actually research, he would have found that until 1900, there was not a single instance of any Dalit moving into the fold of the Arya Samaj[3]. Even further research would have revealed to him that the ceremony of including the downtrodden into the fold was not Shuddhi. Instead it was a ceremony where the sacred thread Janayu was given to them and people would sit and eat together thereby breaking any caste barriers.[4] The first instance of bringing back ex- Hindus into the Hindu fold by Arya Samaj was conducted upon few rich, upper caste Rajput Zamindars of Punjab who had turned Christian impressed with Western lifestyle and mannerisms in c.1888-89.[5]  The author would have also found out that the first Missionary work was started in Punjab in 1839 and by 1870 the whole of Punjab, from Peshawar to Hisar, had become a hot bed of Missionary work who considered the region to be a fertile ground for Conversion.By 1901, there were 38,000 converts to Christianity in Punjab. [6]

It was in 1896, much after Swami Dayanand’s demise, that the Arya Samaj enhanced its scope to break caste barriers by including low castes (handing out Janayu to them). So the author’s allegation that Swami Dayanand did purification of Dalits, even though extremely enticing for the current liberal narrative of centuries old Muslim-Dalit atrocities in India, is completely untrue! Fact is that the earlier reconversion was of upper caste Hindus who had turned Christian. Later, it also included Muslims. The so called lower castes were not subject to the same Shuddhi process, per se. Academic argument aside, one wonders that if someone can go out of the fold by sprinkling of water or uttering a line of proclamation, why should a similar symbolic ritual , for bringing them back into the fold, be vilified?

Another fact that the writer chooses to ignore is that the Arya Samaj was a reformist movement and not a mere revivalist movement. Even a school going child can comprehend the difference between the two, but our author, for reasons best known to him, chooses to label one of the initial Hindu reformist movements as a revivalist one! The Arya Samajis insisted that Hindu is not a term. They did not consider themselves Hindu but Vedic and their prime rivals were Hindu traditionalists who they called Puranis [7]. Dayanada believed that the concept of untouchability held no meaning as the Vedas did not mention it. According to him,”Untouchability is a dreadful curse of our society. Every living being has a soul which deserves affection; in every human being there is a soul worthy of respect. Any one who does not know this basic principle cannot understand the true meaning of the Vedic religion”. He further said, Had God meant that the Shoodraas should not study the Veda or hear it read, why should He have created the organs of speech and hearing in their bodies? As He has created the sun, the moon, the earth, the water, the fire, the air, various food and drinks, etc., for all, so has He revealed the Veda for all”. [8] He believed in Varna Vyavastha that was not hierarchical and allowed for the son of a Shudra to become a Brahmin!  He used to say, “any Shudra who was sound in mind and body had the right to be considered as Dwija”. [9]

Arya samaj and Shuddi of Non Hindu students.Picture taken from R.V.Russells’s “The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India”(1916)

Arya samaj and Shuddi of Non Hindu students.Picture taken from R.V.Russells’s “The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India”(1916)

So academic arguments aside, If Saraswati thought that Hindus had common ancestors and therefore those who shifted to Islam could return to the Hindu fold simply by undergoing Shuddhi, what is wrong in it? The Arya Samaj process of reconversion or Shuddhi was a violation of Varna and not bringing someone back into Savarna as the author wrongly claims (to what purpose, one can only guess)!

The newsletters of Arya Samaj were published in Urdu.[10] This demolishes the writer’s unnecessary use of the other keyword of Sanskritisation which to mere readers, such as us, seems to be a term used to paint anything Indic as patently villainous! Thus, the writer’s preposterous claims about Arya Samaj are both phoney and funny!

What we want to bring to light is the fact that if , as the author claims, Pt Deendayal Upadhyay truly shared similar beliefs as Swami Dayanand Saraswati and if he is the guiding light for the current regime in India, one ought to be reassured about all citizens, especially Muslims, being treated fairly and even supported in their quest for betterment!

After demonising Modi, Deendayal Upadhyay and Dayanand Saraswati , either in ignorance or with malafide intent, the author paradrops Savarkar into the piece by simply hopping from Hindu to Hindu Nationalist (reminding us of disjointed scenes in an ‘inspired’ Bollywood flick)! The author uses a part of Savarkar’s honest quote to demonise him. We reproduce it here for you to see how Savarakar actually tried to dereligionise Hindu and make it national and inclusive. One can clearly see how Hinduphobia and the incessant urge to berate India can make a hardcore academician stoop to dishonesty.

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Savarkar said

That is why in the case of some of our Mohammedan or Christian countrymen who had originally been forcibly converted to a non-Hindu religion and who consequently have inherited along with Hindus, a common Fatherland and a greater part of the wealth of a common culture—language, law, customs, folklore and history—are not and cannot be recognized as Hindus. For though Hindusthan to them is Fatherland as to any other Hindu yet it is not to them a Holyland too. Their Holyland is far off in Arabia or Palestine. Their mythology and Godmen, ideas and heroes are not the children of this soil. Consequently their names and their outlook smack of a foreign origin. Their love is divided. Nay, if some of them be really believing what they profess to do, then there can be no choice— they must, to a man, set their Holyland above their Fatherland in their love and allegiance. That is but natural. We are not condemning nor are we lamenting. We are simply telling facts as they stand. We have tried to determine the essentials of Hindutva and in doing so we have discovered that the Bohras and such other Mohammedan or Christian communities possess all the essential qualifications of Hindutva but one, and that is that they do not look upon India as their Holyland….

With this, the author’s entire comment on Savarkar falls flat and sticks out like a sore thumb (the rap song of random words put together, remember)!

Now we come to the last part which would have been hilarious had it not been so insidious. The writer credits Sufis for having established Islam in India. It does not take copious amount of research to know that Islam came to India in 653 AD, much before Sufism was even conceived in Central Asia.The first Mosque in India was built in Sindh in 727 AD after Mohd Bin Qasim invaded Sindh in 712 AD and demolished the existing Shiva temple there. So the claim of Sufis establishing Islam in India vanishes like the infamous intolerance in India! 

Islam was brought into India by Arab traders and foisted upon people by foreign invaders and not by Sufis! What Sufis established in India was Islamic rule through overt and covert means.The historian MA Khan, in his book Islamic Jihad, A Legacy of Forced Conversion,Imperialism and Slavery  states that Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti (1141–1230), probably the second-greatest Sufi saint of India after Nizamuddin Auliya, demonstrated a deep-seated hatred toward Hindu religion and its practices.

He further states that on his arrival near the Anasagar Lake at Ajmer, Khwaja saw many idol-temples and promised to raze them to the ground with the help of Allah and His Prophet. After settling down there, Khwaja’s followers used to bring every day a cow (sacred to Hindus) near a famous temple, where the king and Hindus prayed, slaughter it and cook kebab from its meat—clearly to show his contempt toward Hinduism. Chisti also came to India with his disciples to fight Jihad against the infidels and participated in the treacherous holy war of Sultan Muhammad Ghauri in which the kind and chivalrous Hindu King Prithviraj Chauhan was defeated in Ajmer.[12]

Mutilated Hindu sculptures from pre existing temple at the site recycled during the construction of Adhai Din ka Jhopra(Ajmer)

Mutilated Hindu sculptures from pre existing temple at the site recycled during the construction of Adhai Din ka Jhopra(Ajmer)

The writer further makes a fallacious claim about none of the Sufis going to Mecca. The fact is that many Sufis including Moinuddin Chisti and Nizamuddin Auliya performed Hajj. [13] [14] According to authentic Sufi tradition compiled by Amir Khurd (c.1370), both Nizamuddin Auliya and Shah Jalal are said to have performed Hajj every year (ref. Siyar ul-Auliya. Also see, Muslim saints of South Asia by Anna Sururova(2004)).In fact, the popular sufi saint of Sehwan,Lal Shahbaz Qalandar is said to have performed hajj every year[15]. 

And as regards the Mughal rulers mentioned by the author, we would like to highlight that the history of Mughals and Hajj began with Babur who copied the entire Quran with his own hand and gifted  the copies to Mecca. After his invasion and conquest of India in 1526, he distributed gifts to the holy men of Mecca. [16]

It was Akbar who established the state sponsored Hajj from Surat to Mecca in 1576 and issued an imperial edict to the effect that travel expenditure of anyone intending to perform Hajj would be paid from state treasury! [17] His wife and aunt were among the very first pilgrims to visit Mecca through the sea route with an enormous donation of 600,000 rupees. Aurangzeb, in his anxiety to get recognition of his position from the very prestigious sharifs of Mecca, in 1659 sent to the Holy Cities presents worth Rs 660,000. [18] . In fact, in the years 1661-1667, Aurangzeb sent presents worth Rs 7 million to the Ottoman kings of Mecca-Medina and the Shah of Persia (Pearson MN, Journal of oriental society of Australia, The Mughals and The Hajj PP.173). The worth of these presents could be gauged by the fact that one rupee fetched eight maunds of rice(=496 kilograms in Bengal) in Aurangzeb’s India (Riyaz Us Salatin pp.228). Imagine presents being sent out even as drastic famines broke out in Deccan!

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Akbar’s conquest of Surat in 1573 marked the inception of institution of Mughal Hajj which continues to the present day.

While on the subject of Sufis, who the author has tried to portray as benevolent beings interested in spiritual conversations, we can only say that if beheading meditating Yogis amounts to intense spiritual conversation, then yes they certainly did have those bouts of intensity from time to time. [19]

Islam is not native to the country and as such it is obvious that the ones who brought it here would try and establish its legitimacy through accounts that were popularised by vested interests to create some connect of India with Islam. The author himself says that according to Carl Ernst, Azad Bilgrami, a 17th century Islamic scholar, “described India as the place where the eternal light of Muhammad first manifested in Adam”. For Ernst, this reveals an eagerness “to show that India was in all ways closely linked to the essence of the Islamic faith”. The statement that accounts were created so as to establish India’s connect with Islam says it all. That the author does not leave it to the readers to interpret it, is mystifying.

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A painting from Anis-ul-hujjaj illustrates guidelines to be followed during Hajj. Aurangzeb’s India(c.1680) In Mughal India, Hajj was sponsored from state’s treasury.

The writer cites Amir Khusro reading a Hadith somewhere without giving any citation and also talks about India being a place where Adam descended after being expelled from paradise. The fact is that the place referred to by Khusro is Sripada, which was long revered by Buddhists for housing a “footprint of Buddha”. Muslim outsiders however considered it to be the footprint of their Prophet “Adam”.[20] Khusro like other contemporary muslims poets and historians clearly refers to “Adam’s peak” in  Srilanka (Serendip) not India . 

The Hadith allegedly cited by Khusro is spurious as there is no reference for the same in the six authentic books of Hadith (Al-Sihah al-Sittah). The only authentic Hadith accepted in relation to India is the Hadith of Ghazwa- e- Hind which states that one would be blessed with martyrdom and paradise upon conquest of “Sind and Hind”(India) (Sunan Al-Nasai 2.63).

We can only say that the only thing that the crowds at the Dargahs show is that most of the Indians are either not aware that they are revering the tormentors of their ancestors or have moved on in the pluralistic tradition of Sanatana Dharma to forgiveness and faith.

Conclusion

With the looming omnipresence of Social Media, reader tolerance for inaccurate bibliophilic swagger is low. As readers, we can only impress upon authors to check and lay down all aspects of facts or/and cite references whenever they put forth their views, unless they are using their imagination to put across a point, in which case the same ought to be mentioned clearly.

What Indian Muslims need is mainstreaming and we would urge all pseudo academicians who profess to know India better than Indians themselves, to let us be. If at all we need their assistance, we shall seek it, but for now, we see no better example of mainstreaming of races and ethnicity than in India. So thanks but no thanks!

References

1)Parishkrit=”Adornment”. Hindi shabdkosh 2008

2)Deendayal upadhyay’s speech.  April, 1965

3)  Charles Herman Heimsath, Indian Nationalism and Hindu Social Reform PP.301

4) Graham Reid J, The Arya Samaj as a Reformation in Hinduism with Special Reference to Caste(1943)

5) See Kenneth W.JONES. The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 28, No. 1 (Nov., 1968), pp. 43. Although it is said that Dayananda himself converted a Christian, no reference exists in primary sources.  “Intense propaganda was carried on there on behalf of the Arya Samaj … Even the sons of Zamindars and Sowcars who were wasting their lives in vice were moved by our lectures. The two or three Hindu boys who were attending Christian lectures also came of their own accord to our camp. That year’s Christian propaganda was a distinct failure”.  Jambunathan, Swami Shraddhanand, p.9

6) Ibid pp.48; Government of India, Census of India I891

7) Ganda singh,”The Origin of the Hindu-Sikh Tension in the Punjab

8)Swami Dayanand Saraswati. Satyartha Prakash pp.78

9) IOSR Journal Of Humanities And Social Science. Arya Samaj and Caste System: A Study of in United Provinces pp.70

10) Imtiaz Hasnain Alternative Voices: (Re)searching Language, Culture, Identity pp.246

11) Samagra Sāvarakara vāṅmaya 6.73

12) MA Khan, Islamic Jihad, A Legacy of Forced Conversion,Imperialism and Slavery  pp.90

13) Mehru Jaffer,  Book of Muinuddin Chishti PP.8

14) The Sultan of the saints. Muhammad Riaz Quadri  – Page 109

15) Luitgard Mois, ‎Marjo Buitelaar, Hajj: Global Interactions through Pilgrimage(2015) pp.34

16) M N Pearson, The Mughals and the Hajj pp.164

17) John Slight, The British empire and the Hajj

18)  M.N. Pearson ,The Mughals and the Hajj, Journal of the oriental society (1986) pp.173

19) See Jonaraja’s Rajantarangini which narrates the incident of a sufi killing a yogin. In his book “Sufis of Bijapur”, Eaton says “Towards Brahmans, Hindu ascetics and yogis, the attitude of Sufis was often hostile.” pp.132

20 ) Peter J. Claus, South Asian Folklore (2003).  The Great Temples of India, Ceylon, and Burma (1904) . Also see “The Travels of Ibn Batūta”, translation by oriental translation fund pp 185-189

The article has been reproduced from author’s blog with permission.

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