www.sacw.net | October 11, 2004

[India] Erasing the Past for Present Political Agenda

by Ram Puniyani

Come elections and some emotional issues are brought on. The recent
campaign by BJP associate, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, has come at a very
crucial time. While the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance is groping for victory, it
could not have thought of better issue, Afzal Khans tomb, to whip up
emotional hysteria to garner more votes. This time both parties are
planning their strategy in a slightly different fashion. While BJP is
harping on Tiranga (Tri color) agitation of Uma Bharati and are trying to
demolish Afzal Khans tomb, Shiv Sena is taking up the issue of Savarkar in
full steam. Needless to say all these issues have nothing to do with the
problems of daily lives of people but are meant for bringing in
polarization of votes for the electoral purposes.

The demolition of Afzal Khans tomb is a very complex issue. In this case
the attempt is not to prove that there was a temple, which was demolished
to build this tomb but that the tomb is a blot on Maharashtrian self
pride, since Afzal Khan was against Hindus etc. Not many knew that none
other than Shivaji himself, who had slain Khan in an encounter, built this
tomb. This encounter was planned as a negotiation meeting, which was
called on the understanding that both Shivaji and Khan will come to meet
without arms. Violating this Shivaji carried the iron claws. Interestingly
it was Shivajis spy Rustam-e-Jaman who advised him to carry this secret
weapon. In the scuffle, which followed their meeting, Shivaji killed Afzal
Khan. Following Shivajis attack on Khan, Khans private secretary,
Krishnaji Bhaskar Kulkarni attacked Shivaji with his sword. Shivaji
survived the attack.

Following the death of Afzal Khan, Shivaji with his magnanimonious
attitude got the tomb of Khan made from his funds. Pure and simple it was
a battle between two kings for power and religion had nothing to do with
this. RSS in its agenda of spreading hatred through concocted history is
trying to pick up all these scattered events and giving them the communal
color. This view totally forgets that Kings were not aligned along
religious lines. Shivajis initial battles were against the Chandra Rao
More another Maratha chief who was ruler of Javali, a nearby Kingdom.
Similarly it was Raja Jaisingh who represented Auranzeb in his
confrontation against the Mughal rule of Delhi. Can one forget that most
of the mughal Emperors had Hindu kings as in charge of their revenue
departments, or the likes of Raja Mansingh who was the Commander in Chief
of Akbar? Instances abound, loyalty was the central marker for the Kings,
kings employees and the subjects of the kingdom.

One cannot forget Hakim Khan Sur who was on the side of Rana Pratap and
laid down his life for him in the battle of Haldi Ghati. Shivaji himself
had Maulana Hyder Ali as his confidential secretary and many a Muslim
generals in his army, more particularly in the cannon and naval divisions.
Auranzeb, who is regarded as the most bigoted Muslim king had around 34%
court officials in high places that were Hindus. Bahadur Shah Jafar went
on to lead a section of Indian Kings, Hindus and Muslims, against the
British in the 1857 revolt. Many other kings kept aloof from this anti
British battle and sided with British during this.

The British initiated most of the lopsided presentation of History. As
they came here and gradually usurped the power, they had to rule, for
which they had to win over the loyalty of the people away from the Muslim
Kings. Through two of their books, James Mill, History of British India,
and Elliot and Dawsons eight volume History of India as told by her
Historians, saw the whole past as a conflict between Hindus and Muslims.
Also to demonize the Muslim Kings they propagated that Muslim Kings
destroyed Hindu temples, spread Islam on the strength of sword and heaped
atrocities on Hindus. They (British) claimed that they have come here on
the mission from the God himself to civilize the barbarians here, white
mans burden, and also that they wanted to save the Hindus from the
atrocities of Muslim Kings. One is struck by the similarity of the
language of the colonial powers. Not very long ago our own George W Bush
also claimed that he is attacking Iraq to save the Iraqis from the
atrocities of Saddam Hussein. And the rest, like his liberating actions in
Abu Graib prison and other tortures heaped on Iraqis is too well-known to
be recounted again.

This communal view of History was picked up the Communalists, both Muslim
and Hindus and modifies in their own way for their own political gains.
The Togadias and Modis merrily project the murder of Afzal Khan as the
victory of Hindus over the Muslims. And in their effort to break the
Indian community into warring religious communities the offsprings of RSS
are on the hunt to discover the so-called contentious spots. Having got a
major break through the demolition of Babri Masjid, they feel such
discoveries of History can bring them in power. So they went in to create
problem in Baba Budan Giri dargah (Datta Pitham), Idgah Maidan (Rani
Chennama ground), Maula Masjid (Bhojashala), Haji Malaang (Malanggadh) and
so on. Their Hate department is working overtime to discover the spots
which can create problems, which can create violence and in turn give them
power which they are desperately seeking to maul the democratic and
liberal space, which is the prerequisite for social transformation.

The response to post Babri spots shows that RSS may not succeed in its
designs. Though emotive issues make the people blind, there a limit to
which they can be blinded. It seems the formula, which RSS progeny thinks
is sure to work for breaking the unity of Indian society, may not work
beyond a point. Thanks to the enlightened people that RSS offsprings are
biting dust one after the other. One waits with baited breath as to what
other gimmick Advanis and Togadias have in store to attack the plural and
syncretic values of Indian society.

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