Chapter 2 : Negationism In India
Since about 1920 an effort has been going on in India to rewrite history and to deny the millennium-long attack of Islam on Hinduism. Today, most politicians and English- writing intellectuals in India will go out of their way to condemn any public reference to this long and painful conflict in the strongest terms. They will go to any length to create the illusion of a history of communal amity between Hindus and Muslims.
Making people believe in a history of Hindu-Muslim amity is not an easy task: the number of victims of the persecutions of Hindus by Muslims is easily of the same order of magnitude as that of the Nazi extermination policy, though no one has yet made the effort of tabulating the reported massacres and proposing a reasonable estimate of how many millions exactly must have died in the course of the Islamic campaign against Hinduism (such research is taboo). On top of these there is a similar number of abductions and deportations to harems and slave-markets, as well as centuries of political oppression and cultural destruction.
The American historian Will Durant summed it up like this:"The Islamic conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. It is a discouraging tale, for its evident moral is that civilization is a precious good, whose delicate complex of order and freedom, culture and peace, can at any moment be overthrown by barbarians invading from without or multiplying within."
Only off and on did this persecution have the intensity of a genocide, but it was sustained much longer and spread out much wider geographically than the Nazi massacre. Whereas the Germans including most members of the Nazi party, were horrified at the Nazi crimes against humanity within a few years, the Muslims, for whom Gott mit uns (God with us) was not a slogan but a religious certainty, managed to keep a good conscience for centuries. We will encounter similarities as well as differences between Nazi and Islamic crimes against humanity, but the most striking difference is definitely the persistence with which Islamic persecutions have continued for 14 centuries. This is because it had more spine, a more powerful psychological grip on its adherents than Nazism.
The ideological foundation of the Islamic campaign was similar to the Nazi ideology. The Muslium invaders (as we can read in numerous documents which they left us, from the Quran and the Hadith onwards) distinguished between three kinds of people: first of all the Muslims, the Herrenvolk (master nation) to which Allah had promised the world; secondly the Jews and Christians, who could live on under Muslim rule but only as third-class citizens, just like the Slavic Untermenschen (inferior people) in Hitler's planned new order, thirdly the species to be eliminated, the real Pagans who had to disappear from the face of the earth.
Different from Hitler's victims, the non-combatants among the unbelievers often got a chance to opt for conversion rather than death. What Mohammed (imitated by his successors) wanted, was his recognition as God's final prophet, so he preferred people to live and give him this recognition (by pronouncing the Islamic creed, i.e. converting), and only those who refused him this recognition were to be killed. Still, conversion often came too late to save defeated Pagans from slavery. At this point, Mohammed deserves comparison with Stalin: unlike Hitler, he killed people not for their race but for their opinions. But one can hardly say that the one totalitarianism is better than the other.
The Blitzkrieg of the Muslim armies in the first decades after the birth of their religion had such enduring results precisely because the Pagan populations in West- and Central-Asia had no choice (except death) but to convert. Whatever the converts' own resentment, their children grew up as Muslims and gradually identified with this religion. Within a few generations the initial resistance against these forcible converions was forgotten, and these areas became heidenfrei (free from Pagans, cfr. judenfrei). In India it didn't go like that, because the Muslims needed five centuries of attempts at invasion before they could catch hold of large parts of India, and even then they encountered endless resistance, so that they often had to settle for a compromise.
The Muslim conquests, down to the 16th century, were for the Hindus a pure struggle of life and death. Entire cities were burnt down and the populations massacred, with hundreds of thousands killed in every campaign, and similar numbers deported as slaves. Every new invader made (often literally) his hills of Hindus skulls. Thus, the conquest of Afghanistan in the year 1000 was followed by the annihilation of the Hindu population; the region is still called the Hindu Kush, i.e. Hindu slaughter. The Bahmani sultans (1347-1480) in central India made it a rule to kill 100,000 captives in a single day, and many more on other occasions. The conquest of the Vijayanagar empire in 1564 left the capital plus large areas of Karnataka depopulated. And so on.
As a contribution to research on the quantity of the Islamic crimes against humanity, we may mention Prof. K.S.Lal's estimates about the population figures in medieval India (Growth of Muslim Population in India). According to his calculations, the Indian (subcontinent) population decreased by 80 million between 1000 (conquest of Afghanistan) and 1525 (end of Delhi Sultanate). More research is needed before we can settle for a quantitatively accurate evaluation of Muslim rule in India, but at least we know for sure that the term crime against humanity is not exaggerated.
But the Indian Pagans were far too numerous and never fully surrendered. What some call the Muslim period in Indian history, was in reality a continuous war of occupiers against resisters, in which the Muslim rulers were finally defeated in the 18th century. Against these rebellious Pagans the Muslim rulers preferred to avoid total confrontation, and to accept the compromise which the (in India dominant) Hanifite school of Islamic law made possible. Alone among the four Islamic law schools, the school of Hanifa gave Muslim rulers the right not to offer the Pagans the sole choice between death and conversion, but to allow them toleration as zimmis (protected ones) living under 20 humiliating conditions, and to collect the jizya (toleration tax) from them. Normally the zimmi status was only open to Jews and Christians (and even that concession was condemned by jurists of the Hanbalite school like lbn Taymiya), which explains why these communities have survived in Muslim countries while most other religions have not. On these conditions some of the higher Hindu castes could be found willing to collaborate, so that a more or less stable polity could be set up. Even then, the collaboration of the Rajputs with the Moghul rulers, or of the Kayasthas with the Nawab dynasty, one became a smooth arrangement when enlightened rulers like Akbar (whom orthodox Muslims consider an apostate) cancelled these humiliating conditions and the jizya tax.
It is because of Hanifite law that many Muslim rulers in India considered themselves exempted from the duty to continue the genocide on the Hindus (self-exemption for which they were persistently reprimanded by their mullahs). Moreover, the Turkish and Afghan invaders also fought each other, so they often had to ally themselves with accursed unbelievers against fellow Muslims. After the conquests, Islamic occupation gradually lost its character of a total campaign to destroy the Pagans. Many Muslim rulers preferred to enjoy the revenue from stable and prosperous kingdoms, and were content to extract the jizya tax, and to limit their conversion effort to material incentives and support to the missionary campaigns of sufis and mullahs (in fact, for less zealous rulers, the jizya was an incentive to discourage conversions, as these would mean a loss of revenue). The Moghul dynasty (from 1526 onwards) in effect limited its ambition to enjoying the zimma system, similar to the treatment of Jews and Christians in the Ottoman empire. Muslim violence would thenceforth be limited to some slave-taking, crushing the numerous rebellions, destruction of temples and killing or humiliation of Brahmins, and occasional acts of terror by small bands of raiders. A left-over from this period is the North-Indian custom of celebrating weddings at midnight: this was a safety measure against the Islamic sport of bride-catching.
The last jihad against the Hindus before the full establishment of British rule was waged by Tipu Sultan at the end of the 18th century. In the rebellion of 1857, the near-defunct Muslim dynasties (Moghuls, Nawabs) tried to curry favour with their Hindu subjects and neighbours, in order to launch a joint effort to re-establish their rule. For instance, the Nawab promised to give the Hindus the Ram Janmabhoomi/Babri Masjid site back, in an effort to quench their anti-Muslim animosity and redirect their attention towards the new common enemy from Britain. This is the only instance in modern history when Muslims offered concessions to the Hindus; after that, all the concessions made for the sake of communal harmony were a one-way traffic from Hindu to Muslim.
After the British had crushed the rebellion of 1857, the Indian Muslims fell into a state of depression, increasing backwardness due to their refusal of British education, and nostalgia for the past. While the Hindu elites took to Western notions like secular nationalism, the Muslims remained locked up in their communal separateness. As soon as the British drew them into the political process (founding of Muslim League in 1906) in order to use them as a counter-weight against the Indian National Congress, they immediately made heavy and hurtful demands on the Hindus, such as the unlimited right to slaughter cows, and they started working for political separation. First they obtained separate electorates where Muslim candidates would only have to please Muslim voters, and later they would succeed in separating a Muslim state from India.
By the twenties, they took to the unscrupled use of muscle power in a big way, creating street riots and outright pogroms. If Hindus retaliated in kind, it was a welcome help in instilling the separate communal identity into the ordinary Muslim, who would have preferred to coexist with his Hindu neighbours in peace. By creating riots and provoking relatiatory violence, the Muslim League managed to swing the vast majority of the Muslim electorate towards supporting its demand for the partition of India. The roughly 600,000 victims of the violence accompanying the Partition were the price which the Muslim League was willing to pay for its Islamic state of Pakistan. While every Hindu and Muslim who took part in the violence is responsible for his own excesses, the over-all responsibility for this mass- slaughter lies squarely with the Muslim leadership.
After independence, the Islamic persecution of Hindus has continued in different degrees of intensity, in Pakistan, Bangla Desh and Kashmir (as well as heavy discrimination in Malaysia). This is not the place for detailing these facts, which the international media have been ignoring completely. What may cut short all denials of this continued pestering of Hindus in Muslim states, are the resulting migration figures: in 1948, Hindus formed 23% of the population of Bangla Desh (then East Pakistan), in 1971 the figure was down to 15%, and today it stands at about 8%. No journalist or human rights body goes in to ask the minority Hindus for their opinion about the treatment they get from the Muslim authorities and populations; but they vote with their feet.
In the first months of 1990, the entire Hindu population (about 2 lakhs) was forcibly driven from the Kashmir Valley, which used to be advertised as a showpiece of communal harmony. Muslim newspapers and mosque loudspeakers had warned the Hindus to leave the valley or face bullets. After the Islamic conquest of Kabul in April 1992, 50,000 Hindus had to flee Afghanistan (with the Indian government unwilling to extend help, and Inder Kumar Gujral denying that the expulsion of Indians had a communal motive). The pogroms in Pakistan and Bangladesh after the demolition of the Babri Masjid left 50,000 Hindus homeless in Bangladesh and triggered another wave of refugees from both countries towards India. In Pakistan, 245 Hindu temples were demolished, in Bangladesh a similar number was attacked, and even in England some temples were set on fire by Muslim mobs. And then we haven't even mentioned the recurrent attacks on Hindu processions and on police stations.
It will now be evident that the Hindu psyche has very little sympathy for Islam. Doing something about this was the chief motive for negationism.
The political context of the frist attempts at negationism was chiefly the attempt of the independence movement, led by the Indian National Congress, to eliminate all factors of disunity between Hindus and Muslims. It was the time of the Khilafat movement (1919-23), the agitation of Indian Muslims against the British take-over of the Islamic sacred places from the deceased Ottoman empire. The khilafatists demanded the restoration of the Ottoman caliph's authority over the sacred places. Congress saw in this the occasion to enlist the Muslims in the national freedom struggle against the same British imperialists.
This was a miscalculation: the khilafat movement intensified the Islamic sense of communal identity (therefore the rejection of Indian nationalism), and added considerably to Muslim separatism and the Pakistan ideology. But before 1923, when the Turks themselves abolished the caliphate so that the movement lost its raison d'etre (and got transmuted into pogroms against the Hindus), there was great expectation in Congress circles. Therefore, Congress people were willing to go to any length to iron out the differences between Hindus and Muslims, including the invention of centuries of communal amity.
At that time, the Congress leders were not yet actively involved in the rewriting of history. They were satisfied to quietly ignore the true history of Hindu-Muslim relations. After the communal riots of Kanpur in 1931, a Congress report advised the elimination of the mutual enemy- image by changing the contents of the history-books.
The next generation of political leaders, especially the left-wing that was to gain control of Congress in the thirties, and complete control in the fifties, would profess negationism very explicitly. The radical humanist (i.e. bourgeois Marxist) M.N. Roy wrote that Islam had fulfilled a historic mission of equality and abolition of discrimination, and that for this, Islam had been welcomed into India by the lower castes. If at all any violence had occurred, it was as a matter of justified class struggle by the progressive forces against the reactionary forces, meaning the fedual Hindu upper castes.
This is a modern myth springing from an incorrect and much too grim picture of the caste system, a back-projection of modern ideas of class struggle, and an uncritical swallowing of contemporary Islamic apologetics, which has incorporated some voguish socialist values. There is no record anywhere of low-caste people welcoming the Muslims as liberators. Just like in their homeland, the Muslim generals had nothing but contempt for the common people, and all the more so because these were idolaters. They made no distinction between rich Pagans and poor Pagans: in the Quran, Allah had promised the same fate to all idolaters.
By contrast, there is plenty of testimony that these common people rose in revolt, not against their high-caste co-religionists, but against the Muslim rulers. And not only against heavy new taxes (50% of the land revenue for Alauddin Khilji, whom the negationists hail as the precursor of socialism) and land expropriations, but especially against the rape and abduction of women and children and the destruction of their idols, acts which have been recorded with so much glee by the Muslim chroniclers, without anywhere mentioning a separate treatment of Hindu rich and Hindu poor, upper-caste Kafir or low-caste Kafir. Even when some of the high-caste people started collaborating, the common people gave the invaders no rest, attacking them from hiding-places in the forests. The conversion of low-caste people only began when Muslim rulers were safely in power and in a position to reward and encourage conversion by means of tax discrimination, legal discrimination (win the dispute with your neighbour if you convert), handing out posts to converts, and simple coercion. Nevertheless, the myth which M.N. Roy spread, has gained wide currency.
The best-known propounder of negationism was certainly Jawarharlal Nehru. He was rather illiterate concerning Indian culture and history, so his admirers may invoke for him the benefit of doubt. At any rate, his writings contain some crude cases of glorification of Muslim tyrants and concealment or denial of their crimes. Witness his assessment of Mahmud Ghaznavi, who, according to his chronicler Utbi, sang the praise of the temple complex at Mathura and then immediately proceeded to destroy it. Nehru writes: "Building interested Mahmud, and he was much impressed by the city of Mathura near Delhi". About this he wrote: "There are here a thousand edifices as firm as the faith of the faithful; nor is it likely that this city has attained its present condition but at the expense of many millions of dinars, nor could such another be constructed under a period of 200 years." And that is all: Nehru described the destroyer of Mathura as an admirer of Mathura, apparently without noticing the gory sarcasm in Ghaznavi's eulogy.
Moreover, Nehru denied that Mahmud had committed his acts of destruction out of any religious motive: "Mahmud was not a religious man. He was a Mohammedan, but that was just by the way. He was in the first place a soldier, and a brilliant soldier." That Mahmud was definitely a religious man, and that he had religious motives for his campaigns against the Hindus, is quite clear from Utbi's contemporary chronicle. Every night Mahmud copied from the Quran for the benefit of his soul. He risked his life several times for the sake of destroying and desecrating temples in which there was nothing to plunder, just to terrorize and humiliate the Pagans. In his campaigns, he never neglected to invoke the appropriate Quran verses. In venerating Mahmud as a pious hero of Islam, Indian Muslims are quite faithful to history: unlike Nehru, the ordinary Muslim refuses to practise negationism.
With Nehru, negationmism became the official line of the Indian National Congress, and after Independence also of the Indian state and government.
A second factor in the genesis of negationism was the penetration of Western ideas among a part of the Muslim elite, and especially the (in Europe newly emerged) positive valuation of tolerance. The Islamic elite was concentrated around two educational institutes, spearheads of the traditional and of the (superficially) westernizing trends among Indian Muslims. One was the theological academy at Deoband, the other the British-oriented Aligarh Muslim university.
The Deoband school was (and is) orthodox-Islamic, and rejected modern values like nationalism and democracy. It simply observed that India had once been a Dar-ul-Islam (house of Islam), and that therefore it had to be brought back under Muslim control. The fact that the majority of the population consisted of non-Muslims was not important: in the medieval Muslim empires the Muslims had not been in a majority either, and moreover, demography and conversion could yet transform the Muslim minority into a majority.
Among the scions of the Deoband school we find Maulana Maudoodi, the chief ideologue of modern fundamentalism. He opposed the Pakistan scheme and demanded the Islamization of all of British India. After independence, he settled in Pakistan and agitated for the full Islamization of the (still too British) polity. Shortly before his death in 1979, his demands were largely met when general Zia launched his Islamization policy.
Outsiders will be surprised to find that the same school of which Maudoodi was a faithful spokesman, also brought forth Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, who was Congress president for several terms and who was to become minister of Education in free India. Understandably but unjustifiably, Azad has often been described as as moderate and nationalist Muslim: he rejected the Partition of India and the foundation of Pakistan, not because he rejected the idea of a Muslim state, but because he wanted all of India to become a Muslim state in time.
When in the forties the Partition seemed unavoidable, Azad patronized proposals to preserve India's unity, stipulating that half of all members of parliament and of the government had to be Muslims (then 24% of the population), with the other half to be divided between Hindus, Ambedkarites, Christians, and the rest. Short, a state in which Muslims would rule and non-Muslims would be second-class citizens electorally and politically. The Cabinet Mission Plan, proposed by the British as the ultimate sop for the Muslim League, equally promised an effective parity between Muslims and non-Muslims at the Central Government level and a veto right for the Muslim minority. Without Gandhiji's and other Congress leaders' knowing, Congress president Azad assured the British negotiators that he would get the plan accepted by the Congress. When he was caught in the act of lying to the Mahatma about the plan and his assurance, he lost some credit even among the naive Hindus who considered him a moderate. But he retained his position of trust in Nehru's cabinet, and continued his work for the ultimate transformation of India into a Muslim State.
Maulana Azad's pleas for Hindu-Muslim co-operation had an esoteric meaning, clear enough for Muslims but invisible for wilfully gullible non-Muslims like his colleagues in the Congress leadership. Azad declared that Hindu-Muslim co- operation was in complete conformity with the Prophet's vision, for "Mohammed had also made a treaty with the Jews of Madina". He certainly had, but the practical impact of this treaty was that within a few years, two of the three Jewish clans in Medina had ben chased away, and the third clan had been massacred to the last man (the second clan had only been saved by the intervention of other Medinese leaders, for Mohammed had wanted to kill them too). Maulana Azad could mention Mohammed's treaty with the Jews as a model for Hindu-Muslim co-operation only because he was confident that few Hindus were aware of the end of the story, and that better-informed Hindus honoured a kind of taboo on criticism of Islam and its Prophet.
This parenthesis about Maulana Azad may help clear up some illusions which Hindus and Westerners fondly entertain about the possibility of Islamic moderacy. The Deoband school was as fundamentalist in its Azad face as it was in its Maudoodi heart, and its spokesmen had no problems with the horrors of Islamic history, nor did they make attempts to rewrite it. That Muslims had persecuted and massacred Hindus, counted as the fulfilment of Allah's salvation plan to transform the whole world into a Dar-ul-Islam. As Mohammed Iqbal wrote: "All land belongs to the Muslims, because it belongs to their God." (Iqbal would, however, end up in the Aligarh camp, cfr. infra) Maulana Azad shared this view of history. He condemned Moghul emperor Akbar's tolerant rule as the near-suicide of Indian Islam, and praised fanatics like the theologian Ahmad Sirhindi, who through his opposition to Akbar's tolerance had brought the Moghul dynasty back on the right track of Hind-persecution.
Unlike the Deoband school, the Aligarh school tried to reconcile Islam with modern culture. It understood the principles of democracy and majority rule, and recognized that a modern democracy would be incompatible with the transformation of India into an Islamic state as long as Muslims only formed a minority. The tactical opposition against the disadvantageous system of democracy was underpinned ideologically by Mohammed Iqbal, who criticized it as a system in which heads are counted but not weighed. But Iqbal understood that democracy was the wave of the near future, and, together with more modern and sincerely democracy-minded people in the Muslim intelligentsia, he faced the logical consequence that the Muslims had to give up the ambition of gaining control over all of India immediately. Instead they should create a separate state out of the Muslim-majority areas of India: Pakistan. The ideal of Pakistan was launched by Iqbal in 1930, and in 1940 it became the official political goal of the Muslim League. Aligarh Muslim University has often been described as the cradle of Pakistan.
From their better knowledge of and appreciation for modern culture, the Aligarh thinkers accepted the modern value of religious tolerance. Not to the extent that they would be willing to co-exist with the Hindus in a single post-colonial state, but at least to this extent that they wanted to do something about the imge of intolerance which Islam had come to carry. Around 1920 Aligarh historian Mohammed Habib launched a grand project to rewrite the history of the Indian religious conflict. The main points of his version of history are the following.
Firstly, it was not all that serious. One cannot fail to notice that the Islamic chroniclers (including some rulers who wrote their own chronicles, like Teimur and Babar) have described the slaughter of Hindus, the abduction of their women and children, and the destruction of their places of worship most gleefully. But, according to Habib, these were merely exaggerations by court poets out to please their patrons. One wonders what it says about Islamic rulers that they felt flattered by the bloody details which the Muslims chroniclers of Hindu persecutions have left us. At any rate, Habib has never managed to underpin this convenient hypothesis with a single fact.
Secondly, that percentage of atrocities on Hindus which Habib was prepared to admit as historical, is not to be attributed to the impact of Islam, but to other factors. Sometimes Islam was used as a justification post factum, but this was deceptive. In reality economic motives were at work. The Hindus amassed all their wealth in temples and therefore Muslim armies plundered these temples.
Thirdly, according to Habib there was also a racial factor: these Muslims were mostly Turks, savage riders from the steppes who would need several centuries before getting civilized by the wholesome influence of Islam. Their inborn barbarity cannot be attributed to the doctrines of Islam.
Finally, the violence of the Islamic warriors was of minor importance in the establishment of Islam in India. What happened was not so much a conquest, but a shift in public opinion: when the urban working-class heard of Islam and realized it now had a choice between Hindu law (smrti) and Muslim law (shariat), it chose the latter.
Mohammed Habib's excise in history-rewriting cannot stand the test of historical criticism on any score. We can demonstrate this with the example of Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi (997-1030), already mentioned, who carried out a number of devastating raids in Sindh, Gujrat and Punjab. This Ghaznavi was a Turk, certainly, but in many respects he was not a barbarian: he patronized arts and literature (including the great Persian poet Firdausi, who would end up in trouble because his patron suspected him of apostasy, and the Persian but Arabic-writing historian Albiruni) and was a fine calligraphist himself. The undeniable barbarity of his anti-Hindu campaigns cannot be attributed to his ethnic stock. His massacres and acts of destruction were merely a replay of what the Arab Mohammed bin Qasim had wrought in Sindh in 712-15. He didn't care for material gain: he left rich mosques untouched, but poor Hindu temples met the same fate at his hands as the richer temples. He turned down a Hindu offer to give back a famous idol in exchange for a huge ransom: "I prefer to appear on Judgement Day as an idol-breaker rather than an idol-seller." The one explanation that covers all the relevant facts, is that he was driven to his barbarous acts by his ideological allegiance to Islam.
There is no record of his being welcomed by urban artisans as a liberator from the oppressive Hindu social system. On the contrary, his companion Albiruni testifies how all the Hindus had an inveterate aversion for all Muslims.
Another ruler, Firuz Shah Tughlaq (1351-88), personally confirms that the descruction of Pagan temples was done out of piety, not out of greed: "The Hindus had accepted the zimmi status and the concomitant jizya tax in exchange for safety. But now they built idol temples in the city, in defiance of the Prophet's law which forbids such temples. Under divine leadership I destroyed these buildings, and killed the leaders of idolatry, and the common followers received physical chastisement, until this abomination had been banned completely." When Firuz heard that a Pagan festival was going on, he reacted forcefully: "My religious feelings exhorted me to finish off this scandal, this insult to Islam. On the day of the festival I went there myself, I ordered the execution of the leaders and practitioners of this abomination... I destroyed their idol temples and built mosques in their places."
The contention that Hindus stored their riches in temples is completely plucked out of thin air (though some of the richer temples contained golden statues, which were temple property): it is one among many ad hoc hypotheses which make Habib's theory a methodologically indefensible construction. In fact, Habib is proclaining a grand conspiracy theory: all the hundreds of Islamic authors who declared unanimously that what they reported was a war of Islam against Infidelity, would all have co-ordinated one single fake scenario to deceive us.
This is not to say that the entire report which the Muslim chroniclers have left us, should be accepted at face value. For instance, writers like Ghaznavi's contemporary Utbi give the impression that the raids on, and ultimate conquest of Hindustan were a walk-over. Closer study of all the source material shows that the Muslim armies had a very tough time in India. From Muslim chronicles one only gets a faint glimpse of the intensity with which the Hindus kept on offering resistance, and of the precariousness of the Muslim grip on Hindistan through the Muslim period. The Muslim chroniclers have not been caught in the act of lying very often, but some of them distort the proportions of victory and defeat a bit. This is quite common among partisan historians everywhere, and a modern historian knows how to take such minor distortions into account. The unanimous and entirely coherent testimony that the wars in Hindustan were religious wars of Muslims against Kafirs is a different matter altogether: denying this testimony is not a matter of small adjustments, but of replacing the well-attested historical facts with their diametrical opposite.
Habib tried to absolve the ideology (Islam) of the undeniable facts of persecution and massacre of the Pagans by blaming individuals (the Muslims). The sources however point to the opposite state of affairs: Muslim fanatics were merely faithful executors of Quranic injunctions. Not the Muslims are guilty, but Islam.
The Aligarh school has been emulated on a large scale. Soon its torch was taken over by Marxist historians, who were building a reputation for unscrupled history-rewriting in accordance with the party-line.
In this context, one should know that there is a strange alliance between the Indian Communist parties and the Muslim fanatics. In the forties the Communists gave intellectual muscle and political support to the Muslim League's plan to partition India and create an Islamic state. After independence, they successfully combined (with the tacit support of Prime minister Nehru) to sabotage the implementation of the constitutional provision that Hindi be adopted as national language, and to force India into the Soviet-Arab front against Israel. Ever since, this collaboration has continued to their mutual advantage as exemplified by their common front to defend the Babri Masjid, that symbol of Islamic fanaticism. Under Nehru's rule these Marxists acquired control of most of the educational and research institutes and policies.
Moreover, they had an enormous mental impact on the Congress apparatus: even those who formally rejected the Soviet system, thought completely in Marxist categories. They accepted, for instance, that religious conflicts can be reduced to economic and class contradictions. They also adopted Marxist terminology, so that they always refer to conscious Hindus as the communal forces or elements (Marxism dehumanizes people to impersonal pawns, or forces, in the hands of god History). The Marxist historians had the field all to themselves, and they set to work to decommunalize Indian history-writing, i.e. to erase the importance of Islam as a factor of conflict.
In Communalism and the Writing of indian History, Romila Thapar, Harbans Mukhia and Bipan Chandra, professors at Jawaharlal Nehry University (JNU, the Mecca of secularism and negationism) in Delhi, write that the interpretation of medieval wars as religious conflicts is in fact a back- projection of contemporary religious conflict artificially created for political purposes. In Bipan Chandra's famous formula, communalism is not a dinosaur, it is a strictly modern phenomenon. They explicitly deny that before the modern period there existed such a thing as Hindu identity or Muslim identity. Conflicts could not have been between Hindus and Muslims, only between rulers or classes who incidentally also belonged to one religious community or the other. They point to the conflicts within the communities and to alliances across community boundaries.
It is of course a fact that some Hindus collaborated with the Muslim rulers, but that also counted for the British colonial rulers, who are for that no less considered as foreign oppressors. For that matter, in the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw the Nazis employed Jewish guards, in their search for absconding Jews they employed Jewish informers, and in their policy of deportation they even sought the co-operation of the Zionist movement: none of this can disprove Nazi- Jewish enmity. It is also a fact that the Muslim rulers sometimes made war among each other, but that was equally true for Portuguese, French and British colonizers, who fought some wars on Indian territory: they were just as much part of a single colonial movement with a common colonial ideology, and all the brands of colonialism were equally the enemies of the indian freedom movement. Even in the history of the Crusades, that paradigm of religious war, we hear a lot of battles between one Christian-Muslim coalition and another: these do not falsify the over-all characterization of the Crusades as a war between Christians and Muslims (triggered by the destruction of Christian churches by Muslims).
After postulating that conflicts between Hindus and Muslims as such were non-existent before the modern period, the negationists are faced with the need to explain how this type of conflict was born after centuries of a misunderstood non-existence. The Marxist explanation is a conspiracy theory: the separate communal identity of Hindus and Muslims is an invention of the sly British colonialists. They carried on a divide and rule policy, and therefore they incited the communal separateness. As the example par excellence, prof. R.S. Sharma mentions the 19th -century 8-volume work by Elliott and Dowson, The History of India as Told by its own Historians. This work does indeed paint a very grim picture of Muslim hordes who attack the Pagans with merciless cruelty. But this picture was not a concoction by the British historians: as the title of their work says, they had it all from indigenous historiographers, most of them Muslims.
Yet, the negationist belief that the British newly created the Hindu-Muslim divide has become an article of faith with everyone in India who calls himself a secularist. It became a central part of the negationist argument in the debate over the Ram Janmabhoomi/Babri Masjid issue. Time and again, the negationist historians (including Bipan Chandra, K.N. Panikkar, S. Gopal, Romila Thapar, Harbans Mukhia, Irfan Habib, R.S. Sharma, Gyanendra Pandey, Sushil Srivastava, Asghar Ali Engineer, as well as the Islamic politician Syed Shahabuddin) have asserted that the tradition according to which the Babri mosque forcibly replaced a Hindu temple, is nothing but a myth purposely created in the 19th century. To explain the popularity of the myth even among local Muslim writers in the 19th century, most of them say it was a deliberate British concoction, spread in the interest of the divide and rule- policy. They affirm this conspiracy scenario without anyhow citing, from the copious archives which the British administration in India has left behind, any kind of positive indication for their convenient hypothesis - let alone the rigorous proof on which a serious historian would base his assertions, especially in such controversial questions.
They have kept on taking this stand even after five documents by local Muslims outside the British sphere in the 19th century, two documents by Muslim officials from the early 18th century, and two documents by European travellers from the 18th and 17th century, as well as the extant revenue records, all confirming the temple destruction scenario, were brought to the public's notice in 1990. In their pamphlets and books, the negationists simply kept on ignoring most or all of this evidence, defiantly disregarding historical fact as well as academic deontology.
Concerning the Ayodhya debate, it is worth recalling that the negationists have also resorted to another tactic so familiar to our European negationists, and to all defenders of untenable positions: personal attacks on their opponents, in order to pull the public's attention away from the available evidence. In December 1990, the leading JNU historians and several allied scholars, followed by the herd of secularist penpushers in the Indian press, have tried to raise suspicions against the professinal honesty of Prof. B.B. Lal and Dr. S.P. Gupta, the archaeologists who have unearthed evidence for the existence of a Hindu temple at the Babri Masjid site. Rebuttals by these two and a number of other archaelogists hae received coverage in the secularist press.
In February 1991, Irfan Habib give his infamous speech to the Aligarh Muslim University historians, in which he made personal attacks on the scholars who took part in the government-sponsored debate on Ayodhya in defence of the Hindu claim, and on Prof. B.B. Lal. In this case, the weekly Sunday did publish a lengthy reply by the deputy superintending archaeologist of the Archaeological Survey of India, A.K. Sinha. The contents of this reply are very relevant, but it is a bit technical (i.e. not adapted to the medium of a weekly for the general public) and written in clumsy English, which gives a poor over-all impression.
Actually, I speculate that the Sunday-editor may well have selected it for publication precisely because of these flaws. The practice is well-known in the treatment of letters to the editor: those defending the wrong viewpoint only get published if they are somewhat funny or otherwise harmless. I cannot be sure about this particular case, but it is a general fact that from their power positions, the negationists use every means at their disposal to create a negative image for the Hindu opponents of Islamic imperialism, including the selective highlighting of the most clumsy and least convincing formulations of the Hindu viewpoint.
In his Babri Masjid Ram Janmabhoomi Controversy, the Islamic apologist Ali Asghar Engineer has also selected a few incomplete and less convincing statements of the Hindu position, in order to create a semblance of willingness to hear the Hindu viewpoint while at the same time denying the Hindu side any publicity for its strongest arguments. He has kept the most decisive pieces of evidence entirely out of the readers' view, but has covered this deliberate distortion of the picture behind a semblance of even- handedness. In Anatomy of a Confrontation, the JNU historians do not even mention the powerful argumentation by Prof. A.R. Khan, while Prof. Harsh Narain and Mr. A.K. Chatterjee's presentation authentic testimonies (in Indian Express, republished by Voice of India in Hindu Temples, What happened to Them and in History vs. Casuistry) are only mentioned but not detailed and discussed, let alone refuted; but clumsy RSS pamphlets and improvised statements by BJP orators are quoted and analyzed at length.
The concluding paragraph of A.K.Sinha's rebuttal to Irfan Habib's speech points out the contradiction between the earlier work of even Marxist historians about ancient India (in which they treat the epics as sources of history, not mere fable) and their recent Babri-politicized stand: "Today, even taking the name of Mahabharata and Ramayana is considered as anti-national and communal by the communist leaders, Babri Masjid Action Committee historians and the pseudo-secularists. What do they propose to do with all that has been published so far in [this] context by the Marxists themselves, notably D.D. Kosambi, R.S. Sharma, Romila Thapar, K.M. Shrimali, D.N. Jha and others? I have been thinking about the behavious of our Marxist friends and historians, their unprovoked slander campaign against many colleagues, hurling abuses and convicting anyone and everyone even before the charges could be framed and proved. Their latest target is [so] sobre and highly respected a person as prof. B.B. Lal, who has all his life (now he is nearing 70) never involved himself in petty politics or in the groupism [which is] so favourite a sport among the so- called Marxist intellectuals of this country. But then [slander] is a well-practised art among the Marxists."
Another trick which a student of Holocaust negationism will readily recognize in the pro-Babri campaign of the Indian negationists, is that truly daring form of amnipulation: selectively quoting an authority to make him say the opposite of his own considered opinion. When the JNU historians started slandering Prof. B.B. Lal as a turncoat hired by the VHP, this was a panic reaction after their earlier tactic had been exposed (though only in Indian Express, but the negationist front will not tolerate even one hole in the cordon of information control). Until then, they had been using B.B. Lal's fame to suport their own position that the Babri Masjid had not replaced a temple.
In their pamphlet The Political Abuse of History, the JNU historians had quoted from a brief summary, published by the Archaeological Survey of India in 1980, of Prof. B.B. Lal's report on his excavations in Ayodhya and other Ramayana sites. They knew this report perfectly well, for they had gleefully quoted its finding that the excavations just near the Babri Masjid had not yielded any remains pre- dating the 9th century BC. But then they had gone on to state that there was no archeological indication for a pre- Masjid temple on that controversial site at all, even when the same report had cursorily mentioned the remains of a building dated to the 11th century AD. Later on, they have quoted the same summary as saying that the later period was devoid of any interest, suggesting that nothing of any importance dating from the medieval period had been found.
In fact, this remark only proves that the ASI summarizer saw no reason to give (or saw reasons not to give) details about the uninteresting but nonetheless existing medieval findings. But in autumn 1990, some of these details have been made public and they turned out to be of decisive importance in the Ram Janmabhoomi debate. Prof.K.N. Panikkar (in Anatomy of a Confrontation) suggests that, if these relevant details were not recently thought up to suit the theories of the RSS, they must have been deliberately concealed at that time (late seventies) by the ASI summarizer. The latter possibility means that negationists are active in the ASI publishing section, editing archaeological reports to suit the negationist campaign. The implied allegation is so serious that K.N. Panikkar expects the reader to assume the other alternative, viz. an RSS concoction. But he may well have hit the nail on its head with his suggestion that negationists in the ASI are doing exactly the same thing that they are doing in all Indian institutions and media: misusing their positions to distort information.
At any rate, the details of the full report were given in articles by Dr. S.P. Gupta and by Prof. B.B. Lal himself (and independently by other archaeologists in talks and letters to Indian Express) in late 1990. The pillar-bases of an 11th century building, aligned to the Babri Masjid walls, were presented by Prof. B.B. Lal and Dr. S.P.Gupta in separate filmed interviews with the BBC. There could be no doubt about it anymore: Prof. B.B. Lal had arrived at a conclusion opposite to the one ascribed to him by a number of Marxist historians (not only from JNU).
That is why is early December 1990 several of the most vocal Marxist historians suddenly took to slander and accused Prof. B.B. Lal of having changed his opinion in order to suit the VHP's political needs. Now that they could no longer use Prof. Lal's reputation for their own ends, they decided to try and destroy it. In the case of Dr. S.P. Gupta, they have not taken back their ridiculous allegation that he had falsely claimed participation in the Ramayana sites excavations. But with a big name like B.B. Lal, an impeccable academic of world fame, they had to be careful, because slander against him might somehow backfire. That is why they have nor pressed the point, and why a number of Marxist historians and other participants in the Ayodhya debate have quitely reverted to the earlier tactic of selectively quoting from the ASI summary of Prof. B.B. Lal's report, and acting as if the great archaeologist has supported and even proven their own position. As the press had given minimum coverage to B.B. Lal and S.P. Gupta's revelations, many people would not suspect the truth.
Another trick from the negationists' book that has been very much in evidence during the Ayodhya debate, consists in focusing all attention on the pieces of evidence given by those who upheld the historical truth,, and trying to find fault with them as valid evidence. Thus, at the press conference (19 Dec. 1992) where Dr. S.P. Gupta and other historians presented photographs of an inscription found during the demolition of the Babri Masjid, which proved once more that a temple had stood on the site, and that it was specifically a birthplace temple for "Vishnu Hari who defeated Bali and the ten-headed king [Ravana]", some journalists heckled the speakers with remarks that "because of the demolition, the inscription was not in situ and therefore not valid as evidence", and similar feats of petty fault-finding.
A few days later, a group of 70 archaeologists and historians, mostly names who had not taken a prominent role in this debate so far, brought shame on themselves by pronouncing judgement on this piece of evidence without even seeing, let alone studying it. They demanded not that the government look into this new evidence, as would be proper for representatives of the scientific spirit, but that it trace down from which museum the planted evidence had been stolen and brought to Ayodhya. In doing history falsification, it is best to remain on the attack, and to put the bonafide historians on the defensive by accusing them first.
After dozens of pieces of evidence for the forcible replacement of temple with mosque scenario had been given, the Babri negationists had never come up with a single piece of counter- evidence (i.e. positive evidence for an alternative scenario); they could not do better than keep silent over the most striking evidence, and otherwise scream at the top of their voice that evidence A did not count, evidence B was not valid, evidence C was flawed, evidence D was fabricated. In 1992 alone, in the clearing operations near the Janmabhoomi site in June, during several visits of experts, and during the demolition on 6 December, more than 200 pieces of archaeological evidence for the pre-existent Vaishnava temple had been found, but these 70 scholars preferred to disregard all them. This time, the suggestion was that in the middle of the kar seva, the inscription had been planted there. You could just as well join the Holocaust negationists and say that the gas chambers found in 1945 had been a Hollywood mise-en-scene. Picking at a single testimony as if the whole case depends on it has been a favourite technique of the negationists to distract attention from the larger picture, to make people forget that even if this one piece of evidence were flawed, this would not invalidate the general conclusions built on a whole corpus of evidence.
A final point of similarity between the Marxist involvement in the Babri Masjid case and the techniques of Holocaust negationism is the fact that there was a Babri Masjid debate in the first place. Indeed, postulating doubt and the need for a debate is the first step of denial. The tradition that the Babri Masjid had forcibly replaced a temple was firmly established ad supported by sources otherwise accepted as authoritative; when it was challenged, this was not on the basis of newfound material which justified a re-examination of the historical position. The correct procedure would have been that the deniers of the established view come up with some positive evidence for their innovative position: until then, there was simply no reason for a debate. Instead, they started demanding that the other side give proof of what had been known all along, and forced a debate on something that was really a matter of consensus. Subsequently, instead of entering the ring, attacking or countering their opponents' case with positive evidence of their own, the challengers set themselves up as judges of the other side's argumentation. This is indeed reminiscent of the negationist Institute for Historical Review announcing a prize for whomever could prove that the Holocaust had taken place.
There is yet another trick from the negationist arsenal which has been tried in India: find a witness from the victims' camp to testify to the aggressor's innocence. Of course there are not witnesses around