18. Hindus wielding the sword of Islam
When Akbar had Rajput
armies fight his Rajput enemies, he rejoiced at the sight of "Hindus
wielding the sword of Islam". When his archers could not distinguish
between the Rajput mercenaries and the Rajput freedom-fighters, he told
them that it didn't matter, since anyone killed would be a Kafir
anyway. India's greatest Moghul is often mindlessly lauded by Hindus as
a "secular" ruler, but while he should be credited with a certain
wisdom, he was and remained an enemy of the Infidels. Unlike the Delhi
sultans, who constantly provoked Hindu uprisings with their cruel
politics of jihad (apart from weakening themselves with their
internecine fighting), Akbar managed to consolidate a Muslim empire
by incorporating a sufficient number of Hindus in his apparatus.
Thus, his abolition of the
jizya (which could seldom be collected in rural areas where most Hindus
lived) need not be read as a gesture of communal amity, but rather as a
clever way of opening new tax channels to the rural masses through
mostly Hindu tax collectors. He extracted a much larger revenue from
Hindu tax-payers in the form of land tax or other secular formulas, than
his predecessors had managed to do through the jizya. And it is through
Akbar's tax collecting system that Aurangzeb would later collect his
On the Hindu side too,
things are not always what they seem, and some reputations for Hindu
bravery deserve some reconsideration, precisely because on closer
scrutiny, they were "Hindus wielding the sword of Islam". Thus, Guru
Govind Singh declared in his Zafar-nama ("victory letter", though
there is nothing victorious about its superficially defiant but
basically toadyist contents) that like Aurangzeb, he too was an
idol-breaker. In spite of the RSS veneration for Govind Singh and his
"sword-arm of Hinduism", the germ of Sikh separatism and the
islamization of Sikhism was already in evidence in his words and deeds.
The Marathas started as Hindu freedom fighters, but ended as bullies to
the Rajputs, Jats and Sikhs, and as vassals of the Moghuls. The Brahmo
Samaj and Arya Samaj wanted to defend Hinduism against Christian and
Islamic aggression, but started by attacking the elements in Hinduism
which contrasted most with Christianity and Islam (polytheism,
idol-worship), and promoted their Christian-Islamic counterparts
What about the Sangh?
Where Hindus have an acute
problem with Muslims or Islam, they tend to vote BJP except where they
have tougher alternatives. Yet, the record does not bear out the
deduction that the BJP must be quite an anti-Muslim party. It will
never initiate any policies specifically targeting the Muslims (such as
the unkept promise of a crackdown on Bangladeshi infiltrators) except in
an externally provoked Hindu-Muslim crisis of major proportions, i.e. a
genuine armed Muslim uprising,-- but under such circumstances most
non-BJP governments would take similar positions.
Contrary to certain
impressions created in the media, the BJS-BJP and RSS leaders have a
heartfelt desire to woo the Muslims. The present official position of
the RSS (and a fortiori of the BJP) is, more than ever, that
Islam itself is quite alright, only fundamentalism is wrong. Even the
well-known secularist theory that the Hindu-Muslim conflict was merely
a concoction of the wily British colonizers is often repeated in RSS
publications, sometimes with the addition that Congress and other
secularist parties have now assumed the divisive role which the British
once played. In every case, the role of the intrinsic hostility which
Islam itself preaches and practises against "idolatry" is downplayed or
kept out of the picture.
It is easy to establsh
that the Sangh is not preparing but rather avoiding any confrontation
with Islam. The BJP and other Hindu organizations do perceive militant
Islam as a genuine threat to Hindu society: "It is being realized by all
democratic countries that today the greatest threat to world peace
emanates from Islamic fundamentalism."
But though the claim of an
actual consensus in the democratic countries is exaggerated, this is
hardly an original or outlandish observation. Among the many who made
similar remarks, we may mention former NATO Secretary-General Willy
Claes, who said in early 1995 that militant Islam may be about to
replace Communism as the global threat claiming the vigilance (and hence
justifying the existence) of NATO.
A few RSS authors do
expect a confrontation between Islam and other powers, and some have
even brought in Samuel Huntingdon's well-known theory of the "Clash of
Mostly, the thrust of this line of thought is not to predict a
Hindu-Muslim confrontation, but a conflict between Islam and the West.
The Hindutva audience likes this a lot, for the same reason why it is so
fond of astrological predictions that India will become a Hindu state in
the near future: Huntingdon's predicted clash between Islam and the West
would make things easy for the Hindus, viz. by taking the
pressure off India. Hindus often translate Huntingdon-type predictions
as: "the West will take care of Islam" -- meaning that for all their
apprehensions about the rising power of Islam, Hindus will not need to
do anything themselves. This type of discourse confirms that many
Hindus are profoundly uncomfortable with the Islamic presence in and
around India, yet they do not consider themselves to be the rock in the
storm on which victory against Islam depends.
But the Hindutva forces
are not content to just dream of third parties eliminating the Islam
problem. They also actively counter those in India who want to get
serious about uprooting Islam. The BJP goes out of its way to assure
everyone that it has no bad feelings towards Islam as such, e.g.: "To
oppose Islamic fundamentalism does not mean to oppose Islam, which like
all other major faiths is a religion of love, peace and brotherhood."
It strongly discourages those within its own ranks who want to face the
Islam problem squarely. The BJP government of Delhi has refused to
cancel judicial proceedings initiated by its secularist predecessors
against Voice of India for the publication Understanding Islam
through Hadis by Ram Swarup. In fact, the Sangh tries to blunt the
sword of those who take on Islam, and thereby effectively defends Islam.
Even in the RSS weeklies,
while the case against Islamic "fundamentalism" inside and outside of
India is documented and argued week after week (nowadays mostly in the
well-written columns of V.P. Bhatia and Muzaffer Hussain), criticism of
Islam itself is extremely rare. When in the 1980s the historian Sita
Ram Goel filled a weekly column in Organiser with mustering
evidence for his position that fundamentalist intolerance is the
essence of Islam itself rather than a deviation, RSS General Secretary
H.V. Seshadri intervened to have the column discontinued and the
editor, the arch-moderate K.R. Malkani, sacked. The reason given for
the discontinuation was that "otherwise, with such attacks on Islam,
the Muslims will not join us". The same reason was given by the BJS
leadership when asking Balraj Madhok to leave the party, in 1973, "on
the grounds that since Muslims had become allergic to me they would not
join the party".
It is hard to conceive of
a situation where a society is vexed and tortured by a persistent enemy,
then generates a millions-strong organization pledged to the defence of
this society, and yet this organization, this boastful "vanguard", fails
to produce even the most sketchy analysis of the motives and methods of
this enemy. Only Hindus could fare this badly. Fifty years after the
Partition, twenty-six years after the East Bengal genocide, there are
still Hindus singing mendacious refrains like Ram Rahim Ek Hai
and "equal truth of all religions", because their supposed leaders have
never bothered to inform them. A large part of the reason is to be
found in specific choices made by the Sangh leadership, most of all the
choice to seek secular respectability by means of appeasement policies
including flattery of Mohammed and Islam.
Now that the Sangh exists,
many activist Hindus gravitate towards it, but otherwise they would have
set up their own shops and worked for Hinduism according to their own
lights rather than follow the Sangh party-line. I am sure that in that
case, the ideological struggle against Islam would have been waged much
more vigorously, because most normally intelligent people consider it
obvious that the existence of a problem warrants an investigation of its
causes, i.e., that the suffering of Hindu society under Islamic
aggression urgently warrants scrutiny of the doctrine and historical
models underlying the characteristic behaviour pattern of Islam. By
deliberately suppressing this perfectly natural ideological mobilization
of the Hindus against Islam, the Sangh has effectively acted as Islam's
first line of defence.
Foreign Policy Resolutions, p.5 (1995).
V.P. Bhatia: "The coming clash of civilisations", Organiser,
18-25/2/1996. I myself was invited by the Deendayal Research
Institute to speak on this theme (February 1995).
Foreign Policy Resolutions, p.5 (1995).
That at least is Madhok's own version, see Balraj Madhok: "A
Question of Power", Indian Express, 29 October 1995.