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 re-instituted jizya.


         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 instead. 


         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."[1]  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 Civilizations".[2]  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."[3]  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".[4] 


         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.



             [1]  Foreign Policy Resolutions, p.5 (1995).

             [2]  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).

             [3]  Foreign Policy Resolut­ions, p.5 (1995).

             [4]  That at least is Madhok's own version, see Balraj Madhok: "A Question of Power", Indian Express, 29 October 1995.










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