Saturday, February 06, 2010


In his column in The Dawn (which was reproduced in the Times of India), Nadeem F Paracha writes:
The roots of the modern-day Hindu-Muslim antipathy lie not in the distant past, but a mere hundred and fifty years back in history, when the British began introducing a greater number of modern ideas and technology, some of which, like democracy, suddenly awakened the Muslims to a stark reality which they had simply not been aware of. The idea of majority rule suddenly made the Muslims realise that they were actually in a minority.

A number of Muslim scholars and reformers agreed that to supplement their community’s sudden minority status, the Muslims of the region should start identifying themselves as citizens of the worldwide Muslim ummah.

Soon, as India entered the 20th century, conservative Muslim scholars also started reshaping Muslim history of the region. To them Mughal kings in general, and Akbar in particular, became arch villains, mainly for their ‘liberal views’ and detachment from the Turkish caliphate, which, according to these scholars, led to the downfall of Islam in India.

The rewriting of the history of Muslim India by such scholars soon saw the Muslims of India talking more about ancient Muslim conquerors (mainly Arab), and gleefully celebrating plunderers like Mehmood Ghaznavi and Muhammad Ghori, all the while downplaying Muslim rulers who had made India their home and played a leading role in uniting the region as a distinct and diverse empire.

This distorted version of history and the denial continued long after Pakistan came into being and restored the ‘majority status’ for Muslims.

V.S.Naipaul who traveled extensively in the non-Arab Muslim countries, including Pakistan, wrote later:

I was traveling among people who had to make a double adjustment- an adjustment to the European empires of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and an earlier adjustment to the Arab faith. You might almost say that I was among people who had been doubly colonized, doubly removed from themselves.

Because I was soon to discover that no colonization had been so thorough as the colonization that had come with the Arab faith. It was an article of the Arab faith that everything before the faith was wrong, misguided, heretical; there was no room in the heart or mind of these believers for their pre-Mohammedan past.

In Pakistan were the ruins of the old cities of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa. Fabulous ruins, the discovery of which earlier this century had given a new idea of the history of the sub-continent. Not only pre-Islamic, but also possibly pre-Hindu….. With the growth of fundamentalism, there was a contrary current. This was expressed in a letter to a newspaper when I was there. The ruins of the cities, the writer said, should be hung with quotations from the Koran, saying that this was what befell unbelievers.

The faith abolished the past. And when the past was abolished like this, more than an idea of history suffered. Human behaviour ,and ideals of good behaviour, could suffer.

When I was in Pakistan, the newspapers were running articles to mark the anniversary of the Arab conquest of Sind, which at that time was a Hindu-Buddhist kingdom. This was the first part of the Indian sub-continent to be conquered by the Arabs. … It was a terrible event. The Arab army was allowed to plunder and kill for days.

This was the event that was being commemorated by articles in the newspapers in 1979. After 1200 years, the holy war is still being fought. The hero is the Arab invader, bringer of the faith. The rival whose defeat is to be applauded- and I was reading this in Sind-is the man of Sind.

To possess the faith was to possess the only truth; and possession of this truth set many things on its head. The time before the coming of the faith was to be adjudged in one way; what came after the faith in Sind was to be judged in another. The faith altered values, ideas of good behaviour, human judgements.

Another columnist, Ayaz Amir, writes thus in The News:
For 800 years -- from 1192 AD. when Muhammad Ghori defeated Prithviraj Chauhan in the second battle of Tarain (in present-day Haryana) to the establishment of British rule in Bengal in the 18th century -- every ruler of Hindustan of any note or merit was of Caucasian origin. In all this vast expanse of history, the lands which now constitute Pakistan could produce only one ruler of indigenous origin who could lay claim to any ability: Ranjit Singh, Maharajah of Punjab.

We, the inhabitants of Pakistan, may claim in moments of (misplaced) exaltation that we are descended from those early warriors. But this is a false claim. We are now more sub-continental than Central Asian. Just as empires and nations rise and fall, races too do not remain the same over time. The Mughals were a hardy people when they marched into India under Babar. After 200 years of unbroken rule their dynasty -- descended from the great Taimur -- had become degenerate and soft.

We may name our missiles Ghori and Abdali -- although Abdali is somewhat inappropriate, considering that Ahmed Shah Abdali in his repeated invasions brought much suffering to Punjab -- but this is a throwback to a past far removed from our present. Comfortable thought or not, Ranjit Singh's kingdom of Punjab is more relevant to our present-day conditions than those distant days of glory and conquest.

The challenge thus posed is a daunting one. For 800 years we have produced no ruler of native ability. But if Pakistan is to come into its own, if it is to throw off the mantle of failure of the past 60 years and forge a new future for itself, then its native sons and daughters have to create something new: capacity and ability where none have existed before -- except in the solitary example of the one-eyed king of Lahore, Maharajah Ranjit Singh.

So, the land what is now Pakistan has, in its history, produced only one ruler of note, but as that ruler happened to be a Hindu ( or Sikh, I am not sure), he cannot be held up as a role model, because the Arab article of faith prohibits it. The recourse then is to either produce something new and innovative, as Amir suggests above or to be deluded by  a distorted version of history.


nandakumar varma said...

Efforts to erase/distort history has continued through the ages.Pakistan has to be in denial since it does not have a history apart from having been a part of India. No amount of rewriting will erase the truth.

Raj said...

Nandakumar: True, but the faith comes in the way of accepting the reality.

ramesh said...

you have filed this article under boring stuff!! this is hardly boring .. you have very nicely summarised the confusions which residents of pakistan face in their quest to establish themselves different from us indians when we are just of common stock ..

faith taken in extreme seriousness causes divides only .. the god up there is surely much more parts devil than good ..