Aligarh, India – India’s Hindu nationalist authorities has eliminated chapters on centuries of Muslim rule within the subcontinent, together with these of the Mughals, from some faculty textbooks.
The federal government, led by the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Occasion (BJP), has additionally eliminated references to the contribution of Muslims within the nation’s freedom wrestle in opposition to the British colonial rulers.
Within the textbooks revised by a government-run instructional physique, historic India has been glorified, usually with out the assist of historic info.
Historians say the revision of faculty textbooks is part of the BJP’s Islamophobic venture to disclaim Muslims their place in India’s historical past.
Al Jazeera spoke to historian Irfan Habib, a globally famend authority on Mughal historical past, to grasp the BJP’s venture of rewriting historical past and the affect it would have on information dissemination within the South Asian nation – house to 200 million Muslims.
Al Jazeera: Why is the BJP eradicating Mughal and different Muslim rulers from faculty textbooks?
Irfan Habib: Nicely, it’s not solely [about] eradicating the Mughal rulers. They’re truly making an attempt to communalise Indian historical past by both eradicating or denigrating Muslims. However this is just one a part of the BJP venture, the opposite half shouldn’t be solely omission however myth-building.
Al Jazeera: Are you able to discuss in regards to the current modifications in class textbooks in India?
Habib: Within the historic Indian historical past syllabus really helpful by the UGC [University Grants Commission, the body that governs the universities in India], the caste system is omitted from historical past. It claims Muslims launched the caste system throughout the medieval interval.
Each advantage is to be credited to historic Indian civilisation.
It isn’t merely bias, however lies and falsehoods are being glorified. This Aryan enterprise is rather like the Nazis.
In line with the brand new draft BA [Bachelor of Arts] historical past syllabus proposed by the UGC, India is meant to be the unique house of the Aryans. It declares that Aryans went from right here to civilise the world.
Historians should show by establishing info, they will’t manufacture info. You’ll be able to’t create an Aryan race. And that is an insult to Sanskrit, as a result of truly in earlier Sanskrit textual content, Arya is an space in Iran. Iran is plural of Arya. Truly, Iran means [the land of] Aryans.
Now you make Aryans right into a race, like Hitler did. Historic Iranian and Rig Vedic Sanskrit are very shut, they’re sister languages. Arya means a really respectable and noble particular person, it doesn’t imply the race. From there onwards, you see it’s not solely anti-Muslim, it’s anti-reason.
Al Jazeera: Are you able to discuss in regards to the Indian information system and the way it’s being now framed by the Hindu far proper?
Habib: I recognise that historic sources are such that they will have a Hindu communal interpretation, Muslim communal interpretation, and you’ll have a Marxist interpretation.
When the Organiser [magazine published by far-right Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the BJP’s ideological mentor] revealed an article saying that Maan Singh constructed the Taj Mahal, historian Ramesh Chandra Majumdar wrote to them, saying “I gained’t learn your paper now and you aren’t entitled to publish any of my articles”. Majumdar got here from the Hindu communal faculty of historians, however nonetheless, he was an expert and didn’t settle for any unproven truth, whether or not for historic or medieval India.
Al Jazeera: The Hindu proper has at all times thought-about the Mughals as outsiders. Now they’re additionally attacking and othering Muslim leaders resembling freedom fighter Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and 18th-century ruler Tipu Sultan.
Habib: The exclusion of Azad is anti-Muslim. They don’t wish to present that any Muslim was concerned in India’s freedom motion.
In case of Tipu Sultan, it’s a whole reversal of the nationwide problem. Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru [India’s first prime minister] and others at all times had superb phrases for Tipu. The suppression of the Malabar riot by Tipu can’t be justified. However that might be stated of just about any ruler of that point. However what he did for Mysore and modernisation of its financial system, and his battle in opposition to the British colonialists can’t be put aside. I ought to level out that the Indian Historical past Congress in 1999 revealed three volumes on Tipu. So, Indian historians usually are not in settlement with the BJP.
Al Jazeera: Names of cities and roads with Muslim names are being erased. How will it affect public reminiscence about Muslims and their historic heritage?
Habib: They wish to destroy public reminiscence. Aurangabad’s authentic title was Khirki and it was once more based by Muslim Malik Ambar, an African. So Malik Ambar is an outsider as a result of he’s an African and he’s additionally a Muslim, therefore he can’t be named. You’ll be able to’t name it Ambarnagar which it is best to if you’re curious about historical past or it is best to name it Khirki. However Sambhajinagar [Aurangabad’s new name] is mindless as a result of Sambhaji by no means went to Aurangabad.
Taj Mahal is a greenback earner. However they silently promote the favored notion that Taj Mahal was initially a Shaivite temple. The English [colonial rulers] with a view to shield the Taj from lightning put up a conductor. Now the BJP and its supporters name the conductor a Trishul [trident, a holy Hindu symbol]. It’s this type of standard misperception that they’re making.
Al Jazeera: Why does the BJP wish to rewrite historical past? The venture has two features: the demonisation of the Mughals and the glorification of the Hindu previous. Are you able to elaborate on that?
Habib: Their goal is to demonise Muslims, together with the Mughals. You see, they’ve a lot of issues. Let me spell them out for you. The phrase Hindu is Arabic. Why don’t they first throw it out? Faith itself is a Semitic idea dropped at India, now they [BJP] are attempting to form Hinduism based on it.
In actual fact, there isn’t a use of the phrase Hindu in Sanskrit literature till the 14-Fifteenth century. And even the Vijayanagar emperors referred to as themselves Hindu Rai Suratran, that’s Sultan over Hindu Rai. That is very attention-grabbing how the phrases developed. However right here you’ll be able to see that you’re making use of to Indian spiritual historical past ideas which have come from Islam.
They’re making use of fantasies like India being the mom of democracy. No historian has admitted that India was the mom of democracy. Rig Veda talks about Rajas, which implies tribal chief. Sure, you discover point out of democracy in historic Greece and Rome however by no means discover it in India, you by no means discover it in China, you don’t discover it in Iran. I say present me a severe historian of historic India who has stated so.
The Sanskrit title for that interval is Mahajanpada, which doesn’t imply democratic republic. It means tribes. No severe historian that I’ve learn – communal or in any other case – ever claimed there was democracy in historic India. Eradicating caste system from historic India is completely denying historical past.
Al Jazeera: The BJP says historic wrongs are being set proper. What was improper within the textbooks? Critics say myths are being pushed as historical past. As a historian, what do you say to that?
Habib: You see, I may give one instance of the Ahoms of Assam. Now in the event you take a look at the speeches on Ahoms by [India’s] Dwelling Minister Amit Shah and Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, they current the Ahom as the best nationalist and the Mughals as foreigners. However they neglect that Ahom language is Thai language, that their descendants have began calling themselves Thai Ahoms. At this time they’re each Hindus and Muslims. They had been clearly Thai, they weren’t Hindu.
So you’re revising not solely historical past but additionally creating myths. And if they are saying they drove out the Mughals, they neglect that in 1679, Guwahati in the end fell to the Mughals. Simply to rejoice Ahom who was as international as Mughals, or as Indian as Mughals, as a result of they each got here from international lands. How a lot would you lose if Mughals are pushed out of Indian historical past? Taj Mahal will probably be out, Purple Fort will probably be out and the earliest statistical work on the earth – Ain-i-Akbari – will probably be out.
They’re making use of fantasies like India being the mom of democracy. No historian has admitted India was the mom of democracy.
Al Jazeera: What would be the affect on India’s schooling system and society because the state monopolises information manufacturing with a transparent anti-minority bias?
Habib: It isn’t merely bias, however lies and falsehoods are being glorified. This Aryan enterprise is rather like the Nazis. What if you’re an Aryan? How do you get greater and nobler if you’re an Aryan? Claiming Indus Valley Civilisation as Sanskrit and calling it Saraswati is absurd. Taj Mahal is an asset, however you’re driving it out of your historical past.
Al Jazeera: Do you assume the BJP is mirroring the Nineteen Thirties’ Nazi Germany by way of propaganda and revision of historical past?
Habib: Nicely, truly MS Golwalkar [RSS leader] praised the Nazis. Definitely, the RSS founders had been enormously influenced. Within the Seventies, Golwalkar praised Hitler’s therapy of the Jews no matter they could now say about Israel.
Al Jazeera: The Hindu proper wing says there was a mass conversion of Hindus underneath the Mughals and different Muslim rulers. Muslim rulers are additionally accused of destroying temples. They name it a darkish interval of historical past. How do you reply to that?
Habib: That is truly fairly absurd. You see when Hajjaj ibn Yusuf despatched Mohammed Bin Qasim to Sindh [in the eighth century], he requested him to deal with the Hindus as they had been treating the Christians and the Parsis, that’s to say: be tolerant. Mohammed Bin Qasim didn’t destroy any temple. In actual fact, the Multan temple was destroyed by the heretics. So that they current a completely improper image.
Now I can maybe say that Hajjaj’s coverage was not pushed by any nice spiritual spirit of tolerance however just by sensible sense. In case you invade a rustic, you don’t antagonise all of its folks. Multani retailers had been enormously promoted by Muslim rulers and naturally Mughals had very giant parts of Hindu officers. An odd Muslim had little probability to go up the ladder. The primary finance minister of Aurangzeb was a Hindu, his best officer viceroy was Raja Jay Singh of the Deccan. After all, the Mughals weren’t democrats, however neither they had been out to transform folks by power.
One of the best factor is that in the event you learn European accounts of India throughout Aurangzeb’s time, they are saying that each faith was permitted – you’ll be able to go to a temple, you’ll be able to go to a mosque, you’ll be able to go to a church. There was no parallel in Europe like this or within the Islamic world.
In case you seek advice from Persian sources, then the image could be very totally different, though I’d argue that the English translation, that are additionally obtainable, are sometimes deceptive. One can’t deny info that temples had been destroyed. No person defends Aurangzeb’s discriminating measures however on the identical time, it is going to be improper if you don’t examine India’s place with different nations the place spiritual tolerance was not there. In case you examine with the opposite nations [in 18th century], Aurangzeb’s India regarded tolerant.