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Will secularists of India counsel like Irfan Hussain in Pakistan?

Will secularists of India counsel like Irfan Hussain in Pakistan?

Author: S. Gurumurthy
Publication: Organiser
Date: February 11, 2007
URL: http://www.organiser.org/dynamic/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=170&page=10

Introduction: Irfan Hussain adds, "Having created Pakistan, the ruling [Muslim] elites promptly started lording it over the Bengalis of East Pakistan." Why? He answers: "What, after all, is the point of being descendants of Tughlak, Aibak and Mahmud if there is no under-class to persecute and exploit?" Thus, Irfan Hussain sees a continuity in the Muslim ruling class psyche.

"Seen through Hindu eyes, the Muslim invasion of their homeland was an unmitigated disaster. Their temples were razed, their idols smashed, their women raped, their men killed or taken slaves. When Mahmud of Ghazni entered Somnath on one of his annual raids, he slaughtered all 50,000 inhabitants. Aibak killed and enslaved hundreds of thousands. The list of horrors is long and painful." An extract from any booklet of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad? No. "In his Story of Civilisation, Will Durant writes: 'The Mohammedan conquest of India is probably the bloodiest in history'. While historical events should be judged in the context of their times, it cannot be denied that even in that bloody period of history, no mercy was shown to the Hindus unfortunate enough to be in the path of either the Arab conquerors of Sindh and south Punjab, or the Central Asians who swept in from Afghanistan." Words taken from any 'saffron-toxic' textbook? Not at all.

"The Muslim heroes who figure larger than life in our history books committed some dreadful crimes. Mahmud of Ghazni, Qutb-ud-Din Aibak, Balban, Mohammed-bin-Qasim, and Sultan Mohammad Tughlak, all have blood-stained hands that the passage of years has not cleansed... These conquerors justified their deeds by claiming it was their religious duty to smite non-believers. Cloaking themselves in the banner of Islam, they claimed they were fighting for their faith when, in reality, they were indulging in straightforward slaughter and pillage. When these warriors settled in India, they ruled as absolute despots over a cowed Hindu populace. For generations, their descendants took their martial superiority over their subjects for granted. When the British exposed the decadence of the Moghuls and seized power, the Muslims-especially the aristocracy-tried to cut deals with the new rulers to ensure that they would be treated differently from the Hindus." Parts of any speech delivered by Ashok Singhal? Absolutely not. Then?

This is how Irfan Hussain, a Pakistani journalist, captures the historic burden on the Muslims in the subcontinent in relating to their Hindu neighbours in India and in Pakistan. He writes this not in any newspaper in US or in UK, but in Daily Times, a leading daily in Pakistan! Imagine such an article appearing in India? Hussain, a bureaucrat-turned-journalist, links the Partition of India to Hindu-Muslim history. "It has been argued by some historians", he says, "that Pakistan was really created to ensure that the Muslim ruling class would not be subject to Hindu rule in an undivided India." "But", he adds, "having created Pakistan, the ruling [Muslim] elites promptly started lording it over the Bengalis of East Pakistan." Why? He answers: "What, after all, is the point of being descendants of Tughlak, Aibak and Mahmud if there is no under-class to persecute and exploit?" Thus, Irfan Hussain sees a continuity in the Muslim ruling class psyche from those days to these days. Seculars of India would regard Hussain's article as opening the wounds of the past to inflame the present. Irfan Hussain himself asks this question. "Why resurrect these ghosts from history?" And answers thus: "Because until we have confronted the demons from our past, we cannot understand the dynamics of contemporary events." His view is clear. Unless the Hindus and Muslims squarely face their bitter past and draw their respective lessons from it, they cannot handle the present.

Irfan Hussain goes on to say that "the vast majority of Muslims in the subcontinent have more Hindu blood in their veins than there is Arab, Afghan, Turkish or Persian blood. Many of the invaders took Hindu wives and concubines. And many Hindus converted to Islam to further their military or civil service careers. As a result of this intermingling, despite proud boasts of pure bloodliness, most Pakistanis have many Hindu ancestors." Here Irfan Hussain is strikingly close to the RSS, which asserts that Hindus and Muslims in the subcontinent share common ancestry! "By ties of consanguinity, culture, geography, and history, there is far more that unites than divides Indian Hindus and Muslims. But the politics of self-interest, too often garbed in the banner of faith, has pushed them far apart." Thus, despite common ancestry, divisive politics turns them mutually hostile!

Irfan Hussain does not open the wounds. He merely recognises the hurt of the victims. And he does so not to inflame but to heal. "A study and understanding of the past", he says, "will promote better understanding between the two communities." He balances the responsibility of the Hindus and the Muslims in recalling the past. He asks the "Hindus grasp the central fact that their Muslim neighbours cannot now be held responsible for the persecution of their ancestors" and tells the "Muslims" that "they are not the political heirs of the emperors Babar and Akbar." And he concludes, "whether we like it or not, neither geography nor history can be changed. While both countries have engaged in rewriting the past to suit their respective agendas, the facts cannot be erased. Both Muslims and Hindus have to live together as neighbours, and in India, as citizens." In short, he wants the Muslims to disconnect themselves from the likes of Babar and even Akbar and Hindus to give up linking the Muslims of today to the Turks and Moghuls. Will our seculars heed Irfan Hussain and counsel the Hindus and the Muslims here like he does there?

(The writer is a wellknown thinker.)


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