Babri Masjid and the great Indian Muslim divide – Sandhya Jain

Babri Masjid (1991)

Sandhya JainThe Shia Board asserts that the Sunni Board has no stake in Ayodhya as the mosque was Shia property. – Sandhya Jain

In a stunning blow to the hitherto dominant Sunni sect, the Shia Waqf Board filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court on August 8, 2017 fracturing the united front put up by the Muslim community since the dramatic fall of the Babri Masjid on 6 December 1992, asserting that the temple for Maryada Purushottam Sri Rama Chandra could come up at the Janmabhoomi site in Ayodhya, and a mosque could be raised at a reasonable distance in a Muslim-dominated area.

As one of the parties to the dispute, the Shia Board claimed that the demolished mosque was a Shia mosque, as the alleged destroyer of the Rama Mandir was a Shia general named Mir Abdul Baqi; hence the mosque built upon the ruins of the temple was a Shia mosque. The Board indicated a desire for peaceful resolution of the dispute which the Supreme Court is not keen to adjudicate upon.

This is a stupendous development as hitherto, since 6 December 1992, all efforts to strike a deal with the Shia community have met with failure as community leaders in Lucknow always pleaded helplessness in opposing the strident Sunni community. The Babri Masjid Action Committee that spearheaded the movement against handing over the site to the Hindu claimants has been dominated by Sunnis. It was the Sunnis who reneged on the promise to the Government of India and the Supreme Court that they would surrender claims to the site if it was established that the mosque was built on the ruins of a temple.

That claim was conclusively proved in a Supreme Court-ordered and monitored excavation by the Archaeological Survey of India. But far from retreating gracefully, the BMAC dug its heels in and refused to retreat from the scene, resulting in a prolonged stalemate.

The sudden divergence of views between the Shia and Sunni Waqf Boards appears to reflect larger Shia-Sunni conflicts in the Muslim world, with Shias being targetted by jihadis in Pakistan and other Muslim countries, and their holy sites desecrated. Iran, the self-proclaimed protector of Shias worldwide, has facilitated the spectacular victory of the Syrian Arab Army against Islamic State jihadis in Syria, thus enabling the survival of the Alawite (Shia) regime headed by Basher al-Assad; it has also prevented Yemen from crumbling before the Saudi assault.

Now, the Shia Board explicitly asserts that the Sunni Board has no stake in Ayodhya as the mosque was Shia property; hence, “only Shia Central Waqf Board UP, is entitled to negotiate and arrive at a peaceful settlement with other remaining stake holders”.

The Board further opined that proximity of “place of worships should be avoided in as much as both denominations using loudspeakers tend to disturb the religious performance of each other often leading to conflicts and acrimony”. Therefore, “to bring a quietus to the issue, Masjid can be located in a Muslim-dominated area at a reasonable distance from the most revered place of birth of Ram.”

Reports claim that the Shia Board decided late July to stake claim to the Ayodhya site. Such a momentous decision could hardly be taken overnight. It seems likely that Yogi Adityanath, head of the non-communal Gorakhnath Peeth, was selected as Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister by Prime Minister Narendra Modi precisely to accomplish an acrimony-free transfer of the sacred site for the Rama Temple. Should this be accomplished, it would be a far greater feat than rebuilding the Somnath Temple in Saurashtra, where the only resistance to be overcome was that of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

In Civil Appeal No. 10836-10867 of 2010, the Shia Central Waqf Board through its chairman, Syed Waseem Rizvi (Respondent No. 24), filed a counter affidavit asserting that the “Babari Masjid” was a Shia Waqf and not a Sunni Waqf as claimed by the Sunni Central Waqf Board UP. As the Allahabad High Court judgement stated that “Muslims” should get not less than one-third of the disputed area, chairman Rizvi asserted that this obviously alluded to “Shias” as the High Court had rejected the Sunni Board’s claim (based on Notification dated 16 February 1944 by the Chief Commissioner of Waqfs under the Muslim Waqfs Act, 1936) that Babari Masjid was a Sunni Waqf.

The High Court declared the said Notification of 16 February 1944 as illegal as it was issued in violation of provisions of the 1936 Act, as it was made without issuing a notice to the interested persons, which was a statutory requirement. It follows that the Waqf was a Shia Waqf as a waqf must always be Shia or Sunni, according to its creator (Waqif).

Certain Arabic inscriptions in the disputed structure, cited in previous judgments, establish beyond doubt that the mosque was built by Mir Baqi, a Shia Waqif, who created a Shia waqf. All mutawallis, including the last one (1949) were admittedly Shia and were descendants of Abdul Baqi, a Shia from Ispahan (Persia). It is notable that the Baqi family tree has not been seriously challenged. Verses engraved on a tablet in the central arch of the mosque describe Mir Baqi as an ‘Ispahani’, a resident of Ispahan.

On 30 March 1946, the Faizabad Civil Judge, S.A. Ahsan, ruled that it was inconceivable that a Sunni waqif would appoint a Shia mutawalli, or vice versa (Regular Suit No.29 of 1945).

The affidavit states that Muslims must ponder that the entire world wants to know the exact teaching of Islam in respect of the relationship of Muslims with others. Indian Muslims, it says, enjoy a unique position. They have been rulers, they have been ruled and now they are sharers in power. They are not in majority but they are also not a negligible minority and are in fact the most populous Muslim community in the world after Indonesia. As legatees of a huge corpus of religious knowledge, Indian Muslims are exceptionally placed to tell the world the true teachings of Islam, beginning with a resolution of the Ayodhya dispute.

The Allahabad High Court proclaimed Muslims, Hindus and Nirmohi Akhara as joint title holders to the disputed premises and allotted them one-third share each, with the stipulation that the portion beneath the central dome, where the murti of Sri Rama is installed, would be allotted to Hindus in the final decree. The Nirmohi Akhara would receive the portion including the Ram Chabutra and Sita ki Rasoi, and the parties could make minor and mutual adjustments while dividing their respective shares.

The Shia Waqf chairman observed that the intent of this judgment was that the parties amicably settle the dispute, and his sect was willing to do so. As there has been no dialogue in the matter in the past seven years, he urged the Supreme Court to appoint a Committee headed by a retired Judge of the Supreme Court and two retired Judges of the Allahabad High Court, with the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister (or his nominee) and a nominee from the Prime Minister’s Office. The nominees of the Shia Central Waqf Board UP, Nirmohi Akhara and Hindu sect, would offer suggestions for an amicable settlement to this committee.

The Shia leader added that the Sunni Central Waqf Board UP was dominated by “Sunni hardliners, the fanatics, and non-believers in peaceful coexistence, who have absolutely no stake in the present case”. As Babari Masjid was a Shia Waqf, the Shia Central Waqf Board UP alone is entitled to negotiate a peaceful settlement with other remaining stakeholders.

Chairman Syed Waseem Rizvi further informed the Court that after his views became known, he had received threats from the hardliners, and had informed the Government of Uttar Pradesh, which is reportedly taking steps for his security. He reiterated the keenness of the Shia sect for amicable settlement of the dispute.

Should the Supreme Court constitute such a committee, this could be a very different Diwali. – PGurus, 9 August 2017

» Sandhya Jain writes on political and contemporary affairs. She is a post-graduate in Political Science from the University of Delhi and a student of  Indian civilisation.

Ramlalla Temple on the Babri Masjid site after the demolition.

Govt must address ‘minority’ syndrome – Tufail Ahmad

Muslims demand reservation

Tufail AhmadThe scope and mandate of the Ministry of Minority Affairs can be changed, which should also pave the way for elimination of quota system in years ahead. … Since minority politics has badly divided Indian society in recent decades, the Indian state must address this issue before it creates further long-term hostilities between Muslims and Hindus. – Tufail Ahmed

On my tour of Uttar Pradesh, I stopped for a few days to talk to Muslim opinion makers in Lucknow, one of the few cities along with Hyderabad and Karachi which have significant populations of Shia Muslims. I reached a conclusion that although the minority psyche among Indian Muslims is preventing their development, there exists a minority of Shias right among them who are doing well in life and do not engage in victimhood or minorityism. My contention, therefore, was also that the minority phenomenon in India is essentially a Sunni Muslim phenomenon continuing from a serious competition for power in early Islam.

Nevertheless, the current polls in Uttar Pradesh have once again ensured that political parties such as the Samajwadi Party, Congress, and the Bahujan Samaj Party used the minority card and the politics of secularism for electoral purposes. In fact, much before the elections got underway, a political rally of BSP on 19 October at Bahjoi in Sambhal district began with the recitation of Quranic verses. Speaking on the occasion, Atar Singh Rao of BSP also cited hadiths (sayings and deeds of Prophet Muhammad) to seek Muslim votes.

In the run-up to the elections, this use of religious symbolisms to attract ‘minority’ votes is not exclusive to BSP. Earlier, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi visited two Islamic seminaries—the Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama of Lucknow and the Darul Uloom Deoband. These efforts are part of minority politics in India. There are several minority communities in India, but the term ‘minority’—and its associated politics—is used mainly for Muslims. Significantly, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains and Shias do not show victimhood associated with Sunni Muslims.

There are two ways to look at who constitutes a minority. One, the word ‘minority’ is derived from the Latin word ‘minor’ and the suffix ‘ity’—meaning the smaller in number of two aggregates which constitute a whole. As per this quantitative definition, a community is a minority if its numbers are fewer than that of the other community in the total population. The term ‘minority’ came into vogue after the introduction of parliamentary democracy in which the numerical strength of communities became a power. But a numerical definition is inadequate to explain social reality. For example, during the Apartheid, the black people were in a numerical majority in South Africa but they were discriminated against and subjugated by the white rulers who constituted a quantitative minority.

The numeric definition also does not explain whether a community is influential in an electoral constituency. Consider this: In 1952 elections, 67 percent MPs won with less than 50 percent votes. In 2004, only 24 percent MPs won with more than 50 percent votes. In 2009, only 17 percent MPs got more than 50 percent votes. In 2014, 61 percent MPs won with less than 50 percent votes. Indian democracy is in a situation in which candidates can win elections with just 30 percent votes, which encourages them to encourage identity-based politics. Consequently, a community with just about 20-30 percent population in a constituency can determine the outcome of an election and assert politically. This is the reason the BSP, the SP, the Congress, and others have been wooing Muslim voters in the UP elections.

This unfortunate stage in Indian democracy has been reached despite the country’s leadership being aware of the complexities of minority politics around the time of Partition, as recorded by Madhav Godbole in his new book Secularism: India at a Crossroads. Writing in The New York Times edition of 19 July, 1942, Jawaharlal Nehru noted: “The real problem so often referred to is that of the Muslims. They are hardly a minority, as they number about 90,000,000 and it is difficult to see how even a majority can oppress them.” Speaking on 24 January, 1947, Govind Ballabh Pant observed: “The question of minorities cannot possibly be overrated. It has been used so far for creating strife, distrust and cleavage between the different sections of the Indian nation.” Pant’s observation is a sad reminder that the minority politics continues even now.

The second way of looking at ‘minority’ is through a qualitative definition. As per it, a community can be called a minority if it is discriminated, segregated and subjugated by the majority community or the government. For example, Dalits in India were socially segregated and lived at the outer edges of villages for centuries. They were also discriminated through the practice of untouchability by upper castes. By a qualitative definition, Dalits can therefore be called India’s first sociological minority. As per this definition, even women qualify to be a minority. In this year’s UP elections, it was noticed that some Muslim women were willing to understand Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s stand against the arbitrary practice of triple talaq which affects them. Another example of why the qualitative definition must prevail over the numeric criterion is this: The Muslims under the Mughal rule were numerically small but a politically dominant community.

A minority status carries with it an exclusion from full participation in the collective life of a society. This status is derived from its subordinate relation to a dominant group, which need not be a numerical majority. The Tibetans, living under the Chinese occupation, fully qualify for a minority status. A minority can be racial, linguistic, religious or caste group, if it is differentiated and discriminated against because of any of these factors. A group may be a minority either by choice or by compulsion. Sociologist Louis Wirth defined a minority as “a group of people who … are singled out from the others in the society in which they live for differential and unequal treatment.” In the case of Indian Muslims, it appears they strive to single themselves out from the mainstream.

Recently, Firstpost interviewed Amana Begum, a Law student based in Jaipur, who offered a telling comment on the behaviour of Indian Muslims: “As a community, we want either victimhood or supremacy.” The Muslim elites too love to be called a minority because it helps them to receive some handouts from the government. Over the past few decades, the Muslim elites demanded setting up a minority financial corporation or an Urdu university, not the establishment of a chain of industrial training institutes for the education and training of the children of poor Muslim artisans and mechanics who work by the roadsides from Delhi to Kolkata. Therefore, it can be said that the minority politics used by Muslim elites to their benefit is harmful to common Muslims. There were also indications that in the UP elections, the minority politics was causing a reverse polarisation in favour of the BJP.

So, associated with the qualitative definition of minority are its behavioural characteristics. In the Indian society, the minority phenomenon can be described as a syndrome which moulds the behaviour of politicians, journalists, communities, or organisations such as political parties, NGOs and government departments. Everyone is a participant in this syndrome, which treats Muslims as a homogeneous group throughout India. This treatment of Muslims by non-Muslims and Muslims themselves is invalid because Indian Muslims are not homogeneous. Notably, Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir – or for that matter Sikhs in Punjab—cannot qualify to be a minority. Also, in Uttar Pradesh, where Muslims have sizeable population, they tend to behave as a dominant community, unlike a real minority which is subjugated.

Also, the lower castes among Muslims are not even considered a minority—both by non-Muslims and Muslims. So, the minority politics—whether practised by political parties or by journalists and authors when discussing Muslims in their writings—doesn’t even consider the welfare of Dalit Muslims and the Other Backward Classes among Muslims. This is despite a pioneering academic work carried out by sociologist Imtiaz Ahmed on caste-like divisions among Indian Muslims. It suits the media and the academic world to treat Muslims as a homogeneous community, as it suits the Sunni Indian Muslims who too like to see themselves as part of the Ummah, or the global Muslim nation. So, India has reached a stage where Indian Muslims behave like a dominant group, unlike a truly subjugated and discriminated group such as Dalits and women.

The ‘minority consciousness’ among Muslims is, therefore, more of a politics that prevents them from disengaging from emotional issues. To some extent, this is a north Indian phenomenon. The Muslims of southern India who have been largely free from minority consciousness have been able to register economic and educational growth while their northern counterparts remain emotionally engaged in issues which are more political than substantive. Also, compared to Muslims, India’s Christians, Sikhs and Parsis, though in a numerical minority, do not exhibit any ‘minority consciousness’—except for the fact that Parsis are worried about their diminishing numbers.

Given the highest degree of historical discrimination, social prejudices and forced exclusion from mainstream life, Dalits can be called a minority by compulsion. The Muslims in India are, unfortunately, a minority more by choice and less by compulsion, since they have been the ruling community in India, a primary reason why they conduct themselves boldly and assertively. In Lucknow, social anthropologist Nadeem Hasnain told me: “When will Muslims learn to live like a minority?” He added: “I think our biggest complex is that we have ruled India for 800 years.” The Muslims also enjoy a strong sense of history and culture which is an essential prerequisite for a community to take voluntary initiatives. And unlike the Dalits, Muslims carry no social stigma which could potentially inhibit their economic enterprise.

In conclusion, a key challenge is how to disengage Muslims from the minority consciousness. While any set of measures will require decades to bring about such change, some small steps can be initiated. One, political parties should close down their minority wings and start treating their Muslim members like all other members. Intellectually, the BJP is well placed to do this and therefore, it must set a precedent. Two, a case is pending before the Supreme Court which has been asked to rule that the Aligarh Muslim University is not a minority institution. Unfortunately, this university encourages the minority consciousness among Muslims and sends a message to them that it is the only university in India where they can study.

If the apex court rules that the AMU is not a minority institution, it will unshackle Muslim minds and they will begin to think that there are thousands of other colleges open for them across India. In Aligarh, Tariq Islam, a professor at the department of philosophy, told me that if the Supreme Court rules against AMU, the university will start behaving like any mainstream university in India.

Third, the India government needs to make a decision to rename the ministry of minority affairs and change its mandate to include welfare of all disadvantaged Indians. Just as a suggestion, it can be renamed as the ministry for the welfare of the disadvantaged Indian citizens. It is a condition of democracies to help their underprivileged citizens, not communities. The government can think of including every Indian below the poverty line under this ministry’s mandate. It will also eliminate the electoral politics centred on demands for quota for Muslims.

There is a precedent for such a measure. The Planning Commission was renamed as the Niti Aayog and its mandate was changed. Similarly, the scope and mandate of the Ministry of Minority Affairs can be changed, which should also pave the way for elimination of quota system in years ahead. Importantly, it will help eliminate minority politics which harms Indian Muslims. Since minority politics has badly divided Indian society in recent decades, the Indian state must address this issue before it creates further long-term hostilities between Muslims and Hindus. – FirstPost, 16 March 2017

See other articles of the series on FirstPost

» Tufail Ahmad is a contributing editor at Firstpost and executive director of the Open Source Institute, New Delhi. He tweets @tufailelif.

Reservation

Audrey Truschke and academic bullying – Koenraad Elst

Aurangzeb and his apologist Audrey Truschke

Koenraad ElstLike Truschke herself, I am neither Hindu nor Indian, yet I can read for myself with what explicit glee the Muslim chroniclers described temple destructions and massacres of unbelievers. – Dr Koenraad Elst

Audrey Truschke is a Professor of Religious Studies in Stanford, California, and has gained some fame with her work on the patronage of Sanskrit by the Moghuls. In order to get that far, she had to toe the ideologically mandatory line: neither in America nor in India does the Hindu-baiting establishment allow a dissident to get seriously established in the academic world. Predictably, we see her elaborating the same positions already taken by an earlier generation of academics, such as whitewashing Aurangzeb. Not that this was a hard job for her: one gets the impression that she is a true believer and really means what she says. Then again, she may have done an excellent job of creating the desired impression all while secretly knowing better.

Bullying

Her position in the article “The Right’s problem with history” (DNA, 26 Oct. 2016) is summed up as: “Unable to defend a fabricated history of India on scholarly grounds, many foot soldiers of the Hindu Right have turned to another response: bullying.” It would be normal to compare secularist historians and their Western dupes with people of the same rank, namely different-minded historians, in this case belonging to the “Hindu Right”. These are not exactly numerous, having been blocked systematically from academe by the single permitted opinion in both India and America, but they exist. Yet, they and their output are absent from her paper. From a street bully, I would expect a denunciation of street bullies, and from an academic a polemic against her own peers.

Hindu Nationalists : Banner image accompanying Truschke's article in DNA The photograph accompanying the article tells it all. If it had been about her own school of history, the picture would have shown established historians involved in this debate, such as Wendy Doniger or Sheldon Pollock. But now that the opposition is at issue, it shows a group of non-historians, not in an air-conditioned college hall but in a street demonstration exercising their freedom of expression. The reader is expected to recognize them as representatives of the “Hindu Right”, and as “bullies”.

She testifies to verbal attacks she herself has endured “from members of the Hindu Right”, and which she evaluates as “vicious personal attacks on the basis of my perceived religion, gender and race”. Correction: she could have maintained the very same religion, gender and race and yet never be attacked by those same Hindus (indeed, most Jewish female whites have never experienced such attacks), if she had not belonged to the “scholars who work on South Asia” and who have earned a reputation as Hindu-baiters. She has been attacked on the basis of what she has written, nothing else.

But it is true, and deplorable, that an uncouth but vocal class of people clothe their denunciations of an ideological position in foul personal attacks. It so happens that I know her plight very well, for I too receive my share of what some would call “hate mail” when I express skepticism of beliefs dear to Hindu traditionalists (e.g. the eternity of Sanskrit, the supernatural origins of the Vedas, the Rama Setu, or the Krishna bhakti verses in the Gita). And also when going against the dogmas of her own school, such as that Muslim rule in India was benign, or that Sanskrit has an origin of white invaders oppressing black natives. Nothing dangerous, though, and I doubt her claim of “physical attacks” on Indologists, unless she means the egg thrown at Wendy Doniger in London.

From the start, Truschke tries to capture the moral high ground by citing one of her lambasters as tweeting: “Gas this Jew.” In America, such reference to the Holocaust is absolutely not done, and Indian secularist circles adopt the same sensitivities once they see these as valid for the trend-setting West. To the Hindu mainstream, this hyper-focus on anything associated with the WW2 is not there, and they had no history with antisemitism; but still this quote would be unacceptable there, for regardless of what Jews exactly believe, Hindus tend to respect other faiths.

However, her claim might be correct (not sure there), for there are indeed some Hindu hotheads who have adopted this kind of rhetoric. In pre-internet days, they would brew their own conspiracy theories, but now the access to websites carrying elaborate Western conspiracy theories, starring the Zionist World Conspiracy, entices them into using this kind of language. Certainly deplorable, but not at all representative for the “Hindu Right”: hardly even for its bullies, not for its leaders (both V. D. Savarkar and M. S. Golwalkar described the Jews as role models for loyalty to one’s own roots) and not at all for the “Hindu Right” scholars whom she is carefully ignoring.

Academic bullying   

This “bullying” had best been compared to the “bullying” on the other side. Like, for instance, the two attempts by Leftist students to silence me, as a twice scheduled speaker, at the Madison Wisconsin South Asia Conference in 1996 and a private event preceding it, hosted by Prof Andrew Sihler. Or the successful protests against the Dharma Civilization Foundation’s offer to fund a chair at UC Irvine, when so many US chairs are comfortably being funded by the Saudis.

But on Truschke’s own side, the dividing line between bullies and academics is not so neat. Why stoop to street bullying if you have tenure? It is far more effective, then, to resort to academic bullying. Thus, in their intervention in the California Textbook Affair, where Hindu parents had sought to edit blatantly anti-Hindu passages, the explicitly partisan intervening professors even managed to get themselves recognized as arbiters in the matter. This would have been unthinkable if those bullies had not been established academics. (And this I can say even though my criticism of the Hindu parents’ positions exists in cold print.) Her focus on street bullies has the effect of misdirecting the reader’s attention, away from the more consequential phenomenon of academic bullying.

I myself have been barred from several Indologist forums by active intervention or passive complicity of the same professors who otherwise clamour “censorship!” when anything at all happens to a book they favour. Thus, they are so very sensitive that they dramatically talked of “threats to freedom of speech” when … Three Hundred Ramayanas, a book belittling a Hindu scripture, was not selected as required reading in Delhi University, though otherwise, it remained freely available. They claim to champion “freedom of speech!” when Wendy Doniger’s error-ridden book Hinduism was withdrawn from circulation, though it was never legally banned but was left available for another publisher; who did indeed come forward, so that the book is again lawfully omnipresent. But when I appealed to them to intervene for annulling my banning from the Religion in South Asia (RISA) list, which had been done in violation of its own charter, they all looked the other way.

A recent example. In 2014, I read a paper on the Rg Vedic seer Vasishtha and his relative divinization in a panel on “divinization” at the European Conference for South Asia Studies in Zürich. My paper was enthusiastically received, also by the panel’s organizers when I sent in the final version for publication. First, they accepted it, but then, I received an embarrassed e-mail from the organizers stating that they could not include my paper, without any reason given. Upon my enquiring, the half-line reply said that it did not fit their project. In all its insignificance, this still managed to be a blatant lie, and their earlier acceptance confirmed that this could not have been the reason. But some higher up had warned them that I am to be treated as excluded, just like on many other occasions.

Far more seriously, both in America and in India, scholars suspected of pro-Hindu sympathies are blocked in their access to academe, and their work gets studiously ignored. For India, a tip of the blanket over this hushed-up phenomenon was lifted by Dr A. Devahuti: Bias in Indian Historiography (1980). It is seriously in need of an update, but I am given to understand that one is forthcoming. For America, a start was made by Rajiv Malhotra with his books Invading the Sacred (2007) and Academic Hinduphobia (2016).

Hinduphobia

Coming to contents, Truschke accuses “Hindu Right-wingers” of attacks on “academics”. I would have expected them to attack “anti-Hindu Left-wingers”, and indeed I learn that this is exactly how they see it—and how they see her. If she doesn’t like being characterized this way, she is herewith invited to stop calling her adversaries similar names. The binary Left/Right is at least problematic here, yet for a quarter century I have seen this scheme used to explain matters. Except that the Left doesn’t call itself Left: it treats itself as the natural centre, and anything to its right is deemed politically coloured: “Right” or very easily “extreme Right”.

Anyway, she calls “alleged Hinduphobia” nothing more than “a strawman stand-in for any idea that undercuts Hindutva ideology”. The term was made popular by Rajiv Malhotra, whom I have never known to swear by “Hindutva”, a specific term literally translated as “Hindu-ness” but now effectively meaning “the RSS tradition of Hindu nationalism”. At any rate, one does not have to follow Hindutva, or even be a Hindu or an Indian, to observe that American India-watchers utter a strong anti-Hindu prejudice in their publications. Not to look too far, I can find an example in myself: I have written a number of publications criticizing both Hindutva as an ideology and the Hindutva organizations, yet I can off-hand enumerate dozens of illustrations of Hindu-baiting by supposed India experts in the West as well as by their Indian counterparts.

At most, one can criticize the term “Hinduphobia” for being etymologically less than exact. Words in -phobia normally indicate an irrational fear, and fear is not the attitude in which Hinduism is approached. The term was coined on the model of Islamophobia, a weaponized word meant to provoke hatred, yet now a thoroughly accepted and integrated term among progressive academics. A phobia is normally a psychiatric term and its use to denote political adversaries is of a kind with the Soviet custom of locking up dissidents in mental hospitals. And indeed, people shielding Islam from proper enquiry do treat their opponents as mentally warped marginals. But the core of truth in the reprehensible term “Islamophobia” is at least that it points to “fear of Islam”, a religion which its critics do indeed diagnose as fearsome. Hinduism, by contrast, has been criticized as cruel, evil, superstitious, ridiculous, but not as a threat. It is only Hindus who flatter themselves that the “Abrahamics” want to destroy Hinduism because they fear it as being superior and more attractive.

The use of the term Hinduphobia is predicated upon the already existing acceptance and use of the term Islamophobia. If the UN, the governments of the US and EU, etc., and the pan-Islamic pressure group OIC, were to give up this ugly and vicious term, then the Hinduphobia term so disliked by Truschke would lapse with it and get replaced again by the older and more accurate term Hindu-baiting. But until then, it throws the Islamophile and Hindu-baiting scholars of Truschke’s persuasion back on the bare fact that they themselves have and display the kind of prejudice against Hinduism of which they accuse the Islam critics.

History

According to Truschke, “a toxic combination of two realities fuel the Hindu Right’s onslaught against scholars of South Asia: Hindu nationalist ideology rests heavily on a specific vision of Indian history, and that version of history is transparently false.”

Now it gets interesting, with two competing views of Indian history, one true and one false: “Hindu nationalists claim that India’s past featured the glorious flourishing of a narrowly defined Hinduism that was savagely interrupted by anybody non-Hindu, especially Muslims. However, the real story of Indian history is much more complicated and interesting.”

A “narrowly defined Hinduism” is only projected into the Hindu past by semi-literate non-historians who do indeed man the middle ranks of the uniformed RSS ranks. No serious Hindu historian, not the lamented Jadunath Sarkar, R. C. Majumdar, Harsh Narain or K. S. Lal, nor contempory scholars like Bharat Gupt or Meenakshi Jain, would be foolish enough to simply deny the “diversity and syncretism” that Truschke sees in India’s past. But here again, we see how Truschke has chosen not to address the scholars of a competing persuasion, but the village bumpkins.

In one sense, however, even the most sophisticated historians will affirm that India’s past was indeed “glorious”. And it was not at all “complicated”: India was simply independent. Yes, ancient India had its problems too, it had local wars, it was not paradise on earth, but in one decisive respect, Indians under Muslim or British occupation correctly remembered it as “glorious”: it ruled itself. When the British told Mahatma Gandhi that his hoped-for independence would only throw India back into its headaches of casteism, communalism and the rest, he answered that India would, of course, have its problems, “but they will be our own”. Compared to being under foreign tutelage, such self-rule is nothing less than glorious.

This brings us to Truschke’s own field of research: “Especially problematic for Hindu nationalists is current scholarship on the Indo-Islamic rule, a fertile period for cross-cultural contacts and interreligious exchanges. This vibrant past is rightly a source of pride and inspiration for many Indians, but the Hindu Right sees only an inconvenient challenge to their monolithic narrative of Hindu civilisation under Islamic siege.”

Note how two issues are artfully mixed up here: the questionable monolithic view of Hinduism and the very correct view of a Hindu civilization besieged and raped by Islam. It is true that non-historian “Hindu nationalists” are rather inaccurate in their “monolithic narrative of Hindu civilisation”; but it is not true that the period of “Indo-Islamic rule” is a “source of pride and inspiration”, nor that it is contested only by “Hindu nationalists”. Her notion of “current scholarship” is of course limited to her own school of thought, heavily over-represented in academe, partly due to its aggressive policy of exclusion vis-à-vis others.

There are admittedly those who identify with foreign colonizers: many Indian Muslims identify with Mohammed bin Qasim and with the Moghuls (whom Pakistan considers as the real founders of their Indo-Islamic state), and many Nehruvian secularists share and continue the British opinions about India and Hinduism. But those who identify with India, even if they admit some good aspects of these colonizations, do not take any pride at all in having been subjugated. Yes, there were instances of collaboration with the colonizers, such as the hundreds of thousands of Indians whose sweat made the “British” railway network possible, or the Rajputs whose daughters filled the Moghul harems in exchange for their fathers’ careers in the Moghul army. But those instances are at most understandable, a lesser evil in difficult circumstances, but not a source of “pride and inspiration”.

A few episodes of Muslim occupation were indeed “vibrant”, viz. after Akbar’s realistic appreciations of the existing power equations persuaded him to rule with rather than against his Hindu subjects. Then, as everybody already knew, Hindus did indeed give their cultural best, rebuilding the temples which the Sultanate had demolished (and which would again be demolished by Aurangzeb)—a tribute to the vitality of Hindu civilization even under adverse circumstances. And some Muslims did indeed engage in “interreligious exchanges”, such as Dara Shikoh translating the Upanishads into Persian; later, he was beheaded for apostasy.

But even then, academics had better use their critical sense when interpreting these episodes, rather than piously taking them at face value. In the Zürich conference already mentioned, I heard an “academic” describe how contemporary Hindi writers praised Aurangzeb, the dispenser of their destinies. Well, many eulogies of Stalin can also be cited, including by comrades fallen from grace and praising Stalin even during their acceptance speeches of the death penalty; but it would be a very bad historian, even if sporting academic titles, who flatly deduces therefrom that Stalin was a benign ruler. Govind Singh’s “Victory Letter” to Emperor Aurangzeb was, in all seriousness, included among the sources of praise, leaving unmentioned that Aurangzeb had murdered Govind’s father and four sons. Every village bumpkin can deduce that Govind hated Aurangezb more than any other person in the world, and that he was only being diplomatic in his writing because of the power equation. Academics laugh at kooks who believe in aliens, but it took an academic, no less, to discover an alien who actually admired the murderer of his father and sons.

According to Truschke’s admission, a lot of Hindus are “happy to underscore the violence and bloodshed unleashed by many Indo-Islamic rulers”, but she wrongly identifies them as “Hindu Right”. It doesn’t require a specific ideological commitment nor even any religious identity to observe well-documented historical facts. Mostly documented by the Muslim perpetrators themselves, that is. Thus, like Truschke herself, I am neither Hindu nor Indian, yet I can read for myself with what explicit glee the Muslim chroniclers described temple destructions and massacres of unbelievers.

The mistake of plagiarism

“In contrast to the detailed work of academics, the Hindu nationalist vision of India’s past stands on precarious to non-existent historical evidence. As a result, the Hindu Right cannot engage with Indologists on scholarly grounds. Indeed, the few Hindutva ideologues who have attempted to produce scholarship are typically tripped up by rookie mistakes—such as misusing evidence, plagiarism, and overly broad arguments—and so find themselves ignored by the academic community.”

The inclusion of “plagiarism” among her list of “rookie mistakes” gives away that she is fulminating specifically against the work of Rajiv Malhotra, whom she is careful not to mention by name. For his book Indra’s Net, he was famously accused of plagiarism (by a mission mentor), for he quotes the American scholar Andrew Nicholson’s book Unifying Hinduism, in which he concurs with the same position that Hinduism had elaborated its common doctrinal backbone long before the Orientalists “invented Hinduism”. In fact, he only used Nicholson as a source to prove that Westerners too could acquire this insight, there was nothing “Hindu nationalist” about it. And he amply quoted him in so many words, though a few times, for the flow of the narrative, he merely rephrased the theses of this much-quoted author. By that standard, most papers contain plagiarism; but what passes unnoticed elsewhere becomes a scandal when done by a self-identifying Hindu.

Yet, numerous Indologists started a holier-than-thou tirade against the “plagiarism”, a comical drama to watch. Malhotra then walked the extra mile writing Nicholson out of his narrative and quoting original sources instead (thereby incidentally showing the amount of plagiarism that Nicholson himself had committed, though no Indologist ever remarked on that). But this inconvenient development was given the silent treatment, and Truschke still presupposes that there ever was a substantive “plagiarism” case against Malhotra, and by extension against the whole “Hindu Right”.

Malhotra has indeed been “ignored by the academic community”—until he found the way to make his critique non-ignorable. That indeed shows a lot of skill in dealing with the way of the world, for until then, Hindus had only painstakingly proven themselves right and the “academics” wrong, but had had no impact at all. By contrast, Malhotra, by personalizing his argument into specific dissections of the work of leading scholars such as Wendy Doniger, Sheldon Pollock or Anantanand Rambachan, has earned a session at the annual conference of the trend-setting American Academy of Religion. On Indological discussion forums, his input is frequently mentioned, though the academics mostly keep up their airs of pooh-poohing that interloper, in a bid to justify their ignoring his actual critique of their own work.

By the way, notice my term: a “self-identifying Hindu”. As the case of Malhotra has amply exemplified, it suffices to stand up as a Hindu, or to own up Hinduism, in order to be dubbed “Hindu Rightist”, “Hindutva ideologue”, as well as “fanatic”. “rookie” and all the fair names Hindus have been called by Prof Truschke’s august school of thought. To them, the acceptable Hindu, or what Malhotra calls a “sepoy”, is one who never identifies as a Hindu, but rather as “Indian” (or better, “Bengali”, “Malayali” etc.), “low-caste”, and ideologically “secularist”. The exception is when countering criticism from self-identified Hindus, for then, he is expected to say: “But me too, I am a Hindu!” That way, he can fulfil his main task: as long as there are Hindus, he must deny them the right to speak on behalf of Hinduism and to give it a presence at the conversation between worldviews.

History debates

Most Hindu scholars had or have not found the way to impose their viewpoint on the sphere of discourse yet. In the case of objective scholars among non-Hindus, this would not have mattered. It is, after all, their own job to trace any material relevant to their field of research, including obscure works by other scholars, even adversaries. But in this case, there are some cornerstones of the Indological worldview which tolerate no criticism nor alternatives, so these are to be carefully ignored.

Thus, Shrikant Talageri’s case against the Aryan Invasion Theory, the bedrock of the “academic” view of ancient Hindu history, is painstaking, detailed, voluminous, factual and well-formulated, yet Truschke’s own entire tribe of “academics” simply goes on ignoring his case without bothering to refute it. (Well, there are two articles talking down to him, but we mean actual refutations, not mere denials.) If academics were to live up to the reputation they have among laymen, they would have set aside their current business to deal with this fundamental challenge to their worldview.

Or take A Secular Agenda by Arun Shourie, PhD from Syracure NY and stunningly successful Disinvestment Minister in the A. B. Vajpayee Government, when India scored its highest economic growth figures. It was a very important book, and it left no stone standing of the common assumption among so-called experts that India (with its religion-based civil codes and its discriminatory laws against Hinduism) is a secular state, i.e. a state in which all citizens are equal before the law, regardless of their religion. Though the book deconstructs the bedrock on which the “experts” have built their view of modern India, they have never formulated a refutation. Instead, they just keep on repeating their own deluded assumption, as in: “The BJP threatens India’s structure as a secular state.” (Actually, the BJP does not, and India is not.) They can do so because they are secure in the knowledge that, among the audiences that matter, their camp controls the sphere of discourse. Concerning the interface between religion and modern politics, the established “academic” view is not just defective, it is an outrageous failure.

Or consider historian Prof K. S. Lal’s works on caste and religion, refuting with primary data the seeming truism, launched by the Communist Party ideologue M. N. Roy and now omnipresent in the textbooks, that the lowest castes converted en masse to Islam because of its claimed message of equality. Islam mainly won over the urban middle castes (and not because of equality, a value rejected as ingratitude towards the Dispenser of destinies in the Quran, but because of the privileges vis-à-vis non-Muslims), not the Untouchables. Again, the silent treatment has been the only response the “experts” could muster.

The Ayodhya affair

It is uncommon for Audrey Truschke and the opposite school to have any kind of direct debate at all. In the US this was, until Rajiv Malhotra, unthinkable for lack of any pro-Hindu school willing and able to stand up to the overwhelming anti-Hindu bias among those Indologists willing to wade into any controversial subject. But in India, there have been a few such confrontations. And on those occasions, the “academics” did not cover themselves with glory.

One consequential instance in India was the Ayodhya scholars’ debate in the winter of 1990-1991, organized by the Janata (Left-populist) government headed by Chandra Shekhar. This was won hands down by the scholars affirming the existence of a Hindu temple underneath the Babri Masjid, first against a delegation of Muslim leaders unfamiliar with historical methodology, selected by the Babri Masjid Action Committee, then against a group of Marxist academics called in by that same Committee for saving the day. The latter’s position was but an elaboration of the official orthodoxy created by a group of academics from JNU when they issued a statement, The Political Abuse of History (1989), denying the existence of temple remains underneath the Babri Masjid. It had been taken over as gospel truth by most of the academic and journalistic India-watchers in the West, including Truschke’s mentors. They kept the lid on the debate’s outcome.

More detail about the controversy can be found in my paper The Three Ayodhya Debates (2011). But since I do not hold an academic chair, she might not take me seriously, so let that pass. Instead, I may refer her to the excellent book Rama’s Ayodhya (2013) by Prof Meenakshi Jain of DU. No Indian or Western academic has refuted it or even formally taken cognizance of it. After court-ordered excavations in 2003 had definitively confirmed the existence of the temple, acknowledged in the court verdict of 2010, they have all turned conspicuously silent on Ayodhya.

Indeed, what insiders knew all along, has now become official: the stance of the “academics”, both Indian and Western, has been an outrageous failure. It relied entirely on the authority of a few “experts” already known for their anti-Hindu positions. Their “expertise” fell through completely once they were cross-examined on the witness stand, as amply documented by  Prof Jain.

That those “experts” didn’t manage to uphold their case against the temple was a surprise only to their dupes, including the American India-watchers. At least, I assume these were dupes and had genuinely swallowed the no-temple claim (“concocted by the wily Hindu fundamentalists”). The alternative is that they were deliberate accomplices in the Ayodhya deception, an artificial controversy that killed thousands and brought down several governments. I would prefer not to think such things about scholars like Audrey Truschke and her mentors.

A remarkable aspect of the experts’ fall from grace was the smugness with which they took the witness stand. They had not deemed it necessary to brush up their knowledge of Ayodhya, or to give their ill-founded statements of opinion a more solid basis at least after the fact. They had for so long publicly pretended, as Truschke now does, that the Hindu side merely consisted of a bunch of deplorables, that they didn’t see the need to gear up for the confrontation.

Iconoclasm

The Ayodhya controversy was part of a larger issue, viz. Islamic iconoclasm, which victimized many thousands of places of worship in India and abroad, starting with Arabia. Or at least, that is how historians like Sita Ram Goel and Profs Harsh Narain, K. S. Lal, Saradindu Mukherji saw it: turn this one controversy into an occasion for educating the public about the ideological causes of the iconoclasm that hit Hindu society so hard and so consistently for over a millennium. But the RSS-BJP preferred to put the entire focus on their one toy in Ayodhya, and obscure or even deny the Islamic motive behind it. (The ideological impotence and non-interest on their part provides yet another contrast with the academics’ imaginary construction of a wily, resourceful and highly motivated Hindu movement.)

As part of his effort, Goel published a two-volume book giving a list of two thousand purposely demolished temples, mostly replaced by mosques. The part on the theology of iconoclasm proved irrefutable, and has never even been gainsaid on any of its specifics. The list of two thousand temples equally stands entirely unshaken, as so many challenges to the reigning school that tries to downplay the tradition of iconoclasm pioneered by the Prophet. Ever since, the dominant policy has been to disregard Goel’s work and carry on whitewashing the record of Islam regardless.

Since stray new proofs of Muslim temple destruction keep popping up, that school has developed an alternative discursive strategy to prevent such cases from suggesting their own logical conclusion. It now preaches that a few temple destructions have indeed taken place, but channels this admission towards a counterintuitive explanation: that Hinduism is to be blamed for these, not Islam. The core of truth is that a handful of cases have been documented of ancient Hindu kings abducting prestigious idols from their adversaries’ main temples, just as happened in Mesopotamia and other Pagan cultures. These are then presented as the source of inspiration for Aurangzeb’s wholesale destruction (documented in his own court chronicles) of thousands of temples and many more idols.

Not that any of the many Muslim iconoclasts ever testified that such was his inspiration. Their motivation, whenever explicitly stated, and whether inside or outside of India, is invariably purely Islamic. Since the negationist school is unable to document its thesis, let me show them by example how to do it.

Kashinath Pandit’s book A Muslim Missionary in Mediaeval Kashmir (Delhi 2009) contains a translation of the Tohfatu’l Ahbab, the biography of the 15th-century Islamic missionary Shamsu’d-Din Araki by his younger contemporary Muhammad Ali Kashmiri. After describing the many temple demolitions Araki wrought or triggered in thinly populated Kashmir (many more than the “eighty” which the secularists are willing to concede on Richard Eaton’s authority for all of India during the whole Muslim period), the biographer gives Araki’s motivation in practising all this iconoclasm.

Does he say: Araki then recalled the story how a Hindu king ran off with an idol and thereby felt an urge to do something entirely different: destroy all the idols and their idol-houses with it? No, he recounts the standard Islamic narrative of the Kaaba: it was built by Adam and rebuilt by Abraham for monotheistic worship (thus yielding a far more authoritative precedent than idol theft by an infidel king), until unbelievers made it “a place for the idols and a house for the statues. Some Quraish chieftains (…) turned this House of God into the abode of devilish and satanic people. For innumerable years, this house of divine light and bliss became the worshiping place for sorcerers and depraved people and the centre of worshippers of idols (made of stones).”

Fortunately, this injustice didn’t last, neither in Mecca nor in Kashmir: “When the last of the prophets (Muhammad) saw this situation, he lifted Imam ‘Ali Murtaza on his shoulders so that defiled and impure idols and images were struck down in the House of God. (…) In the same manner, Kashmir was a den of wicked people, the source of infidelity and a mine of corruption and aberration.” (p.258)

And then the enumeration of Hindu sacred places levelled and mosques built in their stead resumes. An extra detail of interest for all those who idealize Sufis is that the text lists many occasions when “Sufis” and “Derwishes” participated in massacres and temple demolitions.

At any rate, that is what a Muslim testimony of the motive for temple destructions looks like. At least in the real world, not in the make-believe world of our “academics”. I had already challenged Richard Eaton (the originator of this thesis, a self-described Marxist) and his followers to come up with such evidence in 1999, but nothing has ever materialized. Come on, Prof Truschke, you can make an excellent career move by producing this proof.

To sum up: on the one hand, we have Islamic icononoclasts and their contemporary supporters saying in so many words that Islam made them do it. Moderns who highlight this evidence are, in Truschke’s estimation, “bullies”. On the other, we have no evidence at all for the claim that the Islamic iconoclasts, intent on destroying Hinduism itself through its icons, took inspiration from Hindu icon-stealers, who installed the icon in their own temple for continued worship (as if abduction, wanting to have something close to you, were the same thing as murder, i.e. wanting something to disappear from this world). This claim is nothing more than special pleading. Yet, people who propagate it are, in Trusche’s description, “academics”.

Conclusion

The bourgeoisie sets great store by status. Scholars go by a different criterion: knowledge. They know, through learning or personal experience, that for some of the great insights and discoveries we are indebted to outsiders and amateurs; and that quite a few of their colleagues have big titles and positions not corresponding to their actual knowledge. They also know that holding (or at least uttering) the required opinions can make or break an academic career: either formally, as when a non-Anglican could not get admission to Oxford University, or informally, as under the reign of progressivist conformism today.

To think highly of the academic world presupposes a link between scientific achievement and academic rank, and this largely makes sense in the exact sciences. In the humanities, especially in the social “science” and literature departments, this link is also deduced, but only as a parasitical extension of the conventions in the exact sciences. Much of what passes for scholarship these days is only ideology wrapped into jargon. Some sophomores take it seriously: having just gained entry into the academic world, they idealize it and are proud of their belonging to a higher world distinct from lay society. And most laymen believe it: over-awed by status, they assume that academic status presupposes both knowledge and objectivity, the basis of academic authority.

There exists a test for objective knowledge: a good theory predicts. Physicists who know the relevant parameters of an object in motion, can predict its location at future times. Well, how about the predictions by the academic India-watchers? In the mid-1990s, when the BJP’s imminent coming to power was a much-discussed probability, top academics predicted that a BJP government would turn India into a Vedic dictatorship, whatever that may be. They were put in the wrong even swifter than expected: in 1996, BJP leader A. B. Vajpayee was prime minister for 13 days, then lost the vote of confidence, and instead of seizing power for good, he meekly stepped down. Academics predicted the victimization of Dalits and women, gas chambers, “all the Indian Muslims thrown into the Indian Ocean”, and what not. Well, the BJP has been in power from 1998 till 2004, and since 2014: where are those gas chambers?

Scholars of modern India, as well as historians of fields relevant for contemporary political debates, have a lot to be modest about. They may have academic positions, but their record is not such that they are in a position to talk down to outsiders, the way Audrey Truschke now does. – Pragyata, 30 November 2016

» Dr Koenraad Elst is an author and Indologist based in Belgium.

Kashi Vishwanath Temple replaced by Aurangzeb's Gyanvapi Mosque, Varanasi (James Prinsep 1834)

Triple Talaq: Muslim Law Board’s stand rebuffs Quran, Constitution – Tufail Ahmad

Maulana Abdul Raheem Qureshi

Tufail AhmadThe Quran does not approve of the instant triple talaq, which is arbitrary and is exercised at the whims of a Muslim husband and many times uttered in a fit of anger. – Tufail Ahmad

Arguing before the Supreme Court on [March 27th], the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) took two positions on the issue of triple talaq, the practice whereby a Muslim husband utters talaq (divorce) three times to end a marriage. One, it told the court that if triple talaq is declared illegal, it would amount to disregarding Allah’s directions and rewriting of the Quran and would force Muslims into committing a sin. Two, the Muslim personal law provisions such as triple talaq enjoyed the protection of the Constitution’s Article 25 which guarantees citizens a fundamental right to profess and propagate a religion.

Let’s take the second point first. Article 25 gives the “freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion” to the Indian citizen. But this right is subject to two sub-clauses—clause 25 (1) notes that the freedom of religion is “subject to public order, morality and health” and clause 25 (2) clarifies that the right to religion does not “prevent the state from making any law” regarding the welfare of people. So, the Constitution is clear that the right to religion, though a right, is an inferior right among all the fundamental rights. The AIMPLB cannot take refuge under Article 25 because triple talaq is against the public morality of our times.

Religious practices are also not protected by Article 25 for the simple reason that they harm the welfare of citizens. Notably, Shayara Bano, a Muslim woman from Uttarakhand, has approached the apex court because her welfare is harmed by the arbitrary practice of triple talaq. It is also clear that under the Constitution, the religious freedom is subject to all other fundamental rights. This means that the Article 14, which guarantees the right to equality, overrides Article 25 because triple talaq denies a Muslim woman’s equality before the law. There are further implications of Article 25. One, the right to religion is available to the Indian citizen, not to religious communities, and certainly, does not apply to organisations like the AIMPLB or Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind and others. Two, Article 25 allows a citizen to practice and propagate his/her beliefs, but the differing institutionalised practices of religious sects are not protected under this right because they are not essential to the belief in a religion. So, if the court declares triple talaq illegal, it will not harm religious beliefs of Muslims and no sin will be committed. About two dozen Muslim countries including Pakistan have already abolished triple talaq.

Similarly, Article 25 is subject to Article 15 (1) which says that the State “shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex….” Since triple talaq is anti-women, it violates Article 15 (1) of the Constitution.

To return to the first point. The AIMPLB is not a representative body of Indian Muslims and its members are not elected. The AIMPLB is also an anti-Quranic group. On 3 September 2015, its spokesman Maulana Abdul Raheem Qureshi said: “Though as per Quran and Hadith, ‘triple talaq‘ is a crime, but once said the process would be considered complete and cannot be changed.” Hadiths (plural of Hadith), are sayings and deeds of Prophet Muhammad. Since the AIMPLB admits that the triple talaq is a crime as per the Quran, it must not oppose any move that seeks to declare triple talaq illegal. However, the AIMPLB and other Islamic groups are defending the arbitrary practice of triple talaq despite knowing that it is a crime under the Quran.

The AIMPLB misled the Supreme Court on Monday by submitting: “If such casual denunciation of the verses of the holy book is permitted, then soon Islam would cease to exist. Though triple talaq in one sitting is an unusual mode of divorce in Islam, it cannot be declared to be invalid in the light of the direct verses of Holy Quran and categorical command of the Messenger of Allah.” As per the current law, the only way for Muslims to divorce is the practice of triple talaq.

The Quran has a chapter devoted to this subject in the surah called Al-Talaq, which comprises of 12 verses. In these verses, the Quran establishes a procedure for divorce, providing for three talaqs, each delivered at an interval of a month. The Quran does not approve of the instant triple talaq, which is arbitrary and is exercised at the whims of a Muslim husband and many times uttered in a fit of anger. Under the Quranic practice, a talaq must be uttered in the presence of two witnesses. So, the Quran removes the arbitrariness of triple talaq.

If the Supreme Court declares the practice of instant triple talaq, which is given in one sitting, as illegal, the apex court’s decision will still be as per the Quran. It can be said with certainty that the position adopted by the AIMPLB before the Supreme Court is, therefore, anti-Quranic and anti-Constitutional. Under the existing law, a Muslim woman can approach the courts to seek, not to give, divorce; alternatively, she can resort to the informal practice of seeking divorce through an Islamic cleric. However, a Muslim husband cannot go to the court to give divorce; the only option open before him is to deliver triple talaq either through Islamic clerics or through informal means such as a letter, phone call, or WhatsApp messages.

The current practice of instant triple talaq cannot be acceptable as per the modern standards of morality. It has emerged as a menace to the society in India. It is also violative of the Constitution’s Article 21 which guarantees to Indian citizens the protection of life and personal liberty, which includes human dignity. Currently, it is the dignity of Muslim women that is being challenged by Islamic groups like the AIMPLB. The Muslim women who are divorced via triple talaq, are increasingly approaching the Supreme Court to uphold their right to dignity and liberty, which must be supported by everyone.

However, ending the practice of triple talaq will not end the miseries of Muslim women, who need to send their daughters to study and permit them to work. Even the number of talaqs, whether triple or not, should be meaningless if the same is uttered in the presence of a judge at three monthly intervals to complete the Quranic procedure. To remove its arbitrariness and at the minimum, the Supreme Court of India must rule that all Muslim divorces must be given in a court, not in parallel Shariah courts run by numerous Islamist groups such as the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, AIMPLB, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind and Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind. – FirstPost, 28 March 2017

» Tufail Ahmad, an author and former BBC journalist, is a contributing editor at Firstpost and executive director of the Open Source Institute, New Delhi. He tweets @tufailelif.

Triple Talaq

Kashmiri Pandits: The ethnic cleansing we have forgotten – Vivek Gumaste

Kashmiri Pandit

Vivek V. GumasteKashmiri Pandits are the original inhabitants of Kashmir, with a culture and tradition that goes back 5,000 years. Close to 1 million Kashmiri Pandits inhabited the valley in the early 1900s and constituted 15% of the population. Today, no more than 3,000 remain. – Vivek Gumaste

To forget an evil is to condone the crime; to pardon an atrocity is to see it recur with dangerous consequences and to overlook a wrong is to alter the paradigm of justice.

The ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits from the Kashmir Valley is one of the greatest tragedies of our times; a gargantuan ethical infraction that defies imagination when one fathoms the magnitude of the atrocity and takes cognizance of its inherent diabolism. Unfortunately, however, this horrific event is gradually drifting away from public memory and is set to be interred beneath the tombstone of time.

Therefore, it is imperative that we wind the clock back to the dark day of 19 January 1990—the “Kristallnacht” of the Kashmiri Pandits; the day when law and order collapsed in Kashmir and humanity died a silent death under the watchful eyes of an entire nation.

Here I reproduce two excerpts that capture the barbaric, perverted savagery of the perpetrators as well as the helpless vulnerability of the Kashmiri Pandit.

Kashmir Pundits (1895)Col Tej Kumar Tikoo, in his book Kashmir: Its Aborigines and Their Exodus (Lancer Publishers. 2012) writes: “As the night fell, the microscopic community became panic-stricken when the Valley began reverberating with the war-cries of Islamists…. These exhortations urged the faithful to give a final push to the Kafir in order to ring in the true Islamic order. These slogans were mixed with precise and unambiguous threats to Pandits. They were presented with three choices—Ralive, Tsaliv ya Galive (“Convert to Islam, leave the place, or perish”).

“The Pandits could see the writing on the wall. If they were lucky enough to see the night through…. Broadcasting vicious Jihadi sermons and revolutionary songs, interspersed with blood curdling shouts and shrieks, threatening Kashmiri Pandits with dire consequences, became a routine mantra of the Muslims of the Valley, to force them to flee from Kashmir…”

Kanchan Gupta corroborates these happenings (19/01/90: When Kashmiri Pandits fled Islamic terror. Rediff. 19 January 2005): “As evening falls, the exhortations become louder and shriller. Three taped slogans are repeatedly played the whole night from mosques: Kashmir mei agar rehna hai, Allah-O-Akbar kehna hai (“If you want to stay in Kashmir, you have to say Allah-O-Akbar.”); Yahan kya chalega, Nizam-e-Mustafa (“What do we want here? Rule of Shariah.”); Asi gachchi Pakistan, Batao roas te Batanev san (“We want Pakistan along with Hindu women but without their men.”)

Kashmiri Pandit Woman (1900)This reiteration of medieval bestiality made a mockery of the principles enshrined in our Constitution, reduced secularism to mere words on a paper document and highlighted the plight of the minority Hindu in a Muslim majority region.

Kashmiri Pandits are the original inhabitants of Kashmir, with a culture and tradition that goes back 5,000 years. Close to 1 million Kashmiri Pandits inhabited the valley in the early 1900s and constituted 15% of the population. Today, no more than 3,000 remain, making up barely 0.15 % of the population.

Since the separatist movement began, at least 1,000 Pandits have been killed, roughly 16,000 homes have been burnt and 350,000 have been displaced: these figures sum up the enormity of this human calamity.

Close to 1 million Kashmiri Pandits inhabited the valley in the early 1900s and constituted 15% of the population. Today, no more than 3,000 remain, making up barely 0.15 % of the population.

While it is easy to blame militants, it cannot absolve us of our responsibility. There was a total failure, at every level of the defence mechanisms that define a civilised nation: society, government and the press—all abrogated their responsibility and failed the Kashmiri Hindu.

But what happened in Kashmir could not have occurred without the tacit compliance of Kashmir’s majority Muslim community and so, despite their protestations, they must share the brunt of this charge.

In moral terms, the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits is so humongous that it reduces to irrelevance the validity of the separatist movement or the so-called atrocities of the Indian Army.

On 19 January 2017, 27 years after that fateful night, in an act of remorse, the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly passed a unanimous resolution for the return of the Pandits. Only when this is translated into practical reality and the Pandits are rehabilitated with dignity and security, will we be able to wipe away this seemingly indelible stain on the fabric of our secular democracy. – Sunday Guardian, 5 February 2017

»  Vivek Gumaste is a New York based academic and political commentator.

Kashmiri Pandit protest in New Delhi in August 2016

 

Tipu Sultan: Shades of grey – Sanjeev Sanyal

Tipu Sultan

Sanjeev SanyalGiven [Tipu’s] record of brutality towards fellow Indians, it is difficult to think of him as a great freedom fighter. At best, he belongs to the shades of grey that mark a lot of history. – Sanjeev Sanyal

Despite their success in Bengal and control over the sea, the British were far from being the masters of India. The Marathas would remain the biggest threat to their hegemony for another half a century till they were finally defeated in the third Anglo-Maratha war of 1917-18. The East India Company also had to contend with the hostility of a number of other rulers such as Tipu Sultan, the ruler of Mysore. Tipu is often portrayed as a great patriot in Indian history textbooks for having opposed British colonization but his record is not so straightforward. While it is true that he fought the British, he was constantly trying to subjugate other Indians—the Marathas, the Nizam of Hyderabad, Travancore, the Kodavas of Coorg to name just a few. He was also considered a usurper by many of his own subjects.

Tipu Sultan came to the throne in 1782 on the death of his father Hyder Ali. Hyder Ali had usurped the throne of Mysore from the Wodeyar dynasty that he served as a military commander. Over the next few years, Tipu crushed all dissent within his kingdom as well as took over the smaller kingdoms adjoining Mysore. The Karnataka coast and the Kodavas of Coorg (now Kodagu in Karnataka) soon found themselves under savage assault. The indiscriminate cruelty of Tipu’s troops is not just testified in both Indian and European accounts but also in the letters and instructions that Tipu himself sent to his commanders on the field

You are to make a general attack on the Coorgs and having put to the sword or made prisoners the whole of them, both the slain and prisoners, with the women and children, are to be made Mussalmans…Ten years ago, from ten to fifteen thousand men were hung upon the trees of that district since which time the aforesaid trees have been waiting for me.

Around 1788, Tipu Sultan turned his attention on the Kerala coast and marched in with a very large army. The old port city of Calicut was razed to the ground. Hundreds of temples and churches were systematically destroyed and tens of thousands of Hindus and Christians were either killed or forcibly converted to Islam. Again, this is not just testified by Tipu Sultan’s enemies but in his own writings and those of his court historian Mir Hussein Kirmani. Interestingly, one of the things that Tipu loudly denounced in order to justify his cruelty was the matrilineal customs of the region.

Not surprisingly, hundreds of thousands of refugees began to stream south in Travancore. Tipu now used a flimsy excuse to invade the kingdom founded half a century earlier by Marthanda Varma. Travancore’s forces were much smaller than those of Mysore but Lannoy had left behind a well-drilled army and a network of fortifications. A few sections of these fortifications have survived to this day and can be seen north of Kochi, not far from where the ancient port of Muzeris once flourished. Tipu’s army was repeatedly repulsed by the Nair troops but Travancore knew that it was up against a much larger military machine and was forced to ask the East India Company for help.

The British responded by putting together a grand alliance of Tipu’s enemies that included the Marathas and the Nizam of Hyderabad and, in 1791, they marched on Mysore. Within a few months, the allies had taken over most of Tipu’s kingdom and were bearing down on his capital, Srirangapatna. Eventually, he was Napoleon (1806)forced to accept humiliating terms—half his kingdom was taken away and he was made to pay a big war indemnity. Given his record of reneging on treaties, the East India Company kept two of his sons hostage till he paid the indemnity.

Friendless in India, Tipu now began to look for allies abroad. It is known that he exchanged letters with Napoleon and had great hopes of receiving support from the French. He also wrote to the Ottoman Sultan in Istanbul and urged a joint jihad against the infidel British. The problem was that Napoleon had occupied Egypt and the Ottomans considered the French the real infidel enemies and the British as allies! The Ottoman Sultan’s reply, later published in the Madras Gazette, makes the point clearly: “We make it our special request that your Majesty will please refrain from entering any measure against the English.”

British intelligence was fully aware of what Tipu was doing and decided to finish him once and for all. The allies again March on Srirangapatna in 1799. The Mysore army was a shadow of its former self and the allies had little difficulty in reaching the capital. After three weeks of bombardment, the walls were breached. Tipu Sultan died fighting, sword in hand. The allies would restore Mysore to the old Wodeyar dynasty from whom Tipu’s father had usurped the throne. Napoleon would do little to rescue his ally but the siege of Srirangapatna would bolster the reputation of a thirty-year-old British colonel named Arthur Wellesley. Now remembered as the Duke of Wellington, he would defeat Napoleon 16 years later at Waterloo.

The Srirangapatna fort lives on a river island just off the Bangalore-Mysore highway. The final siege is so well documented that one can wander around the area and get a very good feel of how the last weeks unfolded. Tipu’s personal effects were taken by the visitors and most of them were shipped to England where they can be seen in various museums.

Tipu died a warrior’s death, defending his fort to his last breath. Moreover, despite the extreme cruelty towards Hindus and Christians in Kerala and Coorg, there are also instances of his making generous grants to temples. His critics will argue that most of these were given after his defeat in 1791.

It is difficult to say if this was a genuine change of heart or a tactical retreat by a cornered bully desperately looking for new friends. Still, given his record of brutality towards fellow Indians, it is difficult to think of him as a great freedom fighter. At best, he belongs to the shades of grey that mark a lot of history. – Newsbred, 23 October 2016. Excepted from The Ocean of Churn by Sanjeev Sanyal.

» Sanjeev Sanyal is an Indian economist, bestselling author, environmentalist, and urban theorist.

Finding the Body of Tipu Sultan

See also

The Muslim takeover of West Bengal – Janet Levy

Mamata Banerjee with Siddiqullah Chowdhury

Janet LevyWest Bengal’s Muslim population has increased to 27% (up to 63% in some districts), as per the 2011 census and Bangladesh’s Hindu population has decreased to 8%.  While the situation for Hindus in Bangladesh is certainly dire, life has become increasingly difficult for Hindus in West Bengal, home to a Muslim-appeasing government and a breeding ground and safe haven for terrorists. – Janet Levy

Riots, restrictions on speech and religion, and the takeover of politics and law enforcement are just a few of the unwelcome changes that can be expected in non-Muslim societies as Muslim immigrants increase in number, according to Dr. Peter Hammond.  A Christian missionary based in South Africa and author of 40 books, Hammond delineates how Muslims change societies in his book, Slavery, Terrorism and Islam.  Citing examples of countries worldwide, Hammond outlines typical activities that occur as the Muslim percentage of the total population increases.  It is a warning bell about the gradual, step-by-step changes that can be expected in other countries still undergoing significant Muslim immigration.

These societal changes occur because devout Muslims are bound by a 1,400-year-old doctrine of immigration originating in Islamic scriptures and based on Mohammed’s migration from Mecca to Medina. Under the religious edict, Islamic expansionism and submission of all non-Muslims to Shariah or Islamic doctrine must occur.  Islamic expansionism and its counterpart, jihad, are first expressed as Muslim demands for special status and privileges within the host country.  A higher percentage of Muslims in the host country can soon translate into Muslim control of political processes, law enforcement, media, and the economy, as well as restrictions on freedom of movement, speech and religious practices. The appropriation of goods and property, as well as violence with impunity, can also occur.

The situation in at West Bengal in Hindu-majority India, bordering Muslim-majority Bangladesh, illustrates the inherent problems to non-Muslim societies of a growing Muslim population.

West Bengal

Bengal, an ethno-cultural region, was politically divided in 1947 during the partitioning of British India into independent India and Pakistan.  Under this arrangement, the Bengal province was carved in two: the predominately-Hindu West Bengal, a state of India, and the predominately-Muslim East Bengal, which became a province of Pakistan and, in 1971, the Muslim-majority country of Bangladesh.

At partitioning, the Muslim population of West Bengal stood at 12% and the Hindu population of East Bengal 30%.  Today, with massive Muslim immigration, Hindu persecution and forced conversions, West Bengal’s Muslim population has increased to 27% (up to 63% in some districts), as per the 2011 census and Bangladesh’s Hindu population has decreased to 8%.  While the situation for Hindus in Bangladesh is certainly dire, life has become increasingly difficult for Hindus in West Bengal, home to a Muslim-appeasing government and a breeding ground and safe haven for terrorists. For several years, West Bengal has suffered under apparent Muslim-planned riots designed to implement Shariah, extract government concessions and grab more territory.

Taslima NasrinKolkata Riots

In 2007, a violent protest broke out in Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta) against Bangladeshi feminist author, physician and human rights activist, Taslima Nasreen. The demonstrations against Nasreen were a thinly veiled attempt to institute Islamic blasphemy laws and curtail freedom of speech.

Nasreen, who was born a Bangladeshi Muslim but chose atheism, had witnessed the horrific treatment of Islamic women in her medical practice, and advocated for freedom of expression, women’s rights, non-Muslim rights and abolition of shariah law.  In 1993, she published a novel, Lajja (Shame) about a Hindu family persecuted by Muslims.  The novel ignited a furor in the Muslim community, which called for a ban on the book and offered a bounty for her death.  The novel was subsequently banned by Indian authorities.  Nasreen was physically attacked, went into hiding and escaped from Bangladesh to Europe.  After 10 years’ exile, she returned to the east and settled in Kolkata.  Her Bangladeshi passport had been revoked and she waited several years for a visa to be able to visit India.  While in Kolkata, she continued to write articles critical of Islam despite renewed threats and calls for her beheading.

In November 2007, a protest organized by militant Muslims against Nasreen led to riots as Muslims blocked traffic, pelted police and journalists, torched cars and damaged buses.  Similar to the justification for the Charlie Hebdo murders in Paris, West Bengali Muslims protested the violation of Shariah blasphemy law, which mandates death for anyone who dares to criticize Islam.  The army was forced to intervene, Nasreen was placed under house arrest and later forced to leave the area.  The banned Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and the Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) were believed to have fostered the mayhem.

Canning District Riots

In 2013, Muslims in West Bengal were actively lobbying for a second partition of India to create an Islamic super state—Mughalistan—that would incorporate Pakistan, Bangladesh and parts of India.  Meanwhile, ethnic divisions were also stirred up by an upcoming local election.  Into this charged situation, the murder of a Muslim cleric by unidentified assailants sparked outrage among Muslims, as thousands mobilized for rioting in the Canning District.  An article in a popular weekly publication, Organiser, called the attack “a well organized and meticulously planned attack on Hindus.”  Over 200 Hindu homes were looted and firebombed, hundreds of temples and idols destroyed, and vehicles set on fire amid shouts of “Allah-hu Akbar!”  Repeated calls for help by Hindus went unanswered by the police.  Local residents claimed authorities were complicit with the Muslim mobs.

Violence in Usti

This January 29th, in a market in the Kolkata suburb of Usti, more than 50 Hindu shops were ransacked, looted and gutted by rampaging jihadists.  Police mostly watched as bombs were hurled at Hindus indiscriminately.  They fired a few random shots into the air and detained victimized Hindu shop owners while their attackers roamed free. A legislative assembly member and the state minister for minority affairs reportedly demanded that local police release the few rioters held in custody. There was limited reporting by the mainstream media that didn’t specify the Muslim identity of the perpetrators and West Bengal’s Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, issued no statement about the violence.  Independent sites, Indiafacts and Hindu Samhati, reported the incident with numerous photographs.

All India Trinamool CongressPolitical Implications

With a 27% Muslim population, enough pressure exists to tip the scales for elected officials precariously toward advancement of an Islamist agenda and make Muslims the most privileged class in West Bengal.  In some areas, such as the border district of Murshidabad, which is over 63% Muslim, de facto Shariah is imposed on all residents.  The vast majority of political candidates, elected officials and law enforcement leadership are Muslim and the economic prospects for Hindus dim as Muslims refuse to patronize non-Muslim businesses.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who has received official visits from Hillary Clinton and several U.S. ambassadors, offers a prime example of a political leader who expediently favors Muslim constituents, capitulates to their many demands and entices them with special benefits and privileges.  The reality of Muslim vote bank politics, whereby an entire Muslim community votes along lines dictated by the local imam or religious leader, adds to the problem and furthers Muslim control of the state.  Banerjee has gone so far in her Muslim sympathies as to publicly recite the Kalima Shahadat, the Islamic conversion prayer, in front of an audience of imams.

Because West Bengal’s Muslims were largely responsible for her election as chief minister, Banerjee has made substantial payback. She approved and validated the academic degrees of 10,000 previously unrecognized Saudi-funded and controlled madrasas (Islamic colleges) four minarets (Muslim towers), honorariums for imams and an exclusively Islamic township. Banerjee called for the establishment of Muslim medical, technical and nursing schools with special subsidies for Muslim students, as well as Muslim-only hospitals.  She has favored Muslims to the extent of distributing free bicycles and rail passes to female Muslim students and laptops to Muslim boys.  Banerjee’s political party, the All India Trinamool Congress (TMC), will most likely send more Islamists to serve in parliament in the future.  Reportedly, jihadist sleeper cells inhabit the area under her protection.  Meanwhile, the needs of Hindu refugees from Bangladesh are ignored, even as they continue being victimized in West Bengal.

In June of 2014, Mamata Banerjee made a highly questionable appointment to the upper house of the Indian Parliament.  Despite multiple warnings from the District Intelligence Bureau that had red-flagged him for instigating violence against Hindus, including alleged participation in the Kolkata and Canning riots and sheltering known terrorists, she selected Hassan Imran to serve as MP. Imran is a founder and self-admitted member of the radical student group, the Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), a recognized terrorist organization banned by the Indian government.  He founded and edited a radical weekly magazine, Kalam, which he later turned into a daily newspaper, Dainik Kalam, and sold to the Saradha Group, a financial conglomerate with ties to West Bengal government officials. The publication has advocated for the establishment of Muslim-controlled areas in the state under Shariah.  Hassan has close ties to local Islamist leaders and has worked with Jamat-e-Islami (JI), a pro-Saudi jihadist group supported by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).  He also has ties to a chief official of the Islamic Development Bank, a Saudi entity that has financed Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood affiliate, the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR), an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terrorism funding trial in the United States.  JI and the ISI have been linked to efforts to take over the Indian state of Assam and separate it from India.

The Saudi-funded terrorist group Jamaat-ul-Mujahadeen, also linked to MP Hassan Imran, has a major base in West Bengal, including bomb-manufacturing units, and has used Wahhabi money to build mosques throughout the state.  The Muslim call to prayer is blasted by loudspeaker from early in the morning to late at night and some thoroughfares in the Muslim districts of Kolkata are closed to all traffic for Friday prayers.

Recently, Hassan and other associates of Mamata Banerjee were implicated in a financial scandal—a Ponzi scheme with the Saradha Group—and things are starting to unravel for the chief minister.  A major investigation of a consortium of 200 private companies that collected between $4 – 6 billion from over 1.7 million depositors before it collapsed, may bring down her reign in West Bengal.  Her MP appointee, Hassan, is believed to have acted as a liaison between Jamaat-e-Islami and the money launderers.

Bangladesh

Hindus of West Bengal need only look across the border to Bangladesh to see their future if Muslim immigration continues and the Muslim population exceeds the current 27%. In Bangladesh, with an 89% Muslim population, ethnic cleansing persists unabated, Hindu land is forcibly captured and Hindu homes and businesses looted.  People are commonly beaten with no police intervention.  Hindus have been tortured and forced to pay the jizya, a tax that non-Muslims are required to pay for protection against Muslim terrorism.  Hindu girls, even married women, have been raped, mutilated, kidnapped, enslaved and forced to marry Muslim men.  Law enforcement authorities are often complicit in the activities and provide no protection or recourse.  Victims are typically threatened if they report incidents to the police. Often, in the case of abduction, police refuse to register complaints and make claims that consensual intercourse has taken place even if the girl is 9 or 10 years old, a non-minor under Islamic standards.

Kidnapped Hindu girls who manage to escape report that they were taken to Muslim families in which relatives and friends were invited to rape them over several days while Muslim women facilitated the encounters.

This dire future could possibly be avoided in West Bengal, where some speculate that the Saradha financial scandal could go far in exposing Mamata Banerjee’s dangerous ties to Islamists who seek to wrest control of West Bengal from Hindus.  If her government falls as a result, it could be the wake-up call needed to turn the current situation around.  It could also serve as an example to other countries facing increasing Muslim immigration and increasing imposition of Muslim values on non-Muslims. – American Thinker, 22 February 2015

» Janet Levy, MBA, MSW, is an activist, world traveler, and freelance journalist who has contributed to American Thinker and other publications.

Mamata Banerjee doing namaz