Q&A: ‘The word Hindu is Arabic. Why don’t they throw it out?’ | History News


Aligarh, India – India’s Hindu nationalist authorities has removed chapters on centuries of Muslim rule within the subcontinent, together with these of the Mughals, from some faculty textbooks.

The federal government, led by the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Get together (BJP), has additionally eliminated references to the contribution of Muslims within the nation’s freedom battle towards the British colonial rulers.

Within the textbooks revised by a government-run academic physique, historical India has been glorified, usually with out the assist of historic info.

Historians say the revision of college textbooks is part of the BJP’s Islamophobic project to disclaim Muslims their place in India’s historical past.

Al Jazeera spoke to historian Irfan Habib, a globally famend authority on Mughal historical past, to grasp the BJP’s mission of rewriting historical past and the affect it can have on information dissemination within the South Asian nation – house to 200 million Muslims.

Al Jazeera: Why is the BJP eradicating Mughal and different Muslim rulers from faculty textbooks?

Irfan Habib: Nicely, it’s not solely [about] eradicating the Mughal rulers. They’re really making an attempt to communalise Indian historical past by both eradicating or denigrating Muslims. However this is just one a part of the BJP mission, the opposite half isn’t solely omission however myth-building.

Al Jazeera: Are you able to discuss concerning the latest modifications at school textbooks in India?

Habib: Within the historical Indian historical past syllabus beneficial by the UGC [University Grants Commission, the body that governs the universities in India], the caste system is omitted from historical past. It claims Muslims launched the caste system in the course of the medieval interval.

Each advantage is to be credited to historical Indian civilisation.

It isn’t merely bias, however lies and falsehoods are being glorified. This Aryan enterprise is rather like the Nazis.

by Irfan Habib, Historian

In keeping with the brand new draft BA [Bachelor of Arts] historical past syllabus proposed by the UGC, India is meant to be the unique house of the Aryans. It declares that Aryans went from right here to civilise the world.

Historians should show by establishing info, they will’t manufacture info. You may’t create an Aryan race. And that is an insult to Sanskrit, as a result of really in earlier Sanskrit textual content, Arya is an space in Iran. Iran is plural of Arya. Truly, Iran means [the land of] Aryans.

Now you make Aryans right into a race, like Hitler did. Historical Iranian and Rig Vedic Sanskrit are very shut, they’re sister languages. Arya means a really respectable and noble particular person, it doesn’t imply the race. From there onwards, you see it’s not solely anti-Muslim, it’s anti-reason.

Al Jazeera: Are you able to discuss concerning the Indian information system and the way it’s being now framed by the Hindu far proper?

Habib: I recognise that historic sources are such that they will have a Hindu communal interpretation, Muslim communal interpretation, and you may have a Marxist interpretation.

When the Organiser [magazine published by far-right Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the BJP’s ideological mentor] printed an article saying that Maan Singh constructed the Taj Mahal, historian Ramesh Chandra Majumdar wrote to them, saying “I gained’t learn your paper now and you aren’t entitled to publish any of my articles”. Majumdar got here from the Hindu communal faculty of historians, however however, he was an expert and didn’t settle for any unproven truth, whether or not for historical or medieval India.

Al Jazeera: The Hindu proper has all the time thought-about the Mughals as outsiders. Now they’re additionally attacking and othering Muslim leaders comparable to freedom fighter Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and 18th-century ruler Tipu Sultan.

Habib: The exclusion of Azad is anti-Muslim. They don’t wish to present that any Muslim was concerned in India’s freedom motion.

In case of Tipu Sultan, it’s a whole reversal of the nationwide concern. Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru [India’s first prime minister] and others all the time had excellent phrases for Tipu. The suppression of the Malabar rebel by Tipu can’t be justified. However that may very well be stated of virtually any ruler of that point. However what he did for Mysore and modernisation of its economic system, and his battle towards the British colonialists can’t be put aside. I ought to level out that the Indian Historical past Congress in 1999 printed three volumes on Tipu. So, Indian historians will not be in settlement with the BJP.

Habib at his residence close to the Aligarh Muslim College the place he as soon as taught [Anupam Tiwari/Al Jazeera]

Al Jazeera: Names of cities and roads with Muslim names are being erased. How will it affect public reminiscence about Muslims and their historic heritage?

Habib: They wish to destroy public reminiscence. Aurangabad’s unique identify was Khirki and it was once more based by Muslim Malik Ambar, an African. So Malik Ambar is an outsider as a result of he’s an African and he’s additionally a Muslim, therefore he can’t be named. You may’t name it Ambarnagar which it is best to in case you are excited by historical past or it is best to name it Khirki. However Sambhajinagar [Aurangabad’s new name] is unnecessary as a result of Sambhaji by no means went to Aurangabad.

Taj Mahal is a greenback earner. However they silently promote the favored notion that Taj Mahal was initially a Shaivite temple. The English [colonial rulers] to be able to shield the Taj from lightning put up a conductor. Now the BJP and its supporters name the conductor a Trishul [trident, a holy Hindu symbol]. It’s this type of fashionable misperception that they’re making.

Al Jazeera: Why does the BJP wish to rewrite historical past? The mission has two points: the demonisation of the Mughals and the glorification of the Hindu previous. Are you able to elaborate on that?

Habib: Their intention is to demonise Muslims, together with the Mughals. You see, they’ve various issues. Let me spell them out for you. The phrase Hindu is Arabic. Why don’t they first throw it out? Faith itself is a Semitic idea dropped at India, now they [BJP] try to form Hinduism in line with it.

Actually, there isn’t any use of the phrase Hindu in Sanskrit literature till the 14-Fifteenth century. And even the Vijayanagar emperors referred to as themselves Hindu Rai Suratran, that’s Sultan over Hindu Rai. That is very attention-grabbing how the phrases developed. However right here you possibly can see that you’re making use of to Indian spiritual historical past ideas which have come from Islam.

They’re making use of fantasies like India being the mom of democracy. No historian has admitted that India was the mom of democracy. Rig Veda talks about Rajas, which suggests tribal chief. Sure, you discover point out of democracy in historical Greece and Rome however by no means discover it in India, you by no means discover it in China, you don’t discover it in Iran. I say present me a critical historian of historical India who has stated so.

The Sanskrit identify for that interval is Mahajanpada, which doesn’t imply democratic republic. It means tribes. No critical historian that I’ve learn – communal or in any other case – ever claimed there was democracy in historical India. Eradicating caste system from historical India is completely denying historical past.

Al Jazeera: The BJP says historic wrongs are being set proper. What was improper within the textbooks? Critics say myths are being pushed as historical past. As a historian, what do you say to that?

Habib: You see, I can provide one instance of the Ahoms of Assam. Now for those who take a look at the speeches on Ahoms by [India’s] House Minister Amit Shah and Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, they current the Ahom as the best nationalist and the Mughals as foreigners. However they overlook that Ahom language is Thai language, that their descendants have began calling themselves Thai Ahoms. Right this moment they’re each Hindus and Muslims. They had been clearly Thai, they weren’t Hindu.

So you’re revising not solely historical past but additionally creating myths. And if they are saying they drove out the Mughals, they overlook that in 1679, Guwahati finally fell to the Mughals. Simply to have a good time Ahom who was as overseas as Mughals, or as Indian as Mughals, as a result of they each got here from overseas lands. How a lot would you lose if Mughals are pushed out of Indian historical past? Taj Mahal can be out, Pink Fort can be out and the earliest statistical work on the planet – Ain-i-Akbari – can be out.

They’re making use of fantasies like India being the mom of democracy. No historian has admitted India was the mom of democracy.

by Irfan Habib, Historian

Al Jazeera: What would be the affect on India’s training system and society because the state monopolises information manufacturing with a transparent anti-minority bias?

Habib: It isn’t merely bias, however lies and falsehoods are being glorified. This Aryan enterprise is rather like the Nazis. What in case you are an Aryan? How do you get larger and nobler in case you are an Aryan? Claiming Indus Valley Civilisation as Sanskrit and calling it Saraswati is absurd. Taj Mahal is an asset, however you’re driving it out of your historical past.

Al Jazeera: Do you suppose the BJP is mirroring the Thirties’ Nazi Germany by way of propaganda and revision of historical past?

Habib: Nicely, really MS Golwalkar [RSS leader] praised the Nazis. Definitely, the RSS founders had been vastly influenced. Within the Nineteen Seventies, Golwalkar praised Hitler’s remedy of the Jews no matter they may now say about Israel.

Al Jazeera: The Hindu proper wing says there was a mass conversion of Hindus below the Mughals and different Muslim rulers. Muslim rulers are additionally accused of destroying temples. They name it a darkish interval of historical past. How do you reply to that?

Habib: That is really fairly absurd. You see when Hajjaj ibn Yusuf despatched Mohammed Bin Qasim to Sindh [in the eighth century], he requested him to deal with the Hindus as they had been treating the Christians and the Parsis, that’s to say: be tolerant. Mohammed Bin Qasim didn’t destroy any temple. Actually, the Multan temple was destroyed by the heretics. In order that they current a completely improper image.

Now I can maybe say that Hajjaj’s coverage was not pushed by any nice spiritual spirit of tolerance however just by sensible sense. In the event you invade a rustic, you don’t antagonise all of its individuals. Multani retailers had been vastly promoted by Muslim rulers and naturally Mughals had very massive parts of Hindu officers. An odd Muslim had little probability to go up the ladder. The primary finance minister of Aurangzeb was a Hindu, his best officer viceroy was Raja Jay Singh of the Deccan. After all, the Mughals weren’t democrats, however neither they had been out to transform individuals by pressure.

The most effective factor is that for those who learn European accounts of India throughout Aurangzeb’s time, they are saying that each faith was permitted – you possibly can go to a temple, you possibly can go to a mosque, you possibly can go to a church. There was no parallel in Europe like this or within the Islamic world.

In the event you discuss with Persian sources, then the image may be very completely different, though I’d argue that the English translation, that are additionally out there, are sometimes deceptive. One can’t deny info that temples had been destroyed. No one defends Aurangzeb’s discriminating measures however on the similar time, will probably be improper if you don’t evaluate India’s place with different nations the place spiritual tolerance was not there. In the event you evaluate with the opposite nations [in 18th century], Aurangzeb’s India regarded tolerant.

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