Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Modi Sanghi-Bhagi Brigade and Conversion Games

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Updated: December 10, 2014 16:39 IST

Bengalis caught between Hindu and Muslim zealots in Agra

Pheroze L. Vincent
Local Muslim leaders recites Quran verses with the members of scrap community in Ved Nagar colony Agra, Uttar Pradesh. The scrap dealers community maintains they are still a muslim, two days after conversion ceremony performed by the Bajrang Dal and Dharm Jagran Manch activists. Photo: Prashant Nakwe
Local Muslim leaders recites Quran verses with the members of scrap community in Ved Nagar colony Agra, Uttar Pradesh. The scrap dealers community maintains they are still a muslim, two days after conversion ceremony performed by the Bajrang Dal and Dharm Jagran Manch activists. Photo: Prashant Nakwe
Domestic scrap dealer Mumtaz Begum dodges the television cameras in her slum. A member of the 350-odd Bengali Muslim community in Ved Nagar, Agra, Ms. Begum was allegedly converted to Hinduism on Monday by activists of Hindutva organisations.
She say she took part in a ritual organised by several persons who held saffron flags, as she was promised a 'Below Povety Line' ration card and the government's Unique Identification Number -- entitlements her family has not received after migrating from Rampurhat near Kolkata around three years ago.
"These people (with flags) filled out several forms for us on Monday before make us sit near the fire while they chanted prayers. They said that we will get all benefits from government and also get proper houses to live in. When they started photographing us after the ritual, I got scared and ran away," she told The Hindu.
Ms. Begum added that the police questioned her later that day and since then journalists and Muslim clerics have swarmed her. Based on a complaint from community leader Ismail, the police filed a case of disturbing public tranquility and cheating against one Kishore Valmiki.
‘Grow beards’
On Wednesday, Muslims from both Deobandi and Barelvi schools visited the slum, which has open sewers and no toilets. "This misfortune has come upon you and Agra because you strayed away from Allah. Stop dressing like unbelievers and grow beards. Make your women read the Quran and cover their faces," shoe-trader Haji Ikram told a gathering of the slum's residents.
Ismail, who migrated from Tulia in West Bengal's 24 Parganas to Agra 17 years ago, admits that they were attracted by the entitlements offered, but denies converting. "They said we would get all this if we pose for pictures with idols of goddess Kali. I didn't know I was being converted. I still believe in Allah. We have never had any differences with Hindus and we don't see ourselves as different from Hindu scrap collectors," he said.
Bajrang Dal's Uttar Pradesh co-convenor Avneendra Pratap Singh alias Ajju Chauhan says that he was instrumental in 'converting' the Bengalis and that Mr. Valmiki is one of the associates of Rajeshwar Singh, Kshetra Pramukh of the Dharma Jagran Samanwaya Vibhag, who was also present at the ceremony.
Mr. Singh claimed that the scrap dealers, who are on rented premises, worship Kali during Navratri. "Their ancestors are Hindus and they approached us to bring them home. Ration cards are too small an allurement to convert and they are saying this under pressure from Muslim leaders and the government," he said.
He claimed that 350 Bengalis were "purified". A glance at a diary of the police Local Intelligence Unit revealed 57 names of Bengalis who participated in the Monday ritual. A police officer said that they appear to be Indian nationals and more names would be added.
Local youth said that the Bengalis had brought disrepute to the area. "They are Hindus and if they reconvert to Islam we will expel them from this area," local resident Shubham Shrivastava told this paper.
Local elder RC Bhaskar, Founder of the Panchsheel Degree College here, explained that conversion is a new phenomenon in the Cantonment Area which has a BSP MLA. "Ambedkarite ideology has been the mainstream political discourse here in the last three decades. Of late, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has gained followers in Ved Nagar mainly from the upper castes from other districts who have built houses here. There is still no communal tension here, but incidents like this have created mistrust among people in Agra," he said.

Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb: Bad Ruler or Bad History?

By Dr. Habib Siddiqui
Posted: 9 Jamad-ul-awwal 1427, 5 June 2006

Dr Habib Siddiqui argues that massive propaganda on the scale unbelievable has created a myth that Arangjeb, among other (foreign) Muslim rulers converted Hindus (by force). Logic dictates that if this strategy would have created more Muslims in India than Hindus.  When numbers a checked and tallied, scientifically, Muslim communities spread across what is India today, we find Muslims are still in minority. Adjusting the normal growth of both Hindus and Muslims during and after initial conversions, we find the myth more untrustworthy. Hindu protagonists on the discussion platform, give instances of entire villages being converted are sketchy and without proof.

...and I am Sid Harth

Copyright© 2014, The Hindu 


Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb: Bad Ruler or Bad History?
By Dr. Habib Siddiqui

Of all the Muslim rulers who ruled vast territories of India from 712 to 1857 CE, probably no one has received as much condemnation from Western and Hindu writers as Aurangzeb. He has been castigated as a religious Muslim who was anti-Hindu, who taxed them, who tried to convert them, who discriminated against them in awarding high administrative positions, and who interfered in their religious matters. This view has been heavily promoted in the government approved textbooks in schools and colleges across post-partition India (i.e., after 1947). These are fabrications against one of the best rulers of India who was pious, scholarly, saintly, un-biased, liberal, magnanimous, tolerant, competent, and far-sighted.
Fortunately, in recent years quite a few Hindu historians have come out in the open disputing those allegations. For example, historian Babu Nagendranath Banerjee rejected the accusation of forced conversion of Hindus by Muslim rulers by stating that if that was their intention then in India today there would not be nearly four times as many Hindus compared to Muslims, despite the fact that Muslims had ruled for nearly a thousand years. Banerjee challenged the Hindu hypothesis that Aurangzeb was anti-Hindu by reasoning that if the latter were truly guilty of such bigotry, how could he appoint a Hindu as his military commander-in-chief? Surely, he could have afforded to appoint a competent Muslim general in that position. Banerjee further stated: "No one should accuse Aurangzeb of being communal minded. In his administration, the state policy was formulated by Hindus. Two Hindus held the highest position in the State Treasury. Some prejudiced Muslims even questioned the merit of his decision to appoint non-Muslims to such high offices. The Emperor refuted that by stating that he had been following the dictates of the Shariah (Islamic Law) which demands appointing right persons in right positions." During Aurangzeb's long reign of fifty years, many Hindus, notably Jaswant Singh, Raja Rajrup, Kabir Singh, Arghanath Singh, Prem Dev Singh, Dilip Roy, and Rasik Lal Crory, held very high administrative positions. Two of the highest ranked generals in Aurangzeb's administration, Jaswant Singh and Jaya Singh, were Hindus. Other notable Hindu generals who commanded a garrison of two to five thousand soldiers were Raja Vim Singh of Udaypur, Indra Singh, Achalaji and Arjuji. One wonders if Aurangzeb was hostile to Hindus, why would he position all these Hindus to high positions of authority, especially in the military, who could have mutinied against him and removed him from his throne?
Most Hindus like Akbar over Aurangzeb for his multi-ethnic court where Hindus were favored. Historian Shri Sharma states that while Emperor Akbar had fourteen Hindu Mansabdars (high officials) in his court, Aurangzeb actually had 148 Hindu high officials in his court. (Ref: Mughal Government) But this fact is somewhat less known.
Some of the Hindu historians have accused Aurangzeb of demolishing Hindu Temples. How factual is this accusation against a man, who has been known to be a saintly man, a strict adherent of Islam? The Qur'an prohibits any Muslim to impose his will on a non-Muslim by stating that "There is no compulsion in religion." (surah al-Baqarah 2:256). The surah al-Kafirun clearly states: "To you is your religion and to me is mine." It would be totally unbecoming of a learned scholar of Islam of his caliber, as Aurangzeb was known to be, to do things that are contrary to the dictates of the Qur'an.
Interestingly, the 1946 edition of the history textbook Etihash Parichaya (Introduction to History) used in Bengal for the 5th and 6th graders states: "If Aurangzeb had the intention of demolishing temples to make way for mosques, there would not have been a single temple standing erect in India. On the contrary, Aurangzeb donated huge estates for use as Temple sites and support thereof in Benares, Kashmir and elsewhere. The official documentations for these land grants are still extant."
A stone inscription in the historic Balaji or Vishnu Temple, located north of Chitrakut Balaghat, still shows that it was commissioned by the Emperor himself. The proof of Aurangzeb's land grant for famous Hindu religious sites in Kasi, Varanasi can easily be verified from the deed records extant at those sites. The same textbook reads: "During the fifty year reign of Aurangzeb, not a single Hindu was forced to embrace Islam. He did not interfere with any Hindu religious activities." (p. 138) Alexander Hamilton, a British historian, toured India towards the end of Aurangzeb's fifty year reign and observed that every one was free to serve and worship God in his own way.
Now let us deal with Aurangzeb's imposition ofthe jizya tax which had drawn severe criticism from many Hindu historians. It is true that jizya was lifted during the reign of Akbar and Jahangir and that Aurangzeb later reinstated this. Before I delve into the subject of Aurangzeb's jizya tax, or taxing the non-Muslims, it is worthwhile to point out that jizya is nothing more than a war tax which was collected only from able-bodied young non-Muslim male citizens living in a Muslim country who did not want to volunteer for the defense of the country. That is, no such tax was collected from non-Muslims who volunteered to defend the country. This tax was not collected from women, and neither from immature males nor from disabled or old male citizens. For payment of such taxes, it became incumbent upon the Muslim government to protect the life, property and wealth of its non-Muslim citizens. If for any reason the government failed to protect its citizens, especially during a war, the taxable amount was returned.
It should be pointed out here that zakat (2.5% of savings) and ‘ushr (10% of agricultural products) were collected from all Muslims, who owned some wealth (beyond a certain minimum, called nisab). They also paid sadaqah, fitrah, and khums. None of these were collected from any non-Muslim. As a matter of fact, the per capita collection from Muslims was several fold that of non-Muslims. Further to Auranzeb's credit is his abolition of a lot of taxes, although this fact is not usually mentioned. In his book Mughal Administration, Sir Jadunath Sarkar, foremost historian on the Mughal dynasty, mentions that during Aurangzeb's reign in power, nearly sixty-five types of taxes were abolished, which resulted in a yearly revenue loss of fifty million rupees from the state treasury.
While some Hindu historians are retracting the lies, the textbooks and historic accounts in Western countries have yet to admit their error and set the record straight.

Aurangzeb and Islamic Rule in India

When historians look back at Muslim rule in India, their perspective greatly shapes the way they present historical characters. Some people are seen as great and enlightened leaders, while others are ruthless tyrants. No one is more controversial than the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir, who ruled from 1658 to 1707.
By Hindus and Sikhs, he is seen as a cruel and ruthless emperor that restricted freedoms and imposed a religiously intolerant regime on the people. By Muslims he is seen as a devoted and religious-minded just sultan. This article will look past the rhetoric about Aurangzeb to understand him as a Muslim ruler in a Hindu-dominated country

Background and Early Life

An example of the Quranic calligraphy written by Aurangzeb
An example of the Quranic calligraphy written by Aurangzeb
It is important when looking at the 49 year reign of Aurangzeb to understand his reign in context. The Mughals took power in India during the reign of Babur in the 1500s. Over 150 years later when Aurangzeb took power, the Mughal Empire was at is pinnacle. It controlled the majority of the Indian subcontinent and was one of the wealthiest (if not the wealthiest outright) empires in the world.
Aurangzeb was thus born into powerful and cosmopolitan state with immense riches in 1618. His father was the legendary Shah Jahan, the builder of the Taj Mahal in Agra. He was afforded the best scholars and teachers to educate him from a young age. As a young boy, he became well-versed in the Quran, the science of Hadith, and other aspects of Islamic sciences. He was known as a very enthusiastic reader. He read and wrote in Arabic, Persian, and Chagatai Turkic, the language of his ancestors. He was also trained in the art of calligraphy. Some of his calligraphic works are still in existence today.

Promotion of Islam

One of Aurangzeb’s main goals was to bring true Islamic governance to the Mughal Empire. Previous emperors, while all Muslim, had not all ruled according to Islamic law. His great grandfather Akbar, for example, regularly went against Islamic beliefs by adopting many non-Islamic religious beliefs and practices in his personal life as well as in his rule of the empire. Aurangzeb’s insistence on Islamic rule was based on his previous education and his strong religious convictions.
Al-Fatawa al-Hindiya, the book of Islamic law compiled by Aurangzeb
Al-Fatawa al-Hindiya, the book of Islamic law compiled by Aurangzeb
Aurangzeb took power before his father, Shah Jahan, had passed away. Despite the respect he had for his father, Aurangzeb vehemently disagreed with many of his fathers actions, considering them to be wasteful and extravagant. An example of his religious mindset was his criticism of the Taj Mahal, which was a tomb built by Shah Jahan for Aurangzeb’s mother, Mumtaz Mahal. Aurangzeb considered it to be against the religious laws of Islam to build a structure over a grave, particularly one that was so ornate and expensive. He declared “the lawfulness of a solid construction over a grave is doubtful, and there can be no doubt about the extravagance involved.” He also made it a point to publicly oppose excessive veneration of the graves of Sufis, as he noted that it was developing into a cult-like practice, away from the beliefs and practices of Islam.
In order to practice Islamic law in the empire correctly, Aurangzeb insisted on compiling Islamic law into a codified book that could be much more easily followed. He thus brought together hundreds of scholars of Islam from all over the Muslim world to organize such laws. The result was a landmark text of fiqh (jurisprudence) in the Hanafi school, known as the Fatawa-e-Alamgiri, meaning “The Religious Decrees of Alamgir”. It was known as the Fatawa al-Hindiya (الفتاوى الهندية) in the rest of the Muslim world and is well-respected as a compendium of Hanafi law.
Using the Fatawa-e-Alamgiri as a guidebook, Aurangzeb sent officials throughout the empire to enact Islamic law and end socially corrupt practices. As such, alcoholism, gambling, and prostitution were combated by the imperial government. Taxes that were not in line with Islamic law were also abolished, a policy that was very popular with the Mughal Empire’s subjects.
To make up for the loss in tax revenue, Aurangzeb adopted a very simple lifestyle and did not live in a lavish manner as his father had. Royal traditions that he considered extravagant were abolished, such as court musicians and festivities on the emperor’s birthday.

Relations With Hindus and Sikhs

While the accomplishments and religious-mindedness of Aurangzeb’s reign is indisputable  there are those historians and academics who insist that the lasting legacy of Aurangzeb is intolerance and oppression. He is commonly cited as a temple-destroyer and someone who attempted to eliminate non-Muslims in his empire. For the truth, some more context is necessary.
With regards to his attitudes towards Hindus and Sikhs in general, he was clearly not prejudiced nor discriminatory. Dozens of Hindus worked in his royal court as officials and advisers. More non-Muslims in fact were part of his court than the court of Akbar, who is commonly cited as a the most religiously tolerant Mughal emperor. With Hindus and Sikhs occupying positions in his government and military, clearly Aurangzeb was not simply a religious bigot that refused to acknowledge the contributions of his non-Muslim subjects.
The second issue that comes up in analysis’ of Aurangzeb’s rule is instances of him destroying Hindu and Sikh temples and refusing to allow new ones to be built. That he ordered such actions is a historical fact that cannot be disputed.
Aurangzeb's court included dozens of non-Muslim officials
Aurangzeb’s court included dozens of non-Muslim officials
Preservation of temples with Islamic religious justification is a long-running tradition in India. The first Muslim army to come to India in 711 under Muhammad bin Qasim promised religious freedom and security of temples to Hindus and Buddhists. The same policy had been followed for hundreds of years before the Mughals. However, Aurangzeb did not disregard the Islamic laws regarding protection of religious minorities. Aurangzeb himself even noted that Islamically, temple desecration was not permitted when in 1659 he wrote, “According to the Shariah [Islamic law], and the exalted creed, it has been established that ancient temples should not be torn down.” 1 
So if Aurangzeb did not demolish temples for religious reasons, why did he do it? The answer lies in the political nature of temples in the 1600s.
Hindu and Sikh temples (unlike Muslim mosques) were not just places of worship. They also had political significance. Temples acted as political offices and state property, and the priests that were in charge of them were in the employ of the government. When seeking to get the support of Hindus in a particular area, Mughal emperors (and even Hindu kings in non-Mughal areas) would rely on the priests to rally the local population through the temple. As such, a temple was more than just a religious building, it was also a potentially powerful political tool.
With this understanding of temples and their significance, we can move on to understand Aurangzeb’s destruction of certain temples. No historical records show that he had an indiscriminate policy of temple destruction across India. The temples he chose to destroy were carefully selected and a small fraction of the total Hindu houses of worship in India. This is because when Aurangzeb chose a temple for destruction, it was a politically motivated act, not a religious one.
Seeing the opulence and subsequent financial strain of the Mughals during the reign of Shah Jahan, numerous local governors and priests decided to rebel against Mughal authority during the reign of Aurangzeb. When a rebellion broke out in one part of the empire, the local temple was the natural political entity that rebels could rally against. So long as the rebel leaders and their client temples existed, the threat to the Mughal government existed.
Aurangzeb Reading Quran
Aurangzeb Reading Quran
It thus became a policy when fighting rebellions against central authority, that the temple that spawned that rebellion also be destroyed. An example of this was a 1669 rebellion in Banaras led by a political rival, Shivaji, who used the local temple to rally support to his cause. After capturing Shivaji, Aurangzeb destroyed a temple in Banaras that was used as a political recruiting ground against his reign. Another example occurred in 1670 in Mathura when Jats rebelled and killed a local Muslim leader. Again, to end the rebellion Aurangzeb had to destroy the temple that had supported it.
Overall, the policy of desecrating temples was used as a political punishment for disloyal Hindu officials, not as a sign of religious intolerance as some may argue. A further argument that the lack of mosque desecration means he was religiously bigoted also holds no ground, as mosques did not double as political institutions as temples did. While the policy of obliterating a political opponent’s base of operations is one that may have its detractors, the arguments that Aurangzeb’s actions were religiously motivated are clearly baseless.  Instead, Aurangzeb was a religiously-minded leader who strove hard to ensure an Islamic character permeated through all his actions as leader. This did not however mean religious intolerance as he followed guidelines for protection of non-Muslims that is mandated by Islamic law.

Eaton, Richard. “Temple Desecration and Indo-Muslim States.” Frontline. (2001): n. page. Print. <>.
Hodgson, M. G. S. The Venture of Islam, Conscience and History in a World Civilization. 3. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1974.
Holt, P.M., Ann Lambton, and Bernard Lewis. The Cambridge History of Islam. 2A. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1970. Print.
Eaton, Richard. “Temple Desecration and Indo-Muslim States.” Frontline. (2001): n. page. Print. <>.
Ikram, S.M. Muslim Civilization in India . New York City: Columbia University Press, 1964. Web.

 Source: Lost Islamic History

...and I am Sid Harth

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