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What is the “Idea of India”?

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Liberal intellectuals of India are worried and spending sleepless nights about the fate of ‘Idea of India’ post-2014. They make statement that those who wanted country on the basis of religion had created and gone to Pakistan. But Indian leaders like Nehru, Patel, Rajendra Prasad and Ambedkar et al made secular India for all. These liberal intellectuals cry that the Constitution of India is the bearer of our ‘Idea of India’. They are disturbed about their perceived polarization of society since 2014 due to propagation of Hindutva under BJP government at the Centre.

Such statement has three major flaws. Firstly, British India had about 240 million of Muslims in 1940s. Barring exceptions, all of them were violently pursuing for creation of Islamic Pakistan during 1940 to 1947. But after independence of Pakistan on 14 August 1947, about 80 million of Muslims stayed in India with their Pakistani mindset. Indian government did not do anything for integrating those 80 millions of Indian Muslims with India. On the contrary, Indian Muslims were allowed with their personal laws, religious education and propagation of Islam and other rights as minority. In the process, India now has about four lakhs of mosques (highest number in the world) and more lakhs of Madrasas (government, semi-government and private) and Maktabs in the country, which are producing probably ‘good Muslims’, but not ‘good Indians’.

Secondly, it is untrue to say that Nehru, Patel, Rajendra Prasad and Ambedkar et al made India a secular country. It was the vast majority of Hindu population of India who supported those Indian leaders for secular India, mostly unknowingly. India became secular for being Hindu majority. Had it been Muslim majority, the whole of British India would have become an Islamic country in 1947. So, these liberal Indian intellectuals should be indebted to the Hindus of India for their secular ‘Idea of India’.

To keep India secular in future, the only criterion is that, the country must remain Hindu majority. Here again, the picture is disturbing. In 1951 census of India, Muslims constituted about 8 per cent of total population and now they are around 16 per cent. The focal religio-political tensions one sees in Assam, West Bengal, Kerala and hundreds of pockets across the country are due to this demographic shift. The situation flares up on petty issues.

The bursting of firecrackers by Indian Muslims following a win of Pakistan over India in a cricket match indicates their connection of umbilical cord with Pakistan. What ‘Idea of India’ the liberal intellectuals find in such behavior of Indian Muslims? Moreover, what these intellectuals achieved with their ‘Idea of India’ in Kashmir during six decades of non-BJP rule? These intellectuals now remain pathologically silent about cleansing of Pandits in Kashmir. Nehruvian ‘Idea of India’ also messed up the Punjab situation and Khalistan issue. In these issues of demography, Kashmir and Khalistan, BJP had no role to play.

Thirdly, if the Constitution of India is bearer of the ‘Idea of India’, then this India had not existed before 26 January 1950. But India has a history of not less than ten thousand years. How one can erase that history, culture, heritage and civilization of India with the help of a ‘copy-paste book’ called Constitution of India? On the contrary India’s thousands of years of civilizational values and heritage had made the foundation of its Constitution. Independent India was envisaged as ‘Ram Rajya’ by Ghandhi-ji, the fountainhead of these liberal Indian intellectuals. This is explicitly found on the pages of original copy of Indian Constitution in form of pictures depicting Ramayana, drawn by famous artist Nandalal Basu.

Let us now look at other side of the case. These liberal Indian intellectuals are grossly ignorant about Islam. They don’t read about Islam and accept it in a wishful manner. Islam is an exclusive religion. It divides humans into Momin (Muslims) and Kafir (non-Muslims). Islam has only contempt for Kafir. Its brotherhood is not universal; it is restricted among Muslims only. Muslims must be up and doing (Jihad) to convert all non-Muslims to Islam before ‘Keyamat’. Islam is an Arabic tribal imperialistic doctrine of seventh century. Though it is late, but Saudi Arabia has understood that Islam has to reform to fit into the world of 21st century.

This was observed in the interview of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) on 27 April 2021 in Saudi National TV channel. Saudi Arabia has included the study of Ramayana and Mahabharata in schools to make school education inclusive. MBS has taken an open stand against radical Islam and indirectly assured to discard about 80 per cent of existing Islamic laws, beliefs and practices. In India, National Anthem is not sung in any Madrasa. Moreover, Indian Muslims refuse to sing the National Song “Vande Mataram” citing religious reason and these liberal Indian intellectuals think such behaviors as ‘Idea of India’.

British actually ruled India for about 90 years. British rule in India ended in 1947. Before the British, different Muslim rulers ruled different parts of India for about 650 years. Among them Mughal dynasty ruled the largest part of Indian subcontinent, particularly in North, East and West from 1526 AD to 1857 AD. The state religion of all Muslim rulers was Islam. This Muslim rule of India from thirteenth to mid-nineteenth century had its ups and downs. All Muslim rulers were invaders in India and settled in the country later. While there were other Muslim invaders who invaded India, plundered it, killed millions, enslave tens of thousands of Hindus and left India with huge war booty including Hindu slaves and women.

Though an elite group of Hindus served the Indian Muslim rulers, the cultural and religious confrontations between Muslims and Hindus were commonplace during Muslim rule. Gradual conversion of Indian Hindus to Islam for fear, incentive, caste problems or influence of so called Islamist Sufi saints complicated the situation. However, majority local Hindus was never impressed by the Islam and resisted conversion and persecution very strongly. India is still a Hindu majority country for those hard-core Hindus.

What ‘Idea of India’ one can get from 650 years of Muslim rule? This period was full of conquest, oppression, suppression, deprivation, and conversion of local Hindus and occasional revolts by them. Mughal emperor Akbar, who is titled ‘The Great’ by Indian Nehruvian historians, was perceptively disturbed for religious differences that divided his subjects. These differences must have caused social tensions so much so that, Akbar coined a new religion called Din-e-Ilahi in 1582 AD to reconcile the differences among his subjects. Interestingly, Din-e-Ilahi literally means ‘religion of Allah’. It was a monotheist religious school of Sufi Islam, which included some elements of other Indian faiths. But the efforts did not get support from his subjects and Din-e-Ilahi never had more than 18 adherents. Moreover, various pious Muslims, among them the Qazi of Bengal Subah and Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi, responded by declaring Din-e-Ilahi to be blasphemy to Islam. The fate of Din-e-Ilahi proved the existence of the religious fault line in the society of Mughal India in sixteenth century.

In nearly 50 years of reign of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb from 1658 AD to 1707 AD, about 46 lakhs of Hindus were killed and more were converted. During Muslim rule, there was no scientific development. Literary development was in foreign languages mostly Farsi. There was no educational development either except Madrasas and Maktabs. Bakhtiyar Khilji was happy to destroy and burn the great Buddhist University at Nalanda, Bihar in 1200 AD. Amalgamation of Arabic, Farsi, Turkic languages with local North Indian Hindi could make a new language called Urdu in later part of Mughal rule. Urdu gradually became lingua franka of Muslim community of North, West and South of British India. The Bhakti (Cult of devotion) movement that had swept over East, North and West of Indian subcontinent from 1318 AD to 1643 AD was a revival, reworking and re-contextualization of Sanatana traditions in the face of pressure from aggressive Islam. Sikhism was a product of that Bhakti movement.

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was a fifteenth century Vaishnava saint in Bengal and a part of Bhakti movement. Some of his followers wrote long poetries on his life called Kavyas. These Kavyas contain stories depicting how officials of Muslim ruler of Bengal prevented Hindus to do Kirtana (group devotional song praising Lord Krishna) and how Chaitanya resisted them. The 650 years of Muslim rule in India was not syncretistic. The Kavya tradition of Bengal, between fourteenth and eighteenth century, gives a clear picture of the gradual growth of fault line between Hindus and Muslims. The book titled Becoming Hindus and Muslims, Reading the Cultural Encounter in Bengal, 1342–1905, written by Saumya Dey gives copious references from Kavyas to explain how Hindus and Muslims of Bengal gradually drifted from one another when Muslims started to impose their religion and culture in Bengal with Islamic imperial support. Individual cases of mutual respect and understanding could not overshadow the bitter truth of mistrust and animosity between the two communities.  

There is no reason to believe that situation was different in other Muslim ruled areas in other parts of India. But these never became the parts of Indian history and were buried under the idea of Kutub Minar, Tajmahal, Red Fort, Nizamuddin Dargah, Akbar The Great and some wishful ‘Ganga-Jamuni Tehzib’. The real history of 650 years of Muslim rule was a history of constant tension and confrontation between Muslim rulers, their cohort and Hindus. The Muslim rulers and Islam in India couldn’t create any ‘Idea of India’. They showed how foreign rule, religion and culture could be imposed on conquered people.

However during first half of twentieth century, the elite Muslims of British India could create ‘Idea of Pakistan’ in Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). Pakistan was created elsewhere, but AMU remained in independent India to propagate ‘Muslims are separate nation’ even today. Indians never invaded or conquered other country to plunder or rule. Indians never made their religion the state religion of any other country with imposition of their culture on conquered people. So, the liberal intellectuals of India can’t squeeze out any semblance of ‘Idea of India’ from 650 years of Muslim rule in India. There is no reason to glorify the Mughals or any other Muslim ruler. What India stands for is anti-thesis of 650 years of Muslim rule in India.

Since 2014, Indian Muslims have lost the sense of their importance. In past 67 years, they used to make majority community feel obliged to them for living in India. Successive Prime Ministers were throwing lavish ‘Iftar Parties’ and they had their ‘All India Muslim Personal Law Board’, ‘Minority Commission’, Waqf Boards’ and ‘Ministry of Minority Affairs’. Ruling party’s leaders were rubbing shoulders with Mullahs. Muslims were behaving like ‘state within state’. And this has been the ‘Idea of India’ for those liberal Indian intellectuals.

Interestingly, any Indian Muslim now publicly claim that they had ruled India for one thousand years. The exaggeration of time period and geography is for boasting. But what surprises one is the fact that even Ajlaf (low caste Hindu converts) and Arjal (untouchable Hindu converts), who constitute about 85 per cent of Indian Muslims, also make the same claim. This is no boasting, but plain delusion. The Muslim ruling class (Ashraf) of India hated Ajlaf and Arjal as they hated low caste and untouchable Hindus.

Foreign VVIPs visiting President of India were given replica of Tajmahal, a grave tomb, as symbol of love in India between husband and wife. That was their ‘Idea of India’. But, closer scrutiny revealed that Mumtaz was fourth of the seven wives of Shah Jahan, who married her after killing her first husband. Mumtaz died while giving birth to fourteenth child and after her death, Shah Jahan married her younger sister. So much was the love in their ‘Idea of India’. BJP government has changed this fraud and now the foreign VVIPs are given very well printed and well bounded copy of Bhagavad Gita.

The liberal Indian intellectuals must be told in clear term that the ‘Idea of India’ is not centered around their underplay of dozens of cruel Islamic invasions from outside India and ruling of India by Muslims through centuries of destruction and desecration of tens of thousands of Hindu temples across India and force-conversion, enslavement and killing of millions of Hindus by Muslim invaders and rulers. The real ‘Idea of India’ is enshrined in Ramayana and Mahabharata; in the works of Aryabhatta and Banabhatta; in the reign of Rajaraja Chola and Maharaja Ranjit Singh; in the spiritual journey of Buddha and Guru Nanak Dev; in the temples of Somnath and Kamakshya; in the spirit of APJ Abdul Kalam and Arif Mohammad Khan and thousands of other such things which have roots in India, but universal and benign in essence. And all these constitute Hindutva. One need not be a Hindu to follow Hindutva.

It is high time we come out, not only of British hangover, but Mughal hangover too. As a means to pursue the Hindutva, secularism, inclusiveness and tolerance in India, the issues related to Uniform Civil Code, Population Control and Citizenship Amendment Act must be addressed by the BJP government at the earliest. We have already lost about seven decades in ‘Nehruvian delusion’. ‘Idea of India’ was compromised when the daydreamer Indian leaders refused the complete exchange of Hindus and Muslims between India and Pakistan following 1947. Now it is an uphill task for Hindutva-wadi Indians to reclaim the “Idea of India’.

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