Indians, rightly, have a tendency to criticize the 200 years of British evil colonialism in India, during which the British took away about 45 trillion of Dollars from the country. In this colonial narrative, we also unconsciously accept that about 550 years of foreign-Muslim rule in India was very benign, unifying, inclusive and pro-Hindus. Such acceptance is furthest from the truth.
To talk about ‘Muslim Colonialism’ at mental level, J Sai Deepak in his recently published (23 August, 2022) book ‘India, Bharat and Pakistan’ has coined the term Middle-Eastern Coloniality. Study of history shows that this Middle-Eastern Coloniality had its advent in India at the moment the first Muslim state was set up, that is, the Delhi Sultanate, in AD 1206. Let us look at a few points about this Middle-Eastern Coloniality vis-à-vis the political set-up, the economic set-up, the language set-up, and the cultural set-up.
When Qutb-ud-din Aibak, the Turkish Muslim invader of India, established Sultanate in Delhi during AD 1206, the entire Cabinet consisted of forty Turks. It was a very close political system from the beginning and it remained so for about a hundred years till the time of Khalji, when there was a revolt and a new batch of foreign Muslims came from Khalaz in Afghanistan to run the administration. In the time of Sayyid in the early 15th century, about 22 Afghan families shared all the political posts among themselves. So Middle-Eastern Coloniality, as far as the political set-up in Delhi is concerned, began like that in India in the early thirteenth century.
When the Mughal Babur invaded and established kingdom in India, he brought with him two groups of foreign Muslim people, one was Irani from Iran and the other was a Central Asian or Turani. The entire Ministry consisted of these two groups. There was no question of accommodating or giving space to any Indian Muslims or Rajput or whoever.
Next Mughal emperor Humayun was exiled by Sher Shah, an Afghan Chieftain from Bihar, in the mid-sixteenth century. When Humayun came back and occupied Delhi, he brought more foreign groups of Muslims and they alone controlled the polity. Things began to change in the time of Akbar. Because he was a young boy and he was all the time threatened with revolts by other foreign Muslim groups in India, who said that they were from more distinguished family and had divine right to sit on the throne of Hindustan.
That was when Akbar realised that all the weight in the scale was on one side, that is foreign Muslim nobles. He decided to have some weight on the other side of the scale. Being an intelligent person, he inducted two groups in the administration. One was the Rajput and other was the Indian Muslim. Akbar took Indian Muslim, because no foreign Muslim noble would choose them as their leader and Rajput was taken because they were sword arms of Hindu society.
So, the composition of ruling class in Mughal period remained 70 percent foreign born Muslims, 15 percent Rajput and 15 percent Indian Muslim. This remained unchanged virtually till the reign of Aurangzeb (AD 1658 to AD 1707). Even when the Mughal empire went into decline, this very coloniality continued.
This could be seen in the appointment of Governors in important provinces of India like Awadh, Bengal and Hyderabad as late as in eighteenth century. And whom did the Mughal appoint in Awadh? An Iranian, who had come to India in 1708 and in 1722 was made Governor of the important province of Awadh.
The same thing happened in Bengal. But that was more interesting. There was a young Hindu Brahmin boy (Surya Narayan Misra) in the Deccan and one Iranian noble man adopted him and converted him to Islam. The Iranian noble served in various posts in the Mughal empire. Then he went back to Iran and when he died, his converted Muslim adopted son came back to India in 1699. In 1700 Aurangzeb appointed him the Diwan of Bengal. In 1702 Aurangzeb gave him the title of Murshid Quli Khan and he became Governor of Bengal in 1717.
In Hyderabad, the father of the foreign Muslim noble who was appointed as Governor, had come to India in the time of Shah Jahan. He claimed to be the descendent of Abu Bakr the Caliph. So, the racial prejudice and superiority of foreign Muslims in India continued. There was no doubt about the Middle-Eastern Coloniality during the Sultanate and Mughal period in India. Foreign Muslims were coming to India even as late as in the eighteenth century and getting top posts.
Coming to the issue of economic coloniality during Muslim rule in India, entire revenue was mostly coming from agriculture. In the Hindu system it was that, the ruler was to tax the peasants as much as a bee extracted honey from flowers. The taxation was not allowed to hurt the peasantry. But in the Muslim Sultanate and Mughal period the land tax was almost as much as the entire produce of the majority of the peasant community. Many foreign travellers had described the pathetic state of the exploited peasantry under Muslim rule in India. The peasants, at many places tried to run away, but the local officials of Muslim rulers brought them back.
That apart, the entire surplus of agriculture in Mughal time, was distributed among about 1600 persons including emperor, relatives of emperors and nobility of foreign origin. Each member of the foreign ruling and noble class had to keep soldiers for the service of the empire. These 1600 people spent about 50 percent of their income in maintaining the troops. And Akbar spent another 10 percent on the troops. That meant that about 60 percent of resources was spent on troops when India did not face any external threat. This was just conspicuous consumption of resources and the peasants got nothing in return even during the rule of Akbar.
In the cultural aspect, Akbar whom we revered so much, decreed that Persian be the language of administration at all levels. Even the village Patwari, who kept the revenue records, had to learn Persian language. To teach Persian language to Indians, Akbar brought many Iranians from Iran and revised Madrasa curriculum so that Khatri and Kayasth of Hindu community could learn that foreign language. This was an unfortunate aspect of Middle-Eastern Coloniality, which we fail to discuss.
The Persian language in India, under Mughal, derived its power from the state. When the Mughal empire started to decline, the Persian language also started losing support from the state. Under that situation, a new language had to be adopted. The language that was to be chosen was Hindavi (old Hindi) which was a naturally evolving local language then. But the problem of Hindavi was that it was written in Devnagri script and had a large number of Sanskrit words. With the evolution of Hindavi, an Islamized version of it was also growing up in North India from 13th century. Gradually that Islamized version of Hindavi became Urdu language by adopting a modified Persian script and substituting the Sanskrit words by Arabic, Persian and Turkish words. During the declining period of Mughal, the Muslim elites vigorously promoted Urdu in the name of fraudulent Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb to continue with their Arabic, Iranian or Turkish identity. The Mughal showed lack of interest and respect for the native Indian languages.
So far architecture was concerned, it was the rule in Mughal period that every lane, by-lane and highway should be dominated only by Mosques. The religious structures of every other community were pushed away from the public view. Man Singh, who was a friend of Akbar, was made Governor of Rohtas (in present day Haryana). In Rohtas, he bought a lot of land and wanted to build a big temple. Then the friend of the emperor got frightened that if he built a big temple the emperor would get angry. So, Man Singh built a Mosque over there and a small temple at the side. In his home state of Ambar, he wanted to build a temple in honour of his young son, who passed away. But it was built in the back lane. If one passed by, one would not even notice the temple.
With such a painful part of our history, we stupidly talk about Mughal-Rajput marriage alliances and Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb today. The Mughal always prided themselves on their Turkish ancestry. They proudly said that they were descendants of Taimur and never mentioned that Rajput blood also flew in their veins. Our today’s Taimur is also a product of Afghan Muslim, Peshawari Khatri, Bengali and Assamese Hindu blood. But his father will not accept that. Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi was proud of his Naneehal (Nawab of Bhopal), but Saif Ali Khan has been less interested about his Naneehal, which is a non-Muslim Bengali family of Kolkata. The Muslim colonial mind-set in India has not changed even today.
The whole issue of Jizya and Pilgrimage Tax also needs to be re-examined here. In the time of Shah Jahan, a very important Sanskrit scholar, Gavindacharya, came to Shah Jahan’s court and successfully made the emperor remove the Pilgrimage Tax which Hindus had to pay to visit Prayag. If Akbar was secular and removed all those taxes on Hindus, why did Gavindacharya have to come to Shah Jahan?
Fatawa-e-Alamgiri, the voluminous Islamic Law Book, was compiled during late seventeenth century at the initiative and support of Aurangzeb. Besides 300 Islamic scholars of South Asia, 200 Islamic scholars from Iraq and Hejaz were engaged for years to compile the 30 volumes of the work. Fatawa-e-Alamgiri tried to permanently make the Indian Muslims a people of non-Indian superior community. Aurangzeb was the last Mughal emperor to force the Muslim Colonialism in India in a big way including destruction of Hindu temples, forced conversion and reimposition of Jizya on Hindus. Unlike British, Muslim rulers of India had no “Home”. So, they exploited the majority Hindus and utilized resources to build mosques, burial tombs, forts and palaces across the country. Muslim rule in India had good administrative mechanism to serve the interest of the empire, but no developmental concept for benefit of common Indians.
Right from the first Muslim invasion of India by Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni in AD 1001, all Muslim invasions and rules in India were closely connected with the spread of Islam. The contempt for local Hindu Kafir was loud and clear among all Muslim invaders and rulers of India. The large group of Pasmanda Muslim in India today was the outcome of Muslim colonialism in India. However, the vastness of country, big size of population, deep and expanded jungle area and aversion of Hindus towards Islam could not make it possible to completely Islamise India. Thus, India remains a Hindu majority country even today.
All the famous foreign Sufi Saints, who came to India, were Jihadi in intent and action. Interestingly the four famous Sufi saints in India, Moinuddin, Fariduddin, Qutbuddin and Nizamuddin were all Afghans. They came with the Muslim invaders to India. They promoted foreign Muslim invaders and rulers of India and were engaged in conversion of local Hindus. When coaxing failed, they did not hesitate to resort to violence and treachery. It was ‘Momin’s Burden’ in India to convert sub-human Kafir to Islam. The statements and expressions of much-publicized secular Amir Khusro about the Hindus were full of contempt, sarcasm and hatred. The Islamic names of thousands of localities in India today carry the bad memories of the Muslim colonialism in India.
In conclusion, it can be said that two contrasting socio-religious views and two contrasting thought traditions were existing side by side in the entire mediaeval Muslim period of India and there is no evidence that the two met each other at any point. The royal and noble men and their family of Sultanate and Mughal empire spoke foreign languages, ate foreign cuisine, wore foreign dress, observed foreign religion, custom and tradition. They never got Indianized. They rather forced their foreign attributes in Indian society.
Unlike the British, the invading Muslim ruling class and nobles did not leave India as they either had nowhere to go or were better off in India. So, by staying back in India, after the advent of the British, they had not done any favour to Indian Hindus. With the failure of Sepoy Mutiny of AD 1857, they steadily came together and created Islamic Pakistan in 1947. Many of their cohort members still live in India with Islamic mind-set of Ghazwa-e-Hind. The large section of Pasmanda Muslims in India is also ready to take the role of foot soldiers for that Ghazwa and Muslim colonialism in India continues even today.
So, to talk of Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb is to ignore what contested and painful memories Indian Hindus have of Sultanate and Mughal periods. But the so-called secular Nehruvian intellectuals of independent India white-washed those painful facts of our past. Ashrafism, which still prevails in India, in a concealed manner, even after about three hundred years of fall of Mughals, is a burning reminder of Islamic colonialism and apartheid in today’s India.
The Nehruvian Mediaeval Indian History, written in independent India, has been traitorous. It created a fake and utopian history of Muslim rule in India. Nehruvian Indian history shamelessly glorified Muslim rulers for no good reason. Nehru wanted to Islamize India at the cost of Indian civilization, culture, history and heritage. After the death of Patel and Shyama Prasad Mookerjee and ouster of Ambedkar, there was no national level leader in India to challenge Nehru’s pathological mind. And the fraud of Hindu-Muslim unity and Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb was peddled by Nehruvian historians of India to unsuccessfully whitewash the Muslim colonialism in India.
[The article has been developed from the content of the speech of historian Dr Meenakshi Jain, which she delivered during the last week of August 2022, on the occasion of release function of author J Sai Deepak’s new book (“India, Bharat and Pakistan”). The author of this article has also added his input in the appropriate places of the article].