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Erasing the Past for Present Political Agenda
10/16/2004
By Ram Puniyani

Come elections and some emotional issues are brought on. The recent campaign by BJP associate, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, has come at a very crucial time. While the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance is groping for victory, it could not have thought of better issue, Afzal Khan’s tomb, to whip up emotional hysteria to garner more votes. This time both parties are planning their strategy in a slightly different fashion. While BJP is harping on Tiranga (Tri color) agitation of Uma Bharati and are trying to demolish Afzal Khan’s tomb, Shiv Sena is taking up the issue of Savarkar in full steam. Needless to say all these issues have nothing to do with the problems of daily lives of people but are meant for bringing in polarization of votes for the electoral purposes.

The demolition of Afzal Khan’s tomb is a very complex issue. In this case the attempt is not to prove that there was a temple, which was demolished to build this tomb but that the tomb is a blot on Maharashtrian self pride, since Afzal Khan was against Hindus etc. Not many knew that none other than Shivaji himself, who had slain Khan in an encounter, built this tomb. This encounter was planned as a negotiation meeting, which was called on the understanding that both Shivaji and Khan will come to meet without arms. On the advise of his spy Shivaji carried the iron claws. Interestingly it was Shivaji’s spy Rustam-e-Jaman who advised him to carry this secret weapon. In the scuffle, which followed their meeting, Shivaji killed Afzal Khan. Following Shivaji’s attack on Khan, Khan’s private secretary, Krishnaji Bhaskar Kulkarni attacked Shivaji with his sword. Shivaji survived the attack.

Following the death of Afzal Khan, Shivaji with his magnanimonious attitude got the tomb of Khan made from his funds. Pure and simple it was a battle between two kings for power and religion had nothing to do with this. RSS in its agenda of spreading hatred through concocted history is trying to pick up all these scattered events and giving them the communal color. This view totally forgets that Kings were not aligned along religious lines. Shivaji’s initial battles were against the Chandra Rao More another Maratha chief who was ruler of Javali, a nearby Kingdom. Similarly it was Raja Jaisingh who represented Auranzeb in his confrontation against the Mughal rule of Delhi. Can one forget that most of the mughal Emperors had Hindu kings as in charge of their revenue departments, or the likes of Raja Mansingh who was the Commander in Chief of Akbar? Instances abound, loyalty was the central marker for the Kings, king’s employees and the subjects of the kingdom.

One cannot forget Hakim Khan Sur who was on the side of Rana Pratap and laid down his life for him in the battle of Haldi Ghati. Shivaji himself had Maulana Hyder Ali as his confidential secretary and many a Muslim generals in his army, more particularly in the cannon and naval divisions. Auranzeb, who is regarded as the most bigoted Muslim king had around 34% court officials in high places that were Hindus. Bahadur Shah Jafar went on to lead a section of Indian Kings, Hindus and Muslims, against the British in the 1857 revolt. Many other kings kept aloof from this anti British battle and sided with British during this.

The British initiated most of the lopsided presentation of History. As they came here and gradually usurped the power, they had to rule, for which they had to win over the loyalty of the people away from the Muslim Kings. Through two of their books, James Mill, History of British India, and Elliot and Dawson’s eight volume History of India as told by her Historians, saw the whole past as a conflict between Hindus and Muslims. Also to demonize the Muslim Kings they propagated that Muslim Kings destroyed Hindu temples, spread Islam on the strength of sword and heaped atrocities on Hindus. They (British) claimed that they have come here on the mission from the God himself to civilize the barbarians here, white man’s burden, and also that they wanted to save the Hindus from the atrocities of Muslim Kings. One is struck by the similarity of the language of the colonial powers. Not very long ago our own George W Bush also claimed that he is attacking Iraq to save the Iraqis from the atrocities of Saddam Hussein. And the rest, like his ‘liberating’ actions in Abu Graib prison and other tortures heaped on Iraqis is too well-known to be recounted again.

This communal view of History was picked up the Communalists, both Muslim and Hindus and modifies in their own way for their own political gains. The Togadias and Modis merrily project the murder of Afzal Khan as the victory of Hindus over the Muslims. And in their effort to break the Indian community into warring religious communities the offspring’s of RSS are on the hunt to discover the so-called contentious spots. Having got a major break through the demolition of Babri Masjid, they feel such discoveries of History can bring them in power. So they went in to create problem in Baba Budan Giri dargah (Datta Pitham), Idgah Maidan (Rani Chennama ground), Maula Masjid (Bhojashala), Haji Malaang (Malanggadh) and so on. Their Hate department is working overtime to discover the spots which can create problems, which can create violence and in turn give them power which they are desperately seeking to maul the democratic and liberal space, which is the prerequisite for social transformation.

The response to post Babri spots shows that RSS may not succeed in its designs. Though emotive issues make the people blind, there is a limit to which they can be blinded. It seems the formula, which RSS progeny thinks is sure to work for breaking the unity of Indian society, may not work beyond a point. Thanks to the enlightened people that RSS offspring’s are biting dust one after the other. One waits with baited breath as to what other gimmick Advanis and Togadias have in store to attack the plural and syncretism values of Indian society.