The Taimur controversy illustrates Hindutva's self-inflicted neurosis regarding Islamic history

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The Taimur controversy illustrates Hindutva's self-inflicted neurosis regarding Islamic history

Post by Rashmun on Wed Dec 21, 2016 9:34 pm

What was wrong with Taimur? Social media users were ostensibly objecting to the brutal nature of his conquests. Of particular concern was Taimur’s campaign against his fellow Turkics, the Tughlaq Sultanate of Delhi. Conducted in 1398, the Timurid invasion eventually led to the sack of Delhi city where, by some accounts, the entire population of the city was massacred.

So deeply felt was this sack that 700 years later, Indians on Twitter would call the new-born baby a “terrorist”, a “jihadi” and in general wish harm upon it....

Let’s take a force that is near-universally seen as the “good” guys in popular Indian history: the Marathas. The Marathas were successful towards the end of the Mughal period, building up a confederation over large parts of the subcontinent. Of course, this was done through war and conquest and in the chaos of the Mughal twilight, contemporary accounts of the Marathas are often rather negative, cutting across what we would today see as “Hindu” and “Muslim” sources.

In the 18th century, the Marathas invaded Bengal killing, by one account, four lakh Bengalis. Repeated raids and conquests of neighbouring Gujarat were also, as almost everything in medieval India, a rather violent affair. In another case, Maratha armies raided a thousand-year old Hindu temple to teach Mysore sultan Tipu Sultan – who was its patron – a lesson. The Brahmin Peshwa rulers of the Maratha state enforced untouchability so brutally that BR Ambedkar actually saw their defeat at the hands of the British to be a blessing.

Contemporary accounts of the Marathas in Bengal are obviously far from flattering. Similarly, as late as 1895, there were strong objections in Gujarat to the plans of Bal Gangadhar Tilak to institute a Shivaji festival across India, with the Deshi Mitra newspaper of Surat disparaging it as a “flare up of local [Marathi] patriotism”....

As newspapers and technology knit the peoples of India together, a Hindu consciousness would revise the image of the Marathas as “Hindu”. Calcutta city’s intelligentsia at the time, in fact, celebrated a Shivaji festival and the city still has statues of Shivaji. Gujarat, where Hindutva has been a powerful political force for decades now, has adopted Shivaji with even more gusto, building statues in cities like Surat, which, ironically, were sacked by the Maratha chief early on in his career. This confusion is nothing new. Today, Punjabi Muslims in Pakistan see themselves as inheritors of the Mughals but in 1857 signed up enthusiastically for the East India Company’s armies to defeat the Mughal-led revolt against the Raj....

Final point. If this controversy forces some Hindutava ideologues to pick up a book and read the history of Taimur, we might be in for another storm. Taimur’s heir and the next ruler of the Timurid dynasty was a man named, well, Shah Rukh.


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