QUESTIONNAIRE FOR THE MARXIST PROFESSORS
We return to the Marxist professors with whom we started.
We have cited from eighty histories written by Muslims over a period of more than one thousand years. We have also cited several Islamic inscriptions which confirm what the historians say. The citations show how Hindu temples continued to be destroyed over a vast area and for a long time. We have added no “editorial comments” and given no “communal twist” to the events that took place. All along, we have kept to the actual language used by the Muslim historians.
We wonder if the professors will dismiss as “a mere listing of dates” the evidence we have presented. What we expect from the professors is that they will come forward with “historical analysis and interpretations” so that the destruction of Hindu temples mentioned in the Muslim narratives gets explained in terms of economic or political or any other non-religious motives.
We stick to our position, namely, that it is the theology of Islam which offers the only straight-forward and satisfactory explanation of why Muslim conquerors and rulers did what they did to Hindu places of worship. We have provided full facts about that theology, as also about the history of how it took its final shape. It would be most welcome if the professors come out with their comments on the character and meaning of this theology. In fact, we look forward to a Marxist explanation of it. What were the concrete material conditions and objective historical forces which gave rise to this theology in Arabia at that time?
Next, we refer to the second point which the professors had made in their letter to The Times of India. They had said that “acts of intolerance have been committed by followers of all religions”. A subsequent sentence clarified what they meant; they had in mind the “Buddhist and Jain monuments” and “animist shrines destroyed by Hindus”. As we have said, we do not share their philosophy of separating the Buddhists, the Jains and the Animists from the Hindus. But we agree to use their terms for the time being and request them to produce
We think that this sort of concrete evidence alone cane decide “the question of the limits to the logic of restoration of religious sites”. There seems to be no other way. Sweeping generalizations based on slender or dubious evidence are no substitute for hard facts.
We hope that the professors will not resort to the hackneyed swear-words such as “Hindu communalism,” “reactionary revivalism”, and the rest. Swear-words offer no solutions. In any case, the time when swear-words carried weight has passed. It is no use inviting the other side to hit back in a similar manner.
If the professors fail to come out with answers to questions posed by us, and to present the evidence in support of their statements, we shall be forced to conclude that far from being serious academicians, they are cynical politicians hawking ad hoc or plausible explanations in the service of a party line. In fact, we shall be justified in saying that they are not Marxists but Stalinists. Marxism is a serious system of thought which offers consistent explanations. Stalinism, on the other hand, is an exercise in suppressio veri suggestio falsi in pursuit of a particular end.
Hindu scholars, leaders and organizations have so far ignored the loud and large-scale talk in the mass media, academia, and political circles about “Hindu intolerance” towards the Buddhists and the Jains and the Animists. Much damage has already been done to the image of Hinduism, and much more damage is likely to result if this talk is not challenged and stopped. How loose and irresponsible this talk can be is illustrated by the following instance.
I attended a seminar on the Mandal Commission Report held in the Gandhi Peace Foundation in October, 1990. One of the participants who spoke in support of the Report was Shri Hukam Dev Narain Singh Yadav, an MP of the Janata Dal at that time and a Minister in the Chandra Shekhar Government some time later. Speaking of Brahminical tyranny, he referred to the time “when rivers of the blood of Buddhist monks were made to flow in the Buddhist monasteries (jab bauddha vihãroñ mêñ bauddha bhikSuoñ kê rakta kî nadiyãñ bahãî gayî thîñ).” The following dialogue took place between myself and the speaker at the end of the latter’s talk:
The speaker looked to me to be one of the finest men I had ever met. His voice had a ring of sincerity in whatever he said. His humility in presenting his point of view was more than exemplary. I expected him to remember my question and provide an answer. But two and a half years have passed and there is no word from the eminent politician occupying a high position in the public life of this country.
I know that the
evidence demanded by me does not exist. It is a Big Lie being spread by
Hindu-baiters. Hindus have never done what they are being accused of. My
only point in mentioning the incident is that even honest people can become
victims of hostile propaganda which is not countered in good time.
When the first edition of this book came out, I sent a copy of it to Professor Romila Thapar of the Jawaharlal Nehru University in her capacity as the doyen of the Marxist historians. I also addressed to her the following letter on 27 June, 1991:
“I have posed a questionnaire for the school of historians which you lead. Please turn to pp. 438-441 of my recently published book (Hindu Temples: What Happened to Them, Volume II: The Islamic Evidence), a copy of which is being sent to you by registered post.
“You may also read pp. 70-103 and p.i which also discuss the position of your school.
“I am drawing your attention to these pages so that your school does not plead ignorance of them while maintaining silence. Of course, you are free to ignore the questionnaire as coming from a person who has had no standing in the academic world. I, however, feel that there are many people still left in this country who care for truth more than for position.”
She was kind enough to reply by a letter dated 10 August 1991 which said:
“Your letter of 27 June was awaiting me on my recent return to Delhi.
“As regards the issues raised in the questionnaire included in your book, you are perhaps unaware of the scholarly work on the subject discussed by a variety of historians of various schools of thought. May I suggest that for a start, you might read my published lectures entitled, ‘Cultural Transaction and Early India’.”
I wrote back on 31 August 1991, and stated my position as follows:
“I acknowledge your letter of August 10.
“I wish you had refrained from striking the pose of superiority which has been for long the hallmark of your school of historians. It does not go well with academic discipline.
“For your information I have been primarily a student of ancient India’s history and culture, and gone through a good deal of source material, literary as well as archaeological. One of the reasons I have wandered into India’s medieval and modern history is that I want to know what happened to Hindu heritage at the hands of latter-day ‘liberators’.
“May I request you not to suggest any further reading of your stuff? You threaten to do so when you use the words ‘for a start’ while recommending your present pamphlet. I am pretty familiar with the patent lore.
“I am sorry to say that your pamphlet has added nothing to my knowledge or perspective. The method of selecting facts and floating fictions is very well known to me. Christian missionaries have done far better with lesser fare.
“I am not commenting on the various propositions put forward in your pamphlet. The Questionnaire which I have addressed to you was framed in a particular context. In your letter published in The Times of India dated October 2, 1986, you had stated that handing over of Sri Rama’s and Sri Krishna’s birthplaces to the Hindus, and of disused mosques to the Muslims ‘raises the question of the limits to the logic of restoration of religious sites. How far back do we go? Can we push this to the restoration of Buddhist and Jain monuments destroyed by Hindus? Or of the pre-Hindu animist shrines?’ In my book I have welcomed the statement and said that ‘the question can be answered satisfactorily only when we are prepared to face facts and a sense of proportion is restored’.
“I have gone ahead and compiled historical and theological data about Islamic iconoclasm from whatever Islamic sources I could lay my hands on during the last four years. More may follow as I get at more of this source material. In an earlier volume I have provided, in a preliminary survey, a list of around two thousands Muslim monuments which are known to stand on the sites of and/or have been built with the materials of Buddhist, Brahmanical and Jain temples. The list is likely to get enlarged as I continue to look into more archaeological reports.
“I have also compiled a list of Buddhist and Jain monuments supposed to have been destroyed or usurped by this or that Brahmanical sect, and Jain temples functioning at what were Brahmanical places of worship at earlier dates. I am seeking your help to enlarge the list of Buddhist and Jain monuments which were destroyed by those whom you call Hindus. Your writings and statements over the years go to show that you specialize in this subject. What I am looking for in particular is the Hindu theology which inspires acts of intolerance. I expect you to guide me to it.
“My Questionnaire is not at all a challenge issued in a spirit of combat. It is only an appeal that sweeping statements should now yield place to hard facts so that we know precisely as to who did what, when, where, and under what inspiration. We should be in a position to compare the record of Islamic iconoclasm with that of Hindu iconoclasm, and draw fair conclusions regarding the character and role of the two religions. I for one am not interested in the restoration of religious sites, which I leave to the politicians.
“It is nobody’s case that Hindu sects (in which I include Buddhists and Jains) did not use strong language vis-a-vis each other. Every Brahmanical sect has used strong language about other Brahmanical sects. So have the Buddhist, and the Jains, not only vis-a-vis Brahmanical sects but also about one another. The situation gets much worse when it comes to the sub-sects, whether Buddhist or Brahmanical or Jain. But strong language alone, whether in words or portrayals, is no evidence in the present context, unless it is followed by overt acts of destruction or usurpation.
“Secondly, I fail to understand the logic of placing Buddhists and Jains on one side of the fence, and Brahmanical sects on the other. What about Buddhists and Jains committing acts of intolerance vis-a-vis one another? For a start, I refer you to the Mahavamsa which says that the Buddhist king, Vattagamini (29-117 BC), destroyed a Jain vihara and built a Buddhist one on the same site. In the Sravana-Belgola Epitaph of Mallishena, the renowned Jain teacher, Akalanka, says that ‘in the court of the glorious king Himasitala, I overcame all crowds of Bauddhas, most of whom had a shrewd mind (vidagdha-at-mano), and I broke the (image of) Sugata with my foot (padena visphotitah) ” (EI. III, 192 for Sanskrit text and 201 for English translation). The instances can be multiplied.
“Thirdly, I plead that presentation of evidence should not be an exercise in suppressio veri suggestio falsi. Your one line summary (p.18) of die Saiva inscription at Ablur is a case in pint. The inscription says clearly (El.III, 255) that the dispute arose because the Jains in a body tried to prevent a Saiva from worshipping his own image, saying ‘Jina is the (true) deity’. The Jains also undertook to ‘pluck up our Jina and set up Siva’ if the Saiva devotee performed a miracle. And the Jains went back on their plighted word when the miracle was shown. There was a quarrel and the Jina was broken by the Saivas. What is most significant, the Jain king, Bijjala, decided in favour of the Saivas when the dispute was referred to him. He dismissed the Jains, ‘bidding them to go without saying further words’. The story ends with the Jain king showering favours on the Saivas.
“Dr. Fleet who has edited and translated this inscription along with four others found at the same place, gives summaries of two Lingayat puranas and the Jain Bijjalacharitra, and points out that the story in this inscription finds no support in the literary traditions of the two sects. Bijjal’s inscription dated AD 1162 discovered at Managoli (EI. V, 9-23) also does not support the story. The fact that the Saiva inscription at Ablur bears neither a date nor relates itself definitely to the reign of a king, makes it sound fishy. Authentic inscriptions do not usually deal in miracles. Obviously, the Saivas seem to have used the endowment of a Saiva temple in the Managoli inscription for mounting on it a story which was not related to any real events but satisfied sectarian spite.
“Dr. Fleet has cited from the Lingayat sources to show that there was nothing Brahmanical about the Lingayats. They harboured ‘hostility to Brahmans’ (p.239) and their doctrines ‘included the persecution and extermination of all persons whose creed differed from that of the Lingayats’ (p.240). Brahmanism in any shape or form should not be held responsible for the doings of this sect. There is evidence that this sect drew its inspiration directly from Muslim missionaries who abounded on the West Coast of India at the time it took shape.
“Incidentally, I have not been able to find anything relevant to the context in EI. XXVIII.1 which is mentioned in footnote 14 on page 18 of your pamphlet, along with EI.V.237. Is it a printing mistake? Kindly give me the correct reference so that I may examine the incident and credit it to your account if it is not already in my list. I hope it is not a case of strong language alone.
“Finally, I suggest that all cases of Brahmanical rulers building or endowing Buddhist and Jain temples, and Buddhist and Jain rulers doing the same for Brahmanical temples, should also be compiled for obtaining a total picture of the religious scene. You are very prompt in pointing out the few cases where Hindu temples were endowed or built under Muslim patronage, whenever the large-scale destruction of Hindu temples by Muslims is brought to your notice. Why do you always fail to point out the numerous cases of Brahmanical patronage of Buddhism and Jainism, while listing the few cases of Brahmanical persecution? If a few cases of Muslim patronage can atone for large-scale Islamic iconoclasm, the numerous cases of Brahmanical patronage should be able to do the same for a few cases of Brahmanical persecution. I hope I am not illogical.”
I have not received
even an acknowledgement of this letter from Professor Thapar, leave alone
any comments on the points raised by me. Her silence has left me sad, for
I was looking forward to a fruitful dialogue.
Thapar complains that in my letter to her I have not dealt with all instances
of “Hindu intolerance” mentioned in her pamphlet, I reproduce below the
entire evidence she has presented. She
“The persecution of Buddhists in Kashmir is referred to by Hsüan Tsang, but, lest it be thought that he being a Chinese Buddhist monk was prejudiced, the testimony of KalhaNa in the Rãjatarañginî should be more acceptable. Hsüan Tsang refers to the atrocities of Mihîrakula against the Buddhists both in Punjab and in Kashmir in the sixth century AD. Hsüan Tsang may well have been exaggerating when he lists the destruction of 1,600 Buddhist stûpas and sanghãramas and the killing of many thousands of Buddhist monks and lay-followers. KalhaNa gives an even fuller account of the king killing innocent people by the hundreds. This is often dismissed by attributing the anti-Buddhist actions of Mihîrakula to his being a HûNa. But it should not be forgotten that he was also an ardent Šaiva and gave grants of land in the form of agrahãras to the brahmans. In the words of KalhaNa: ‘Brahmans from Gandhãra resembling himself in their habits and verily themselves the lowest of the twice-born accepted agrahãras from him.’ It is possible that the recently discovered stûpa at Sanghol in Punjab, where sculpted railings were found in the vicinity of a stûpa dismantled and packed away, indicates this persecution of Buddhists in Kashmir and the wilful destruction of a vihãra, again by a Šaivite king. But on this occasion the king repented and built a new monastery for the Buddhist monks.
“Courtly literature, particularly plays written after the seventh century AD, is replete with invective against Buddhist and Jaina monks who are depicted as morally depraved, dishonest and altogether what one might call the scum of the earth. Mahendravarman’s MaTTavilãsa, a farce, is amongst the earliest plays. In the MudrarãkSasa of Višãkhadatta, a constant refrain states that it is inauspicious to see a Jaina monk. The Prabodha-candrodaya of KRSNa Mišra, a drama of the eleventh century, dwells on the theme of a Kapãlika converting a Jaina and a Buddhist monk to Šaivism by offering them wine and women, both of which they are said to hanker after. In the Šaiva temples at Khajuraho, Jaina monks, especially of the digambara sect, are depicted in the worst possible erotic poses. Such references and depictions do not amount to persecution but reflect a contemptuous attitude towards Jaina and Buddhist monks which they would doubtless have found very galling, particularly as they occur in the literature and art of aristocratic groups. The depiction of monks and ascetics as debauched may have been due to the court’s contempt for a variety of ascetics, some of whom were associated with socially unacceptable practices. Such depictions in courtly literature may also have been an attempt to play down the authority associated with renouncers and ascetics in the popular mind. But it is significant that the Buddhists and Jainas are more commonly made the subject of attack.
‘Evidence on the persecution of Jainas by Šaiva sects comes from a variety of sources. The earliest known cave temple originally dedicated by the Jainas in Tirunelveli district was, subsequently in the seventh century, converted into a Šaiva temple. This was not a case of appropriating the temple and gradually changing it. Quite clearly, the Jaina images were either destroyed or erased, sometimes only partially, and fresh Šaivite images carved in the same place. In the case of the partially erased sculpture it is possible to recognize traces of the original. Where the image is totally gouged out the desecration is visible.
“The Šaivite saint Jñãna Sambander is attributed with having converted the PãNDya ruler from Jainism to Šavism, whereupon it is said that eight thousand Jainas were impaled by the king. This episode is represented in painting and sculpture in medieval temples and is enacted to this day in some Šiva temples during their annual festival. In later times, attempts were made to appease the Jainas by royal patrons building Jaina, Šaiva and VaiSNava temples in close proximity. But in these areas the Jaina temples soon fell into disrepair whilst the others flourished.
“Such activities were not restricted to a particular area. The Jaina temples of Karnataka went through a traumatic experience at the hands of the Lingãyatas or Vîrašaivas in the early second millennium AD. This would explain in part why some Jaina texts have pejorative references to Basava, who founded the Vîrašaiva sect. The Jaina temples at LakkuNDi were located in the proximity of an affluent agrahãra and the VaiSNava brahmans accepted Mahãvîra as an incarnation of Brahma. Later, however, one of the temples was converted into a Šaiva temple. At Huli, the temple of the five Jinas was converted into a pañcaliñgešvara Šaivite temple, the five liñgas replacing the five Jina images in the sancta. Some other Jaina temples suffered the same fate. An inscription at Ablur in Dharwar eulogizes attacks on Jaina temples as retaliation for Jaina opposition to Šaivite worship. Sculpted panels at this site depict the smashing of Jaina images. In the fourteenth century the harassment of Jainas was so acute that they had to appeal for protection to the ruling power at Vijayanagara.
“Inscriptions of the sixteenth century from the Srisailam area of Andhra Pradesh record the pride taken by Vîrašaiva chiefs in beheading svetãmbara Jainas. The local records of this area refer to the frequent persecution of the Jainas. In Gujarat, Jainism flourished during the reign of Kumãrapãla, but his successor persecuted the Jainas and destroyed their temples. However, Jainism was so well-established here that periodical persecution did not really shake it”1
She sums up: “It is historically important to know why this persecution of the Buddhists and Jainas occurred in particular by the Šaivas. I can only offer a few comments. At the religious level, it may have had to do with asceticism. Was Šiva seen as the ascetic par excellence and the patron deity of ascetics, and were Buddhist and Jaina monks seen as imposters? Did Buddhist and Jaina monks find the worship of the lingam offensive owing to the puritanism inherent in both these systems? Yet the Tantric versions of these systems conceded to practices and ideas which were opposed to puritanism. If the hostility related only to religious differences, then it should have surfaced earlier in time. It is interesting that it begins about the middle of the first millennium AD and gains force through the centuries until Buddhism eventually fled the country and Jainism was effectively limited to a few pockets. The persecution predates the coming of Islam to these areas, so that the convenient excuse that Islamic persecution caused the decline of these religions is not applicable.”2
Interestingly, she has refrained from mentioning the persecution of Buddhists by Pušyamitra Šunga and Šašãñka of GauDa, and the melting of idols by king Harsha of Kashmir, which had so far figured most prominently in the writings of her school. I wonder whether she has realized that those allegations have no legs to stand upon, even though others of her school continue to harp on them. In any case, it may be assumed that her present list has exhausted the entire stock-in-trade in the Marxist shop on the subject of “Hindu intolerance”. I will deal with these instances, one by one.
It is nobody’s case that there was never any conflict among the sects and sub-sects of Sanãtana Dharma. Some instances of persecution were indeed there. Our plea is that they should be seen in a proper perspective, and not exaggerated in order to whitewash or counter-balance the record of Islamic intolerance. Firstly, the instances are few and far between when compared to those listed in Islamic annals. Secondly, those instances are spread over several millennia while the fourteen centuries of Islam stand crowded with religious crimes of all sorts. Thirdly, none of those instances were inspired by a theology, while in the case of Islam a theology of intolerance has continued to question the character of Muslim kings who happened to be tolerant. Fourthly, Jains were not always the victims of persecution; they were persecutors as well once in a while. Lastly, no king or commander or saint who showed intolerance has been a Hindu hero, while Islam has hailed as heroes only those characters who excelled in intolerance.
It is not an accident
that Professor Thapar’s pamphlet consists of I. H. Qureishi Memorial Lecture,
1987, delivered in the St. Stephen’s College, Delhi. Ishdaq Husain Qureishi
was a professor of medieval Indian history in this college when I was a
student in another college of the same university. He was a well-known
intellectual of the Muslim League and famous for floating the proposition
that Hindus were far better off under Muslim rule than they were under
that of their own princes in pre-Islamic India. He migrated to Pakistan
after Partition, and was that country’s Minister of Education for a term.
He functioned, to the end of his life, as an apologist of Islamic imperialism
as is evident from the numerous works of “research” he wrote or guided.
One can hardly expect proper knowledge or perspective from “professors”
who are patronized by such platforms.
2 Ibid., p. 19.
3 Ibid., P. 15.
4 The Kalabharas in the Pandiya country and their Impact on the Life and Letters there, University of Madras, 1979.
5 Ibid., pp. 29-34.
6 Ibid., pp. 95-100.
7 Writings and Speeches, published by the Government of Maharashtra, Volume 3. p. 229 (in the Chapter “The Decline and Fall of Buddhism.”)
8 Ibid., pp. 229-30.
The Culture and Civilization of Ancient India, New Delhi, 1984,