One of the biggest deficiency of relying on contemporary historical records of the Muslim occupation of India is that most of the works were sponsored by the rulers to embellish their reign or private enterprise in recording history was to gain favour. In some cases the records were made very much later in time but the intention was to hail the Muslim rule on infidel people.
In most records of historical significance we don’t find any reference to the daily life of the people. We don’t know what the people ate, how they lived or what they wore. We have no clue on how commerce was carried out and what institutions did the Sultans built to facilitate either trade or tilling. We don’t know the foreign policies (except when there was war). The chief target of the chroniclers were the rulers and the court and the records confined themselves to just that.
Sir Henry Elliot observes…
Muhammadan historians never contemplated, either in its usages or recognized privileges ; its constituent elements mutual relations; in its established classes or popular institutions; its private recesses or habitual intercourses. In notices of commerce, agriculture, internal police, and local judicature, they are deficient. A fact, an anecdote, a speech, a remark, which would illustrate the condition of the common people, or of any rank to the highest, is considered too insignificant to be suffered to intrude upon a relation which concerns only grandees and, ” thrones and imperial powers.”
He further adds..
History, for ” its great object is that which most nearly touches the inner life of man, namely, the vicissitudes of institutions, social, political, religious. This is the real business of historical enquiry.”
One of the primary reasons the chroniclers and court sycophants never bothered to record the social life, trade, commerce, agricultural methods or practices, even religious life or any other mundane matters of public life was because it was completely alien to them, these were things that they did not understand or have the competence to change. For the most part these foreign rulers were happy in their debauched harems, or involved in continuous patricide or fratricide, as long as the taxes were paid or no rebellion or invasion occurred or the cleric incited them against the poor infidels, nary stirred from their beds. Many of the social customs and religious way of life, institutions of trade and commerce, methods of farming, taxation were instituted and developed over the ages by Hindu kings continued as is. This has been construed or purposefully presented by modern historians as tolerance or non-interference in Hindu way of life. There are numerous cases of interference in religious activities and public life when it suited the ruler, which of course has been suppressed.
...that the state revenues are never collected without violence and outrage ; that villages are burnt, and inhabitants mutilated or sold into slavery; that the officials, so from affording protection, are themselves the chief robbers and; that parasites and eunuchs revel in the spoil of plundered; and that the poor find no redress against the oppressor’s and proud man’s contumely.
The few glimpses we have, even among the short extract in this single volume, of Hindus slain for disputing with Muhammadans, of general prohibitions against processions, worship, ablutions, and of other intolerant measures, of idols mutilated, temples razed, of forcible conversions and marriages, of proscriptions and confiscations, of murders and massacres, and of the sensuality and drunkenness of the tyrants who enjoined them, show us this picture is not overcharged, and it is much to be regretted we are left to draw it for ourselves from out the mass of occurrences, recorded by writers who seem to sympathize no virtues, and to abhor no vices.
The above observation does not leave any doubt in the minds of the reader as to the exact conditions of the Hindus under various Muslim rulers.
Further more Henry Elliot laments the indifference of Hindus towards the injustice and humiliation heaped on them. He finds Hindu’s instead of pouring out their angst, sorrow, outrage and anger in one literary form or another, the wretch merges his mind as one with the conqueror.*
Other nations (under Muslim occupation) exhibit the same atrocities, but they are at least spoken of, by some, with indignation and disgust.
These deficiencies are more to be lamented, where, as sometimes, a Hindu is the author. From one of that nation we might expected to have learnt what were the feelings, hopes, faiths, and yearnings, of his subject race; but, unfortunately, he rarely writes unless according to order or dictation, and every phrase is studiously and servilely turned to flatter the vanity of an imperious Muhammadan patron. There is nothing to betray his religion or his nation, except, perhaps, a certain stiffness and affectation of style, which shows how ill the foreign garb befits him. With him, a Hindu is “an infidel” and a Muhammadan” one of the true faith,’ and of the holy saints of the calendar, he writes with all the fervour of a bigot. With him, when Hindus are killed” their souls are dispatched to hell” and when a Muhammadan suffers the same fate” he drinks the cup of martyrdom”. He is so far wedded to the set phrases and inflated language of his conquerors, that he speaks of “the light of Islam shedding its refulgence on the world” of “the blessed Muharram” and of “the illustrious Book.” He usually opens with a “Bismillah” and the ordinary profession of faith in the unity of the Godhead, followed by laudations of the holy prophet, his disciples and descendants, and indulges in all the most devout and orthodox attestations of Muhammadans.
Such was the state of mental slavery of some of the Hindu intellectuals that they even imagined being buried than cremated and wrote about it as such.
One of the Hindu authors here noticed, speaks of standing in his old age “at the head of his bier and on the brink of his grave”
This intellectual and mental slavery continues even today and has morphed dangerously into pseudo secularism and as Dr. Koenraad Elst puts it negationism** of Islamic atrocities on Hindus. Justice Markandey Katju’s speech is a very recent reminder of this negationism.
Henry Elliot further adds…
…there is not one of this slavish crew who treats the history of his native country subjectively, or presents us with the thoughts, emotions, and raptures which a long oppressed race might be supposed to give vent to, when freed from the tyranny of its former masters, and allowed to express itself in the natural language of the heart, without constraint and without adulation.
The last line is revealing, even after being liberated from the tyranny of its former masters, Hindu intellectuals and common people alike delude themselves with a one way ‘sameness’ talk which is not reciprocated from the other side. Sir Henry Elliot had provided the solution to this mental slavery that exists among Hindus and we will do well to heed his advice if we are to propel ourselves forward as a proud nation. Mind you this advice equally applies to the British occupation of India as well.
Characters (of invaders) now renowned only for the splendor of their achievements, and a succession of victories, would, when we withdraw the veil of flattery, and divest them of rhetorical flourishes, be set forth in a truer light, and probably be held up to the execration of mankind.
Its imperative that we shed the light of truth on our past and exorcise the ghost’s of cowardice, defeat and slavery both mental and physical that pervades our mindset and educate our current and future generations about the glory of our civilisation, religion and nation. We have to face up to the depredation, plunder, pillage, rape wreaked on us by barbarous foreign invaders rather than brush it under the carpet in the name of hollow ‘secularism’. Only then we will be truly free.
To chart a grand future, we have to know who we are, recognize and be proud of our glorious past so that we know what to recreate in order reclaim our legacy. Else we will be swimming in a confusing quagmire which we are in today.
* Here Sir Henry Elliot merely alludes to mental slavery of Hindu intellectuals during the Muslim occupation not to physical rebellion which were a constant theme and an eye sore for the Muslim occupiers.
** Please read more about Negationism in Indian academics, by Dr. Koenraad Elst.
Source: History of India as told by its historians, the Muhammadan period, by Sir Henry Miers Elliot
Image from here.
Latest posts by Shankara (see all)
- The myth of Islamic contribution to India - November 8, 2012
- The Indian apathy to Politics, a historical perspective - September 26, 2012
- A few questions on Mumbai riots - August 23, 2012