The 3rd of November marks the 400th birth anniversary of the notorious Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb. His life is marked by unspeakable acts of violence and under his very nose was laid the foundations of Hindavi Swaraj, which eventually came to fruition under the Marathas.
By all contemporary accounts, Aurangzeb was a vile Islamic bigot who indulged in the rampant persecution of Hindus. But in secular India, whitewashing Aurangzeb has become the litmus test to affirm one’s true secular credentials. And that itself exposes the disgraceful nature of Indian secularism, that it is affirmed by the whitewashing of a violent tyrant who persecuted Hindus.
Here, we look at some of the arguments put forth by secularists to whitewash the Mughal King and arguments, that we are sure would be rehashed on his 400th birthday in just a couple of days:
“Aurangzeb is a misunderstood figure.”
The above argument has become the trademark of ‘Eminent Scholar’ Audrey Trushcke. In an interview to The Hindu, she says, “Aurangzeb is a severely misunderstood historical figure who has suffered perhaps more than any of the other Mughal rulers from present-day biases.”
When an emperor beheads people for refusing to convert and boils people alive in oil and saws them in half, it cannot be construed as a ‘misunderstanding’ if people regard him as a vicious violent bigot.
“Aurangzeb gave grants to Temples as well.”
Well, he might have, but the number of Temples that he destroyed far outweighs the number of Temples he may or may not have given grants to. More importantly, a pattern of behaviour that depicts the persecution of Hindus at an unimaginable scale does is not broken by a single or a couple acts that appear to deviate from the norm. As a wise man once said, don’t bring anecdotes to a statistics fight.
“Aurangzeb’s persecution of Hindus is largely a myth and most often exaggerated.”
Hardly anything could be further from the truth. His religious despotism that motivated him to destroy Hindu temples, impose the Jizya on Hindus is quite well documented.
Historian Will Durant writes of him in his book, “He issued orders to the provincial governors, and to his other subordinates, ‘to raze to the ground all the temples of either Hindus or Christians, to smash every idol, and to close every Hindu school. In one year (1679–80) sixty-six temples were broken to pieces in Amber alone, sixty-three at Chitor, one hundred and twenty-three at Udaipur; and over the site of a Benares temple especially sacred to the Hindus he built, in deliberate insult, a Mohammedan mosque. He forbade all public worship of the Hindu faiths and laid upon every unconverted Hindu a heavy capitation tax. As a result of his fanaticism, thousands of the temples which had represented or housed the art of India through a millennium were laid in ruins. We can never know, from looking at India today, what grandeur and beauty she once possessed.”
“We must judge Aurangzeb according to the prevalent moral standards in his times.”
Even according to the standards of his times, Aurangzeb was particularly vicious. The manner in which Sambhaji, the son of Shivaji Maharaj and a great Maratha king, was tortured to death after his capture reveals the unique bloodthirsty nature of Aurangzeb.
Sambhaji’s refusal to convert to Islam led to his eyes and tongue being plucked out, pulling out his nails and removing his skin in an ordeal that lasted over a fortnight before he was ultimately killed by tearing him apart from the front and back with “tiger claws” and later was beheaded with an axe.
Such cruelty was certainly not ordinary for his times as well and even if it were, it ought to be thoroughly condemned. We should not whitewash Aurangzeb by making such a vacuous argument any more than we would the slave traders or the genocidal maniacs in America which led to the destruction of native Americans.
“Demonization of Aurangzeb is a political project in modern India, little to do with actual history.”
The fact that people have to be convinced of Aurangzeb’s bigotry reveals the extent to which secular India has failed to remember its own tragic history. In a sane society, Aurangzeb’s bigotry should be accepted and condemned by everyone, we should not have anyone trying to whitewash his crimes and cruelty.
It is a condemnation of our intellectuals that there’s a significant section of them who believe that Aurangzeb is not the bigot he absolutely, most definitely, was.
Aurangzeb’s demonization is not a political project but it has been forced into one by perfumed elites who refused to accept historical evidence regarding the ruler.
“We should not rename roads named after Aurangzeb. Good or bad, he is part of our history.”
That is an extremely naive way of looking at things. Statues and names and monuments are symbols and symbols have power, especially those embedded deeply into our culture. The renaming of roads named after Aurangzeb and other such actions are motivated by the same desire that motivated thousands of people to destroy the statues of communist leaders during and after the fall of the Soviet Union. It’s the same reason why the Storming of the Bastille is regarded as such a significant event. It’s the same reason that led to Karsevaks demolishing the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya. Because all these actions were symbolic of a change, symbolic of the fact that tyrannical forces were vanquished.
The fact that we have roads named after tyrannical Mughal kings even so long after independence indicates the fact that the Hindu civilization hasn’t really thrown off the shackles it was put under. The renaming of the road named after Aurangzeb does go on to show that our civilization is starting to break off those shackles.