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Friday, May 18, 2012

HINDU TEMPLES - WHAT HAPPENED TO THEM -1

HINDU TEMPLES - WHAT HAPPENED TO THEM -1


Preface



The movement for the restoration of the Ramajanmabhumi Temple at Ayodhya has brought to the fore a suppressed chapter of India’s history, namely, the large-scale destruction of Hindu temples1 by the Islamised invaders.  This chapter is by no means closed.  The Appendix to this book provides details of many temples destroyed by Muslims all over Bangladesh as recently as October-November 1989.  Currently, temples, or whatever had remained of them, are meeting a similar fate in the Kashmir valley.

This chapter, however, though significant, was only a part of the Muslim behaviour-pattern as recorded by Muslim historians of medieval India.  The other parts were: 1) mass slaughter of people not only during war but also after the armies of Islam had emerged victorious; 2) capture of large numbers of non-combatant men, women and children as booty and their sale as slaves all over the Islamic world; 3) forcible conversion to Islam of people who were in no position to resist; 4) reduction to the status of zimmis or non-citizens of all those who could not be converted and imposition of inhuman disabilities on them; 5) emasculation of the zimmis by preventing them from possessing arms; 6) impoverishment of the zimmis through heavy discriminatory taxes and misappropriation of a major part of what the peasants produced; 7) ruination of the native and national culture of the zimmis by suppressing and holding in contempt all its institutions and expressions.

Nor is this behaviour pattern a thing of the past.  It persisted even after the Muslim rule was over.  The Muslim revivalist movements in the nineteenth century, particularly in Bengal, tried to repeat, as far as they could, the performance of the medieval Muslim swordsmen and sultans.  More recently, after the Islamic state of Pakistan was carved out, Hindus have been forced to leave their ancestral homes, en masse from its western wing and in a continuous stream of refugees from its eastern wing, now an independent Islamic state of Bangladesh that came into being with the help of India.  Hindu temples and other cultural institutions have more or less disappeared from Pakistan, while they continue to be under constant attack in Bangladesh.

How to understand this behaviour pattern so persistently followed over a thousand years under very different conditions and so consistent in its expression? What is its deeper ideological source?

It is rooted in Islam’s religious teachings, its theology and its religious laws; it derives from its peculiar conception of momins and kafirs, from its doctrines of Jihad, Daru’l-Islam and Daru’l-harb, and from what it regards as the duty of a Muslim state.  Hindu India is called upon to make a deeper study of Islam than it has hitherto done.  It can neglect this task at its own peril.

The present volume makes no pretence of presenting such a study, but by choice restricts itself mainly to the study of Hindu temples destroyed and desecrated and converted into mosques and khanqahs without overlooking Muslims’ ideology of iconoclasm; here and there, it also mentions other theological props and concomitants of the iconoclastic ideology.  In the book Ayodhya retain its importance, but it does not occupy the centre of discussion.  In dealing with its subject, it exercises complete fidelity to truth; unlike secularist and Marxist writers, it does not believe in re-writing and fabricating history.  Its aim is to raise the informational level of our people and to make them better aware of the more persistent ideological forces at work.
Mahavira Jayanti.
April 7, 1990
Publisher


Footnotes:

1 “Hindu Temples” in the present context include temples belonging to all sects of Sanatana Dharma - Brahmanical, Buddhist, Jain and the rest.




Chapter One

Hideaway Communalism 
Arun Shourie


A case in which the English version of a major book by a renowned Muslim scholar, the fourth Rector of one of the greatest centres of Islamic learning in India, listing some of the mosques, including the Babri Masjid, which were built on the sites and foundations of temples, using their stones and structures, is found to have the tell-tale passages censored out;
The book is said to have become difficult to get;
It is traced: And is found to have been commanded just 15 years a-o by the most influential living Muslim scholar of our country today, the current Rector of that great centre of Islamic learning, and the Chairman of the Muslim Personal Law Board.
Evasion, concealment, have become a national habit. And they have terrible consequences.  But first I must give you some background.
The Nadwatul-Ulama of Lucknow is one of the principal centres of Islamic learning in India. It was founded in 1894.  It ranks today next only to the Darul-Ulum at Deoband.  The government publication, Centres of Islamic Learning in India, recalls how the founders “aimed at producing capable scholars who could project a true image of Islam before the modern world in an effective way”; it recalls how “Towards fulfilling its avowed aim in the matter of educational reform, it (the group) decided to establish an ideal educational institution which would not only provide education in religious and temporal sciences but also offer technical training”; it recalls how “It (the Nadwa) stands out today-with its college, a vast and rich library and Research and Publication Departments housed in fine buildings-as one of the most outstanding institutions for imparting instruction in the Islamic Sciences”; it recalls how “A salient feature of this institution is its emphasis on independent research”; it recalls how “The library of the Nadwa, housed in the Central Hall and the surrounding rooms of the main building, is, with more than 75,000 titles including about 3,000 handwritten books mostly in Arabic and also in Persian, Urdu, English etc., one of the finest libraries of the sub-continent.” That was written 10 years ago.  The library now has 125,000 books.


Its Head

Today the institution is headed by Maulana Abul-Hasan Ali Nadwi.  Ali Mian, as he is known to one and all, is almost without doubt the most influential Muslim teacher and figure today-among the laity, in government circles, and among scholars and governments abroad.
He was among the founders of the Jamaat-e-Islami, the fundamentalist organisation; but because of differences with Maulana Maudoodi, lie left it soon.
Today lie is the Chairman of the Muslim Personal Law Board.
He is a founder member of the Raabta Alam-e-Islami, the Pan-Islamic body with headquarters in Mecca, which decides among other things the amounts that different Islamic organisations the world over should receive.
He has been the Nazim, that is the Rector, of the Darul Ulum Nadwatul-Ulama since 1961, that is for well over a quarter of a century.  The Nadwa owes not a small part of its eminence to the scholarship, the exertions, tile national and international contacts of Ali Mian.
Politicians of all hues ---Rajiv Gandhi, V.P. Singh, Chandrashekhar-seek him out.
He is the author of several books, including the well known Insaani Duniya Par Musalmanon Ke Uruj-o-Zaval Ka Asar (“The impact of the Rise and Fall of Muslims on Mankind”), and is taken as the authority on Islamic law, jurisprudence, theology, and specially history.
And he has great, in fact decisive, influence on the politics of Muslims in India.


His Father and His Book

His father, Maulana Hakim Sayid Abdul Hai, was an equally well known and influential figure.  When the Nadwa was founded, the first Rector, Maulana Muhammad Monghyri, the scholar at whose initiative the original meeting in 1892 which led to the establishment of the Nadwa was called, had chosen Maulana Abdul Hai as the Madadgar Nazim, the Additional Rector.
Abdul Hai served in that capacity till July 1915 when he was appointed the Rector.
Because of his scholarship and his services to the institution and to Islam, he was reappointed as the Rector in 1920.  He continued in that post till his death in February 1923.
He too wrote several books, including a famous directory which has just been republished from Hyderabad, of thousands of Muslims who had served the cause of Islam in India, chiefly by the numbers they had converted to the faith.
During some work I came across the reference to a book of his and began to look for it.
It was a long, discursive book, I learnt, which began with descriptions of the geography, flora and fauna, languages, people and the regions of India.  These were written for the Arabic speaking peoples, the book having been written in Arabic.
In 1972, I learnt, the Nadwatul-Ulama had the book translated into Urdu and published the most important chapters of the book under the title Hindustan Islami Ahad Mein (“Hindustan under Islamic Rule”).  Ali Mian, I was told, had himself written the foreword in which he had commanded the book most highly.  The book as published had left out descriptions of geography etc., on the premise that facts about these are well known to Indian readers.


A Sudden Reluctance

A curious fact hit me in the face.  Many of the persons who one would have normally expected to be knowledgeable about such publications were suddenly reluctant to recall this book. I was told, in fact, that copies of the book had been removed, for instance from the Aligarh Muslim University Library.  Some even suggested that a determined effort had been made three or four years ago to get back each and every copy of this book.
Fortunately the suggestion turned out to be untrue.  While some of the libraries one would normally expect, to have the book-the Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi; the famous libraries in Hyderabad-those of the Dairutual Maarifal-Osmania, of the Salar Jung Museum, of the Nizam’s Trust, of the Osmania University, the Kutubkhana-i-Saidiya - did not have it, others did.  Among the latter were the Nadwa’s library itself, the justly famous Khuda Baksh Library in Patna, that of the Institute of Islamic Studies in Delhi.
The fact that the book was available in all these libraries came as a great reassurance.  I felt that if reactionaries and propagandists have become so well organised that they can secure the disappearance from every library of a book they have come not to like, we are in deep trouble.  Clearly they were not that resourceful.
The fact that, contrary to what I had been told, the book was available also taught me another reassuring thing: factional fights among Muslim fundamentalists are as sharp and intense as are the factional fights among fundamentalists of other hues.  For the suggestion of there being something sinister in the inaccessibility of the book had come to me from responsible Muslim quarters.


‘This valuable gift, this historical testament’

The book is the publication number 66 of the Majlis Tehqiqat wa Nashriat Islam, the publication house of the Nadwatul-Ulama, Lucknow.
The Arabic version was published in 1972 in Hyderabad, the Urdu version in 1973 in Lucknow.  An English version was published in 1977. I will use the Urdu version as the illustration.
Maulana Abul-Hasan Ali Nadwi, that is Ali Mian himself, contributes the foreword.
It is an eloquent, almost lyrical foreword.
Islam has imbued its followers with the quest for truth, with patriotism, he writes.  Their nature, their culture has made Muslims the writers of true history, he writes.
Muslims had but to reach a country, he writes, and its fortunes lit up and it awakened from the slumber of hundreds and thousands of years.  The country thereby ascended from darkness to light, he writes, from oblivion and obscurity to the pinnacle of name and fame.  Leaving its parochial ambit, he writes, it joined the family of man, it joined the wide and vast creation of God.  And the luminescence of Islam, he writes, transformed its hidden treasures into the light of eyes.
It did not stick away the wealth of the country, he writes, and vomit it elsewhere as western powers did.  On the contrary, it brought sophistication, culture, beneficient administration, peace, tranquility to the country.  It raised the country from the age of savagery to the age of progress, he writes, from infantilism to adulthood.  It transformed its barren lands into swaying fields, he writes, its wild shrubs into fruit-laden trees of such munificence that the residents could not even have dreamt of them.
And so on.
He then recalls the vast learning and prodigious exertions of Maulana Abdul Hai, his 8-volume work on 4500 Muslims who served the cause of Islam in India, his directory of Islamic scholars.
He recalls how after completing these books the Maulana turned to subjects which had till then remained obscure, how in these labours the Maulana was like the proverbial bee collecting honey from varied flowers.  He recounts the wide range of the Maulana’s scholarship.  He recounts how the latter collected rare data, how a person like him accomplished single-handed what entire academies are unable these days to do.
He recounts the structure of the present book.  He recalls how it lay neglected for long, how, even as the work of re-transcribing a moth-eaten manuscript was going on, a complete manuscript was discovered in Azamgarh, how in 1933 the grace of Providence saved it from destruction and obscurity.
He writes that the book brings into bold relief those hallmarks of Islamic rule which have been unjustly and untruthfully dealt with by western and Indian historians, which in fact many Muslim historians and scholars in universities and academies too have treated with neglect and lack of appreciation.
Recalling how Maulana Abdul Hai had to study thousands of pages on a subject, Ali Mian writes that only he who has himself worked on the subject can appreciate the effort that has gone into the study.  You will get in a single chapter of this book, he tells the reader, the essence which you cannot obtain by reading scores of books.  This is the result, he writes, of the fact that the author laboured only for the pleasure of God, for the service of learning, and the fulfilment of his own soul.  Such authors expected no rewards, no applause, he tells us.  Work was their entire satisfaction.  That is how they were able to put in such herculean labours, to spend their entire life on one subject.
We are immensely pleased, he concludes, to present this valuable gift and historical testament to our countrymen and hope that Allah will accept this act of service and scholars will also receive it with respect and approbation.


The Explanation

Such being the eminence of the author, such being the greatness of the work, why is it not the cynosure of the fundamentalists’’ eyes?
The answer is in the chapter “Hindustan ki Masjidein”, “The Mosques of Hindustan”.
Barely seventeen pages; the chapter is simply written.  A few facts about some of the principal mosques are described in a few lines each.
The facts are well-known, they are elementary, and setting them out in a few lines each should attract no attention.  And yet, as we shall see, there is furtiveness in regard to them.  Why? Descriptions of seven mosques provide the answer.
The devout constructed so many mosques, Maulana Abdul Hai records, they lavished such huge amounts and such labours on them that they cannot all be reckoned, that every city, town, hamlet came to be adorned by a mosque.  He says that he will therefore have to be content with setting out the facts of just a few of the well-known ones.
A few sentences from what he says about seven mosques will do:

“Qawwat al-Islam Mosque
According to my findings the first mosque of Delhi is Qubbat all-Islam or Quwwat al-Islam which, it is said, Qutbud-Din Aibak constructed in H. 587 after demolishing the temple built by Prithvi Raj and leaving certain parts of the temple (outside the mosque proper); and when he returned from Ghazni in H. 592, he started building, under orders from Shihabud-Din Ghori, a huge mosque of inimitable red stones, and certain parts of the temple were included in the mosque.  After that, when Shamsud-Din Altamish became the king, he built, on both sides of it, edifices of white stones, and on one side of it he started constructing that loftiest of all towers which has no equal in the world for its beauty and strength…

The Mosque at Jaunpur
This was built by Sultan Ibrahim Sharqi with chiselled stones.  Originally it was a Hindu temple after demolishing which he constructed the mosque.  It is known as the Atala Masjid.  The Sultan used to offer his Friday and Id prayers in it, and Qazi Shihabud-Din gave lessons in it…

The Mosque at Qanauj
This mosque stands on an elevated ground inside the Fort of Qanauj.  It is well-known that it was built on the foundations of some Hindu temple (that stood) here.  It is a beautiful mosque.  They say that it was built by Ibrahim Sharqi in H. 809 as is (recorded) in ‘Gharabat Nigar’.

Jami (Masjid) at Etawah
This mosque stands on the bank of the Jamuna at Etawah.  There was a Hindu temple at this place, on the site of which this mosque was constructed.  It is also patterned after the mosque at Qanauj.  Probably it is one of the monuments of the Sharqi Sultans.

Babri Masjid at Ayodhya
This mosque was constructed by Babar at Ayodhya which Hindus call the birth place of Ramchanderji.  There is a famous story about his wife Sita.  It is said that Sita had a temple here in which she lived and cooked food for her husband.  On that very site Babar constructed this mosque in H. 963…

Mosques of Alamgir (Aurangzeb)
It is said that the mosque of Benares was built by Alamgir on the site of the Bisheshwar Temple.  That temple was very tall and (held as) holy among the Hindus.  On this very site and with those very stones he constructed a lofty mosque, and its ancient stones were rearranged after being embedded in the walls of the mosque.  It is one of the renowed mosques of Hindustan.  The second mosque at Benares (is the one) which was built by Alamgir on the bank of the Ganga with chiselled stones.  This also is a renowned mosque of Hindustan.  It has 28 towers, each of which is 238 feet tall.  This is on the bank of the Ganga and its foundations extend to the depth of the waters.
Alamgir built a mosque at Mathura.  It is said that this mosque was built on the site of the Gobind Dev Temple which was very strong and beautiful as well as exquisite…”


“It is said”

But the Maulana is not testifying to the facts.  He is merely reporting what was believed.  He repeatedly says, “It is said that…”
That seems to be a figure of speech with the Maulana.  When describing the construction of the Quwwatul Islam mosque by Qutubuddin Aibak, for instance, he uses the same “It is said.”
If the facts were in doubt, would a ‘scholar of Ali Mian’s diligence and commitment not have commented on them in his full-bodied foreward? Indeed, he would have decided against republishing them as he decided not to republish much of the original book.
And if the scholars had felt that the passages could be that easily disposed of, why should any effort have been made to take a work to the excellence of which a scholar of Ali Mian’s stature has testified in such a fulsome manner, and do what has been done to this one? And what is that?
Each reference to each of these mosques having been constructed on the sites of temples with, as in the case of the mosque at Benaras, the stones of the very temple which was demolished for that very purpose have been censored out of the English version of the book! Each one of the passages on each one of the seven mosques! No accident that.
Indeed there is not just censorship but substitution.  In the Urdu volume we are told in regard to the mosque at Qanauj for instance that “This mosque stands on an elevated ground inside the fort of Qanauj.  It is well known that it was built on the foundation of some Hindu Temple (that stood) here.” In the English volume we are told in regard to the same mosque that “It occupied a commanding site, believed to have been the place earlier occupied by an old and decayed fort.”
If the passages could have been so easily explained away by referring to the “It is saids”, why would anyone have thought it necessary to remove these passages from the English version-that is the version which was more likely to be read by persons other than the faithful? Why would anyone bowdlerise the book of a major scholar in this way?


Conclusions

But that, though obvious, weighs little with me.  The fact that temples were broken and mosques constructed in their place is well known.  Nor is the fact that the materials of the temples-the stones and idols--were used in constructing the mosque, news.  It was thought that this was the way to announce hegemony.  It was thought that this was the way to strike at the heart of the conquered-for in those days the temple was not just a place of worship; it was the hub of the community’s life, of its learning, of its social life.  So the lines in the book which bear on this practice are of no earth-shaking significance in themselves.  Their real significance- and I dare say that they are but the smallest, most innocuous example that one can think of on the mosque-temple business-lies in the evasion and concealment they have spurred. I have it on good authority that the passages have been known for long, and well known to those who have been stoking the Babri Masjid issue.1
That is the significant thing; they have known them, and their impulse has been to conceal and bury rather than to ascertain the truth.
I have little doubt that a rational solution can be found for the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi tangle, a solution which will respect the sentiments, the essentials, of the religions of all.
But no solution can be devised if the issue is going to be made the occasion for h show of strength by either side, if it is going to be converted into a symbol for establishing who shall prevail.
The fate of Maulana Abdul Hai’s passages-and I do, not know whether the Urdu version itself was not a conveniently sanitised version of the original Arabic volume-illustrates the cynical manner in which those who stoke the passions of religion to further their politics are going about the matter.
Those who proceed by such cynical calculations sow havoc for all of us, for Muslims, for Hindus, for all.
Those who remain silent in the face of such cynicism, such calculations help them sow the havoc.
Will we shed our evasions and concealments? Will we at last learn to speak and face the whole truth? To see how communalism of one side justifies and stokes that of the other?  To see that these “leaders” are not interested in facts, not in religion, not in a building or a site, but in power, in their personal power, and in that alone? That for them religion is but an instrument, an instrument which is so attractive because the costs of weilding it fall on others, on their followers, and not on them?
Will we never call a halt to them?
Indian Express, February 5, 1989


Footnotes:

1 Several other modern Muslim historians and epigraphists accept the fact that many other mosques including the Babari Masjid at Ayodhya stand on the sites of Hindu temples.



Chapter Two

The Tip of An Iceberg 
Sita Ram Goel


The mention made by Maulana Abdul Hai (Indian Express, February 5) of Hindu temples turned into mosques, is only the tip of an iceberg, The iceberg itself lies submerged in the writings of medieval Muslim historians, accounts of foreign travellers and the reports of the Archaeological Survey of India. A hue and cry has been raised in the name of secularism and national integration whenever the iceberg has chanced to surface, inspite of hectic efforts to keep it suppressed.  Marxist politicians masquerading as historians have been the major contributors to this conspiracy of silence.
Muslim politicians and scholars in present-day India resent any reference whatsoever to the destruction of Hindu temples in medieval times.  They react as if it is a canard being spread by those they stigmatise as Hindu communalists.  There was, however, a time, not so long ago, when their predecessors viewed the same performance as an act of piety and proclaimed it with considerable pride in inscriptions and literary compositions.  Hindus of medieval India hardly wrote any history of what happened to their places of worship at the hands of Islamic iconoclasts.  Whatever evidence the “Hindu communalists” cite in this context comes entirely from Islamic sources, epigraphic and literary.


Epigraphic Evidence

There are many mosques all over India which are known to local tradition and the Archaeological Survey of India as built on the site of and, quite frequently, from the materials of, demolished Hindu temples.  Most of them carry inscriptions invoking Allah and the Prophet, quoting the Quran and giving details of when, how and by whom they were constructed.  The inscriptions have been deciphered and connected to their historical context by learned Muslim epigraphists.  They have been published by the, Archaeological Survey of India in its Epigraphia Indica-Arabic and Persian Supplement, an annual which appeared first in 1907-08 as Epigraphia Indo-Moslemica.  The following few inscriptions have been selected in order to show that (1) destruction of Hindu temples continued throughout the period of Muslim domination; (2) it covered all parts of India-east, west, north and south; and (3) all Muslim dynasties, imperial and provincial, participated in the “pious performance.”

1. Quwwat al-Islam Masjid, Qutb Minar, Delhi: “This fort was conquered and the Jami Masjid built in the year 587 by the Amir… the slave of the Sultan, may Allalh strengthen his helpers.  The materials of 27 idol temples, on each of which 2,000,000 Delhiwals had been spent were used in the (construction of) the mosque…” (1909-10, Pp 3-4).  The Amir was Qutbud-Din Aibak, slave of Muizzud-Din Muhammad Ghori. The year 587 H. corresponds to 1192 A.D. “Delhiwal” was a high-denomination coin current at that time in Delhi.

2. Masjid at Manvi in the Raichur District of Karnataka: “Praise be to Allah that by the decree of the Parvardigar, a mosque has been converted out of a temple as a sign of religion in the reign of… the Sultan who is the asylum of Faith … Firuz Shah Bahmani who is the cause of exuberant spring in the garden of religion” (1962, Pp. 56-57).  The inscription mentions the year 1406-07 A.D. as the time of construction.

3. Jami Masjid at Malan, Palanpur Taluka, Banaskantha District of Gujarat: “The Jami Masjid was built… by Khan-I-Azam Ulugh Khan... who suppressed the wretched infidels.  He eradicated the idolatrous houses and mine of infidelity, along with the idols… with the edge of the sword, and made ready this edifice… He made its walls and doors out of the idols; the back of every stone became the place for prostration of the believer” (1963, Pp. 26-29).  The date of construction is mentioned as 1462 A.D. in the reign of Mahmud Shah I (Begada) of Gujarat.

4. Hammam Darwaza Masjid at Jaunpur in Uttar Pradesh: “Thanks that by the guidance of the Everlasting and the Living (Allah), this house of infidelity became the niche of prayer.  As a reward for that, the Generous Lord constructed an abode for the builder in paradise” (1969, p. 375).  Its chronogram yields the year 1567 A.D. in the reign of Akbar, the Great Mughal.  A local historian, Fasihud-Din, tells us that the temple had been built earlier by Diwan Lachhman Das, an official of the Mughal government.

5. Jami Masjid at Ghoda in the Poona District of Maharashtra: “O Allah! 0 Muhammad! O Ali!  When Mir Muhammad Zaman made up his mind, he opened the door of prosperity on himself by his own hand.  He demolished thirty-three idol temples (and) by divine grace laid the foundation of a building in this abode of perdition” (1933-34, p.24). The inscription is dated 1586 A.D. when the Poona region was ruled by the Nizam Shahi sultans of Ahmadnagar.

6. Gachinala Masjid at Cumbum in the Kurnool District of Andhra Pradesh: “He is Allah, may he be glorified… During the august rule of… Muhammad Shah, there was a well-established idol-house in Kuhmum… Muhammad Salih who prospers in the rectitude of the affairs of Faith… razed to the ground, the edifice of the idol-house and broke the idols in a manly fashion.  He constructed on its site a suitable mosque, towering above the buildings of all” (1959-60, Pp. 64-66).  The date of construction is mentioned as 1729-30 A.D. in the reign of the Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah.
Though sites of demolished Hindu temples were mostly used for building mosques and idgahs, temple materials were often used in other Muslim monuments as well.  Archaeologists have discovered such materials, architectural as well as sculptural, in quite a few forts, palaces,maqbaras, sufi khanqahs, madrasas, etc.  In Srinagar, Kashmir, temple materials can be seen in long stretches of the stone embankments on both sides of the Jhelum.  Two inscriptions on the walls of the Gopi Talav, a stepped well at Surat, tell us that the well was constructed by Haidar Quli, the Mughal governor of Gujarat, in 1718 A.D. in the reign of Farrukh Siyar.  One of them says, “its bricks were taken from an idol temple.” The other informs us that “Haider Quli Khan, during whose period tyranny has become extinct, laid waste several idol temples in order to make this strong building firm…” (1933-34, Pp. 37-44).


Literary Evidence

Literary evidence of Islamic iconoclasm vis-a-vis Hindu places of worship is far more extensive.  It covers a longer span of time, from the fifth decade of the 7th century to the closing years of the eighteenth.  It also embraces a larger space, from Transoxiana in the north to Tamil Nadu in the south, and from Afghanistan in the west to Assam in the east.  Marxist “historians” and Muslim apologists would have us believe that medieval Muslim annalists were indulging in poetic exaggerations in order to please their pious patrons.  Archaeological explorations in modern times have, however, provided physical proofs of literary descriptions.  The vast cradle of Hindu culture is literally littered with ruins of temples and monasteries belonging to all sects of Sanatana Dharma - Buddhist, Jain, Saiva, Shakta, Vaishnava and the rest.
Almost all medieval Muslim historians credit their heroes with desecration of Hindu idols and/or destruction of Hindu temples.  The picture that emerges has the following components, depending upon whether the iconoclast was in a hurry on account of Hindu resistance or did his work at leisure after a decisive victory:
1. The idols were mutilated or smashed or burnt or melted down if they were made of precious metals.
2. Sculptures in relief on walls and pillars were disfigured or scraped away or torn down.
3. Idols of stone and inferior metals or their pieces were taken away, sometimes by cartloads, to be thrown down before the main mosque in (a) the metropolis of the ruling Muslim sultan and (b) the holy cities of Islam, particularly Mecca, Medina and Baghdad.
4. There were instances of idols being turned into lavatory seats or handed over to butchers to be used as weights while selling meat.
5. Brahmin priests and other holy men in and around the temple were molested or murdered.
6. Sacred vessels and scriptures used in worship were defiled and scattered or burnt.
7. Temples were damaged or despoiled or demolished or burnt down or converted into mosques with some structural alterations or entire mosques were raised on the same sites mostly with temple materials.
8. Cows were slaughtered on the temple sites so that Hindus could not use them again.
The literary sources, like epigraphic, provide evidence of the elation which Muslims felt while witnessing or narrating these “pious deeds.” A few citations from Amir Khusru will illustrate the point. The instances cited relate to the doings of Jalalud-Din Firuz Khalji, Alaud-Din Khalji and the letter’s military commanders. Khusru served as a court-poet of sex successive sultans at Delhi and wrote a masnavi in praise of each.  He was the dearest disciple of Shaikh Nizamud-Din Awliya and has come to be honoured as some sort of a sufi himself.  In our own times, he is being hailed is the father of a composite Hindu-Muslim culture and the pioneer of secularism.  Dr. R. C. Majumdar, whom the Marxists malign as a “communalist historian” names him as a “liberal Muslim”.

1. Jhain: “Next morning he (Jalalud-Din) went again to the temples and ordered their destruction… While the soldiers sought every opportunity of plundering, the Shah was engaged in burning the temples and destroying the idols.  There were two bronze idols of Brahma, each of which weighed more than a thousand mans.  These were broken into pieces and the fragments were distributed among the officers, with orders to throw them down at the gates of the Masjid on their return (to Delhi)” (Miftah-ul-Futuh).
2. Devagiri: “He (Alaud-Din) destroyed the temples of the idolaters and erected pulpits and arches for mosques” (Ibid.).
3. Somanath: “They made the temple prostrate itself towards the Kaaba.  You may say that the temple first offered its prayers and then had a bath (i.e. the temple was made to topple and fall into the sea)… He (Ulugh Khan) destroyed all the idols and temples, but sent one idol, the biggest of all idols, to the court of his Godlike Majesty and on that account in that ancient stronghold of idolatry, the summons to prayers was proclaimed so loudly that they heard it in Misr (Egypt) and Madain (Iraq)” (Tarikh-i-Alai).
4. Delhi: “He (Alaud-Din) ordered the circumference of the new minar to be made double of the old one (Qutb Minar)… The stones were dug out from the hills and the temples of the infidels were demolished to furnish a supply” (Ibid.).
5. Ranthambhor: “This strong fort was taken by the slaughter of the stinking Rai.  Jhain was also captured, an iron fort, an ancient abode of idolatry, and a new city of the people of the faith arose.  The temple of Bahir (Bhairava) Deo and temples of other gods, were all razed to the ground” (Ibid.).
6. Brahmastpuri (Chidambaram): “Here he (Malik Kafur) heard that in Bramastpuri there was a golden idol… He then determined on razing the temple to the ground… It was the holy place of the Hindus which the Malik dug up from its foundations with the greatest care, and the heads of brahmans and idolaters danced from their necks and fell to the ground at their feet, and blood flowed in torrents.  The stone idols called Ling Mahadeo, which had been established a long time at the place and on which the women of the infidels rubbed their vaginas for (sexual) satisfaction, these, up to this time, the kick of the horse of Islam had not attempted to break.  The Musulmans destroyed in the lingsand Deo Narain fell down, and other gods who had fixed their seats there raised feet and jumped so high that at one leap they reached the fort of Lanka, and in that affright the lings themselves would have fled had they had any legs to stand on” (Ibid).
7. Madura: “They found the city empty for the Rai had fled with the Ranis, but had left two or three hundred elephants in the temple of Jagnar (Jagannatha).  The elephants were captured and the temple burnt” (Ibid.).
8. Fatan: (Pattan): “There was another rai in these parts …a Brahmin named Pandya Guru… his capital was Fatan, where there was a temple with an idol in it laden with jewels.  The rai fled when the army of the Sultan arrived at Fatan… They then struck the idol with an iron hatchet, and opened its head.  Although it was the very Qibla of the accursed infidels, it kissed the earth and filled the holy treasury” (Ashiqa).
9. Ma’bar: (Parts of South India): “On the right hand and on the left hand the army has conquered from sea to sea, and several capitals of the gods of the Hindus, in which Satanism has prevailed since the time of the Jinns, have been demolished.  All these impurities of infidelity have been cleansed by the Sultan’s destruction of idol-temples, beginning with his first holy expedition to Deogir, so that the flames of the light of the Law (of Islam) illumine all these unholy countries, and places for the criers of prayers are exalted on high, and prayers are read in mosques.  Allah be praised!” (Tarikh-i-Alai).
The story of how Islamic invaders sought to destroy the very foundations of Hindu society and culture is long and extremely painful.  It would certainly be better for everybody to forget the past, but for the prescriptions of Islamic theology which remain intact and make it obligatory for believers to destroy idols and idol temples.
Indian Express, February 19, 1989




Chapter Three
Some Historical Questions 
Sita Ram Goel


Why did Islamic invaders continue to destroy Hindu temples and desecrate the idols of Hindu Gods and Goddesses throughout the period of their domination? Why did they raise mosques on sites occupied earlier by Hindu places of worship?  These questions were asked by Hindu scholars in modern times after the terror of Islam had ceased and could no more seal their lips.
In India - and in India alone - two explanations have come forth.  One is provided by the theology of Islam based on the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet.  The other has been proposed by Marxist professors and lapped up by apologists of Islam.  We shall take up the second explanation first.
The credit for pioneering the Marxist proposition about destruction of Hindu temples goes to the late Professor Mohammed Habib of the Aligarh Muslim University.  In his book, Sultan Mahmud of Ghaznin, first published in 1924, he presented the thesis that Mahmud’s destruction of Hindu temples was actuated not by zeal for the faith but by “lust for plunder.” According to him, India at that time was bursting with vast hoards of gold and silver accumulated down the ages from rich mines and a prosperous export trade.  Most of the wealth, he said without providing any proof, was concentrated in temple treasuries.  “It was impossible,” wrote the professor, “that the Indian temples should not sooner or later tempt some one strong and unscrupulous enough for the impious deed. Nor was it expected that a man of Mahmud’s character would allow the tolerance which Islam inculcates to restrain him from taking possession of the gold… when the Indians themselves had simplified his work by concentrating the wealth of the country at a few places” (p. 82).
Professor Habib did not hide any of the salient facts regarding destruction of Hindu temples by Mahmud, though the descriptions Le gave were brief, sometimes only in footnotes.  He also narrated how Mahmud’s exploits were celebrated at Baghdad by the Caliph and the populace and how the hero was compared to the companions of the Prophet who had achieved similar victories in Arabia, Syria, Iraq and Iran.  Only the conclusion he drew was radically different from that drawn by Mahmud’s contemporaries as well as latter-day historians and theologians of Islam.  “Islam,” he wrote, “sanctioned neither the vandalism nor the plundering motives of the invader; no principle of theShariat justifies the uncalled for attack on Hindu princes who had done Mahmud and his subjects no harm; the wanton destruction of places of worship is condemned by the law of every creed.  And yet Islam, though it was not an inspiring motive could be utilised as an a posteriorsjustification for what was done.  So the precepts of the Quran were misinterpreted or ignored and the tolerant policy of the Second Caliph was cast aside in order that Mahmud and his myrmidons may be able to plunder Hindu temples with a clear and untroubled conscience” (Pp. 83-84, Emphasis in source).
This proposition of Mahmud’s guilt and Islam’s innocence appealed to the architect of India’s secularism, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.  In a letter dated June 1, 1932, he wrote to his daughter, Indira Gandhi, that Mahmud “was hardly a religious man”, that he was “a Mohammedan of course, but that was by the way” and that Mahmud would have done what he did “to whatever religion he might have belonged” (Glimpses of World History, 1982 Reprint, p. 155).  In fact, Pandit Nehru went much farther than Professor Habib.  The latter had written how Mahmud gave orders to burn down thousands of temples at Mathura after he had admired their architectural excellence.  Pandit Nehru narrated how Mahmud admired the temples but omitted the fact that they were destroyed by him (Ibid., Pp. 155-156).  Thus a determined destroyer of Hindu temples was transformed into an ardent admirer of Hindu architecture!  This portrayal of Mahmud remained unchanged in his Discovery of India which was published in 1946 (1982 Reprint, p. 235).
In days to come, Professor Habib’s thesis that lust for plunder and not the Islamic theology of iconoclasm occasioned the destruction of Hindu temples, became the party line for Marxist historians who, in due course, came to control all institutions concerned with researching, writing and teaching of Indian history.  This was extended to cover all acts of Muslim iconoclasm in medieval Indian history.  It became a crime against secularism and national integration even to mention Islam or its theology in this context.  Any historian who dared cite facts recorded by medieval Muslim historians was denounced as a “Hindu communalist.” Three Marxist professors wrote a book attacking Dr. R.C. Majumdar in particular, simply because the great historian was not prepared to sacrifice truth at the altar of Communist politics.  The book was printed by a Communist publishing house and prescribed for graduate and post-graduate courses in Indian universities.
What was more, the Marxist professors discovered a political motive as well.  Hindu temples were seen as centres of political conspiracies which Muslim sultans were forced to suppress.  And if the temples got destroyed in the process, no blame could be laid at the door of the sultans who were working hard in the interest of public order and peace.  In a letter published in the Times of India on October 21, 1985, twelve Marxist professors rallied in defence of Aurangzeb who had destroyed the Keshavdeva temple at Mathura and raised an Idgah in its place.  “The Dera Keshava Rai temple,” they wrote, “was built by Raja Bir Singh Bundela in the reign of Jahangir.  This large temple soon became extremely popular and acquired considerable wealth.  Aurangzeb had this temple destroyed, took its wealth as booty and built an Idgah on the site.  His action might have been politically motivated as well, for at the time when the temple was destroyed he faced problems with the Bundelas as well as Jat rebellion in the Mathura region.”
The climax was reached when the same Marxist professors started explaining away Islamic iconoclasm in terms of what they described as Hindu destruction of Buddhist and Jain places of worship.  They have never been able to cite more than half-a-dozen cases of doubtful veracity.  A few passages in Sanskrit literature coupled with speculations about some archaeological sites have sufficed for floating the story, sold ad nauseam in the popular press, that Hindus destroyed Buddhist and Jain temples on a large scale.  Half-a-dozen have become thousands and then hundreds of thousands in the frenzied imagination suffering from a deep-seated anti-Hindu animus.  Lately, they have added to the list the destruction of “animist shrines” from pre-Hindu India, whatever that means.  And these “facts” have been presented with a large dose of suppressio veri suggestio falsi.  A few instances will illustrate the point.
A very late Buddhist book from Sri Lanka accuses Pushyamitra Sunga, a second century B.C. king, of offering prizes to those who brought to him heads of Buddhist monks.  This single reference has sufficed for presenting Pushyamitra as the harbinger of a “Brahmanical reaction” which “culminated in the age of the Guptas.” The fact that the famous Buddhist stupas and monasteries at Bharhut and Sanchi were built and thrived under the very nose of Pushyamitra is never mentioned.  Nor is the fact that the Gupta kings and queens built and endowed many Buddhist monasteries at Bodh Gaya, Nalanda and Sarnath among many other places.
A Pandyan king of Madura is reported to have been a persecutor of Jains.  This is mentioned in a book of the Saiva faith to which he belonged.  But the source also says that before becoming a convert to Saivism, the king was a devout Jain and had persecuted the Saivites.  This part of the story is never mentioned by the Marxist professors while they bewail the persecution of Jains.
According to the Rajatarirgini of Kalhana, King Harsha of Kashmir plundered Hindu and Buddhist temples in his lust for the gold and silver which went into the making of idols.  This fact is played up by the Marxist professors with great fanfare.  But they never mention Kalhan’s comment that in doing what he did Harsha “acted like a Turushka (Muslim)” and was “prompted by the Turushkas in his employ.”
This placing of Hindu kings on par with Muslim invaders in the context of iconoclasm suffers from serious shortcomings.  Firstly, it lacks all sense of proportion when it tries to explain away the destruction of hundreds of thousands of Brahmanical, Buddhist and Jain temples by Islamic invaders in terms of the doubtful destruction of a few Buddhist and Jain shrines by Hindu kings.  Secondly, it has yet to produce evidence that Hindus ever had a theology of iconoclasm which made this practice a permanent part of Hinduism.  Isolated acts by a few fanatics whom no Hindu historian or pandit has ever admired, cannot explain away a full-fledged theology which inspired Islamic iconoclasm.  Lastly, it speaks rather poorly of Marxist ethics which seems to say that one wrong can be explained away in terms of another.1
Coming to the economic and political motives for the destruction of Hindu temples, it does not need an extraordinary imagination to see that the Marxist thesis is contrived and farfetched, if not downright ridiculous.  It does not explain even a fraction of the facts relating to the destruction of Hindu temples as known from literary and archaeological sources.  Even if we grant that Hindu temples in India continued to be rich and centres of political unrest for more than a thousand years, it defies understanding why they alone were singled out for plunder and destruction.  There was no dearth of Muslim places of worship which were far richer and greater centres of conspiracy.  The desecration of Hindu idols and raising of mosques on temple sites is impossible to explain in terms of any economic or political motive whatsoever.  Small wonder that the Marxist thesis ends by inventing facts instead of explaining them.
Professor Habib cannot be accused of ignorance about the theology or history of Islam.  The most that can be said in his defence is that he was trying to salvage Islam by sacrificing Mahmud of Ghaznin who had become the greatest symbol of Islamic intolerance in the Indian context.  One wonders whether he anticipated the consequences of extending his logic to subsequent sultans of medieval India.  The result has been disastrous for Islam.  In the process, it has been reduced to a convenient cover for plunder and brigandage.  The heroes of Islam in India have been converted into bandits and vandals.
It is amazing that apologists of Islam in India have plumped for Professor Habib’s thesis as elaborated by succeeding Marxist scribes.  They would have rendered service to Islam if they had continued admitting honestly that iconoclasm has been an integral part of the theology of Islam.  Their predecessors in medieval India made no bones about such an admission.  Nor do the scholars of Islam outside India, particularly in Pakistan.
What we need most in this country is an inter-religious dialogue in which all religions are honest and frank about their drawbacks and limitations.  Such a dialogue is impossible if we hide or supress or invent facts and offer dishonest interpretations.  Mahatma Gandhi had said that Islam was born only yesterday and is still in the process of interpretation.  Hiding facts and floating fictions is hardly the way for promoting that process.
Indian Express, April 16, 1989


Footnotes:

1 It is intriguing that the Marxist professors never mention the destruction of Buddhist and Jain establishments in Transoxiana, Sinkiang, Seistan and India which on the eve of the Islamic invasion included present-day Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh.  Every historian and archaeologist of that period knows that the vast Buddhist and Jain establishments at Bukhara, Samarkand, Khotan, Balkh, Bamian, Begram, Jalalabad, Peshawar, Takshasila, Mirpur-Khas, Nagar-Parkar, Sringar, Sialkot, Agroha, Mathura, Hastinapur, Kanauj, Sravasti, Ayodhya, Sarnath, Nalanda, Vikramsila, Vaishali, Rajgir, Odantpuri, Bharhut, Paharpur, Jagaddala, Jajnagar, Nagarjunikonda, Amaravati, Kanchi, Dwarasamudra, Bharuch Valabhi, Palitana, Girnar, Patan, Jalor, Chandrawati, Bhinmal, Didwana, Nagaur, Osian, Bairat, Gwalior and Mandu were destroyed by the swordsmen of Islam. Smaller establishments of these faiths, which met the same fate, add up to several hundred.




Chapter Four
In the Name of Religion 
Sita Ram Goel


We shall now take up the explanation provided by the theology of Islam derived from the Quran and the Hadis.
Ibn Ishaq, the first biographer of the Prophet, devotes many pages to a description of Arab polytheism at the time when Islam started taking shape.  Every Arab household, he tells us, had an idol of some God or Goddess.  He also gives the names of many idols which were housed in sanctuaries maintained by different tribes across the Arab peninsula.  The Ka‘ba at Mecca which housed 360 idols was only one of these sanctuaries, though it was the most prestigious.  One of the idols in the Ka’ba was named Allah.  Though it had some primacy over other idols, it was far from being an exclusive deity.  Besides, there were many sacred groves and places of pilgrimage visited by Arabs on special occasions.
At the same time, Ibn Ishaq informs us that Monotheism was becoming an attractive creed among some sections of the Arab elite.  It was the creed of the Roman, Iranian and Abyssinian empires which inspired awe and admiration among the Arabs at that time.  Many Jews and Christians were present, individually or in communities, in the more important Arab towns.  These People of the Book took great pride in their worship of the one and only God and looked down upon the Arabs who had had no Prophet, who possessed no Book and who worshipped stones and stocks.  They aroused a sense of inferiority in the minds of those Arabs who came in close contact with them but who were not equipped with an alternate theology that could defend their own Gods and Goddesses.  Such Arabs looked forward to the day when Arabia also would have a Prophet and a Book of its own.
Those who have compared the Bible and the Quran know how close the two are in spirit and language on the subject of idols and idol-worshippers.  Like Jehovah of the Bible, Allah also advances his claim to be the one and only God.  He denounces the mushriks (idolaters) as the doubly damned category of kafirs (unbelievers) when compared to the other category, the People of the Book.  The idols, proclaims Allah while abrogating the so-called Satanic Verses, are mere names invented by the ancestors of the Arabs.  They have neither eyes nor ears nor hands nor feet and can, therefore, neither help nor harm.  They cannot respond to prayers and will fail to save their worshippers from bell on the Day of Judgement.  They will themselves burn in the fire of hell together with those who worship them.  Meanwhile, they render their worshippers napak (abominable) in the eyes of Allah.
In the early days of Islam, Muslims were too weak to practice iconoclasm at Mecca.  They had to rest content with expressing their contempt for idols.  Food which had first been offered to idols was spurned.  Names which referred to some pagan God or Goddess were changed as soon as the bearers entered the fold of Islam.  But the clarion call had come.  “Herd them together,” said Allah, “those who commit transgression and those whom they worship, and start them on the road to hellfire” (Quran, 37.22-23). The Prophet saw Amr bin Lubayy “dragging his intestines in Fire.” Amr was a second century king, supposed to have brought idols from Syria and set them up in Arabia.
Medina where Muslims were stronger witnessed some acts of iconoclasm even before the Prophet migrated to that city.  Ibn Ishaq tells us how the idol of Amr Ibnul-Jamuh was stolen at night by a group of Muslims and thrown into a cesspit, again and again till Amr lost faith in it and became a Muslim.  At nearby Quba, Sahl broke up the idols of his tribe at night and took the pieces to a Muslim woman who used them as fuel.
The Prophet made iconoclasm a pious performance for all Muslims for all time to come when he practised it himself on the very day he conquered Mecca.  “When the Prophet,” writes Ibn Ishaq, “prayed the noon prayer on the day of the conquest he ordered that all the idols which were round the Ka‘ba should be collected and burnt with fire and broken up.” Citing some other sources, the Encyclopaedia of Islamsays, “Muhammad when he entered Mecca as victor is stated to have struck them in the eyes with the end of his bow before he had them dragged down and destroyed by fire.” Pictorial representations of Ali standing on the shoulders of the Prophet and tearing down the idol of Hubal from top of a Ka‘ba wall, have been published by Shias.1
Soon after, expeditions were sent to other parts of Arabia for doing what had been done at Mecca.  Idols were smashed and temples destroyed or converted into mosques everywhere, Muslim poets vied with each other to record the events in rapturous verse.  Fazal bin al-Mulawwih sang:
Had you seen Muhammad and his troops,
The day the idols were smashed when he entered,
You would have seen God’s light become manifest,
In darkness covering the face of idolatry.
And Kab bin Malik:
We foresook al-Lat, al-Uzza and Wudd
We stripped off their necklaces and earrings.
And al-Mustaughir Bin Rabia who was a warrior as well as a poet:
I smashed Ruda so completely that
I left it a black ruin in a hollow.
“Growing Islam,” concludes the Encyclopaedia of Islam, “was from the very beginning intent upon the destruction of all traces of pagan idolatry and was so successful that the anti-quarians of the second and third century of the Hadira could glean only very scanty details.  Some of the idols were made use of for other purposes, as for example, the idol Dhul-Kalasa… which was worshipped at Tabala, a place on the road from Mekka to Yaman in the time of Ibn al-Kalbi (about 200 A.D.), was used as a stepping stone under the door of the mosque at Tabala.  Other stones which had been worshipped as idols were actually used as corner-stones of the Ka‘ba.”
Muslim historians tell us on the authority of the Prophet that idolaters of Arabia had set up idols in places which were meant to be mosques when they were established for the first time by Abraham.  The mosque of Ka‘ba, we are told, had been built by Abraham at the very centre of the earth.2  Those who dismiss Rama as mythological gossip and deny him a place of birth at Ayodhya may well enquire whether Abraham was a historical person who actually presided over the building of the Ka‘ba.
It is, however, recorded history that the armies of Islam did everywhere what had been done in Arabia, as they advanced into Iran, Khorasan, Transoxiana, Seistan, Afghanistan and India.  Hundreds of thousands of Fire Temples of the Zoroastrians, Buddhist monasteries and Hindu temples disappeared or yielded place to mosques, ziarats and dargahs.  Modern archaeology, has reconstructed what happened along the trail of Islamic invasion of all these ancient lands.
Maulana Minhaj-us-Siraj, the thirteenth century historian, sums up the theology of Islam vis-a-vis idols and idol-temples when he comes to Mahmud of Ghazni in his Tabqat-i-Nasiri. “He was endowed,” he writes, “with great virtues and vast abilities; and the same predominant star was in the ascendant at his birth as appeared at the dawn of Islam itself.  When Sultan Mahmud ascended the throne of sovereignty his illustrious deeds became manifest unto all mankind within the pale of Islam when he converted so many thousands of idol-temples into masjids and captured many of the cities of Hindustan… He led an army to Naharwala of Gujarat, and brought away Manat, the idol from Somnath, and had it broken into four parts, one of which was cast before the centre of the great masjid at Ghaznin, the second before the gateway of the Sultan’s palace, and the third and fourth were sent to Makkah and Madinah respectively.” Mahmud’s coins struck at Lahore in the seventh year of his reign describe him as the “right hand of the Caliph” and “the breaker of idols.”
This is the simple and straightforward explanation of why Islamic invaders desecrated the idols of Hindu Gods and Goddesses, destroyed Hindu temples and converted them into mosques.  It covers all facts, completely and consistently, and leaves no loopholes.
Indian Express, May 21, 1989


Footnotes:
1 When Muhammad entered the Ka‘ba after his conquest of Mecca by overwhelming force, he declared, “Truth has come and falsehood has vanished” (Sahih Muslim, 4397).  Ram Swarup comments, “It takes more than an invading army or crusaders or a demolition squad with sledge-hammers to establish the domain of Truth… Similarly, it is not that easy to get over ‘falsehood’… True spiritual demolition involves the demolition of desire-gods and ego-gods, the demolition of the false gods that reside in conceited theologies, in pretentious revelations and fond belief…” (Understanding Islam Through Hadis, Voice of India, Second Reprint, 1987, Pp. 115-16.)

2 The Prophet of Islam gave not only a new, ‘religion’ to his country-men but also a new history of Arabia, the same as the prophets of Secularism have been doing in India since the days of Pandit Nehru’s dominance.




Chapter Five
A Need to Face the Truth 
Ram Swarup


The article “Hideaway Communalism” (Indian Express, February 5, 1989), is unusual.  It discusses a question which has been a taboo and speaks on it with a frankness rare among Indian intellectuals.
Similarly, in his articles “The Tip of An Iceberg” and “In the Name of Religion” (February 9, May 21) Sita Ram Goel brings to the subject unequalled research and discusses it in a larger historical perspective.
In the history of Islam, iconoclasm and razing other peoples’ temples are not aberrations - stray acts of zealous but misguided rulers - but are central to the faith.  They derive their justification and validity from the Quranic Revelation and the Prophet’s Sunna or practice.  It is another matter though that these could not always be implemented in their full theological rigour due to many unfavourable circumstances - an exigency for which Islamic theology makes ample provisions.


Early Islam

Shrines and idols of the unbelievers began to be destroyed during the Prophet’s own time and, indeed, at his own behest. Sirat-un-Nabi, the first pious biography of the Prophet, tells us how during the earliest days of Islam, young men at Medina influenced by Islamic teachings repeatedly crept into a house every night and carried its idol and threw “it on its face into a cesspit.”
However, desecration and destruction began in earnest when Mecca was conquered.  Ali was chosen to destroy the idols at Ka‘ba which, we are told, he did mounting on the shoulders of the Prophet.  Umar was chosen for destroying the pictures on the walls of the shrine.  After this, as Tarikh-i-Tabari tells us, raiding parties were sent in all directions to destroy the images of deities held in special veneration by different tribes including the images of al-Manat, al-Lat and al-Uzza, intercessories of the Satanic Verses.  Sa’d was sent to destroy the shrine of al-Manat, the deity of the tribes of Aus and Khazraj.  When the shrine of al-Lat was invaded, its devotees resisted.  But finding themselves overpowered, they surrendered and became Muslims.  The women-worshippers wept to see how their deity was
“Deserted by Her servants,
Who did not show enough manliness in defending Her.”
Similarly, Walid was sent by the prophet to destroy the idol of al-Uzza at Nakhla, venerated by the tribes of Kinan and Nadar.  Overawed, the guardians left the deity to defend herself.  They called out:
O Uzza! make an annihilating attack on Khalid,
O Uzza! if you do not kill the man Khalid
Then bear a swift punishment or become a Christian.
Why Christian? The word should have been Muslim.  It seems the tradition belongs to the very early period of Islam when at least, on the popular level, Christians and Muslims were mistaken for each other.  For, both shared a common outlook, both indulged in forced conversions and both destroyed shrines belonging to others.



Semitic Revelation

The fact is that the Revelation of the Prophet of Islam does not stand alone.  It is rooted in the older Judaic Revelation from which Christianity also derives.  The two Revelations differ in some particulars but they have important similarities.  The God of both is exclusive and brooks no rivals, no partner.  He demands exclusive loyalty and commands that his followers would “worship no other God.” But though so demanding in their worship, he does not make himself known to them directly.  On the other hand, he communicates his will to them indirectly through a favourite messenger or prophet, or a special incarnation.
This God is so different from God in other religious traditions.  For example, in Hindu tradition, a God is not exclusive.  He lives in friendliness with other Gods.  In fact, “other” Gods are His own manifestations.  In this tradition, He also has no rigid form and is conceived in widely different ways: plurally, singly, monistically.  He also recognises no single favourite intermediary but reveals Himself to all who approach Him with devotion and in wisdom.  No Semitic protocol here.  The Hindu tradition also accords fullest freedom of worship.  Not only every one has a right to worship his God in his own way but every God is also entitled to the worship of His own devotees.  Freedom indeed, both for men as well as for Gods.  It was on this principle that early Christians enjoyed their freedom of worship.


“Chosen” People

The other side of the coin of a “Jealous God” is the concept of a “Chosen People” or a Church or Ummah.  The chosen God has a chosen people (and even his chosen enemies).  Both assist each other.  While their God helps the believers in fighting their neighbours, the believers help their God in fighting his rival-Gods.
It is common for men and women everywhere to invoke the help of their Gods in their various undertakings, big or small.  But the God of the believers also calls upon them to fight for his greater glory, to fight his enemies and to extend his dominion on the earth.  In short, they are to become his swordsmen and salesmen, his “witnesses”, his martyrs and Ghazis.  They must fight not only their unbelieving neighbours but also, even more specifically, their (neighbours’) Gods.  For these Gods are not only the Gods of their enemies, but they are also the enemies of their God, which is even worse.
The believers have taken this god-given mission seriously. The Hedaya (Guidance), the Muslim Law Book par excellence, quotes the Prophet and lays down: “We are directed to make war upon men until such time as they shall confess.  There is no God but Allah.”


Earthly Reward

However, it is not all God and his glory all the time.  The undertaking has its practical side too.  The crusaders are not without their earthly rewards.  They work to extend the sovereignty of their God and, in the process, their own too.  A pious tradition proclaims that the earth belongs to Allah and his Prophet.  Therefore, the inescapable conclusion is that the infidels are merely squatters, and they should be dispossessed and the land returned to its rightful owners, the believers.
Today, the intellectual fashion is to emphasize the political and economic aims of imperialism and to neglect its theological component.  But history shows that the most durable imperialisms have been those which had the support of a continuing theological motive.  Such imperialisms dominated without a conscience - or, rather, whatever conscience they had supported their domination.  The power of faith killed all possible doubts and self-criticism.
“Hideaway Communalism” quotes extensively from the Foreword of Maulana Abul-Hasan Ali Nadwi which he contributed to the book,Hindustan under Islamic Rule.  These quotes show that in its self-estimation and self-righteousness, the white-man’s burden of civilising the world is a poor match to Islam’s responsibility of bringing the earth under Allah and his Prophet.


Iconoclasm

Semitic “My-Godism” described as Monotheism has another dimension: Iconoclasm.  In fact, the two are two sides of the same coin.  When worshippers of the Semitic God came into Contact with their neighbours, it was not clear what they abhorred more, their Gods or their idols.  In point of fact, they made no such fine distinction.  Trained as they were, they made war on both indiscriminately.
The Judaic God commands his worshippers that when they enter the land of their enemies, they will “destroy their altars, and break their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graves images with fire” (Bible, Deut. 7.5). Perhaps the Judaic Revelation was meant to apply only to the territory of the Promised Land; but when Christianity and, in due course, Islam became its proud inheritors and adopted the Biblical God, its operation became university.  Wherever the two creeds went, temple-razing followed.  Today, Christianity seems to present a different face but during the better part of its career it was stoutly iconoclastic In the Mediterranean countries, in Northern Europe, in Asia and the two Americas, it destroyed shrines of the pagans with unparalleled thoroughness and perfect self-satisfaction.  When America was discovered, the Benedictine monks who came in the train of Columbus boasted of having destroyed single-handed 170,000 images in Haiti alone.  Juan de Zummarage, the first Bishop of Mexico, writing as early as 1531, claimed that he destroyed 500 temples and 20,000 idols of the heathens.  In our own country, in Goa, Jesuit fathers destroyed many Hindu temples.
Islam did the same.  Wherever it went, it carried fire and sword and destroyed the temples of the conquered people.  Goel has documented some of the cases but as he himself says they represent merely the tip of an iceberg.



Islam’s Religious Policy

Like its monotheism, Semitic iconoclasm too was essentially a hegemonistic idea.  No imperialism is secure unless it destroys the pride, culture and valour of a conquered people.  People who retain their religions, their Gods and their priests make poor subjects and remain potential rebels.
Islam knew this and it developed a full-fledged theory of Religious domination.  Temples were destroyed not for their “hoarded wealth” as Marxist historians propagate - who ever heard of Hindus being specially in the habit of hoarding their wealth in their temples? - nor were they destroyed by invaders in the first flush of their victory.  On the other hand, these formed part of a larger policy of religious persecution which was followed in peace-time too when the Muslim rule was established.  The policy of persecution had a purpose-it was meant to keep down the people and to disarm them culturally and spiritually, to destroy their pride and self-respect, and to remind them that they were Zimmis, an inferior breed.
According to this policy, Zimmis were allowed to exercise their religion in low key so long as they accepted civic and political disabilities and paid Jizya “in abasement”.  There were many restrictions, particularly in cities.  The Muslim Law (Hedaya) lays down that “as the tokens of Islam (such as public prayers, festivals, and so forth) appear in the cities, Zimmis should not be permitted to celebrate the tokens of infidelity there.” Some of these restrictions placed on Hindu processions and celebrations still continue.  This is a legacy of the Muslim period.
The same law laid down that the infidels could not build new temples though they could repair old ones.  Probably this explains why there is no record of a worthwhile Hindu temple built since 1192 in Delhi.  The first such temple Lakshmi Narayan Mandir, inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi, came up in 1938, after a lapse of more than seven hundred years.


No Easy Solution

The foregoing discussion shows that the problem is not that of the Rama Janmabhumi Temple of Ayodhya, or the Krishna Temple of Mathura or the Visveshvara Temple of Varanasi.  In its deeper aspect, the problem relates to an aggressive theology and political ideology which created an aggressive tradition of history.  Needless to say that the problem in all its huge dimensions admits of no easy solution.  In an ordinary situation, one could appeal from Philip drunk to Philip sober, from a man’s passion to his reason and conscience.  But in the present case when Islamic theology is on the side of its historical practice and its more aggressive aims, this option is hardly available. But even then while showing, by exercising firmness, that aggression will not pay, we must yet be patient and understanding.  We must realize that the problem is not Muslims but Islam or Islamic theology.  Therefore, this theology needs a more critical examination than has been hitherto done.  We must properly study Revelatory religions, their Gods and their prophets, their theories of special covenants and favoured ummahs, their doctrine of one God and two humanities, their categories of believers and infidels or pagans, their theory of Prophetism, their divinely ordained mission to convert and crusade.
It is a task which needs the creative labour of all seekers and articulators of truth.  Closed creeds are a threat both to deeper spirituality and to deeper humanity, and they badly need some sort of glasnost, openness and freedom.  A wider discussion will help them to open up.
In this task, Muslim intellectuals can play an important role.  In fact, it is expected of them.  It may start a new process of rethinking among the Muslims on their fundamentals - a different and truer sort of fundamentalism than they have hitherto known.
It is also a task which imposes an inescapable duty on Hindu-Buddhist thinkers with their inheritance of Yoga.  In fact, India’s Yoga has a lot to contribute to the discussion.  We are told that Revelations come from Gods.  But from another angle, Revelations and Gods themselves come from man and his psyche, as Yoga teaches us.  This psyche in turn has its various levels of purity and inwardness and every level projects its own God, Revelation and Theology.  Therefore, not all Gods and Revelations have the same purity.  In fact, some of them are not worthy enough and they support an equally questionable politics.
Such a conclusion may disappoint many Hindu wise men who fondly cling to the belief that all religions are the same and all prophets preach and say the same things.  But they must learn not to evade issues and even while seeking unities, they must yet learn to recognise differences where they exist.
At the end, we again return to “Hideaway Communalism” which tells us of “evasion and concealment” and the need to “face the truth.” However, the sorry fact is that in order to avoid facing truth we have built up an elaborate system of evasion and concealment which protects not merely “hideaway communalism”, but also shields and even fosters more sinister forces of a “hideaway Imperialism” and a “hideaway theology” which distorts relations between man and Gods and between man and man.  The need is to become aware of the problem at a deeper level and in its larger antecedents and consequences.
Indian Express, June 18, 1989




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