If the “eminent historians” now can acknowledge the reality of Islamic iconoclasm, surely they can promote Hindu-Muslim amity by getting Muslim groups to accept that damage was done in the past, and some remedy is called for in the present to let bygones become bygones. – R. Jagannathan
Our “eminent historians”, mostly from the Left, are showing signs that they are not beyond all education when hit repeatedly on their heads with facts and evidence. The late Sita Ram Goel, who was among the first to debunk the whitewashed versions of India’s Islamic history, stands vindicated.
Before the Babri was demolished, they repeatedly asserted that there was no temple below the mosque. Once the archaeological survey ordered by the Allahabad High Court established beyond doubt that there indeed was a temple below the Babri, their story-line changed from “no temple below the mosque”, to bland assertions that what was under the Babri was another mosque or even a Buddhist stupa. (Read some of what they said then here.)
When evidence kept surfacing of multiple temple demolitions under Islamic rule, the party line was that this was done not for religious reasons but political reasons. False equivalences were drawn between consistent and bigoted Islamic iconoclasm and the occasional damage done to temples or Buddhist and Jain places of worship. The latter were aberrations rather than the norm.
Now, with a survey seeking to establish the presence of Hindu carvings (and possibly a Shiv Linga) inside the Gyanvapi Mosque, these eminences are slowly abandoning the claim that no temples were destroyed.
In The Times of India today (24 May), there is a clear acceptance that Mughal rulers destroyed temples, though the argument has changed.
Irfan Habib, professor emeritus at the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), is quoted thus: “Mughal emperor Aurangzeb destroyed temples in Varanasi and Mathura to raise mosques. However, the question today is whether what was done in 1670 should be repeated, despite the existence of the Indian Monuments Act. Should we do the same things as Mughal emperors did in the past?” (Read the details here.)
This is progress. Big progress. If we should not do what Aurangzeb did, it is an indirect admission that the Mughal emperor was a bigot. Facts are no longer denied, or conveniently misinterpreted as mere political acts of rulers in the past, though that is not entirely gone.
Shalin Jani of the Delhi University department of history is quoted as saying: “As far as Mughal India is concerned, we know about the politics of temple desecration during those times. We can’t resolve our contemporary problems by looking at the past.”
Well, maybe the Germans got it wrong when they refused to airbrush history or deny Hitler and the Nazi past. Without acknowledging the past, and making some amends, we cannot move forward.
The unwillingness to see religious bigotry behind temple desecration is not entirely gone, but the facts are no longer disputed.
Nadeem Rezavi, professor of mediaeval history at AMU, is clearer. “No one can justify what Aurangzeb did. However, we can’t behave like him and keep demolishing mosques to restore temples. What difference remains then between the Mughal ruler and rulers of today?”
Clearly, Audrey Truschke, who has tried to whitewash Aurangzeb’s reign in her book Aurangzeb: The Man and The Myth, clearly needs to hear what Habib and Rezavi now have to say. Aurangzeb was a bigot. Full stop. His temple desecrations were real, not just political fallout.
Clearly, the work done by Sita Ram Goel in volume two of his two-volume work on Hindu Temples: What Happened To Them (Vol. 1 & Vol. 2), which examines both the Hindu and Muslim evidence, should now be required reading in all history departments, including AMU.
Later books by Meenakshi Jain (Rama & Ayodhya, The Battle For Rama, Flight of Deities & Rebirth of Temples, Vasudeva Krishna and Mathura, have also completely sealed the evidence in favour of the Hindu version of Islamic destruction of key temples. It is also time to revisit the older historical works of R.C. Majumdar and Sir Jadunath Sarkar and not just junk them as “communal historians”.
The only way forward from here is not to live in the past, but to acknowledge it, and negotiate a deal to hand over the Kashi and Mathura temples back to Hindus fully in return for Hindus allowing the rest of the temple desecrations to remain as acknowledged facts of history with no recompense due.
If the “eminent historians” now can acknowledge the reality of Islamic iconoclasm, surely they can promote Hindu-Muslim amity by getting Muslim groups to accept that damage was done in the past, and some remedy is called for in the present to let bygones become bygones. – Swarajya, 4 May 2022
› R. Jagannathan is a senior journalist and editor and the Editorial Director of Swarajya Magazine.