Jews, Muslims, Parsis, Christians Thrived in India- Thanks to Liberal Hinduism

Just imagine that despite all efforts by invading victorious proselytizing religions – Islam and Christianity – Hindus are still the major religion. Hindus were the overwhelming majority a thousand years ago, and remain so today. As the official religions of conquering or colonizing powers, Islam and Christianity overwhelmed the people of the African continent; their success in Southeast Asia and Latin America was no less spectacular. In India they failed. Thanks to liberal Hindu tradition. And that liberal tradition today is facing onslaught by fundamentalist Hindus.
Among the many battles that will determine the further evolution of the world’s largest democracy, one is unfolding that is largely ignored. We are familiar with the normal fault lines: rich vs poor, left vs right, Muslims vs Hindu. But the deciding battle of the future will be between Hindus themselves, between those who conform to the long established, liberal and tolerant stream of Hinduism and the fundamentalists who abrasively espouse the new, right wing, fundamentalist and intolerant brand of Hinduism.
Those of the latter school have found dramatic visibility after BJP came to power last May. They are whipping up a new fear psychosis in Hindus, arguing that their faith is under threat from several ‘others’ of which Muslims are the most important.
Many arguments are insidiously deployed to prove this point. The first is that the cultural and social behaviour of the minorities is inherently ‘inferior’ to the natural cultural ‘supremacy’ of the majority community.
The second is that Muslims are seeking to ‘dominate’ Hindus and still behaving like ‘rulers’.
The third is that both Muslims and Christians are actively trying to convert Hindus to their faith, and that – laughably enough – ‘handsome’ young Muslim men are trying to seduce young Hindu women as part of a ‘love jihad’.
The fourth is that Muslims are multiplying at a much faster rate than Hindus, and that at this rate Hindus will soon become a minority in their own land.
The fifth – and this is the most potent weapon of all – is that a policy of ‘Muslim appeasement’ is being follow-ed which is discriminatory to Hindus.
All the above arguments are not all wrong, but they are not all true as well. There is an iota of truth in each one, but in some cases mountain is being made out of a molehill. There has been a great degree of syncretism over the centuries, which has created hugely visible bridges and commonalities between all Indians. There is no evidence that Muslims are seeking to dominate anyone, althouigh there is always a lunatic fringe that get power from the acts of omission and commission of fundamentalist Hindus
Unlike the Tamils in Sri Lanka or the Chinese in Southeast Asia, who are often accused by the majoritarian communities of unfair economic and professional dominance, Muslims pose no threat to Hindus in India. Hindus have no reason, therefore, to feel intimidated by a presence which has been with them for centuries.
The belief that Muslims are growing at a faster pace than Hindus has been repeatedly disproved, but the Sakshi and the Sadhvi want Hindu women to have four children nonetheless! Conversions to Islam or Christianity could have happened in isolated cases, but these have never really made any dent in the overwhelmingly assured majority status of Hindus.
Two major proselytizing religions – Islam and Christianity – conquered India by force in the past. Both invaders openly used their military superiority for evangelical purposes, but in spite of obvious rewards on offer most Hindus did not surrender their faith.
One has only to see what happened in other countries in similar situations to appreciate the difference. For instance, as the official religions of conquering or colonizing powers, Islam and Christianity overwhelmed the people of the African continent; their success in Southeast Asia and Latin America was no less spectacular. In India they failed. Hindus were the overwhelming majority a thousand years ago, and remain so today.
The argument of ‘appeasement’ is heard most often. It is true that just as BJP aggressively cultivates a Hindu vote bank, other parties have cynically sought to attract Muslim support with unnecessary giveaways and selective application of laws that should apply equally to all Indians. Such blatantly motivated policies need to be condemned. However, to dub anything done for the minorities as appeasement is equally cynical.
The majority in the Muslim community is statistically at the bottom of society across a wide range of verifiable social and economic indices. In such circumstances, it cannot but be good policy to provide a backward minority, along with other deprived categories, special incentives and safeguards under the law to participate on equal terms in mainstream opportunities of the country.
The truth is that Hindus are not, and have never been, insecure about their religion. Hinduism has always existed in a remarkably self-assured way, largely immune to attack or demise because no one entity – scripture, church or god – limits its diffused omnipresence.
It is also a matter of historical record that Hindus have not been hostile to other faiths. The reason quite simply is that they were not afraid of them. Jews lived peaceably in India before they did anywhere else. Muslim traders from Arab countries practiced their faith undisturbed in Kerala more than a thousand years ago. Parsis came in the seventh century and Christians in the fourth, unsupported by armies.
Alexander the Great clashed with King Porus at the Battle of the Hydaspes River in 326 BC in which the Hindu king unleashed his fighter aircraft and nuclear missiles to rout his adversary. Alexander was badly affected by radiation and didn’t survive the journey back to Macedonia—he died at Babylon. But before leaving, he tricked Porus into giving up his nuclear secrets. These secrets were accidentally found while the US government was building quarters for the scientists of the Manhattan Project.
In 712 AD, Arab general Muhammad bin Qasim attacked Brahmanabad, and defeated and killed the Sind king Dahir. The Brahmin king couldn’t escape in his aircraft because he ran out of elephant and cow urine to fuel it. Qasim took the plane to Syria where it was lost for hundreds of years and surfaced in the workshop of the Wright Brothers in the 20th century.
This is how Hindutva loonies should rewrite the history of India in future, because this is the best way they can justify how foreign invaders looted ancient Indian scientific knowledge and wisdom.
Ever since the dotcom boom happened, there has been a movement of sorts to highlight the greatness of ancient Indian science and technology. Chain mails and forwards talked about how Indians knew how to fly, fire nukes, do plastic surgeries, make test tube babies etc. Internet chat rooms would have believers in our advanced past quoting from apocryphal texts to win polemic debates. The highly controversial 102nd session of Indian Science Congress in Mumbai was perhaps a great victory for the look-I-told-you-before brigade. But history will always hold up a mirror in front of them.
So what really happened in 711 AD? A 17-year-old Qasim led a punitive expedition sent by the Umayyad Caliph and arrived in Debal, Sindh with a force that had 6,000 Syrian cavalry and 6,000 camelry. This was after king Dahir’s refusal to act on pirates and other hostile elements targeting Arab trade and commerce and pilgrims. Dahir had said these were non-state actors and he had no control over them—something we have heard Pakistan say often whenever it’s accused of harboring terrorists.
Qasim defeated Dahir’s forces in one battle after another till the capital Brahmanabad itself was under siege. When it ended, Dahir was dead. Qasim and his forces won because they were better organized and equipped, more daring, and employed better and innovative tactics (such as keeping one force for fighting during the day and another for night).
But despite this victory, the Arab Empire couldn’t spread beyond Sind and parts of Punjab, as they were defeated and pushed back by a grand alliance of the Chalukyas-Rashtrakutas of the south and Gurjara Pratiharas of the north; King Lalitaditya of Kashmir, too, drove out the Arabs from his territory. But none of the Indian kings bothered to permanently expel the invaders from Indian soil, thus proving the theory that the concept of India didn’t exist until then (even though nationalists have forever pooh-poohed it, calling it a British conspiracy).
The Arabs were confined to the other bank of Indus where they stayed put for the next three centuries. Their end came in the first quarter of the 11th century when Mahmud Ghaznavi and his cavalry swooped down from Afghanistan.
Mahmud, it’s said, attacked India 17 times. In his last raid, he targeted Somnath Temple, looting its treasures and vandalizing the temple completely. But Mahmud himself was struck with wonder when he saw the idol of Somnath, which was suspended in air, without any visible support above and below. He asked his officers how this could happen. Then one of them guessed that the idol was made of iron and the ceiling had load-stone, which kept the idol suspended in air. This turned out to be true when the stones from the ceiling were removed one by one and the idol gradually came down to the ground.
The Somnath temple and its idol was quite an engineering marvel of the time and was a strong testimony to the scientific skills of the Indians—many modern accounts talk about that. But what’s often missed is that Mahmud’s officers could also correctly explain the scientific reason. This can only mean that science and technology wasn’t the exclusive domain of Indians.
Essentially, Hindus are a practical people; they – and especially the young – want to get on with their lives and benefit from the secular dividends of economic growth and development; they are temperamentally opposed to any prolonged instability and disorder that could be a consequence of religious violence, especially when it is amply clear that there is no alternative to coexistence.It is my considered view that liberal Hindus far outnumber fundamentalist Hindus. Will the majority, in its own self-interest, now stand up and oppose the hijacking of their religion by the loonies of fundamental variety?

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