Tuesday, April 15, 2014

An excellent article on Uyghurs of Xinjiang

I came across an excellent article on the Uyghur people of Xinjiang of China in the Atlantic magazine, which is worth reading for anyone interested to learn more on this subject. You can read this by clicking here.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Untangling Myth From Fiction: Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb’s Reign of Power

In a polarized world that we live in (which is, sadly, getting ever more polarized now by every minute and hour), we have often assumed that what is good for “our” people had to be bad for the “other” people. A glaring example is the personality of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, who ruled India for 50 years. Of all the Muslim rulers who ruled vast territories of India from 712 to 1857 C.E., probably no one generates as much controversy as Aurangzeb. He has been hailed as anyone from a “Saintly or Pauper Emperor” to one who “tried hard to convert Hindus into Muslims.” Depending on one’s religious rearing, one will favor one view over the other. For example, most Hindus castigate Aurangzeb as a religious Muslim, who was anti-Hindu, who taxed them, who tried to convert them, who discriminated them away from high administrative positions, who interfered in their religious matters. [1] On the other hand, Muslims consider him to be one of the best rulers who was a pious, scholarly, saintly, un-biased, liberal, magnanimous, tolerant, competent and far-sighted ruler. To prove the view of the former group, a close scrutiny of the Government-approved text books in schools and colleges across post-partition India (i.e., after 1947) is sufficient. [2] The second group depends mostly on pre-colonial (and some pre-partition) history, land-grant deeds and other available records.

It is difficult to untangle this historical mess without scrutinizing the accusations against Aurangzeb rationally. Fortunately, in recent years quite a few Hindu historians have come out in the open disputing those allegations. For example, historian Babu Nagendranath Banerjee rejected the accusation of forced conversion of Hindus by Muslim rulers by stating that if that was their intention then in India today there would not be nearly four times as many Hindus compared to Muslims, despite the fact that Muslims had ruled for nearly a thousand years. [3] Banerjee challenged the Hindu hypothesis that Aurangzeb was anti-Hindu by reasoning that if the latter were truly guilty of such bigotry, how could he appoint a Hindu as his military commander-in-chief? Surely, he could have afforded to appoint a competent Muslim general in that position. Banerjee further stated: “No one should accuse Aurangzeb of being communal minded. In his administration, the state policy was formulated by Hindus. Two Hindus held the highest position in the State Treasury. Some prejudiced Muslims even questioned the merit of his decision to appoint non-Muslims to such high offices. The Emperor refuted that by stating that he had been following the dictates of the Shariah (Islamic Law) which demands appointing right persons in right positions.” During Aurangzeb’s long reign of 50 years, many Hindus, notably Jaswant Singh, Raja Rajrup, Kabir Singh, Arghanath Singh, Prem Dev Singh, DilipRoy, and Rasik Lal Crory, held very high administrative positions.

Two of the highest ranked generals, Jaswant Singh and Jaya Singh, in Aurangzeb’s administration were Hindus. Other notable Hindu generals who commanded a garrison of two to five thousand soldiers were Raja Vim Singh of Udaypur, Indra Singh, Achalaji and Arjuji. One wonders if Aurangzeb was hostile to Hindus, why would he position all those Hindus to high positions of authority, especially, in the military, who could have mutinied against him and removed him from his throne?

Most Hindus like Akbar over Aurangzeb for his multi-ethnic/religious court where Hindus were favored. Historian Shri Sharma states that while Emperor Akbar had 14 Hindu Mansabdars (high officials) in his court, Aurangzeb actually had 148 Hindu high officials in his court. (Ref: Mughal Government) But this fact is somewhat less known. It does not require much intelligence to understand the difference between 14 and 148. But when truth is hostage to bigotry, facts are substituted for fiction, 148 may appear to be smaller than 14 to disingenuous historians, and that is an unfortunate reality we face.

Some of the Hindu historians have accused Aurangzeb of demolishing Hindu Temples. How factual is this accusation against a man, who has been known to be a saintly man, a strict adherent of Islam? The Qur’an prohibits any Muslim to impose his will on a non-Muslim by stating that “There is no compulsion in religion.” (Qur’an: Surah al-Baqarah). The Surah al-Kafiroon (The Unbelievers) clearly states: “To you is your religion and to me is mine.” It would be totally unbecoming of a learned scholar of Islam of his caliber, as Aurangzeb was known to be, to do things which are contrary to the dictates of the Qur’an.

Interestingly, the 1946 edition of history text book, Etihash Parichaya (Introduction to History), used in Bengal, published by the Hindustan Press, 10 Ramesh Dutta Street, Calcutta, for the 5th and 6th graders states: “If Aurangzeb had the intention of demolishing temples to make way for mosques, there would not have been a single temple standing erect in India. On the contrary, Aurangzeb donated huge estates for use as Temple sites and support thereof in Benares, Kashmir and elsewhere. The official documentations for these land grants are still extant.”

A stone inscription in the historic Balajior Vishnu Temple, located north of Chitrakut Balaghat, still shows that it was commissioned by the Emperor himself. The proof of Aurangzeb’s land grant for famous Hindu religious sites in Kasi, Varanasi can easily be verified from the deed records extant at those sites. The same text book reads: “During the 50-year reign of Aurangzeb, not a single Hindu was forced to embrace Islam. He did not interfere with any Hindu religious activities.” (p. 138) Alexander Hamilton, a British historian, toured India towards the end of Aurangzeb’s 50-year reign and observed that everyone was free to serve and worship God in his own way.

These above references clearly show that accusations of forced conversion and religious intolerance are false. It is also evident that since the independence of India in 1947, there has been an overt attempt by revisionist, bigoted Hindu historians in India to malign the Muslim history.

Now let us deal with Aurangzeb’s imposition of Jizya tax which had drawn severe criticism from many Hindu historians. It is true that Jizya was lifted during the reign of Akbar and Jahangir and that Aurangzeblater reinstated this. Before I delve into the subject of Aurangzeb’s Jizya tax, or taxing the non-Muslims, it is worthwhile to point out that Jizya is nothing more than a war tax which was collected only from able-bodied young non-Muslim male citizens living in a Muslim country who did not want to volunteer for the defense of the country. That is, no such tax was collected from non-Muslims who volunteered to defend the country. This tax was not collected from women, and neither from immature males nor from disabled or old male citizens. For payment of such taxes, it became incumbent upon the Muslim government to protect the life, property and wealth of its non-Muslim citizens. If for any reason the government failed to protect its citizens, especially during a war, the taxable amount was returned.

It should be pointed out here that while Jizya tax was collected from able-bodied non-Muslim adult males who did not volunteer to join war efforts in a Muslim-administered country, a similar form of war tax was also collected from able-bodied Muslim adult males who refused to join war efforts to defend the country. There was, therefore, no discrimination between able-bodied Muslim males and able-bodied non-Muslim males when it came to the payment of war-tax, as long as the person in question would not volunteer in war-efforts for defense of the Muslim-administered state. Zakat (2.5% of savings) and ‘Ushr (10% of agricultural products) were collected from all Muslims, who owned some wealth (beyond a certain minimum, called Nisab). They also had to pay sadaqah, fitrah and Khums. None of these taxes were collected from any non-Muslim. As a matter of fact, the per capita tax collection from Muslims was several fold that of non-Muslims.

I would also like to state here that before the advent of Islam in India, Rajputs living in western India used to collect a similar form of Jizya or war tax which they called “Fix” tax. (Ref: Early History of India by Vincent Smith) War tax was not a sole monopoly among the Indian or Muslim rulers. Historian Dr. Tripathy mentions a number of countries in Europe where war-tax was practiced. (Ref: Some Aspects of Muslim Administration by Sri Tripathy)

Let us now return to Aurangzeb. In his book “Mughal Administration,” Sir Jadunath Sarkar [4], foremost historian on the Mughal dynasty, mentions that during Aurangzeb’s reign in power, nearly 65 types of taxes were abolished, which resulted in a yearly revenue loss of 50 million Rupees from the state treasury. It is also worth mentioning here that Aurangzeb did not impose Jizya in the beginning of his reign but introduced it after 16 years during which 80 types of taxes were abolished. Other historians stated that when Aurangzeb abolished eighty taxes no one thanked him for his generosity. But when he imposed only one, and not heavy at all, people began to show their displeasure. (Ref: Vindication of Aurangzeb)

I could see how even fair-minded individuals like Nobel Laureate Professor Amartya Sen may have been deceived by the deadly venoms of dishonest, prejudiced historians whose sole aim has been to smear Muslim history. Such intellectual dishonesty by historians is dangerous – more explosive and more damaging than nuclear bombs. We have already seen its hideous effect with the destruction of Muslim historic sites (including the Babri Mosque) and recent riots in India that killed thousands of Muslims. Let us not fall into the trap set by those who want to “neatly divide our world.” Let truth vanquish falsehood.


End notes:

[1] See, e.g., Dr. Amartya Sen’s article – A World Not Neatly Divided - comparing the rule in India by two Mughal rulers - Akbar and Aurangzeb, which appeared in the New York Times on Nov. 23, 2001; http://www.nytimes.com/2001/11/23/opinion/a-world-not-neatly-divided.html. He wrote, “Consider Akbar and Aurangzeb, two Muslim emperors of the Mogul dynasty in India. Aurangzeb tried hard to convert Hindus into Muslims and instituted various policies in that direction, of which taxing the non-Muslims was only one example. In contrast, Akbar reveled in his multiethnic court and pluralist laws, and issued official proclamations insisting that no one ''should be interfered with on account of religion'' and that ''anyone is to be allowed to go over to a religion that pleases him.'' He continued, “When Akbar was making his pronouncements on religious tolerance in Agra, in the 1590's, the Inquisitions were still going on; in 1600, Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake, for heresy, in Campo dei Fiori in Rome.”

[2] For example, see Shri Binoy Ghosh’s Bharatjaner Etihash (Bengali for: History of Indian People), Kolkata, West Bengal, India.

[3] Quoted in Chepe Rakha Itihash (The History – Hushed Up) by G. A. Murtaza, Barddhaman , India .

[4] He demonstrated his vast knowledge of Persian-language (the official language during the Mughal period) sources. However, he was a Euro-centric historian and thus, not flawless in historical accounts. He served as the Vice Chancellor of the University of Calcutta (1926-28).

[Author’s Note: This article was written in 2001 in response to Dr. Amartya Sen’s article – A World Not Neatly Divided - comparing the rule in India by two Mughal rulers - Akbar and Aurangzeb, which appeared in the New York Times on Nov. 23, 2001; http://www.nytimes.com/2001/11/23/opinion/a-world-not-neatly-divided.html. It was subsequently posted in many Internet sites and Newspapers around the globe.]

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Can Narendra Modi evade responsibility about lynching murder of Mr. Jafri?

It seems that Narendra Modi, the BJP leader, will become India's next Prime Minister. But is he the right person for heading the second most populous nation on earth? You can read about him by clicking here, which shows that he is not a noble person who comes to the aid of needy people.

As the report shows Modi deliberately avoided coming to the aid of Mr. Jafri when he faced lynching by the Hindu mob.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Massive vote irregularities in Indian national election

Vote rigging has been quite common in Indian elections since its independence. Nothing has changed this year, too. Please, see the link here for a sample of such incidents.

Thoughts on Bangladesh - What's next?

Does history repeat itself? If we are to ask this question, the overwhelming response we’ll get is that it does. However, it may not be always true. Take for example the case of Bangladesh that had its national election four months ago in which the Awami League (AL) alliance, which has been running the country in the preceding five years, easily won without the participation from the major BNP-Jama’at alliance. The election was anything but fair in which dozens of seats were won without any opposition candidate contesting those seats – something that almost never happens, especially in Bangladesh where there is neither shortage of political parties nor of independent candidates.

As noted by William Milam, the former U.S. ambassador to Bangladesh, in a recent article in the Express Tribune (March 11, 2014), many believed that somehow, somebody or something — the army, the international community, the West, a leader on a white horse — would appear and stop the ‘defective’ election that was in the offing. But none of those outcomes occurred.

As the dust settled from the melee of the election time violence and the opposition BNP-led alliance has come to terms that the current government cannot be toppled by mindless violence that victimizes ordinary people, and normalcy has become the order of the day inside Bangladesh, it is important to ponder about the direction Bangladesh is heading politically?

Some political pundits believe that the current affairs are a dress rehearsal of the ‘hated’ BAKSAL days – the introduction of the one-party system months before the government of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (the father of current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina) was toppled bloodily in August 15 of 1975 by some disgruntled army officers whose murderous activities enjoyed the blessings from the CIA.

I disagree with such an assertion of those political pundits and believe that no matter how flawed the illiberal democracy is inside Bangladesh, it will self-correct itself and that the country will not revisit her BAKSAL days. That happy end, however, may not come anytime soon, but I am optimistic that it will come one day; that timing would depend on how serious Bangladeshis are to bring about the desired change. If the two major parties (AL and BNP) are beyond repair (self-scrutiny and corrective actions), are the people ready for a new party – something like India’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) – offering fresh ideas and new leaders that shun crime and corruption?  My reasons behind the dissenting view on why Bangladesh will not revisit her BAKSAL days owe to the changing socio-political-economic landscape of our time – both local and international that is at variance with the norms of 1975. What was possible, popular and suitable back then in 1975 is neither true nor valid today. Everyone within the current leadership of the ruling alliance finds the BAKSAL-hoopla as mere propaganda nonsense and considers it a smokescreen to cover-up the failure of the opposition alliance.

But supposing that the worst is inevitable and that Bangladesh will revisit its past and embrace its BAKSAL past, who are to blame? Can the BNP evade responsibility from letting such an event happen?

As many Bangladeshis would tell, the BNP is equally responsible for the ‘farcical election’ (as it continues to refer to the last election) because of its many errors of strategy and judgment. Had it contested and won just five dozen seats in a ‘rigged’ election even if the AL-alliance had a two-thirds majority winning at least 200 seats, the ruling alliance’s illiberal ambitions would be on the check. The BNP-alliance could have used the floor of the parliament to debate and dissent. But now, they are portrayed as an opportunist party that cared more about themselves and not the people of the country.

It goes without saying that democracy is a farce without a healthy opposition. For an illiberal democracy to transition into liberal democracy it must allow opposing views to be heard and debated. Such a transition cannot happen when there are no takers – neither on the winning side nor on the losing or opposing side. As a result of this impasse, the ultimate losers are the people of Bangladesh whose genuine desires to live in a just society continue to be dashed by disingenuous politicians.

Not everything is, however, lost in Bangladesh’s so-called two-party (or alliance) formula. The current set up is still capable of making things better if it has the sincerity and will to execute reforms (starting with its own structure). The AL alliance government is accused of practicing widespread human rights violations, marginalizing the main opposition by continuing to arrest its leaders, denying space for any political opponent to protest peacefully, and using the War Crimes Tribunal as politically motivated trials to lame and tame its opposition. On its part, the administration of Sheikh Hasina can correct such widely held perceptions and resist any temptation and political itch that only invigorates the notion that it is resurrecting BAKSAL. It can also afford not to appear as cementing Indian hegemony over Bangladesh with what are arguably one-sided concessions and guarantees given to India, and must, instead, change the negative perception it suffers by fighting for legitimate demands of her people on an equal footing on a plethora of issues from the equitable share of water in international rivers to stopping the almost daily shooting of Bangladeshis by the trigger-happy BSF along the no-man’s land separating the two countries.

The opposition BNP-alliance is widely perceived as an opportunist, if not an immoral, alliance that is against the spirit of the liberation war and only hungry for power and personal gains. The lavish lifestyles of its leaders - home and abroad - have only given credence to such perceptions. On its part, the alliance can choose to correct such negative perceptions by excluding murderous politicians and criminal Mafia Dons who have been found guilty in the courts of the law. It can also resist any temptation to turn its clock back to the pre-election days of violence. Bangladeshis don’t have stomach for such crimes. The recent win in the local and upazila elections by its candidates shows that the opposition alliance remains a formidable opposition enjoying deep-rooted support within the populace. It can bank on such supports to regroup it and formulate short term tactics and long term strategies that show that it is serious about improving socio-political- economic condition of Bangladeshis.

The choice is theirs (i.e., the ruling and opposition alliances) to make – moving forward or going backward. If they are genuinely sincere about Bangladesh they can work towards creating the true intellectual and moral foundations of the state through inclusive political rights, freedom and economic equality. And if they don’t learn lessons from history by altering their failed ways, they will end up in the dustbin of history.  History is unforgiving on those who refuse to learn from it.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

When will the murder of Bangladeshis by Indians stop?

Under the cover of falsified claims that Bangladeshis are trying to infiltrate into India, the BSF of India have been killing many innocent folks in the no-man's land border area between Bangladesh and India. And then in recent years, with hyped up political charges from the  BJP and chauvinist politicians, many Indian civilians have gotten the message that they could even lynch anyone suspected as a Bangladeshi. In Tripura last week some Muslim cattle traders were lynched to death by Hindus. Within days another Bangladeshi has also been killed by the Indian Khasias.

When will such murders stop?

You can read more by clicking here.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Dr. Fuller's Ludicrous Theory about ethnocentric Buddhism

My attention has been drawn to Dr. Paul Fuller's  article which has appeared in the DVB. Here below I share my observations.

Throughout history there have always been people, even those who appear to be intellectuals, who justified the crimes of despots and ruthless murderers under certain pretexts. There were no shortages of German, Austrian and Italian fascist intellectuals who were not only supporters of the Nazi Fascism of the Hitler era but greatly promoted the evil cause. One would have thought that Nuremberg Trials and the wholesale condemnation of the evil ideology in the subsequent years and decades had put that dark chapter behind us, and no one and surely not the so-called educated intellectuals who teach at the college and university levels would be a devil's advocate. But our expectations have always been unrealistic. There are evil geniuses around our world who are willing to act as intellectual whores and pimps selling their credentials to the highest bidder.

So, while it is sad to read Dr. Paul Fuller's article below, I am not too surprised with such absurd, ludicrous interpretation of what is going wrong in Burma. He has apparently tied his knot with the devil. He calls the current genocidal campaign against the non-Buddhist minorities, esp. the Rohingya and other Muslims in Myanmar as ethno-centric Buddhism. How wonderful! One has to really take pity on such an interpretation of the reality inside Burma!

Where did Paul Fuller get his PhD from, I need not know, and how much did his students got out of his teaching in Australia where he claims to have been teaching religious studies, I don't care to know. But if his latest article is any indicator to judge him and intellectual caliber, surely, he has done a terrible job, and has proven beyond doubt that he is not someone who can be trusted or respected on matters dealing with human rights and abuses.

When a country has sizable minority communities of various religions, ethnicities and races, and then minorities are targeted for extermination simply because of their distinct religion, race and ethnicity, social customs and mores, and when they are denied counting in the census simply because of such distinctions, and the entire population from top to bottom, including monks, are behind the eleminationist policy - what do we call such acts? Is it anything but genocide? Was Hitler's extermination campaign of Jews in Germany ethno-centric Christianity?

Who is Paul Fuller trying to fool?

Shame on him! People like him are a disgrace to humanity and should be shun.