28 June, 2008

Aurangzeb, as he was according to Mughal Records

Francois Gautier

Why an exhibition on Aurangzeb, some may ask ? Firstly, I have been a close student of Indian history and one of its most controversial figures has been Aurangzeb (1658-1707). It is true that under him the Mughal Empire reached its zenith, but Aurangzeb was a very cruel ruler - some might even say monstrous. What are the facts? Aurangzeb did not just build an isolated mosque on a destroyed temple, he ordered all temples destroyed, among them the Kashi Vishvanath, one of the most sacred places of Hinduism and had mosques built on a number of cleared temples sites. All other Hindu sacred places within his reach equally suffered destruction, with mosques built on them. A few examples: Krishna's birth temple in Mathura, the rebuilt Somnath temple on the coast of Gujurat, the Vishnu temple replaced with the Alamgir mosque now overlooking Benares and the Treta-ka-Thakur temple in Ayodhya. The number of temples destroyed by Aurangzeb is counted in 4, if not 5 figures. Aurangzeb did not stop at destroying temples, their users were also wiped-out; even his own brother, Dara Shikoh, was executed for taking an interest in the Vedas & Upanishads and the Sikh Guru Tegh Bahadur was beheaded because he objected to Aurangzeb's forced conversions.

Thus we thought we should go at the root of the matter. History (like journalism) is about documentation and first hand experience. We decided to show Aurangzeb according to his own documents. There are an incredible number of farhans, or original edicts of Aurangzeb, hand-written in Persian in India's museums, particularly in Rajasthan, such as the Bikaner archives. It was not always easy to scan them, we encountered resistance, sometimes downright hostility and we had to go once to the CM to get permissions. Indeed the director of Bikaner archives told us that in 50 years, we were the first ones asking for these farhans dealing with Aurangzeb. Then we asked painters from Rajasthan to reproduce in the ancient Mughal style some of the edicts: the destruction of the Somnath temple, or the trampling of Hindus protesting jizya tax by Aurangzeb's elephants, or the order from Aurangzeb prohibiting Hindus to ride horses and palanquins, or the beheading of Guru Teg Bahadur and Dara Shikoh.

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Why bend backwards?

By Anirudh Sharma

There is no need to amend the Constitution to provide reservation for the economically backward classes since it has never prohibited it. Even the Supreme Court in its several rulings has never principally objected to this.

On September 28, 1962, Justice Gajendragadkar, in the MR Balaji vs State of Mysore case, unambiguously ruled, "The classes of citizens who are deplorably poor automatically become socially backward. They do not enjoy a status in society and have, therefore, to be content to take a backward seat."

On April 10, 2008, Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan seemed to repeat the findings when he observed, "All the Brahmins are not engaged in highly respectable employment, nor are all very wealthy. It may even be that some Brahmins may be servants of members of a lower caste, or it may also be so that the personal servant of a rich Brahmin may be a poor Brahmin."

This formulation of social backwardness, along with poverty, makes a very defensible criteria for socio-economic backwardness, which will pave the way for economically backwards to get the benefits of affirmative action programmes, including reservation, without any Amendment to the Constitution.

Reservation for the economically backwards, who have fallen behind in society because of their parents working as sweepers, rag-pickers, rickshaw-pullers, without reference to caste is intrinsically justified in our constitutional scheme. Those who point to the necessity of constitutional Amendment to this effect need a reality check.

The doomsayers of affirmative action for a so-called forward caste sweeper's son take recourse behind the judgement in the Mandal Commission case. It will be advisable for those doomsayers to take a peek at the constitutional history of India and refer to the judgement of the apex court in the R Chitralekha vs State of Mysore case where backward classes were identified on the basis of occupation-cum-income without reference to caste and the identification was held to be constitutionally valid.

On this judgement, Justice Jeevan Reddy, writing the majority judgement, observed, "In Chitralekha this court held that such an identification is permissible. We see no reason to differ with the said view inasmuch as this is but another method to find socially backward classes."

Justice Reddy went a step further to illustrate: "For example, agricultural labourers, rickshaw-pullers/drivers, street-hawkers, etc, may well qualify for being designated as Backward Classes." Hence, it will be misnomer to say that Mandal prohibits reservation of ground predominantly on economic backwardness. On the contrary, it allows reservation for the socially and economic backwards, where backwardness can be identified on the lines of Justice Gajendragadkar's definition.

Another contribution of Justice Reddy's judgement in the Indra Sawhney or the Mandal judgement, which may qualify as the most misunderstood judgement of its time, is the mandate that if the identification process begins with caste, "it does not mean that one can wind up the process of identification with the castes. Besides castes (whether found among Hindus or others), there may be other communities, groups, classes and denominations which may qualify as backward class of citizens". These communities will, of course, include agricultural labourers, rickshaw-pullers/drivers, street-hawkers, etc, as illustrated by Justice Reddy.

However the aforementioned mandate of the majority judgement in Mandal case was not followed till today and the affirmative action/reservation programme started and ended with caste, casting caste identities in iron mould. To repair this damage and restore equality, some justice had to be done.

The Bench headed by the Chief Justice has addressed the grievance of the economic backwards. Justice Pasayat and Justice Thakker lay down, "If the creamy layer has to be excluded, the economically backward classes have to be included. That would be social balancing and that would be giving true meaning of the objectives of the Constitution. Social empowerment cannot be and is certainly not a measure for only socially and educationally backward classes. It also has to be for the socially and economically backward classes."

However, the question that arises for consideration is: Will our executive toe the line of the law as declared? Justice Pasayat leaves no ground for that while writing his verdict, "To strike the constitutional balance it is necessary and desirable to earmark certain percentage of seats out of permissible limit of 27 per cent for socially and economically backward classes." This leaves no room for doubt anywhere in the executive's mind that it is mandatory.

The Chief Justice has also ruled that "determination of backward class cannot be exclusively based on caste. Poverty, social backwardness, economic backwardness, all are criteria for determination of backwardness". Justice Balakrishnan, while allowing a classification based on poverty and economic backwardness, has done a social balancing which had long gone astray, contrary to the judgement of the Supreme Court in the Indra Sawhney case.

There had always been a constant fear of reverse discrimination in India, which is justified to a certain extent. However with the current judgement of the Supreme court, these fears must be washed away. The apex court, while rejecting the plea that caste can be the sole or dominant criteria of backwardness or that classification of backward classes cannot be exclusively based on castes, has strengthened the belief of millions of Indians that India shall be a Union of States as per Article 1 of the Constitution and not a federation of castes, as desired by some.

As for the demand to amend the Constitution to provide reservation for the economically and socially backward people, it is not required. After all, the Constitution has never prohibited reservation for the economically and socially backward classes, nor has the apex court in its rulings right from times of its judgement in the Chitralekha case ever done so.

The writer is a lawyer associated with Youth for Equality. The article was originally published in the Daily Pioneer.

Destruction of Hindu Temples by Aurangzeb

Background

Islamic literary sources provide far more extensive evidence of temple destruction by the Muslim invaders of India in medieval times. They also cover a large area, from Sinkiang and Transoxiana in the North to Tamil Nadu in the South, and from Siestan province of present day Iran in the West to Assam in the East. This vast area, which was long the cradle of hindu culture, came to be littered with the ruins of temples and monasteries, belonging to all schools of Santana Dharma - Baudhha, Jaina, Shaiva, Sakta, Vaishnava, and the rest. Archeological explorations and excavations in modern times have proved unmistakably that most of the mosques, mazars, ziarats and dargahs which were built in this area, stood on the sites of and were made from the materials of deliberately demolished Hindu monuments.

Hundreds of medieval muslim historians who flourished in India and elsewhere in the world of Islam, have written detailed accounts of what their heroes did in various parts of the extensive Hindu homeland as they were invaded one after another. It is alear from the literary evidence collected alone that all Muslim rulers destroyed or desecrated Hindu temples whenever and whereever they could. Archeological evidence from various Muslim monuments, particularly mosques and dargahs, not only confirms the literary evidence but also adds the names of some Muslim rulers whom Muslim historians have failed to credit with this pious performance.

Some of the literary evidence of temple destruction during Aurangzeb's rule is listed below.

1. "Mir'at-i-Alam" by Bakhtawar Khan

The author was a nobleman of Aurangzeb's court. He died in AD 1684. the history ascribed to him was really compiled by Muhammad Baqa of Saharanpur who gave the name of his friend as its author. Baqa was a prolific writer who was invited by Bakhtawar Khan to Aurangzeb's court and given a respectable rank. He died in AD 1683.

Excerpts:

Muhiyu'd-Din Muhammad Aurangzeb 'Alamgir Padshah Ghazi (1658-1707) General Order

" ...Hindu writers have been entirely excluded from holding public offices, and ALL THE WORSHIPPING PLACES OF THE INFIDELS AND GREAT TEMPLES of these infamous people HAVE BEEN THROWN DOWN AND DESTROYED in a manner which excites astonishment at the successful completion of so difficult a task. His Majesty personally teaches the sacred kalima to many infidels with success. ... All mosques in the empire are repaired at public expense..."

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