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Kolhapur violence: Hindutva rulers' real target 'egalitarian, pro-woman, Dalit tradition'

By Shamsul Islam* 

The June 7, 2023 violence at Kolhapur as per the claims of the perpetrators affiliated to the Hindutva groups was a reaction to ‘provocative’ social media posts which carried photographs of Mughal ruler Aurangzeb (1618-1707) and Tipu Sultan, the ruler of Mysore who was killed by the British army with the help of Nizam’s army on May 4, 1799.
What was ‘provocative’ was not explained which meant that despite no ban on displaying of photos of either Aurangzeb or Tipu the posts by three Muslims boys was declared a crime. Despite arrest of those who posted these photos, the Hindutva group in hundreds decided to invade the city.
It was done despite Maharashtra being ruled by leaders appended to RSS and aggressive Hindutva politics. It is interesting to note that Sardar Patel, the first home minister of India lived in a house at Aurangzeb Road (1, Aurangzeb Road) till his death (December 15, 1950) in New Delhi. The name of the road did not offend this ‘Iron Man’, a current favourite of PM Modi and RSS.
The latest in this sorry saga is that, on May 11, an FIR was registered by Navi Mumbai police against a man, Wasi, for displaying Aurangzeb's image as his WhatsApp profile picture. He was arrested when local Hindutva organizations lodged a complaint with the police.
‘Provocative’ social posts or no posts, the whole of Maharashtra has been witnessing the running amok of the Hindutva bandwagon. One prominent English daily described the horrible reality in the following words:
“Since November, under the banner of the amorphous Sakal Hindu Samaj, an umbrella body with no single leader or organisation, and many outfits linked to the Sangh Parivar, ‘Hindu jan aakrosh’ morchas or rallies have been held across the state’s districts. Their stated agenda: To press for laws against ‘love jihad’ and ‘land jihad’.
“The attendance of BJP and (Shinde) Sena leaders, MLAs, and office-bearers at many of these rallies and the climate of impunity in which hate speeches are made and minority-baiting takes place, frame an attempt by the BJP to corner its main rival for the Hindutva vote, the Uddhav Thackeray-led Sena. In the process, it also frames a curious phenomenon — of the BJP, indirectly and in local contexts, mobilising on the streets in ways that threaten the rule of law, to press its demands in a state where its own government is in power.”

The most shameful response to Kolhapur violence came from Maharashtra’s Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who also holds the home ministry portfolio. When violence by the Hindutva groups was still on and the local law and order establishment under Fadnavis was yet to analyze the causes of the violence, he declared:
“Sawal yeh uthta hai ke Aachanak Iitni Aurangzeb ki auladen kahan se paida hogayi? Iske peeche kon hai? Iska asli malik kon hai yeh bhi hum dhoond ke nikalnege… Kon Maharashtra me qanoon vayvastha kharab ho, Maharashtra ka naam kharab ho yeh karne ki koshish kar raha hai yeh bhi hum dhoondkar nikalenge. [The question arises that suddenly from where have so many Aurangzeb’s off-springs born? Someone is behind it. Who is the real culprit/creator we will have to unearth. Who are trying to spoil the law and order situation and who want Maharashtra to be defamed, this also we will find out.]"
This shocking statement can only be described as crazy, toxic and motivated by deep communal prejudice. This kind of language is learned in Hindutva boudhik shivirs [intellectual training camps] and does not augur well for the stability of constitutional set-up in Maharashtra. It is a sad t failure of the home department in controlling the excesses of the Hindutva zealots. It is being covered up by using the Hindutva rhetoric. Fadnavis is fond of using dog-whistle to browbeat the whole of Muslim minority in Maharashtra. He must resign as home minister and join the Hindutva street hoodlums.
One hopes that Fadnavis has this much commonsense that when he is branding those Indian Muslims who put up photo of Aurangzeb as “Aurangzeb ki auladen”, does not mean to state that these Muslims are the direct descendants of Aurangzeb or Mughal rulers? He is using the term as a metaphor to describe them as carriers of Aurangzeb’s heritage.
Is it true that Indian Muslims represent or carry forward the heritage of Aurangzeb? It is a lie constructed by the Hindutva nationalists. Even ‘Hindu’ narrative of Aurangzeb’s rule would show that his rule, like the rule of other Mughal rulers of India, was also the rule of Hindu high castes as contemporary documents will show.
Hindutva zealots like Fadnavis must know that the ‘Islamic’ rule of Aurangzeb or Mughal rule survived due to the Hindu high Castes joining the ‘Muslim’ rulers in running their empires with few exceptions. How solid this unity was can be gauged by the fact that after Akbar no Mughal emperor was born of a Muslim mother. Moreover, Hindu high Castes provided brain and muscles to the ‘Muslim’ rulers most faithfully.
Aurobindo Ghose, who played prominent role in providing Hindu foundation to the Indian nationalism, confessed that the Mughal rule continued due to the fact that the Mughal rulers gave Hindus “positions of power and responsibility, used their brain and arm to preserve” their kingdom [cited in Chand, Tara, “History of the Freedom Movement in India”, vol. 3, Publication Division Government of India, Delhi, 1992, p. 162].
A renowned historian, Tara Chand, relying on the primary source material of the medieval period, concluded that the from the end of 16th century to the middle of 19th century, “it may reasonably be concluded that in the whole of India, excepting the western Punjab, superior rights in land had come to vest in the hands of Hindus” most of whom happened to be Rajputs [Chand, Tara, “History of the Freedom Movement in India”, vol. 1, Publication Division Government of India, Delhi, 1961, p. 124].
“Maasir al-Umara” [Biographies of the Commanders], a biographical dictionary of the officers in the Mughal Empire beginning from 1556 to 1780 [Akbar to Shah Alam], is regarded as the most authentic record of the high rank officials employed by the Mughal rulers. This work was compiled by Shahnawaz Khan and his son Abdul Hai between 1741 and 1780.
According to it, the Mughal rulers in this period employed around 100 (out of 365) high-ranking officials, most of them “Rajputs from Rajputana, the midlands, Bundelkhand and Maharashtra”. Brahmins followed Rajputs in manning the Mughal administration so far as the number was concerned. [Khan, Shah Nawaz, Abdul Hai, “Maasir al-Umara” [translated by H Beveridge as Mathir-ul-Umra], volumes 1& 2, Janaki Prakashan, Patna, 1979].
Interestingly, Kashi Nagri Pracharini Sabha [established in 1893] “committed to the cause of Hindi as official language” published Hindi translation of this book in 1931.
It is nobody’s argument that Aurangzeb [1618-1707] did not commit heinous crimes against his Indian subject. It needs to be remembered that his cruelty was not restricted to non-Muslims. It extended to own father, brothers, Shias, those Muslims who did not follow his brand of Islam, and Muslim ruling dynasties in the eastern, central and western parts of India -- all faced brutal repression and were annihilated. Aurangzeb executed renowned Sufi saint Sarmad in the precinct of Jama Masjid of Delhi [his grave at the end of stairs on the eastern gate of Jama Masjid is revered by many].
It is also true that there were countless cases when Hindus and their religious places were violently targetted during Aurangzeb’s despotic rule. However, there are contemporary records available of his patronizing Hindu and Jain religious places, too. 
Fadnavis, Aurangzeb
Two living examples are the grand Gauri Shankar temple, a stone’s throw away from Lahori Gate of Red Fort, built during Shahjahan’s reign which continued functioning during Aurangzeb’s reign and Jain Lal Mandir just opposite Red Fort [Trushke, Audrey, “Aurangzeb: The Man and the Myth”, Penguin, Gurgaon, 2017, pp. 99-106]. Reducing all his crimes to the repression of Hindus only will tantamount to reducing the gravity of his crimes against humanity.
Aurangzeb never faced Shivaji in the battle-field. It was his commander-in-chief, a Rajput ruler of Amer (Rajasthan), Jay Singh I (1611–1667), who was sent to subjugate Shivaji (1603-1680). Jay Singh II (1681-1743), nephew of Jay Singh I, was the other prominent Rajput commander of the Mughal forces who served Aurangzeb.
He was conferred the title of ‘Sawai' [one and a quarter times superior to his contemporaries] chief by Aurangzeb in 1699 and thus came to be known as Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh. He was also given the title of Mirza Raja [a Persian title for a royal prince] by Aurangzeb. The other titles bestowed on him by other Mughal rulers were ‘Sarmad-i-Rajaha-i-Hind’ [eternal ruler of India], ‘Raj Rajeshvar’ [lord of kings] and ‘Shri Shantanu ji’ [wholesome king]. These titles are displayed by his descendants even today.
We have first-hand account of Raja Raghunath Bahadur, a Kayasth who functioned as Deewan Ala (prime minister) of both Shahjahan, and Aurangzeb. According to a biographical work penned by one of his direct descendants:
“Raja Raghunath Bahadur having attained to the most exalted rank of Diwan Ala (prime minister) was not unmindful of the interests of his caste-fellows [Kayasths]. Raja appointed every one of them to posts of honor and emoluments, according to their individual merits; while many of them were granted titles of honor and valuable jagirs for their services. Not a single Kayasth remained unemployed or in needy circumstances.” [Lal, Maharaja Lala, “Short Account of the Life and Family of Rai Jeewan Lal Bahadur Late Honrary Magistrate Delhi, With Extracts from His Diary Relating to the Times of Mutiny 1857”, 1902].
This account shows that despite the rule of Aurangzeb, a ‘bigoted Muslim’ a Kayasth prime minister of his was able to patronize his Caste fellows; all Hindus. Aurangzeb was so fond of this Hindu prime minister that after latter’s death in a letter directed vizier (minister) Asad Khan to follow ‘sage guidance’ of Raja Raghunath [Trushke, Audrey, pp. 74-75].
The linking of Aurangzeb or other ‘Muslim’ rulers’ crimes committed in the pre-modern India to his/her religion is going to create serious consequences even for ‘Hindu’ history as narrated by the RSS. Take for example, Ravana, the king of Lanka who according to again ‘Hindu’ narrative committed unspeakable crimes against Sita, her husband Lord Rama and his companions during 14 years long vanvaas or exile. This Ravana, according to the same narrative, was a learned Brahman who also happened to be one of the greatest worshippers of Lord Shiva.
The epic Mahabharata is a story of a great war between two families known as Pandavas and Kauravas (both Kashtriyas) not between Hindus and Muslims but between two ‘Hindu’ armies in which, if you go by the ‘Hindu’ version 1.2 billion (120 crore) people, all Hindus are stated to have been slaughtered.
Draupadi, the joint wife of Pandavas, was disrobed by Kauravas, all Hindus. If like Aurangzeb and other ‘Muslim’ rulers the crimes of Ravana, Kauravas, Jai Singh I and II etc. are linked to their religion then the country will turn into a butchery. And if revenge is to be taken from the present descendants of the past perpetrators then beginning must be made from the beginning of the Indian civilization; the turn of the Indian Muslims will come far later!
Another crucial fact which is consciously kept under wrap is that despite more than 500 hundred years of ‘Muslim’/Mughal rule, which according to Hindutva historians was nothing but a project of annihilating Hindus or forcibly converting the latter to Islam, India remained a nation with an almost two-thirds majority of Hindus at the historical juncture when even ceremonial ‘Muslim’ rule was over. The British rulers held first census in 1871-72. According to the Census report:
“The population of British India is, in round numbers, divided into 140½ millions [sic] of Hindoos (including Sikhs), or 73½ per cent, 40¾ millions of Mahomedans, or 21½ per cent. And 9¼ millions of others, or barely 5 per cent, including under this title Buddhists and Jains, Christians, Jews, Parsees, Brahmoes…” [“Memorandum on the Census Of British India of 1871-72: Presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of Her Majesty London”, George Edward Eyre and William Spottiswoode, Her Majesty's Stationary Office, 1875].
These figures make it clear that the persecution and cleansing of Hindus was not even a secondary project of the ‘Muslim’ rule. If it had been so Hindus would have disappeared from India. At the end of ‘Muslim’ rule Hindus were 73.5% who now according to the 2011 Census have increased to 79.80%. On the contrary, Muslims who were 21.5% have been reduced to 14.23%. India seems to be the only country where despite ‘Muslim’ rule of more than half of a millennium the populace did not convert to the religion of the rulers.
"The Indian Express" editorial (June 10, 2023) correctly stated that “the new politics of polarisation in Maharashtra is attempting to make inroads into areas and regions of the state even with little or no significant minority presence, and where, as in Kolhapur, there has been a legacy of progressive politics upholding values of tolerance and inclusion”.
The moral of the story of violence perpetrated by the Hindutva zealots is that Kolhapur violence may look like to be an attempt to terrorise Muslims, but the real aim is to establish Hindutva hegemony in an area which, though ruled by Maratha Hindu Kings, remained a princely state where rulers did not lose sight of principles of justice and egalitarianism. Shahuji Maharaj (1874-1922) who ruled Kolhapur State for 28 years took powerful measures to improve the status of Sudras and lower castes.
He patronized Satya Shodhak Samaj established by Jyotiba Phule. He abolished untouchability. Shahuji Maharaj was the first ruler in the Indian history to provide 50% reservation in jobs and educational institutions to weaker sections. He withdrew all special privileges enjoyed by Brahmins. 
He went to the extent of removing Brahmin priests from palace and court duties and appointed a Maratha young man as priest of non-Brahmins. Despite strong opposition from High Castes he supported education of girls in his State.
So the RSS-BJP rulers of Maharashtra are primarily trying to cleanse all that was egalitarian, pro-woman and Dalit in the history of Maharashtra. If we do not rise up to resist this Hindutva onslaught not only Maharashtra but whole of India is going to pay a very high price.
*Formerly with Delhi University, click here for Prof Islam's writings and video interviews/debates. Facebook: Twitter: @shamsforjustice.



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