Skip to main content

Adopted from British policy of divide and rule: Hindus versus Muslims

Syed Osman Sher* 
The slogan of “Hindus versus Muslims” is resounding these days so forcefully that the democratic and syncretic fabric of Indian society seems, once again, to be put to tatters by hatred. And this voice is coming loud from no less a person than the head of the Indian Government himself who is at the helm of affairs for the last ten years. 
We all know that this lethal device was earlier adopted by the British rulers with a purpose: “Divide and Rule” that ultimately tore the country in two and created a mayhem of unprecedented magnitude. Thus, one may be intrigued to find whether this attitude was instilled by the British or it was coming from earlier times.
From ancient times, India has been hosting to hordes of aliens such as the Aryans, Greeks, Scythians, Parthians, Kushans, Huns, Arabs, Turks, Afghans, Portuguese, Dutch, French and British. Excepting the Europeans, they entered here not as ordinary migrants but as conquerors. But they could not be taken as a source of irritation for a long period of time. After living together for some time, they had to be treated as their own. 
Fortunately, the earlier immigrants had not brought with them strong schools of theology and religious beliefs. Therefore, as religious entities they could not withstand the seductions and overwhelming embrace of the Vedic religion and were ultimately absorbed in it. But the episode of the Muslims was different. Since Islam was a strongly established religion a compromise on this plane was not possible. But as for social assimilation, it did, in fact, take place. 
It was not merely in superficial ways of eating and dressing, but in more fundamental fields of values and culture. Thus, the Muslims, though not conquered in India from the angle of religion, were subdued to a very large extent on social and cultural fronts. They adopted many Hindu customs and even values and gave in return their own. 
This amalgam of the two cultures gave birth to the Indian race and Indian civilization which was different from the neighboring countries like Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, China, Myanmar or Thailand. Undoubtedly, the two communities were following different religious but over the centuries they have coexisted as one people.
The Muslims, who were settled at Malabar coast as traders from the time of the advent of Islam in the early 7th century as also in Sind with the conquest of Muhammad bin Qasim in 712 A.D., had begun acclimatizing with Indian society and culture, and they were being Indianized in turn. The process of integration was somehow facilitated by the policies of the Mughal rule, whose quick and universal acceptance promoted a new culture. 
The molding of the Indian culture was probably the finest achievement of the Mughals. It made a long-lasting impact, so much so that even today it is referred to as the ‘Mughlai’ culture, which reflected itself in the language, literature, art, architecture, dress and manners. The process of integration was somehow facilitated by the policies of the kings. 
Mughals considered themselves Islamic ruler. But their ruling ethos was non-communal and led to the emergence of a cross-communal service class
The Mughal monarchs ‘regarded the ruled as a flock or herd to be tended and exploited rather than converted or persecuted.’ They became universal symbols of power and remained a stable unifying force for many centuries until the British stepped into India.
Writing about the Mughal rule Sardar Panikkar says: 
“The Mughals considered themselves Islamic rulers… But their ruling ethos was non-communal and led to the emergence of a cross-communal service class. This was a development actively encouraged. Akbar’s successors continued this tradition of drawing upon differentiated symbols of legitimacy to serve as Hindu Maharajah and Padishah-i-Islam simultaneously. Cleavages rested on class rather than religious lines; prevailing standards were aristocratic rather than communal. Among those who participated in the court culture, communalism was regarded as bad manners." 
BNPande explains it further: 
“Destiny had ordained that the Mughals would play this unifying role. So strong was this tradition among the Mughals that even Aurangzeb could play the bigot only half-heartedly, and with considerable restraint.”
Scanning the history of this period we do not find the communal fabric of Indian society in two colors. We also do not find instances of Hindu-Muslim communal riots as only they had started taking place during the British rule. The Britisher had adopted the policy of dividing the Indian people as Hindus and Muslims not only from the time they established their rule after the War of Independence of 1857 but from the earlier times when they had appointed their first Governor General in 1772. 
It is confirmed by the admission by as important a person as the British Secretary of State, Sir Charles Wood himself who, in a letter of March 3, 1862, to Viceroy Lord Elgin, instructed: ‘We have maintained our power by playing off one part against the other, and we must continue to do so…Do what you can, therefore, to prevent all having a common feeling.’ 
And, again on 10 May, Wood wrote: ‘We cannot afford in India to neglect any means of strengthening our position. Depend upon it, the natural antagonism of races is no inconsiderable element of our strength. If all India was to unite against us, how long could we maintain ourselves?” (All the above quotations come from "Nehru: The Making of India", Chapter 2, by MJ Akbar).
Alas! The wrong of the past had almost settled down but it has been made to raise its head once again, and this time by our own people disregarding the harm it would do.
*Source: JanVikalp Google group



'Enough evidence': Covid vaccines impacted women's reproductive health

By Deepika*  In 2024, the news outlets have suddenly started reporting about covid vaccine side effects in a very extensive manner. Sadly, the damage is already done.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

WHO move can 'enable' India to detain citizens, restrict freedom, control media

Counterview Desk  In an an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with copies to concerned Cabinet ministers, bureaucrats and MPs,  health rights network  People’s Alliance for Public Health (PAPH alias JanSwasthya Morcha), has urged that India should not be a signatory to the World Health Organization ( WHO) Pandemic Agreement and Amendments to the  International Health Regulations (IHR) 2005  to be adopted at the 77th World Health Assembly in Geneva from 27th May to 1st June, 2024.

'Uncertainty in Iran': Raisi brokered crucial Chabahar Port deal with India

By Pranjal Pandey*  Ebrahim Raisi, the Iranian President, and the country’s foreign minister were tragically found deceased on May 20, 2024, shortly after their helicopter crashed in foggy conditions. In response, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei swiftly appointed a relatively unknown vice president as the interim leader.

Informal, outdoor workers 'excluded': Govt of India's excessive heat policies

Counterview Desk  Top civil rights network, National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), has demanded urgent government action to protect millions of outdoor workers from extreme heat and heatwaves, insisting declaration of heatwaves as climatic disaster.

Growing stream of pollution infecting homes, bodies in US, Vietnam

By Erica Cirino*  Louisiana’s “River Parishes,” located along the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, shoulder some of the worst industry impacts in the United States. As a result, this region has acquired a grim reputation as “ Cancer Alley .” 

Desist from academic censorship, stop threatening scholars: Letter to ICMR

Counterview Desk  In a letter to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) director, the Universal Health Organisation (UHO) which consists of prominent health experts, has insisted that the Government of India’s top medical research agency should lead high quality research on vaccine safety and “desist from academic censorship”.