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Manufacturing History

By Ram Puniyani

23 November, 2003

History has become an important tool in the hands of politics and if one is to assess its influence one has just to see the effect of the mystified notions on the intercommunity relations, its role in demonizing the minorities. By now these myths have become firmly planted in social commonsense. The fertile ground of mystified history gets its reppleshinment on the regular basis from those who stand to benefit from the popularization of such notions. In his recent speech on the occasion of Guru Dakshina, Vijayadashmi (Oct. 2003) RSS supremo came up with latest thesis on
conversions to Islam. Mr. Sudarshan pointed out that but ìthe people of Valmiki samaj were originally from warrior class. Some historians maintain that the Islamic invaders used to place two options before the vanquished Hindu warriors; accept Islam or work as scavengers cleaning their toilets. While many so-called upper caste people opted for Islam, these warriors demonstrated their uncompromising commitment to their religion by opting for the mean jobs rather than giving up their religion.î Earlier Ashok Singhal
of VHP had on similar lines pointed out that all those communities who defied conversion to Islam by the Muslim armies had to flee to the Jungles, and became impoverished in the process and so became untouchables.

Thus now the origin of untouchability are firmly located with the invasion of Muslim rulers, somewhere around 8th century. And again the internal problems are externalized, coming clean as far as the caste and untochability problems are concerned. This assertion shows the confidence of those percolating such myths that now they have sowed the seeds of this
understanding, mythical one, of history so deep that any thing can be passed off as history. Untochability and caste system are much much older than the arrival of Muslim Kings, its mention being there in most of the Puranas, centuries before even the Islam was born. Untouchability became part of the caste system somewhere in first Century A.D. And caste system
cannot be separated from the Brahminical Hinduism.

Conversions to Islam and Christianity have been a source of great discomfort to the ideologues of Hindu Right for political reasons. Conversions away from the Brahminical Hinduism are as old as Jain and Buddha religions. These were the earliest religions which challenged the Brahminical system, the caste hierarchy, much before the advent of Christianity and Islam in this land. Christianity was the first amongst
these two latter religions to have come here. Its work amongst the poor and adivasis did attract many to embrace this religion, and its appeal continues even till the day, despite the missionaries being beaten up for their travails. As lot of battering is being given to those working amongst Adivasis the result is that working in the remote places is becoming difficult.
Despite its being there for centuries the number of adherents to Christianity is 2.18% as per the census of 2001. There was no particular increase in this slow growth during the British rule contrary to the popular notions that it is British who brought Christianity to India.

Islam spread in India first due to the Arab traders, due to their interaction with natives. Later it spread here due the influence of Sufi saints and those who converted to Islam were the low caste untouchables who wanted to escape the tyranny of Brahmins and Janindars, those who aspired for entry in the places of worship which was barred to the low caste, those who aspired for social equality. Swami Vivekanand sums up the cause of conversion to Islam ìIt is wrong to say that Islam spread on the point of sword. It was to escape the tyranny of the Brahmin Landlord that the
Shudras embraced Islam.î Dr. Ambedkar did suffer all these agonies before declaring that he wants to leave the Hindu (Brahminic Theology) fold.

To attribute the spread of Islam to Kings defies the whole logic of the goal and agenda of Kings. Religions generally spread due to the humanistic teachings of saints and not due to the tyranny of Kings. Most of the kings did claim that they are ruling so as to spread a particular religion but the only King who made efforts to spread his religion was King Ashoka.
Communal interpretation of History has seen religion as the sole and prime motive of the actions of the Kings. Even here we see that the spread of Islam has been more in areas where Shudras were more, away from the direct tyrannical influence of Muslim Kings, Kerala and East Bengal. Kings, no doubt, might have used the threat of conversion as a matter of
humiliation to the defeated kings. But that again is small number. The alliances of Kings in medieval times defy the religious divide propagated by communal view.

The percentage of Hindu officials and Kings in Mughal administration went on rising form the times of Babur to Aurangzeb. Many a Rajput Kings were n alliance with the Mughal rulers. Akbar had two hindu kings amongst
his nine jewels, and Raja Mansingh was his important general. Similarly the King who is regarded as the most bigoted, Aurangzed, had the services of many a hindu kings. The same applies to Hindu kings like Shivaji and Rana Pratap, i.e. they having Muslim confidants in their administration. The divide between victor and vanquished is not along the religious lines
as asserted by Mr. Sudarshan. Most of the armies of Hindu as well as Muslim kings were mixed armies.

With the coming of British the seeds of communal politics were sown and now the elite of the communities in order to pursue the game of numbers began the acts of conversions. During the first decade of twentieth century missionaries from all the religions began to flock the villages in droves,
seeking to convert Dalits and tribal. Many a shudras converted to Sikhism. Shuddhi movement started by Swami Dayanand Saraswati aimed to reconvert those who had ëleftí the fold of Hinduism. Contrary to the
popularly propagated notion that Hindus donít proselytize, the techniques of conversion to Hinduism were developed by Arya Samaj and these were called Shuddhi. The proselytizing techniques have been further developed by VHP, washing feet and giving holy bath. To denote that those who have embraced other religions have become impure and now they are being
brought back by a method of purification. Similarly Tablighi missionaries were trained to convert people to Islam These Tablighi activists preached the basics of Islam and warned the villagers of the threat of Arya Hindus. The Shuddhi and Tanzim (Tabliqui) movements were the major political conversions.

The current tirade against the Christian missionaries is motivated more by political than by the religious reasons. The Christian missionary work amongst Adivasis has been attracting the adivasis in a sustained manner. With the ascendance of Hindutva the attempt is being made to hinduise the adivasis. It serves multiple purposes. To begin with the empowerment of Adivasis which is a threat to the Hindu elite is halted by attacks on Christian missionaries. Secondly a new support base is created for the Sangh parivar a la the Shuddhi movement of the early twentieth century. Interestingly the ësafety clauseí used here is that these adivasi have strayed away from there religion, Hinduism, so the Gharvapasi is a natural response to bring them back home, to their old masters, the Hindu elite. The projection that Muslim invaders humiliated Hindu Kings serves a very powerful purpose of creating hatred for the Muslims of today as a mechanism of revenge of the past Here the loyalty to ëourí kings is also established and subtly probably a acceptance of social hierarchies prevalent in Kingdoms is also made to be accepted as ënormalí. One can surmise that conversions are due to multiple factors, internal dissatisfaction being the major one. In addition the political onesí have joined in from
early twentieth century. Here the deceit of those claiming Gharvapsi is not a conversion is remarkable, as it is as much a conversion as any other to any
other religion.

Thus through his newly developed Toilet theory of conversion Mr. Sudarhsn kills many a birds with the single stone. The internal problem of Brahminical values is passed on externally to the Muslim kings,