We still take delight in kicking the dead horse of British Raj in India. We charge the British with creating a wedge between Hindus and Muslims as part of their ?divide and rule? policy; and economically impoverishing India through draining of wealth and ruin of indigenous industry. Both of these charges, I can'thelp conclude, were essentially products of Hindu mindset, which never cut ice with the Muslims, who formed one-fourth of British India.
Dadabhoy Naoroji in his Poverty and Un-British Rule in India (1901) and R.C. Dutt in his Economic History of India (1903) incisively exposed economic exploitation. But, the assumption that Hindus and Muslims were united in any sense, prior to British advent, was never entertained by any public persona prior to Gandhiji. Even the Bengali movement against Lord Curzon'spartition of Bengal (1905-1911), which had carved out India'smost populous Muslim-majority state, was outright Hindu that cared a damn for unity with the Muslims. The Muslims, throughout the British rule, or before and after that, were cocksure that nothing ever united them with the Hindus.
What the Muslims had to say about the position under British rule? Rahimtulla M. Sayani, in his presidential address at the Calcutta session of Indian National Congress in 1891 articulates it well.
?Before the advent of the British in India, the Mussalmans were the rulers of the country. The Mussalmans had, therefore, all the advantages appertaining to the ruling class. The sovereign and the chiefs were their co-religionists, and so were the great landlords and the great officials. The court language was their own. Every place of trust and responsibility or carrying influence and high emoluments was by birthright theirs. The Hindus did occupy some position, but the Hindu holders of position were but the tenants-at-will of the Mussalmans??The Hindus stood in awe of them. Enjoyment and influence and all good things of the world were theirs. By a stroke of misfortune, the Mussalmans had to abdicate their position and descend to the level of their Hindu fellow-countrymen.?
This shows how well the Muslims understood the ?language of power?. They mourned the loss of imperial power, not ?thirty pieces of silver?. Muslims viewed Hindu-Muslim unity as historic calamity. The Muslim League (estd. 1906) in its propaganda always demanded that Muslim share in legislative bodies, administration, judiciary, armed forces should reflect not their numerical strength but ?the (privileged) position they occupied in India a little more than a hundred years ago.?
How do the Hindus stand out in comparison? Hindus complain about ?loss of wealth? but not sovereignty in their own ancestral country? The Hindus lost the political power to the Muslims in the medieval ages. Hindu civilisation experienced a ?spatial shrinkage? during Muslim rule?loss of land, loss of demography, loss of temples, loss of freedom of worship and loss of freedom to sail overseas. But, perhaps, for some Hindus it was more important that their forefathers retained the wealth in Muslim times, before the British took it way.
It is an illusion. Did the Muslim invaders spare the wealth of the temples they destroyed, primarily to stamp out idolatry? Just read in history with what immense booty Ghaznavi, Timur, Nadir Shah, and Abdali returned from India. The Hindu back was bent paying Jiziya tax, which at times could touch half of the produce.
What were the Hindus doing with their putative immense wealth before British took it away? Were they putting it in stocks and shares; spending four days/three nights holiday in Thailand; sending their children abroad for higher education; buying books and building public libraries; furnishing homes with furniture; going to theatres on weekends; going to see cricket or soccer matches. Alas! There was no share market before British advent; Hindus had religiously abandoned seafaring after Islam unfurled its wings in Indian Ocean; there was no University in India until 1857 after destruction of Nalanada (1197 CE); printing press and codex books were unknown; drama had disappeared in Muslim era before resurfacing in 19th century British Bengal; cricket, about which every Indian is crazy, was a British introduction.
The plight of Hindu banking system under Muslim rule should be a sound indicant of Hindu material condition. ?Indian indigenous banking? says Brijkishore Bhargava in his book Indigenous Banking in Ancient and Medieval India (1935), ?received a deadly blow and a great set back with the advent of Mohammedans in India, as these conquerors brought with them their own holy Quran to guide the destinies of India.? ?There are hordes of evidences? Bhargava says elsewhere, ?that the houses of the rich bankers and money lenders as well as merchants were looted when it suited the fancy of the generals or when they fell short of money?. The unscrupulous amongst rebel soldiers in 1857, and Ahmed Shah Abdali'ssoldiers in 1757, compelled many families, on pain of death, to reveal their buried treasures.
Burying wealth underground, one might remember, was a common practice among the Hindus. It has apparently come down from the Muslim era. Much of the Hindu wealth appears to have found its way in subsoil strata, in the medieval era, rather than finding any constructive or utilitarian use.
The maritime trade on the Indian Ocean?from Malacca to the Gulf of Suez?the famed ?Spice Route?, was monopolised by the Muslims. Thus Muslims controlled fortunes of spice trade for seven centuries, until the Portuguese broke their back between 1498 and 1510.
This ?Hindu mindset? of valuing wealth over sovereignty is reflected in action today. The Hindus think that India'sgrowing economic prosperity, surging sensex and increasing GDP can stave off the jihadi torrent waiting in the folds. They are sure to be outdone again.
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