ADDRESSING a recent meeting of the Tata Lit Fest in Mumbai, noted playright Girish Karnad dismissed Nobel Laureate Vidia S Naipaul as “stone-deaf” and an “unreliable” writer who depicted India Muslims as ‘raiders and marauders’ criminalising “a whole section of the Indian population as rapists and murderers”. Karnad called Naipaul an ‘old fogey’, dismissed the Nobel Laureate as a writer of “obnoxious” non-fiction and, in general damned him as one of no-consequence. These days, it seems, one cannot say a negative word about the Ghoris and Ghaznavis, not even of Aurangzeb, let alone Tipu Sultan, lest secularists like Karnad jump at one’s throat for being anti-Muslim and a Hindu fundamentalist, unaware of Islamic contribution to India’s culture and civilisation.
Yes, Islam has certainly contributed a lot in terms of architecture, music and literature among other things and it would be a silly person who doesn’t acknowledge it, though the contribution may not be evenly spread and is largely confined to north India. But having said that, can one forget the damage done by Islamic marauders from Afghanistan and Central Asia? The attack by the barbarians – and one hopes Mr Karnad will not mind my saying so – is fully on record. Not only was the linga at the Somnath Temple smashed to pieces but the pieces were subsequently scattered in front of the local masjid in Ghazni for people to trample over. The damage wrought by these marauders has been endless. From 1000 AD onward India was a victim of what can only be called ‘terrorism’. Qutub-ud-din Aibak ransacked and looted Varanasi in 1194 destroying literally hundreds of temples, building masjids in their place. There are reports of libraries being burnt down, like the one in Nalanda and another at Vikramasheela.
In the 14th century it was Feroze Shah’s turn to destroy temples. According to Sita Ram Goel, Mohammad of Ghazni robbed and burnt down a thousand temples at Mathura and an equal number in and around Kanauj. Adil Shah of Bijapur destroyed it is said, between two to three hundred temples. And Aurangzeb, dear man, had his own record. As Anil Dharkar noted in The Times of India (November), Aurangzeb’s depredations were extensive and go far beyond the Shivnath Temple.
When you think that Ahalyabai Holkar built as many as 350 temples in and around Varanasi, you realise how far-reaching was the damage. Recommended for detailed study are the two volumes on temple destruction written by Goel. Allauddin Khilji did not lag behind. His destructiveness is mentioned in Miftah-ul-Futah.
Tearing down temples was only part of the game. What is less known is the number of Hindus killed by Muslim warriors. According to information available – and quoted by Dr Koenraad Elst, a noted scholar, “Muslim holy warriors easily killed more Hindus than the six million of the Holocaust.” What is shocking is to learn that following the take-over of Chittorgarh Fort, Akbar ordered “a general carnage”. Some 30,000 were reportedly killed. It is no pleasure to recall all these facts and one would well have preferred to let bygones be bygones, but when a man like Girish Karnad is quoted as saying somewhat off-handedly that “Oh, I do admit some temples and monuments may have been destroyed by Mughals….”, one begins to wonder what is happening to our secularists. It hurts. It is not the Mughals alone who led the killing and temple destroying. In South India Tipu Sultan was no better.
I would like to quote not an Indian author but a foreigner, one Kate Brittleback who gives credit to Tipu saying “there is no evidence to suggest that Tipu persecuted non-Muslims within his realm as a consequence of their belief ” but she does not mention a report to the effect that in Malabar, in an act of revenge, Tipu got converted as many as 40,000 people into Islam in the matter of a fortnight and renamed cities and towns with Muslim appellations and meted out punishment such as “whipping, cutting off limbs, ears and noses as well castration, forcible circumcision and hanging.” Tipu’s confidential servant Raja Khan had free access into private apartments of any of his subjects and could carry away any of the women, without them daring to make any opposition. Tipu adopted the language of the Court to be Persian. He destroyed the old Mysore Fort, began to rename towns. The name of his birthplace, Devanahalli, was changed to Yusufabad and that of Chitaldurg to Farkhyab Isar.
According to the Mysore Archaeological Survey (quoted by the author) the Hariharesvara Temple at Harihar was ‘apparently’ plundered and the Varahaswami Temple in Seringapatam was demolished. The Odakaraya Temple in Hospet was also destroyed. As the poet said, if you have tears to shed, shed them now.
It is interesting to learn that HD Kumaraswami of the JDS has promised to name the Devanahalli Road leading to Bengaluru Airport after Tipu if his party is elected to power. The point is made by Brittle back that “by judicious selection of evidence, the case can be made without too much difficulty” to dismiss Tipu either as Hindu-friendly or as a religious bigot. There are always people like Girish Karnad to give character-certificates to men like Tipu, God bless them. The argument made by our neo-secularists is that rulers like Tipu and Aurangazeb have often given financial and other gifts to temples, that to chose such people as ‘tyrants’ is not fair, considering that some Hindu rulers have also robbed temples and that if Hindu rulers could rob Hindu temples, what is wrong with Muslim rulers doing likewise?
Further it is argued that in those pre-medieval days carnage was standing practice as was robbing households to pick pretty girls for the ruler’s zenana. Brittleback also plays down the fact that some 30,000 Catholics from Mangalore were taken to Serigapatam barefoot and put in dungeons on the grounds what they were supporting the British. Several apparently died en route. Coins carried the names of Caliphs and Muslim saints. And very interestingly, Tipu’s diwan was a Hindu, Purnaiya. Only, among the high-caste Hindu women in the zanana were, in addition to two sisters of the Raja of Coorg, a niece of Purnaiya as well. Does that say anything? To set up a University in Tipu Sultan’s name is to invite trouble. If the Government is indeed anxious to have a Muslim name why not chose Sir Mirza Ismail, known as an excellent Prime Minister of Mysore?
One last word: If I have brought out the negative aspects of Tipu Sultan, it is what Shakespeare – I hope Karnad has heard of him – said: “The evil that men do lives after them. The good is oft interred with their bones”. But perhaps Karnad may not think highly of Shakespeare and is no better than Rabindranath Tagore, a man for whom Karnad has contempt.