In the wake of the recent events in Gujarat, we have to look again at what Belgian scholar Koenraad Elst, has called “negationism”, which means ” the denial of crimes against humanity”. In modern history, the massacre by the Turks of 1,5 millions Armenians, or that of the 6 million Jews by the Nazis, the several millions of Russians by Stalin, or the 1 million Tibetans by the Chinese communists, are historical facts which have all been denied by their perpetrators in a thousand ways: gross, clever, outrageous, subtle, so that in the end, the minds of people are so confused and muddled, that nobody knows anymore where the truth is.
We have seen recently how some of the Muslim intellectuals, part of the English media and many western correspondents have negated the Sabarmarti Express burning by a Muslim mob: a few of them said it happened because the kar-sevaks insulted the Muslim vendors in Godhra, or even molested a young Muslim girl; others implied that it was the RSS which engineered the burning of the train (!); others have said that the kar-sevaks had it coming to them because they were “fanatic Hindus” (were the 38 innocent women and children who died in the most horrible manner, also fanatic Hindu “fanatics”?). The same thing happened during the 1993 Bombay riots, engineered by Muslims: it was – still claim many Indian intellectuals – “because they were outraged by the destruction of the Ayodhya mosque” (but whatever the rightfulness or wrongfulness of the razing of Babri Masjid, nobody was killed there, whereas hundreds of innocent Hindus were killed by the bombs planted by Indian Muslims, with the help of Pakistan and the connivance of Saudi Arabia).
In the same way, after the Akshardam temple massacre, quite a few editorialists, such as Shekhar Gupta, in his September 28th piece in the Indian Express, or Saeed Naqvi in the same paper, implied (as did Musharraf, by the way) that the massacre of innocent Hindus would not have taken place if there had not been pogroms by the Hindus against Muslims earlier in Gujarat. One could answer to Mss. Gupta and Naqvi that if it is new for Hindus to kill Muslims, there is nothing novel about Muslims killing Hindus, although this particular aspect has been constantly negated by most historians. On, thinks of course of Indians, such as Romila Thapar, but also foreign India-specialists such as Gaboriau or Christophe Jaffrelot, who have persistently written in official books and in prestigious newspapers that Muslim invasions in India were not as bloody as “nationalist” Hindus say, that Babar was a fine poet, that India was attacked because the “cunning” Brahmins had hoarded gold and jewels in their temples, or that Aurangzeb was not the butcher made out by “fundamentalists” Hindus.
It is thus good from to time to be reminded of the truth: in India, because of the staunch resistance of the 4000 year old Hindu faith, the Muslim conquests triggered one the worst genocides ever witnessed by humanity. Entire cities were burnt down and their populations massacred. Each successive campaign brought hundreds of thousands of victims and similar numbers were deported as slaves. Every new invader made often literally his hill of Hindu skulls. Thus the conquest of Afghanistan in the year 1000, was followed by the annihilation of the entire Hindu population there; indeed, the region is still called Hindu Kush, ‘Hindu slaughter’. The Bahmani sultans in central India, made it a rule to kill 100.000 Hindus a year. In 1399, Teimur did better: he killed 100.000 Hindus IN A SINGLE DAY. Professor K.S. Lal’s, in his “Growth of Muslim population in India”, has estimated that the Hindu population decreased by 80 MILLION between the year 1000 and 1525.
Negationism means then that this whole aspect of Indian history has been totally erased, not only from history books, but also from the consciousness of Indian people. Hasn’t M.N. Roy written “that Islam has fulfilled a historic mission of equality and abolition of discrimination in India, and that for this, Islam has been welcomed in India by the lower castes”. “If at all any violence occurred, he goes on to say, it was a matter of justified class struggle by the progressive forces against the feudal Hindu upper classes..” Jawaharlal Nehru himself said of Mahmud Ghaznavi, the destroyer of thousands of Hindu temples, who according to his chronicler Utbi, sang the praise of the Mathura temple complex, sacred above all to all Hindus… and promptly proceeded to raze it to the ground: “Building interested Mahmud and he was much impressed by the city of Mathura, where there are today a thousand edifices as firm as the faith of the faithful. Mahmud was not a religious man. He was a Mahomedan, but that was just by the way. He was in the first place a soldier and a brilliant soldier”…
Whereas the Jews have constantly tried, since the Nazi genocide, to keep alive the remembrance of their six million martyrs, the Indian leadership, political and intellectual, has made a willful and conscious attempt to deny the genocide perpetrated by the Muslims. No one is crying for vengeance. Do the Jews of today want to retaliate upon contemporary Germany? NO. It is only a matter of making sure that history does not repeat its mistakes, as alas it is able to do today: witness the persecution of Hindus in Kashmir, whose 250.000 Pandits have fled their homeland, or the present genocide of Hindus in Bangladesh. No collective memory should be erased for appeasing a particular community.
But at the same time, their historical crimes should not be denied by conveniently using the Gujarat riots, the one time in recent history where Hindus did actually retaliate against Muslim for atrocities committed.
And ultimately the real question is: Can Islam ever accept Hinduism? Can the Indian Muslim minority ever agree to be governed by the Hindu majority, even though they have more rights and freedom than in most Islamic countries ? Can Pakistan ever accept India ? Listen to what Sri Aurobindo had to say sixty years ago: “You can live with a religion whose principle is toleration. But how is it possible to live peacefully with a religion whose principle is “I will not tolerate you? How are you going to have unity with these people?.The Hindu is ready to tolerate; he is open to new ideas and his culture and has got a wonderful capacity for assimilation, but always provided India’s central truth is recognized”..
We will never be able to assess the immense physical harm done to India by the Muslim invasions. Even more difficult is to estimate the moral and the spiritual damage done to Hindu India. But once again, the question is not of vengeance, or of reawakening old ghosts, but of not repeating the same mistakes. Unfortunately, the harm done by the Muslims conquest is not over. The seeds planted by the Moghols, by Babar, Mahmud, or Aurangzeb, have matured: the burning of the Sabamarti express, the continuing destruction of temples in Kashmir, Pakistan or Bangladesh (see Prafull Goradia’s remarkable book “Hindu Masjids”), or the Akshardham massacre are the proof that many of the India’s and Pakistan’s (and Bangladeshi) Muslims have forgotten that they were once peaceful Hindus, forcibly converted to a religion they hated.