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Can't we save our civilization ?

Reader comment on item: [Pakistani Christians and] A War Against What?

Submitted by Aniruddha Nath (India), Mar 22, 2004 at 01:57

Paleolithic man roamed the land once called the Indian subcontinent in the prehistoric days. These are the people who developed the agricultural settlement along the rich alluvial banks of the great Indus river and its tributaries. These are the people who created the first great civilization. The remains of which were found in the Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, which demonstrated the expertly constructed cities extending for a thousand miles along the Indus Valley. All these great achievements drew the attention of the Aryan tribes (noble ones) and led the invasion of this great land in around 1500 B.C. This opened the flood-gate of Indo-European migration that left a common cultural heritage from Greece through Iran into India.1 The religious practices of these Aryans is believed to be included in the hymns of the Rig Veda. Aryans worshiped deities, personifying natural phenomena - the sky and earth, rain, storm, sun, fire, etc. The Aryan invaders battled their way down from the northwest through Ganges Valley; they conquered and enslaved local people, most of who were darker and smaller than their Aryan foes. These slaves were called "dasa." Just around this period came the caste (varna) system, based on division of labor or occupation. Today's Hindus are followers of the Aryan culture and heritage.

Hindus dominated Indian subcontinent until 1192, when Rajput hegemony in the north India, around Delhi, came to an end due to an invasion by the Muslim army under the Turkish ruler Muhammad Ghuri. For the next five centuries the political history shifted from Hindu hegemony to the Muslim control over the Indian subcontinent. However, in spite of tremendous persecution and oppression suffered by Hindus during numerous invasions by Muslims, Hindu civilization remained dominant in most areas of India even at the height of Muslim power. The upper class Hindus learned Persian and adopted Persian manners and dress were employed in the Muslim courts and armies while many lower caste Hindus became Muslim. As a result, no more than a fifth of the population embraced Islam. The fundamental religious dilemma posed by Muslim rulers was the fact that the vast majority of Hindus could not be brought into Islamic fold even after imposition of jizya, destruction of temples and deities, forcible conversion, and tremendous atrocities on Hindus. As a result, the control of an empire was more difficult than to acquire one. By giving virtual religious equality to Hinduism, Akbar obtained more a positive support for his dynasty. He abolished jizya and granted permission to build temples. Of course Akbar's action angered ulemas, who increasingly demanded spread of Islam and destruction of idolatry. Successive empires after Akbar retreated from his pluralism. Aurangzeb (1658 -1707) replaced Hindu officials with Muslims, discouraged Hindu religious practices, destroyed Hindu temples in Benares and Mathura. All these actions by Aurangzeb created resistance and hatred towards his empire. The Marathas made their influence felt in every parts of India by carrying out guerrilla warfare against Aurangzed for twenty years. Their leader, Shivaji, claimed a special role as a defender of Hinduism.

The ultimate demise of the Mughal empire came to an end after the overthrow of Nawab Siraj-ud-daulah by the English in the battle of Plassey in 1757. The English rulers had only business interest in mind and in exchange they brought European technological advances in India. They established the legal judiciary system, brought technological advances in communication, particularly telegraph and railway, and integrated government and society, so unique to previous history of India.

British left India in 1757. During 200 years of British rule in India, they came to realize that Islamic expansionism will not allow Muslims to live together with Hindus in an undivided India and, therefore, encouraged breakup of India into 2 pieces. Were they wrong in their initial assumption? Has the Islamic expansionism diminished today? The answer is no. We tend to blame British for all misgivings that are happening in the Indian subcontinent. Have we ever questioned ourselves if there were any other alternatives. I think, there was. India was divided to provide a country for Muslims. How come population exchange was never a part of the deal? I blame liberal Hindu leaders at the time, who never bothered to think about Hindus left behind in the so called Muslim land?

Don't those forgotten Hindus need a country too? Look at whatever happened to the forgotten minority Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh. They are in the endangered species list in Pakistan and, in Bangladesh, well, they are about to be extinct. In Bangladesh, 42% of the total population was Hindus in 1947, which now stands at less than 10%. Many places Hindus are subjected to pay undocumented jizya, as was the custom during the empire of Aurangzeb. Gang-rapes of Hindu girls are routine, as happened recently in the village of Charfashion in the district of Barisal, where 200 Hindu women were gang-raped in one night. Hindu properties get confiscated through an infamous law, called enemy property act, after they are forced to leave the country. The list goes on ...

Hindu religion is partially to blame for whatever happened to the forgotten minority Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh? This religion was developed over ages. No one introduced it with his/her view. No one propagated it. There is no expansionism or intent of religious hegemony in it. It is for all humanity. Hinduism, undoubtedly, enjoys enormous freedom. With each freedom comes a price. Unlike all other religions, there is no central force to bind Hindus together spiritually or socially. As a result, Hindus do not have the sense of unity. Can Hindus survive? Answer is "yes or no." Yes, if Hindus are the majority, as in India, and no, if they are minority, as in Bangladesh. Can we afford to lose minority Hindus in Bangladesh?

The time has come to rethink our views towards the oldest religion on earth. Where do we start? In our fight to save Hindus and Hinduism, we have to start our battle with ourselves. Many of us tend to align with the universal identity, which is permitted by the Hindu religion itself. The problem is that, once they attain that height, they lose their own identity as Hindu and turn into atheists. They do not see the vacuum they are creating and do not foresee the threat that is coming on to them. This could not have happened to people believing in other religious faiths. Decades of communism could not flush out Islam from several southern states of the former Soviet Union, who kept their faith alive in spite of being minority in an atheistic society. The same inferences can be drawn from Muslims in West Bengal, who are keeping their religious identities intact while Hindus are abandoning theirs. What is true though is that Muslim as minority in India will thrive, but Hindus as minority in a Muslim country, such as Bangladesh or Pakistan, have no chance of survival. Then, how could we save them?

Probably, we can save Hindus in Bangladesh or Pakistan by forging unity among Hindus and showing our solidarity with them in the event of unjust persecution on Hindus. If we react to their pain and try to induce pressure on Islamic expansionism in those countries, may be, they will yield. I know this works for Muslims as well as Jews all over the world. Can we at least try?
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