Shashi Tharoor has kicked a hornet’s nest with his comments at Thimphu’s Mountain Echoes Literary festival. In remarks that reeked of political undertones, Tharoor said he believed India was colonised under the British while for Narendra Modi, India’s colonisation started with the advent of Muslim rule in the subcontinent. He explained his baffling logic by stating that while the British looted India and carried away her wealth to Britain, Muslim rulers spent their wealth within India and could therefore not be categorized as colonizers. Shashi Tharoor added that it was impossible to correct wrongs that had happened centuries ago by mistreating people who had nothing to do with the historical wrong in the first place.
In short what Shashi Tharoor is saying is that Islamic invasion of India as an act, however illegal, immoral and catastrophic it might have been for India should be treated as a settled fact and India must learn to live with it and only the more recent British colonization, which was perhaps equally illegal, immoral and catastrophic for India should be critiqued, castigated and censured. Only someone who has reached the apogee of secular evolution and has become a complete Homo Secularis will fail to see the inherent contradiction in the highly convoluted logic presented above.
Other than his fame as a possible accomplice/perpetrator in the Sunanda Tharoor murder case, Shashi Tharoor is also reasonably famous for his argument in the Oxford Union debate, where, he demolished British claims that Colonialism was beneficial to India. Tharoor’s sound reasoning, his well articulated facts, his perfect diction and the conviction of his arguments won the world over. A Youtube video of his speech went viral, even inviting praise from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Even though lately, the political outfit that Shashi Tharoor is associated with, has become allergic to nationalism, Tharoor’s speech could not be classified as anything but an expression of nationalist sentiment. He recounted the greatness of India in the centuries before the British intervention brought poverty and ruin upon the land- How the economy collapsed, how famines took over, how society’s progress was halted and so on.
For someone who so solidly presented India’s viewpoint on the calamitous period of colonialism, it is baffling that the genocidal period of India’s history, specifically its ‘tryst’ with Islamic imperialism does not evoke indignation and anger. More than any other time, the period between 12th and 18th centuries symbolised chaos, incessant warfare, material impoverishment and spiritual decline for Indian civilization. Unlike how men like Shashi Tharoor and our historians have tended to portray them, most Muslim rulers were nothing better than robber barons.
Take for instance, the case of Arabs who invaded Sindh and parts of Punjab between the 8th and 10th centuries. They would habitually loot temples, levy taxes on non-Muslims and indulge in rampant warfare. The Sun temple at Multan, for example was protected by the Arabs solely because they would use it to ward off attacking Hindus by threatening to destroy the idol that was held in great reverence by the locals. The temple also provided upto 30% of the state’s revenues, used ostensibly to wage war against the Kaffirs. When the temple had served its purpose, it was mercilessly destoryed.
Or the example of Nalanda University, which in spite of housing non-combatants was wholly and completely destroyed by Bakhtiar Khilji. The list of temples and shrines destroyed by Muslims runs into thousands. Buddhism and Jainism were effectively eliminated by Islamic invasions. Hinduism, became a pale shadow of itself, becoming stultified by rites, rituals, tabboos and became inward looking. Culturally, Indian culture retreated before the Muslim hoardes.
For the Muslim invaders, India was merely a land where one could enrich oneself.
Their loyalty and objects of reverence lay in the Middle East and not in India. Thus, when Mahmud Ghazanvi invaded India, he desecrated Somnath temple and had the loot accumulated in course of his conquests sent to his homeland in Afghanistan. Same was the case with Ghori and Abdali and Nadir Shah and countless other Islamic invaders who entered India from the North West.
Even Mughals, who are frequently held up as an example of benevolent rule were no exceptions. Rajput Kingdoms were frequently invaded and Rajput women forced to become wives and concubines of Muslim soldiers and nobles. The rite of Jauhar came into prominence solely because of the need to safeguard the honour of Rajput women. Slave trade too thrived in Mughal times, Jahangir is estimated to have sent 200000 slaves over to Iran. All Mughal emperors and Nobles maintained large harems of slave women. Even Tipu Sultan, portrayed as some kind of a nationalist icon is said to have captured thousands of Hindus and forcibly converted them to Islam. Part of the loot from all Muslim campaigns were used to make offerings to the caliph, other prominent Muslim rulers or for contributions to Mecca. Sufficient to say, that the loot collected by Islamic conquerors was most certainly not used in the betterment of their adopted land.
While there are no universally accepted estimates of native Indians killed at the hands of marauding Muslim armies, the numbers run into several millions. Countless others were transported as slaves and treated as sub-humans. Hindukush mountains (literally killer of Hindus) are believed to have been named after the masses of Hindus who died while being forced to cross them into Afghanistan and other parts of the Islamic world. To this human cost must be added the economic consequences of invasions. Innumerable temples and shrines were destroyed, looted and the contents of the loot taken outside India. And then there is the cultural aspect. Under Islamic onslaught, Indian culture was enfeebled and became inward looking. A society that had celebrated women as saints and warriors, now chose to veil them and when need be to throw them in the fire to protect their honour. The social, economic and political costs of Islamic invasions in India are too great to be even counted.
Therefore, Mr. Shashi Tharoor, while one might or might not be able to correct historical wrongs, one mustn’t try to be economical with the truth.
The truth of the matter is that India’s history as a colonized slave state began long before the British washed up on it shores. It began when the first Muslim armies laid siege to Sindh in the 8th century. The consequences of that invasion are still clearly visible.