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Truth about whether Hindus were forced to convert to Islam during Mughal rule

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Truth about whether Hindus were forced to convert to Islam during Mughal rule

[Book extract] Political relations should be examined in terms of the politics of the time.

Rajput royal families intermarried with Mughal nobility. Apart from personal relationships this also meant that palace rituals reflected more than one tradition. Rajputs or other high caste Hindus, such as learned Brahmanas and Kayasthas, frequently manned the more responsible levels of Mughal administration.

The Mughal army that defeated Rana Pratap at the Battle of Haldighati was commanded by Rajputs, a command that was given to them on more than one occasion. Conversion to Islam was on a lesser scale than is claimed in the exaggerated accounts of court chronicles since the percentage of the Muslim population remained a minority even in pre-Partition India. This may well have been because Hindus were not invariably forced to convert.

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This is not to say that there was no confrontation at the political level but this should not be confused with claiming that there was massive victimisation of the Hindus bringing about Hindu resistance in the late Mughal period. Political relations should be examined in terms of the politics of the time. Conflicts of a routine kind were clearly local and more casual than has been assumed.

Relations between communities in general tend to be governed by some degree of accommodation and some degree of confrontation. It makes greater sense to try and analyse the reasons for either. It is as well to remember that confrontations in India relating to religion go back to a period when Islam did not even exist as a religion.

We may insist today that Buddhism and Jainism have always been a part of what we now call Hinduism, and therefore there was no conflict between them and Hinduism. But their teachings were distinctively different as were the social institutions that they instituted, as for example the monastic orders of the Buddhists and Jainas in particular. There are references to hostility between what were in the past called the dharma of the Brahmanas and that of the Shramanas.

The much-respected grammarian Patanjali, writing in the second century BC, compares the relationship of the two dharmas to that of the snake and the mongoose. But to return to our times. Nationalism can determine the selection of what we project as national culture. This helps in the preservation of what otherwise might have declined, or it highlights ideas and objects that might have been neglected.

But there is also the problem of the destruction of culture in the name of nationalism or a similar sentiment. This is generally a systematic, deliberate, destruction of a prominent aspect of culture, in order to make a statement and attract attention. It is essentially a political act and may actually have little to do with sentiment.

Courtesy: ROMILA THAPAR

 

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