On Ignoring History
By Madhusudan Sharma
(Based on Nobel laureate V.S. Naipaul’s views on the subject expressed at various fora)
“How do you ignore history? But the nationalist movement, Independence movement ignored it. You read the Glimpses of World History by Jawaharlal Nehru, it talks about the mythical past and then it jumps the difficult period of the invasions and conquests. So you have Chinese pilgrims coming to Bihar, Nalanda and places like that. Then somehow they don’t tell you what happens, why these places are in ruin. They never tell you why Elephanta island is in ruins or why Bhubaneswar was desecrated.”
“People in India have only known tyranny. The very idea of liberty is a new idea. Particularly pathetic is the harking back to the Mughals as a time of glory. In fact, the Mughals were tyrants, every one of them. They were foreign tyrants and they were proud of being foreign.”
“India has been a wounded civilisation because of Islamic violence. Pakistanis know this; indeed they revel in it. It is only Indian Nehruvians like Romila Thapar who pretend that Islamic rule was benevolent. We should face facts: Islamic rule in India was at least as catastrophic as the later Christian rule. The Christians created massive poverty in what was a most prosperous country; the Muslims created a terrorised civilization out of what was the most creative culture that ever existed.”
“India was wrecked and looted, not once but repeatedly by invaders with strong religious ideas, with a hatred for the religion of the people they were conquering. People read these accounts but they do not imaginatively understand the effects of conquest by an iconoclastic religion.”
“India became the great land for Muslim adventurers and the peasantry bore this on their back. They were enslaved quite literally. It just went on like this from the 11th century onwards.” (source: Economic Times; www.economictimes.com).
“The millennium began with the Muslim invasions and the grinding down of the Hindu-Buddhist culture of the north. This is such a big and bad event that people still have to find polite, destiny-defying ways of speaking about it. In art books and history books, people write of the Muslims “arriving” in India, as though the Muslims came on a tourist bus and went away again. The Muslim view of their conquest of India is a truer one. They speak of the triumph of the faith, the destruction of idols and temples, the loot, the carting away of the local people as slaves, so cheap and numerous that they were being sold for a few rupees. The architectural evidence-the absence of Hindu monuments in the north-is convincing enough. This conquest was unlike any other before. There are no Hindu records of this period. Defeated people never write their history. The victors write the history. The victors were Muslims. For people on the other side it is a period of darkness.”
On Hindu militancy and India’s secularism
“To say that India has a secular character is being historically unsound. Dangerous or not, Hindu militancy is a corrective to the history I have been talking about. It is a creative force and will be so. Islam can’t reconcile with it.”
On Hindu revivalism
“Indian intellectuals have a responsibility to the state and should start a debate on the Muslim psyche. To speak of Hindu fundamentalism, is a contradiction in terms, it does not exist. Hinduism is not this kind of religion. You know, there are no laws in Hinduism. And there are many forces in Hinduism… My interest in these popular movements is due to the pride they restore to their adherents in a country ravaged by five or six centuries of brutal rule by Muslim invaders. These populations, in particular the peasantry, have been so crushed that any movement provides a certain sense of pride. The leftists who claim that these wretched folk are fascists are wrong. It’s absurd. I think that they are only reclaiming a little of their own identity. We can’t discuss it using a Western vocabulary.”
On demolition of Babri structure
“Not as badly as the others did, I am afraid. The people who say that there was no temple are missing the point. Babar, you must understand, had contempt for the country he had conquered. And his building of that mosque was an act of contempt. In Ayodhya, the construction of a mosque on a spot regarded as sacred by the conquered population was meant as an insult to an ancient idea, the idea of Ram, which was two or three thousand years old.” (The Times of India, July 18, 1993).
On the Taj Mahal
“The Taj is so wasteful, so decadent and in the end so cruel that it is painful to be there for very long.” (Outlook, 15 November 1999).
“You see, I am less interested in the Taj Mahal which is a vulgar, crude building, a display of power built on blood and bones. Everything exaggerated, everything overdone, which suggests a complete slave population. I would like to find out what was there before the Taj Mahal.” (economictimes.indiatimes.com, 13 January 03)
On formation of Pakistan
Naipaul considers Pakistan’s founding “extremely fortunate” for India as the “religious question would otherwise have paralyzed andconsumed the state”.
Naipaul calls Pakistan a “criminal” enterprise. “Here is a Muslim country which after its creation in 1947 promptly became a state ofmanpower exports. Lots of people came to Britain. The idea of a state for the Muslims began to undo itself very quickly.”
Naipaul’s advice to every Indian
Naipaul has advised every Indian to make a “pilgrimage” to Vijaynagar “just to see what the (Muslim) invasion of India led to. They will see a totally destroyed town.”
This article originally appeared in http://www.hvk.org/articles/0805/145.html
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