The Lessons We Have to Learn
Dr. Misra’s monograph is pertinent not only to a past period of Indian history but also to our situation at present. The lessons which this learned study draws for us can be ignored by us only at our own peril.
Firstly, it highlights Hindu heroism in the face of an inveterate Islamic imperialism. Such heroism has seldom been seen in the annals of any other people. Read with the record of similar heroism in a later period and in a continued struggle with the same foe, the story can help us correct the current notion that Hindus have always been, and continue to be, a race of lily-livered cowards who have invariably run away from every contest. The notion has become prevalent not only among the non-Hindus but also among the Hindus themselves due to a wrong teaching of Indian history over a long period of time. Hindus have to revive and re-affirm their old tradition of heroism. They have to make it known to all concerned that they are not going to tolerate those forces and factions which question the independence and integrity of their country, nor remain passive towards those elements which are trying to temper with the Hindu character of their homeland in the name of Secularism, or composite culture, or minority rights, or some other subversive slogan.
Secondly, it presents an authentic portrait of Islam as a political ideology of aggressive and tenacious imperialism which will not stop at any means or methods in order to achieve its ultimate aim - the conquest of all non-Muslim lands and the conversion of all infidels (non-Muslims). Islam has legitimised in the name of its godling, Allah, and from the mouth of its prophet, Muhammad, not only a permanent war against the unbelievers but also the plunder, slaughter, and enslavement of all those who get defeated in war, or allow themselves to be subverted otherwise. Hindus have been misled, mostly by their own intellectuals and political leaders, into believing that Islam is also a religion as good as or, in some respects, even better than their own Sanatana Dharma. They have to realize and correct this mistake before it is too late. So long as Hindus entertain the false belief that Islam is a religion and that Muslims are a religio-cultural minority, the so-called communal problem will never be solved.
Islamic Imperialism Has Revived
We are witnessing today a revival of Islam with all its imperialist ambitions and in all its fundamentalist ferocity. Flushed with its oil-wealth, Islam has re-acquired its self-righteousness of olden days, and has re-affirmed its mission of world-conquest through terror and subversion. India in particular has been chosen as a priority target. There is no dearth of voices from all over the Islamic world calling for ‘finishing the unfinished work of Islam in India.
Most other countries can take care of themselves in the face of a militant Islam. No other country in the world is so vulnerable to this threat as we are at present and are likely to remain in future unless we mend our fences. We have as our immediate neighbour a highly militarised Islamic state waiting for an opportunity to pounce upon us as soon as she achieves a strategic superiority in armaments, and a favourable international situation. Today we have a friend in the Soviet Union which keeps Pakistan in check. But tomorrow the two of them may strike a deal which will free Pakistan to turn towards the east. The United States has been arming Pakistan in the fond belief that Islam is a barrier against Communism and that Pakistan will stay as her bastion in South Asia. This is the same sort of delusion which had led the U.S. to put quite a few of her eggs in Iran’s basket.1
All told, the situation for us is similar to that which we had faced from the middle of the seventh to the end of the twelfth century when, flushed with the plunder from many lands and the mass conversion of many an ancient people, Islam had come to believe that a total conquest and conversion of India was its divinely ordained destiny. Let us not harbour the illusion that the Arab countries, whose causes we support more fervently than they do themselves, will stand by us in any conflict with Pakistan. The three wars which have already been forced upon us by Pakistan provide ample proof to the contrary.
Hindus Are More Confused Than Ever Before
It is in this context that Dr. Misra’s searching analysis of the causes of our defeat at the end of the 12th century acquires an immense importance. The struggle between Islamic imperialism and Indian resistance, military as well as socio-cultural, was grim and long-drawn-out, lasting as it did over 570 years. The new contest is not likely to last that long due to the changed character of warfare. It is true that we battled against Islamic imperialism for another 550 years and defeated it in the final round in the middle of the 18th century. But it is also true that the losses we suffered in terms of territory (Afghanistan, Seistan, Makran), population, social disintegration and spiritual corruption were simply staggering. By the middle of the 20th century Islam succeeded in consolidating the gains it had made during more than a thousand years’ aggression against India. On the other hand, we have come out of the latest contest more confused than ever before, so much so that while a highly humanitarian national culture gets condemned as a narrow and militant communalism, an ideology of totalitarian terror gets registered as a religion, a closed and theocratic creed struts about as secularism, and a fanatic fraternity addicted to frequent rounds of violence passes for a ‘poor and persecuted minority. The situation is far from reassuring.
Adding Insult to Injury
Before Dr. Misra presents his own in-depth analysis of the causes of our defeats during the period he has surveyed, he takes a close look at the theories concocted by British historians like Elphinstone and ‘modern Muslim historians like M. Nazim, M. Habib and K.A. Nizami. He takes considerable pains in examining these theories. His conclusion is that they have assumed ‘facts which are nowhere in evidence. This is not the place to present those theories or Dr. Misra’s refutation of them. Here we are concerned with what actually happened in history and not with British and Muslim attempts at adding insults to injury. We shall, therefore, cite only one theory, that of M. Habib, to show how ridiculous even a Marxist Muslim can become when it comes to camouflaging Islamic imperialism and maligning Hindu society and culture. Dr. Misra quotes the verdict of Habib in the latter’s own words: ‘Face to face with the social and economic provisions of the Shariat and the Hindu Smiritis as political alternatives, the Indian city-worker preferred the Shariat. Commenting on the Ghurian conquest, Habib concludes: ‘This was not a conquest properly so-called. This was a turn-over of public opinion - a sudden turn-over, no doubt, but still one that was long overdue. P. Saran, another historian quoted by Dr. Misra, has rightly quipped: ‘Allah manages to survive within the framework of this new Marxism.2 The fact that Habib has been hailed as the doyen of secular historians speaks volumes about the character of Secularism in this country.
Coming to serious and scholarly explanations of Hindu defeats, Dr. Misra deals, first of all, with ‘the defects of the political system of the Hindu states and observes that disunity among the Hindu states was not a very material cause of these defeats. ‘No doubt the Hindu states were for ever engaged in internecine conflicts among themselves but such quarrels were a common feature of the Middle Ages everywhere and more so in Central Asia. If such almost intermittent struggle among the Muslims of Central Asia did not prevent them from expanding their rule over other lands, it is useless to blame Indian rulers’ internecine struggle for their ultimate collapse.3 It may be added that in spite of their disunity, not a single Indian state ever sided with the invader, nor failed to put up a resolute resistance in its own turn.
Also, Dr. Misra does not agree with the thesis that Indians at that time lacked ‘national consciousness, love of country and pride of freedom. He writes: ‘That Indians were fully alive to the dangers of foreign invasion and their love of the country was equally matched by desire to fight for it, is a reality that can be substantiated. Each wave of Muslim invasion created a profound stir among the Indian states and they often pooled their resources to meet the aggressor.4 He cites evidence of at least four confederacies formed by Hindu states during this period. The evidence is not a Hindu concoction but has been culled from the accounts of medieval Muslim historians.
Real Causes of Hindu Defeats
Finally, Dr. Misra lays his probing finger on the real factors which contributed to Hindu defeats during this period. The very first factor, according to him, was the lack of a forward policy vis-a-vis the Muslim invaders. In his own words, ‘What the Rajputs really lacked was a spirit of aggression so conspicuous among the Muslims, and a will to force the war in the enemy’s dominions and thus destroy the base of his power.5
Secondly, a forward policy could not be pursued in the absence of a ‘strong central government for even the whole of northern India which could think and act for the whole country. As a result, ‘The Rajput rulers found it difficult to look beyond the territorial limits of their own kingdoms and their regional interests pushed the national issues into the background.6 Compared to a strong central authority, the various confederacies organised by the Rajputs proved to be patch-works which came apart either under the impact of military defeat, or as soon as the immediate purpose of stopping the enemy had been served.
Thirdly, the military organisation of the Rajputs was inferior as compared to that of the Muslims. The Rajputs depended mainly on feudal levies assembled on the spur of the moment. ‘These feudal levies with no unity of training and organisation, coming together at the last moment, fighting under the leadership of and for their individual leaders, could not be expected to beat back an enemy united in purpose and organisation and acting as on coordinate unit. A medieval Muslim historian quoted by Dr. Misra said so in so many words: ‘A commander with a heterogeneous army consisting of soldiers - a hundred from here and a hundred from there - cannot achieve anything. An army with so varied and so many component elements has never been able to achieve anything great.7
Fourthly, ‘The cavalry and mounted archers of the invading armies gave them a decisive superiority over the home forces. The Indian rulers too maintained cavalry units. But the Arabic and Turkoman horses were much better adapted to warfare. The second strong point of the Turkish military machine was its mounted archery. Their deadly arrows easily covered a range of eighty to hundred paces. Reference to archery among the Indian armies after the age of the epics is conspicuous by its absence.8
Lastly, ‘the strategy and tactics employed by the invaders on the battlefield proved decisive in their favour. Indians failed to keep pace with the developments of military strategy taking place in Central Asia before the advent of Islam. The Arabs and Turks perfected them. Besides, the traditional Rajput chivalry looked upon the battle as a ritual or a tournament for displaying their fighting skill and swordsmanship under well-recognised rules of sport. Did not Manu, the ancient law-giver proclaim ‘A battle was ideally a gigantic tournament with many rules: a warrior fighting from a chariot might not strike one on foot; an enemy in flight, wounded or asking a quarter, might not be slain; the lives of enemy soldiers who had lost their weapons were to be respected; poisoned weapons were not to be used; homage and not annexation was the rightful fruit of victory.’ The Arabs and the Turks, on the other hand, knew no rules and waged a grim and ruthless struggle to destroy their enemies. Feints and sudden attacks, manoeuvering under the cover of darkness and pretending defeat and flights, keeping a large reserve to be used only at critical moments - all these took the Indians by surprise and crippled their fighting capacity. The Indians never tried to take advantage of their enemy’s weakness and perhaps considered it unchivalrous to do so. Such magnanimity on the part of Indian kings was a sure invitation to disaster against a ruthless foe who recognised no moral or ideological scruples in the pursuit of victory.9
Sappers and Miners of Islamic Imperialism
Muslims had two more advantages in addition to their aggressiveness and superiority in the art of warfare. ‘During this long period of Indian resistance, observes Dr. Misra, ‘the infiltration of Arabs, and later on the Turks, continued almost unabated into India, both through armed invasions as well as through peaceful migration from Central Asia. The Hindus, true to their catholicity of religious outlook and rich tradition of tolerance, never obstructed the peaceful immigrants and even zealously granted them security and full religious freedom. The greatest Chishti saint of India, Shaikh Muinuddin Chishti, came to Ajmer just before the battles of Tarain and was able to attract a number of devoted followers. It is all the more remarkable that this Hindu tolerance towards the Muslim merchants and mystics should have continued even after the invasions of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni. As Professor Habib points out, ‘the far-flung campaigns of Sultan Mahmud would have been impossible without an accurate knowledge of trade routes and local resources, which was probably obtained from Muslim merchants.’ The same can be said to hold good about the invasions of Muhammad Ghori or Qutbuddin Aibak.10 The sufis were working not only as the spies of Islamic imperialism but also as deceivers of gullible Hindu masses.
A Brotherhood of Bandits
Secondly, ‘rich plunder acted as a good supplement to the religious zeal of the Muslims. The Muslim practice of dividing the spoils of war between the leader and the soldiers might have encouraged the soldiers to follow their leaders through thick and thin. The Hindu soldiery had no such incentive. Hindu religion and culture forbade such beastly motives for ‘bravery. But this was the very basis on which Muslim brotherhood had been organised from the very beginning. In its behaviour towards non-Muslim societies, it has always been a brotherhood of bandits.
These are the lessons we have to learn from the history of the period surveyed by Dr. Misra if we want to deal effectively with the new wave of Islamic aggression which is now trying to engulf us from within and without. Islam is still far from being cured of its self-righteousness. Its inborn imperialist instinct is impelling it towards a truncated India which it feels and finds to be an easy target. Let us not be taken in by the howls of contrived grievances which the spokesmen of Islam in India have started hawking in increasingly hysterical voices. In the history of Islam this has always been a prelude to predatory action. Hajjaj had hawked some grievances against Raja Dahir on the eve of equipping an armed force more formidable than any that had ever been sent against Sindh. The Pirpur Report of the Muslim League was only a preparation for the demand for Pakistan.
This was written before the collapse of the Soviet Union. Now that the collapse has taken place, we witness Pakistan’s proxy war in Kashmir. The USA has remained friendly to Pakistan out of some other considerations. ↩
Ram Gopal Misra, op. cit., p. 103. ↩
Ibid., p. 121. ↩
Ibid., p. 123. ↩
Ibid., p. 124. ↩
Ibid., p. 125. ↩
Ibid., p. 126-27. ↩
Ibid., p. 101-02. ↩