Thursday, November 27, 2008


by Nayyar Hashmey

Hinduism in Pakistan is viewed more in a political sense than religious, an approach that has turned both Islam and Hinduism into adversaries. The politicization of two great faiths in the subcontinent is goaded in the pages of history ever since partition of India and beyond. The Afghan King Mahmud of Ghazni in Pakistan is acclaimed more as a hero than a foreign intruder. His famous saying to Hindu priests while plundering the wealth of Somnath, when the former offered him as much money and gold as he wished but to spare the idols kept in the temple. To their appeal quipped Mahmud, “Am a destroyer and not dealer of idols”. This slogan for a long time after creation of Pakistan has been a rallying cry for the Pakistanis to develop a wave of hate against Hinduism.

While delving into this particular part of history, I came to observe that Mahmud though a Muslim was not the monarch who was determined to destroy Hinduism or spread Islam, like typical imperialist he accepted retributions from conquered peoples and then went back to Ghazni in Afghanistan. The basic aim of Mahmud like any other ruler of the ilk was to retain the largest piece from the cake, the “Gold Bird” called India (here India is synonymous with the South Asian subcontinent). Had he been a Mujahid as most of our Pakistani writers portray and believe, he should have tried to convert Hindus to the fold of Islam, which he did not – not because he was a liberal Muslim but because of his desire to amass the Indian wealth and expand his empire. Like most of the rulers who invaded the subcontinent, he either accepted reparations from Hindu rulers in the subcontinent or demanded abject obedience; in other words slavish statehood for the conquered people and the lands.

Contrary to Mahmud and quite ironically the local Muslim rulers who established themselves 
in the soil of this subcontinent like certain Afghan and Mughal rulers in the later day periods, the sad fact of history is that the Hindu’s too never accepted even those local Muslim rulers as their own (vis-à-vis the Hindu rulers) a very sad fact indeed, which created a wedge between the Hindus and the Muslims as separate and distinct identities. Then there were incidents in history like Shiva ji stabbing Afzal Khan in the back while he was invited at a dinner by the Maratha leader. Incidents like these exacerbated the gulf between Muslims and Hindus still wider.

It’s in backdrop of such incidents that relations between the Hindus and Muslims always remain tense, creating a perpetual atmosphere of rivalry between the two giants of the subcontinent, rivalry which with every passing day is getting more serious, more vitriolic thus turning the subcontinent  into a flashpoint.
No wonder then that both India and Pakistan even till this day see themselves as arch enemies. After three successive wars we have come back to square one. There still are many religious extremists on both sides of the sub continental divide, who every now and then start sabre rattling, crying for a war obliviating the very fact that both are nuclear powers.

“I lived through the whole war,” Thucydides remarks in his History of the Peloponnesian war, one of the greatest woks of history ever written, “being of an age to comprehend events and giving my attention to them in order to know the exact truth about them”.

I personally find it extremely difficult and not always possible to learn the exact truth about the enmity between the two neighbours who have fought three successive wars in our recent history. The avalanche of history books do throw further light on road to the stark truth, which otherwise would not have been possible, but its very vastness can often be confusing for in all human records and testimony there are bound to be baffling contradictions.

No doubt my own prejudices, which inevitably spring from my experience and make-up, creep thorough while I write these lines.
I detest totalitarian dictatorships in principle and come to loathe the ones we have had in our country and watched their ugly assaults upon the very noble and human spirit of Pakistan. Nevertheless in this approach I have tried to be severely objective, letting the facts speak for themselves. No incidents, scenes or quotations stem from the imagination; all are based either on documents, the testimony of eye witnesses or writers’ own personal accounts and observations.

My interpretations, I have no doubt, will be disputed by many. That is inevitable, since no man’s opinions are infallible. Those that I have ventured here in order to add clarity and depth to this narrative are merely the best I could come by from the evidence and from what knowledge and experience I have had.

Pervaiz Musharraf should probably be the last of the generals–conqueror in the tradition of Ayub, Yahya, and Ziaul Haque, or for that matter the democratically elected president and prime minister of India to start a war between two giants of the subcontinent. The curtain has however rung down on that phase of the history, at least by explosion of nuclear bombs by both, and their experimentation with the long range missiles and of satellites that hit the moon.

In our new age of terrifying, lethal gadgets, which have supplanted so swiftly the old one, the first great aggressive war, if it should come, will be launched by suicidal little madmen pressing an electronic button. Such a war will not last long and none will ever follow it. There will be no conquerors and no conquests, but only the charred bones of the dead on an uninhabited subcontinent. Should this be our fate?

Photo Credits: 1st on top: All Things Pakistan, 2nd on right and 3rd at  bottom left


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