There was nothing secular in what Aurangzeb did. Therefore the Aurangzeb narrative must be discussed and confronted, and not evaded on the grounds of hollow secular arguments. Renaming Aurangzeb Road as APJ Abdul Kalam Road only proves this Mughal emperor cannot escape public scrutiny
While reading Gopal Krishna Gandhi’s argument against Aurangzeb being brought to life by this act of renaming Aurangzeb Road after APJ Abdul Kalam, he has fallen into the familiar bogey of the Indian brand of secularism.
What he is saying in effect is that while he completely agrees that Aurangzeb was evil, it is not advisable to discuss him in the open, as the debate would polarise the discourse. Besides, he contends that Aurangzeb’s actions or Aurangzebiyat should be disconnected from him. This is rather disingenuous.
So the murderer of his father, brothers, nephew, and sister; the oppressor of the Hindus for their faith, the man who would not honour his words upon Qur’an (Reference: Zaffarnama of Guru Gobind Singh), and who would apply Sharia law in a Hindu majority country, the man who ordered the Sufi saint Sarmad and Guru Tegh Bahadur beheaded, who destroyed the temples of Kashi, Mathura and Somnath to build mosques on the sites; should not be discussed as it brings his ghost alive much to the discomfiture of many who either want to avoid Aurangzeb’s Talibani narrative or secretly wish it to take root again.
People need to know that Guru Tegh Bahadur was executed after being found guilty of blasphemy under Islamic Law. How was he different from the Taliban or Al Qaeda, if not ISIS?
Much though I admire the erudition of Gopal Krishna Gandhi (He was in the Mussoorie Academy last year to deliver a lecture to the common group of Phase V and Foundation Course IAS and Civil Services officers), I find this timidity to tackle an extremist narrative head-on a typical weakness of liberal democratic countries.
It can be seen in Obama’s assertion when he says that what ISIS is doing is not Islam, whereas every follower of ISIS believes that they are doing exactly what is contained in the Islamic scriptures. Even Europe was living in this world of make-believe till Charlie Hebdo happened and they woke up with a rude shock.
India too has to counter the hate narrative contained within post-Quranic Islam with a counter-narrative – not only of the syncretic values epitomized by APJ Abdul Kalam and Sarmad but also to emphasize the Indian spiritual thought which considers unquestioning belief the lowest form of spiritual calling, and even that Bhakti Yoga process or path is a completely non-violent one.
This blending of Bhakti Marg and Sufism is what Dara Shikoh (some Persian lovers would prefer it as Dara Shukoh but Dara Shikoh is what India at large knows him as) was attempting when Aurangzeb’s extremist Islam won – not in the heart of Indians or the battlefield of ideas but on the battlefield of the war of succession.
For the first time, I am making public a letter written by Muhammad Akbar, the second son of Aurangzeb to Sawai Ram Singh of Jaipur. This is part of the documents and firmans kept preserved in the State Archives of Bikaner and form part of the extraordinary research of Dr. Mahendra Khadgawat, Director of that Institute. The original letter written in the style of a firman is followed by its Hindi translation. Even his own son avers in this letter that Aurangzeb is biased against Hindus and his father’s actions portray his prejudice.
It is clear as crystal to any impartial observer that the only thing common between APJ Abdul Kalam and Aurangzeb was their love for playing Veena. Even these cultural activities were banned by Aurangzeb as he became more and more radicalized and gave up the more tolerant style of his predecessors.
He decided to bring in the extreme Arabic version of Islam into a country in which Muslims were in a considerable minority. Forced conversions, the imposition of a religious tax on kaafirs (infidels or nonbelievers), destruction of holy sites, extreme forms of torture of adversaries all led to a collapse of authority and rebellions broke out everywhere.
He first tried to annex Rajput kingdoms, but that resulted in the loss of authority in North India. Then Marathas and his own son, Akbar rose up in revolt and he had to spend the last 26 years of his 49-year rule in the Deccan playing a game of roulette with the Marathas and Bahmani sultans. His foolhardy ventures ultimately paved the way for the end of Muslim rule and Sharia Law in India forever.
Even Pakistan hasn’t been able to bring the full-fledged Sharia Law of the Aurangzeb era.
So both the apologists for Aurangzeb and those unwilling to confront his ghost have to just take a gulp and adjust to the new realities. The Aurangzeb narrative must be discussed, confronted, and defeated. No use evading it on the grounds of a hollow secular argument.
There was nothing secular in what Aurangzeb did nor is there anything secular in the ideology that he sought to impose on India. Kalam, on the other hand, is the very embodiment of India’s secular ethos in the Dara Shikoh mold.
Aurangzeb, therefore, is a ghost that India has to openly exorcise. As the progenitor of Aurangzebiyat, he cannot escape scrutiny on the basis of some phony differentiation. Aurangzeb and Aurangzebiyat are one. Three-fourths has been done by renaming Aurangzeb Road as APJ Abdul Kalam Road, let the remaining one fourth be done by renaming Aurangzeb Lane as Dara Shikoh lane.