Communal Misrepresentation of History Harms National Unity


Several eminent scholars have warned time and again that false misrepresentation of history in communal terms can be very harmful for national unity, and it is very sad that despite such warnings such damaging trends have intensified further in some contexts.

Due to such repeated misrepresentation most of the battles fought during the years of the Mughal rule have become embedded in public mind as battles between Hindus and Muslims and people are surprised when told that Shivaji’s army had a significant number of Muslim soldiers fighting very bravely on his behalf and that all through Aurangzeb’s rule   several Hindu nobles continued to occupy an important place in the Mughal court and army. The names of many of these Hindu nobles in Aurangzeb’s court are available in historical documents.

Earlier at Haldighati Hakim Sur and his Afghan soldiers had fought valiantly on the side of Rana Pratap. On the Mughal side there were a large number of Rajput soldiers led by Raja Man Singh. Still earlier at the battle of Khanwa, Mahmood Lodi  and Hasan Khan Mewati had fought on the side of Rana Sanga against the army of Babar.

From these examples it should be clearly known that the famous battles of the days of the Mughal rule were not battles between the Hindus and the Muslims- instead the armies which fought each other were of a mixed composition. In fact there are even instances when some Muslim extremists had ganged up against Mughal rulers, and then the Mughal rulers had sent an army under the leadership of Hindu Rajas to quell such rebellions.

Describing this rebellion Prof. Satish Chandra writes, “The rebellion kept the empire distracted for almost two years (1580-81) and Akbar was faced with a very difficult and delicate situation. Due to the mishandling of the situation by local officials, Bengal and almost the whole of Bihar passed into the hands of the rebels who proclaimed Mirza Hakim as their ruler. They even got a religious divine to issue a Fatwa, calling on the faithful  to take the field against Akbar. Akbar did not lose his nerve. He despatched a force under Todar Mal against Bengal and Bihar and another under Raja Man Singh to check the expected attack by Mirza Hakim.”

When the Hindu king of Bikaner was defeated by the King of Marwar, his family sought refuge in the court of Shershah Suri. When Humayun was defeated by Shershah Suri, he sought refuge with the (Hindu) King of Amarkot. Akbar was born here. Later in Ayodhya, Nawal Rai died fighting for Nawab Safdarjung.

Why do communal elements ignore such facts and also the facts regarding the liberal grants given by Muslim kings for the maintenance of Hindu temples, and the respect shown by Hindu kings like Shivaji to mosques and Muslim saints? They ignore also the reconciliation and friendships reached after some battles, for example the reconciliation reached by Jehangir with the son of Rana Pratap. How could proud Rajputs and Marathas, widely recognized as big defenders of their religion, have continued to stay and serve in the courts of Mughal kings if the Mughal kings had been consistently against Hindu religion, as alleged by communal elements? The very fact of so much cooperation between Hindu and Muslim kings and nobles testifies to co-existence in religious matters while alignments were made on the basis of political considerations rather than religious.

It is clear from the above examples that the history of Mughal India is not a history of fights between the Hindus and Muslims. Kings fought each other time and again, but generally there were mixed armies on both sides. Further heroes and villains did not exist in any one religion. On some occasions, the persons who showed great valour and large heartedness happened to be Hindus, on some other occasions they happened to be Muslims. In fact the biggest heroes of this age were those who rose above all sectarian considerations to spread the message of universal love and brotherhood – men like Sant Kabir and Guru Nanak. History is not just about kings and nobles, it is much more about common people. Among the common people it is the Bhakti and Sufi movements which made the biggest impact with their message of rising above sectarian and narrow divides.

A great saint like Kabir could very openly and courageously challenge those who divide people without understanding the essence of spirituality, and yet attract followers from all faiths in very large numbers. This shows that people were very responsive to such universal messages based on ethical values overcoming narrow divisions. The fact that people of different faiths came out with unity at the time of the 1857 uprising—with Hindu soldiers proclaiming loyalty to Mughal ruler Bahadur Shah Zafar and a nawab rushing to help the famous Jhansi ki rani—is also indicative of the unifying trends in Indian society being more important than any divisive trends.

Bharat Dogra has contributed recent books like When the Two Streams Met (on the freedom movement) and Man over Machine (on Gandhian ideas for present times).

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