Sultani-e-Jumhoor ka aata he zamana

Jo Naqash-e-kuhan tum ku nazer aye mita do

Sindhies come out in thousands to demand freedom! The oppressed nationalities of Pakistan are now demanding their rights. The ruling elite and its allied middle classes are devoting all their energies to destroy PPP, but their acts are bringing the moment of liberation nearer—-

With thanks : Daily Times

Hundreds of Sindhis march into city from Sukkur…

Staff Report

KARACHI: Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (JSQM) chairman Bashir Khan Qureshi has appealed to the United Nations Organization support the “freedom of Sindh”, saying that it was necessary to eliminate religious extremism and terrorism from the subcontinent.

He said this while addressing a mammoth gathering outside the Karachi Press Club that was organized at the end of its “Paigham-e-Sindh March” (Message of the Sindh March). Party workers and supporters started the march in Sukkur on March 18 and entered Karachi on Wednesday evening.

The nationalist leader said that Western countries posed as moderate and liberal forces but the fact was that Sindh had been a symbol of religious harmony for a long time and had never been extremist.

He said that the mosques and temples in the province had stood wall to wall and if anyone doubted this they just needed to look at the examples in Sukkur, Rohri and other areas of the province.

He said that the West was engaged in a war against religious extremism but when the founder of the Jeay Sindh movement had talked about religious harmony some 40 years ago he was called an infidel at the time. Qureshi said that the “Paigham-e-Sindh March” could be the foundation stone of a freedom movement in Sindh.

He warned that such a march could be launched for Islamabad and the UNO also. Giving an ultimatum to the rulers, he said that the party would announce a movement against them on April 25 if the government did not release the political workers of Sindh and Balochistan, including Dr Safdar Sarki and Asif Baladi.

JSQM leaders Dr Niaz Kalani, Sajan Sindhi, Sagar Hanif Burdi, Aziz Phul, Ilahi Bux Bikak and others also spoke. Dr Kalani warned the electronic media, especially the Urdu media, to avoid ignoring pro-Sindh activities.

The Story Covered by BBC Urdu can be reached here

The Story covered by Indus Asia Online Journal

 

 

Balochistan remains in the grip of a violent agitation even on the fourth day of the tragic incident which involved murder of 3 Baloch nationalist leaders and the mutilation of their bodies allegedly by Pakistani secret agencies.090412101204_quetta_protest283

The agitation which started spontaneously after the news spread of these murders is now looking very robust and organized. Political commentators have noted that the agitation which occured on the death of Mir Akbar Bugti and Mir Ballaj Marri was more spontaneous and less organized. On the other hand, the agitation going on now appears to be very organized , the full political support is being given by the Nationalist parties which are  some of the most secular, organized and grass root political organizations of Pakistan.

The result of this kind of political organization was that a complete general strike was observed in Balochistan even on the 4rth day. [It is contrasted  by the fact lawyers movement and PML-N failed to get a single general strike even in Punjab on a political agitation which was backed by the "whole" nation as it was claimed]

What is more astonishing and encouraging that “wheel” was jammed in Balochistan as planned. A call for wheel Jam strike has become a cliche in Pakistan. Since 1968 revolution , actual wheel jam has not been achieved especially the one obtained through the conscious and organized political effort. I am not including in this the spontaneous “wheel Jam” which took place after murder of Benazir Bhutto. It was an expression of spontaneous might of Pakistani class which bowed the Pakistani state on its knees. Peoples Party’s refusal to give direction or to own the agitation resulted in failure of the movement which had the revolutionary potential.

090412101206_balochistan_protest226A call for Wheel Jam strike was given by Balochistan National Party [M] and Baloch National Front. According to BBC the wheel jam strike was a success.  Surprising development which took place that Pashtun base Islamic fundamentalist Party  of Molana Fazul-ur-Rehman supported the call of wheel jam strike. This party is considered traditional ally of establishment in Balochistan. What was disturbing that Pashtun Nationalist Party PKMAP of Mehmood Khan Achackzai which were part of NAP and traditional allies of Baloch nationalists were no where to be seen.

Pakistani establishment has classically played Pashtuns of Balochistan against the Baloch in the classical tactic of “divide and rule”. With Mr Achackzai’s closer relationship being developing with establishment due to his affiliation with Right Wing in APDM has resulted in his greater distances from Baloch resistance.

According to Dawn more than 16 people have died so far in violent riots , BBC is confirming 12 deaths so far.

We want to assert that ethnic violence will be counter productive for Baloch cause. What needs to be done is to immediately form a political alliance with Pashutns of Balochistan and spread the political agitation through out the province

It must be understood that Bloch’s rights could only be won if agitation spreads to Sindh and Balochistan. This will not occur on ethnic or nationalist bases. “class” solidarity is needed. Baloch organizations should try to unite with working classes of Punjab and Sindh, only than state will come under threat. with Peoples Party in government , its difficult but not impossible but Baloch leadership needs to spread this agitation or it will die out. State will give it an ethnic touch and than kill it. What will follow? A bloody reaction

Whats missing? a figure like “Molana Bhashani or Zulfikar Ali Bhutto”. Bhasani was able to link Bengali nationalist question with class consciousness of West Pakistan. His slogan “Jalo Jalo Aagan Jalo”. “Burn Fire” brought the state to its knees in 68.  The fire must be spread only than Light will prevail over darkness——-

This is according to BBC Urdu’s New York’s correspondent Mr Hassan Mujtaba , that the spokesman of United Nation’s secretary general in his press briefing expressed “great concern” on the recent killing of the 3 Baloch leaders. United Nations demanded from the government of Pakistan that an impartial inquiry be conducted into these murders.  It should be noted that Chief minister of Balochistan Mir Aslam Khan Raisani has already ordered a judicial investigation.

090410073444_baloch_protest_283Today the 3 day mourning period started in Balochistan. A complete general strike was observed in the provinces. All the educational institutions were closed and traffic on the roads was minimal.

What is happening in Balochistan the Pakistani corporate media is maintaining its usual silence. Largest Urdu news paper Daily Jang censored the press conference by Mir Hasil Bazinjo an act of complete professional dishonesty. It was ironic to read the statement of Pakistan Army’s spokesman denying the charges but “charges” being denied were no where to be seen. Once again Pakistanis are forced to listen to BBC like old times to get news.

Please watch this chilling video from BBC Urdu on the events in Balochistan. The video contains the clips from Mir Hasil Bezinjo’s press conference demanding registering the FIR against chiefs of Pakistani agencies. You can also watch the scenes from Karachi where slogans of Azadi are being chanted [This is not Indian occupied Kashmir, its Balochis demanding freedom in front of Karachi Press Club]

http://www.bbc.co.uk/urdu/multimedia/2009/04/090409_baloch_protest.shtml

Use the link to watch the Video. Please copy paste the link in your browser and watch the video.  Most of the “news” about Balochistan was censored by Pakistani free media.   Many educated middle class Pakistanis must be wondering [it can be yet another of my wishful thinking they still retain this ability] that what has happened since our great leader  Nawaz Sharif, our great intellectuals, and ofcourse our great Leftists Aitzaz Ahsan and Ali Ahmad Kurd etc proclaimed “revolution”. The claim of Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan was that after the restoration “state” of our beloved “Islamic Republic of Pakistan” will assume the character of a loving mother. [Riyasat ho gi maa'n ki jesi].

He was not their but his comrade-in-arms Ali Ahmad Kurd was present in the ceremonial and symbolic last rites of this case of “infanticide” by our mother state. I wished any one could have asked Mr Kurd about “free judiciary” will the free judiciary order the registration of FIR against Intellegence chiefs??

For more than a year these criminals, these ISI sponsered stooges created the most effective smoke screen of our times to discredit the democratic transition, paralysing them to stop their initiative against ISI , Islamic fascism and Balochistan. PPP and ANP themselves are responsible for their reckless compromises with their existential enemies USA and Pakistani establishment. There refusal to take stand on their own issues has resulted in this day. Its time to resign and take the battle to the streets or everything will end. Asif Ali Zardari will have to break his jail of presidential palace , he has to fit in shoes of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto.

Chief of Sarawan , Mir Aslam Raisani is a great man , he is son of a great man, time has come that he realizes that the puppet regime he is chairing in Quetta has become a threat to the prestige of whole of Sarawan. We dont want to remember him as a traitor. When its certain that PPP has no power. Its time to resign .

How bad the situation really is in Balochistan. As most of the middle class was in grip of the ISI sponsered rotten radicalism of “free” media and “free” judiciary , they couldnt know the facts. One such fact was today exoposed by Ansar Abbasi , a journalist who himself his suspected of strong links with the “islamist” section of Pakistani eastablishment who today “confirmed” how General Kiyani called our great democrat Aitzaz Ahsan and informed him about restoration of Chief Justice. What we always were saying that it was Army doing all this. I can only say Aitzaz Ahsan shame on you. These poor Balochs cant pay your fee so they cant buy justice from this “free-as-a-farce” judiciary of yours.

The following video is of 2008 and its shows activists putting flag of free Balochistan on a busy square of Balochistan. Now it is 2009—– Riyasat Ho Gi Maa’n ki jesi—-Adal bina jamhoor na ho ga——-.


“The Wine of Croatian orchids doesn’t alleviate my pain, it burns me more, the pains of love, the pains of alienation, the pains of separation are strange pains: as the wounds heal, the pains sharpen—the soul burns on denial of love and on denial of emancipation——–”

220px-khawaja_ghulam_farid_tomb_at_kot_mithan1 Deep in south of Punjab in the colonized Saraiki deserts spoke one poet who is known as “Keats of the East”, for just like him , love is his subject , every shade of Love , every color of love , love in all its glory , love in all its pain. This Sufi of love ballads when saw his desert being occupied, being colonized changed the shades of his Love Songs, such was the intensity of emotions on the feeling of dispossession of Rohi [Romantic name of desert thar , used for Saraiki lands] that Farid cried

Apni dherti aap wasa tu , putt Angreze Thanne.

[O brave son of land] Take the ownership of your land back in your hands and demolish these British police stations.

Too strong for a Sufi , it may appear to English speaking sufi admiring class of Islamic Republic whose ideas of Sufism are result of interposition of modern quietism to theological mysticism. I drink from my glass , the dark fruity wine from lands beyond , pain sharpens in my heart , the pain of separation , I feel like burning every thing down including myself , the serene voice of Ustad Salamat Ali Khan echoes in my ears.

Ishiq Anokhri peer ae—- Love is a Strange Pain— tears flow from eyes—wounds of heart are strange— I long for my lover— I have become a fatally wounded l patient I have been separated from my love. Life without lover is a lie. I am just like a Crane which has been separated from its flock— and my eyes continuously shed tears —-a thousand pains plague my soul—for love is a Pain Strange

This is separation, which Farid felt, a separation from his land, a separation from his love. They don’t understand, those who have turned their guns and cannons towards the gallant Balochs , they call them brothers and kill them but they don’t understand Love. What love is for a lover?

O Friend Farid [speaks Sassi] Love is a pain strange. O my lover, you are my friend, you are my honour, you are love for me, you are beauty for me, you are my faith, you are my creed and you are my Quran—-You are my total asset –you are my state and my king—– Pains have settled in my heart because you have been separated— and my flesh burns with a hissing sound— for Love is pain strange

amj A soul in love burns each second, those who have fell in love don’t fear fire, the solders of this great Islamic republic don’t know about love or they wouldn’t have put 4 young Baloch men in molten Coal Tar — they don’t know lovers prefer to melt in fire than to betray their love—-Lovers melted in Tar but no sky fell—God thy kingdom has gone for ever—-they put thy son on cross no sky fell— No sky fell when thy soldiers burned alive these Baloch youth—-Lovers are insane they keep loving , they face torture, their family becomes their enemy—but these mad people they keep traveling on the road to love—O people of Islamic Republic this tyranny and torture will not break the Balochs—It didn’t broke Sassi listen to your Sufis and learn the lesson

[Sassi speaks] The day I expressed my love [for the handsome Baloch] I have declared a war against my tribe, my kin—my father, mother and brothers beat me [are dead for me]. O Lover the people of city are enemies—– the prison of loneliness, of alienation is a strange misery—my soul has a hundred wounds——-

Sassi when wandered in the desert in search of his Baloch lover Punnu—weakened by thirst and grief—she encountered a wicked man who wanted to take advantage of Sassi’s misery. These were the olden times and God had yet not gone into retirement. Sassi called him and mother earth took her into its safety. She was saved from humiliation of molestation. Yet in postmodern times neither did God listened nor did mother Earth came to rescue Zarrina, the poor Baloch girl abducted by soldiers of Islamic Republic and being molested as a sex slave with other Baluch women—No sky fell—

Those who deceived Punnu were his own brothers, those who took him away in the dead of the night away from Sassi—-When he knew he died wandering in desert looking for Sassi—There is a lesson for Baluchs , those who have kidnapped Solecki , acted just like brothers of Punnu

For Love is pain strange, and I drink with no solace, I see the writing on the wall but they don’t—yes love is a strange affliction

This is the Kaafi of Farid which became the inspiration of this post


This blog has long been critical supporter of Baluch Liberation as well as the other oppressed nationalities of Pakistan. We have been writing against the injustices , murder and torture of the Baluch people. A large number of Pakistani progressives hold the Baluch nationalist cause very dear to their heart. A whole generation of Pakistani progressives have been trained in NAP where they have worked closely with Baluch nationalists and Marxists. We have also been writing about the “post-nationalist” turn of Baluch resistance and its unfavourable implications on Baluch cause. This blog has showed its concern on kidnapping of Mr Solecki and the disturbing aspects it may represent for Baluch cause.  The fact that Vetran Baluch leader Mr Kher Bux Marri has appealed for the release of Mr Solecki and so far it hasnt been given a positive response : our fears about the “real captors” of Mr Solecki are slowly gaining grounds. Asian Human Rights Commission has now appealed for the release of Mr Solecki. We want to remind the Baluch resistance that Asian Human Rights Comission has been a friend of Baluch people. They have highlighted the plight of Ms Zarrina Marri and other Baluch Captives , we appeal that Baluch resistance must listen to its friends. Acts of individual terrorism have never been hallmark of Left wing liberation struggles. The Baluchs have always been democratic progressive people, we appeal to them to release Mr Solecki and save Baluch cause from a bad name. It will have serious consequences on Baluch cause. We also appeal that Pakistani authorities should unconditionally release thousands of Baluch political prisioners from their torture cells. We condem in strongest possible terms Pakistan’s colonialism in Baluchistan, we strongly condem People’s Party’s government’s lack of interest in these cases and the foolish denials by Interior minister Mr Rehman Malick.

Shaheryar Ali

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE AHRC-STM-038-2009 February 20, 2009

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

Mr Solecki with family

Mr Solecki with family

PAKISTAN: Appeal to the abductors for the release of UN officer Mr. John Solecki, who heads the United Nation’s refugee agency UNHCR’s Quetta office in Pakistan, was abducted on 2nd February, 2009, by a militant group, fighting for political autonomy of the Southern province, Balochistan. He has still not been released. The group, the Balochistan Liberation United Front (BLUF), is demanding the release of 6,000 disappeared people by the state intelligence agencies including 141 women who, according to the group, are still being held in Pakistan military torture cells in exchange for Mr. Solecki’s release. During the period from the 2nd February to the date of preparing this statement, the Pakistan authorities have not made any serious efforts to secure his release. Instead, the advisor of the prime minister on interior affairs, while holding the position of federal minister on a visit to the capital of the Balochistan to meet with the provincial authorities, has refused to meet the demands of the group. He claims that there is only a list of 800 missing persons, and that it is incomplete, with only 200 names verified as officially disappeared. The minister in question has also challenged the claim of the captors that 141 were in custody of security agencies and has rejected the list of the women as unrealistic. After two days of the statement of the federal minister, on Monday the 16th February the group, BLUF, gave 72 hours for its demands to be met before the UN official would be killed. But due to an appeal from Mr. Harbiyar Marri, a Baloch nationalist leader seeking asylum in England, the captors have postponed their deadline indefinitely. In the meantime, on the 13 February, a local television channel, the Dunya News, telecasted footage of Mr. Solecki, blindfolded, in which he asked the government of Pakistan to meet the demand of the captors. Almost 18 days have passed since his abduction but the government has not made any moves to talk to the parliament of Balochistan, nor to the nationalist groups who are seeking provincial autonomy according to the constitution of Pakistan. The newly elected government is following a similar policy to that of the former military dictators with the Balochistan province, by making it a colony of the federal government. During the one year the elected government, there have been reports of more than 500 persons arrested by the state agencies and their whereabouts are unknown. After the kidnapping of the UN official the security agencies have arrested about 150 persons and their whereabouts remain unknown. The government has promised several times to initiate probes into the matter of military operations in the province and the cases of disappeared persons, but nothing has been done to even start a dialogue with nationalists groups or political parties. The Asian Human Rights Commission urges the government to secure the release of the UN official and immediately start a dialogue with the militant group holding him captive. Denying the legitimacy of the missing persons list will not help in securing the release of the UN official. The government should also announce the formation of a high powered judicial commission, which will probe the cases of missing persons, and in particular, allegations of Baloch women held in military torture cells and used as sex slaves. The AHRC appeals to the BULF to release Mr. John Soleck, head of the UNHCR, based at Quetta and provide him with medical facilities. Any harm to him in captivity will not serve any purpose, for the cause of legal and constitutional movement, or for the fundamental rights of the Balochi people. The AHRC hopes that Mr. Soleck will be released immediately and that the government will take a rational approach to the matter of the rights of small and neglected nationalities.

# # # About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984

Asian Human Rights Commission 19/F, Go-Up Commercial Building, 998 Canton Road, Kowloon, Hongkong S.A.R. Tel: +(852) – 2698-6339 Fax: +(852) – 2698-6367

“The heart which aches after an evening lost in glasses of cognac, longing for a lost lover, the acute awareness of dispossession in Multani Kafi’s of Khawaja Farid: dispossession of Lands of Saraikies , of Baluchiis of Palestinians , the Natives who have lost Love and Land to Migrant states with civilizing missions”

Shaheryar Ali

Longing is common between Love and Palestine, lover longs like I am longing for him and Palestinians long for Palestine. They are Palestinians without having Palestine. The thing which define them, gives them identity, give them a name; they are deprived of it. This is alienation and dispossession. This is the point where politics merge with Art. “Firaq” is the continuous state of existence for a lover and for a Palestinian. Loss of the lover; heart aches, eyes cry, soul rebels. Every thing else seems meaningless, the cosmos focuses on a single being “the beloved”. The evening is hovering in a cool grey mist and I remember his green eyes, his olive skin , cognac seems to burn my soul , the universe seem to rock on to the Lover’s Lament emerging from Ustad Salamat singing Kaafi of Khawaja Farid :

Sanwal Mor Moharan

Ro Ro mein waat Nihara’n

Sanwal Mor Moharan

[O my handsome [Baluch] lover turn your camel around, I am crying, my gaze is fixed on the burning desert, Return o my Handsome [Baluch] lover]

The voice of the master strikes like a dagger on my heart, every thing seems to cry “Sanwal Mor Mohara’n” “Sanwal Mor Mohara’n” Return o my lover, Return. First Sassi died in desert and now Rohi [Romantic name of Saraiki Cholistan desert] is dead. Rohi is raped everyday by the Arab sheiks that have been given the land by Islamic Republic of Pakistan to hunt our deers, our doves, our little girls and our little boys. With poisonous dagger of Islam they have cut our land into small pieces .Our land our goddess is now a form of bribe given to Mullahs, retired Army officers, Punjabi politicians. Saraiki native wander in Rohi: slaves dying of thirst and hunger, drinking water along with animals. Our lovers, our lands lost for ever— Sanwal Mor Mohara’n. . Return my lover—- Pakistanis don’t understand these things, what is loss of land, what is loss of love , they have been taught to grab the land with sword Like Muhammed Bin Kassim who robbed Sindh and took daughter of Dahir , land and love both taken with sword

Mahmoud Darwish understands this. He is one of the dispossessed, he speaks of Love or does he speak of land, its Art or Politics. I am not sure of it but I am sure of one thing, its Love and it’s longing

Her eyes and the tattoos on her hands are Palestinian

Her name, Palestinian

Her dreams and sorrow, Palestinian

Her kerchief, her feet and body, Palestinian

Her words and her silence, Palestinian

Her voice, Palestinian

Her birth and her death, Palestinian

“The Lover, Darwish”

spe4This powerful love which natives have gives them strength to resist, this land than becomes mother, goddess and beloved life giver against the colonizers, their symbols and discourse. State of Israel and State of Pakistan both have brought hegemonizing religious beliefs , YHWE of Bible and Allah of Koran Jealous deities who want lands, temples and submission. The land of Israel is given to Israelis, the natives are slaughtered, and they have to in order to grab the land. Anat the goddess of Canaanites emerges as soul of Palestine to give them strength against those who destroyed temples of natives and grabbed their land in the work of Palestinian artist Abdel Rahmen al Mozayen . Al Mozayen’s pen and ink drawings have become synonymous with Palestinian liberation struggle. Palestinian embroidery, their historical tradition and stylized figures give his work a kind of sublimity. He focuses on Palestine’s Canaanite heritage to demonstrate longevity and steadfastness of Palestinian culture and to counter the Israeli efforts to co-opt local culture and erase their historical roots in line with Bible. These four drawing [Pen n Ink] are his work in response to Jenin’s massacre when Anat emerges as soul of Palestine who rises with the city which will re assert it self.

Imagery of goddesses has emerged as an important artistic expression of resistance especially against Catholic Church, Orthodox Judaism and fundamentalist Islam. Salman Rushdie’s most original protest against colonization experience and resultant dualism of identities found the artistic expression in discourse involving Arabian Prophet’s efforts to “divinize” and “co-opt” the 3 native Meccan goddesses Al Lat , Al Manat and Al Uzza. The act of humanism later attributed to Satan by fundamentalist transformation of Islam [event recorded by earlier muslim Imams but disputed by later scholars during establishment of Arab imperialism] Satanic Verses thus “in its effects” becomes an act of resistance against censorship imposed by Islamic fundamentalism, states and other institutions of control and transformation. With imposition of wahabi Islam by Islamic Republic the dispossessed natives of this migrant state have re-discovered the “feminine goddess imagery” of this land. “Maaa’n” or mother thus becomes the point of worship in Punjabi mystic poetry instead of Allah of mullah. The “bad-women” of romantic tales are heroines of native intellectual as opposed to the state and its patriotic intellectual. For the native Sindhi Poet Sheik Ayaz , the daughter of Dahir is heroine, for Pakistani state his molester the Arab invader of Sindh Muhammed Bin Kassim is the hero. The Sindhi resistance against Kassim and later Islamic republic finds artistic expression in female heroines Sassi and Marvi which have now merged with imagery of Benazir Bhutto the daughter of Sindh murdered in Kufa of Islamabad.

When Islamic Republic poisoned the Saraiki heartland with fundamentalist Islam, Jhang the romantic town of Heer the romantic heroine of Punjab became the ground zero of sectarian violence. The late Saraiki poet Sarwar Karbali invoked the feminine imagery of Heer to resist Talibanization

Jud tuk Jhang Heer da Jhang hai

Maakhi, Makhan, Kheer da Jhang Hai

Aj kul Jhang Islam da Jhang he

Jhang de vich Islam di Jang ae

Goli te barood di dhoo’n ae

Adam boo ae Adam boo ae

[There was a time when Jhang was town of Heer , than Jhang was town of Life, of honey, butter and milk, these days Jhang is city of Islam, Jihad of Islam is going on in Jhang, every where there is smoke of TNT and bullets and smell of charred human flesh----]

My glass is empty and my heart aches for lost love for lost time and for lost lands, the lament continues Sanwal Mor Mohara’n——–, or my lover return——

osted by Shaheryar Ali

History and interpretation – Communalism and problems of historiography in India

by Irfan Habib*

IF one looks back at 1947 to find out in what ways it brought about changes in the approach to the medieval (that is, the post-ancient, pre-British, and, in much of earlier discourse, the ‘Muslim’) period of India’s history, a few major shifts of emphasis could, perhaps, be immediately identified.

First of all, Partition meant that the two communalist camps, Hindu and Muslim, found two different ‘national’ homes. Until 1947 there had been a running debate between the advocates of the two communities. But with 1947, the Muslim side in the communal historical debate shifted entirely to Pakistan, where in its seemingly final version, the history of ‘Muslims in India’ was now projected as a struggle for a separate nation right from A.D. 712, when Muhammad ibn Qasim entered Sind at the head of an Arab army. This was the reading of history pursued with much energy by the late Ishtiaq Husain Quraishi, and as recently as January this year the publication has been announced of a two-volume Road to Pakistan, its Vol.I comprising a 653-page account of “the period from A.D. 712 to 1858″, written by “eminent historians and scholars of Pakistan” and edited by Hakim Mohammad Said of Hamdard (Karachi).

In India, the contrary interpretation found its high priest in the well-known historian R. C. Majumdar. To him the entire period from c. 1200 onwards was one of foreign rule; Muslims were alien to Indian (Hindu) culture; the Hindus, oppressed and humiliated, wished nothing better than to slaughter “the Mlechhas” (Muslims); the British regime was a successor more civilised than “Muslim rule”; yet real opposition to the British came from Hindus, not Muslims, even in 1857; and, finally, the national movement’s course was throughout distorted by concessions made to Muslims by Gandhiji, who was so much personally to blame for Partition. This view runs like a red thread in the volumes of History and Culture of the Indian People (first volume issued 1951), published by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan with financial assistance from the Government of India, and edited by R. C. Majumdar, whose great industry must extract admiration from his worst critics. (An early critic was D. D. Kosambi, who wrote that if Islam was so alien to India as the original patron of the series, K. M. Munshi, and its editor R. C. Majumdar thought, then they should have worried about their own “good Muslim professional names”!). Majumdar went on to author texts on the Rebellion of 1857 and the freedom movement in which the same stance was firmly maintained. Though after Majumdar’s death (1980), there has not appeared on the scene a historian of similar calibre in the Hindutva (or even the ’soft Hindutva’) camp, the often unproven hypotheses and inferences that he bequeathed have all become firm truths for a very large number of educated people in India.

It is not often perceived that both the Hindu and Muslim communal schools share a very large area of common ground. Both see the two religious communities as constant political entities, and, therefore, in effect, separate nations. The slogan “Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan”, raised by the pre-1947 forebears of the present Sangh parivar, was the exact counterpart of the “Pakistan” slogan of the Muslim League and both equally implied adherence to the Two-Nation theory. Often, therefore, in the historical writings of the two schools, the heroes and villains are simply interchanged, while large areas of history have been ignored by both.

THE mainstream nationalist tradition of historiography presented, in contrast, a much broader and critical view of history. This could be seen in two early works on medieval Indian history, namely, Tara Chand’s Influence of Islam on Indian Culture, and Mohammad Habib’s monograph on Mahmud of Ghaznin, both published in the 1920s. Nationalist historiography presented a consistent affirmation of the compositeness of India’s heritage. It also felt called upon to controvert the official British claim of improvement in Indian economic life that the colonial regime had brought about, in contrast to its ‘native’ predecessors. W.H. Moreland’s rather cautious statement of this case brought forth challenges from Brij Narain (1929) and Radhakamal Mukerji (1934), who presented favourable views of the economic performance of the Mughal Empire.

WITH Independence, new questions within this stream of historiography were generated. As the direct compulsions of debate with British imperialism receded, there developed a greater readiness to study the factors of change and stagnation in our past and to identify various internal economic, social and ideological contradictions. Inevitably, Marxist influences began to be felt, especially under the impact of the Soviet Union’s role in the Second World War and the lifting of the colonial ban on Marxist classics. In his Introduction to the Study of Indian History (1956), Kosambi fitted the medieval polities headed by Muslim rulers in his interpretation of “Indian feudalism”, by special reference to the process that he designated “feudalism from above”. To the cultural consequences of the Islamic intrusion he added the technological one, crediting “Islamic raiders” with “breaking hide-bound custom in the adoption and transmission of new techniques”. Almost simultaneously, in a notable 102-page text (1952), Mohammad Habib offered an interpretation of the Ghorian-Turkish conquests of the 13th century and the early Delhi Sultanate in economic terms, with much use of Marxian concepts. Although the numerous insights of both these historians remain of lasting value, their major achievement was really to pioneer the exploration of a practically virgin domain.

In the subsequent period, possibly owing to the difference in the main source-languages, there were two points to which Marxist-influenced research came separately to be directed. In his Indian Feudalism (1965), R. S. Sharma studied in detail the basic relationships in early medieval society down to the eve of the Ghorian conquests. He argued in favour of a “feudalism largely realising the surplus from peasants mainly in kind through superior rights in their land and through forced labour, which is not found on any considerable scale… after the Turkish conquest of India.” These conclusions were largely underlined for the period immediately preceding c. 1200 by B.N.S. Yadava (1973).

The other effort was directed to establishing what the later medieval class structures were like, whether different from those of the earlier period or not. Satish Chandra made an initial attempt to delineate the main features of the Mughal Indian political and social order (1959). I presented (1963) a detailed study of the agrarian system of Mughal India, in which I argued that there were two ruling classes, the centralised nobility and the dispersed landed gentry (zamindars); and that the Mughal Empire collapsed because of agrarian uprisings in which the zamindars utilised the desperation of the oppressed peasantry. In later writing (1969), I denied that the Mughal Empire had any potentialities for capitalistic development, despite a considerable presence of commodity production. The last thesis has been contested by Iqtidar A. Khan (1975), while S. Moosvi (1987) has patiently reworked the basic statistics in the Ain-i-Akbari on which all work on Mughal economic history must necessarily rely. M. Athar Ali (1966), emphasising the centralised nature of Mughal polity, and the ethnic and religious compositeness of the nobility, has argued against my thesis of an agrarian crisis in that Empire.

FROM the 1970s, historical research in Medieval India began to be influenced by two distinct but converging currents. Burton Stein (1980) applied the theory of “segmentary state”, evolved in African anthropology, to medieval South India, and this became a signal for its application, notably by A. Wink (1986), to both Mughal and Maratha sovereignty. The tendency here is to deny the historicity of the process of centralisation as well as systematisation in pre-colonial governments. The other current originated from Cambridge, with C.A. Bayly (1983), who, arguing for a continuity between the previous indigenous polities and the colonial regime, saw the operation of innovative “corporate groups” behind the Mughal imperial decline, groups that later shifted their loyalties to the East India Company. The Indian supporters of the Bayly thesis include Muzaffar Alam (1986) and S. Subrahmanyan. Neither thesis has been accepted by most Indian historians, and there has been a notable disavowal of both in the West itself, in J. F. Richards’s volume on the Mughal Empire in the New Cambridge History of India (1993).

The Indian (in part NRI) counterpart of the two western theories has been the “Subaltern” school, whose members have worked as a “collective” since 1982. Sharing the Cambridge School’s scepticism of Indian nationalism, these historians have emphasised “the cultural autonomy” of tribal and local communities, and protested against those (including such as are conveniently termed “Nehruvian Marxists”) who have assumed cultural syntheses and unifying factors to be an important element in Indian history. While the Subalterns’ work has been mainly concerned with the period of the national movement, their beliefs enmesh fairly well with the criticism of nationalist and Marxist historiography of pre-colonial India that historians like Stein and Bayly have initiated.

THAT different views on medieval India should be influenced by the individual historian’s subjective views of the contemporary world is only to be expected; these must, however, first meet the criterion of support from historical evidence. In fact, so long as new views appear and provoke a fresh or extended exploration of the historical documentation, one can only welcome the tendency not to take the given history on trust. But historical evidence must always remain the touchstone. A major problem today is that only a small and declining number of people in India have access to Persian, in which language so much of the source material of medieval India is to be found. Not only does this large body of material need to be studied, but the collection of documents in all languages has also to be encouraged, as well as local antiquarian and archaeological work. With every passing day the evidence on paper, metal or brick or stone is being destroyed. If the hand of destruction is to be stayed, the people’s interest in the country’s past needs to be aroused. In this effort all those who, without necessarily being professional historians themselves, have yet a care for all aspects and phases of our heritage, can play a most crucial part.

*Irfan Habib is leading, well-respected Indian historian. He was awarded Padma Bhushan for his great contributions to Indian history. He stood up to the BJP led project to communalize Indian History.

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