From the violent streak of Islam that knocked on the door of the Indian sub-continent for the first time in 711 AD till the decline of the mighty Mughal empire after the death of Aurangzeb in 1707, for more than a 1000 years Hinduism and Hindus have withstood physical and intellectual atrocities yet managed to sustain a culture, a developed religion and traditions that precede the birth of Islam by thousands of years.
Being a Prophet-driven religion that has lived by a book and spread faster than any other religion, not because of its philosophical intensity but by forceful proselytising with the power of the sword, the wounds run deep across the geography where the faith has spread.
Even in its land of birth, Saudi Arabia, the battle still rages on about the superiority and purity of the faith as propagated by its founder Prophet Mohammad who lived from 570 to 632 AD.
Pulling down Hindu temples and turning them into mosques was how Islam entered India.
One of the first mosques so constructed was the Adhai Din Ka Jhonpra. A temple was pulled down and converted into a mosque in two-and-half days near Dargah-i-Sharif at Ajmer by Qutub ud-din Aibak. The ferocity and violence gets all amplified in the structure that still has images of Hindu Gods and Goddess on the walls of the mosque.
Even after Mohammed bin Qasim’s execution in 715 AD, the world of a peace loving and all-encompassing Hindu religion and thought that has survived millennia of onslaught from competing philosophies on the sheer strength and power of its logic and profound knowledge was faced with a violence that it was neither prepared for nor expected it to form an integral part of any faith in the world.
The plundering expeditions of Mahmud of Ghazni starting from 1001 to 1025 which included devastating the temples of Kangra, Thanesar, Mathura, Kannauj and Somnath, were all done in the name of Islam. The temple wealth was looted, Hindu priests, followers tortured and put to the sword, women raped or carried away as trophies.
A book ‘Tarikh-i-Yamini’ written by Mahmud of Ghanzi’s court writer records the campaigns of the plunderer.
“The blood of the infidels flowed so copiously [at the Indian city of Thanesar] that the stream was discoloured, notwithstanding its purity, and people were unable to drink it…the infidels deserted the fort and tried to cross the foaming river…but many of them were slain, taken or drowned… Nearly fifty thousand men were killed.”
Mohammad Ghori’s invasions from 1175 to 1193 AD went a step ahead of Mahmud Ghazni and laid the foundations of Muslim rule over a predominantly Hindu population, who were tortured and prosecuted at will.
Dr Koenraad Elst, a Belgian Indologist specialising in comparative religion and Hindu-Muslim relations in his essay ‘Was There an Islamic Genocide of Hindus’ states:
“The biggest slaughters took place during the raids of Mahmud of Ghazni (Ca 1000 CE); during the actual conquest of North India by Mohammad Ghori and his lieutenants (1192 AD); and under the Delhi Sultanate (1206-1526).”
A well-established historian Irfan Husain in the article “Demons from the Past” is forthright when he states:
“While historical events should be judged in the context of their times, it cannot be denied that even in that bloody period of history, no mercy was shown to the Hindus unfortunate enough to be in the path of either the Arab conquerors of Sindh and south Punjab, or the Central Asians who swept in from Afghanistan…The Muslim heroes who figure larger than life in our history books committed some dreadful crimes. Mahmud of Ghazni, Qutb-ud-Din Aibak, Balban, Mohammed bin Qasim, and Sultan Mohammad Tughlak, all have blood-stained hands that the passage of years has not cleansed..Seen through Hindu eyes, the Muslim invasion of their homeland was an unmitigated disaster.
“Their temples were razed, their idols smashed, their women raped, their men killed or taken slaves. When Mahmud of Ghazni entered Somnath on one of his annual raids, he slaughtered all 50,000 inhabitants. Aibak killed and enslaved hundreds of thousands. The list of horrors is long and painful. These conquerors justified their deeds by claiming it was their religious duty to smite non-believers. Cloaking themselves in the banner of Islam, they claimed they were fighting for their faith when, in reality, they were indulging in straightforward slaughter and pillage…”
Be it the Rajputs, the Marathas, Jats or other communities, all suffered at the hands of Muslim rulers like Qutb-un-Din Aibak, Balban, Muhammad Bin Tughlak, Alauddin Khliji, Timur, Ahmad Shah Abdali and many others till the power of Mughal empire began to wane under Aurangzeb.
Timur, the Turkic conqueror in his memoirs ‘Tuzk-i-Timuri’ without any remorse describes the bloodshed he unleashed during his India campaign in the year 1398-99 AD:
“They said that on the great day of battle these 100,000 prisoners could not be left with the baggage, and that it would be entirely opposed to the rules of war to set these idolaters and foes of Islam at liberty.
“In fact, no other course remained but that of making them all food for the sword.”
Under the decree of Timur the execution was carried out, which he records as:
“Throughout the camp that every man who has infidel prisoners was to put them to death, and whoever neglected to do so should himself be executed and his property given to the informer. When this order became known to the ghazis of Islam, they drew their swords and put their prisoners to death. 100,000 infidels, impious idolaters, were on that day slain. Maulana Nasir-ud-din Umar, a counselor and a man of learning, who, in all his life had never killed a sparrow, now, in execution of my order, slew with his sword fifteen idolatrous Hindus, who were his captives“.
Between 1748 and 1767, the Afghan king Ahmad Shah Abdali invaded India seven times which included a war against the Marathas in the form of the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761.
In one of his raids, he attacked Mathura, the holy city of Hindus where Lord Krishna was born. A contemporary chronicle ‘Tarikh-i-Alamgiri’ records the genocide that befell the city as such:
“Abdali’s soldiers would be paid 5 Rupees (a sizeable amount at the time) for every enemy head brought in. Every horseman had loaded up all his horses with the plundered property, and atop of it rode the girl-captives and the slaves. The severed heads were tied up in rugs like bundles of grain and placed on the heads of the captives…Then the heads were stuck upon lances and taken to the gate of the chief minister for payment.
“It was an extraordinary display! Daily did this manner of slaughter and plundering proceed. And at night the shrieks of the women captives who were being raped, deafened the ears of the people…All those heads that had been cut off were built into pillars, and the captive men upon whose heads those bloody bundles had been brought in, were made to grind corn, and then their heads too were cut off. These things went on all the way to the city of Agra, nor was any part of the country spared.”
Published in 1935, the noted historian Will Durant in the ‘The Story of Civilisation: Our Oriental Heritage’ records:
“The Mohammedan conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. The Islamic historians and scholars have recorded with great glee and pride the slaughters of Hindus, forced conversions, abduction of Hindu women and children to slave markets and the destruction of temples carried out by the warriors of Islam during 800 AD to 1700 AD. Millions of Hindus were converted to Islam by sword during this period.”
Negation of India, a book authored by Dr Keonraad Elst mentions:
“The Muslim conquests, down to the 16th century, were for the Hindus a pure struggle of life and death. Entire cities were burnt down and the populations massacred, with hundreds of thousands killed in every campaign, and similar numbers deported as slaves. Every new invader made (often literally) his hills of Hindus skulls. Thus, the conquest of Afghanistan in the year 1000 was followed by the annihilation of the Hindu population; the region is still called the Hindu Kush, i.e. Hindu slaughter.”
In the ‘Was There an Islamic Genocide of Hindus’ essay Dr Keonradd Elst sticks his neck out to even state:
“There is no official estimate of the total death toll of Hindus at the hands of Islam. A first glance at important testimonies by Muslim chroniclers suggests that, over 13 centuries and a territory as vast as the Subcontinent, Muslim Holy Warriors easily killed more Hindus than the 6 million of the Holocaust.”
French political writer Francois Gautier in ‘Rewriting Indian History’ that was published in 1996 also points out:
“The massacres perpetuated by Muslims in India are unparalleled in history, bigger than the Holocaust of the Jews by the Nazis; or the massacre of the Armenians by the Turks; more extensive even than the slaughter of the South American native populations by the invading Spanish and Portuguese.”
For the Christians, holy wars that had the support of the Popes and Christian Kings, better known in history as the Crusades, against the violent rise of Islam were launched from the year 1095 AD and went on till the year 1291 AD. But in India, beyond the resistance offered by Rajputs, Marathas and a few others from the Hindu nobility, the onslaught that Hindus and the native religion has faced through the centuries without any doubts has few parallels in world history.