The New Delhi Municipal Council’s (NDMC) decision to rename Aurangzeb Road in Lutyens’ Delhi as Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam Road has evoked reactions on expected lines. Its popularity can be gauged from the fact that Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, the weathercock of public mood, supports it. Leftists and other Hindu-haters, unsurprisingly, are aghast at the mood—and they have got an opportunity to spew their nefarious theories about the Narendra Modi regime’s turpitude in particular and Indian history in general.
Savor this: Historian Sohail Hashmi, who conducts Delhi Heritage Walks, said, “The image of Aurangzeb as an enemy of Hindus was created by the British to divide Hindus and Muslims. Not only did he give grants to many temples, he even demolished a mosque as part of his campaign. Just by painting a signboard, you can’t change history” (The Hindu, August 30).
So, Aurangzeb was a good guy, but was maligned by the Brits! For how long will be blame everything on them for every evil that happened before and after them?
Then there is INTACH Delhi convener A.G.K. Menon. He said, “Aurangzeb was a complex character. There are instances where he ordered the destruction of temples, but there are also instances where he gave grants to build temples. To focus on one aspect is wrong.”
The aplomb with which our intellectuals lie is astonishing.
Let’s see what the real historians and accounts have to say about Aurangzeb, who ruled between 1658 and 1707. In his authoritative study on the sixth Mughal emperor, Jadunath Sarkar wrote: “Aurangzeb began his attach on Hinduism in an insidious manner. In the first year of his reign, in a charter granted to a priest of Benares, he avowed that his religion forbade him to allow the building of new temples, but did not enjoin the destruction of old ones” (emphasis in the original). But Aurangzeb was lying. For, as Sarkar wrote, when he was viceroy of Gujarat in 1644, “he had desecrated the recently built Hindu temple of Chintaman in Ahmadabad by killing a cow in it and then turned it into a mosque. He had at that time also demolished many other Hindu temples in the province.”
After becoming emperor, he issued an order “early in his reign in which the local officers in every town and village of Orissa from Cuttack to Midnapore were called upon to pull down all temples, including even clay huts, built during the last 10 or 12 years, and to allow no old temple to be repaired” (emphasis in the original).
In January 1670, “he sent forth commands to destroy this temple [of Keshav Rai at Mathura] altogether and to change the name of the city to Islamabad. The destruction of Hindu places of worship was one of the chief duties of the Muhtasibs as Censors of Morals who were appointed to all the sub-divisions and cities of the empire. In June 1680, the temples of Amber, the capital of the loyal State of Jaipur, were broken down.” In 1674, he confiscated all the lands held by Hindus as religious grants in Gujarat.
Leftists have dismissed Sarkar as a ‘communal’ scholar, though he is one of the greatest historians India has produced. But let us see what one of Leftist historians say about Aurangzeb—Satish Chandra, whose Medieval India has been taught to Class XI-XII students for years. He confirms Sarkar’s assertion about the demolition of temples in Gujarat. Further, Chandra wrote, “a number of temples such as the famous temples of Vishwanath at Banaras and the temple of Keshava Rai at Mathura built by Bir Singh Deo Bundela in the reign of Jahangire were destroyed and mosques erected in their places.”
More evidence of Aurangzeb’s bigotry is found in the Mughal documents, Akhbarat.
May 25, 1679: “Khan-i-Jahan Bahadure returned from Jodhpur after demolishing its temple, and bringing with himself several cart-loads of idols. The Emperor ordered that the idols, which were mostly of gold, silver, brass, copper or stone and adorned with jewels, should be cast in the quadrangle of the Court and under the steps of the Jama Mosque for being trodden upon.”
January-February 1680: “The grand temple in front of the Maharana’s mansion [at Udaipur]—one of the most wonderful buildings of the age, which had cost the infidels much money—was destroyed and its images broken.”
September 1687: “On the capture of Golkonda, the Emperor appointed Abdur Rahim Khan as Censor of the city of Haidarabad with orders to put down infidel practices and [heretical] innovations and destroy the temples and build mosques on their sites.”
Middle of 1698: “Hamid-ud-din Khan Bahadur, who had been deputed to destroy the temple of Bijapur and build a mosque [there], returned to Court after carrying the order out and was praised by the Emperor.”
January 1705: “The Emperor, summoning Muhammad Khalil and Khidmat Rai, the darogha of hatchet-men… ordered them to demolish the temple of Pandharpur, and to take the butchers of the camp there and slaughter cows in the temple… It was done.”
It is indisputable that Aurangzeb’s hatred for Hindus resulted in the destruction of countless temples during his almost half-a-century reign as Emperor. In fact, even before ascending the imperial throne he had started breaking temples.
The oppression and repression of Hindus was not restricted to temple destruction; the jiziya, the extortionist tax that non-Muslims have to pay under Islamic rule, was imposed. In April 1679, Hindus in Delhi protested against the tax and pleaded for its withdrawal. “But the Emperor turned a deaf ear to them. Next Friday, the whole road from the gate of the Fort to the Jama Mosque was blocked by a crowd of Hindu supplicants. They did not disperse in spite of warnings; and the Emperor, after waiting vainly for an hour to go to the public prayer, ordered elephants to be driven through the mass of men, trampling them down and clearing a way for him,” Sarkar wrote.
In general taxation, too, the Hindus were discriminated against: they had to pay at a higher rate.
One consequence of these atrocities and discrimination was that many Hindus embraced Islam. Shame on the apologists for Aurangzeb.