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[Baljinder Sharma] The Saffronisation of Hindustan?

Rédigé par Baljinder Sharma le Lundi 4 Avril 2022

For as far as I can remember Ajmer Sharif, the mystic saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti was Garib Nawaz - the provider of the poor - the one who caresses, cherishes, soothes, and nurtures. That is how I got to know him when I first took a train from Ahmedabad to Jaipur and encountered the melodious qawalis that drew instant attention to the Khwaja’s divine powers. 

And to millions of Indians in the eighties, the miraculous deeds of gods, saints, Sufis, and dervish offered much-required comfort even as the institutions of the state failed. Therefore, thousands thronged to Ajmer every day to pray at the dargah of the Sufi saint, offer chadars and tie the religious thread on the window grill surrounding the ‘Mazar' - asking for all kinds of favors and making all sorts of demands.

Nobody ever returned empty-handed from his Darbar - it was said. Such was Khwaja’s legacy that I did not hesitate to make an audacious ‘mannat’ of mine,  although I never cared to check back if it was actually fulfilled. The greatest gift, I admit, sometimes, is the one you never received.

About 3 million people visit the Dargah every year. It sustains the city’s economy, providing jobs and supporting tourism-related businesses - that benefit mostly Hindus. The Khwaja, who came from Iran and finally settled in Ajmer, preached the Sufi gospel of renunciation, penitence, asceticism, poverty, self-mortification, and quietism much like the Bhakti movement of medieval India - both attempting to rid their respective religion of orthodoxy and organizational corruption - promoting a direct, more spiritual connection with the God.

This is how I looked at the Ajmer Sharif.  Then came the video clip. 

Circulating on a WhatsApp group, the video contained an alternative history of the Sufi saint - as a religious crusader - an accomplice of Mohammed Ghori, responsible for forcibly converting millions of Hindus into the Islamic faith. The dargah, it claimed was erected on a Hindu shrine and that the Khwaja took on a child as a bride at a very old age - a marriage akin to rape.  It made several other allegations on the basis of a series of books written by Muslim authors - to eliminate any charge of biased reporting.

I am not surprised.

Yet, I am surprised that India’s educated elite - known for their exceptional tolerance and liberal attitude should be sharing such information without putting the facts in context - even if they were true. Few of us realize that it was common for people in ancient times to adopt the religion of the ruler. This was the only way to escape death and slavery. The weak and the poor hardly had the choice or the means to defend their religion. The rulers who imposed their religion on others were often themselves victims of religious conversions.

What is shameful, however, is the volunteer submission of the Hindu elite to the religion of the invader. Hindu rulers who should have fought the Islamic conquerors simply gave in - preferring to keep their little kingdoms as vassals and courtiers. The very descendants of those who betrayed their nation, their people, and their religion, are fighting to rewrite it today - through the meek forwarding of WhatsApp messages. 

It is not in dispute that Islamic rulers destroyed many temples. They also destroyed mosques and killed more Muslims than they killed Hindus. But so did the Marathas - our very own Hindu rulers who plundered one of their holiest shrines - the Sringeri Math in 1719 when it refused to pay the required tax. But why go so far - did we not burn the Sikhs in 1984?

Individuals want only two things - peace and prosperity. The requirements of the rulers are far more - power, control, pride, war, division and disharmony. The ruler of the twenty-first century is no different from the ruler of ancient Egypt, China or Spain - pursuing his own glory and private greed.

As I researched the Sufi's history, I found several facts misrepresented in the video clip. Most people would simply forward it to another group and so on exhorting Hindus to boycott the saint. Who has the time and luxury to study the life of a Sufi dervish? The poor - who never had the power to boycott - because they are powerless by definition, will keep visiting the Khwaja. The last thing you can snatch from a poor man is his right to pray. Leave alone, fewer visitors to Ajmer would destroy the livelihood of thousands of Hindus who depend on the spending visitors to the dargah make.

Rulers will divide people. This is how they keep themselves in power. It is therefore incumbent upon the ruled - to recognize the dynamics of power and confront it with their own lived experience of the present. And not succumb to the mistelling of the past.

A propos de l'auteur :

Originaire de Kota, ville de l’État du Rajasthan, en Inde, Baljinder Sharma détient une licence en ingénierie du Malviya National Institute of Technology et un Master in Business Administration de l’Université de Maurice. À ces distinctions académiques s’ajoutent la Harvard Business School (M&A and Corporate Restructuring), Indian School of Business (Private Equity Program) et Indian School of Business/NorthWestern University – Kellogg Business School (Advanced Management Program).

Lundi 4 Avril 2022

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