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The month we lost Dara Shikoh

Halaku Khan

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One may not agree with everything here, but interesting nevertheless:

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The month we lost Dara
The Pioneer > Online Edition : >> The month we lost Dara

Ashok Malik

Dara Shikoh was killed on an August night 350 years ago, and with him died hopes of a lasting Hindu-Muslim compact. It was the partition before Partition. Today Dara lies forgotten in his own country, reduced to a fringe figure by politicians too embarrassed to acknowledge him

August is India’s month of myth, memory and anniversary. The three are not unrelated. The past is often not what was but what we make of it, or want to make of it. In this country — as elsewhere — historical remembrance is an inherently political act. It so often becomes a reflection of current affairs or contemporary political innovation.

This month is packed with such landmarks. Some, like August 15 or August 9 — Quit India Day — come every year. Some — like book releases and revisionist accounts of the founder of Pakistan — are perhaps custom-created for August 2009. Discussants tend to see the past only as it is expedient. Anniversaries are not cherished moments. Rather, they are reduced to symbolism and point scoring.

An example would help. Earlier this month, the Times of India carried a bizarre report that confidently predicted there would no official celebrations in early 2011 of the 600th anniversary of Ahmedabad’s founding. It made this assertion a good year-and-a-half in advance because “Now that the BJP is in power both in Ahmedabad and Gujarat, it is not enthused by the idea of recognising and celebrating the birth of the city under Muslim rule.”

Was this report motivated by delicate concern for a milestone in the evolution of Indian urban planning? Alternatively, was somebody resting a gun on history’s shoulder to fire a bullet at the Narendra Modi Government? In India, if a historical anniversary has not been politicised, somebody will rush to make amends.

On the other hand, there are some dates that are subjected to only collective amnesia. They fall in the blind spot of the prevailing consensus. This month has one such: The 350th anniversary of the murder of Dara Shikoh. As per the Julian calendar, it took place on August 30, 1659. If one were to follow the modern Gregorian calendar, the date would move 10 days to September 9, but that wouldn’t remedy its neglect.

Why was Dara Shikoh’s departure so significant? It signalled the partition before Partition. His death ended old India’s final chance to bequeath succeeding generations a post-denominational legacy. It extinguished hopes of a genuine and lasting Hindu-Muslim compact.

Dara was Shah Jahan’s first son, a compelling, charismatic character. The French traveller Francois Bernier wrote of him as “courteous in conversation, quick at repartee, polite and extremely liberal”. He was the Barack Obama of his age — the cerebrally-gifted member of a minority who positioned himself beyond faction.

The Mughal dynasty produced warriors and intellectually curious men such as Akbar. Dara Shikoh was its lone scholar, a PhD in a family of school drop-outs. He studied the Quran, as well as the holy books of the Jews and Christians. He was an authority on the Upanishads, translating them from Sanskrit to Persian in his Sirr-i-Akbar. He was a devotee of Mian Mir, the Sufi spiritualist who laid the foundation of Sikhism’s holiest shrine, the Harmandir Sahib.

Dara’s Majma-al-Bahrain (Mingling of the Oceans) was an interrogation of the philosophies of Hinduism and Islam and sought to synthesise these. It could have been the inspirational text of a new India.

This was not to be. A few months before his death, Dara was defeated by his brother, Aurangzeb. Victors write history. Aurangzeb painted Dara as a villain. As Abraham Eraly recounts in The Last Spring: The Lives and Times of the Great Mughals, Aurangzeb’s official chronicler wrote of Dara: “He was constantly in the society of Brahmins, yogis and sanyasis, and he used to regard these worthless teachers of delusions as learned.”

Dara’s theological inquiry and his commissioning of a Persian translation of the Vedas were disparaged as “perverted opinions”. The consequences of Dara becoming emperor were assessed as catastrophic: “The foundations of faith would be in danger and the precepts of Islam would be changed for the rant of infidelity and Judaism.”


A mix of treachery and ill-luck lost Dara his crucial battle against Aurangzeb, despite a combined army of Muslims and Rajputs fighting desperately for a prince they saw as the moderate face of Indian Islam. When eventually captured, Dara was tried for apostasy and sentenced to death.

Aurangzeb, the brother Dara often dismissed as a “namaazi”, a zealot only obsessed with the outward appearances of religion, took charge of the Mughal Empire. Midway through his reign he imposed the jizya tax on Hindus, over a century after Akbar had abolished it. Dara was physically dead; now his spirit had been crushed too.

For a certain type of historian, it is fashionable to present Dara as a bookish weakling whose ascension to the Peacock Throne would have enfeebled the empire and thrown it into anarchy. This is not necessarily correct. His father trained Dara as an administrator, rarely sending him on military expeditions but realising perhaps that his reasonableness and learning were crucial to the governance of Hindustan.

The one campaign Dara did lead was an attempt to recapture Kandahar from the Persians in 1653. It failed and this is cited as evidence of Dara’s poor skills as a general. It is often forgotten that in the previous year Aurangzeb had done no better. He had also been humiliated in Kandahar.

The military setbacks suggested a broader message, one Dara instinctively understood. The Mughals had become an Indian people, far from their Central Asian roots. Their future, their culture, their very religiosity lay here, in the soil of India, not in some external homeland of the mind.

Unfortunately, we remember Dara today as only a fringe character. He features in popular culture — most recently in Mohsin Hamid’s novel Moth Smoke, an allegorical tale of Pakistan that names its tragic hero Dara and packages him as a sort of South Asian Jay Gatsby.

In India itself, the more visible socio-religious Muslim leadership has no time for Dara. ‘Secular’ politics rejects him as an embarrassment. Others do no better. When the NDA was in office, there was a proposal to name a park in Old Delhi after Dara Shikoh. BJP functionaries from Chandni Chowk protested it would be unpopular with Muslim voters and the idea was dropped.

It speaks of the times that Indian politics has place for those who stress Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s early role as “an ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity” but scarcely remembers Dara, the true embodiment of that synthesis. This August 30, spare a melancholic thought for that noble prince, and for the India that might have been.

-- malikashok@gmail.com
 

AgNoStiC MuSliM

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Very interesting read - but one of these days Indians are going to have to stop lamenting the decision of Pakistanis to assert their rights to a destiny as a separate nation.

It really would be far more fruitful to lament and ponder about how refusal to resolve disputes between the two nations in the present is perpetuating hostility and a lack of normalization between the two nations.

The past is the past - the world does not have to exist as 'one nation' for humanity to be in harmony - the world has to resolve disputes between nations and negotiate terms of engagement between nations that benefit all. Its time that some Indians stop brooding over the past and start looking into implementing the latter.
 

Halaku Khan

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It is a misconception that Indians lament the separation of Pakistan and Bangladesh. Even the most right-wing BJP types don't talk in those terms.

If there is anybody who may have regrets, it is the liberal Indian Muslims such as our friend EjazR on this board, and maybe also some liberals amongst the Mohajirs in Pakistan, who may feel that going to the promised land did not turn out to be so great after all.

Very interesting read - but one of these days Indians are going to have to stop lamenting the decision of Pakistanis to assert their rights to a destiny as a separate nation.

It really would be far more fruitful to lament and ponder about how refusal to resolve disputes between the two nations in the present is perpetuating hostility and a lack of normalization between the two nations.

The past is the past - the world does not have to exist as 'one nation' for humanity to be in harmony - the world has to resolve disputes between nations and negotiate terms of engagement between nations that benefit all. Its time that some Indians stop brooding over the past and start looking into implementing the latter.
 
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AgNoStiC MuSliM

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It is a misconception that Indians lament the separation of Pakistan and Bangladesh. Even the most right-wing BJP types don't talk in those terms.

If there is anybody who may have regrets, it is the liberal Indian Muslims such as our friend EjazR on this board, and maybe also some liberals amongst the Mohajirs in Pakistan, who may feel that going to the promised land did not turn out to be so great after all.
The underlined category of people are a lost cause - what nation in the world does not have a host of social, political and economic issues?

South Asia, unfortunately, tends to fall in the category of nations having more than their fair share of such issues.

'The promised land' did not turn into paradise, so far, but neither did the rest of South Asia.

And while I do not suggest that all Indians, or even a majority, lament and brood over the decision of Pakistanis to choose their own destiny as a separate nation, there is a plethora of articles such as these, and comments from Indians, Hindu and Muslim alike, that indicate that a strong current of such sentiment still exists in Indian society.

Time, and sustained efforts to encourage engagement between the two nations to resolve disputes and expand relations in every sphere, are IMO the only way to make people realize that 'unification' into one nation is not the only way to regional and global prosperity and harmony.
 
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EyelessInGaza

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And while I do not suggest that all Indians, or even a majority, lament and brood over the decision of Pakistanis to choose their own destiny as a separate nation, there is a plethora of articles such as these, and comments from Indians, Hindu and Muslim alike, that indicate that a strong current of such sentiment still exists in Indian society.
AM, when speaking of Indians who press for reunification with Pakistan, it is hard to separate wind up merchants from the nut cases from the genuine believers.

I can only speak of my case and that of my friends. I have gone from a period of random/ patriotic hostility to Pakistan (growing up) to a hard edged self introspection and evaluation of national identity (now).

Never in that time have I or any of the people I have known ever desired a reunification with Pakistan. Of course you can say that I come from a 'different' perhaps more liberal mindset. But think about it this way; if even a healthy minority of Indians were interested in reunification, it would have become a persistent electoral theme. A theme that politicians would have latched on to in national and state elections.

And yet, it never has. Prices, development, the economy, caste, sometimes religion are persistent themes in Indian elections. Sometimes, when push comes to shove, even religion goes out the window. So when the rubber meets the road, so to speak, during election time, we all know what the real issues are.

I am not being wide eyed or idealistic here. Let's be clear; there is knee jerk hostility towards Pakistan in India, and vice versa. I am sure there are Indians who would love to see Pakistan destroyed, and vice versa.

But Indian dreams of a reunification? I highly doubt it.
 

Kasrkin

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Actually, this is re-occurring theme every time I get into a debate with Indians on Indian forums. They try and attribute all the problems in our region to Pakistanis and they use the existance of Pakistan to 'prove' that Pakistanis are religiously hostile and uncompromising. They rather that Pakistan's ideology is flawed, and that all the present problems in the region can be attributed to that one Mr. Jinnah's 'mistake'. It doesn't occur to them that solving the disputes between our countries will require...the desire to resolve them and an acknowledgment that they can be solved, instead of brooding over the past.
 

shravan

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Karsin and others,

Do you guys believe the Partition of India happened because of religion ?

I still don't buy that crap because British knew where India would have headed if it stayed united. We would have ruled the world by know if we were united. If ever get a chance read the unclassified papers before 1947 you will understand how the WHITES played the games.

They knew exactly where Pakistan & India would be after 60 years. If you get a change read the local British papers in 1947.
--
 

EyelessInGaza

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Actually, this is re-occurring theme every time I get into a debate with Indians on Indian forums. They try and attribute all the problems in our region to Pakistanis and they use the existance of Pakistan to 'prove' that Pakistanis are religiously hostile and uncompromising. They rather that Pakistan's ideology is flawed, and that all the present problems in the region can be attributed to that one Mr. Jinnah's 'mistake'. It doesn't occur to them that solving the disputes between our countries will require...the desire to resolve them and an acknowledgment that they can be solved, instead of brooding over the past.
India and Pakistan as nation states are fundamentally opposed by the nature of the very core philosophies that created them. But that's been the case for a lot of neighbours round the world and time and economic growth usually allows greater tolerance.

If Indians believe Pakistan's ideology to be flawed, Pakistanis are driven by the obsession of undermining India. Citizens of both countries view reality through the prism of our education, propaganda and cultural/ national worldview.

However, I would say that from an Indian perspective, this still does prove the desire for reunification.
 

EyelessInGaza

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Karsin and others,

Do you guys believe the Partition of India happened because of religion ?

I still don't buy that crap because British knew where India would have headed if it stayed united. We would have ruled the world by know if we were united. If ever get a chance read the unclassified papers before 1947 you will understand how the WHITES played the games.

They knew exactly where Pakistan & India would be after 60 years. If you get a change read the local British papers in 1947.
--
I am not condemning either side but I think this statement of yours is what gets the goat of the average Pakistani.

It may be well meaning from an Indian perspective, but most Pakistanis don't give a ***k whether together we would have ruled the whole world or a public bathroom on Wellington Crescent Road, New Delhi.

What you as an Indian say in this regard, no doubt meaning well, is regarded as a declaration of outright hostility by many Pakistanis, cutting to the core of their beliefs.

I doubt what you have said actually argues for reunification, but that is how it gets interpreted.
 

shravan

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It may be well meaning from an Indian perspective, but most Pakistanis don't give a ***k whether together we would have ruled the whole world or a public bathroom on Wellington Crescent Road, New Delhi.
I am talking pre-1947. Today till we see a common enemy we can't become friends. Because there is a Big Whore in this planet who likes to mess things.
 

EyelessInGaza

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I am talking pre-1947. Today till we see a common enemy we can't become friends. Because there is a Big Whore in this planet who likes to mess things.
I realized that you were speaking pre-1947; however from a Pakistani perspective, I'd imagine it would sound a whole lot closer to today. But that's perspective.

As for the 'big whore' argument, I'd somewhat disagree. Others may have messed around but ultimately, we are each responsible for our problems.
 

humblehobbes

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Karsin and others,

Do you guys believe the Partition of India happened because of religion ?

I still don't buy that crap because British knew where India would have headed if it stayed united. We would have ruled the world by know if we were united. If ever get a chance read the unclassified papers before 1947 you will understand how the WHITES played the games.

They knew exactly where Pakistan & India would be after 60 years. If you get a change read the local British papers in 1947.
--

Apologies if am brusque.. But thats a dumb post. Subcontinent was lagging in knowledge that there was no concept of monarchy or nationalism. There was no unity among the various states. Bengal was the richest province in the pre colonial and colonial era. Dint mean that the people were happy. The peasants have been exploited since the days of Aurangazeb till now. At one point there were 500 states.. Some as big as Belgium and some as small as a few acres. 1 such state had 8 citizens :disagree:
and we are the economic power house huh! :partay:
 

third eye

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The partition was the best thing that happened to S Asia. Only, the manner it was done lies at the root of what we face .

Splitting property in best of times is a messy affair. When two nations are involved with religion thrown in - it only gets worse.

As regards lamenting on the past as mentioned by some here, the earlier we accept the fact that nothing is going to change on the ground & the earlier we reconcile ourselves to our geography the happier we shall be.

I feel that the partition was a right thing -not a day too soon.

On the topic, I feel if Dara Sikoh had suceeded Shah Jahan instead of Auranzeb the Mughal Dynasty would not have gone into the downward spiral so soon . One cannot say how long it would have lasted thereafter as there are too many imponderables but Auranzeb's actions cemented the alienation of Muslims as far as Hindus & Sikhs were concerned.
 

EjazR

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Ok Intially, I wasn't going to comment on this article because it wasn't well written but let me just comment on the basic premise that any lasting hope of Hindu-Muslim compact was finished 350 years ago.

In 1857, when Hindus and Muslims fought the first war of independance together and declared Bahdur Shah Zafar as Emperor of Hindustan that was an example of hindu-Muslim Compact. You had religious ulema of deoband on one side and Brahmins and Rajputs on the other. This so horrified the British that they had to focus all their energies on the divide-n-rule philosophy,

To live in India, now, was like standing on the verge of a volcanic crater, the sides of which were fast crumbling away from our feet, while the boiling lava was ready to erupt and consume us...The infanticide Rajput, the bigoted Brahmin, the fanatic Mussalman, had joined together in the cause; cow-killer and the cow-worshipper, the pig-hater and the pig-eater... had revolted together. - Thomas Lowe, British Chronicler, 1860

When Ashfaqulla Khan and Ram Prasad (both of them very religious) terrorised the British colonialist with their antics that was an example of a Hindu-Muslim Compact
Daredevilry of sons of the soil - Lucknow - City - NEWS - The Times of India

When under Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan's leadership the religious Pathans followed the program of non-violent disobedeince against the colonial british (yes the same area where the TTP created havoc!) in co-operation with Congress and even won a majority in the highly communalised atmosphere of 1946 elections, that was an example of a Hindu-Muslim compact

When, Maulana Azad established the University Grants Comission, the IIT structure and the basic education building block of partitioned India for the future education of majority Hindu nation, that was an example of a Hindu-Muslim Compact

And when a muslim scientist who graduated from the same IIT setup by Maulana Azad went out to pioneer and develop India's ballistic and nuclear capabilities for the protection of India, that was an example of Hindu-Muslim compact.

Ofcourse, Hindu-Muslim relations have not been perfect, espicially with the recent communalization of politics, but each day that India continues to survive with mainstream India adhering to the consitituion, that each day is an example of lasting Hindu-Muslim compact. And that would stay until India has the third largest (very close to second) muslim population along with the largest hindu and sikh populations.

It would be unrealistic to expect that there would be zero communal outbreaks of violence. Or zero cases of discriminations. Even in 100% homegenous societies it is not possible. But what the society does after that is what matters. And as the recent elections have shown, it seems that atleast this time we are going in the right direction.

An article that talks about BJP functionaires actually considering muslim sentiments on naming a park, sounds like a joke. A case of BJP playing minority vote-bank politics. :rofl:

The author doesnt even know where he is going with his tirade other than somehow trying to insinuate that being religious is bad.

IMO a muslim and a hindu can follow their religion and be religous without having problems. Thats why I have given examples of religious/devout people above and didnt include bollywood e.t.c. Its only when religion is evoked for geo-political purposes its a problem, and this applies to Islam, Hinduism, Chritianity e.t.c.

If there is anybody who may have regrets, it is the liberal Indian Muslims such as our friend EjazR on this board, and maybe also some liberals amongst the Mohajirs in Pakistan, who may feel that going to the promised land did not turn out to be so great after all.
So how many Indian muslims have you talked to about this? Ofcourse I regret the partition in the fact that it resulted in the misery and deaths of millions of people(both Hindus and Muslims), then again in 1971(both Hindus and Muslims) and still the thousands suffering in Kashmir even now (both Hindu Pandits and Muslims). No sane person will NOT regret that, including Pakistanis.

Having said that, given the condition at that time, partition had to happen. The insistence of the British and Mr. Jinnah to be the sole voice of muslims with no muslim representation from any other party, insistence of seperate electorates, cumpolsary grouping of provinces and communal based vetos would have balkanised India if not reduced it to a thrid world state.
This was the reason that Patel, Nehru, Maulana Azad senior members of the working committee accepted the partition with a heavy heart and their decision was right. The partition was the best thing possible in those circumstances.If the requirement for the unity of India was to accept the Two Nation Theory, that would have been the biggest tradegy.

Ghandhiji tried his utmost till the last minute with things like offering Jinnah the PM post but obviously he was a bit removed from reality.

Although right wingers on both sides created a communalised atmosphere and both are to blame. There is no doubt that there was Britsh colonial support by Churchill and co. who wanted to balakanise India for their own strategic interests. Particularly in light of the fact that Wavell had already got the partition approved in 1942 upto the detail of which districts would go where and it was this plan that was implemented to the letter in 1947. Even before any talks of actual demarcation had begun.

It is a misconception that Indians lament the separation of Pakistan and Bangladesh. Even the most right-wing BJP types don't talk in those terms.
Well its actually the right wing groups like VHP, BD e.t.c. who talk about Akhand Bharat. No Indian would want a reunification of India now particularly Indian muslims. There was a reason why a large section of even well off muslims who could have easily went to Pakistan stayed back at that time.

Having a co operative peaceful economic council like SAARC in the longer term where we can all get benefit is a different story. So how many Indians would disagree on that? Or for that matter Pakistanis or Bangladeshis?

So instead of espousing fringe opinions, either by mistake or knowingly. I suggest you join the mainstream India, visit your local masjid and talk to a few muslims and you will realise things are quite different. :D

You can being with chaning your nic which is quite offensive in case you didnt know.
Halaku Khan was responsible for the slaughter of millions of Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus and I am at a loss to understand why you chose it. And fyi, Halaku Khan, Chengiz Khan e.t.c. were not muslims, just in case you have been told otherwise.
 

EjazR

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Apologies if am brusque.. But thats a dumb post. Subcontinent was lagging in knowledge that there was no concept of monarchy or nationalism. There was no unity among the various states. Bengal was the richest province in the pre colonial and colonial era. Dint mean that the people were happy. The peasants have been exploited since the days of Aurangazeb till now. At one point there were 500 states.. Some as big as Belgium and some as small as a few acres. 1 such state had 8 citizens :disagree:
and we are the economic power house huh! :partay:
You are talking about the pre-British area and you are right there. But the British had united India and that was a big plus. Before that Mughal India was contributing to 25% of the world GDP pre-Britsh and when the British left it was down to less than 2%. If the British didn't colonise India and exacerbate communal tensions, what would have happened?

Most likely a possible scenario is, we would have spent another 500 years fighting amongst ourselves similar to where European countries fought amongst themselves for a 1000 years. Eventually some grand alliances would have formed which would have hindu and muslim kings allying together to fight another similar alliance based on economic or idelogical grounds. After some massive wars and modernising and education, we would have realised the futility of fighting amongst ourselves and importance of co-operation. Something like the EU would have been setup so that all different nations in the sub-continent could use their clout together like the EU does.

Just a scenario ofcourse, things could have gone the other way where the sub-continet would be like central africa with war lords/despotic kings wars between them with external "powers" exploiting them for their own interest as is happening in Africa now.
 

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