Shah Jahan was one of the prominent Mughal emperors of India – who was known for the extensive architectural marvels which he constructed across his empire. It was also a time when communal harmony was at its peak in India. His grandfather Jalaluddin Akbar had laid the foundation of a strong civil society by aboloshing hardline Islamists from his court and by introducing inter-faith dailogues. That laid the seeds of communal harmony for another 150 years.
Shah Jahan had four sons who were Dara Shikoh, Murad, Aurangazed and another fourth (whose name I don’t remember). Dara Shikoh was a scholar who was much ahead of his time when it came to religious dialogues and depth of spiritual knowledge. He wrote Persian translations of the Bhagvad Gita and the Upanishads. He is also supposedly the author of the first Sanskrit version of the Koran. His magnum-opus was the ‘Majma-ul-Bahrain’ (Churning of the oceans) which talks about the meeting of Hinduism and Islam and their common points.
On the other hand his younger brother Aurangazeb was a hardline Islamist. There ensued a power struggle and Aurangazed won. He later began destroying all sings of communal harmony within civil soceity and bought in a hardline Islamist state which subjected its Hindu and Sikh citizenry to a great deal of hardship burdened with extraneous taxes.
Fast forward to the present century. Turkey had a huge burden of the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the century. Enter Kemal Ataturk the father of modern Turkey. He captured power, introduced industrilization and made Turkey a secular nation. Civil soceity with public institutions of the state would not have any signs of religion. He so ingrained the secular tradition into the blood of Turkey that it became very difficult for Turkey to become an “Islamist” state …..despite having a majority Islamic population and being in the vicinity of an Arab neighbourhood.
Iran had a proud modernized civil soceity where women could roam the streets of Tehran clad in a t-shirt and jeans. Then came the revolt of 1979 where the Shah of Iran was overthrown and the ayotullahs took over power. What followed in Iran was a collapse of modern soceity. This was the first example in modern history where a soceity went backward. Women were subject to a lot of public humiliation and things became very very difficult for the common Teheran resident.
Afghanistan – 1989-90-91 . Kabul was equally progressive and had women roaming about the streets without a hijab (burqa). The soviets withdrew from Afghanistan and the mujahideen took over. Najibullah the ex-president took shelter in the UN compound. The mujahideen were later defeated by the Taliban who came from Kandahar. They, with the support of Pakistan, overthrew the Mujahideen – dragged Najibullah out of the UN compound, castrated him and hanged him to death in a public square. This was the beginning. What followed later in Kabul was the total collapse of society there …..which I have time and again spoken about in my previous blog postings.
Today’s Karnataka is at a similar point in History. The BJP have captured power. The dark forces of conservatism, orthodoxy and slowly and surely flexing their muscles on the streets of Mangalore and Bangalore. These forces are ably supported by the ruling party who ensure that the police don’t take any action.
If we the progressive civil soceity dont quell these forces now and defeat them before they gain strength ……………one day we will go the way of Iran and Afghanistan. Rather let us grow the secular traditions of this great nation to such a force that we become like Turkey ……where no matter who comes in the future …..the nation will still stand still and not crumble.
We have to vote the BJP out of power and we have to get together to bring the culprits of Mangalore/Bangalore to book. Beyond that the secular forces should join hands and present a united force rather than being disjointed and ineffective.