Muslims, was the "PC" Card

J.B. Sharma JSHARMA at Hermes.GC.PeachNet.EDU
Wed Dec 13 12:56:52 UTC 1995

A question for J.B. Sharma (before this thread peters out, or burns...)

How exactly is the dregging up of medieval atrocities committed by Muslims
against Hindu shrines supposed to ameliorate the present communalist
tensions?  [I'm unable to find your exact words, just now, but I believe
you said words to this effect more than once.]

Wouldn't those Hindutva parties in favor of building (probably for the
first time) a Ram janam-bhumi temple at Ayodhya gain enormous credibility
for even- handedness if they proposed some sort of restitution in memory of
those thousands of Jains who were impaled before a Pandyan king in the
cause of Saiva bhakti?  To quote K.A. Nilakanta Shastri's _A History of
South India_ "The story goes that on this occassion [the nAyanAr
Campantar's visit to Madurai] 8,000 Jains were put to death by impalement,
and a festival in the Madura temple is supposed to commemorate the gruesome
event to this day." 3rd ed., p. 424.

According to the extensive and extremely vivid epigraphic record, as
collected in part by Richard Davis, the plunder of TEMPLES in rival
kingdoms was a frequent and openly admitted policy of kings in preMuslim
India ("Indian Art Objects as Loot," _Journal of Asian Studies_ vol. 52:1
(Feb, l993): 22-48 Soon to be republished on a much expanded scale by
Princeton).  At present I fail to see much difference between intra-Hindu
iconicide (to coin a phrase) and Islamic iconoclasm.

Michael Rabe
Saint Xavier University, &
School of the Art Institute of Chicago

 My questions to the list are a part of my own attempts to understand 
the history of medevial India, such that I may be able to understand 
roots of the Hindu-Muslim conflict which has debilitated the sub-
continent for so long and shows no sign of abating. In fact it only 
seems to get worse.

 What exactly has transpired on the hapless folk in course of the 
invasions is not an issue of discussion in Indian academia (or 
seemingly elsewhere). I am interested in the story of these folk and 
this is a genuine historical question. Once more, I believe that the 
sporadic vicious communal violence is driven by these historical 
resentments which remain in the folk-memory even if they are not 
explicated. Sita Ram Goels compilation of the work of scribes who 
eyewittnessed these times brings out a time of fear and destruction 
which continued for almost eight hundred years. I am interested in 
understanding the effect of this on all people of the sub-continent 
and it seems to me that we can make sense of the irrational 
happenings of today based on the mostly suppressed historical baggage.

 I do not believe that the scale of killing and destruction in the 
Hindu-Muslim conflict is not the same as in the case of Hindu-
Jaina of Hindu-Buddhist violence. The medevial books I referenced in 
my previous note go on and on about the thousands of infidels 
killed/converted and the thousands of temples destroyed. Whereas 
there have been cases of Hindu kings getting pangs of 
conscience and rebuilding Jaina temples after destroying them. Do you 
know of any Islamic iconoclast getting similar twinges of conscience ?
Also bear in mind, Jainism survived in India by melding into nebulous 
Hindu fold. Buddhism was not that lucky because of it monastic 

 As for some in the Hindutva gang espousing reclamation of some 
mosques; I am in total disagreement with these folks and I think that 
we should be wary of them. These mosques were taken in war, and he 
time to fight was then. I think that these buildings should be 
preseved forever as a reminder to Hindus of what happens due to this 
endemic internal divisiveness, and to catalyze reform. I do hope that 
a sane and non-vindictive leadership will rise to the occasion.

 To my mind the U.S. remains an exemplar in defusing the liabilities 
invoked by atrocity in its historical past. Once more, there is no 
shirking from debate on the unpleasant facts of slavery and genocide 
of the native population. All of what transpired is shared and 
accepted by all, and this candidness has led to the most creative 
forms of societal healing. Since there is a common vision of he past, 
there can be a common vision of the future. Just think of the mess 
there would be (similar to the Indian sub-continent) if slavery and 
genocide was simply denied as an affront to ancestral memory and such 
things were not a part of public discussion and debate. This very 
same intellectual honesty has lead to social equality and 
progress in a manner (and at a rate) which gives hope for the 
resolution of similar deeply rooted conflicts in other parts of the 

 In summary, I do not believe that Intra-Hindu conflict as large in 
scale as the Hindu-Muslim conflict. And really, it it were as large 
and systematic, then Hinduism should have destroyed Jainism and 
Buddhism a long time ago. A sentimental aversion to unpleasant 
history will never illuminate possible pathways out of this centuries 
old conflict.

 I must step out of the debate for some time as we are about to 
travel. It has been like walking thru a minefield, but I have learned 
a lot from the discussions which have ensued. I think that all of the 
participants in this firestorm have ventured into it out of genuine 
concern and have helped me greatly to shape/modify my views. I wish 
everyone a very happy and contemplative holiday season.
J.B. Sharma




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