Violence in Indian historical process

rohan.oberoi at CORNELL.EDU rohan.oberoi at CORNELL.EDU
Wed Dec 13 21:49:01 UTC 2000

That's a point that's often brought up when history is dragged into
the construction of ethnic hatreds.  Among other themes, there are a
number of properties currently operating as temples which are quite
well documented to have been "looted" by Hindus from Buddhists (such
as the Mahabodhi temple at Bodh Gaya, or the 'Jagannatha' temple at
Puri) since these dispossessions, unlike the widely postulated
dispossession of tribals from most of India, occurred recently
enough.  There are besides Hindu temple sites known to have been
looted and destroyed by Hindus (including, strangely enough, one that
was looted by the Hindu Marathas and restored by the king whose
territory they were looting -- the Muslim Tipu Sultan).  How little
history looks the way reductionist ethnic hate mongers want it to look
can be see in any contemporary account, say, of the composition of the
Mughal armies -- in which the crucial battalions at pivotal moments of
history were very often Hindu Rajputs.

The problem is that the goal of scholarship is not to tally up the
rights and wrongs of history like a football match; it is taken for
granted that people of all kinds did lots of bad (and good) things
through the centuries.  That's not the point.

But politics is (sadly) often about mobilising ethnic groups against
other ethnic groups along easily identifiable markers.  So Indologists
get venom from Hindus who want to believe that all Hindus through
history were good and pure, and as Dr. Hock notes they get it
similarly in the neck from Muslims who want to believe the same about
all Muslims in history.

Fortunately there is no particular South Asian pathology here: for
example, scholars of Japan who put forward the likely theory that
Japanese society derives partly from large scale migrations from the
Korean peninsula are not much liked in Japan.

But I do wish there were some way to avoid seeing these barrages of
posts from political rabblerousers here on this list.  A milder form
of Mr. Houben's proposal might not be entirely unwarranted, and I
would be willing to support one even if it got me banned from posting


Artur Karp wrote:
>Akhilesh Jha wrote:
>>we must not forget the attack, the loot, the plunder, the
>>destruction brought upon Bharat by invaders. And, we must not rest
>>till the historical crimes have been accounted for, not by making
>>scapegoats but by returning of looted properties, by admitting to
>>the crimes and by a clear commitment of not repeating the same.
>Is it so clear that in the process of (what may be termed as) the
>Indian internal colonization no land was ever taken (looted, if I may
>use your language) from original owners? By Indians - from Indians?
>Is it so clear that no Indian tribal "religious symbols, prayer
>places and altars" were ever destroyed by the builders of new cities,
>pilgrimage centers, shrines, fortresses, roads, dams, irrigation
>systems, mines, etc.?
>With regards,
>Artur Karp
>University of Warsaw

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