When Babur was conquering more territory in India, one of his formidable opponents was the Rajput king Rana Sangha of Mewar. The news of the defeat of one of his battalions by Rana Sangha was accompanied by a soothsayer’s prediction of disaster and the desertion of the Indian mercenaries. Babur’s soldiers were thoroughly demoralised. A new strategy was required. Thus came in religion. “This is not just a war for territory,” declared the divinely inspired Babur. “This is a jihad against infidels.” With no other weapon than a few words, Babur converted a greedy and violent war into a holy jihad. “Cowardice became apostasy while death assumed the welcome guise of martyrdom,” writes John Keay in his book, India: A History. Keay goes on to quote from Babur-nama (Babur’s personal memoir-cum-diary), “The plan was perfect, it worked admirably...” His soldiers took an oath on the Quran to fight till they fell. What’s more, Babur enacted certain religious rituals too: abjuring alcohol, he ostentatiously dashed decanters and goblets to pieces, and emptied the wine-skins. Babur-the-Conqueror became Babur-the-Crusader.
Making use of religion for political purposes is a very ancient trick. It is unfortunate that the trickery continues to be in use even today when the world has marched ahead of religion using science, reason and technology. What happened in Chennai two days back is yet another instance of the return of obsolete tricks. Some political activists belonging to various parties attacked a TV channel and forced it to cancel a programme which debated whether the mangal sutra worn by married women in India is a boon or a bane. Even after the channel decided to call off the telecast of the debate, the attacks continued even to the extent of hurling a bomb though no one was hurt. It’s not only “some fringe elements” that are involved but also the state’s BJP which extended its support to the attack.
A few weeks back, Tamil novelist Perumal Murugan was forced to take an oath that he would not write any more merely because one of his novels questioned the male chauvinism that underscores the Hindu patriarchal system (as it does all patriarchal systems).
Stifling debates and literature is the beginning of the disastrous decline of any society. But some political parties in India led by the ruling BJP do not see it that way. They belong to the era of Babur and his successors who believed that an empire of conquest could be sustained only by more conquests.
Why does the past keep pulling the Party backwards even though the people of the country voted for the progressive “development” it had promised in its election manifesto? Does India really need Holy Wars? What triggers such notions as manifested by the Party and its “fringe elements” ever since Mr Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister of the country? These are a few of the questions that can be contemplated on in the Party’s next Chintan Baitak.