French journalist Francois Gautier’s Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism put together an exhibition titled “Aurangzeb as he was according to Mughal records.” The exhibition displayed various paintings which show Aurangzeb ordering the removal of his father’s body and trying to convert a Jewish philosopher. There were also two paintings which showed the destruction of the Somnath temple and pieces of a temple being used to build the steps of a mosque.
This exhibition was held at Delhi, Pune and Bangalore without incident, but when it reached Chennai, the Aurangzeb DNA in some got activated. The folks at Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam, Manitha Neethi Paasarai, and someone called the Prince of Arcot did not like it a bit and with violence managed to end the exhibition. According to them the displayed objects were a fabrication and would “promote enmity between various groups” and ironically they had to resort to violence to drum once more that Aurangzeb was a benevolent ruler.
There has been great effort in India to confer an aura of sanctity on Aurangzeb by naming roads after him and whitewashing his terror. State circular (Syl/89/1) published by the West Bengal Government explicitly removed certain lines from history text books. They include, “”The early Sultans were eager to expand the sway of Islam by forcibly converting Hindus to Islam” and “”As dictated by Islam, there were three options for non-Muslims, get yourself converted to Islam, pay jaziya or face death. In an Islamic state, non-Muslims had to accept one of these choices.” Two paintings at the FACT exhibition shows exactly this.
The history books — not the state sanctioned ones — do not present a flattering image of Aurangzeb (1659 – 1707) and agree with depictions. This Mughal emperor reversed whatever tolerance Akbar had practiced. Restrictions were put on the practice of Hindu rituals, orthodox Muslims were preferred in courts, Jaziya was reimposed and Hindu temples were demolished. This has to be contrasted with the rule of Akbar when religious tests and Jaziya were abolished and Rajput princes and other Hindus were given prominent positions in the state.
Why don’t we all read the G rated NCERT text books and sing Kumbaya? Why rake up the past and cause communal disharmony?
One of the contentions of those, who protested against the exhibition, was that raking up the past would create a communal divide in Tamil Nadu, which has been relatively free of it.One of the lessons of history has been that remaining silent on unpleasant periods in history leads to a repetition of such unpleasant experiences. That is why Western school children are taught about the evils of rulers like Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin etc. That is why the Jewish people keep reminding themselves and the rest of the world about the holocaust. That was why some years ago Jean-Marie Le Pen, the French rightist leader, was severely criticised for denying the reality of the holocaust.
When we deny harsh truths of history, we are only playing into the hands of jihadi terrorists, who see themselves as the Aurangzeb of today. [AURANGZEBS OF TODAY]
 Wonder That Was India by A.L.Basham
- More, the Merrier
- Indian History Carnival – 3