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Friday, December 8, 2023

Raja Dahir: A National Hero of Pakistan

In a heartening gesture of Indic revivalism in Pakistan, the #RajaDahirIsNationalHero was trending in top positions on twitter on 4th May, 2020. Raja Dahir Sen was the last Hindu king of Sindh, today a province with the highest percentage of Hindus in Pakistan. Raja Dahir of Brahman dynasty ruled Sindh from 679 C.E. to 712 C.E. His kingdom was conquered by Muhammad Bin Qasim, an Arab general of the Umayyad Caliphate.

Snapshot from Twitter

Though nationalist Sindhis always venerated Raja Dahir for having fought against foreign Arab invaders, the recent upsurge towards Hindu Raja Dahir is believed to have been noticed when a statue of local hero Maharaja Ranjeet Singh was built and unveiled some time ago by the citizens of Punjab province in Pakistan. Later the people of Sindh raised the demand that when people of Punjab can erect the statue of their hero Raja Ranjeet Singh they should also have the right to erect a statue of Raja Dahir Sen, the last Hindu Raja of Sindh.

Mentions of Raja Dahir can be seen in many historical scriptures but The ‘Chach Nama’ is the oldest & most relevant chronicle of the Arab conquest of Sindh. It was translated in Persian by Muhammad Ali bin Hamid bin Abu Bakr Kufi in 1216 CE from an earlier Arabic text believed to have been written by the Thaqafi family (relatives of Muhammad bin Qasim).

Pakistani Citizens remembering Hindu Raja Dahir on 4th May, the day of his martyrdom

In different books, there are various reasons given for invasion of Raja Dahir’s kingdom by Ummayad General Muhammad Bin Qasim; one was the pirate raid off the coast of ‘Debal’ and looting of the gifts sent for the Caliph by Sri Lanka’s king. Another known reason for conquest of Raja Dahir’s kingdom by Ummayad caliphate was the refusal of Raja Dahir to return Muhammad Bin Allafi, who had taken asylum under Raja Dahir’s government.

It is also said that Raja Dahir had also offered shelter to Hussain Ibn Ali, the grandson of Mohammad, who was being persecuted by other Muslims at home. But Hussain was killed before reaching Sindh. Truth be told, Arab invaders didn’t need an excuse to plunder and loot ‘infidel lands’ in that era. The advent of Islam had brought about unsatiable lust for kafir territory and in less than 100 years between 632-718CE, the Muslims had attacked Spain, Egypt, Persia and Sindh.

From neutral history point of view, Hindu Raja Dahir was a generous and liberal person. During his rule, religions other than Hindus were also respected and lived in peace with each other. Apart from Hindu majorities who had their temples, Buddhists and Muslims were also allowed to build their pagodas and mosques and so were Parsis who built their fire temples. Parsis, having been exiled from their ancestral lands by Muslim invaders, had come to Sindh as refugees. Muslims had also settled in Sindh because of the intolerance of Arab kings.

Hindu Raja Dahir

The period of Qasim’s rule after the killing of Hindu Raja Dahir was the darkest period in the history of Sindh with record massive forced conversions, destruction and genocides. Many women of Sindh were enslaved during Qasim’s rule and were sent to Muslim harems.

Hindus and Buddhists who were classified as Dhimmis had to pay mandatory Jizya which is normally higher than the zakat to be paid by Muslims. Contrastingly preferential treatment was given to a small number of people who were converted to Islam by “exempting them from Jizya in lieu of paying the Zakat“. Qasim fixed Zakat at 10% of the agricultural produce.

Dhimmis had to endure more restrictions and lesser rights than Muslims. In Al-Biruni’s narrative, a historian of Islam in South and Southeast Asia, “Qasim first asserts the superiority of Islam over the polytheists by committing a taboo (killing a cow) and publicly soiling the idol (giving the cow meat as an offering)” before allowing the temple to continue as a place of worship.

Though Muhammad Bin Qasim was unceremoniously disposed of by a rival Muslim clan, he is still regarded as a hero by today’s Pakistani Muslims, which is not that surprising. Unfortunately for Pakistan, it has always eulogized foreign Islamic invaders like Mahmud Gazhni (Afghanistan), Muhammad Ghori (Afghanistan) and Babar(Uzbekistan) in place of real sons of soil.

So marauders like Babar & Ghori are honored as ‘Gazis’ and Pakistani missiles are named after them by Pakistan. It is the same ‘Babar’ who had laid waste to Pakistani cities of Lahore & Saidpur during his invasion. Baba Nanak Shah who had witnessed the mass murders opined that Babar has come as punishment for the excesses committed by Tughlaq kings.

In his Babarvani, Guru Nanak had remarked When there was such suffering, such killing, such shrieking in pain, did not Thou, 0 God, feel pity? Creator, Thou art the same for all!”. So the very men who laid rout to their land and committed genocide of their ancestors are today’s heroes of Pakistan. In such a wanton murder of history, no wonder that an Arab Muhammad Bin Qasim became a hero and Raja Dahir, protector of Sindh, a villain.

It is high time for Pakistan to identify and honour its true heroes instead of commending the robbers falsely projected as heroes in their twisted historical books. As famous Pakistani thinker Hassan Nisar often comments “jo kome taarikh ko maskh karti hai taarikhen unko maskh kar diya karti hain” meaning  “Those communities who distort history are often distorted by history.”

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