The difference between Mongol rulers and the rest of the empires that existed is that their incredible cruelty to their own citizens. For millennia, war has been dictated by certain rules, even honour, and to conflate the cruelty displayed upon one’s own citizens instead of on an enemy kingdom in the name of religion is what set the Mughals apart in history.
Was there realpolitik employed? Did the dependence on organized religion offer Babur the edge lacked by prior Mongol invasions in the subcontinent? Quite possibly. Organized religion was a commonly employed tool of war in medieval times and created stronger alliances than those of marriage, especially for travelling invaders such as the Mongols.
To constantly set our humanity aside and claim that a Turkic-Mongol king was a poet or had courtiers of different religions ignores the victims absolutely, and is a rather horrifying narrative, taking the agency away from these dead sultans who have definitely claimed to affect their cruelty on the basis of their religion.
The worst part is that the constant roundabout historic perspectives that choose to ignore even first-hand historic accounts tend to identify today’s Bharatiya Muslim to the then sultans. Compare this to trying to correlate today’s Germans with the Nazi party, which, by the way, arrived much after the Mongols. No normal German would ever want to, despite the Germanic expansion in Hitler’s time.
While it may be argued that this is because of their loss in the second World War to the Allied Powers, can we forget that Bahadur Shah Zafar was a pensioner of the British and the sultanate was also a defeated power in the hands of the British?
For decades now, the extolling of Aurangzeb, Akbar and Tipu Sultan has hardly been tempered by stories of Amir Khusrau, Sant Kabir, the more poetic Bahadur Shah Zafar, the cunning Mir Jafar or the actually secular Dara Shikoh. The Adil Shahi Empire, one of the largest Bharatiya empires, goes unnoticed in Bharatiya history textbooks, despite excellent measures employed by them to expand trade and economy as well as administrative measures such as the building of trade-routes.
A few books, no cinema, no articles or history lessons that allow Bharat’s Muslims to identify with forces non-tyrannical towards other faiths. Is this an agenda, a conspiracy, or mere naïve misunderstanding collaborated by British colonial historians? Perhaps it is a bit of both.
The forces that gave the Ulema the power over the common Muslim victims of war helped create a sense of grandeur around the grotesque cruelty of Tipu Sultan and Aurangzeb, helping later Muslims proudly execute massacres such as the Noakhali Massacre in Bengal and the Moplah Massacre in the Malabar region.
As soon as the political wings have been able to misuse these narratives, new ones are quickly construed painting the perpetrators as victims, creating confusion and insecurity. It is time that we evolved to understand that the basis of Islam for the regular Bharatiya Muslim has not been cruelty, but the more we encourage the false myths as the only true word on the Mongol kings, the more absolute will be the damage done to the Muslims who grow up with some crisis of identity.
-by Sagorika Sinha
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