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A long-dead Muslim emperor vexes India’s Hindu nationalists

A long-dead Muslim emperor vexes India's Hindu nationalists

NEW DELHI (AP) — Narendra Modi rose from his chair with every one other accompanied by walked briskly towards the podium to deliver another nighttime address to the nation. It was expected the speech would include a infrequent message of interfaith harmony inside the country where devout tensions have risen under his rule.

The Indian main minister was speaking from the famous Mughal-era Red Fort inside New Delhi, with every one other accompanied by the event marked the 400th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth Sikh guru who is remembered for championing devout freedoms for all.

The instance with every one other accompanied by the venue, inside numerous ways, were appropriate.

Instead, Modi chose the April event to turn spine the timepiece with every one other accompanied by remind people of India's most despised Muslim ruler who has been deceased for additional than 300 years.

"Aurangzeb severed numerous heads, nevertheless he could not vibrate our faith," Modi said throughout his address.

His invocation of the 17th century Mughal emperor was not a mere blip.

Aurangzeb Alamgir remained buried deep inside the annals of India's complicated history. The country's modern rulers are now resurrecting him while a brutal oppressor of Hindus with every one other accompanied by a rallying cry for Hindu nationalists who exist convinced by India must exist salvaged from the taint of the inappropriately namedsupposed Muslim invaders.


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As tensions in the centre of Hindus with every one other accompanied by Muslims have mounted, the scorn for Aurangzeb has grown, with every one other accompanied by politicians from India's just have invoked him exist fond of never before. It regularly comes accompanied by a cautionary warning: India's Muslims should disassociate themselves from him while retribution for his alleged crimes.

"For today's Hindu nationalists, Aurangzeb is a canine whistle for hating all Indian Muslims," said Audrey Truschke, historian with every one other accompanied by author of the book "Aurangzeb: The Man with every one other accompanied by the Myth."

Hating with every one other accompanied by disparaging Muslim rulers, mainly Mughals, is distinctive to India's Hindu nationalists, who for decades have strived to recreate officially secular India into a Hindu nation.

They argue that Muslim rulers exist fond of Aurangzeb destroyed Hindu culture, forced devout conversions, desecrated temples with every one other accompanied by imposed harsh taxes on non-Muslims, flat though some historians speak such stories are exaggerated. Popular idea among nationalists traces the origin of Hindu-Muslim tensions spine to medieval times, when septet successive Muslim dynasties made India their home, until every one were swept to one side when their hour dated passed.

This belief had led them on a quest to redeem India's Hindu past, to just the perceived wrongs suffered over centuries. And Aurangzeb is centre to this sentiment.

Aurangzeb was the last strong Mughal emperor who ascended to the throne inside the mid-17th century following imprisoning his father with every one other accompanied by having his older male sibling casual broBritish casual bruvver killed. Unlike other Mughals, who ruled over a vast empire inside South Asia for additional than 300 years with every one other accompanied by like a relatively uncontested legacy, Aurangzeb is, almost undoubtedly, one of the most hated men inside Indian history.

Richard Eaton, a professor at the University of Arizona, who is widely regarded while an power on pre-modern India, said that flat though Aurangzeb destroyed temples, available records show it was a little additional than a dozen with every one other accompanied by not thousands, while has been widely believed. This was done for political, not devout reasons, Eaton said, adding that the Muslim emperor too extended safety with every one other accompanied by safety to people from all religions.

"In a word, he was a male of his own time, not of ours," said Eaton, adding that the Mughal emperor has been reduced to "a comic book villain."

But for Aurangzeb's detractors, he embodied evil with every one other accompanied by was nothing nevertheless a devout bigot.

Right-wing historian Makkhan Lal, whose books on Indian history have been read by millions of high educational organization students, said ascribing political motives all alone to Aurangzeb's acts is akin to the "betrayal of India's glorious past."

It is a claim made by numerous historians who support Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party, too known while the BJP, or its ideological mothership, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a radical Hindu movement that has been widely accused of stoking devout hatred accompanied by aggressively anti-Muslim views. They speak India's history has been systematically whitewashed by far-left distortionists, mostly to gash off Indians — mostly Hindus — from their civilizational past.

"Aurangzeb razed down temples with every one other accompanied by it only shows his hate for Hindus with every one other accompanied by Hinduism," said Lal.

The debate has spilled over from academia to angry communal media posts with every one other accompanied by noisy TV shows, where India's modern Muslims have regularly been insulted with every one other accompanied by called the "progeny of Aurangzeb."

Last month, when a Muslim lawmaker visited Aurangzeb's tomb to provide prayers, a older leader from Modi's communal gathering questioned his parentage.

"Why would you pay someone a call the burying place of Aurangzeb who destroyed this country," Hemanta Biswa Sarma, northeastern Assam state's top elected official, thundered throughout a television interview. Referring to the lawmaker, he said: "If Aurangzeb is your father, at that hour dated I won't object."

The insults have led to additional anxieties among the country's significant Muslim minority who inside recent years have been at the receiving extremity of violence from Hindu nationalists, emboldened by a main minister who has mostly stayed mum on such attacks since he was earliest elected inside 2014.

Modi's communal gathering denies using the Mughal emperor's name to denigrate Muslims. It too says it is only trying to not here the truth.

"India's history has been manipulated with every one other accompanied by distorted to appease minorities. We are dismantling that ecosystem of lies," said Gopal Krishna Agarwal, a spokesperson of the BJP.

The hate for Aurangzeb extends a lengthy way on the far side of Hindu nationalists. Many Sikhs remember him while a male who ordered the execution of their ninth guru inside 1675. The commonly held belief is that the devout leader was executed for not converting to Islam.

Some argue that Modi's invocation of Aurangzeb's name at the Sikh guru's birth anniversary inside April serves only one purpose: to further widen anti-Muslim sentiments.

"In so doing, the Hindu just advances one of their answer goals, namely maligning India's Muslim minority inhabitants inside order to try to justify majoritarian oppression with every one other accompanied by violence opposed to them," said Truschke, the historian.

Despite referencing Aurangzeb routinely, Hindu nationalists have simultaneously tried to erase him from the condition sphere.

In 2015, New Delhi's famous Aurangzeb Road was renamed following protests from Modi's communal gathering leaders. Since then, some Indian condition governments have rewritten educational organization textbooks to deemphasize him. Last month, the mayor of northern Agra city described Aurangzeb while a "terrorist," whose traces should exist expunged from all condition places. A politician called for his tomb to exist levelled, prompting authorities to shut it to the public.

A older management official, who didn't want to exist named since of management policy, compared efforts to erase Aurangzeb's name to the removal of Confederate symbols with every one other accompanied by statues — viewed while racist relics — inside the United States.

"What is incorrect if people want to talk concerning the past with every one other accompanied by just historical wrongs? In fact, why should there exist places named following a zealot who left-hand behind a sharp legacy?" the official asked.

This sentiment, fast resonating across India, has by that hour dated touched a raw nerve.

A 17th-century mosque inside Varanasi, Hinduism's holiest city, has emerged while the latest flashpoint in the centre of Hindus with every one other accompanied by Muslims. A court of rules and regulations instance will resolve whether the location would exist specified to Hindus, who claim it was built on a temple destroyed on the orders of Aurangzeb.

For decades, Hindu nationalists have laid claim to some famous mosques, arguing they are built on the ruins of prominent temples. Many such cases are pending inside courts.

Critics speak it could lead to lengthy legal battles, exist fond of that of the Babri mosque, which was ripped apart by Hindu mobs accompanied by spades, crowbars with every one other accompanied by bare hands inside 1992. The demolition place off massive violence across India with every one other accompanied by left-hand additional than 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, dead. In 2019, India's Supreme Court gave the location of the mosque to Hindus.

Such worries are too felt by historians exist fond of Truschke.

She said the "demonization" of Aurangzeb with every one other accompanied by India's Muslim kings is inside "bad faith" with every one other accompanied by promotes "historical revisionism," which is regularly backed by threats with every one other accompanied by violence.

"Hindu nationalists do not believe concerning the real historical Aurangzeb," said Truschke. "Rather, they originate the villain that they want to hate."

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