New Delhi: Mughal emperor Aurangzeb followed a philosophy that later gave birth to terrorist organisations like al-Qaeda, Islamic State and Lashkar-e-Taiba, union minister of minority affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi has said.
At a conference on Mughal prince Dara Shikoh at the Constitution Club of India in the capital on Wednesday, Naqvi termed him the “identity of nationalism”, while calling Aurangzeb a “symbol of terrorism”.
“Violence and oppression committed by an anarchist and cruel ruler like Aurangzeb was glorified by groups of Islamic fanatics, Leftists and so-called secular historians,” the minister said, adding that Aurangzeb’s attitude was to destroy human values and India’s “sanatan sanskriti” (long-standing culture). “This same thinking gave birth to terror organisations like al-Qaeda, ISIS, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Taiba, etc.”
The minister pointed out that during the first term of the Narendra Modi-led NDA government, Dalhousie Road in Lutyens’ Delhi was renamed after Dara Shikoh, and about two kilometres away Aurangzeb Road was renamed after former President APJ Abdul Kalam.
Observers say Aurangzeb has been a lightning rod for leaders from the BJP and its affiliated organisations. In 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi mocked the Congress by hailing Rahul Gandhi’s then-imminent election to his party’s top post as the institution of “Aurangzeb Raj”. In January this year, Rajasthan BJP vice-president Gyan Dev Ahuja compared Rahul, who was Congress chief at the time, with Aurangzeb, suggesting that the Congress “sultanate” was coming to an end.
Speaking at the conference, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leader Krishna Gopal held up the eldest son of Emperor Shah Jahan as an example of a “good Muslim” and “face of inclusiveness”, juxtaposing him with Aurangzeb, his brother.
He also said that the more than 16 crore Muslims in India have nothing to fear, underscoring that other minority communities such as Parsis, Buddhists and Jains feel safe in the country.
“Muslims are more than 16 crore, then why are they afraid... Why and from whom? This is a big question that the community which ruled the country for 600 years is afraid... it should be discussed,” the RSS leader said, referring to an article by Islamic scholar Raamish Siddiqui, while suggesting that the reason could be the “divisive mindset” spread by Aurangzeb.
Detractors have repeatedly accused the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its ideological mentor, the RSS, of attempting to shred India’s secular fabric by propagating a Hindu nationalist agenda that has unnerved Muslims and other minority communities. Supporters of the BJP and associated groups, however, say they are trying to right past wrongs, including appeasement politics practised by other parties such as the Congress.
Gopal said Dara Shikoh was a true Muslim and pointed out that he translated Upanishads into Persian. Inclusiveness and unity have always been integral and essential part of Indian culture, he said.
“He knew God was only one and there were different faiths to find him. Dara was never divisive. He understood the assimilative power of society and tried to establish compatibility while remaining a true Muslim,” Gopal said. “Not to hate anyone had been India’s tradition and Dara followed it. He was an epitome of Indianness.”
Dara Shikoh was Shah Jahan’s heir-apparent, but he was defeated in a war of succession by Aurangzeb and executed in 1659.
Many people from various countries and religions came to India and this country made them their own, Gopal said. While focusing on India’s tradition of inclusiveness, he maintained that the people of the country want everyone to prosper, including Pakistan.
“We are the followers of ‘vasudhaiva kutumbakam’ (the world is one family),” he said. “If you modify the mantra and add that people in Pakistan should be doomed, the Indians would be unhappy with this sentiment because for us it is ‘sarve sukhaye’ (everyone should be happy). We want that people in Pakistan to be happy too.”
Indian languages do not have a word synonymous with “exclusive”, he argued. “There is no exclusion, only inclusion. No Indian language has an equivalent of the term exclusive.”
The RSS leader maintained that Dara Shikoh belonged to the Indian syncretist tradition, and because of this his brother Aurangzeb considered him a threat to Islam.
“I can tell you with confidence that had Dara been the Mughal emperor in place of Aurangzeb, Islam could have flourished more in India,” he said.