Sunday, August 8, 2010

How India's "communalists" fared in the "secular" atmosphere

(Excerpted from Sita Ram Goel's book "How I became a Hindu")
The first problem I faced as a publisher was the Emergency imposed by Islam ever since its advent in India. One has all the freedom to praise Islam, its prophet, its scripture, its heroes, and its "contribution to Indian culture". But one is not free to ask a few questions or present the real facts relating to these very subjects. The Vedas, the Epics, the Puranas, and every other book which Hindus hail as holy can be discussed, even denounced. So also every Hindu God and Goddess, every Hindu hero, every Hindu tradition, and every Hindu social institution. But saying that Muhammad was not the last prophet, that the Quran is not the final revelation, and that Islam is not the only true religion continues to cause trouble. Such statements invited death penalty so long as Islam had a monopoly of military power in this country. After that, they have been inviting clauses of the law code, and street riots if the law happens to be negligent once in a while.
It was not long before I was visited by officers of the Crimes Department, and not only from Delhi. I was accused of causing communal discord, and threatening the peace of the land. I was arrested, and ordered to seek bail. The Station House Officer in Delhi who locked me up for twenty four hours, was mighty pleased with his performance. He boasted loudly that he had prevented a big street riot in Delhi. He invited me to accompany him and see for myself the missiles which the local Muslims had piled up on the roofs of their houses, apart from the firearms inside. When I asked him why he had not got the missiles removed and the firearms flushed out, he snarled, "Address your question to the big bosses of the political parties. I am only a small fry trying to earn my daily bread."
I had been arrested in the classic case of Ram Swarup's documented study, Understanding Islam through Hadis: Religious Faith or Fanaticism? This book had been published in the USA in 1982, thanks to the efforts of Shri Arvind Ghosh of Houston, Texas. VOICE OF INDIA had brought out an Indian reprint in 1983. There had been loud talk in the book market at Delhi that this book was going to be banned. I had waited with bated breath. But nothing had happened for two years. So I had got it translated into Hindi, and sent the printed sheets of two thousand copies to the binder. A Muslim mob had materialized outside the binder's shop, and threatened to burn down the establishment. The Station House Officer, I had mentioned, had appeared on the scene in a matter of minutes, and carried away all the sheets as well as the binder. In the next few hours I had been picked up.
The Delhi Administration which was under Congress rule at that time, appointed two screening committees, one after another, to examine the Hindi translation and find out if it had departed from the English original, or if the English original itself contained any objectionable matter. Both the committees came to the same conclusion there was nothing objectionable, either in the English original or in the Hindi translation; both of them had only summarized faithfully an orthodox Islamic scripture. The Delhi Administration sent the case to the Metropolitan Court, and requested that it should be dismissed. But the Jam`at i Islami weekly, Radiance, raised a hue and cry, accusing the author and the publisher of insulting the Prophet. The court waited for some Muslims to appear and show why the case should not be dismissed. No one appeared. So the court dismissed the case on September 28, 1991. But the Delhi Administration issued a notification in November, 1991, stating that the Hindi translation will stand banned whenever it is published. In March 1992, the same Administration banned the English original also. By then the English original had been in circulation for nearly ten years. Meanwhile, two Indian reprints had been sold out. There is a great demand for this book even now. But I remain helpless.
I will close this chapter with my comments of the Ayodhya movement. Rain Swarup had seen in this movement an opportunity to educate the Hindus about the character of Islam. As early as 1983, he had asked me to put my knowledge of history and archaeology to some use, and compile a directory of Hindu temples destroyed by the Islamic invaders and rulers down the centuries. The Muslim monuments which had come up on the sites and/or built with materials of Hindu temples had to be highlighted. I had got busy with source materials which were voluminous and in several languages. It was going to be a big job.
Muslim leaders and Stalinist historians were raising a howl about Hindu chauvinism when it came to the notice of Arun Shourie, the Chief Editor of the Indian Express at that time, that some significant passages had been omitted from the English translation of an Urdu book written long ago by the father of Ali Mian, the famous Muslim theologian from Lucknow. He wrote an article, Hideaway Communalism, in the Indian Express of February 5, 1989 pointing out how the passages regarding destruction of Hindu temples and building of mosques on their sites at Delhi, Jaunpur, Kanauj, Etawah, Ayodhya, Varanasi and Mathura had been dropped from the English translation published by Ali Mian himself. This was a new and dramatic departure from the norm observed so far by the prestigious press. Publishing anything which said that Islam was less than sublime had been taboo for a long time. I was pleasantly surprised, and named Arun Shourie as the Gorbachev of India. He had thrown open the windows and let in fresh breez in a house full of the stinking garbage of stale slogans.
I was still more surprised when he invited me to document for his paper what I knew on the subject. I had tried to get into the prestigious press again and again with documented articles on Communism, Islam, and Christianity, but had given up after being rebuffed every time. The big press. I had been told, was meant for respectable writers. I had kept a tally of the respectable tribe. I had discovered that most of them were the Big Liers about the Soviet Union, Red China, India's history, Hindu society and culture, and "the achievements of Islam and Christianity in this country". The most successful among these worthies were the professional Hindu baiters. They pocketed the fattest cheques for heaping filth on everything Hindu, and that too in a press owned by Hindu moneybags.
I promised to Arun Shourie that I would send an article very soon. He asked me to write more than one and cover the subject adequately. So I wrote three articles, fully documented from unimpeachable Islamic sources, and showing that destroying other people's places of worship was a favourite pastime of practically all Muslim rulers in medieval times, and a pious performance in Islam after the precedent had been set by the Prophet himself. The first article was published on February 19, 1989. It was illustrated with fascimiles of six Islamic inscriptions saying that Allah and the Prophet had blessed the pulling down of Hindu temples and the raising of mosques in their places, mostly with their materials.
Arun Shourie had shown great courage. But he had counted without the secularist crowd which had access to the owner of the Indian Express. He told me on the phone that there was some trouble brewing. I have never talked to him about the nature of the trouble, and do not know if my articles had anything to do with his ouster from the Indian Express next year. All I know is that he had to slow down the publication of my next two articles. They were to appear in the weeks following February, 19. Actually they appeared on April 16 and May 21.

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