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Hindus and Indian Muslims: History and PM Modi
The Subcontinent is the cradle and home of Hinduism. The Muslims came later; the first were Arab merchants, who reached the Subcontinent’s shores. That was some one thousand and three hundred years ago. From 1200 onwards, Arab, Persian, Turkic and Afghan Muslims settled in Northern India, around Delhi, and built the Sultanate of Delhi. 1526 the Afghan Babur founded in Delhi the Great Mughal Empire on the debris of the Sultanate. Thus, Northern India became home to one of the most splendid empires in history, adding to the Ottoman Empire in Konstantinopel and the Persian Empire of Shiraz and Isfahan one more high civilisation in the Islamic world of that time. The rulers were not Indian, the people, those who remained faithful to Hinduism and those who converted to Islam, were Indian. This empire lasted three hundred years, until the British colonial empire formally ended the Mughal’s reign after the Grand Mutiny 1857. Then came British rule, for less than two hundred years. Then came Independence and Nehru’s modern democratic constitution for a formally completely secular Republic. Then came partition which resulted in an independent State for roughly half of India’s Muslims. The other half stayed in the Republic, remained Muslims. Why should they change their creed? They had been there for one thousand years, at least some of them. The new Republic was also theirs. They had lost their old Muslim dynasty, they had lost the religiously indifferent British rulers. With Independence, they won a modern and fair State. They had been privileged subjects under the Mughals, then just colonial subjects under the Brits, now they were citizens, just citizens. The quarrel of who was first and who came later is part of every civilisation’s history. The first, the second and the third generation of newcomers may feel as newcomers, may be seen as newcomers by the old settlers. The fourth generation, however, cannot remember their great-grandfathers. They would not know why they should be newcomers. That is human life. As Marc Aurel, the Roman emperor and philosopher once put it: Individual human life lasts three generations. Your grandson may remember you; after him, you will definitely be forgotten and gone. Practically every nation is composed of old settlers and newcomers; some fight wars and kill each other, others just accept that newcomers are a fact of life. Within three or four generations, animosity may be genuine, and possible legitimate. But how long would you expect animosity to last legitimately? Ten generations? One thousand years? Muslim Indians are Indians. Not Criminals, nor foreigners, nor terrorists. And they are citizens of a modern and fair State and members of a young population aspiring to the rights and benefits of globalising society. As all free men and women do. Domestic politics and social habits under the current Indian Government could profit from Prime Minister Modi’s fearless and rational foreign policy and smart strategic thinking, as we have repeatedly commended in this column. Because India is the most interesting country in the world, for much its own universe, we will gladly continue to observe how things develop for its citizens.
29th January 2016 / Philippe Welti