Around Diwali in 1990, the author and a colleague caughta public bus near the V.S.
Hospital in Ahmedabad. After giving them their tickets, the conductor went to a passenger
in the next row. The person said Pakistan and got a two rupee ticket. The incident opened
one's eyes to the fact that there were several localities in the walled city which were
known as Pakistan. Subsequently, they heard that the better off Hindus were trying to
shift out of their homes in old Ahmedabad and move to the western bank of the river
It was late last year that a complaint was heard from several small businessmen that
they had been squeezed out of their homes in Kalupur, a colony in Ahmedabad not far from
either the central station or the famous shaking minaret. None of them complained of being
either harmed or threatened. Being vegetarian, they were oppressed by the smells of meat
and fish cooked by their new neighbours.
Moreover, there were a few boys in the same buildings who occasionally whistled at
their daughters. In consequence, they chose to vacate their flat for which they
were paid about Rs 4,000 per square yard. Several of them had moved to the satellite
township far to the west side of the city where the real estate price was about Rs 12,000.
There is a popular impression that in India only Muslims tended to concentrate in their
favoured localities, contemptuously called ghettos. Recent reports show that even Hindus
have resorted to ghettoisation. For someone brought up during the heydays of Jawaharlal
Nehru, the presumption was that if there had to be tyranny in India after partition, it
was against the Muslims. To that extent, such developments in Ahmedabad would come as a
surprise, if not also as somewhat of a shock. One has presumed, that the last time Hindus
had to take a mass beating, was in 1947.
No doubt, the jiziya or the poll tax is legend There is a book called Studies
in Medieval Indian History, introduced by the well known Professor of History and
Politics, Mohammad Habib, and written by Dr. P. Saran, Ranjit Printers & Publishers,
Delhi, 1952. On page 123. a description begins on the manner in which jiziya should
be paid. To quote:
the schools of Al Shafe'l and Malik agree in the view that when the zimmi comes to pay
the jizIya he should keep standing while the collector is seated, and he must wear the
distinctive dress prescribed for the zimmis. During the process of payment the zimmi is to
be seized by the collar and vigorously shaken and pulled about. Qazi Mughisuddin of
Bayana stated that the Hindu khirajguzar or payer of jiziya is he who, should the
collector choose to spit into his mouth, opens the same without hesitation so that the
official may spit into it.
Slavery was introduced in India during medieval times. How it was practiced during that
period is well documented in a book called Muslim Slave System in Medieval India by K.S.Lal,
Aditya Prakashan, New Delhi, 1994. Apart from many other details, the book lists the
prices of slaves in Alauddin Khilji's kingdom. The price of a working girl ranged between
5 and 12 tankahs. That of a girl suitable for concubinage 20 to 40 tankahs. The
price of a man slave called ghulam ranged between 100 and 200 tankahs; handsome
boys cost 20 to 30 tankahs. A child slave cost between 70 and 30 tankahs. The
slaves were classified according to their looks and working capacity. In the case of bulk
purchases by traders who had ready money and who had the means to carry their flock for
sale to other cities. prices were fixed accordingly.
This does not mean that Khilji introduced slavery in India. The credit (!) for this
practice is given to Muhammad bin Qasim by the Chachnama which is referred to by
Lal in another book; The Legacy of Muslim Rule in India, the same publisher, 1992.
After the capture of the fort of Rawar by Qasim the prisoner count was found to be
about 30,000. One flfth of them including several princesses were sent to Hajjaj, the
chief general who was stationed in Arabia. His standing instructions to Qasim were to give
no quarter to infidels but to cut their throats and take the women and children as
In ancient India, women enjoyed a much higher status than what they had to
experience in later centuries. In Vedic and post-Vedic times, for example, records go to
the extent of showing that girls were also given the sacred thread like boys. They were
encouraged to study the scriptures and their education was on comparable lines. Marriages
were solemnized only after studies had been completed. Sculptures and frescoes like those
in Ellora and Ajanta are ample testimony to the openness of society to women. Even the
code of dress was liberal and sex was not the taboo like it a became later. Even temples
like those at Khajuraho or Konark, were used for educating common people about the
pleasures of sex.
With the advent of invasions beginning with Muhammad bin Qasim, the life of the Hindus
began to change. Muslim priorities were such that the women folk had to be covered, if not
concealed. The burqa was symbolic of one such priority. The purdah system
that invaded Hindu society was an offshoot of the burqa. The faces of women had to
be covered in public so that strangers were not attracted to them; the fear was abduction.
With these fears came child marriage. Every father was keen to marry off his daughter as
soon as he could and hand over the responsibility of her safety to another family. The
consequence of young girls being married early was putting a limit on their education.
Temples, by the hundred. if not by the thousand were desecrated and then converted into
mosques and dargahs. Or, they were destroyed and their rubble was used to build
mosques. In all cases, deities were buried under the mosque entrances so that they were
easily trampled upon by those who came to offer prayers. How the iconoclasts wounded Hindu
sentiments and how much they traumatised the indigenous civilisation can well be imagined.
To come back to modern times, the vivisection of India was a result of the persistent
demand of the Muslim Leagues. The party's central argument was that with the likely
introduction of democracy, Muslims would be outnumbered by Hindus and thus be at a
perpetual disadvantage. In other words, partition need not have taken place but for the
reason of a minority unwilling to merge into the national mainstream.