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Unfinished Agenda

6. Medieval Experience

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 Sabarmati.

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 captives.

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.

Unfinished Agenda
Prafull Goradia
1. Why Transfer Population?
10. Frontiers
11. Financial Resources
12. Armed Forces
13. Pakistan and Communal Peace
14. Redrawing Boundaries
2. Unfinished Agenda of Partition
23. Two Nation Theory
24. Ethnic Cleansing by Pakistan
25. Get Out of Bangladesh
26. Population Transfer Between Greece and Turkey
3. Betrayal
4. Hindu Muslim Gulf
5. Theological Genesis of Separatism
6. Medieval Experience
7. Subcontinental Ummah is One
8. Separate Homeland For All Muslims
9. Ambedhar on Partition

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