Our forefathers suffered oppression at the hands of foreign and superior powers for hundreds of years. I am sure you’ve read a lot of angry posts about it and now you’re all pumped about the injustices done. Probably your anger comes less from the matter itself and more from the assumption that we were too special and unique to suffer. So I want to highlight that it was not unique to any one continent, religion or race. I will attempt to draft this in six posts. Will start this week. Any literary, political or historical corrections are welcome 🙂
1. Country and foreign – time & distance
2. Tribes, kingdoms, empires, governments
3. Exploitation & Ethnic cleansing
4. Ancient cultures were great for their time
5. Retribution – is it necessary & even possible?
1. Country and Foreign – Times & distance
Around 100 years ago we only knew of one galaxy, our Milkyway and that was our whole universe. The sun and the planets of our solar system seemed still too far away. Today the estimate is there are between 200 billion to 2 trillion galaxies in the observable universe. Now if you let these numbers sink in to your head, suddenly our sun and the planets of our little solar system seem like neighbors. With time human beings have always discovered new outer limits of distance, squeezing the last known outer limit. Something like starting with a dot and keep moving in larger and larger circles. If we ever encounter a creature from another world in next 100 or 1000 or 10000 years, our planet earth will seem like one entity without borders. Until then we can assume there will be divides. To a man of that time, the meaning of foreign will be totally different than ours. As it was for a man 100 or 1000 or 10000 years before us. Let’s keep this in mind and move ahead.
There are two popular narratives that are often presented as contrasts from two different times to incite victim-hood and violence within India. One is that of the glory of Mauryan empire (Iron age, 322 BC to 180 BC) and one is that of the Muslim conquests of the Indian subcontinent (majorly late medieval period, 12th to 16th centuries AD). The history of those 1400 years in between is another interesting subject but the question I want to raise here is, did the word “foreign” have the same meaning for a man born during Mauryan time and another man born during Muslim conquests? Was Asoka not an invader and foreigner for an iron age peasant in Kalinga who barely knew of 10 villages nearby and perhaps heard stories of the state capital? Or for that matter any land won by any Mauryan emperor. We are sympathetic to the man in the medieval age for his sufferings of the Muslim invasion but unfair to the man in the iron age by glorifying his time. The problem is that we are told to use one understanding of “foreign” (which is from medieval times) to both ancient past and immediate future. We invoke mutiny of 1857 as a matter of pride but we should also know that the rebels tried to reestablish Bahadur Shah Zafar as emperor of India. So in 1857 the last Mughal emperor was not considered foreign. Why? Think about the arrival of new unknown scenario in the first paragraph.
It is not specific to any religion, Muslims worldwide (mostly in impoverished societies) are preached about glories of Muslim rules. The word “foreign” they are told has a fixed meaning (non-Muslim, mostly white Christians) completely normalizing the violent conflicts Muslim empires had with one another and within.
Always the easiest argument is to blame the past and “the foreigners” for ever. Do not let it convince you.