IF WE ACCEPT THE IDEOLOGICAL FICTION masquerading as history that the Mughals were the rulers of the whole of Hindustan, we naturally come to the conclusion that they made a rotten job of protecting its independence. If anything, the Mughals almost singlehandedly opened the doors for the eventual takeover of Bharatavarsha by a mere British trading corporation.
Copious historical sources including Muslim and European annals clearly reveal an underlying truth of the core character of the Mughal regime: at no point were its kings interested in securing and protecting the independence and integrity of India. Like every medieval Islamic empire, the Mughal variant too, was a religious-imperial despotism. Its sultans were self-obsessed and the Islamic clergy was only too happy to feed their narcissism. The Mughal sultan too, was not merely a king but the protector and agent of Islam’s expansion in infidel lands. The intrinsic nature of this expansionist tenet made oppression of non-Muslims mandatory. The Sharia law was ostensibly divine, derived from Allah himself but its application was entirely in the hands of a special breed of Muslims—the sultan and the Qazis. How this application translated in the real lives of the people has been described in detail elsewhere in The Dharma Dispatch. In summary, the interpretation of these Allah-made laws was whimsical, arbitrary and unscrupulous. Depending on your luck or your clout, approaching the sultan as the last refuge of justice often proved fatal or beneficial.
The absolute despotism of the Mughal sultans created a state of fear in both senses: the state as a political entity and state as a condition. Respect for the sultan was thus enforced through fear, not character and conduct, a far cry from Hindu kings who feared the people on that singular count: of being regarded as a ruler who disobeyed or violated Dharma. Enforcing fear necessitated the maintenance of a large, standing military force in peacetime. This feature was absent at any time in the long history of Bharatavarsha under Hindu rulers. As the legendary DVG correctly noted, “whenever there was Hindu rule, there was no tyranny.”
This stranglehold of political power concentrated in the hands of an autarch also manifested itself in various ways, all of which choked India’s progress by several centuries.
First, the accumulated learning and knowledge of centuries were not only destroyed but screeched to a near-permanent halt. Here’s a contrast, for example: if the Sevunas of Devagiri could produce at least six generations of top-notch astronomers, mathematicians, musicians and poets in less than two centuries amidst a series of cyclical warfare, what explains the fact that not a single university or institution of excellence was produced throughout the “glorious” Mughal rule?
Second, the totalitarian nature of the Muslim or Mughal sultan inaugurated a climate of sucking up, which fundamentally debased the human character by smoking out self-respect. Officials of all ranks, down to the man on the street could hope for security and economic progress only by emulating and flattering the sultan. Here is an awful sample of how this crass system worked in the regime of Akbar “the great.”
The amount of labour expended in the performance of personal services is… one of the outstanding economic facts of the age of Akbar. Some of the men thus employed were free, while others were slaves, but the functions assigned to both classes were…interchangeable... In order to realise fully the extent to which productive forces were diverted to serve the purposes of luxury and display it is necessary to acquire a thorough familiarity with the conditions of life in India at this period… the Emperor set the standard in such matters, and that every one who occupied or aspired to a position at Court followed that example so far as his means allowed. the Imperial Household [and its] zanana, which contained more than 5000 ladies, each of whom had separate apartments; they were attended by an adequate staff of servants, and watched in successive circles by female guards, eunuchs, Rajputs, and the porters at the gates, apart from the troops stationed on all four sides of the buildings…Supplies for the Household were obtained from distant sources, apparently regardless of the amount of labour expended. Wherever the Emperor might be, water for his use was brought from the Ganges, while ice came daily by post carriages and by runners from the snowy mountains to Lahore, and fruit was supplied regularly from Kashmir and Kabul, and even from more distant sources, such as Badakhshan and Samarqand.
The complete details are sickening and gets worse as we survey the despotisms of Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb. It is truly a wonder how Hindus as inheritors of a spiritual civilisation actually emerged from this Mughal nightmare with their sanity largely intact. What refinement, what culture and what learning can grow in such an environment?
CLEARLY, WHEN PRODUCTIVE RESOURCES and precious human talent is squandered away in this criminal fashion for generations, its most visible impact is on the economy. The unquenchable thirst of the Mughal emperors for indulging in personal luxuries on this epic scale had to obviously be financed by their citizenry. It is one thing to enjoy indulgence as a fruit of stimulating the economy but evidence shows that the Mughals paid almost no heed to this fundamental principle. On the contrary, their extortionate taxation grew proportionately with their limitless craving for sensual enjoyment and self-aggrandisement. Here is another glimpse again, of the rule of Akbar “the great” (sic).
… ordinary village labourer…as a serf…had a little…more than the bare minimum necessary for his subsistence. In unfavourable seasons his position was very much worse…he had the choice between the certainty of starvation at home and the probability of starvation on the roadside or in the jungle… there is no…systematic attempt to keep villages going…and when the stock of food was exhausted there was nothing for it but to take to the roads or the jungles, and, TO SELL OFF THE CHILDREN AS THE LAST REALISABLE ASSET.
In Shah Jahan’s time, the sale of children by their own parents had been transformed into a grisly phenomenon. It had morphed into the castration industry, a flourishing enterprise especially in Bengal: parents of male children would castrate their boys and sell them off to pimps and slavetraders in order to pay tax. These eunuchs would then be employed in various Zenanas— of the Mughal emperor himself or that of his governors and officials. They were provided with food and bare essentials and a paltry salary. Some received no salary: they were supposed convince themselves that gratitude for this degrading “employment” was preferable to salary.
Here are some job titles that are mirrors to the pit that the Mughals had thrown India into: spittoon-bearer, cup-bearer, umbrella-bearer, ice-bearer, servants specially appointed to serve a specific delicacy, large staff employed for hunting, hawking, pigeon-flying, trainers who trained the fighting instincts of cocks, rams, frogs and even spiders, and servants whose only job was to drive away flies that threatened to approach the fair sultan or aristocrat. The Mughal employment market was a market of slaves.
However, this hideous picture of the pitiless economic ruin of India was not unique to the Mughal empire. It was rather the continuation of the same venal tradition since the time of the so-called Delhi sultanate. But it has to be explicitly mentioned for two reasons. One, because the Mughal sway covered a much vaster territory and lasted for nearly two centuries. Two, to bust the myth of the alleged “glory” of the Mughal rule and the perfidious peans eulogising its “splendid prosperity.“
In fact, an eye-opening study of how the Mughal Empire impoverished India’s economy awaits the diligent researcher.
THE MUGHAL ECONOMIC VANDALISM also had a seamy political side. The flagrant scale of reckless spending financed by blood-sucking taxation could obviously not be sustained. In fact, even the little good that Akbar had done was prolifically squandered away almost immediately by his debauched son, Jahangir. He outsourced the administration to his venal begum Nur Jahan and her Rasputinesque brother. In fact, Muslim accounts of how the sibling duo wrecked the economy are rather unambiguous. The downward spiral reached its apogee in Aurangzeb’s time when the Mughal naval power had become a joke. It is this vacuum that Shivaji filled by building up a formidable naval force along the western coast even as Aurangzeb’s corrupt officials were busy selling Farmans to European traders.
In fact, by 1700, Aurangzeb had lost effective control over the economy and administration of three important port cities: Calcutta (or Bengal in general), Machilipatnam and Surat—i.e., both the eastern and western coasts. His officials paid him the customary respect, exhibited the requisite fear and deposited revenue but within their own domain, they were mini-despots in their own right. Europeans had also steadily grown in power, leading to frequent outbreaks of violence with the local population. In several instances, Aurangzeb’s Muslim governors would accept bribes and liquor and women from Europeans to “settle” these clashes.
This is how Leo Amery, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, describes the situation:
[This] is a picture of the Mughal Empire on the eve of its dissolution, still apparently intact, but showing everywhere the cracks and fissures which were soon to bring the whole fabric tumbling down in wreckage. WE SEE THE AGED…AURANGZIB IN HIS CAMP, WITH HIS IMMEDIATE ENTOURAGE OF SELF-SEEKING, VENAL, LUXURY-LOVING AND INCOMPETENT MINISTERS, IN THE MIDST OF A VAST ARMY, UTTERLY WORTHLESS FROM THE FIGHTING POINT OF VIEW… besieging Maratha forts only to be reoccupied as soon as the Army has marched on elsewhere. Meanwhile the fabric of government, sustained only by an endless stream of Imperial letters and by the services of some 4,000 spies, becomes weaker everywhere. AN ALIEN GOVERNMENT IN THE HANDS OF TURKS AND PERSIANS, WITH PERSIAN AS ITS OFFICIAL LANGUAGE, IT HAS LOST THE HOLD…OVER THE HINDU POPULATION as the result of Aurangzib’s fanatical persecution of the Hindu religion and extrusion of the Hindus from all positions of responsibility. The facade is still there and actually covers a wider area of India than ever before, but end is near… A bare fifty years will separate the death of Aurangzib from Clive’s victory at Plassey. The Mughal avatar in India ends and the British raj begins.
This is one of the most lucid assessments of both the alien Mughal rule and the alien British rule given by an Englishman. R.C. Majumdar, the doyen of Indian history phrases the same thing from the Indian point of view:
The official history of the freedom movement starts with the premise that India lost independence only in the eighteenth century and had thus an experience of subjection to a foreign power for only two centuries. REAL HISTORY, ON THE OTHER HAND, TEACHES US THAT THE MAJOR PART OF INDIA LOST INDEPENDENCE ABOUT FIVE CENTURIES BEFORE, AND MERELY CHANGED MASTERS IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY.
Which brings us back to where we began: that the Mughal Empire for all its pretensions of being an Indian empire was actually an empire of individual Islamic despots who neither cared for the political independence nor the territorial integrity of India. From the Islamic doctrinal perspective, it was rather consistent because Islam recognises no geographical borders.
This among other factors was how the Mughals smoothed the way for the piece-by-piece conquest of Bharatavarsha by the East India Company.
On the other side, Chhatrapati Shivaji had the avowed goal of recovering the lost Hindu Rashtra, the original Hindu civilisational state.
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