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Controversy over history

Posted July 16th, 2019, 09:53 AM IST

Controversy over history

On Saturday, when the outspoken actor, Swara Bhasker, took to Twitter to share an article titled ‘Mughals didn’t loot India’ and accompanied it with the comment, “Mughal’s made India rich..#history #facts (sic),” little did she know that her post would act as bait for social media trolls. Within seconds the post attracted a lot of criticism, ranging from the spiteful to the ludicrous. Some users questioned her literacy, others suggested it was a publicity stunt; some others labeled her a ‘Muslim terrorist’ while there were also claims that the actress had found the article on Jawaharlal Nehru University’s WhatsApp group.

As the troll storm raged on, the actress took to Twitter once again, this time to clarify the origins of the article — which was penned by historian and author, Rana Safvi — and also probably, to take a dig at her haters. “I shared a two-year-old article by a historian (legit historian not what’s app and twitter types) arguing against the Sanghi stereotype that ‘Mughals looted india’ and Hindu right wing cyber universe went BATSHIT CRAZY! Most have not read them article. Just another day on #Twitter (sic)”, said her post.





And it does look like a significant section of those commenting hadn’t read the article as the article sites research and documented findings to back one of the viewpoints expressed — that it was the British Raj, and not the Mughals that looted India. In fact, many historians too agree with this train of thought. Veteran historian, Kurush Dalal, explains why the Mughals cannot be charged with looting the country.

“The question of looting arises only when someone steals and takes it somewhere else. But as far as the Mughals were concerned, they made India their home. In fact, they ruled the largest part of India, which means that, technically, we are saying that they have looted themselves. It’s not possible,” he exclaims.

He also believes that the Mughals undertook several initiatives to make India prosper, culturally and economically, and it was this prosperous India that attracted the English. “The westerners decided to invade the country because of its economical benefits and trade developments; they were attracted to the country because of what the Mughals made it,” he opines.

Abimanyu Arya, Assistant Professor of History and Cultural studies at the University of Rajasthan, shares that the Mughals were definitely ambitious, but their ambitions didn’t harm India. He mentions how their quest for land expansion indirectly gave a push to the economy, whereas their penchant for artistic beauty bolstered the cultural landscape of the country. “They didn’t siphon off wealth or manpower to another country. In fact, they enjoyed, created, and promoted innovation and construction within the boundaries of India. A lot of the palaces and monuments they built still exist and continue to contribute to our economy and cultural landscape,” he says, and adds, “Even if you talk about the economy, there is a broad consensus among historians that the Mughal rule gave an impetus to global and domestic trade.”

Ad man Prahlad Kakkar talks about the cultural influences of the Mughals, highlighting how they have contributed to our cuisine, music and literature. He also talks about how their presence fostered the amalgamation of architectural practices, leading to the creation of the beautiful Indo-Saracenic style. “The Mughals took little from where they came from and a lot from Indian culture. They mixed it together and created value out of it, which was larger than the sum of either culture,” says Prahlad, and points out that when the Mughals invaded India, the Mughal Empire was already 200 years old.

But one wonders why, when the facts are there for all to see, does a post like Swara’s trigger such ire on social media? “If your comments are agenda-driven, you could look at it like the Mughals came to loot India. But if you look at it in a scientific and pragmatic way, then you’ll realise that there was no such thing,” says Abimanyu. Prahlad feels that social media controversies like this are kick-started by trolls and must hence, not be taken seriously. “Trolls are people who are frustrated and nobody knows them. By trolling a celebrity, they not only get to express their opinion but might get some followers too,” says the ad man.

Kurush rues that tolerance has become a difficult thing in modern India. “It’s hundreds of years and we are talking about this now? What times are we living in? Mughal India and British India are not modern India. This is intolerance. People just want to take a dig at each other,” concludes the historian.

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