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All inclusive citizenship

Abdul Mannan
 
The country is on the threshold of either an inclusive citizenship process or an exclusive citizenship albeit by intention or perhaps a product-mix as a compromise. It is an uphill task in astronomy and astrology as well.
Let us start with primordial days having no concept of statehood. Background history is that initially communities were formed followed by territories and finally states have culminated as we see now.
 
Fundamentals of statehood
In modern times, the following issues, among others, we consider more often than otherwise. Geopolitics, demography, language, religion, race and species, territorial integration advantage, communications and rivers, seas, territorial base, (even birds and animals form a domain as territory) having considered either all or some major elements from amongst the above, the journey towards a statehood thus begins, albeit to include rather than exclude all human beings within the territory.
The basic is ‘with prejudice to none but institution of fair justice and sustainability of the concepts for all’. Allah created Adam (A.S)/Eve and aftermath of the creation the world has passed through billions of years of migrations, might have been from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and USA, the world over, and such to and fro migrations as we see now have given growth of statehood around the globe.
Let us go for the core issue in quick succession. We turn to the some relevant phrases and quotations to highlight and compress the depth of focus on the impact scenario so important for the long term policy of the country.
Phrases and quotations: - ‘All human rights for all’; ‘Let justice be done though heavens should fall (fiat Justitia, ruat caelum)’, ‘How high you are, law is above you’, ‘Justice delayed, Justice denied’, ‘Justice hurried, Justice buried’, ‘Judge is condemned when the guilty is acquitted.’
Cited above in order to show the impacts at length and breadth of justice, bases of humanity, equity, fairness and ensuring fundamental rights to all. Based on the community, thus evolved thereof, we must formulate our statehood, no way out. We have got to hold the territory of our state i.e. total statehood of Bangladesh, the most basic fundamental is as that of the citizenship rights.
 
Checks and balances
Parliament and Bills: Our Parliament is not a bicameral house leaving little scopes for any checks and balances. It is a mono-cameral house, facilitating little area to cultivate checks. It has further aggravated the proceedings in Parliament having now enjoyed by the incumbent govt.’s overwhelming majority with absoluteness, as if absolute power corrupts absolutely, for Parliament does not now enjoy full benefit of a workable opposition so much needed in a Parliamentary system of government.
The odd and embarrassed situation has made it worse when Parliament spends hours and hours on non or minor issues setting aside little time in processing bills, all important job of Parliament. When hurried, it smells rat, this is the case in point. The whole issue is moreover overloaded when we observe, with due regards to all, that there exist no inter-party democratic norms, nor literally there is any intra-party democracy, seldom exercised simplistically.
References: To make it short I bring forth some references, not many though, in order to recognize the efforts and concerns shown by the media and individuals such as Tasmiah Nuhiya  Ahmed, (Daily Independent)), researcher C.R. Abrar and many others.
Main concerns on the bills are on dual citizenship provisions (NRB), the voting rights and eligibility for candidature, exclusion of SAARC countries with some others, cancellation of citizenship, disqualification criteria, retrospective effects of such laws, so on and so forth. What we observe that a basketful of anomalies and irrational contents have been impregnated into the bill only to make it as one of the worst. Thorough prismatic analyses are all very important at this stage. The 1972 constitution was workable goodly as an initial go but it did need amendments  from time to time to ward off the anomalies and recognize and update the needs of the day only to the benefit of the citizens.
 
Immigrants’ voting right
In the 1972 Constitution, citizenship Article 6 stood for ‘Bangalees’ and in all fairness it was subsequently replaced in the post 1975 era by the word ‘Bangladeshis’ through the proclamation order No. 1 of 1977 and later it formed the part of the Fifth Amendment of our Constitution and at a later date up till now, even after the Fifteenth Amendment of the Constitution was passed, the citizenship remains to be known as ‘Bangladeshis’. No one must ever dare to change it.  Amendment to the Constitution to make the citizenship as ‘Bangladeshi’ is an important inclusive ‘one’.
In reality what we do is that amendments are processed usually for the benefits of the rulers rather than the ruled - what a pity !  Of late, Hon’ble Law Minister hinted that the NRB having dual citizenship may be allowed to vote and become candidates in local elections. It is a worse kind of suggestion. Labour force (and others) in search of bread and butter leave the country and take up jobs/employments abroad since very little opportunities are available at home. They enrich our economy by sending remittances home but later find out that national election is a forbidden territory for them as if it is outside Bangladesh, it is a high resort to nurture discriminations.
Core humanity: We must hold, all together united with a sense of spirit, humanity and equitable rights for all. To deliver the goods we have to be fair in all respects. I therefore, urge upon the govt. to open the curtain, discuss through dialogues at different strata of the society, political parties and other fora to develop a consensus of this burning issue.
 
The writer is a fellow, Chartered Management Accountant and Global Chartered Management Accountant; Vice-Chairman, BNP former president, South Asian Federation of Accountants (SAFA)

Comment

Abdul Mannan
 
The country is on the threshold of either an inclusive citizenship process or an exclusive citizenship albeit by intention or perhaps a product-mix as a compromise. It is an uphill task in astronomy and astrology as well.
Let us start with primordial days having no concept of statehood. Background history is that initially communities were formed followed by territories and finally states have culminated as we see now.
 
Fundamentals of statehood
In modern times, the following issues, among others, we consider more often than otherwise. Geopolitics, demography, language, religion, race and species, territorial integration advantage, communications and rivers, seas, territorial base, (even birds and animals form a domain as territory) having considered either all or some major elements from amongst the above, the journey towards a statehood thus begins, albeit to include rather than exclude all human beings within the territory.
The basic is ‘with prejudice to none but institution of fair justice and sustainability of the concepts for all’. Allah created Adam (A.S)/Eve and aftermath of the creation the world has passed through billions of years of migrations, might have been from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and USA, the world over, and such to and fro migrations as we see now have given growth of statehood around the globe.
Let us go for the core issue in quick succession. We turn to the some relevant phrases and quotations to highlight and compress the depth of focus on the impact scenario so important for the long term policy of the country.
Phrases and quotations: - ‘All human rights for all’; ‘Let justice be done though heavens should fall (fiat Justitia, ruat caelum)’, ‘How high you are, law is above you’, ‘Justice delayed, Justice denied’, ‘Justice hurried, Justice buried’, ‘Judge is condemned when the guilty is acquitted.’
Cited above in order to show the impacts at length and breadth of justice, bases of humanity, equity, fairness and ensuring fundamental rights to all. Based on the community, thus evolved thereof, we must formulate our statehood, no way out. We have got to hold the territory of our state i.e. total statehood of Bangladesh, the most basic fundamental is as that of the citizenship rights.
 
Checks and balances
Parliament and Bills: Our Parliament is not a bicameral house leaving little scopes for any checks and balances. It is a mono-cameral house, facilitating little area to cultivate checks. It has further aggravated the proceedings in Parliament having now enjoyed by the incumbent govt.’s overwhelming majority with absoluteness, as if absolute power corrupts absolutely, for Parliament does not now enjoy full benefit of a workable opposition so much needed in a Parliamentary system of government.
The odd and embarrassed situation has made it worse when Parliament spends hours and hours on non or minor issues setting aside little time in processing bills, all important job of Parliament. When hurried, it smells rat, this is the case in point. The whole issue is moreover overloaded when we observe, with due regards to all, that there exist no inter-party democratic norms, nor literally there is any intra-party democracy, seldom exercised simplistically.
References: To make it short I bring forth some references, not many though, in order to recognize the efforts and concerns shown by the media and individuals such as Tasmiah Nuhiya  Ahmed, (Daily Independent)), researcher C.R. Abrar and many others.
Main concerns on the bills are on dual citizenship provisions (NRB), the voting rights and eligibility for candidature, exclusion of SAARC countries with some others, cancellation of citizenship, disqualification criteria, retrospective effects of such laws, so on and so forth. What we observe that a basketful of anomalies and irrational contents have been impregnated into the bill only to make it as one of the worst. Thorough prismatic analyses are all very important at this stage. The 1972 constitution was workable goodly as an initial go but it did need amendments  from time to time to ward off the anomalies and recognize and update the needs of the day only to the benefit of the citizens.
 
Immigrants’ voting right
In the 1972 Constitution, citizenship Article 6 stood for ‘Bangalees’ and in all fairness it was subsequently replaced in the post 1975 era by the word ‘Bangladeshis’ through the proclamation order No. 1 of 1977 and later it formed the part of the Fifth Amendment of our Constitution and at a later date up till now, even after the Fifteenth Amendment of the Constitution was passed, the citizenship remains to be known as ‘Bangladeshis’. No one must ever dare to change it.  Amendment to the Constitution to make the citizenship as ‘Bangladeshi’ is an important inclusive ‘one’.
In reality what we do is that amendments are processed usually for the benefits of the rulers rather than the ruled - what a pity !  Of late, Hon’ble Law Minister hinted that the NRB having dual citizenship may be allowed to vote and become candidates in local elections. It is a worse kind of suggestion. Labour force (and others) in search of bread and butter leave the country and take up jobs/employments abroad since very little opportunities are available at home. They enrich our economy by sending remittances home but later find out that national election is a forbidden territory for them as if it is outside Bangladesh, it is a high resort to nurture discriminations.
Core humanity: We must hold, all together united with a sense of spirit, humanity and equitable rights for all. To deliver the goods we have to be fair in all respects. I therefore, urge upon the govt. to open the curtain, discuss through dialogues at different strata of the society, political parties and other fora to develop a consensus of this burning issue.
 
The writer is a fellow, Chartered Management Accountant and Global Chartered Management Accountant; Vice-Chairman, BNP former president, South Asian Federation of Accountants (SAFA)

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Thrashed child to get teac­her’s salary
You cannot expect a flower to blossom in all its wondrous glory if its stem is beaten, abused or in other ways mistreated
Sir Frank Peters
 
A female schoolteacher who subjected a pupil to corporal punishment has been asked to give her month’s salary as compensation to the child to avoid being sacked, police arrest, and other disciplinary measures taken against her.
After deliberating on a corporal punishment complaint filed by the parents of the child, the Commission for Protection of Child Rights (CCPCR) directed Adarsh Public School in India to take disciplinary action against the teacher under provisions of the RTE Act.
Two members of the CCPCR, Parmod Sharma and Prof Nistha Jaswal, recommended that as interim relief, a month’s salary of the teacher be given to the victim as compensation. The commission directed the school to send an action-taken report along with a photocopy of the cheque given to the child’s parents. The Principal of the school was directed to sensitise the teacher as well as the children of the school to corporal punishment.
According to the complaint, on January 30, the child scored seven out of 10 marks, the highest in the class, in a computer written test. Despite this, the victim was beaten and hit on the hands with a steel scale. The distraught child didn’t speak to anyone for six hours after returning home.
After the parents made a complaint to the Principal, the teacher admitted that she had beaten the child thinking that the child had got zero marks in the computer test. Taking suo motu cognisance of the incident, the CCPCR summoned the Principal and the teacher of the school on February 3.
During the hearing, the teacher admitted that earlier also she had slapped the child. She apologised and gave an assurance that she would not repeat the mistake.
While this is a first in response to a child given corporal punishment, it does have merit and is one way for the teacher (and his/her colleagues) to be mindful that similar consequences might befall them, should they break the law. I doubt if many teachers can afford to lose a month’s salary and it’s considerably more effective than a mere reprimand.
In 2011 High Court justices Md. Imman Ali and Sheikh Hassan Arif outlawed the barbaric, uncivilised, ignorant practice of corporal punishment in Bangladesh schools and madrasahs declaring it “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and a clear violation of a child’s fundamental right to life, liberty and freedom”.
Much to the shame of the teaching fraternity, however, it still continues in all its dishonour throughout the country, especially in rural Bangladesh, where old habits based on total ignorance are well established, practised, and reluctant to change.
A child who is beaten in school, madrasah, or home is never grateful to the perpetrator/s or the society that permitted the outmoded abuse. You cannot expect a flower to blossom in all its wondrous glory if its stem is beaten, abused or in other ways mistreated. Corporal punishment in all settings must stop.
 
Sir Frank Peters is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor, an award-winning writer, royal goodwill ambassador, humanitarian and human rights activist.

Comment

Sir Frank Peters
 
A female schoolteacher who subjected a pupil to corporal punishment has been asked to give her month’s salary as compensation to the child to avoid being sacked, police arrest, and other disciplinary measures taken against her.
After deliberating on a corporal punishment complaint filed by the parents of the child, the Commission for Protection of Child Rights (CCPCR) directed Adarsh Public School in India to take disciplinary action against the teacher under provisions of the RTE Act.
Two members of the CCPCR, Parmod Sharma and Prof Nistha Jaswal, recommended that as interim relief, a month’s salary of the teacher be given to the victim as compensation. The commission directed the school to send an action-taken report along with a photocopy of the cheque given to the child’s parents. The Principal of the school was directed to sensitise the teacher as well as the children of the school to corporal punishment.
According to the complaint, on January 30, the child scored seven out of 10 marks, the highest in the class, in a computer written test. Despite this, the victim was beaten and hit on the hands with a steel scale. The distraught child didn’t speak to anyone for six hours after returning home.
After the parents made a complaint to the Principal, the teacher admitted that she had beaten the child thinking that the child had got zero marks in the computer test. Taking suo motu cognisance of the incident, the CCPCR summoned the Principal and the teacher of the school on February 3.
During the hearing, the teacher admitted that earlier also she had slapped the child. She apologised and gave an assurance that she would not repeat the mistake.
While this is a first in response to a child given corporal punishment, it does have merit and is one way for the teacher (and his/her colleagues) to be mindful that similar consequences might befall them, should they break the law. I doubt if many teachers can afford to lose a month’s salary and it’s considerably more effective than a mere reprimand.
In 2011 High Court justices Md. Imman Ali and Sheikh Hassan Arif outlawed the barbaric, uncivilised, ignorant practice of corporal punishment in Bangladesh schools and madrasahs declaring it “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and a clear violation of a child’s fundamental right to life, liberty and freedom”.
Much to the shame of the teaching fraternity, however, it still continues in all its dishonour throughout the country, especially in rural Bangladesh, where old habits based on total ignorance are well established, practised, and reluctant to change.
A child who is beaten in school, madrasah, or home is never grateful to the perpetrator/s or the society that permitted the outmoded abuse. You cannot expect a flower to blossom in all its wondrous glory if its stem is beaten, abused or in other ways mistreated. Corporal punishment in all settings must stop.
 
Sir Frank Peters is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor, an award-winning writer, royal goodwill ambassador, humanitarian and human rights activist.

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Bad Muslim, good Muslim: Aurangzeb out Dara Shikoh in

Ipsita Chakravarty
Scroll.In
 
Once upon a time in New Delhi, Dalhousie Road branched off from Willingdon Crescent, named after a British governor general with a penchant for locking up Congress leaders, and joined up with Great Place, a grand intersection of avenues meant to conjure up the Champs Elysees and the boulevards of Paris.
After Independence, Great Place became Vijay Chowk, or Victory Square, tattooed by hundreds of military boots on Beating the Retreat every year. And Willingdon was wiped off the map to make way for Mother Teresa, certified saint. Lord Dalhousie, governor general of India from 1848 to 1856, whose bullish policies are often credited with bringing on the rebellion of 1857, began to look a bit out of place.
The New Delhi Municipal Corporation has now taken care of it, replacing Dalhousie with Dara Shikoh, secular Mughal prince who got done out of his empire by the bigoted Aurangzeb, or so the official story goes. This latest administrative inspiration is a sequel to the renaming of Aurangzeb Road in August 2015, where the Mughal ruler was swapped for former President APJ Abdul Kalam.
 
A history of examples
Once again, state authorities have taken a correction pen through history, excising that which is considered unsalutary, leaving only that which can be marshalled for the public good. In doing so, they prod the public imagination into the shadowless world of “monumental history” that Nietzsche spoke of in the essay, “On the Use and Abuse of History”.
It is a history of examples, meant to hector the “contemporary man” into bettering himself: “He derives from that the fact that the greatness which was once there at all events once was possible and therefore will really be possible once again.” It is a history which generalises, stripping the past of its “individuality”, breaking off its “sharp corners and angles”.
In this reading of history, the past is processed before it is put out for public consumption:
“It will always tone down the difference in motives and events, in order to set down the monumental effectus [effect], that is, the exemplary effect worthy of imitation, at the cost of the causae [cause]... What is celebrated in folk festivals and in religious or military remembrance days is basically such an ‘effect in itself.’”
So the names of colonial governors have no place in the bright sun of Independence, and the project of secularism has neatly labelled its Mughals: Dara Shikoh good, Aurangzeb bad.
 
Death of Dara Shikoh
Over the last few days, it has been said that the valorisation of Dara Shikoh suits the Hindu nationalist agenda. A prince who had the Upanishads translated into Persian must be far more palatable than one who is said to have gone to war in the name of religion. But the particular histories that would freeze the brothers into their respective roles started much earlier, at the moment of Dara’s death.  It is described in detail by contemporary Western travellers.
Francois Bernier, the French traveller who was briefly physician to Dara Shikoh, painted a quixotic figure. Dara, the eldest son, the one marked for greatness, had been groomed by his father to take over the Mughal empire. But when Shah Jahan neared his end and a war of succession broke out among his four sons, the scholarly prince found himself unversed in the harsh arts of war.
With Aurangzeb’s armies advancing on him, the valiant prince fought against the moment of his doom by devising a number of rash plans. All of these seemed to stem from Dara’s good faith in men. He resolved to go ask the Pathan chieftain Javan Khan (also known as Junaid Khan Barozai) for help. In happier times, Dara had saved his life when Shah Jahan had condemned him to be trampled to death by elephants.
His wife and son had tried to persuade Dara against the plan, Bernier wrote, but “he did not believe it possible he should be betrayed by a man bound to him by such strong ties of gratitude”. Of course, he was wrong. The “traitor” Javan Khan gave him up to Aurangzeb.
 
Travellers tale
Bernier went on to describe the captive Dara Shikoh being paraded through the city of Delhi, dressed in rags and tied to a filthy elephant instead of perched on a gilded howdah. He wrote of public indignation, of crowds wailing in sorrow and appalled by the “unnatural conduct” of Aurangzeb, who had lately imprisoned his father and his other brothers. Dara, in this account, was the people’s favourite and his plight brought on the danger of insurrection.
He was to die swiftly and “the charge of this atrocious murder was intrusted to a slave of the name of Nazir”, who had once been mistreated by the prince. The reference to this murky past was couched in careful passive voice – Nazir had “experienced some ill-treatment from Dara” – and Bernier glossed over the details.
The scene of Dara’s death was also taken up by another French traveller, the gem merchant, Jean Baptiste Tavernier. In his version, the party of assassins was led by Saif Khan, who had once worked for Dara. The prince, with the misplaced good faith that seemed to have become a habit, rose joyously to welcome him. He was then informed that Saif Khan had been sent to kill him.
Then Dara turned into dignified martyr. “Am I to die, then?” he asked.  On being answered in the affirmative, he feebly tried to resist, then said his last prayers.
The murdered prince’s head was presented to Aurangzeb, and Bernier mentions that the blood was washed off so that the would-be emperor could make sure it was his brother. Both Frenchmen’s accounts are steeped in the sense that Dara was wronged by history. The hope of what his reign would bring lingers long after his death, a wistful what if.
 
Shadows of history
Tavernier goes on to speak of Aurangzeb’s machinations after “his eldest brother’s cruel execution, to whom by right the Empire belonged”. The Grand Kazi, or chief officer of the law, who was to declare Aurangzeb emperor, had doubts about his claims to the throne.  So Aurangzeb gathered assorted “doctors of the Law” and explained to them that Dara had been put to death because he “was not zealous in obeying the Law; he drank wine and favoured infidels”. The “Council of Conscience” was unconvinced, leaving Aurangzeb with no option but to replace the Grand Kazi.
In the centuries that followed, these early accounts of the emperor would have fit in perfectly with colonial notions of the Oriental tyrant – ruthless, fanatic, ruling by whim rather than law. So far as Western historians were concerned, Aurangzeb’s fate was sealed.
But there is another strand of writing, often by Indian authors and possibly in reaction to Western depictions, that is more sympathetic to Aurangzeb.
Hur Chunder Dutt’s poem, “Aurangzeb at His Father’s Bier”, written in the 19th century and taught in schools more than 100 years later, attempted to give him a redeeming postscript. The rebellious son was pictured next to the body of Shah Jahan, wracked with remorse and haunted by the thought that “even kings will die”.
A few decades later, historian Jadunath Sarkar made the maligned emperor the subject of his magnum opus, A History of Aurangzib, based on Original Sources, written between 1912 and 1924. In this history, Dara Shikoh was “a loving husband, a doting father, and a devoted son; but as a ruler of men in troubled times, he must have been a failure.”
He was also the cosseted, arrogant child of his father, favoured far above his brothers, laden with riches and titles. “The darling of the court”, he was enervated by long years of prosperity, a negative quality for a ruler, in Sarkar’s book. When Shah Jahan took ill, the eldest prince closeted himself in with the emperor, issuing orders in his name, refusing others access to the imperial chamber.
 
Syncretic prince
Sarkar speaks of stratagems on both sides, of imperial armies being sent out against the rebel princes and of rumours swirling around about Shah Jahan’s health and possible death. Aurangzeb forged a shaky alliance with his brothers, but stalled against advancing on Agra where Shah Jahan was. And if Dara had the people’s sympathy, going by Bernier’s account, Aurangzeb, according to Sarkar, had the fealty of generals and noblemen.
The “motives” and “causes” of a historical moment briefly flicker into view in Sarkar’s treatise. Aurangzeb was animated by more than a bladelike fanaticism. He was a character of complicated intentions, as was Dara.
Unfortunately for Aurangzeb, Sarkar also drew a straight line between the syncretic traditions fostered by their great-grandfather, Akbar, and Dara’s “natural inclinations”. The eldest prince, in his “thirst for pantheistic philosophy”, was learned in the Talmud and the New Testament, the Vedanta and Sufi writings. He commissioned works that attempted to find a meeting point between Hinduism and Islam, but was no apostate, Sarkar was at pains to prove.
To the historians of a freshly minted, secular India, it was this tradition that appealed the most. RC Majumdar, in his magisterial An Advanced History of India (1960), allowed Aurangzeb “sterling qualities” as a politician and a soldier. But “he was not a political genius such as Akbar alone among the Mughals had been, who could initiate a policy and enact laws to mould the life and thought of his contemporaries or a future generation.”
Aurangzeb presided over the decay of the Mughal empire. “The reign of the puritan emperor was a great tragedy,” Majumdar concluded. Once again, Dara’s unfulfilled reign becomes the what if of history.
 
The past is lost
Later works such as Romila Thapar and Percival Spear’s History of India called into question the consensus about Aurangzeb’s bigotry. In a paragraph that has been the subject of mauch outrage from the Hindu right, the authors said, “He differed from Akbar in consciously tolerating Hindus rather than treating them as equals, but his supposed intolerance is little more than a hostile legend based on isolated facts.”
But here, too, Dara Shikoh was the torchbearer of the intellectual movement started by Akbar while Aurangzeb was reactionary. And in the transition from academic to public history, the subtleties do not survive. Syncretic Dara has long been preferred to orthodox Aurangzeb.  In the mythology of Hindu nationalism, Dara even beats Aurangzeb, aided by his knowledge of Hindu scriptures.
Some detritus from the unconsecrated past did survive in our monumental history, in colonial names and names of “Muslim tyrants”.  But the urge to set an example has proved too strong, so history must leap from victory parades to syncretic princes to saints. That which went in between has been chipped away, leaving “only a few embellished facts”, which “raise themselves up above like islands”. Not much is lost, except the past.

Comment

Ipsita Chakravarty
Scroll.In
 
Once upon a time in New Delhi, Dalhousie Road branched off from Willingdon Crescent, named after a British governor general with a penchant for locking up Congress leaders, and joined up with Great Place, a grand intersection of avenues meant to conjure up the Champs Elysees and the boulevards of Paris.
After Independence, Great Place became Vijay Chowk, or Victory Square, tattooed by hundreds of military boots on Beating the Retreat every year. And Willingdon was wiped off the map to make way for Mother Teresa, certified saint. Lord Dalhousie, governor general of India from 1848 to 1856, whose bullish policies are often credited with bringing on the rebellion of 1857, began to look a bit out of place.
The New Delhi Municipal Corporation has now taken care of it, replacing Dalhousie with Dara Shikoh, secular Mughal prince who got done out of his empire by the bigoted Aurangzeb, or so the official story goes. This latest administrative inspiration is a sequel to the renaming of Aurangzeb Road in August 2015, where the Mughal ruler was swapped for former President APJ Abdul Kalam.
 
A history of examples
Once again, state authorities have taken a correction pen through history, excising that which is considered unsalutary, leaving only that which can be marshalled for the public good. In doing so, they prod the public imagination into the shadowless world of “monumental history” that Nietzsche spoke of in the essay, “On the Use and Abuse of History”.
It is a history of examples, meant to hector the “contemporary man” into bettering himself: “He derives from that the fact that the greatness which was once there at all events once was possible and therefore will really be possible once again.” It is a history which generalises, stripping the past of its “individuality”, breaking off its “sharp corners and angles”.
In this reading of history, the past is processed before it is put out for public consumption:
“It will always tone down the difference in motives and events, in order to set down the monumental effectus [effect], that is, the exemplary effect worthy of imitation, at the cost of the causae [cause]... What is celebrated in folk festivals and in religious or military remembrance days is basically such an ‘effect in itself.’”
So the names of colonial governors have no place in the bright sun of Independence, and the project of secularism has neatly labelled its Mughals: Dara Shikoh good, Aurangzeb bad.
 
Death of Dara Shikoh
Over the last few days, it has been said that the valorisation of Dara Shikoh suits the Hindu nationalist agenda. A prince who had the Upanishads translated into Persian must be far more palatable than one who is said to have gone to war in the name of religion. But the particular histories that would freeze the brothers into their respective roles started much earlier, at the moment of Dara’s death.  It is described in detail by contemporary Western travellers.
Francois Bernier, the French traveller who was briefly physician to Dara Shikoh, painted a quixotic figure. Dara, the eldest son, the one marked for greatness, had been groomed by his father to take over the Mughal empire. But when Shah Jahan neared his end and a war of succession broke out among his four sons, the scholarly prince found himself unversed in the harsh arts of war.
With Aurangzeb’s armies advancing on him, the valiant prince fought against the moment of his doom by devising a number of rash plans. All of these seemed to stem from Dara’s good faith in men. He resolved to go ask the Pathan chieftain Javan Khan (also known as Junaid Khan Barozai) for help. In happier times, Dara had saved his life when Shah Jahan had condemned him to be trampled to death by elephants.
His wife and son had tried to persuade Dara against the plan, Bernier wrote, but “he did not believe it possible he should be betrayed by a man bound to him by such strong ties of gratitude”. Of course, he was wrong. The “traitor” Javan Khan gave him up to Aurangzeb.
 
Travellers tale
Bernier went on to describe the captive Dara Shikoh being paraded through the city of Delhi, dressed in rags and tied to a filthy elephant instead of perched on a gilded howdah. He wrote of public indignation, of crowds wailing in sorrow and appalled by the “unnatural conduct” of Aurangzeb, who had lately imprisoned his father and his other brothers. Dara, in this account, was the people’s favourite and his plight brought on the danger of insurrection.
He was to die swiftly and “the charge of this atrocious murder was intrusted to a slave of the name of Nazir”, who had once been mistreated by the prince. The reference to this murky past was couched in careful passive voice – Nazir had “experienced some ill-treatment from Dara” – and Bernier glossed over the details.
The scene of Dara’s death was also taken up by another French traveller, the gem merchant, Jean Baptiste Tavernier. In his version, the party of assassins was led by Saif Khan, who had once worked for Dara. The prince, with the misplaced good faith that seemed to have become a habit, rose joyously to welcome him. He was then informed that Saif Khan had been sent to kill him.
Then Dara turned into dignified martyr. “Am I to die, then?” he asked.  On being answered in the affirmative, he feebly tried to resist, then said his last prayers.
The murdered prince’s head was presented to Aurangzeb, and Bernier mentions that the blood was washed off so that the would-be emperor could make sure it was his brother. Both Frenchmen’s accounts are steeped in the sense that Dara was wronged by history. The hope of what his reign would bring lingers long after his death, a wistful what if.
 
Shadows of history
Tavernier goes on to speak of Aurangzeb’s machinations after “his eldest brother’s cruel execution, to whom by right the Empire belonged”. The Grand Kazi, or chief officer of the law, who was to declare Aurangzeb emperor, had doubts about his claims to the throne.  So Aurangzeb gathered assorted “doctors of the Law” and explained to them that Dara had been put to death because he “was not zealous in obeying the Law; he drank wine and favoured infidels”. The “Council of Conscience” was unconvinced, leaving Aurangzeb with no option but to replace the Grand Kazi.
In the centuries that followed, these early accounts of the emperor would have fit in perfectly with colonial notions of the Oriental tyrant – ruthless, fanatic, ruling by whim rather than law. So far as Western historians were concerned, Aurangzeb’s fate was sealed.
But there is another strand of writing, often by Indian authors and possibly in reaction to Western depictions, that is more sympathetic to Aurangzeb.
Hur Chunder Dutt’s poem, “Aurangzeb at His Father’s Bier”, written in the 19th century and taught in schools more than 100 years later, attempted to give him a redeeming postscript. The rebellious son was pictured next to the body of Shah Jahan, wracked with remorse and haunted by the thought that “even kings will die”.
A few decades later, historian Jadunath Sarkar made the maligned emperor the subject of his magnum opus, A History of Aurangzib, based on Original Sources, written between 1912 and 1924. In this history, Dara Shikoh was “a loving husband, a doting father, and a devoted son; but as a ruler of men in troubled times, he must have been a failure.”
He was also the cosseted, arrogant child of his father, favoured far above his brothers, laden with riches and titles. “The darling of the court”, he was enervated by long years of prosperity, a negative quality for a ruler, in Sarkar’s book. When Shah Jahan took ill, the eldest prince closeted himself in with the emperor, issuing orders in his name, refusing others access to the imperial chamber.
 
Syncretic prince
Sarkar speaks of stratagems on both sides, of imperial armies being sent out against the rebel princes and of rumours swirling around about Shah Jahan’s health and possible death. Aurangzeb forged a shaky alliance with his brothers, but stalled against advancing on Agra where Shah Jahan was. And if Dara had the people’s sympathy, going by Bernier’s account, Aurangzeb, according to Sarkar, had the fealty of generals and noblemen.
The “motives” and “causes” of a historical moment briefly flicker into view in Sarkar’s treatise. Aurangzeb was animated by more than a bladelike fanaticism. He was a character of complicated intentions, as was Dara.
Unfortunately for Aurangzeb, Sarkar also drew a straight line between the syncretic traditions fostered by their great-grandfather, Akbar, and Dara’s “natural inclinations”. The eldest prince, in his “thirst for pantheistic philosophy”, was learned in the Talmud and the New Testament, the Vedanta and Sufi writings. He commissioned works that attempted to find a meeting point between Hinduism and Islam, but was no apostate, Sarkar was at pains to prove.
To the historians of a freshly minted, secular India, it was this tradition that appealed the most. RC Majumdar, in his magisterial An Advanced History of India (1960), allowed Aurangzeb “sterling qualities” as a politician and a soldier. But “he was not a political genius such as Akbar alone among the Mughals had been, who could initiate a policy and enact laws to mould the life and thought of his contemporaries or a future generation.”
Aurangzeb presided over the decay of the Mughal empire. “The reign of the puritan emperor was a great tragedy,” Majumdar concluded. Once again, Dara’s unfulfilled reign becomes the what if of history.
 
The past is lost
Later works such as Romila Thapar and Percival Spear’s History of India called into question the consensus about Aurangzeb’s bigotry. In a paragraph that has been the subject of mauch outrage from the Hindu right, the authors said, “He differed from Akbar in consciously tolerating Hindus rather than treating them as equals, but his supposed intolerance is little more than a hostile legend based on isolated facts.”
But here, too, Dara Shikoh was the torchbearer of the intellectual movement started by Akbar while Aurangzeb was reactionary. And in the transition from academic to public history, the subtleties do not survive. Syncretic Dara has long been preferred to orthodox Aurangzeb.  In the mythology of Hindu nationalism, Dara even beats Aurangzeb, aided by his knowledge of Hindu scriptures.
Some detritus from the unconsecrated past did survive in our monumental history, in colonial names and names of “Muslim tyrants”.  But the urge to set an example has proved too strong, so history must leap from victory parades to syncretic princes to saints. That which went in between has been chipped away, leaving “only a few embellished facts”, which “raise themselves up above like islands”. Not much is lost, except the past.

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