Muslim Sultans, the Saviors of India
By Kazim Shah
Bharat with a population exceeding 1 billion is the world's biggest democracy. But democracy, no matter how good of a system and how well intended its motivations, cannot sometimes rid itself of its own woes. In the case of India, Hindu extremism often seeps through the veil of secularism defying the Indian constitution and as recently as in the latest Indian elections, putting someone like Mr Modi into the prime minister's seat.
Already, the 68 years of Indian history is infamously punctuated with riots against its large Muslim minority. The ferocity of such "Entrap and Incinerate," scenarios is most often rooted in one potent episode: The past Muslim conquest of India and a 1000 plus years of rule by various dynasties of monarchs who practiced Islam. At the climax of one such horrific orgy of bloodletting and unrelenting explosion of violence and demise against Indian Muslims, Mr Atal Bihari Rajpai, the former Indian prime minister had this to say, "The minority can only survive at the goodwill of the majority." He probably forgot to advance any bright ideas which would invigorate that goodwill in the face of those hate mongers who strive to promote a permanent rift by distorting and exploiting historical events of the past.
Also against a background of seriously unresolved issues with its neighbors like Pakistan, India has embarked upon increasing its military might to an alarming proportion.
With an annual military budget of 38 billion US dollars compared to 7 billion dollars for Pakistan, India has raised a military might second only to China in the region.
Pakistanis have more than once reiterated their resolve that they would be the first ones to introduce nuclear weapons in a war in which their very survival is at stake. This situation would of course elicit a matching response from India. Such a scenario would bring the entire Indian scheme of greater Maha Bharat, built upon religious ideology and hate of Muslims, to a drastic demise of both India and Pakistan with added global repercussions.
The masses in India still live through a system of widespread corruption, inequality and injustice. The people of Pakistan also face the same social ills with one salient difference. Pakistan is haunted with a terrible legacy of the US proxy war with Russia. The band of tribal warriors infused by the same misinterpreted Islamic ideology, which is more commonly identified in the West as "Islamic Fundamentalism", which pitched them against the Russian forces, has now pitched them against their own countrymen and armed forces. Their sponsor however now is not the United States or The NATO Alliance; they are now, according to official Pakistani sources, supported by the Indian intelligence agencies.
The Indian extremist hysteria built upon hate and vengeance against the Muslims of the Indian sub-continent is not based on fair, informed and responsible thought process.
Of course, to be ruled by an elite class of an alien faith breeds grievances, yet the same period of Indian history is marked with fairness, equality and dignity for all Indian subjects.
Forced conversion of Hindus into Islam by those Muslim rulers was unknown. The present day demographic realities of the Indian subcontinent are a testimony to that fact. The Muslim rule of India stands in stark contrast to the occupation of the Americas by the conquistadores. In the Americas, vast populations of Mayas, Aztecs and American Indians were decimated by their occupiers. The entire social system and religious practices of those non-Christian masses were obliterated. The recapturing of Muslim Spain was even worse. It was marked essentially with only one choice : "Convert or Die".
On the contrary, India as a nation of 1.2 billion people owes its very existence to the rule of Muslim Sultans and their military elites in a golden era of Indian history, when peace and tranquility marked the existence of all human beings from the plutocrats right down to the very proletarian. The manner in which those men defended this blissful empire for both Muslim and Hindus alike, is a tale that has no precedence in the entire history of the Indian subcontinent. The Muslim Sultans confronted and held their ground against such forces of evil, which had in 40 years, annihilated 85 million human lives in Korea, China, Persia, Syria, Iraq and Eastern Europe.
The scourge of Mongol conquests was marked with such diabolic brutality, which has, as chronicler Diana Larry contends, experienced a population displacement in those places, on a scale, never to have been known before. Notes David Nicole, "Terror and mass extermination of any one opposing them was a well tested Mongol tactic."
According to Iranian historian Rashid al Din (1247-1318)
the Mongols killed 700,000 people in Merv and more than a million in Nishapur. The total population of Persia had dropped from 2,500,000 to 250,000 in the post-Mongol invasion period.
In the aftermath of the Mongol campaign against China in the 13th and 14th centuries, the Chinese population was reduced from 120 million to 60 million. During this campaign, 90 well defended cities were pillaged and burnt to the ground in less than six months. When the conquest of western China was completed in 1234, the Honan province was sucked out of resources to such an extent that not only the surviving Chinese had to kill and eat fellow citizens, even the Mongols had to resort to eating human flesh in order to survive.
When Samarkand was attacked by the Mongols, thirty thousand Turkish mercenaries decided to join Genghis Khan by showing up at his camp with baggage . Genghis ordered them to stand in close rows in order to have their heads shaven to give them a Mongol appearance. This formation was realized in such a manner that a Mongol soldier stood behind each Turkish man with a razor. When the signal was given, all thirty thousand men had their heads cut off in an instant. Another 200,0000 inhabitants of the city were subsequently put to the sword.
Urgendj, the capital of Khwarezm, offered a formidable resistance to the Mongol army. The city had to be taken by the Mongols, street by street and house by house. The Mongols lost a good part of the frontal army during this venture. As a revenge they pushed the entire population of the city outside the city walls and massacred them with arrows and scimitars. The citizens of the city of Tarmez were taken outside the city, divided among the companies and soldiers and butchered to death.
In the city of Balkh the entire population was ordered out of the city on the pretext of getting an official population count and murdered.
After the fall of Nessa, the inhabitants were forced out of the city and ordered to help each other to tie their hands. The immobilized people were surrounded and butchered.
In the city of Merv the survivors laid down among the dead to save their lives. Mongols decapitated each and every human body so that no one could escape death.
When the Mongols invaded Bagdad in the spring of 1258, they ordered the entire population of the city to be brought out. They executed 900,000 people and burnt the entire city to the ground. They then channeled the river towards the city to drown any one hiding in the basements.
When Eastern Europe was invaded, 100000 Hungarians were killed in the plains of Mohi. Poland was sacked and burnt to the ground. Even cats and dogs were not spared.
Mongols were the only ones to successfully sustain an attack on Russia during the Russian winter. Human habitations were sacked and burnt with bodies inside. Whoever survived perished due to chilling cold and starvation.
While chasing Jalaludin, the son of the king of Khawarzem, the Mongols crossed over from Samarkand into India. In Delhi, Sultan Altamish refused to grant Jalaluddin an asylum due to the fear of Mongol reprisals.
Yet from 1221 to 1327, the Mongols launched several invasion into India. In 1235 they finally defeated Jallalidin in the battle of Indus.
The Mongols then captured Kashmir and after pillaging and killing most of its inhabitants turned it into a vassal state. The Mongols also plundered Lahore a few times. Entire outskirts and parts of the city were burnt and razed to the ground. Multan and Sindh witnessed destruction and devastation on several occasions. These cities were looted, sacked and burnt to the ground over and over again during a span of several years.
In the face of heavy odds the Sultans of Delhi put up a resistance that the Mongols, despite their immense might, could not breach.
The Mongols were terrifying battle tacticians. Even great warriors like Alexander the Great could not have matched their battle skills. They relied heavily on intrigue tactics and speed. Fake withdrawals, surprise comebacks, hostage-takings and utilization of human shields made up of huge number of prisoners were some of their battle ploys. They would utilize the skills of thousands of mounted archers to rain down arrows from powerful bows followed by a vicious cavalry charge. At times Mongols could go without food for days and at times they resorted to cannibalism. Thus reported Franciscan Friar, a diplomat sent to the Mongol Empire by Pope Innocent IV, that during a prolonged siege, they went ahead and killed one out of every ten of their own soldiers for food. Marco Polo reported that Mongols sometimes relied on the blood of their horses for nourishment A vein was punctured in the animal's neck to squirt blood into the mouth of the soldier and latter on it was sealed off . To combat such an adversary was unthinkable for any army of that era. Yet in India, the Muslim Sultans of those times, through their persistence, vigilance, unshakable faith and ground-breaking chivalry broke the myth of Mongol invincibility time and again and secured India to see better days leading right into our times on to the stage of the world.
Among those valiant monarchs, it was Sultan Ghyasuddin Balban who erected a number of forts on all possible routes to Dehli. He kept his army in top condition through training and strict discipline. During the rule of Sultan Balban the incursions of Mongols had intensified. The Sultan put his eldest and ablest son Mohammad in charge of the Southern frontier. Mohammad made Multan his headquarters since it was the gateway to India. When the Mongols attacked in 1279 and 1285, the charges were intense and the combats were ferocious. Mohammad inflicted decisive defeats upon the Mongols and forced them into retreat. The losses on both sides were heavy and it inflicted quiet a drain on the resources of the kingdom. However, the Mongols reappeared on the scene of battle again in1286. Once again prince Mohammad came out to meet them at the battlefield. After a fierce battle he routed the Mongol army but he too was killed in the combat.
Sultan Gayasuddin Balban went into an emotional shock at the death of his most beloved and trusted son and died a year later at the age of 81.
The Mongols were persistent in their resolve to conquer Delhi and all of India in its aftermath. Their only dilemma was the permanent state of readiness, effectiveness of mobility and spontaneous military responses of the Muslim Sultans of Delhi. The Mongol attacks continued into the reign of Sultan Alauddin Khilji. The Sultan strengthened the forts along the border and placed bigger and better equipped garrisons there. An entire new aggressive force was raised with new fortifications with the sole purpose of guarding the frontiers. Despite these measures the Mongols re-appeared under the command of Turghi who bypassed all fortifications and through sheer speed, reached Delhi and laid siege to the city. The Mongols sacked the surrounding areas of Delhi. Unfortunately there were only about forty thousand troops in the city itself. The Sultan sent messengers to various governors to send reinforcements. However the Mongols departed due to some impinging internal reason before any help could reach the city. Some contemporary historians attribute this to the miraculous prayer of Shaikh Nizamudfin Aulia.
In1299 the Mongols speedily returned to Delhi with a superior force and laid siege to the city. The Sultan however, against the advice of many of his commanders, decided to meet the Mongol force in an open battlefield. The Sultan came out of the city with a force of 200,000 to meet the Mongol army of 150,000. Two miles to the north of Delhi, in a pitched battle, the Sultan's forces utterly routed and destroyed the Mongol army. But two of the Sultan's ablest Generals, Zafar Khan and Ghazi Khan, were killed while recklessly chasing the retreating enemy. A few thousand Mongols were taken prisoners. The Sultan had them crushed under the elephants' feet in public view. Another few thousand were beheaded and their heads hung along the city walls. On their way back the Mongols plundered and sacked Multan and some areas of Sindh.
Although terror had been inflicted into the hearts of the Mongols with this battle and in its aftermath the Sultan was too shrewd to let his guards down. He was right. The Mongols returned under the command of Kebek in 1306. They managed to cross the river Indus but were swiftly intercepted by Ghazi Malik the governor of Punjab, thanks to the Sultan's expeditionary forces that laid in readiness. Thousands of Mongols, including a general, were taken prisoner. Alauddin put them all to death and sold their wives and children into slavery. The last of the Mongol incursions took place between 1307-1308 under Tai Bu. Once again they had barely crossed the Indus river when they were overtaken by the Sutan's forces. They were ruthlessly cut down in the battlefield. The Mongols eventually gave up the idea of conquering India.
The Moslem Sultans, despite heavy odds, succeeded in defending India from the claws of an evil creed of warriors that had no respect for life. The Mongols took immense pleasure in the screams of their terrified, helpless and bereaved victims and at the site of the burning cities that they torched after plunder. They had dispatched millions of innocent men, women and children to a horrible death in territories that extended over millions of square miles and had left a lasting mark of misery, ruin and despair upon the face of many a great cities like Samarkand, Nishapur, Bagdad, and in Eastern Europe.
Without the perseverance of the valiant Muslim Sultans and their great warriors, the Mongol armies would have managed to disperse both, Hindus and Muslims, to annihilation and to turn India into a tomb, in which would lay its own mutilated body.
It is time for the Indian intelligentsia to take a serious note of this contagious Hindu Jati extremism and to purge its ranks. The time is now to foster harmony so that amity can prosper between various factions and religious beliefs of well intentioned Indian citizens. This in return shall usher better understanding with Pakistan through the ensuing trust and shared reliance.