For thousands of years, India had been constantly ravaged by invaders who at times had been keen on uprooting the entire popular culture prevalent in this part of the world. Even before Muslims had invaded India, for thousands of years the Kushans, the Huns, the Greeks and many more had been invading this land, but the worst form of destruction inflicted upon the people of this land was under the invading Muslim armies who not only wanted to plunder and conquer India but also wanted to forcefully replace the popular culture with something they believed was the right path. With the first Arab Invasion of Kabul and Sindh at the beginning of the 7th century, India remained a primary target of invaders.
Always, the target was Hindu majority In India
A Hindu majority In India was also another reason for Muslim Invaders to remain motivated towards conquering India, so as their doctrines of social conduct could be enforced upon the popular culture and which would have further ensured an unbreakable rule of dominance in the country. Part of a larger religious agenda, the followers of this particular doctrine utilised suppression and fear as a tool to enforce conversions. Subsequently, plundering and destroying symbolically significant places of the Popular culture like the Somnath temple and the Nalanda university, it was followed by Imposing a hefty religious and pilgrimage tax namely the Zaziya tax, on Non-Muslims for practising their culture. Even though the Muslim kings ruled over a major portion of the land mass for more than a period of 600 years they couldn’t convert the entire population into their belief system. Invaders like Ghazni and Ghori were attributed to having inflicted the maximum damage on the inhabitants of this land.
Sexual violence as a tactic
Both being radical iconoclasts, had directed most of their actions towards inflicting maximum damage to the popular culture of the land. Apart from directed acts on the institutions of Indian culture most of these invaders also exploited the vulnerability of women folk and used sexual violence as a tactic to effectively put psychological pressure on the invaded population. Such were the implications of these tactics that certain practices such as Jauhar developed organically over a period of time as a final way to protect the chastity of women’s, given that one after another kingdom in India fell into the hands of these Invaders.
In one such instance, when the Maratha’s lost the third battle of Panipat to Ahmed Shah Abdali, there were written accounts describing Abdali of taking around 40,000 men and women as slaves to his kingdom. But later Abdali realized that it would be impossible for him and his remaining army to march the enslaved prisoner who also comprised of battle-hardened soldiers considering the harsh terrain, sold off his prisoners to a local Baloch chieftain for a substantial price.
Marathas in Baluchistan
The fact that a considerable number of Marathas who were forcefully converted are still distinctively found in Baluchistan is a living proof of the entire argument. Given the Tactics of total subjugation employed by these Invaders, any other nation would have fallen on its knees, but India survived and carried its traditions and practices forward, owing to the Great Ahom kings in the east, brave Marathas in the south and valorous Sikhs in the North, they provided the much-needed cocoon that helped the culture of the land to sustain itself against all odds.
Ahoms and the Sikhs
Apart from the brave Marathas, Ahoms and the Sikhs and many others, there was something deep within the minds of the native population that though being unorganised was inherently rhythmic, that organically from time to time replenished the idea of cultural oneness in the hearts and minds of indigenous people without even having a centralised mechanism to control and supervise the proceedings. One such prominent example can be the Kumbh Mela that had been commencing repeatedly after every 12 years and had kept the flame of nationhood alive among the masses. The Kumbh was attended by people from far and wide and from all walks of life from the entire stretch of India. Similarly, other pilgrimages namely the Char-Dham yatra, Ambubachi Mela, Amarnath yatra etc kept the philosophical Idea of Bharat along with the knowledge of its geographical spread, alive in the hearts and minds of the people. The fact that Indian philosophies were unorganised yet in sync with each other, ensured its survivability even when kingdoms, their patrons and institutions fell at the hands of invaders.
Owning to repeated clashes between the Maratha empire and the Mughals, the latter’s power steadily declined, and the Mughals were reduced to a city-state ruling over a small stretch surrounding the present-day Delhi. But the declining power of the Mughals provided only a temporary respite as colonial powers were rising in the area with an aim to completely subjugate India and exploit its resources to fuel economic growth of their respective European nations. The tactics employed by these powers saw similar and, in some instances, more dreadful forms of persecutions, employed to psychologically enslave the native population.
The Infamous Goan inquisition is one such standing example of atrocities committed by the colonial powers. In the next part of this article, we will discuss in brief about the carnages and religious persecutions that the indigenous population had to face on the account of colonial powers.