From: Satish Bhatnagar < >
This holocaust reflection is prompted by an e-mail received today – reminiscent of an historical event. It nearly coincides with the month of April, observed as Holocaust Education month in the US. I have significantly modified that article into a reflection.
These days, whenever, a massacre happens anywhere in the world, the atrocities become instant news. The media, all over, is always awash with reports splashing televised horrific images. At the same time, after a couple of days, it subsides away from public consciousness – till a bigger event thunders in. However, such was not the case in Delhi, in 1739. Yes, it happened 263 years ago. In that time frame, the US was not yet born, but thirteen US colonies were itching to challenge the British rule across the Atlantic.
Delhi is a city of very many memories. The streets of Delhi seem to have left very little room for marking historic events of the many foreigners who invaded India, known as Hindustan, the land of the Hindus – from the 12th century through the end of the 19th century. Anniversaries of some epochal events are publicly observed, some quietly remembered. Lately the forgotten ones are being researched by new generations of Hindu historians, particularly.
The anniversary of one tragic event, belonging to a partially forgotten category, falls on March 22, 1739. On that date, Delhi witnessed human carnage of unparalleled intensity and ferocity. It was declared as Katal-e-Aam (sparing no human life from being killed) of the Delhi populace. Delhi, in the 18th century, was confined to the area that is known as Old Delhi today. It was a total massacre ordered by the invading Nadir Shah of Persia/Iran.
The main objective of Katal-e-Aam is to strike deepest terror in the hearts and minds of the infidels so that their coming generations shudder at the mere thought of revolting against the Muslims. That is how the Muslims have ruled over the newly conquered lands. Even centuries later, this terror continues to manifest into denials, tolerance and appeasement – all out of embedded fear. The present intellectual negationism – denying the occurrence of medieval Muslim rulers’ atrocities on the Hindus, or presently telling all is well between the Hindus and Muslims, is a corollary of the deepest fear amongst the Hindus.
Nadir Shah’s soldiers slaughtered a staggering number of 20,000 men, women and children on March 22, 1739 – all within a spell of six hours. To put this number in perspective, if the Nazis killed 3000 Jews per day, then it becomes nearly 6 million in five years (1940-45)! Since the World War II Holocaust, the Jews realized the importance of political unity drawn from religious unity.
The 19th century India was still extremely rich, and Delhi’s prosperity and prestige was on the lips of ordinary people in far off lands in the west. Nadir Shah, laced with the latest weapons and cavalry, marched into India and easily defeated the Rangila (fun seeker) Mughal ruler of Delhi.
According to the chroniclers, on March 22, Nadir Shah rode out in full armour regalia from the Red Fort and took a seat at the Sunehri Masjid of Roshan-ud-dowla near the Kotwali Chabutra in the middle of Chandani Chowk. Around 9 am, he unsheathed his sword as a signal to commence the public slaughter.
Soon the pathways of areas – like Chandani Chowk and Dariba Kalan, Fatehpuri and Faiz Bazar, Lahori, Ajmeri and Kabuli gates, Hauz Kazi and Johri Bazar — densely populated by mostly Hindus were littered with their dead bodies. The shops were looted, and mansions were set ablaze. Women were ravished and abducted, many committing suicide. Any sporadic opposition only intensified the butchery and savagery of the soldiers of Nadir Shah. For a long time, streets remained strewn with corpses. It took Delhi nearly 100 years to recover from its shocks.
Nadir Shah ordered the bloodshed halted around 3 pm. But the plunder continued for some days. The contents of the imperial treasury, including the Peacock Throne, jewels and gold, were seized. According to Wikipedia, “… Nadir Shah left Delhi at the beginning of May, 1739, taking with him a few thousand Indian girls, a large number of boys as slaves, and thousands of elephants, horses and camels loaded with the booty his men had collected.”
The Peacock throne and Koh-I-Noor, one of the most famous diamonds in the world were carted away to Iran. Somehow, Koh-I-Noor came back to India and was in the possession of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1801-1839), the first Sikh emperor of the region that covers present-day NW India and Pakistan. Afterwards, Koh-I-Noor passed into the hands of the English. The Peacock throne has been on display in the National Museum in Tehran, and no Indian government has not made even a symbolic demand for its return to India.
A question worth probing concerns the minds of the present Hindus and Iranians toward such events. I have Iranian colleagues and have known Iranians in other circles too. They really feel great about what their forefather did in India -1600 miles away from Tehran – no question of apologies for past atrocities. However, the Hindus of north India continue to live in recessed inferiority. Independence from the British rule in 1947 has not affected the mindsets of the Hindus. It will change only when India, for instance, extends its present borders militarily and regains the territories lost to China and Pakistan in war and ethnic cleansing.