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Reliving the era of jizya

Reliving the era of jizya

Author: Prafull Goradia
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: July 7, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/187416/Reliving-the-era-of-jizya.html

India must protect Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh

Jizya was conceived as an instrument of truce in the jihad between momins and kafirs. A demand for Rs 60 lakhs in jizya is reported to have been made on the Hindus of Battagram in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province on June 28. Last month, 35 Sikh families were made homeless in Swat Valley because they could not pay Rs 5 crore as was demanded by the Taliban. Sad as these incidents are, these are but minor episodes in the vast epic of jizya.

Caliph Umar ibn al-Khataab, who reigned between 634 abd 644 AD, dictated a covenant whereby the resident Jews and Christians had to pay a tribute to the Muslim rulers if they wished to survive with their faiths and be exempted from conversion or extermination.

The inspiration of the covenant was founded upon a direct injunction of the Quran: Make war upon those whom scriptures have not been given (the people of the Book)… until they pay tribute (jizya) out of their hand, and they be humbled (page 248, Dictionary of Islam by Thomas Patrick Hughes, London, 1885). This was taken from Surah IX, Ayat 29 (Quran, A Yusuf Ali, 1934, Lahore). It says to wage war until they pay the jizya with willing submission and feel themselves subdued.

The Hanafi school of Islamic jurisprudence prescribed conversion or death to everyone other than the people of the book, namely the Jews, Sabeans and Christians. Notwithstanding this fact, the Muslim rulers in India extended the tribute or poll tax to Hindus. Evidently, this was done to meet economic compulsions of raising revenue. Otherwise, Hindus should be the last to be included, considering the abhorrence of Islam for idolators. Jizya was introduced in India in 712 AD when Mohammed bin Qasim conquered Sindh.

The poll tax continued to be levied by all Muslim rulers until Akbar abolished the practice in 1564. His great grandson Aurangzeb reimposed the vexatious levy in 1679. Jizya ended with the advent of British rule. Jawaharlal Nehru, the friend of Muslims, could not have brought back a poll tax but he did introduce the Haj subsidy. His Government legislated the Haj Committee Act, 1959; Article 14 thereof deals with the subsidy which inter alia includes (g) any sum allotted by the Central Government or any State Government to the Haj fund. Nehru celebrated this bestowal by printing the word 'Haj' on the normal currency notes signed by then RBI Governor HVR Iyengar.

The Union Budget for the year 2005-06 provided Rs 225 crore for the Haj fund. By the Budget for the year 2008-09, the subsidy provision stood at Rs 413 crore; the actual expenditure is likely to approach a figure of Rs 500 crore. Prof Sri Ram Sharma, the doyen of historians in Lahore, wrote in 1940 that Akbar's gesture of 1564 had created a common citizenship for all his subjects, Hindus and Muslims alike. Aurangzeb reversed this visionary step until the British took over. Jawaharlal Nehru reintroduced the policy of discrimination through the Haj subsidy, which presumably would help the Hajis to reach jannat. He, however, left all other fellow citizens whether Hindu, Christian, et al, to their own devices for the pursuit of salvation.

The hapless Sikhs may either flee Swat Valley if they can or embrace Islam or get killed. Right from the time of Nehru-Liaquat Pact of 1950, the Government of India has failed to come to the succour of the minorities either in Pakistan or Bangladesh. In any case the problem of minorities is not confined to the sub-continent. Eastern Europe was also affected for centuries. Eventually, a committee of the League of Nations, headed by the former Viceroy Lord Curzon in 1923, concluded that an exchange of populations was the only lasting solution. In the event a whole new procedure of evaluating land, property, rights and duties of the migrating people was developed in detail. Thereafter, millions changed their countries from Turkey to Greece and from Greece to Turkey; similarly there was an exchange of Bulgarian Christians with the Turkish Muslims.

Uncannily, Mohammed Ali Jinnah and other leaders of the Muslim League right up to early 1947 proposed an exchange of populations between Hindustan and the emerging Pakistan. MK Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru turned such a deaf ear that the League had to eventually give up its proposal. When they got their homeland on August 14, 1947, they unilaterally began the ethnic cleansing of Hindus and Sikhs; the process was slower in the eastern wing.

Surely, it is long overdue that the Government of India wakes up and saves the minorities of the neighbouring countries: Pakistan has only a few lakh Hindus left while in Bangladesh their number has come down to eight per cent of the country's population.

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