Indifference and exemption of Indic merchants to religious persecution of the rest of the populace by Muslim invaders
- In article
- 08:29 AM, Feb 12, 2017
- Saswati Sarkar.Shanmukh.Dikgaj.Kirtivardhan Dave.Aparna
It is well-known that Muslim rulers subjected non-Muslim subjects to a wide range of religious persecution, starting from forcible and incentivized conversions to slavery to temple destruction. But the persecution was not uniformly applied. Two broad sections of the populace have been targeted for forcible and incentivized conversion. They were: 1) the populace that resisted, comprising of a section of royalty, hereditary gentry, peasants etc. 2) the economically vulnerable underclass, namely peasants, artisans etc. Notably, the merchants did not belong to either category, they were in fact the allies of the Muslim rulers as argued thus far , , , . The wealthy and influential Indic mercantile groups enabled the invading Muslim rulers in various different ways, eg, by funding their campaigns against native kingdoms via loans and contributions, by funding their nobility and managing the finances of the state, by gathering intelligence for them and undermining public morale against them and negotiating on their behalf with other foreign powers, and by assisting the Muslim rulers in their human-trafficking and enslaving operations , , . It was usual practice of the Muslim rulers, starting from at least the times of the Mughals, to spare their allies of forcible conversion. Aurangzeb did not try to forcibly convert his Rajput allies, or even his other Hindu courtiers, and Tipu sultan did not forcibly convert his Hindu prime minister, either; both these fanatical rulers targeted the people of the lands that resisted them . Even the case of the child of Jaswant Singh whom Aurangzeb had tried to convert was a case of the state not being an immediate ally, and probably a grudge against his dead father, who had multiple disagreements with Aurangzeb, or perhaps, just a plain opportunistic attempt to convert or obtain control of Jodhpur state.
While rebels emerged from all other classes, be it under-class, intellectual class or martial class, the mercantile class remained loyal to the invaders throughout India’s long history of collusion, exceptions have been few and far between, may well be termed as ``a set of measure zero,’’ if we are to borrow a term from mathematics. A natural corollary to this observation is that, as reliable long-standing collaborators, big Indic businessmen were exempted from all persecution, religious included, even during the most fanatic Muslim regimes both inside and outside India. In some cases, the exemption was withdrawn when a large majority of the remaining populace had already been converted to Islam and adequately indoctrinated, so much so that they demanded the conversion of the remaining wealthy ``infidels’’. In the remainder, oppressive religious zealot rulers continued to patronize the wealthy Indic merchants, even granting them religious freedom, in exchange of financial support in their nefarious stratagems.
Notwithstanding the exemptions, the acts of collusion render the involved Indic merchants as accomplices to the many atrocities perpetrated by the Muslim rulers on Indic commons, including religious atrocities.
Section A: Exemption of Indic Merchants from Forcible and Incentivised Conversions
We observe that despite episodes of persecution, Hindu merchant diaspora prospered in heavily Muslim lands, with repressive religious policies, namely, Middle East, Central Asia, Afghanistan, and Iran. Instances of forcible conversion were rare. The local populace disliked them, in part because of their hatred of Hinduism, and in part because of their business tactics, namely usury. But the ruling elite protected them and not only did not forcibly convert them, but granted them extensive religious freedom and economic liberties.
- Hindu merchants were present in the port of Siraf on the Persian shore of the Gulf since at least the 9th century and they also frequented the coasts of Oman, Socotra and Aden. p.10,  Hindu Bhatia merchants from the town of Thatta in lower Sindhwere present in Muscat in the fifteenth century p. 11, . They appear to have been the main participants in the trade between Sindh and Arabia pp. 54 55, . Thatta in Sindh had intense commercial relations with Muscat. p. 11, . When the Portuguese entered the Indian Ocean trade, colonies of Indian Merchants, especially from Gujarat were found in all the major ports between Aden and Malacca. Gujarati merchant networks, both Hindus and Muslims, then played a dominant role in maritime trade and finance across the entire ocean p. 11, . During the 17th century, Surat replaced Cambay as the pre-eminent Mughal maritime centre and the principal port. It was during this period that the Gujarati merchants further expanded their trade with the Middle East, Mocha and elsewhere, particularly under the Qasimi rule in Yemen. loc. 680-688, . Hindu Vaniya(Baniyas are called Vaniya in Gujarati ) networks operated prominently in this region and directed their trade primarily to Yemen and Hadhramaut (Arabian coast, South of Mecca). It was also during this time that the Gujarati trade spread into Northern and southern Swahili coast of Africa as far south as Mozambique island and possibly farther south into the Mozambique channel. loc. 706,  The markets of Jeddah and trade at ports such as Mocha and Al Shihr remained central to Vaniya networks for much of the 17th century. loc. 713,  Later, that is, in the late 17th century, the Imam of Mocha forcibly converted or ordered the massacre of many Vaniyas and Jewish traders and merchants. loc. 723,  Thus the 1720s and early 1730s represented the flight of Vaniya capital away from Southern Arabia and the Red Sea loc. 737-744,  Vaniya merchants re-directed their commercial interests and re-deployed considerable capital resources to the Mozambique coast in the 1730s. loc. 774, . The close relation between Hindu Gujarati merchants and Muslim regimes in middle East resumed shortly after. Kutchi Bhatia merchants primarily from Mandvi benefited from the development of an aggressive Omani-Busaidi state in Oman from the mid 1780s that sought to establish monopoly over Arabian Gulf trade. The Kutchi Bhatia merchants facilitated and became integral to the Omani commercial empire loc. 781-789, . According to the British traveller Valentia, around 1810, 250 resident bunions (Hindu Merchants) could be found in Mocha. Most of these merchants moved to Aden after the British annexation of the port in 1839. p. 11, . Around early 19th century large colonies of Indian merchants could be found in Mocha, Eden, Zanzibar, Bahrain Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Bander Abbas. They were mostly Hindus and kept in close contact with the Western part of India, particularly Sindh, Kutch, and various parts in Kathiawar, Surat, Broach, Bombay, and from the second half of the 18th century onwards, Bombay . pp 11-12, 
- Indic mercantile settlements in Musqat deserve special attention given how they controlled the economy of this Arab state.The resident Indic merchants there enjoyed close connection with the Muslim rulersand influenced many ofthe policies of the Islamic state there. S. B. Miles reported the ruins of Hindu temple at Qalhat, the principal Umani port of the fifteenth century. The argument for fifteenth century settlement of Indic merchants in Musqat is supported is supported further by de Albuquerque's report that Hindu merchants from Gujarat escaped from Khyr Fakkan, a secondary port on the Shimiliya coast of Northern Uman, before he sacked that town in 1507 p. 60, .Calvin H. Allen has written that ``Oral traditions of the Indian merchant community in Musqat allege that these Sindis were the first 'Banians' to settle in Musqat and add that they were Bhattis (Bhattiya). Sindi Bhattias apparently thrived under the Portuguese rulers of Musqat. The Umani Chroniclers Ibn Ruzyaq and Al-salimi both report that a Banian 'worshipper of the cow' acted as supply agent for the Portuguese garrison at Musqat, and the Portuguese Commander seems to have accepted advice freely from his agent. However, the Banian eventually became dissatisfied with the Portuguese, especially as the commander wished to marry his daughter, and helped the Yaariba ruler of Uman expel the Europeans from Musqat in 1650. Bhattia support for the Yaariba proved to be very beneficial for the Banians. The community was exempted from paying the poll tax (Jizya) and permission was granted for the construction of a temple. ….The Hindu Community was not affected adversely by the civil war which established the Al Bu Said dynasty in the 1740s, and it continued to prosper under Ahmad b. Said (1743 - 82). In January 1765 the Danish explorer Carsten Niebuhr spent two weeks at Musqat and has left the following description of the Banian community: "In no other Mahometan city are the Banians so numerous as in Mascat ; their number in this city amounts to no fewer then 1200. They are permitted to live agreeably to their own laws, to bring their wives hither, to set up idols in their chambers, and to burn their dead." p. 61, . The Indic mercantile influence on the oppressive Islamic state of Musqat was so significant that they were even allowed tofound four Hindu places of worshippp. 61-62, . In 1836 the Arabian traveler J. R. Wellsted described the Hindu community of Musqat, Uman, as constituting 'a body of the principal merchants' of that port p. 59,  Kutchi Bhattias dominated the trade and economic affairs of the port of Musqat,expanding their control in two stages, separated by Said b. Sultan's transfer of his residence to Zanzibar after 1830. A few Kutchi Bhattias rose to prominence in the service of the commercially mind Sayyid Said. p. 64,  Family legend claims that Gopal's (Mawji Bhimani) great-grandfather was the first Bhimani to trade in Musqat late in the 18th century. In time, the family founded a business in Musqat, and Gopal Bhimani began to play an active role in Masqati politics. Gopal was among the Banians who encouraged Said b. Sultan to conquer Zanzibar p. 65,  Once settled in Zanzibar, Said b. Sultan started selling slaves and cloves p. 65,  . During his extended absences in East Africa he delegated most of Masqat's commercial affairs in the hands of resident Bhattias. Both the treasurer and chief customs official were Kutchi Bhattias, and it was likely at this time that the practice of farming the Musqati customs was instituted, and the Kutchis began to pour into this port. By 1840 the Banian population had reached 2000, and, as stated by Wellsted the community had become the principal economic power in Musqat. The Kutchi Bhattias flourished in Musqat during the reign of Thuwayni b. Said (1865-68). They continued to control the treasury and customs house, and accruedthe profits that had earlierfilled the coffers of the ruling family. pp. 65-66, .By the 1870s the Indian merchants dominated the commercial life of Musqat and had replaced the Al Bu Said rulers of the town at the paramount economic power in Uman p. 59,  The merchants were the leading bankers of Musqat and in due course came to own large land holdings there due to mortgage foreclosures p. 68,  For example, early in the 1880s Shet Ratansi Purshottam Purecha began to acquire land along the waterfront of Muscat and eventually came to own all the waterfront property with the exception of the palace, customs house and British political agency. This was only one of the many parcels of land that he came to own, and by the end of the 19th century he and his Banian colleagues owned bulk of the best property in Musqat and Matrah. During the late 19th century, Shet Ratansi became a leading arms merchant. He dealt with the London firm Schwarte and Hammer and the Hamburg arms dealer Moritz Magnus, and was active in exporting dates to the United States through the New York Forum of William hills (now a subsidiary of Nabisco). pp. 67-68, . The leading Indic merchants lived and worked in Musqat within the walled portion of the city and close to the Sultan's Palace p. 67, . The Hindus celebrated their religious festivals, such as New Year (નવું વરસ Gujarati New Year -the day after Divali), with social gatherings and dinner parties. Typically a dish of the best food would be taken to the Sultan. Banians were also invited to the palace on special occasions, although they would not eat the food prepared by the ruler's non-Hindu cooks. p. 68, 
- Persia also always had a large number of Indians merchants, and treated them with tolerance, despite the very oppressive Persian Safavid kingdom, which held thousands of native Zoroastrians as slaves and inflicted religious persecution on the latter.Surendra Gopal mentions that Indians publicly conducted their festivals in the capital Isfahan and there were between 1000 and 12000 Indians in Isfahan in the 17th century. loc. 147-157, .In fact, Banias were so common that all non-Christian, non-Zoroastrian infidels were called `Banias’ by the Persians and allowed to practise their religion. Loc. 147, .Kishandas Khatri was the shahbandar of Bandar Abbas in 1718. loc. 202, .Indians were in all the big towns of Iran, like Isfahan, Shiraz, Tabriz, Yazd, Teharan and Gilan.Towards the end of the 18th century, a sarai meant exclusively for the Indians was still functional at Shiraz.Indians were very active in Baku and other centres of Azerbaijan, as they were in Astrakhan and other Volga cities.Indian activity has been noted in Shemakha, Shirvan, Baku, Ardebil, Derbent and Aresha.YY Stris found `not less than 100 Banias on the outskirts of Shemakha’ in the 1670s.A French traveller, a little later, found 200 resident Indians in Shemakha and described them as `the richest traders.They were traders, bankers, moneylenders and money changers.They had a temple consecrated to the sacred fire at Surkhan. Loc. 212, .In 1637, the Indians of Shemakha built a caravanserai on the road from Shemakha to Ardebil.Of the twenty caravanserai in Shemakha, Bruyn noted that the Indian one was built of stone, 23-24 feet high and `the most beautiful.’ loc. 222, .Iranian authorities respected the religious sentiments of the Indian traders because a) they were big & important traders in their own right b) they were agents of powerful European companies c) Mughals backed them to the hilt.Indians were allowed to practice their religion openly and Indians built a temple in Bandar Abbas.Thomas Herbert visited a temple under a banyan tree, which had three idols. loc. 1099, .Once when the Indians had a dispute with the governor of Bandar Abbas, they left the port en masse for a neighbouring town where the Governor’s writ did not run. When the Governor left Bandar Abbas, they returned to the town. Indians didn’t leave Iran when the Governor of Bandar Abbas harassed them, because the governor’s policy didn’t reflect royal policy. loc. 1109-1120, . Indians paid a certain amount of money to the Governor of Bandar Abbas to prevent the slaughter of cows and other similar animals. This is attested to by both Lockyer and Fryer. loc. 1120, . Banias were invited to receptions by the Governor of Bandar Abbas, but did not touch anything there as their caste rules forbade them. The Sindhis ate fish and other meat, but not beef. The Indians paid the governor who banned cow slaughter 350 tomans and beef could not be procured in Bandar Abbas except via clandestine means. loc. 1120-1132, .
- Indians were also very well established in the oppressive Yemeni society and also other Red Sea ports of Arabia.In 1411, Aden earned 1,470,000 dinars as port dues and most of this came due to the Indian trade. The Rasulids appreciated this commerce and extended protection to all trading communities in their kingdom. loc. 375-388, .Hindu traders in Yemen were forced to pay Jizyah at the rate of one qirsh per month.In 1649, when someone complained that Hindus were idol-worshippers, the Imam asked an individual merchant to leave the country, but arrested the accuser too.In many occasions when the Hindus faced problems, the government acted firmly to protect them. loc. 599, .Aden had an entire quarter for Banias. loc. 823, .
- We have already mentioned aboutthe existence of large scale Indic mercantile diasporas all over Central Asia and Afghanistan. As Levi has analyzed for Central Asia, ``Indian diaspora merchants [up to the start of the twentieth century] were perceived by their host societies as a cultural other .....in many places in the diaspora, and even within India, the money-lending activities and business acumen of these communities earned them a reputation as draconian usurers. Still, the Indians almost uniformly enjoyed the pronounced protection of the political elites of their host societies. In some areas, at specific times, Hindus were allowed to construct temples and engage in religious traditions considered offensive by their host societies, including the cremation of their dead and even sati. This may be attributed to their important contributions in terms of trans regional trade, providing much-needed investment capital, and orchestrating rural credit operations. Furthermore, because the outsider status of the Indian diaspora merchants freed them from familial and other social relationships, regional ruling elite also viewed them as attractive candidates to handle aspects of the financial management of their host States. This has been observed for Durrani Afghanistan and, to a lesser extent, 19th century Iran.’’ pp 176, 177,  Despite episodes of persecution, eg, by Nadir Shah in Iran and the afghan conquest of iran, it was not the Muslim rulers, but the Russian regime that drastically cut down the Hindu mercamtile diaspora in Central asia pp. 253-258, .
Similarly, very few mercantile communities converted in India, the only exception appears to be the Bohras and the Memons of Gujarat who converted lured by financial benefits. For example, by the mid-eighteenth century, Sindh in India occupied an important position at the crossroads of several important maritime and land route between Northern India and the Persian Gulf and Arabia. The Hindu Banias were the dominant element among the merchants of Sindh. But, the majority of the population, including the peasants, was converted to Islam at some point between the 15th and 18th centuries pp. 36, 37, 43, . While writing the history of the Sindhi Hindus, Nandita Bhavnani has confirmed that the Hindus of Sindh were an urban community comprising of merchants, traders, while the common people - the Haaris, laborers and artisans - were generally Muslim, rural and poor 258 – 265, .
The protection to Hindu merchants in all these places against forcible conversion was accorded because the Hindu merchants extended significant economic and administrative assistance to the Muslim ruling elite. Bhavnani has written about Sindh that `` If the Muslims sat on the throne, the Hindus held the purse strings to the economy’’ Loc. 265, . Indeed, in Sindh a section of the Hindu Trading Community, known as Amils, was entrusted with the revenue collection and related financing pp. 36, 37 . The Amils were the backbone of the Talpur regime in matters of revenue collection and administration, which gave them an enormous political influence p. 43,  Bhavnani tells us about the specific protection from forcible conversions, accorded by the Muslim regime of Sindh to the Hindu merchants: ``But the greatest fear of Sindhi Hindus under Muslim rule was that of forcible conversion to Islam, although this does not appear to have been very common [this would be in the nineteenth century once the commoners have all been converted].... the Muslim rulers were shrewd enough to recognize the importance of the trade revenues that the Hindus brought to Sindh , and the fact that they played an indispensable role in matters of administration, too mundane for the Mirs to deal with. And so the Hindus, especially those living in the trading marts of Karachi and Shikarpur, were patronized and protected to some extent...’’ loc. 274 – 282,  Wonder if the Indic commons of Sindh would have been Islamized if this protection and patronage was accorded to them?
And, when attempts were made to forcibly convert the Hindu merchants, they acted collectively, threatening to leave, which would in turn inflict immense financial loss on the Muslim rulers. For example, during Aurangzeb’s regime, in the late 1660s, a particular Qazi was acting towards the banias in a very tyrannical way, and was likely forcibly converting them to Islam. All the heads of Surat’s Vania family, numbering some eight thousand, deserted Surat. From Broach, they petitioned Aurangzeb. The tanksell [mint] and custom house of Surat were shut down, no money could be procured either for house expenses or trade. Thus, the people of Surat were all stranded. Aurangzeb soon gave a reassuring reply to the merchants which was to the satisfaction of all concerned merchants. pp. 121-122, . Contrast this with how Aurangzeb ruthlessly converted Indic commons through re-installation of the discriminatory Jizya tax (note that this would particularly hasten the conversion of the Indic poor) and other oppressive mechanisms.
Some of the wealthy merchants were even powerful enough to replace the Muslim rulers with the British, when the former threatened to forcibly convert them, or could not protect them from forcible conversions. In the 1750s, Bengal Nawab Siraj ud Daullah had threatened the then leading merchant of Bengal, and perhaps of whole India, Jagat Seth, with circumcision [forcible conversion] p. 486, . Jagat Seth immediately conspired with the British to have Siraj ud Daullah removed, and usher in the rule of the east India company. In 1831 the richest Hindu Merchant of Sindh, Seth Hotchand was captured by a Muslim crowd bent on converting him p. 44, . His descendants subsequently facilitated the British conquest of Sindh . In the words of Bhavnani, ``Till now, the Talpurs, having recognized the importance of the trade revenues, had generally patronised and protected the Hindu merchants of Karachi. Now, when they turned blind eye to this outrage [forcible conversion of Hotchand], Hotchand's son Seth Naomal vowed to take revenge.... by this time, Sindh had also taken on increasing political signficance for the British, who were nervous about Russian designs on Afghanistan. In their less than scrupulous dealings with the Talpurs - reneging on their treaties, penalizing them on exaggerated grounds and ultimately resorting to unwarranted aggression - they were aided by a vengeful Naomal, who supplied them with provisions, beasts of burden and valuable information....When the East India Company, came ashore, it was Naomal's elder brother Seth Pritamdas who greeted the guests at the wharf, and took them to his home for refreshments. There was a plane between the walled town and Rambagh, the old Hindu tank, and this is where the British initially chose to pitch their camp.’’ Loc 297-311, 
Markovitz mentions that Mir Murdali, the leading Talpur Amir of Sindh , had intervened to have Seth Hotchand freed p. 44, , but Bhavnani denies Loc. 297-304, . Either way the point here is that the merchants never utilized their clout to protect the Hindu commoners from the plight of forcible and incentivized conversions, or avenge the violations of their religious rights. The Indic merchants continued to enable the regimes which converted Hindu commoners, through pressure or application of brute force. Both the Jagat Seths and the wealthy Indic merchants of Sindh enabled Muslim regimes that continuously converted the Indic commons in the respective provinces. In fact before the conversion, we learn from Bhavnani, that ``Hotchand and his family, merchant princes of Karachi, had had good relations with Mir Karamali, who has arbitrated in disputes in Hotchand's extended family. On his past visits to the Mir, Hotchand had been invited to sit with him on the same cot, and not on the carpet below, with the rest of the audience’’ Loc. 297, . Such special treatment implies that the Seths and other wealthy Hindu merchants have had long-standing symbiotic relations with the Muslim regimes of Sindh , while commoners were being converted, very likely under compulsion. This can only be understood from the specific social attributes of the mercantile communities that limit their concerns to their immediate clans or caste groups, and induce contempt for Indic commons . This also shows how shortsighted mercantile minds can be. Seth Hotchand had the Mir arbitrate in his family disputes, making common cause with him, despite the regime’s or their predecessors’ persecution of Hindu commoners. He perhaps believed that this would ensure the prosperity and safety of his immediate family and community. He learned the hard way, but then, it was already too late for the Hindus of Sindh.
In general, Muslim rulers did not incentivize the conversion of merchants in any significant manner. Mohammad Habib believes that, starting from the Delhi Sultanate times, the Indic merchants did not convert because of business disincentives: ``it was impossible for the Hindu business community to consider a religion in which the taking of Interest was not permitted, while as Hindus they were legally entitled to taking interest both from Musalmans and Hindus. Mediaeval Muslims who lent money on interest were unconditionally damned by public opinion. But it was not possible for society to dispense with the services of Sahs or Hindu Bankers. Still there was a small minority of local Muslim merchants everywhere’’ p. 162, 
Economic discrimination among merchants based on religion was limited. For example, Aurangzib’s regime is one instance during which we note discrimination between Indic and Muslim merchants, during other Mughal rulers we note that the Indic baniyas paid half the taxes that (mostly Christian) Armenian merchants did. We learn more from Farah Abidin on taxes imposed on merchants on the trade routes between India and Afghanistan (the Kabul Suba of the Mughal empire): ``The merchants had to pay taxes on their merchandise, though the levy was normally moderate 2.5-3% .... The fiscal system was not oppressive for the merchants, and favored trade and commerce. In order to ensure the free flow of traffic Akbar had remitted all imposts on goods in transit over land routes. He also abolished the commercial taxes baj and tamgha in 1581. ...Jahangir continued the policy and completely abolished the duties on the Kabul routes.... similarly aurangzeb had also issued a farman forbidding the levy of cesses on traders and merchants in the course of their journey on land routes....the cess on trade was fixed at two and half percent. However, the taxation system was not uniform, and varied from one community to other. In certain instances, the Armenian merchants were taxed at 20% and the Baniyas, ten percent of their sales and purchases in Kabul. Abul Fazl refers to the tax on sale and purchase, he states that half percent of the value should be charged from the purchaser, one and half percent from the seller and half percent from both on account of imam (which was probably brokerage) ; in all two and a half. Under Jahangir and Shah Jahan, the official rates for all legal levies also remained at one in forty. But Aurangzeb duing the 8th Regnal year enforced a general regulation with regard to market dues and all other legal levies and the rates prescribed were two and half from Muslim and 5% from Hindus and in case of foreigners three and half. This rate was implemented throughout the empire and collection at higher rate was prohibited’’ Loc 2346 – 2368, .
We now show that merchants could stave off adverse impacts of discrimination by forming coailition across religions. At some point Aurangzib exempted the Muslim merchants of any levy on overland trade between India and Kabul. An interesting phenomenon immediately ensued, the Muslim traders started transferring all the merchandise of the Hindu traders, conceivably in lieu of a part of the proceeds, and the coalition completely cut the state off from any share of the revenue. The income of the state fell down drastically and Aurangzib reinstated the 2.5% levy back on Muslim merchants. Abidin has recorded: ``Two years later the levy prescribed for Muslims was abolished and Muslims goods throughout the empire were declared custom free. But all this caused a set back to the government revenue, it was found that a large number of Hindus were transporting their goods under the names of their Muslim friends and thereby evading custom collection. Consequently, Aurangzeb in 25th year of his reign through another regulation, set aside the exemption given to the Muslims and reimposed the older regulation of two and half percent’’ Location 2361-2376 . Alexander Burnes has recounted another instance of similar discrimination inflicted by non-state actors. During 1830s, he observed that a plundering tribe called Momunds in Afghanistan, demanded half a rupee of every Muslim, and double the sum from Hindu merchants p. 114, . His fellow-traveler Mohan Lal has noted that in 1831 in the Sikh territories of current North West Pakistan, like Multan and Dera, the Hindus and Sikhs paid a duty on the import of silk which was half that paid by the Muslim Afghans and the sales tax which was only one fourth p. 67, . On the other hand, the Muslim Afghan Lohani merchants were connected to the Pashto tribes whose territories the caravans had to cross on their way between the Punjab and Sindh and Kabul. Their massive presence mostly ensured safe passage for the caravans, provided the duties were paid to the various tribal chiefs p. 66, . Thus, the different discriminative protections paved the way for mutually beneficial coalition between the two groups of merchamts p. 67, .
Section B: Forcible Conversions of those who Resisted
We now revert to the groups that had to bear the brunt of forcible conversions under the Muslim rule. Recall that the first category was the populace that resisted, comprising of a section of royalty, hereditary landed gentry and the peasants. Therein, we note that the Rajputs and Jats were on the front line of early Indic restance (before the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate) against Muslim invaders arriving from the North West frontier . They lost, and many of them were converted, large communities of Raputs and Jats who had converted to Islam now exist in Pakistan and India. The Rajput resistance against the Muslims essentially stopped with the immediate descendant of Rana Pratap of Mewar, Rana Amar Singh, in the early sixteenth century, and their forcible conversions also stopped. Before that, we have the Shahiyas and the Chauhans, many of whom were forcibly converted. The Shahiya king Sukhapala and his adherents were forcibly converted to Islam by Mahmud Ghazni, after his ancestors had died fighting against the same enemy ch.3, . Similarly, Meos are the Rajputs (Chauhans among them) forcibly converted to Islam for their resistance to Delhi Sultans and Mughals. . Jat resistance continued well up to the end of the eighteenth century, and forcible conversions of the vanquished contined as well. From the time of Jat vengeance on Mahmud Ghazni for sacking Somnath, up to Gokla and Churaman, they have been resistant to Islamist armies and atrocities and it was Gokla who revolted against Aurangzeb’s religious bigotry. When Gokla was defeated by Aurangzeb’s armies, he was killed and his family forcibly converted to Islam. p. 236, . The Jat armies primarily comprised of peasants. Next, when Banda Bahadur from Punjab rebelled with his peasant army, he and his 740 followers were captured and Mughal emperor Farukh Siyar offered them the choice between death and accepting Islam to atone for their rebellion; they chose the former and were tortured to death . The landed gentry who could not or would not pay their revenues to the Muslim overlords were also forcibly converted. For example, during the reign of Aurangzib, the Raja of Susang in MymenSingh District of Bengal stopped the payment of tribute. He was taken prisoner to murshidabad and compelled to convert to Islam, named Abdul Rahim and forced to marry a Muslim girl p. 255, . From the time of the first invaders, up to Tipu Sultan, who forcibly converted the Coorgis to Islam for their revolts against him , forcible conversion for rebellion was a recurrent phenomenon. Then, during the reign of Murshid Quli Khan, when Hindu zamindars and revenue collectors defaulted, they, along with their family members, were forcibly converted to Islam. The conversion of the zamindars, the top Rajput princes and the Jat leaders often started a chain reaction, leading to the conversion of plebians under them p. 172, .
In many occasions rebels were first enslaved and then converted to Islam. Note that all slaves taken by Muslim armies were converted to Islam, so in essence enslavement after rebellion implied forcible conversion and more. We have described in detail the enslavement and subsequent forcible conversions of rebels and soldiers of defeated Hindu armies and their family members in . The Brahmins and other intellectuals who rebelled against the authority of Islam were included within the ambit of forcible conversion. It is related by Afif that a Brahman in Delhi was accused of ``publicly performing the worship of idols in his house and perverting Muhammadan women, leading them to become infidels’’ p 103, . The Brahmin was ordered by the Islamic ulema to either embrace Islam or be burnt for his crime of public worship. When he refused to embrace Islam, he was bound hand and foot and tossed into the flames. Afif, a witness of the execution, ends his account exultingly, stating ``Behold the Sultan's strict adherence to law and rectitude, how he would not deviate in the least from its decrees’’. pp. 103-104, . Similar choices were given to other religious rebels, and many probably embraced Islam. Giving rebels (both intellectual and armed) a choice between Islam and death was commonplace among the Islamic rulers.
Section C: Forcible and Incentivized Conversion of the Under-Privileged
As to the economically vulnerable, Muslim policies we at times institutionalised to cultivate loyalty among the populace through pressurized and incentivised conversions to Islam. The under-privileged who could not pay the exploitative taxes were often enslaved and subsequently forcibly converted. Other vehicles of proselytization were selective economic pressure, eg, non-Muslims were required to pay an additional hefty tax called Jizya, and (at times militant) missionary activities. An excellent survey of these techniques, as applied by the Delhi Sultanate and their impact, has been provided by K.S. Lal . Firuz Shah Tughluq himself boasted how he converted the Hindus to Islam. ``I encouraged my infidel subjects to embrace the religion of the Prophet, and I proclaimed that everyone who repeated the creed and became a Musulman should be exempt from the jizya, or poll-tax. Information of this came to the ears of the people at large and great numbers of Hindus presented themselves, and were admitted to the honour of Islam. Thus they came forward day by day from every quarter, and, adopting the faith, were exonerated from the jizya, and were favoured with presents and honours’’. p. 105, . During the Mughal times, we review one specific case under the Mughal regime, that of the Islamisation of East Bengal, we choose this because of how Indic mercantile collusion originated and sustained this rule. Most of the early accounts left by contemporary European travellers, until the Mughal conquest of Bengal, report presence of Muslims only in the urban centres. In early sixteenth century, we obtain the first European accounts of Bengal and its people. pp. 131-132, . But, European travelers start reporting the presence of Muslim peasantry only towards very late 16th century, and continually after that. p. 132-133, . Muslim sources also start reporting bulk presence of Muslim peasantry starting from the first half of the 17th century. pp. 133-134, . It is perhaps reasonable to conjecture that the Bengal peasantry was Islamized starting primarily from the Mughal period.
Large parts of East Bengal were covered by dense forests before the advent of the Mughals. The Mughals had the forests cleared and the lands converted to agricultural lands to enhance their revenue. In the process, they also established agricultural colonies predominantly comprising of Muslim peasants. These peasants could either be converted slaves transported from elsewhere or local tribals converted to Islam.
Muslim religious gentry, shaikhs, pirs, and qazis, were allocated the role of organizing the cultivators to clear the jungle. Many of them came from the Middle East pp. 208-239, . Some Muslim religious gentry, believed to be endowed with miraculous powers were also sent to Bengal from the different Sufi centers of Northern India p. 231,  Sometimes the Mughal rulers themselves invited the Muslim religious gentry, and propaganda was launched about their saintly powers and piety. For example, Azim-ush-shan, the grandson of Aurangzib, the then nazim of Bengal sent his two sons Sultan Karimuddin and Sultan Farrukhsiyar to invite Sufi Bayizid to meet him. Legend goes that Farrukhsiyar walked up barefooted to the Sufi, and offered his respectful salutation. So the Sufi blessed Farrukhsiyar so that he would become the Emperor of India. Indeed, he did succeed Aurangzib. pp. 232, 233, . The religious gentry built mosques and Islamic monuments in the area, organised the local populace to clear the forest and converted them to Islam. The peasants were also, at times, forced to pay fixed amounts of monetary tributes to these religious gentry. The Mughal state oversaw the establishment of numerous and influential Muslim religious institutions, mosques as well as madrasas in these localities. Land grants and tax exemptions were provided for building and maintaining these religious institutions. It is from these institutions, and the religious gentry who were allowed to politically dominate the local populace that Islamic values and rituals spread over the countryside during the sixteenth seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. pp. 208-239, .
It is also important to note that during the Mughal times Islam spread rapidly in East Bengal, it was also exactly during this time that this region ravaged by European, particularly Portugese, slave hunting. The connection between the two can be explained by the fact that Muslims were accorded greater protection from capture by the Europeans. The Portugese regularly kidnapped men, women and children from the Eastern districts of Bengal and sold their human cargoes in Arakan. Mukundaram's ChandiMangal refers to Harmadas (Portuguese warships) which created a panic in Bengal. The slave hunting of the Portuguese pirates ravaged East Bengal. Shihab ud din Talish tells vividly how the Maghs and the Portuguese pirates brought captives from different parts of Bengal to Tamluk to sell in the market. These slaves were also regularly bought and sold in local markets and their deeds of sale received official recognition from the local Qazi. The factory records of the English East India Company testify to an imperial order served to the faujdar of Hugli in 1676. This directed the faujdar to make the English, Dutch and Portuguese sign a paper undertaking not to buy any slaves who are children of Muhammadan parents as the Portuguese did at the time. The order further stated that the foreign merchants had returned three drafts of the agreement with amendments of their own, and declared that they had never ptactised such a trade ; it was also said in the document that the Dutch, who for years together, had exported a great quantity of slaves, had not signed any such agreement. pp. 202, 203,  This indicates that the English and Portugese at least promised to abide by this restriction on kidnapping Muslim subjects, which would at least imply greater caution on their parts in enslaving Muslims of East Bengal. Thus, Hindu population was being decimated more than the Muslims, through captivity and deportation; the prospect of relief from both of these would also accelerate conversion among a populace desperate to survive in their homeland with an iota of dignity.
In fact, the Mughal conquest of Bengal, facilitated by the Indic mercantiles , opened the land up for slaving expeditions by the Portugese-Magh (Arakanese) combination. The Mughal conquest crushed the local Indic rulers like Pratapaditya, who maintained naval bases, eg, in Sagar Island p. 71, , which could stave off the maritime slaving expeditions. We learn from Jamini Mohan Ghosh on how the subjugation of Pratapaditya facilitated the slaving expeditions: ``By far the most important Maritime power of the time in Bengal was at Chandikan or Saugar Island, established by the genius of Pratapaditya who built ship-yard and docky-ards at Dadkhali, Jahajghata and Chakrasi where his ships were built, repaired and kept. According to Manrique - the once flourishing island of Sagor at the month of the Hooghly was destroyed by the combined forces of the Maghs and the Portuguese. This was after their defeat by the army of Islam Khan. ....With Pratapaditya's defeat the lower portion of West Bengal became an easy prey to the Maghs sailing up the Hooghly up to the Makhua fort at Sibpur, or up the Rupnarayan called the Rogues' river’’ p. 70, 
Between 1600 and 1800, the proportion of Muslims to Hindus rose from 1:9 or 1:10 to about 1:7 by the year 1800.  This was the principal contribution of the Mughals, backed by devout Hindu traders, to India.
We next consider forcible conversions to Islam in the Hyderabad state under the Nizam. Note that Indic merchants were hand in gloves with the Muslim ruling elite there, throughout the period under consideration. The Hyderabad state sponsored, or at least condoned, a determined effort to convert the Hindus to Islam, particularly since the 1920s and the formation of the Ittehad under the blessings of the Hyderabad state. KM Munshi, the Resident of India in Hyderabad state, writes, ``The Ittehad, under the leadership of Bahadur Yar Jung, became a powerful communal organisation, … Bahadur Yar Jung embarked upon an activity for converting the Hindus in certain districts of Hyderabad to Islam. This evoked determined opposition from the from the Hindus, but gained for the sponsor the halo of a holy crusader among the Muslims.’’ p. 20,  Further, he writes, ``Under official pressure, private harassment and threats of violence, Hindus were also being prevented from building or repairing a temple in any locality where Muslims resided. Hindu temples were often desecrated, but the culprits were rarely traced, and if traced, never punished. Hindu religious teachers were prohibited from delivering discourses, while the Muslim divines, the members of the Ittehad, under the leadership of Bahadur and the Deendars carried on a vigorous campaign of proselytising the Hindus.’’ p. 22, . KM Munshi further points out that the poor were under significant pressure to convert, with one member of each poor family [usually lower castes] converting. The convert would be left in one corner of the house and he had to even serve his own food. When the pressure on these families was lifted, they chose to return to Hinduism. . He further points out that the big zamindars were not much affected by these laws, and lived in their own estates or mansions away from the influence of the Razakars, while the poor faced the brunt of the attacks of the Razakars . Even Inukonda Thirumali, a secular historian, concedes about the Razakars (the militant arm of the Ittehad), ``The `Hitlerite’ government and Kasim Razvi set up military/razakar camps in towns and big villages and let loose the razakars frequently to raid the nearby `communist’ villages. They terrorised the people by burning villages, raping women, killing people and collecting levy, land revenue and excise duty.’’ p. 157, 
Section D: Destruction of Temples except those constructed by influential merchants
Almost every Muslim invader and ruler of note, starting from the earliest ones in Sindh in the 8th century, to the last sovereigns like Haidar Ali and Tipu Sultan, destroyed Hindu temples. We mention a few instances of such destruction perpetrated by the rulers for which voluminous evidence pertaining to close association with Indic merchants have survived. In other words, we start with the rule of Firuz Shah Tughluq, and continue with the Mughals, who were the successors of the Delhi Sultanates. After Mughal emperors, we also chronicle the regional Muslim rulers who were associated with the Indic merchants. Sitaram Goel has meticulously documented instances of destructions of temples by Muslim invaders, before Akbar, relying on Islamic sources .
During the reign of Firuz Shah Tughluq, he invaded the kingdom of Odisha (called Jajnagar by the Muslim historians). He destroyed Puri and desecrated the famous Jagannath temple and its idols. Many idols were taken away and placed in disgraceful positions before mosques. He did the same to the Hindu temples of Nagarkot (Kangra). pp. 105-106, . Indeed, it is hypothesised, using primary evidence, that the destruction of the temple of Puri, given its holiness for the Hindus, was among the reasons for the Firuz Shah Tughluq’s invasion of Odisha. p. 93, .
The temple destructions were relatively few in the Mughal regimes compared to their predecessor Muslim rulers and invaders. This was partly because most of the temples of note in the territories they ruled were already destroyed by them. Akbar cannot be associated with the destruction of any major temple. But the story changes with his son, and immediate successor, Jahangir:
- In his memoirs, Tuzuk i Jahangiri, Jahangir has described the Hindus in derogatory terms, frequently alluding to them as `vile infidels’, and he has also described destruction of several temples under his orders.The most eminent of the temples that Jahangir destroyed, was one that had been constructed by his Rajput general, Man Singh, the ruler of Amber, with nearly thirty six lakhs of five methkally ashrafees .He also destroyed religious structures and idols near Ajmer, built by another Rajput prince in his service, namely,the uncle of Rana Amar Singh of Mewar. 
- In Intikhab i Jahangir Shabi, written by a contemporary and a companion of Jahangir, we have an account of destruction of a temple built in Ahmedabad by a wealthy Jain mercantile group.It says, ``One day at Ahmadabad it was reported that many of the infidel and superstitious sect of the Seoras (Jains) of Gujarãt had made several very great and splendid temples, and having placed in them their false gods, had managed to secure a large degree of respect for themselves and that the women who went for worship in those temples were polluted by them and other people. The Emperor Jahãngîr ordered them banished from the country, and their temples to be, demolished. Their idol was thrown down on the uppermost step of the mosque, that it might be trodden upon by those who came to say their daily prayers there. By this order of the Emperor, the infidels were exceedingly disgraced, and Islãm exalted’’ 
Shah Jahan also destroyed several temples during his reign. The Badshahnama mentions, ``It had been brought to the notice of His Majesty that during the late reign many idol temples had been begun, but remained unfinished at Benares, the great stronghold of infidelity. The infidels were now desirous of completing them. His Majesty, the defender of the faith, gave orders that at Benares, and throughout all his dominions in every place, all temples that had been begun should be cast down. It was now reported from the province of Allahãbãd that seventy-six temples had been destroyed in the district of Benares.’’  In addition to the temples in Benares, he destroyed the temples in Orchha and Kashmir (Ichhabal) and erected mosques on their sites .
Interestingly enough, Shah Jahan made exceptions for Oswal Jain merchant Shantidas Jhaveri, who happened to be in his good books. In 1645, Shah Jahan had appointed Aurangzeb as the Subahdar or the Viceroy of Gujarat. Soon after, Aurangzeb ordered the desecration of a temple built by Shantidas Javeri, and its conversion into a mosque. Shah Jahan reversed the instruction, and issued a firman directing the restoration of the building, and restitution for all damage done. The firman reveals that Shah Jahan made arrangements for the restoration of the temple for the worship by the Jain community. He also ordered that the Bohras who had removed some of the materials from the temple should be forced to return the same or to pay for the replacement page 132, . Note that the Jhaveris were financiers and jewellers in the Mughal court since the days of Jahangir, they had enormous influence with Jahangir. As indicated before, Jahangir gave Shantidas Jhaveri the title of 'mama' (maternal uncle), and granted him access to the Mughal harem. The royal ladies treated him as their brother pp. 129-130, . But the Jhaveris did not intervene while Jahangir was destroying Jain temples in Ahmadabad. This was perhaps because the Jain temple at Ahmadabad belonged to a different group of Jains. This takes us back to the adverse effects of insularity of wealthy mercantile groups.
Aurangzeb destroyed innumerable temples. Comprehensive accounts of which have been documented by SitaRam Goel  and more recently by Nitin S
Among the regional Muslim rulers, the Bengal Nawabs, starting from the conquest of Bengal by Man Singh on behalf of Akbar, were closely connected to the Indic merchants. It turns that almost all of them, including Murshid Quli Khan and Alivardi Khan, were guilty of demolition of temples and of other acts of oppression on the Hindus p. 248, . In fact, desecration of temples was a familiar thing throughout the Muslim rule in Bengal, from Zafar Khan Qazi, in the 13th century right up to Murshid Quli Khan in the 18th century. Suleiman Karrani desecrated the Jagannath temple in Puri and numerous other temples in Koch Behar. In Muntakhabu ut Tawarikh, it is mentioned that, ``In this year  also Sulaiman Kirrãnî, ruler of Bengal, who gave himself the title of Hazrati Ãla, and had conquered the city of Katak-u-Banãras, that mine of heathenism, and having made the stronghold of Jagannãth into the home of Islãm, held sway from Kãmru to Orissa, attained the mercy of God’’ . Jadunath Sarkar reproduces a description of one particular instance of temple destruction from Nau Bahar-i-Murshid Quli Khani, by Azad Hussaini, ``The flag of Murshid Quli Khan was unfurled on the top of fort Udaipur. The Muslim raised the cry of Allah hu Akhbar and the Muslim credo (there is no deity except allah and Muhammad is his messenger), and demolished the temple of the zamindar which had long been the seat of idol-worship. Making a level courtyard on the side of the temple, they read the Khutba in the emperor’s name. In the mint of Tippera, they stamped dinars and dirhams of gold and silver bearing the name of the Caliph of the age. The world-illuminating son of the faith of Muhammad swept away the dark night of infidelity and bright day of Islam dawned.’’ p. 7, .
The ancient temples of Bengal practically disappeared in the course of time and hundreds of idols of Gods and Goddesses were destroyed; their remnants were later found either in neighbouring ponds, or during repairs to the mosques that supplanted the temples. Construction of new temples was practically stopped. Very few of the existing Hindu temples are known to have been built in Bengal during the 400 years of Muslim rule prior to Akbar’s conquest of Bengal, and, after the death of Akbar, the old orgy of destruction resumed and climaxed during Aurangzeb’s reign. p. 248, . Bharat Chandra’s Anandamangala was composed about the middle of the 18th century. The introduction to the book records wicked Alivardi Khan committing outrage on Hindu temples in Orissa. The poem also mentions that Muslims had stopped all ceremonies prescribed by the Vedas, they destroy all temples, perpetrate all sorts of evil things, spit on Brahmins, tear their sacred threads and wipe off the sandal marks on their foreheads. p. 249, 
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