“Mughals weren’t Muslims. Why do some Indian Muslims glorify the barbaric Mughals? The ancestors of all Indians were Hindus,” Aman Chopra proclaimed on his on August 26.
Hang on, you might say if you have a passing familiarity with Indian history, almost every word in that utterance is wrong.
Chopra and his ilk, you see, who have made careers out of demonising India’s Muslim minority nightly, don’t do facts, historical or current. They do bigotry. So, as long as it enables them to spew communal venom at the Muslims, anything and everything goes. Such as the Taliban’s capture of Afghanistan. Or the misdeeds of medieval rulers.
True to form, Chopra invoked the Taliban to spend his 45-minute show – which was 44 minutes too long – to bash Muslims and the medieval Mughal emperors, and extoll Hindu supremacism. The show was sponsored by Godrej’s Hit mosquito spray.
Chopra’s “debate” show was focused on Bollywood director Kabir Khan remarking he found it distressing that instead of relying on historical scholarship to portray Mughals in cinema, filmmakers were fitting them into “preconceived stereotypes” and "villainising" them without so much as an explanation.
If you are wondering whether a middling celebrity’s views about historical figures was the most pressing concern for the country on August 26 – or ever – we can only pray for your sanity.
For Chopra and some of his assorted talking heads – who included writer Amish Tripathi and – it was apparently a view so outrageous that they foamed at the mouth decrying the barbarian Mughal rulers who supposedly converted Hindus to Islam en mass and demolished their temples.
“Why should Indian Muslims glorify the Mughal rulers?” Chopra demanded to know. “Why should Mughal devils be called great?”
If the communal dog whistle wasn’t loud enough, the Zee News anchor sent up a saffron flare as well. He promoted the show with the hashtag “Talibani Mughals”, which was picked up by ideological fellow travellers on Twitter.
Chopra read out his chargesheet against the Mughals, read Muslims – “the demolition of the Ram temple by Babur, the keeping of 13 queens and 8,000 women by Shahjahan, what Aurangzeb did to Sikh Guru Teg Bahadur” – and then invited Tripathi, from London, to tell us who the Mughals really were.
“Mughals were foreigners, they were Turks. They shouldn’t even be called Mughals, they were Taimuri,” said Tripathi, who writes mythological fiction. “They weren’t related to Indian Muslims at all.”
Chopra seemed to have a gotcha moment. “Then why do poor Muslims in India get offended when the Mughals are criticised and why do some of them glorify Mughal rulers?” he wanted to know. “It has been coded in our DNA not to speak against the Mughals or people might think we are speaking ill of Muslims.”
Then, when Tripathi remarked that “in today’s atmosphere, no one should spread hatred”, Chopra thought it was time for the writer to take leave, and declared, “Exactly, everyone’s DNA is the same, the cultures and rituals may differ but in the end it's all Hindutva. Muslims might not even know their ancestors were probably forcibly converted from Hinduism by the Mughals. Yet, today they are glorifying the Mughals.”
Next, he turned to Kapil Kumar. The historian broke into an angry rant about how the Mughals were cruel invaders and, bizarrely, ended by declaring that toilets were not part of Indian culture.
Chopra’s token "voice from the other side" was a filmmaker named Shoaib Choudhary, the sum total of whose argument was whataboutery. There was also Prem Shukla from the BJP – so, naturally, cow slaughter came up – but it wasn’t clear who the politician was representing.
Shukla said, matter of factly, that demons should be demonised. At which point Choudhary opined that the majorities have been oppressing minorities throughout history.
This is when chopra dropped all pretence and ranted about how it was actually the minorities who were oppressing the majority Hindu community in India. “News of minorities torturing the majority is coming out these days,” he said. “India is the only country where minorities are being accused of converting majorities.”
Again, don’t ask for facts or a semblance of reality. Or sense.
Finally, Chopra unveiled a “special guest”: lyricist Manoj Muntasir, who had gone on a viral rant earlier in the day lecturing Indian Muslims that they should know their ancestors were Hindu. He was supposedly tearing into the Mughal rulers for being tyrannical but it was really just barely disguised, garden-variety communal dog whistling against Muslims.
That, as some poet may yet note, is the mizaaj of this country now. The mood.