Ramana: with all due respect, there's nothing "empty" about this argument... it goes to the heart of exploring the causes and consequences of distorted history, particularly when we ourselves distort history in a manner that is detrimental to us. "Pleasant" it might not be
This whole argument rests on whether or not you believe that Maratha soldiers acted the way Pandit described it, otherwise there is very little that we can compare.
No, it does not. My argument is that the very act of comparison is profoundly daft. That's because there is no legitimate basis for comparing 17th Century Maratha behavior, with some generalized notion of how subcontinental armies behaved from the dawn of Kaliyug (3102 BC) to the arrival of Mir Qasim.
The quantity, accuracy and verifiability of historical sources of information declines, the further back you go in history... simply because fewer sources are statistically likely to have survived over longer periods of time. Despite the occasional period of exception (as when some empire kept meticulous records that have survived, like Ashoka's pillar edicts)... as a general rule, the longer ago something happened, the less information is available about it.
On the other hand, multiple sources of information are more likely to be available about recent events. However, the availability alone hardly guarantees that those sources will be accurate or unbiased. For example, the much-bandied-about account by Vidhyalankar of the Maratha invasion of Bengal. As court pandit of Raja Bardhhaman, whose lands were being invaded by Bhaskar Pandit, Vidhyalankar is hardly likely to have a neutral narrative. His account is rife with the hysterical rhetoric of deliberate demonization... "expert in... committing every kind of sinful act"
, for example. This does not make it very credible in my eyes. People will accept the veracity of this source, or not, as a matter of subjective choice.
The only reasonable basis for comparison of any historical actor or event is with its contemporary actors and events. At least then, it is likely that a similar plurality of sources and perspectives (including unbiased, prejudiced, accurate and otherwise) will be available for both actors or events being compared. Especially if one is going to draw sweeping conclusions about some particular actor's "excesses" compared to norms, the only norms that can fairly be used as a basis for comparison are contemporary norms.
No one is saying that pre-Islamic Hindu armies were superhuman to subsist on "dharma and air", but its safe to assume that these people did not kill pregnant women and learned people (assuming you believe in this, which is the hinge of the argument).
I'm really wondering how it's "safe to assume" anything, of times about which there is a severe paucity of information. Yes, there were dharmic injunctions against killing the innocent in times of war. This is in contrast to Abrahamic societies, where the slaying of any foe was considered to be divinely sanctioned.
So that in general, we can say that Indian society conducted warfare in a more humane and civilized manner than Abrahamic societies. That Hindu warriors were instilled with a code of conscience about harming innocents or mistreating the vanquished, which in itself sets them apart from warriors professing Abrahamic faiths.
But we can't safely "assume" that foraging, or plunder, or massacres, or any of the ugly aspects of human combat simply never happened.
Does every person who goes to a temple and applies a tilak to his forehead, follow Dharmic principles to a tee in every aspect (or even most aspects) of his life? Do we consider that our ancestors from 3000 BC to 800 AD were somehow less prone to human foibles than ourselves? If not, why are we assuming that all Hindu Kings/Generals/Officers/Soldiers of the pre-Islamic era always and unfailingly abided by Dharmic principles in their behavior?
Especially when fighting a war... as Rye has explained very well (thanks, Rye):
...this is not some olympic sport where people will be disqualified if they do not play right. The rules were set by local commanders who had a mission and probably did not really care if they had to intimidate people to get rations for the troops, especially in cases where the locals were under the control of a non-ally/adversary...
...no modern technology, just men on horses and on foot trudging for days/weeks on end to meet an enemy in battle. Taking on the enemy would not have been easy given the axiom/maxim "an army marches on its stomach".
The necessity was to reach the battleground and fight -- the campaign was to plan on how to get all the food and resources necessary for the army to make its journey. A little bit of knowledge of how warfare is conducted when the maximum human capability of the time was limited (and not the way it is now).
When Ashoka killed 100,000 he became depressed and went on a transformation that took him to non-violence under Lord Buddha. When Timurlane did the same when he sacked Delhi, he offered it as tribute to Allah.
You're right. And THIS IN ITSELF is enough cause for us to feel proud of the fact that all things in our heritage, including war, were conducted in a more humane, civilized manner than in other societies.
We do not need to adhere to some fiction about how no tragic incidents ever
happened in the wars of pre-Islamic India, and then shoot ourselves in the foot by holding the Marathas (or the Indian government of today, or anybody else fighting on the side of Dharma) to this purely fictional standard.
Why do people not see this? Are we Muslims, who must take literally the stories of our military leaders ascending to heaven on winged horses? We don't have to distort our history into fables, to make it palatable to ourselves. Warts and all, our history is good enough to take pride in just the way it happened, because it is STILL more civilized than anyone else's. Satyameva jayate... we are who we are, because our dharmic ethos is intelligent enough, and mature enough, to reconcile its moral view of the world with reality. As opposed to myth.
The very fact that 100,000 people died at Kalinga is evidence that things did not always go according to some Dharmic fair play in times of war. Having a Dharmic ethos was no perfect guarantee against untoward or horrific incidents. What makes India a Dharmic society is that it produced an Ashok, whose conscience prevailed upon him to restructure his entire system of governance in response to the tragedy.
As opposed to a Timur/Babar/Khilji/Ghauri, for whom the mass-murder of kaffirs was itself a ticket to heaven.
That is the consequence of our civilization having established a Dharmic context for its worldview. Be proud of that. We don't need fairy stories to justify our pride in who we are.
The second part of my argument, is that it is monumentally self-defeating to make such a comparison (Maratha behavior according to source "Vidhyalankar" vs. generalized notions of dharmic military behaviour) because it leaves us vulnerable to the kind of psyops we've always been reeling from.
Your comment about double standards comes to this:
1) Hindus keep the double standards, glorify our people as humanistic and others as barbarians.
2) Hindus keep the double standards, glorify our own people and lift others as well (well, its okay, its just Aurangzeb, etc.)
3) Hindus don't keep the double standards and say everyone is a barbarian.
The first is definitely the best way to approach this and it involves using the double standards to our advantage. What do you think?
I think it is ill-advised to be corralled into choosing between three oversimplistic formulae, when constructing something as consequential as our civilizational narrative. We don't owe outside observers the self-constraint of a one-size-fits-all moral paradigm, any more than we are obligated to trivialize our identity for their easy understanding and consumption.
The first of your three formulae, however, is certainly not the "best". It has, in fact, cost us dearly to cite "humaneness" as the defining factor in our civilizational superiority.
Consider this. If we have to use "humaneness" as an overarching attribute to glorify our people, we hand our adversaries a double-edged sword... one that is being used against us all the time.
India is continuously lambasted by enemy psyops for failing to behave like a "Gandhi". Even while Pakistan is feted for behaving like an "Ayub/Jinnah" rather than a "Mullah Omar", and China actually thanked for behaving like a "Deng" instead of a "Mao".
We are taken to task for
>Not signing the NPT
>Not giving Kashmir "self-determination"
>Not following "Panchsheel" with respect to China on the Tibet issue
>Not pressuring the government of Burma to restore democracy
Even while China proliferates nukes to Pakistan and beyond, China represses Tibet while Pakistan represses POK/Gilgit/Baluchistan, China p1sses all over "Panchsheel" while claiming Arunachal, America does a roaring trade with Burma's chief patron China while lecturing India, etc.
These psyops would mean nothing, except that we happen to be particularly vulnerable to allegations casting doubt on our "humaneness" and moral standing. We get really bothered by accusations that the Indian army carried out an atrocity in J&K, for instance... because we consider being in tune with "humaneness" a hallmark of our civilization.
So the question is, why are we particularly vulnerable to these types of psyops?
There is nothing wrong, prima facie, with claiming moral superiority over others on the grounds of "humaneness". After all, it is the truth... and one does not have to be morally perfect in order to be morally superior.
The problem arises when geniuses like Rahul M (and there are many such) substitute absurd notions of absolutely unimpeachable conduct for historical fact; and from those notions, derive ridiculous standards of behavior which they use to castigate others *fighting on the side of dharma*.
Rahul M's allegation is that in the invasion of Bengal, the Marathas committed "excesses" of brutality as compared to some notion of Dharmic war in the past. His argument is that such behavior (even if true) should be condemned in Marathas since they were Hindus, whereas it was only to be expected from Muslim or European invaders.
Why is the moral basis for this, any different from the moral basis of arguments that India being "the land of Gandhi" should pull back its troops and "resolve Kashmir in a Gandhian manner"?
If we are are so willing to point a blameful finger at our own people by engaging in reverse moral exceptionalism... holding Indians to an absurdly critical and demanding moral standard while others get a free pass ... then the enemy propagandists have already won. Where is the need for them to make villains of us when we are so busily doing it to ourselves?
Our "humaneness" is certainly a great attribute of our civilization, but it is not the only attribute worthy of our pride. We don't have to make it the fount of *all* that is glorious about Indic society and history. When we lionize Gandhi we can lionize Patel and Bose equally.
Our moral authority to condemn Afghan and British brutality, does not derive from our holding Marathas to a *higher* moral standard of behavior. It exists independently of that... just as our moral authority to condemn the ethnic cleansing of Hindus in Bangladesh or Kashmir, exists independently of the Ahmedabad riots.
Please read what I have to say above, before deriving any messages.
Also remember. Brutality vs. Humaneness in the conduct of war is not a 0/1 Boolean duality. Deriving "all or nothing" conclusions about a 4000-year period of history is impossible.
Given a lack of universally accepted coinage, especially in *enemy* territory, there was no scope for an army to "purchase" supplies while on expedition. The only way they could have purchased was by barter... and if they could carry enough items to barter, why couldn't they just bring their own supplies? And which commander would rely on promises of supplies from "nearby friendly folks", even if such folks happened to be conveniently available in a given theatre of campaigning?
Foraging was a fact of life in military operations, and there is no reason to believe Indian armies were an exception to this.
War is messy. Bad things happen. Dharma does not immunize Indian society from the possibility of those things happening. It does enable Indian society to deal with those things better than other societies. We regret them, try to make amends. Others celebrate them, justify them, even encourage them with divine sanction.
That is enough to say we are Dharmic, and proud of it. Only the morally weak need to falsify history, or replace it with fantasy.
By the way... since so many people seem to imply that I'm being racist, or chauvinistic or whatever with respect to the Marathas... let me clarify that I'm not a Maharashtrian, and not a Bengali either. I'm not here to "defend" them from accusations of brutality or whatever... I'm only pointing out some fundamental flaws in the double-standard that some people are judging them by.