Issues

The case for changing Ashoka Road to VP Singh Raod

It would have become a big, positive step satisfying all Indians, including Muslims, had the Modi government named India Gate premises after late Abdul Kalam. However, the choice of replacing Aurangzeb with Kalam has further eroded its image as a secular dispensation caring for the sentiments of all religious communities in the country.  

The arguments being advanced by the BJP spokesmen are  based on the picture created of Aurangzeb by certain historians of one being cruel to Hindus, one who forcefully converted Hindus to Islam, who had killed his elder brother to stage a palace coup, who had his father imprisoned for life and who killed Guru Tegh Bahadur. He is also charged with hanging several Islamic leaders of India to death, among them the spiritual head of Dawoodi Bohra Muslims of Gujarat, and of beheading Saramad, the Muslim mystic.

There have been long debates in historical circles on the exact role of Aurangzeb, with many proving that he was in fact the most noble Mughal king who lived with utmost simplicity, earned through his own calligraphy of Qur’anic texts, who followed an exemplary personal life and gifted huge grants to Hindu temples. The few killings attributed to him were born out of the demands of the State. The argument may also be given that in order to find at least one Muslim king who can be presented by the champions of Hindu India as a demon, Aurangzeb was chosen because all the rest were too good to be demonised. I would however not go into all these details. Even if we accept that Aurangzeb committed all the crimes he is charged with, his crimes pale into absolute in significance when they are compared to those of Ashoka who is regarded by the country, especially the forces of Hindutva, as the greatest ever ruler of the country. I would here quote from a few articles describing his crimes:

“In about 260 BCE Ashoka waged a bitterly destructive war against the state of Kalinga (modern Odisha).[5] He conquered Kalinga, which none of his ancestors had done.[6] He embraced Buddhism after witnessing the mass deaths of the Kalinga war, which he himself had waged out of a desire for conquest. “Ashoka reflected on the war in Kalinga, which reportedly had resulted in more than 100,000 deaths and 150,000 deportations….

 “Ashoka later got rid of the legitimate heir to the throne by tricking him into entering a pit filled with live coals….  

“Buddhist legends state that Ashoka was bad-tempered and of a wicked nature. He built Ashoka’s Hell, an elaborate torture chamber described as a Paradisal hell due to the contrast between its beautiful exterior and the acts carried out within by his appointed executioner, Girikaa.[15] This earned him the name of Chanda Ashoka(Ca??a A?oka) meaning Ashoka the Fierce in Sanskrit.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashoka)
 
Defending Ashoka is not easy. A research paper written by London Swaminathan tries hard but ends up saying:  

“There were two Asokas in India. One was Black Asoka (Kalasoka) who was good and convened the Second Buddhist Council. The other one was world famous Indian emperor Dharma Asoka who was full of Adharma in his early life. Mysteries in Indian history are not solved yet. Nobody knew who the Black Asoka was! Nobody knew that the famous Asoka killed all his 99 brothers and cousins born to different mothers. Mahavamsa never mentioned the Kalinga war....

“Mahavamsa, the chronicle of Sri Lanka is full of murder and mayhem. It painted a gloomy picture of early Indian kings. Mahavamsa says that Dharma Asoka killed all his 99 brothers.” (http://swamiindology.blogspot.in/2014/09/why-did-asoka-kill-his-99-brothers.html)

 There have been attempts to dilute the crimes of Ashoka. So, while numerous sources talk about his killing 99 brothers, according to one report (in Drishtikone), Ashoka killed his 6 brothers, not 99, as if it was a no crime at all:

“According to the Ceylonese chronicles, Ashoka in his war of succession killed his 99 brothers to ascend the throne of Magadh – sparring only one of his younger brothers, Tishya. However, such elaboration of Ashoka as Chanda Ashoka (cruel Ashoka) was just an exaggeration by Buddhist writers who wanted to show how the Chanda Ashoka  was modified into Dharma Ashoka. According to a Tibetan writer Taranatha, Ashoka killed his six brothers to capture the throne of Magadh:

“At that time, an incident occurred which greatly enraged the king. A follower of the Nirgrantha (Mahavira) painted a picture, showing Buddha prostrating himself at the feet of the Nirgrantha. Ashoka ordered all the Ajivikas of Pundravardhana (North Bengal) to be killed. In one day, eighteen thousand Ajivikas lost their lives. A similar kind of incident took place in the town of Pataliputra. A man who painted such a picture was burnt alive with his family. It was announced that whoever would bring the king the head of a Nirgrantha would be rewarded with a dinara (a gold coin). As a result of this, thousands of Nirgranthas lost their lives.”

 The website, Drishtikone, using its own perception of “Islamic jihadists” goes further:

“If we were looking for a fanatic who would kill others due to a different belief - the equivalent of the Modern Day Islamic jehadis - in India’s history, Ashoka is the closest who comes to that description.

“His ‘repentance’ on killings was extremely short-lived indeed. In fact, he followed the exact path that many Muslim converts from Hinduism have followed – of killing their Hindu brethren after conversion with a unique sense of vengeance. And when it comes from someone who had converted to Buddhism, it is intriguing.

 “Now, in this shocking revelation, let us not forget a couple of things:
  •  The text, on which entire Hindus have been painted as persecutors of Buddhism, because of what it says of Pushyamitra, is also the text which has an even more sinister claim about Ashoka. But then Ashoka goes scott free! So, if the claim about Ashoka is false, then the claim on Pushyamitra also can’t be true – because the author and the text lose credibility.
  •  But wait, the text is Buddhist historical writing, written by Buddhists of that era. So, even if Pushyamitra was somewhat anti-Buddhist, there is a strong likelihood that he may have been given an even more negative treatment, and Ashoka – because he was a new convert and a zealous one at that - may have been handled with kid gloves.

So, is it that Ashoka’s crimes AFTER his conversion were even worse?” (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/drishtikone/2011/ 12/ashoka-great-was-indias-first-religiously-fanatic-jehadi/)

Now, howsoever one tries to defend Ashoka and demonise Aurangzeb, what is clear beyond any doubt is that Ashoka killed much greater number of innocents in his quest for unchallenged power, he killed his brothers, his father, and had execution chambers, which remind one of Hitler, and converted much of  Hindu India into Buddhism. If Hindus converted to Buddhism reverted back to Hinduism soon after the departure of Ashoka, it is clear that they had converted out of the fear of the ruthless murderer. Why then not rename Ashoka Road and all other buildings and roads after his name?

Let the government change Ashoka Road to V P Singh Road, after the name of the greatest champion of equality in post-Independence India, who is also known for extraordinary honesty in public as well as private life, for being one of the best finance ministers of the country, for ending the dacoit menace in Uttar Pradesh and for donating a big chunk of his property to Vinoba Bhave. Without substracting from the greatness of Late Abdul Kalam, V. P Singh was undoubtedly one of the greatest politicians who forever changed the course of India’s socio-political scene, during his 11-month tenure as Prime Minister.

 Finally, I would advise my Hindutva brothers to stop searching for and creating Muslim demons. If Muslims engaged in the same activity, their list of demons would be a long one. Let’s better find and create heroes and sing their hymns.


Dr Javed Jamil is India based thinker and writer with over a dozen books including his latest, “Qur’anic Paradigms of Sciences & Society” (First Vol: Health), “Muslims Most Civilised, Yet Not Enough” and “Muslim Vision of Secular India: Destination & Road-map”. He may be contacted at
doctorforu123@yahoo.com

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-30 September 2015 on page no. 2

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