Celebrities are not often gifted with the deepest of insights. Sometimes they propagate secular views to reinforce the liberal, holier-than-thou image that they feel is fashionable and separates them from the underclass. This is particularly prevalent in the US where causes such as Islamaphobia are zealously adopted to appear sincere, humane and in lockstep with the kinder, gentler folk among the populace.
Bollywood, the world’s biggest film industry, is not immune to such pandering to lofty aims and certain actors within it conveniently parrot orthodoxies that completely skew historical fact within the prism of their own deluded minds. The latest comment by a major actor there that the Mughal invaders of India did not really perpetrate atrocities against the native population, that they weren’t tyrants, that they gifted their captured subjects with dancing, music, painting and could even be classed as refugees, has drawn worldwide derision, particularly so in India.
The actor pontificating about this disturbing revision of history is one Naseeruddin Shah. Shah, well known in Bollywood films for over forty years, has occasionally popped up in Western movies in a major role here and there. He’s starred in movies with Maggie Gylenhaal, Stellan Skarsgård, and even the legendary Sean Connery. He belongs to that veteran pantheon of Bollywood actors, like a De Niro or Robert Redford, that thinks they know more than the humble folk simply because they’re wealthier than you and move in circles of lobbyists and elite parties that give them the right to spout off on history, culture and politics whenever they feel like it without comeback.
But Shah’s latest revision of history is in tune with that of many a celebrity, especially in India, that the Mughal invaders were benevolent, cultured, kind, and actually were in need of assistance and refuge in an unwashed, uneducated India that needed them. A clip of Naseeruddin Shah’s interview with one Karan Thapar is now going viral on the internet. In the 33-seconds long clip, Shah expresses dismay and anguish over people constantly belittling Islamic rule in India as a bad thing Mughals, describing their well known atrocities as ‘so-called atrocities’. Shah doesn’t even believe that Mughals were tyrants.
The veteran actor is of the opinion that Mughals consolidated India with their ‘contribution’. He cited Mughals’ dancing, music, painting, and literature as evidence of all the wonderful things they brought to India and that they were actually hard done by because they left their original Arabian homelands to make new homes in a foreign land. As if invasion by loot, plunder, rape, extortion, bribery, slaughter, and bloodshed was an inconvenience to them in claiming asylum.
The full statement of Shah reads, “The so-called atrocities of the Mughals are being highlighted all the time. We forget that Mughals are people who have contributed immensely to the country. They are people who have left lasting monuments in the country…who have left traditions of dancing, music, painting, and literature. Mughals came here to make this their homeland. You can call them refugees if you like.”
Only within the vapid, empty headed environs of Hollywood and Bollywood could celebrities spout such revisionist claptrap. It is well-established fact that Mughals were raiders, who survived on looting territories. Their whole existence was based on genocides of the local population of the area they raided, revelling in their intolerance. They murdered Hindus if they refused to convert to Islam. leaving those behind to pay a heavy Jizya tax simply to exist. Their last known tyrant Aurangzeb is particularly infamous for this. Refugees are those who are stateless, not those whose hobbies revolve around invading other countries and their cultures.
Indeed, the Indian historian Professor K.S. Lal estimates that the Hindu population in India decreased by 80 million between 1000 AD and 1525 AD, an extermination that is simply unparalleled in World history. This slaughter of millions of people occurred over regular periods during many centuries of Arab, Afghan, Turkish and Mughal rule in India.
Given how the modern world, including India, continues to face threats from organizations and groups of terrorists such as the ISIS, Taliban and Al-Qaeeda – it is remarkable that rich celebrities can so conveniently whitewash an ideology that is eerily similar to that of the perpetrators of the World’s biggest holocaust in India.
Shah, and celebrities like him, should always be challenged. They co-exist in a world populated by pressure groups and think tanks that constantly seek to revise history, and given the huge platforms they populate have a responsibility not to skewer the truth. As long as populaces arm themselves with knowledge and an understanding of real history then their fantasy world view will no longer have strength with which to run and indoctrinate others.
Saurav Dutt is a TIME and Esquire featured Author and Political Analyst. His work has featured in Newsweek, CNN, VICE and more.