When belief is paramount in your sense of being, then imposing it on others and resisting others’ is a natural consequence. Short of a dishonest act of resisting violence of an uneasy truce, the only way of living in the societies powered by beliefs and ideologies is constant death and violence. To no real end and no real purpose though. As long as I am and therefore, necessarily, have a belief, you have another that by definition of my belief (predicated on self-universalism) is an affront to me. Really speaking, unless you happily let me force my belief on you, your only destiny is death, if I can help it.How the Historically Intolerant forces are now Preaching India On Tolerance #Intolerance Click To Tweet
When death and constant violence creates havoc with even normal living itself – as was the case during the reign of Tudors in Britain – where, all else being the same (book, God, teachings etc) only difference being “Pope or no Pope”, hundreds of thousands were killed with no compunction or remorse in the most brutal manner known to human-turned-into-devils! It took Queen Bloody Mary’s terrible inquisitions of Protestants and Reformants, for an entire country to realize that a “ceasefire” – however uneasy or dishonest – had to be established. It is in those circumstances that the need for Tolerance was born. If intolerance was a natural companion of belief and ideology leading to most brutal violence and death, then tolerance was a dishonest way to call a ceasefire. Other ways were to be used to impose one’s belief, but fight they wouldn’t. At least overtly.
In today’s times, when Intolerance is being preached to India, let us look at the very concept of Tolerance, and the Indian way of Acceptance, a bit deeper.
Tolerance and intolerance are the preserve of a society and population built ground up on belief systems and ideologies. No one has experienced anything, but even the slightest of difference between one’s belief from another can lead to both being inhumanly brutal with each other. Is this paradigm even portable or relevant to India?
When representatives of societies structured on belief landed in India, what were the dynamics that played out?
When full acceptance was met with genocide and slaughters
In 52 AD, St Thomas, one of the twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ, landed in Palayur, Kerala. His aim? To “spread the word” or in other words – convert. Palayur of that time was a place where Brahmins and Jews (yes, they had already reached there due to persecutions by Romans!) used to live in harmony. Using “magic and stealth” Thomas converted many Brahmins with the argument “if I do this and you cannot, then my God is better than yours, so convert”. A document kept by local Brahmin called ‘Grandavariola’ states that Thomas Sanyasin came in Kali year 3153 or 52 AD. Brahmins of that place felt so persecuted by this new tactic, that they left the place. Nambudri Brahmins for many centuries never accepted any water near the Church. That place came to be known as Chavakadu in local language, meaning “cursed forest”. In a temple abandoned by the Brahmins, the first Church in India was built by St. Thomas. Temple remnants of broken idols can be seen to this day.
Vasco da Gama – the Portuguese “trader” was in Zanzibar, Africa unable to make further journey. The Portuguese would simply go up and down the African coast staying close to the shore. On one trip, he saw a ship that was three times the size of his own. Using an African interpreter when he talked to the Indian trader, Chandan, he found that he used to bring spices and teak from India across the seas, in return for diamonds. He accompanied Chandan, as a safeguard, to India. This was in 1497-99 timeframe. By 1524, Vasco da Gama had been appointed the “Governor of India” by the Portuguese and had exclusive rights to trade. Within 40 years of being invited into the country, in 1560, the Portuguese set up the Office of Portuguese Inquisition, which unleashed a 252 years of brutalities on native Hindus, unparalleled anywhere in history. Award winning Portuguese novelist, Richard Zimler, who uses the inquisition as the back drop of his novel The Guardian of the Dawn says –
I discovered that historians consider the Goa Inquisition the most merciless and cruel ever developed. It was a machinery of death. A large number of Hindus were first converted and then persecuted from 1560 all the way to 1812!
Over that period of 252 years, any man, woman, or child living in Goa could be arrested and tortured for simply whispering a prayer or keeping a small idol at home. Many Hindus — and some former Jews, as well — languished in special Inquisitional prisons, some for four, five, or six years at a time.
The Viceroy of Goa, Antonio de Noronha issued an order for inhabitants of Portuguese rule:
I hereby order that in any area owned by my master, the king, nobody should construct a Hindu temple and such temples already constructed should not be repaired without my permission. If this order is transgressed, such temples shall be, destroyed and the goods in them shall be used to meet expenses of holy deeds, as punishment of such transgression.
By 1567, 300 Hindu temples had been destroyed. Rituals of Hindu marriages, sacred thread wearing and cremation were banned by law and anyone above 15 years were compelled to listen to Christian preachings or they were totured. The Portuguese Army destroyed the Assolna and Cuncolim temples in 1583.
Charles Dellon, who experienced the extremes of inquisition himself has documented the events of those times in his book published in 1687 L’Inquisition de Goa (The Inquisition of Goa).
In 7th century AD, Malik Deenar, a companion of Islamic Prophet Mohammad traveled to India, and constructed the first mosque in 629 AD during the lifetime of Mohammad himself. That is called