Defeat of scholars in debate led to withdrawal of ‘jizya’ tax in Shah Jahan era: RSS chief


PTI, Nov 26, 2022, 8:51 PM IST

Image credit: PTI / File

Buxar (Bihar): RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat on Saturday claimed that Mughal prince Dara Shikoh got interested in Hindu texts upon the “defeat” of scholars in the court of his father, Emperor Shah Jahan, in a debate with learned men from Kashi, the ancient name of today’s Varanasi.

Bhagwat, who was addressing a congregation at Buxar district of Bihar, also claimed that a chastened Shah Jahan subsequently withdrew “jizya”, though the tax levied on Hindus was re-imposed when the Emperor’s younger son Aurangzeb occupied the throne later in 1658.

“When Shah Jahan decreed that all Hindus undertaking pilgrimage or holding any type of congregation will have to pay jizya, a scholar from Kashi, whose name I do not remember and who went by the honorific Kavindra, gathered like-minded people to challenge the move,” he said.

The group met Shah Jahan and asked him about the logic behind introducing the tax. They were told by the Emperor that it had nothing to do with money and the intent was to uphold ‘dharma’ as he saw it, said the RSS ‘Sarsanghchalak’.

“The scholars of Kashi then said let there be a shastrartha (discussion) in which we will debate, with scholars of your choice, as to what was proper as per our dharma as well as yours. The shastrartha went on for six months after which Shah Jahan conceded defeat,” said Bhagwat.

His remarks may trigger a fresh debate over the Sangh Parivar’s alleged attempts to rewrite history.

The head of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Nagpur-based body which describes itself as a “social organisation” but is known to influence the BJP’s ideology, did not mention the faith of the scholars who sided with Shah Jahan.

“The humbling experience had led Shah Jahan to withdraw jizya. It was re-imposed after his younger son Aurangzeb assumed the throne after a fratricide,” said the RSS Chief, in line with the saffron camp’s revulsion for the last great Mughal Emperor.

“It should be known that the shastrartha had impressed Dara Shikoh a lot, a reason why he got interested in the Upanishads, Gita and the Ramayana and undertook the translation of these in Persian,” said Bhagwat, a veterinary sciences graduate.

The RSS chief was attending a function held in memory of “Mama ji Maharaj”, a religious leader hailing from Buxar.

He had reached Patna on Friday evening when he attended, before retiring for the day, a function where the who’s who of Bihar’s power structure, including Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, had also turned up.

The occasion was “tilakotsav”, a ritual held prior to the marriage, of the son of Acharya Kishore Kunal, a retired IPS officer who had been appointed by the then Prime Minister V P Singh as an Officer on Special Duty with the mandate to mediate between Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Babri Masjid Action Committee in the thick of the Ayodhya dispute.

After taking voluntary retirement in 2001, he has devoted himself to religious activities and heads the trust managing one of the biggest temples in Patna.

His son is tying the knot with the daughter of Ashok Choudhary, one of the most influential ministers in the Nitish Kumar government.

Over the next couple of days, Bhagwat, who is on his second trip to Bihar in less than a month, is scheduled to tour Saran and Darbhanga districts.

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