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Saturday, December 20, 2008

One Of A Kind - Harbans Mukhia

The Muslims inhabiting the Indian subcontinent comprise the largest concentration of the community in the world. The easiest assumption is that conversions were effected by the might of the medieval Muslim state in India over the six centuries that it ruled. Yet, interestingly there is not a single book on the subject of conversion in India as a whole.

Indeed, the geographical distribution of the density of Muslim population in the subcontinent flies in the face of the notion that the medieval Indian state could have been even the chief agency of conversion. The highest density is located in four geographical peripheries of the subcontinent: the Kashmir valley in the north, Pakistan in the west, Bangladesh in the east and in the Malabar region down south. That is where the Muslims are, and were, in a majority. These were also the political peripheries of the medieval Muslim state. Kashmir had turned to Islam long before the medieval Indian state reached there in Akbar's reign. West Punjab was a land where the hold of the medieval state was forever disputed and tenuous. East Bengal was seldom under the control of Delhi or Agra either and the Muslim state's reach never extended to Kerala anyway.

On the other hand, in the heartland of the Muslim empire Bihar, UP, Delhi, East Punjab for nearly six centuries the Muslims never exceeded around 15 per cent of the total population. Significantly, the massive conversions amounting to about a 50 per cent rise from about one in six to one in four of the population occurred between the second quarter of the 19th century and 1941, the last census before the partition, when the British ruled here. And overall, a fraction less than 25 per cent of the population had converted from the arrival of Islam in India to about the time of the partition.....


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