India’s contributions to the modern world in fields such as mathematics, geometry, grammar, architecture, astronomy, logic, and many others are well known. India, one of the world’s oldest civilizations, is also the birthplace of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism.
Hindu culture once covered an area of the world twice as large as it is now. However, half of the Hindu civilization is now gone, destroyed by jihad. For centuries, jihadists have targeted Hindus through mass killings, rape, theft, and cultural annihilation.
The Indian subcontinent, a subregion of Asia, consists of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and other areas. This whole region was majority-Hindu and majority-Buddhist prior to the Islamic takeover that started in the eighth century.
It was mainly jihadist campaigns and the persecution of non-Muslims – particularly Hindus and Buddhists – that drastically altered the demographic, religious and cultural landscape of the region. Throughout the centuries, millions of Hindus and Buddhists were killed by Islamists. Due to violent jihad, today the country of India is only half the size of ancient India.
To better understand political Islam, one should pay closer attention to the history of jihad targeting Hindu people.
Since its inception in Arabia in the seventh century, Islam spread via the sword to vast regions of Asia, Europe, and Africa in a relatively short period of time. India’s suffering at the hands of jihad is a striking example.
India was first targeted by Muslim Arabs in the seventh century who arrived by sea. But these invasion attempts failed.
About half a century later, however, Arabs managed to capture parts of India. The Sindhi Brahman Kingdom was invaded by the Arab Umayyad Caliphate, led by Mohammed bin Qasim. The last Hindu ruler of Sindh, Raja Dahir, 70, died defending his homeland and was beheaded by the invaders.
Historian Joshua J. Mark notes:
“In 712 CE the Muslim general Muhammed bin Qasim conquered northern India, establishing himself in the region of modern-day Pakistan. The Muslim invasion saw an end to the indigenous empires of India and, from then on, independent city-states or communities under the control of a city would be the standard model of government. The Islamic Sultanates rose in the region of modern-day Pakistan and spread north-west.”
Sindh is today a province of Pakistan and still has a Hindu minority, which is severely persecuted by Pakistani Muslims. Each year, around 1,000 Hindu and Christian girls in Pakistan are reportedly kidnapped, raped, forcibly converted to Islam and married to Muslim men.
Muslim conquests of the Indian subcontinent mainly escalated from the eleventh to the sixteenth centuries. Some examples include:
- The Ghaznavid dynasty, a Persianate Muslim dynasty of Turkic origin, repeatedly attacked India in the eleventh century. They plundered India’s wealth. The rulers played main part in expansion of Islam into India.
- Beginning in the thirteenth century, Muḥammad Bakhtiyar Khalji, a Turko-Afghan military general, led the Muslim conquests of the eastern Indian regions of Bengal and Bihar. During Khalji’s military campaigns, many Buddhist monks were murdered or forced to flee. Buddhist institutions of higher learning suffered massive damage. Khalji’s reign escalated the Islamization of the then Buddhist and Hindu Bengal, or present-day Muslim Bangladesh.
- In 1206, Khalji embarked on a campaign to invade Tibet to plunder its Buddhist monasteries. Khalji’s army looted some Tibetan villages, but they were eventually defeated by Tibetans and were forced to retreat.
- Delhi, the capital of India, was also invaded and taken over by Muslims. The Islamic Delhi sultanate was the principal Muslim sultanate in north India from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century.
- The Mughal dynasty, a Muslim dynasty of Turkic-Mongol origin, invaded and ruled most of northern India from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century.
Muslim rule over these regions was largely shaped by persecution against Hindus and other non-Muslims, by which it escalated the Islamization of the native non-Muslim populations.
Enslavement was one of the methods Muslims used to subjugate Hindu people. Koenraad Elst, a published author on India and Hinduism, wrote:
“Hindus too experienced this treatment [enslavement] at the hands of Islamic conquerors, e.g. when Mohammed bin Qasim conquered the lower Indus basin in 712 CE.
“Thus, in Multan, according to the Chach-Nama, ‘six thousand warriors were put to death, and all their relations and dependents were taken as slaves’. This is why Rajput women committed mass suicide to save their honor in the face of the imminent entry of victorious Muslim armies, e.g. 8,000 women immolated themselves during Akbar’s capture of Chittorgarh in 1568 (where this most enlightened ruler also killed 30,000 non-combatants). During the Partition pogroms and the  East Bengali genocide, mass rape of Hindu women after the slaughter of their fathers and husbands was a frequent event.
“Apart from actual killing, millions of Hindus disappeared by way of enslavement. After every conquest by a Muslim invader, slave markets in Bagdad and Samarkand were flooded with Hindus. Slaves were likely to die of hardship, e.g. the mountain range Hindu Koh, ‘Indian mountain’, was renamed Hindu Kush, ‘Hindu-killer’, when one cold night in the reign of Timur Lenk (1398-99), a hundred thousand Hindu slaves died there while on transport to Central Asia. Though Timur conquered Delhi from another Muslim ruler, he recorded in his journal that he made sure his pillaging soldiers spared the Muslim quarter, while in the Hindu areas, they took ‘twenty slaves each’. Hindu slaves were converted to Islam, and when their descendants gained their freedom, they swelled the numbers of the Muslim community. It is a cruel twist of history that the Muslims who forced Partition on India were partly the progeny of Hindus enslaved by Islam.”
Islamic violence against Hindu people has never ended. In 1971, for instance, around 3 million Bengalis (many of whom were Hindu) were murdered by Pakistan in a 10-month campaign of genocide. Approximately 200,000 Hindu women were raped by Pakistani troops. By November 1971, 10 million Bengalis (the majority of whom were Hindu) had fled to India.
There’s also jihad against Kashmir, a historically Hindu land invaded by Muslims in the fourteenth century. Under Muslim rule, Hindus faced persecution resulting in several mass migrations from Kashmir.
Kashmir is majority-Muslim today. The demographics of the region, however, did not change naturally. It happened as a result of many atrocities committed against Hindu people.
Between 1989 and 1991, for instance, over 350,000 Hindus were ethnically cleansed from the Kashmir Valley by Pakistan (over 95% of the indigenous Hindu population). This was part of a jihadist campaign which involved massacres, rapes, and the destruction of Hindu properties and temples.
Present-day Pakistan was part of India until 1947. It was created by partitioning India from British colonial rule. Since then, thousands of Hindu temples in Pakistan have been destroyed by Muslims or converted into mosques.
The Hindu American Foundation notes:
“The mass violence caused by the Muslim League’s demands for a separate homeland for South Asian Muslims forced millions of Hindus and Sikhs to flee the West and East Pakistan (present day Bangladesh) for the safety of India.
“Consequently, the number of Hindus declined from 15 percent in West Pakistan at the time of Partition to approximately 2% in 1951. The last time Pakistan conducted a Census, in 1998, Hindus made up 1.6% of the population.
“There has been an even greater decline in major cities with historically large Hindu populations. In Lahore, for instance, the Hindu/Sikh community comprised approximately 40% in 1941 and today, makes up less than 1%, with only two functioning Hindu temples remaining.
“Similarly, in the city of Karachi, the Hindu population decreased from 51% in 1947 to only 2% in 1951, while the Muslim population in the city went from 42% to 96% during that same period. Notwithstanding its recent decline, Hindu civilization and culture flourished in the area that is now Pakistan for thousands of years.
“In contrast, although many Muslims left India for Pakistan at the time of partition, the percentage of Muslims continued to increase in independent India. According to India’s 1951 census, Muslims accounted for 9.8% of the population. According to the 2011 Census, Muslims constituted 14.23% of the population, and are projected to increase their share of the total population to 18% by 2050.”
Constant human rights violations have forced the Hindus of Pakistan to leave their country. An anti-Hindu riot in 1964, for instance, led to the migration of thousands of Hindus to India.
The indigenous Hindu population in Pakistan is on the verge of extinction today due to centuries-long persecution. In India, however, over 200 million Muslims currently live as free citizens of the country. India is a multi-religious, multicultural secular democracy.
Today, the government of India is still fighting against jihadist threats and terrorism that target not only Hindu people, but all peaceful communities and stability in the wider region.
Pakistan’s actions, however, have largely been tolerated by the West despite widespread human rights violations. This includes war crimes and crimes against humanity (such as the 1971 Bengali Hindu genocide) and large-scale terrorism committed by Pakistani governments or terror groups.
Uzay Bulut is a Turkish journalist formerly based in Ankara. She is a research fellow of the Philos Project.