In most history books, Babur is introduced as the founder of the Mughal dynasty, a descendant of the “conqueror” Timur on his father’s side and Genghis Khan on his mother’s side. What remains hidden, forgotten, and replaced by praise is a brutal enslaving of people. It is not just killing and loot that Babur was the “badshaah” of, but he established in the Indian subcontinent a planned program to eliminate Hindu culture and religion. Like the inhuman crimes committed by conqueror Timur, Babur too subjected the people he “conquered” to extreme brutalities. Killing men in most atrocious ways and abusing women on a mass scale was a Timurian legacy that Babur not only continued, but took to more barbaric levels.
Defeated multiple times in his attempts to lay claim to the throne of his native Fergana (present day Uzbekistan), in 1523 he turned to India as a refuge from his own Uzbeks who would have killed him. He didn’t even encounter resistance as he entered Saiadpur (present day Amnabad), but his response was not so kind. Here Babur’s soldiers repaid the land of their refuge by bloodshed and loot. Which history book will record the cries of women of Amnabad put through torture of rape ? While writers of history books turn their eyes away from Babur’s bloodshed, this hidden story of brutality is recorded in the Holy Book of the Sikhs. As unearthed by Sanskriti Magazine, in the first Shabad in Tilang rag, Guru Nanak Dev ji laments the “great sorrowful condition of women” due to “ lustful invaders putting them to great disrespect and cruelty” He also mentions how Babur’s undisciplined army did not even spare local Muslim women.
We find specific descriptions of violence against women in the Third Shabad: Raag Asa, Mahala Ik, Ashtpadi Ghar 3. Here Guru Nanak Dev ji mentions how women with plaits of black hair were humiliated by shaving their heads. Besides the trauma of being widowed in an invaded land, the women had to bear continual humiliations. Their lives were laid to dust, which Guru Nanak Dev ji’s narration calls a replacing of ‘sindoor’ with clay. Women were driven out of their grand houses and nooses were put around their necks — an act which is known throughout history to be the most humiliating tactic used by tyrants. It is important that such descriptions of Babur’s cruelty are not forgotten, since the great Guru Nanak Dev ji fearlessly defied the tyrant, openly spoke out against him even if it meant being arrested. He did that so that the future would not be ignorant of his barbaric rule.
We do not have to rely only on the Guru Grant Sahib to know Babur’s barbarity, since he himself boasts of it in Tuzuk-i-Baburi. He mentions of his fondness of creating towers of Hindu heads after battles. As the Sanskriti Magazine quotes, there were times when Babur’s tent had to be moved thrice to a higher level due to the ground becoming clogged with bodies. Gaining joy from mutilated bodies is not just an individual trait of Babur’s character, but it was to become the necessary practice of every king that would succeed him. He led by example the role of a “Ghazi”, meaning “slayer of infidels”. So when history books tell us that Babur’s name Ẓahīr-ud-Dīn is Arabic for “Defender of the Faith”, killing of defenceless people and abuse of women does not get mentioned.
With Bollywood’s new found interest of playing with Hindu history, what one wonders is whether they are equally interested in the actual history of the Mughal dynasty’s founder. In the Babur Nama, in his own words Babur speaks of his love for a boy named Babri, “I could not go away from you, nor can I stay with you due to high level of excitement” ( Babur Nama, trans. Annette Susannah Beveridge. Page 120-121, quoted on Sanskriti Magazine). Eminent scholars and movie makers are not interested in Babur’s emotional life, but they have no problem in overwriting the painful history of Rani Padmavati, and showing the personal life of Khilji which has no basis in any historical document. It is the duty of scholars in pursuit of knowledge, the duty of movie makers in their desire to educate and entertain, that a one-sided (hi)story should not be allowed to keep the masses in ignorance about the painful lives of their own ancestors. The innocence of those murdered, the bravery of those who died on the battlefield and also inside closed doors like the women with Rani Padmavati — all of their sacrifice has a lot to teach us. Are we willing to listen?