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The Mughals are an integral part of India. Why are they being labelled 'foreigners'?

The Mughals are an integral part of India. Why are they being labelled 'foreigners'?

There was a recurring sketch on the old BBC comedy, Goodness Gracious Me, which featured a father who would counter his children’s enthusiasm – whether for Jesus or Santa Claus – with “Indian!”.

It was a clever satire that’s grown sharper in today’s increasingly chauvinist atmosphere, but there’s one question now that would stump the father. What of the Mughals?

It’s part and parcel of the politics he parodies, after all, that as much as India was the womb for all that is great and good in the world, the Mughals are always and utterly foreign.

It’s true enough that Babur was born far away in the Fergana valley, now spread between Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

In portraits commissioned by his descendants, he has slanted eyes, a wisp of a beard, and no sign at all of the north Indian plains he would conquer – and often deplore.

Babur didn’t want to live in Hindustan, nor did his nobility. It’s well known that he broke his goblets and gave up drink to induce in his reluctant Central Asian amirs a righteous urge to rule these infidel – and dusty – plains.

Equally, the story of how Babur wept when a cargo of his beloved melons reached him – the lack of fruit was as traumatic as the sacrifice of wine. “While others repent and make vow to abstain,” he wrote, “I have vowed to abstain and repentant am I.”

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