Thursday, Mar 30, 2023

The Rewriting Of History...

The Rewriting Of History... the Sangh Parivar must be a matter of concern for every citizen of India, who has any care at all for the secular and democratic character of our Republic.

Like any branch of knowledge, the essential requirement of History is the pursuit of truth. This requires one to Ballot and sift evidence critically. Bias, whether religious, racial, regional or national, or any other, must be avoided. The history of each nation is a part of the history of the world; and it would be absurd to try to project one's own country's history, solely to establish our superiority over others by one-sided evidence, as if we are pursuing a case in a court of law. The same must be said when we write about the past of particular regions or communities.

The elementary statements need to be made today in any discussion of what is being said about Indian history, though until very recently, one might have felt these to be superfluous. By and large Indian historiography has been pursued for over a century on rigorous lines where difference and biases have existed, but largely within limits set by historical evidence. In 1961, when I wrote an article criticizing what I held to be communal approaches by two distinguished historians, R.C. Majumdar and I.H. Qureshi, I noted that while their interpretations (mainly in laying blame or lavishing praise) were so different, their "facts" were often identical, derived from the same evidence. This was because however much one may lament their taking of sides on behalf of their own communities, they were still professional historians, insisting on some rigour in judging evidence. After all, Majumdar declined to agree with K.M Munshi's theory of an Aryan homeland in India, and he refused to write for an RSS weekly once it had published apaper alleging that monuments like the Red Fort and Taj Mahal had really been built by Hindu rulers.

It is, therefore, important to realize that what the Central Government agencies and the Sangh Parivar are now projecting as the history of India is not anything that historians like R.G. Bhandarkar, Jadunath Sarkar, or D.C.Sircar, to take a few names from amongst the great historians of the past, or professional historians of any repute today, of whatever persuasion, could conceivably regard as legitimate. It is absurd to claim, as the Minister of Human Resource Development, Murli Manohar Joshi, is so prone to do, that the 'Rightist" historians have now simply been given the official resources to prevail over the "Leftist" historians, as if what the Union Government and its agencies, like the UGC, NCERT, ICHR, etc., today tend to recognize as the "history" of India, represents any important academic trend among Indian historians. Indeed, much of the "history" that is being given official patronage, has been partly created by foreigners and NRIs of rather strange credentials.

Let us first see what are the major new discoveries for Indian History that are being promoted by the official agencies. In a recent Memoir of the Geological Society of India, The Vedic Sarasvati, Bangalore, 1999, funded by a host of official agencies, we have the claim that humankind evolved and diffused from "the upper Sarasvati region", that is, northern Haryana. The late V.S. Wakankar had nothing to go on for this assertion, except the discovery in British times of a fossil-ape (the Ramapithecus), in the Siwaliks, though the species is not in the line of hominids but of the orangutan!

Being the nucleus of human diffusion is, not, however, enough: India is now being almost officially declared to have been the original home of the Aryans, on which much more is said in the same Memoir, as well as other quasi-official publications. A great outcry is being raised against the "colonial Indologists", who, on the basis of historical linguistics, established that Sanskrit belongs to the Indo-European family of languages, and argued that the proto- Vedic-Sanskrit was brought to India by its speakers from outside. The "race" theory has long since been discarded and on-one in academic discourse speaks of an "Aryan race." The irony is that while our RSS oracles denounce Max Mueller, Wheeler, etc., as "racists", this does not prevent them from announcing that "the lndo-Europeans and other Aryan peoples were migrants from India". So says the U.S swami, David Frawley, amuch acclaimed source of RSS's historical wisdom. Still another "scholar", who gets quoted in extenso bythe HRD Minister himself, is the Dutch-Belgian Koenraad Elst, who in Aryan Invasion Update, announces that the Proto-Indo-Europeans went out from "what is now Panjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh". Another proponent of the same cause is Navaratna S. Rajaram, billed constantly as the"US NASA scientist", and leader of a self-proclaimed "Indo-American School." All of them are enthusiastic builders of a fantasy about the "Aryans", who, it is proudly claimed, gave civilization to the world, carrying it from India. 

For this it is necessary that everything "Aryan" in India must go to remote antiquity. TheRigveda is now said to have been composed before 5000 BC, not c. 1500 BC (which latter date has been established mainly by its relationship with the Avesta, not datable to much before 1000 BC, as it is keyed to West Asian chronology). Bronze, we are told, was being "cast" in India by 3700 BC, a "first" in the world writing too had been invented here, c.3500 BC; the "Mahabharata War" was fought in c.3100 BC, etc., etc. (For a sample of this see Navaratna S. Rajaram's address, 'Vedic and Harappan Culture; New Findings', in the Indian Archaeological Society's journal, Puratattva (1993~4), with a special word of acclaim for it by the editor; also see Elst's book, already mentioned). This chronology is based on nothing except one unlikely hypothesis built upon another (or, as in the case of bronze, on fraudulent invention of "evidence"). There then follow claims about "Vedic Mathematics", "Vedic Astronomy" and "Vedic Astrology" (now to be taught in over 30 Indian Universities as full Master's Course), all supposedly created 4000 years and more ago. 

Late texts that are now read in a manner unknown to the pundits, are remorselessly pushed back to earlier and earlier periods on the flimsier of grounds. In this none can outpace Subhash C. Kak of the U.S. and his NRI friends and followers. Their articles receive undeserved status by being published in INSA's Indian Journal of History of Science, year after year, including the latest issue. It is truly a case of genuine "Indian Tradition" (Rajaram's favourite phrase), manufactured in the United States. The inventions grow apace so rapidly that one is not surprised when one reads that though the Vedic Indians did not build any Pyramids here, they yet taught the Pharoahs of Egypt to build them (Rajaram in Puratattva, op.cit.)! This and the other "achievements" credited to India's hoary past by these propagandists are, I suppose, the contributions of India to world civilization, which according to the NCERT's new" National Curriculum Framework for School Education", would be taught to all Indian schoolchildren, along with "instruction in religion".

We have, then, the crusade for turning the Indus culture into a Sarasvati Civilization. Any ordinary person may be wondering why the Sangh Parivar's propaganda mill is paying so much attention to the Indus civilization. It is true that ever since the links between West Asian Elamite and Brahui, the Dravidian language of Baluchistan, were identified by David McAlpin, the case for the Indus Civilization being peopled by speakers of "Proto-Elamo-Dravidian", has been particularly reinforced. To any self-proclaimed patriotic Indian, this should hardly be a matter of concern, since Dravidian languages other than Brahui are entirely confined to India, and so the presence of Dravidians there can only make the Indus Culture so much more ours! Yet any Dravidian claims to that civilization arouse the utmost bitterness in the ranks of the Sangh Parivar, and desperate efforts are on to establish for it a purely "Aryan" parentage. 

The first step has been taken through official name-alteration. We are now shifting from "Harappan" (the name so far given in official Indian Archaeology to the Indus Culture) to "SarasvatiSindhu", thereby imposing on the Indus Culture a definitely Vedic nomenclature and thus warding off any non-Aryan pretensions. It matters little that the "mighty Sarasvati" supposedly flowing down to the sea through the Desert is a sheer figment of the imagination with no support from geography or geology (despite the extraordinary claims made in this behalf in the Geological Society's Vedic Sarasvati). Rival claims to read Sanskrit in the Indus symbols are becoming embarrassingly numerous (S.R. Rao, S.C.Kak, N.Rajaram), each securing considerable publicity, but little support from any plaeographist worth the name. Since the horse and the chariot are so prominent in the Rig veda, and so wholly absent in the Indus Civilization, a horse on an Indus sealwas flaunted about by Rajaram as a path-breaking discovery, until Michael Witzel and Steve Farmercruelly exposed the fraud in Frontline (13 October, 2000). Having been so found out is, however, only a minor setback: The "Aryan" assault is being carried to the heart of Dravidian identity itself. It is denied that there was any Dravidian loan-words in Vedic and later Sanskrit; in fact, the Dravidian languages themselves are deemed to be rooted in Sanskrit. Almost every writer of the Sangh establishment, the late K.C. Verma, S.G. Talageri, Rajaram, Elst, and Swaraj Prakash Gupta, to name a few, are up in arms against Dravidian links to any great non-Aryan past, let alone to such a prize as the Indus Civilization. There is here a gravely divisive campaign, which has all the potential for exacerbating hostility between the proponents of "Aryan" chauvinism and the "Dravidianists".

One may pause here to note that since all later texts are being given exorbitantly earlier dates, and every intellectual and technological achievement pushed to an obscure, sacred past, the later times begin to appear more and more as sheer dark aces. We are being asked t h 1 e that not only did the alleged inventors of writing in the 4th millennium BC forget to write up the Vedic texts, but their descendants too simply forgot writing altogether for a period of 1500 years or so, before the Mauryas came around. We Indians also coolly forgot the great scientific secrets embedded in our texts, which it is only now given to great NRls like Subhash C. Kak and Navaratna Rajaram to unravel. (Rajesh Kochhar remarks rather uncharitably his Vedic people that is would have been more useful if they can tell us from the Vedas of some scientific principles that have not already been known for a long time to Western Scientists!) What seems to cause no concern to the Sangh camp is that they thus accuse the Indian people of stagnating for some four thousand years or more, during which they did not add anything, but only deducted continuously from their existing sum total of knowledge. And this is considered winning greatness for India's past! 

In the Sangh's view of history, then, Buddhism and Jainism belong to the Dark Ages that followed once the great achievements had been made and forgotten. With their emphasis on Prakrit (not Sanskrit) and on ahimsa (rather than sacrifices and ritual), their criticism of the Brahmana priesthood, and their indifference (at least in ideological terms) to the varna system, the tworeligious movements do not fit well with the RSS's scheme of history. Nor do our neo-patriotsshare Jawaharlal Nehru's excitement about the Mauryan Empire, especially Asoka. Francois Gautier, another of RSS's foreign patrons, who writes the "Feringhee's Column" in the Indian Express, even condemned Asoka for weakening India with his devotion to ahimsa, there by preparing the ground for Alexander's conquests! The statement in the general manner of the Sangh parivar's "historians" inverts the true sequence, but the sentiment is clear enough. The time when votaries of religious tolerance like Asoka and Akbar could be heroes is long past, and one can almost predict the lowly positions both would occupy in the forthcoming NCERT text-books.

Since Hindu-Muslim antagonism has provided the main ground on which the RSS has flourished since its birth in 1925, it is not surprising that it has devoted much attention to projecting a view of medieval India that should justify its founder Hedgewar's description of the Muslims as "hissing Yavana snakes." It is professedly because of the primary place it accorded to the alleged threat from Muslims, that the RSS prudently remained out of the freedom struggle against the British. It had, indeed, from the beginning its own version of the Two-Nation Theory (as seen in its two slogans of "Hindu-Hindi-Hindustan!" and "Hindu Rat Amar Rahe!" Long live Hindu Rule).Medieval Indian history had therefore to be so shaped as to present two nations always at war, onebrutally assaulting, the other nobly defending.

Pre-eminent in its discourse, therefore, is the image of Muslims as foreigners, destructive barbarians and immoral degenerates. For abusive assaults, the Sangh Parivar has now proceeded to provide a considerable amount of "literature" to elaborate this perception. K.S. Lal is today a favourite historian of the RSS, who is placed by it not only on the Council of the ICHR, being fleetingly made its Chairman, but is also on the NCERT Committee to draft the model school syllabus on History, and perhaps the textbook on Medieval India as well. Lal's career as an RSS spokesman on medieval history began with his book Growth of Muslim Population in Medieval India, published in 1973. Here he gave a picture of the continuous decline of the total Indian population from 190 to 120 million between AD 1200 and 1500, through large-scale massacres of Hindus perpetrated by Muslims. There were no censuses, no statistics for him to derive the figures from: his own mental agility provided him with everything. Henceforth with these figures at hand he has become an "authority" for the RSS. His book, The Mughal Harem, was published by Aditya Prakashan, a Sangh Parivar's publishing house, in 1988. Predictably, by collecting all possible scandals from various "sources", old and modern, Lal duly exposed the immoral ways of the Muslims. (That Hindu rulers and nobles were also polygamous and had concubines naturally escaped his notice). Soon to follow were Lal's Legacy of Muslim Rule (1992) and Muslim Slave System (1994), two further exercises in what Gandhiji would have called "a drain inspector's reports."

One difficulty in describing all Muslims as insufferable barbarians is posed by the very visible monuments left by Muslim rulers that indicate a high level of art. This challenge was taken up from the early 1960s by P.N. Oak and his team in the "Institute of Rewriting Indian History". It was now claimed that all the building attributed to Muslim rulers, such as Red Fort, the Taj Mahal, and so on, had actually been built earlier by Hindus, and were simply misappropriated by the Muslims. Immediately, the pages of the RSS publications were thrown open to Oak and his school, and the 'rewriting' began on a national scale to cover almost every "Muslim" monument in the country. The Sangh's US patrons also helped. In 1989 our newspapers published a claim of a US scholar of a carbon-14 date obtained for a door of the Taj Mahal that put it 200 years earlier than Shahjahan's time, thereby suggesting a pre-17 century ' Hindu' construction. Till today the laboratory, the number of the sample, and the source which provided the piece of wood have not been divulged. (This incidentally has also been the case with Navaratna Rajaram's bronze head of Vasishta, dated to 3700 BC, the laboratories "in America and Switzerland" remaining unnamed and the scientific methods unspecified.)

The temple-destruction orgies by Muslims are, of course, a major component of the RSS's view of medieval India. The campaign for the destruction of Babri Masjid generated a large amount of literature to which Arun Shorie, currently a Union Minister, has liberally contributed. Religious intolerance is always to be condemned, and no-one can condone the destruction of any place of worship. Richard Eaton's study, which Frontline (22 Dec.2000 and 5 Jan. 2001) has published in full, puts the matter in a proper perspective But now, every ruined temple gets automatically a Muslim author of its destruction. When recently the Archaeological Survey of India discovered at Fatehpur Sikri some Jain images of early medieval times, the late B.R. Grover, Chairman, ICHR appointed to his post by the BJP Government, immediately announced that the original temple must have been destroyed by Aurangzeb! Now that the older "secular" textbooks on History are being thrown out by the NCERT, temple-destruction is one subject on which the replacements are going to be quite rich. As R.K. Dixit, convener of the NCERT's curriculum group, announced, this would go into the new textbooks because it is "immediate history"- whatever this means.