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India, March 16 -- "Unlike the Greeks, and unlike the Chinese and Arabs, Indians in the past were not historians. This is very unfortunate and it has made it difficult for us now to fix dates or make up an accurate chronology." These words of Jawaharlal Nehru in his book 'The Discovery of India' have two dimensions. One is the importance of the science and philosophy of history to write a true history of India. The other is the risk of manipulation, misinterpretation and misrepresentation of available vestiges and data, legends and myths to create a 'suitable' history, an Indianised history rather than a history of India.

Nehru continues, "This lack of historical sense did not affect the masses (then). They built up their view of the past from the traditional accounts and myth and story that were handed to them from generation to generation. The imagined history and mixture of fact and legend became widely known and gave the people a strong and abiding cultural background. But the ignoring of history had evil consequences which we pursue still."

Nehru was prophetic. The country is now facing the evil consequences of the ignoring of history by its ancestors. Now the 'imagined history and mixture of fact and legend' narrated in the 'Puranas' are becoming history itself.

The sanction to make this transformation of the imagined history to real history is derived from the words of V D Savarkar, who wrote in his 'Essentials of Hindutva', the basic text and philosophy of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Sangh Parivar, that 'the main source of our history had been and must ever be our national traditions remembered or recorded in our ancient puranas, epics and literature'.

(The Puranas are ancient writings on Hindu mythology and folklore of varying date and origin, the most ancient of which dates from the 4th century AD. The present list has only 20 Mahapuranas. Latest reports speak of more discoveries and the numbers have gone up to106.)

RSS, since its inception on October 27, 1925, has been looking at Indian history through the puranas. The puranas-centric approach to history became pivotal to RSS ideology with the book, 'We our nationhood defined' (1939) written by Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, its second Sarsangh chalak, known as Guruji in the Sangh Parivar.

RSS has been maintaining that history is just history and the Puranas are the main source of history in India. RSS institutionalised this approach to history in 1978-79 by setting up Akhil Bharatiya Itihaas Sankalan Yojna (ABISY). This organisation has launched a new project named 'PuranantargatIthihas', to write a history of India based on the Puranas. It is scheduled to be completed in 2025, the centenary year of RSS. Over 100 historians are drawn from universities, colleges and research institutions for this work. It is also planning to compile the history of the 670 districts and 600 tribal communities in the country. In order to facilitate these works RSS has established Bharatiya Puran Adhyayan Sansthan (Indian Institute of Purana Studies).

RSS argument is that the available books on history of India are the products of the British historians, before independence, and of Marxist historians, after independence. There is a general perception in the Sangh Parivar that the Congress government has been promoting Marxist historians like Irfan Habib, RS Sharma, Bipan Chandra and RomilaThapar, and suppressing or side-lining an alternate nationalist (Hindutva) stream.

"Our children have been reading history, which makes them feel humiliated of their past. We want a history which makes them feel proud as Indians," ABISY general secretary Bal Mukund Pandey, has said. He says that with 500 professors on its side, ABISY has published 50 books in an attempt to bring out the vastavikitihaas (real history) of India.

Rakesh Sinha, honorary director of India Policy Foundation, an RSS think tank, is quoted as saying: "The Britishers wanted us to read a communal interpretation of India. Marxist historians did the academically criminal act of projecting communal history as the national history. These historians killed the secular ethos and tradition of India."

A very influential RSS ideologue Dina Nath Batra is quoted in the media as saying that there was a need to rewrite Indian history as it did not reflect the Indian ethos. "It tends to distort facts and run down heroes of the Indian freedom struggle and spiritual tradition.'' (Mr. Batra is advisor on education to the Haryana government. He was behind the litigation which resulted in the recall of Wendy Doniger's 'The Hindus: An Alternative History'.)

Large sections of the Sangh Parivar believe that they have to make the maximum use of the present chance to carry out what could not be done in 1947 or 1950. RSS'desire to rewrite India's history is to lay the foundation for its vision of establishing a Hindu Rashtra, based on the five unities of country, race, religion, culture and language.

The rewriting of India's history is not confined to the RSS. It was a national priority and the principal pre-occupation of the Union-government-funded Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) during the NDA government (1998-2004) when BJP's A B Vajpayee was Prime Minister and the VHP veteran Murali Manohar Joshi was the Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister.

This initiative is more vigorously pursued and implemented by the present Prime Minsiter Narendra Modi and the HRD Minister Ms Smriti Irani. (Ms Irani is assisted by Ram Shankar Katheria, a former RSS paracharak, as minister of state, HRD.)

In July 2014 the HRD Ministry appointed Yellapragada Sudershan Rao, a little known retired history teacher of Kakatiya University, Warrangal, as the new chairperson of ICHR. He heads the ABISY Andhra Chapter and is involved in a project that would fix the date of Mahabharata war, part of the Mahabharata Project of Sanathana Dharma Charitable Trust.

The modification of ICHR does not end with its chairman. Recently, it was almost entirely reconstituted (The Gazette notification to this effect was issued on February 24, 2015) with 18 new appointments, including ABISY historians like Narayan Rao, national vice president of the Sangh history wing, and Ishwar Sharan Vishwakarma, all-India general secretary.

Another new nominee is Michel Danino, an Indianised Frenchman, who has criticised in his book 'The Invasion that Never Was', the Aryan invasion theory and its proponents, instead opting for the notion of ' Indigenous Aryans', the same idea asserted by Golwalkar. Danino is a guest professor at IIT Gandhinagar.

The Christian name in the new council is that of C. I. Isaac, former head of the Department of History, CMS College, Kottayam, Kerala. He is the author of the book, The Evolution of Christian Church in India, which questions the origins of Christianity in India from St. Thomas.

In December 2014, the three-year term of the outgoing members expired. The ICHR convention has been to reappoint members who had completed only one term.

The hurry of the BJP government to terminate services of even the historians who had completed only their first term in ICHR is said to be 'for purging the Marxist historians'.

The practising historians think that ICHR, inspired, guided and supported by RSS, would be writing 'Indianised' history rather than history of India. Larger issues of 'causation and periodicity' may not be the main concern as are for the scientific and objective study of history.

ICHR may chisel the history of India in a manner to build the edifice for the India that Golwalkar wanted to establish.

One of the major dangers of this Puranas-based history books from ABISY and ICHR, would be that they will be taught as the real history of India in the educational institutions in the country. Dogma will replace history and trickle into school syllabi. Attempts for this are already under way.

The National Curriculum Framework, the NCERT document for formulating the syllabi of the educational institutions, is due for revision this year. It is for anybody to guess its directives with Sangh Parivar ideologues at all key decision-making positions.

In The Discovery of India, a narrative of the history of India, Pandit Nehru "offered an intellectual compass for the modern India, an indicator of the direction a new diverse, disparity-ridden nation would have to take to cohere'', Sunil Khilnani wrote in the introduction of the Book in 2010.

The Constitution of India empowered and enabled Indians to co-exist, in spite of all oddities and eccentricities of politicking and contradictions of religions. Systematic attempts are being made to undo all these and lead India to an exclusive destination of unity in uniformity whose character and consequences are unknown and unfathomable to the majority of Indians. India is being led to a dangerous precipice inspired by century-old ideologies which the world had eschewed and expunged after waging world wars and sacrificing millions of lives.

Should India tread the same path?

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Indian Currents.

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Publication:Indian Currents
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Mar 16, 2015
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