Distorting History

The recently concluded Indian History Congress, which was held at Jadavpur University, Kolkata, had one distinguishing feature to speak of. Each year, Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR), a government-sponsored organisation, grants a considerable sum for the annual session of the History Congress. This time it has made an exception. It has not given a single farthing. The reason is obvious, but not disappointing. Historians of India, for whom the History Congress is a representative institution, have in general refused to fall in line with the false, absurd and superstitious notions about Indian history spread by Modi and his brand of nationalists, e.g. calling the image of the Hindu god of wealth Ganesh, who has an elephant’s head superimposed upon human body, an example of plastic surgery. Narendra Modi and his acolytes do not have an iota of knowledge of the distinction between mythology, science and history and they want to force their obscurantist, jingoistic beliefs down the throat of the people. Their insane talks about Taj Mahal, which are products of pure fancy, constitute another example. ‘Mughal Emperor Akbar has no meaning for Prime Minister Narendra Modi just as the ancient civilisation of Mahenjo Daro has no meaning for people of Pakistan’ said eminent historian Irfan Habib at the Congress. The issue of free speech figured prominently in his speech as he referred to death of Gauri Lankesh while elaborating the question of liberty in a democracy. He was not against the right to free speech of Rashtriya Sawaymsevak Sangh (RSS) people who were allegedly responsible for Gauri Lankesh's murder. Instances can be multiplied. The fact that stands out is that the community of historians has declined to kowtow before Narendra Modi and braved the financial blackmail of the ICHR by holding the History Congress successfully. The blackmail has succeeded only in intensifying the anti-BJP attitude of scholars. They are now realising that peddlars of Hindutva are against the cultivation of any serious and honest historical research. This sort of realisation may not have any immediate political impact, but it is nevertheless useful as far as the struggle against the new Indian variant of fascism is concerned. It is now widely discussed in the media that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its affiliate RSS are hell bent on re-writing and distorting history in order to push their Hindutva agenda. The purpose of History Congress was not to write a certain kind of history, but to promote objectives in writing history. The new president of the Indian History Congress, Professor Krishna Mohan Shrimali spoke at length about how ‘questions’ form an intrinsic part of Indian tradition. But the Modis are busy to reinvent Indian tradition by resurrecting the Manu myth.

An almost simultaneous development that took place in a place far away from Jadavpur is worth noticing. Dalit leaders of all-India name held a rally in Shaniwarwara, Maharshtra and expressed the resolve to fight whom they call the neo-Peshwas, namely the BJP and the RSS. As per reports, the speakers at the rally were all victims of oppression by the Sangh Parivar and the police, e.g. Radhika Vemula (Rohit Vemula's mother), Jignesh Mebani, Umar Khalid, Soni Sori etc. This rally constitutes only one instance of stiffening resistance against the Brahminical ideology that is the principal weapon of the BJP for Hindu unity. It is clear that larger sections of dalits are learning to identify the BJP's Hindtva as Brahminism.

Disconcerting signs are there, however. In West Bengal for example, the influence of the BJP has been growing. One reason is the increasingly corrupt and tyrannical practices of the chieftains of the ruling party at various levels, prompting many who are not ideologically committed to the BJP to turn to it in the absence of a strong alternative platform. The second is the huge money power and propaganda machine of the BJP-RSS combine. The money power is predominantly due to the support of the corporate lobby, which has fattened itself by plundering the resources of the nation. It is worth mentioning that the proposed new Bank Bill is unmistakably aimed at shifting at least a part of the burden of this loot onto the shoulders of common depositors. A third reason is the weakness of the official Left as well as the lack of cohesion among the far left. For one thing the BJP has kept strictly aloof from popular struggles now developing in both BJP ruled and non-BJP ruled states, because siding with the struggling people would not promote their agenda of Hindu-Muslim polarisation. The more such mass mobilisations take place against the anti-people policies, the more will be the advancement of history.


Vol. 50, No.28, Jan 14 - 20, 2017