38th History Congress

What has happened at the   Indian History Congress held at Kannur University, Kerala, unprecedented in the annals of this institution, has nevertheless proved two points. One is that a governor, forgetting logic, topic and manners, considers it permissible to use an academic gathering of scholars for propagating the ideology of a Hindu Rastra and can cite the example of Pakistan in order to justify himself. He, like his masters at the centre, obviously wants to turn India into a Hindu Pakistan and replicate in India all the communal events that are supposed to be happening in this neighbouring country in a Hindu form. Although himself a Muslim by name, he prefers to serve as a lackey of the ideologues of Hindu Rastra. His reference to Danesh Kaneria, the Pakistani cricket player, was obviously politically motivated represented a half-truth; he has not studied the whole of what the Pakistani cricketer has said and has picked up only what was suited to his purpose; otherwise, he would not have tried to politicise the issue. He won't, however, try to politicise issues like mob lynchings in the name of cow protection. His open criticism of the protesters against the NRC and the CAA has further exposed him as a lackey of the BJP-RSS combine. The second point is that the world of scholars, as far as this country is concerned, has not been communalised, at least to the extent that the BJP-RSS combine had wanted it to be. There were vociferous protests from a large section of delegates, who are obviously against the project of rewriting India's history on communal lines and opposed to the plan to turn India into a Hindu Rastra. This shows that the ruling at the centre has not been able to poison the minds of scholars. What the protesting delegates have done is certainly commendable and speaks of considerable courage. Things are going awry for the clever advocates of Hindu Rastra.

India has a rich history of struggles against feudal and imperialist exploitation, and such struggles in general cut across religious barriers.The Sangh Parivar, however, kept aloof from these struggles and sometimes even opposed them in order to remain favourites of the British government of India. The somersault of their icon, Savarkar, who turned from a courageous fighter against British rule, into a faithful lackey of the same, is one glaring example of this. It is, however, true that the ideology of Hindutva poisoned the minds of some important Congress leaders also, and this was largely responsible for the partition. It is this Hindutva that the Sangh Parivar has tried to reinforce all through its existence and has sought to give an aggressive form to it. On the other hand, it is a fact that large numbers of Muslims preferred to remain in India, and they are Indians, although the increasing tendency to see them as aliens sometimes instil a sense of false consciousness among them. The ruling party at the centre is not only trying to rewrite history; it is also propagating all sorts of anti-scientific nonsense in the name of restoration of the glory of India's past. The stupidity of their assertions, e.g. the conception of the body of the deity Ganesh as an example of plastic surgery, has been ridiculed by all rational people, but religious fanaticism hardly cares for rationality, and promotion of  scientific temper is repugnant to religious fanatics.

To conclude, the Indian History Congress this year has been a scene of a battle between communal fanaticism and forces of democracy. The latter will definitely win in the upshot, but the path is meandering. The protests have, however, reminded the nation that fascists do not easily give up their ground. They have to be fought on all fronts, including the front of historical scholarship.

In truth they have been trying to capture and control all academic institutions and change them according to their vision of Akhand India. And in doing so they are distorting history and, re-writing it in their own way. Strangely enough, barring Irfan Habib, nobody really challenged the saffron offensive. The Left has no agenda to fight the RSS ideology in its totality.

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Vol. 52, No. 28, Jan 12 - 18, 2020