by M J Aslam
History is recorded in writing for enabling people to know their past and the events that took place in the past. Sometimes, however, need is felt to rewrite it, also, but strictly subject to the revelation of new “evidence” about the recorded events coming to the knowledge of a rewriter during his “objective investigation” of the historical events.
Genuine revisionist, as he is called, re-interprets, thus, the given historical facts when there is “strong evidence” against them. But the relativism, subjective perspectives, long cherished beliefs and “subjective investigation” dictated by lusty goals of “palingenetic nationalism” and “cultural myths” render revisionism mere attempting at concocting and fabricating the already received and admitted authentic historical facts.
Politically motivated revisionist, if at all, every Tom, Dick and Harry, like BJP-RSS ideologues, could be paraphrased, is accorded with the “epithet” of historian, will, obviously, be interpreting it according to his own ulterior purposes that cause more potential threat to the well-recorded accounts of history, then. George Orwell in 1949, in his masterpiece novel Nineteen-Eighty-Four, saw this “insidious danger” of destroying recorded historical facts by inventing and spreading lies about them that ultimately obliterate people’s understanding of their own history by the totalitarian and repressive regimes.
History, rewritten with political motives, just serves the desires of a politically controlled centralized party. It is an incitement to ignorance. It is indoctrination of children when history textbooks are sanitized and a highly communal view of history is implanted there in place of recorded historical truths, whether bitter or sweet, to the taste of the reader. This is done by “deleting chapters or passages from public school textbooks that contradicted their ideology while adding their own make-believe versions of the past”. (see They Peddle Myths & Call it History by Romila Thapar in The New York Times dated May 17, 2019). In the present day ever-changing world, such incitement and indoctrination should not be allowed to the detriment of a nation itself. (see blog “Rewriting history & the pursuit of ignorance” dated February 26, 2015, by Michael Rosenbaum)
The people and parties in power can re-name places, markets and roads to re-write history to their personal-gratification. Allahabad to Prayagraj, Gurgaon to Gurugram, Bangalore to Bengaluru, Madras to Chennai, Calcutta to Kolkotta, Aurangzeb Road to Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Road are few examples (See Indian Express dated October 16, 2018). For 20 cities, names were changed and there was also a proposal initiated by the right-wing organisations of India that was vociferously supported by ex-Army Chief of India, General (retd) VK Singh, to change the name of famous Akbar Road of Delhi to the memory of “great son of India”, Maharana Pratap (see The Indian Express dated May 9, 2018 and May 10, 2018). He had purportedly defeated in the battle of Haldighati (Mewar), the Muslim Mughal Emperor, Akbar the great, a title conferred upon him by all historians of India and beyond.
The authentic history, nevertheless, is that in 1568 Akbar had conquered entire Rajasthan, present-day Pakistan, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal, Bihar, Utter Pradesh up to Bengal. Some Rajputs in Mewar area had not accepted the suzerainty of Akbar and preferred putting resistance to his rule. But Mewar, Haldighati was ultimately lost by Maharana Pratap after some days of war-tricks and camouflages. He didn’t surrender to the Mughal Army is equally a historical fact. But why did not he surrender is a different story. It is an unequivocal fact that the Maharana Pratap lost the battle of Haldighati to Mughal Army that was led by another Rajput Man Singh. And, to suggest otherwise is sheer revisionism. (see Akbar v/s Maharana Pratap by Sudharshan R Garg in Daily O dated July 28, 2017)
A step further towards revisionism, Yogi Aditiyanath, a “well known” extremist Hindu Sadhu who is presently Chief Minister of UP, has been openly denigrating all 900 years old Muslim symbols of India and damning Muslim rulers as simply “invaders and foreigners”.
In pre-Medieval times, people without strict demarcations of geographical boundaries or territories used to travel from one place to another and most of the times settle in the “foreign” lands where they found chances of their habitation and survival much better. The Aryans who were Central Asians had migrated from the Central Asian States and settled in the Indian subcontinent on banks of Indus River wherefrom spread Indus Valley Civilization which is present-day entire North and West of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Aryans invaded Dravidian parts of (South) India and settled there. These migrations, wars, invasions and above all settlements in different lands were not confined to India alone. It happened everywhere in the world. But no one after thousands of years is chest beating like pan-Hindu ideologues.
“The history of man is the record of a hungry creature in search of food. Wherever food was plentiful, thither man has travelled to make his home”. (The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Willem Van Loon, page 20).
This was also the case with kings in the past. Wars were fought across geographical territories and the kingdoms established in so-called foreign lands. And, over centuries, those kings and their successors became part of the soil they had conquered. They resided and lived there till their death.
Right-wing-hate does not end here. World famous Taj Mahal was built by Shah Jahan on a Shiva Temple, Aditiyatanath-RSS claim has been rebuffed by Archeological Survey of India by deposing before Agra Court recently in August 2017 that there is no proof to prove the right-wing claim. (see Taj Mahal is a tomb, not a temple in Hindustan Times dated August 25, 2017; see also Only local Muslims and not non-local Muslims of Agra can offer Nimaz in Taj Mahal Masjid, SC in The Times of India dated July 10, 2018 )
The men in political power can demolish old statutes and monuments to pave way for their own political ideologies. This happened during former USSR rule when the Communist Rulers endeavoured hard to twist and turn the history of hundreds of years of provinces to suit their Marxist political theory. The official version of history was to be accepted as an authentic one and any deviation from it was harshly punishable under Communist Laws of the country. The antebellum slavery and war against it are undeniable facts of American history. There are statues, monuments and flags of Confederate in seven American States that held African-American-slaves and that, however, represent the American national leaders and constitution-givers who themselves owned slaves including George Washington. Some left-parties are attempting now to demolish those statues, monuments and flags of Confederacy to get rid of American Slave-history which is simply impossible to obliterate from the recorded annals of the American history. And, there is a generally accepted notion in American society that history is recorded version of facts, so, by demolishing or rewriting it, the underlying reality never gets displaced nor changed.
The people in power can demean the historical contributions of leaders and rulers of the past. They can re-write textbooks of children to disconnect them to real and connect them to an artificial past. BJP-RSS ruled States of India like Rajasthan, MP, Maharashtra and Gujarat in recent past are instances at hand where references to Muslim rulers who ruled India for 900 years and who were invariably born, lived and buried sons of Indian soil, in school textbooks are scantly, one or two lines, negligible while Hindu Kings like Maharana Pratap are shown as heroes in chapters merely because they were Hindus. (See They Peddle Myths and Call it History by Romila Thapar in The New York Times dated May 17, 2019). Indeed, all this is the climax of religious bigotry and just desperate attempts of the rewriters of Indian history that debunk the very reality of their religious-political thought since in the modern era of technology and science people cannot be disconnected with their past by ill-intent of politically and religiously controlled and motivated groups like Sangh Parivar. After all, it is not Joseph Goebbels time to hold and say that a lie repeatedly spoken becomes truth. The fact is that if a lie is repeated million times, still it is a lie.
The right-wing groups that presently and overwhelmingly rule and control Indian political landscape forget certain facts: First, nationalism is the newest concept in the history of mankind that came in prominence post-colonial rules of many parts of the world during the twentieth century just to maintain hegemony of more powerful nations or countries on small provinces and communities of the world. India was no exception to this world scene.
At the time of partition, India including Pakistan and Bangladesh was divided into hundreds of small entities or provinces. No particular nationalism, nothing like that, was followed by those erstwhile provinces of undivided India. Each province had a ruler or a king who was named differently and many among them were interlocked into mutual battles and infighting since years. Each province had different traditions, customs, values, religious practices, ethnicity and language.
Second, during and before the Muslim rule of India, nothing like Indian Nationalism existed. Thirdly, it was during the early part of the twentieth century when some Hindu ultra- nationalists like V D Savarkar in 1923 tried to find “revival” of so-called lost-Hindu Nationalism which they termed Hindutva -lost to foreign rule, not of the British but Muslims. British were not bad people like Muslims and it was for this reason that RSS did not choose to fight them. According to this RSS ideology, Hitler too was not a bad guy as he simply wanted to preserve his culture and race from the influence of other-bad Semitic races like Jews.
M S Golwalkar in his book, We or Our Nationhood Defined, gives a vent to his racist ideology in these recorded words: “Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well nigh impossible it is for races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by”. He then vents his spleen to Muslims in these harshest words: “Ever since that evil day, when Moslems first landed in Hindustan, right up to the present moment, the Hindu Nation has been gallantly fighting on to take on these despoilers. The Race Spirit has been awakening. The lion was not dead, only sleeping. He is rousing himself up again and the world has to see the might of the regenerated Hindu Nation strike down the enemy’s hosts with its mighty arm’. (see We or Our Nationhood Defined pages 51-52; see also Golwalkar drew lessons from history in The Hindu Business Line, dated October 27, 2015)
This Hindutva ideology has been adopted by BJP in 1989 as its official political ideology and another ultra Hindu Nationalist parties VHP, HMS, SS, etc. It has to be noted here that expression Hindutva was the first time in 1925 coined and propagated by three-times-banned right-wing-Hindu Organisation called RSS. Though it had very little role in the Indian freedom struggle for its open “communal” policies, since the demolition of 464- years old Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, its rise with gloomy forebodings for future of India’s secular democracy became clearly noticeable. (see India After Gandhi, Ramchandra Guha, page 658; Sayed Naqvi, Being the other: Muslim in India (2016) pages 4-5). Massive win in Parliamentary elections of 2014 for BJP which is undoubtedly political face of all right-wing Hindu organisations of India has emboldened the right wing groups to openly intimidate, threaten and even physically assault and sometimes kill or lynch minority members especially Muslims of India, though governments in power “disown their actions” but without bringing culprits to book.
As its avowed policy is to “officially” declare India a Hindu Rashtra, BJP-RSS ruling elite are also investing on re-writing Indian history, as mentioned above, as it believes that by re-writing the history of India by saffron pen and ink, it can pursue its political agenda of Hindu Rashtra conveniently. Hundreds of years recorded history cannot be replaced by a blizzard of lies and concoctions. Fabricating history saffron-way is bound to boomerang because Indian history is not recorded in India only. All historical facts of the Indian subcontinent are preserved in history books of the world. And, so, re-writing Indian history to simply hindunise or saffronise it, to augment political agenda of Sangh Parivar, is not-so-easy as it is erroneously presumed to be.
The difference between history and myth is and shall always be there. Muslims including now those living in Pakistan and Bangladesh, 600 million odd, their rule, their contribution to Indian culture, art and its development cannot be lost sight of while reading and writing the history of India. For conventional and convincing defeats of Hindu Rajas by Mughals and other Muslim Rulers of the past, the present day Muslims of India cannot be put to collective punishment, socially, psychologically, politically and financially. Present scenario of India adequately highlights the agonies the Indian Muslims are facing at the hands of right-wing Hindu organisations of India continuously.
(Author is an academic, and storyteller. Ideas expressed are his own)