22 Aug 2015

Battle for Indian History: How to fight it, and how not (part 2) – Virendra Parekh

2 – Guidelines intended to misguide

British historians, nationalist leaders of freedom struggle, Aligarh school of historians and Marxist activists passing for historians, all had some purpose other than presentation of colourless truth in their treatment of historical material. Indian history which is intellectually fashionable, politically correct and taught in schools and colleges comprises lies, half-truths and distortions emanating from the all these sources.

The seed is contained in the NCERT guidelines for history books announced in 1982. These are full of recommendations for telling lies to our children, or for not telling them the truth at all. The guidelines say, quite commendably, that ‘the term Aryan cannot be used as a racial category’. However, the Aryan Invasion Theory, baseless and divisive as it is, is to be retained faithfully. The guidelines go on to say in the same breath that “historians have been told to stress the interaction between Aryan and non-Aryan cultures”. The division of ancient Indian culture into Aryan and non-Aryan is itself derived from the theory of an Aryan invasion. As Sita Ram Goel points out, as long as we continue to talk of Aryan and non-Aryan cultures, the terms ‘Aryan’ and ‘Dravidian’ cannot be divested of racial connotations.

But worse is to follow. The guidelines stipulate that the ancient period of Indian history cannot be referred to as Hindu period. They warn against over reliance on and use of myths as history (i.e. Ramayana and Mahabharata as also Rama and Krishna should find no place in history). “Over glorification” of country’s past is forbidden and the “Gupta Age can no longer be referred to as the golden period of Hinduism”, say the guidelines.

As regards the medieval period, the guidelines say that “Muslim rulers cannot be identified as foreigners except for early invades who did not settle here; Aurangazeb can no longer be referred to as the champion of Islam; Shivaji cannot be over glorified in Maharashtra textbooks; characterization of the medieval period as a dark period or as a time of conflict between Hindus and Muslims is forbidden. Historians cannot identify Muslims as rulers and Hindus as subjects. The state cannot be described as theocracy, without examining actual influence of religion. No exaggeration of the role of religion in political conflicts is permitted … nor should there be neglect and omission of trends and processes of assimilation and synthesis.”

History scholar Sita Ram Goel has commented on each of these guidelines in great detail and shown how they make it impossible to write an honest history of India. Doing away with the distortions inherent in these guidelines will be first task of future historians.

Notice how accurately the guidelines conform to the perceptions of British historians, the Aligarh school and Marxists. Needless to say, those who laid down the guidelines belonged to the same group of ‘eminent’ historians who wrote textbooks in conformity with them.

The result is predictable. The history books written by these ‘eminent’ historians cannot stand a moment’s scrutiny.

In a powerful challenge to the eminence of the so-called eminent historians, the journalist scholar Arun Shourie documented their lies, perversions and double standards in his book Eminent Historians: Their Technology, Their Line, Their Fraud. Fifteen years after its publication, its contents remain uncontested on veracity and accuracy.

He showed how the Leftists have deliberately and systematically falsified our history in a massive though clumsy and dishonest attempt to fit it into Marxist categories. Giving concrete examples, he has laid bare their ideological predilections as well as their dirty tricks. The book covers the entire gamut of Indian history, encompassing ancient, medieval and modern periods. A few examples will suffice for our purpose.

Consider, for example, what our students are taught about Bhagavad Gita. Gita has been a source of spiritual inspiration, guidance and solace for millions, as also philosophical speculation for thinkers through the ages. Commentators from Shankara and Ramanuja to Tilak, Aurobindo, and Gandhiji in our age have sought to interpret it in the light of their own intuition and experience.

All of them, however, missed what is self-evident to our eminent historian: “The doctrine of Bhakti, clearly enunciated first in the Gita … became socially more relevant in the Gupta period … when the feudatories considered themselves as meditating at the feet of their masters.” This is because Bhakti “reflected the complete dependence of the serfs or tenants on the landowners in the context of Indian feudal society”.

That pearl of scholarly insight is from D N Jha’s Ancient India. And he has borrowed it from his theoretical ancestor D D Kosambi: “Thus, Gita was a logical performance for the early Gupta period when expanding village settlement brought in new wealth to a powerful central government.”

What a way to decide the date of Gita and interpret its message! But the great scholar cannot stop till he has ‘demonstrated’ the ultimate failure of the scripture. “The Gita might help reconcile certain factions of the ruling class … but it could not possibly bring about any fundamental change in the means of production [notice the assumption that this was the task of the scripture, from which follows the failure!], nor could its fundamental lack of contact with reality [despite its being ‘a logical performance for the age’] and disdain for logical consistency [which the great dialectician Shankara, among others, missed] promote a rational approach to the basic problems of Indian society.”

Coming to the medieval period, NCERT guideline stipulate that historians cannot identify Muslims as rulers and Hindus as subjects, and that the state in medieval India under Muslim rule cannot be described as a theocracy without examining the role of religion in political conflicts.

Here, in their zeal to whitewash the dark and blood-soaked record of Islam in India, the eminent historians disregard, among other things, the detailed and meticulous contemporary records including those maintained by the court chroniclers of the Muslim rulers themselves.

Thus, this is what some Hindu records say about the condition of Hindus under Muslim rule. Gangadevi, the wife of Kumar Kampana (died 1374 AD) of Vijayanagara, writes as follows in her Madhurãvijayam regarding the state of things in the Madurai region when it was under Muslim rule: “The wicked mlechchas pollute the religion of the Hindus every day. They break the images of gods into pieces and throw away the articles of worship. They throw into fire Srimad Bhagwat and other holy scriptures, forcibly take away the conch shell and bell of the Brahmanas, and lick the sandal paints on their bodies. They urinate like dogs on the tulsi plant and deliberately pass faeces in the Hindu temples. They throw water from their mouths on the Hindus engaged in worship, and harass the Hindu saints as if they were so many lunatics let large.” 

Chaitanya Mañgala, a biography of the great Vaishnava saint of medieval India, presents the plight of Hindus in Navadvipa on the eve of the saint’s birth in 1484 AD. The author, Jayananda, writes: “The king seizes the Brahmanas, pollutes their caste and even takes their lives. If a conch shell is heard to blow in any house, its owner is made to forfeit his wealth, caste and even life. The king plunders the houses of those who wear sacred threads on the shoulder and put scarred marks on the forehead, and then binds them. He breaks the temples and uproots tulsi plants. The bathing in Ganga is prohibited and hundreds of sacred ashvattha and jack trees have been cut down.’

Then there is this searing cry of Guru Nanak recorded in the Guru Granth Sahib: “having lifted Islam to the head, You have engulfed Hindustan in dread … these dogs have destroyed diamond-like Hindustan, (so great is their terror that) no one asks after those who have been killed … Hindus have been forbidden to pray at the time of the Muslim’s namaz, Hindu society has been left without a bath, even those who have never uttered Ram, can get no respite” (Mahla 1.360 and 1.417).

Here is a falsehood and worse from the same period: “Firuz executed a Brahmin for abusing the prophet of Islam. On the other hand, there were some instances of conversion of Muslims to Hinduism. Thus, Chaitanya, the great Vaishnava reformer, converted a number of Muslims.” So writes Satish Chandra in his Medieval India.

Contrast it with this: “A report was brought to the Sultan that there was in Delhi an old Brahman who persisted in publicly performing the worship of idols in his house; and that people of the city, both Musalmans and Hindus, used to resort to his house to worship the idol…. An order was accordingly given that the Brahman should be brought into the presence of the Sultan at Firozabad…. The true faith was declared to the Brahman and the right course pointed out, but he refused to accept it. Orders were given for raising a pile of faggots before the door of the darbar. The Brahman was tied hand and foot and cast into it; the tablet was thrown on top and the pile was lighted. The writer of this book was present at the darbar and witnessed the execution … the wood was dry, and the fire first reached his feet and drew from him a cry, but the flames quickly enveloped his head and consumed him.”

That is the heart-rending eye-witness account of the incident recorded in Tarikh-i-Firuz Shahi of Shamsuddin bin Sirajuddin Afif, courtier of Sultan Firuz Shah Tughlaq (1350-1388 AD) himself.

A classic example of what Ram Swarup calls history versus historians. And yes, some germination of composite culture, too.

Our eminent historian does not, of course, tell us how many Muslims Chaitanya converted, by what means and how it compares with lakhs upon lakhs of Hindus whose conversion the Muslim historians of the time celebrated. It would go against his secular credentials to note that in every case, Muslims were only returning to their ancestral religion.

Nor is the falsification confined to individual incidents. It covers entire epochs, running over centuries.

Relying on another ‘eminent’ historian R S Sharma, Satish Chandra informs us that the Indian economy in the seventh to tenth centuries became almost exclusively rural or agrarian-oriented, with trade and urbanism suffering a distinct decline, internally, but also externally as the India trade fell off because the Byzantines stopped importing silk from India.

Andre Wink (Al-Hind, The Making of The Indo-Islamic World, Oxford University Press, Vol. I, 1990, p. 220-222), notes, “… R. S. Sharma, whose Indian Feudalism has misguided virtually all historians of the period, not only because it is entirely written from the a priori assumption of the ‘dark age’ doggedly searching for point by point parallels with Europe, but also, more accidentally, because there has never been anything to challenge it.”

After examining the material on which Sharma relied to formulate his thesis, Wink says: “Sharma’s thesis essentially involves an obstinate attempt to find ‘elements’ which fit a preconceived picture of what should have happened in India because it happened in Europe (or is alleged to have happened in Europe by Sharma and his school of historians whose knowledge of European history is rudimentary and completely outdated) or because of the antiquated Marxist scheme of a ‘necessary’ development of ‘feudalism’ out of ‘slavery’. The methodological underpinnings of Sharma’s work are in fact so thin that one wonders why, for so long, Sharma’s colleagues have called his work ‘pioneering’” (Quoted by Meenakshi Jain in A Random Survey of Satish Chandra’s Medieval India).

About Mughal empire before Aurangzeb, Satish Chandra tells us: “There was no atmosphere of confrontation between the Sikhs and Mughal ruler during this period. Nor was there any systematic persecution of Hindus, and hence, no occasion for Sikhs or any group or sect to stand forth as the champion of the Hindus against religious persecution.”

Really? The atrocities committed by Babur when he invaded India in 1521 drew a poignant cry from Guru Nanak who in his agony took God to task: “Thou hast sent Yama disguised as the great Moghul Babar, Terrible was the slaughter, Loud were the cries of the lamenters, Did this not awaken pity in Thee, O Lord?” (Adi Granth, p. 360) It was the martyrdom of Guru Arjun Dev in 1606 by Jahangir that proved a turning point in the attitude of Sikh Gurus towards the Muslim rulers when they decided to defend their rights by arms. Sir Edward MacLagan notes in The Jesuits and the Great Mogul (p. 28): “Throughout the journey from the coast to Fatehpur, the Fathers found that the Hindu temples had been destroyed by Mohammedans.” During the reign of Akbar, Governor of Lahore Husain Khan had decreed that “the Hindus should stick patches of different colours onto their shoulders or on the bottom of their sleeves, so that no Muslim might be put to indignity of showing them honour by mistake” (Sri Ram Sharma, Religious Policy of the Mughals, p. 14. Italics added).

And finally a sample, from the modern period, of wilful disregard of evidence or shameful ignorance.

Explaining the growth of Muslim separatism during the struggle for Independence, Bipan Chandra informs us (in Modern India) that the very nature of nationalist movement alienated the Muslims. In other words, Hindus are to be blamed for Muslim separatism and Partition.

“Militant nationalism was to some extent a step back in respect of growth of national unity … speeches and writings of some militant nationalists had a strong religious and Hindu tinge…. Tilak’s propagation of Shivaji and Ganapati festival, Aurobindo’s semi-mystical conception of India as mother, the terrorists’ oath before goddess Kali and the initiation of anti-partition agitation with dips in Ganga could hardly appeal to the Muslims…. The reformers put a one-sided emphasis on the religious and philosophical aspects of cultural heritage…. Hindu reformers invariably confined their praise of the Indian past to its ancient period … the manner in which history was taught also contributed to the growth of communal feelings….”

The learned historian never pauses to ask: Why should the Muslims object to any expression of Hindu sentiment or symbolism if that expression is not directed against them or their tradition?

Shourie points out that Muslim separatism is rooted in the teachings of Quran and Hadis as the separation between the believers and non-believers is of the very essence in Islam. In addition to citing from Quran and Hadis to support his point, he quotes V S Naipaul’s heart-rending account (in Beyond Belief) of the consequences of this insistence on the believers: “Islam is not simply a matter of conscience or private belief. It makes imperial demands. A convert’s world view alters. His holy places are in Arab lands; his sacred language is Arabic. His idea of history alters. He rejects his own; he becomes, whether he likes it or not, a part of the Arab story. The convert has to turn away from everything that is his own.” The eminent historian totally disregards this separatist tendency inherent in Islam and lays the blame squarely on Hindu nationalists, reformers and history teachers.

These are not isolated illustrations handpicked to drive home the point. The bias, the predilection, the prejudice and the mindset peeping from these examples prevail throughout these history books.

Yet, the shoddiness and incompetence visible in history books written by the so-called eminent historians are not entirely or even mainly due to individual carelessness or lack of information, as we shall see.

Virendra Parekh is the Executive Editor of Corporate India and lives in Mumbai. 

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