3 – A history cast in a mould
The shoddiness and incompetence visible in history books written by the so-called eminent historians are not due to individual carelessness or lack of information. For communists, the use of any history is to prove their dogma. The moving power of communism is a deep-rooted self-alienation and its main ally is cultural and spiritual illiteracy. The Leftist writers have done their best to propagate these ‘values’ through their books on history.
Their histories are set to a formula: Ancient India must be presented as a land of discord, a land in the grip of a social and political system marked by injustice, extreme inequalities and oppression leading to perpetual social tensions. Islamic period must be presented as one in which the ‘composite culture’ flourished, a policy of broad toleration was the norm, and any departures from that policy were just aberrations of individuals which can be traced to wholly secular causes. When coming to the modern period, these Hindus wielding the sword of Islam show an extraordinary empathy for and understanding of Muslim separatists and separatism. Shourie has documented their shift from erasure to parity to absolution.
However, since the existing evidence in all the cases point to the opposite direction, their eminences have to strain every nerve to make the story fit into the preconceived mould. Inventions, conjectures, double standards and circular reasoning are, therefore, the hallmark of their creations.
In their world of make-believe, Hinduism is Brahmanism, an ‘ism’ which serves the interests of Brahmins. These interests can be served only by exploitation and oppression of lower castes. Hence, Hinduism is necessarily an arrangement for exploitation and oppression of the masses. “The ideological conflict between Vedic Brahmins and the followers of newly-born protestant creeds [a maliciously misleading description of Buddhism and Jainism] may have been a potential source of social and religious tension, though an actual example of this is wanting”. Is this history?
If some statement of Kautilya supports the thesis of these historians (like low wages of artisans who were mostly shudras), it is proof of empirical reality. However, if it goes against the thesis (e.g. recommendation for recruitment of shudras and vaishyas in the army) then the absence of empirical evidence is cited to doubt its observance in practice.
Clearest statements in several texts that a person becomes Brahmin by character and conduct, not by birth, are brushed aside as desiderata; but statements of Manu prescribing discriminatory punishments for identical offences are taken as proof positive that differential justice was, in fact, meted out in practice.
Brahmins invented the theory of Karma, we are told, to persuade the poor masses to serve their masters well in this life so as to get reward in subsequent life; they invented avatarvad to persuade the suffering masses that they need not do anything in particular, that God himself will take care of it. The fact that Karma theory can be and has been interpreted to mean exactly the opposite, that having explained avataravad to Arjuna, Krishna exhorted him to fight and uproot the evil, is conveniently glossed over.
The Mauryas are denounced for setting up a centralised administration, while the Guptas are denounced for decentralizing it. When Manu specifies different tasks for different sections, he is held up as champion of an exploitative order. Simultaneously, the Guptas are condemned for demanding the same work as compulsory labour from all sections of society.
Romila Thapar cited three inscriptions about an incident involving the alleged persecution of Jains by Shaivas. Sita Ram Goel looked them up. He found that two of them had absolutely no connection with the incident while the third one, held to be spurious, told an entirely different story.
Double standards and contradictions of Leftist historians become all the more remarkable when contrasted with their treatment of Islamic rulers. Bhakti is just a reflection of the total subservience of the hapless tenant to the landlord under feudalism. But Islam, which literally means ‘surrender’, is a noble sentiment – total submission to the will of Allah. Taxes levied by Mauryas were oppressive exactions for maintaining coercive apparatus of the empire, but the Jaziya extracted by Sultans was a little something by paying which Hindus could lead normal lives. The Mauryas instituted a centralised, over-bearing state. Their army was an instrument for maintaining domination, the coercive arm of the state. Their legal and judicial system was an important weapon in the hands of the ruling class. However, such a thing is never said of the Islamic law or the armies of Sultans and Mughals.
All epochs in the ancient period from which people can draw pride or inspiration are tarred in some manner or the other. By contrast, the aggression, butchery and devastations committed by Islamic rulers are sanitised through a three-layer filter. First, the devastation is attributed to individuals and not to the religion. Second, among individuals, it is made out that just a few individuals – a few isolated exceptions – indulged in it. Third, it is said that they committed aggression, destroyed temples, pulverized idols, not because of some religious belief but because as rulers they had to put down their opponents who happened to be Hindus, and because of mundane considerations of greed for the riches of the temples, the need to establish political sway over conquered territory, etc.
However, Muslim historians of medieval India treat every war waged against the Hindus as a jihad as enjoined by the Prophet and the Pious Caliphs. While narrating deeds of wanton cruelty and rapacity they express extreme satisfaction and gleeful gratitude to Allah that the mission of the Prophet has been fulfilled, the light of Islam brought to an area of darkness, and idolatry wiped out.
Even a ‘saint’ like Amir Khusrow, supposed to be the pioneer of secularism in India, writes in his Khazãin-ul-Futûh also known as the Tãrîkh-i-Alãî: “The whole country by means of the sword of our holy warriors has become like a forest denuded of its thorns by fire. The land has been saturated by the waters of the sword, and the vapours of infidelity [Hinduism] have been dispersed. The strong men of Hind have been trodden under foot, and all are ready to pay tribute. Islam is triumphant, idolatry is subdued. Had not the law (of Hanifa) granted exemption from death by the payment of jiziya, the very name of Hind, root and branch, would have been extinguished.”
All this falsification was carried out and justified in the name of national integration. The results of this massive wilful exercise in untruth are visible to all except those who are under an ideological compulsion not to see them. Hindu-Muslim unity remains as much of a mirage as it was in the days of Mahatma Gandhi. In fact, Islamic imperialism has become many times more self-confident and self-righteous than on the eve of Partition. Caste system, which was for ages the most cohesive factor and a sure source of strength for Hindu society, has been converted into a cancer which poisons the very springs of our politics. Regionalism fostered by local patriotism, missionary machinations, and sectarian separatism has assumed so alarming proportions as imperil the very unity of the country.
The project was doomed to failure right from the start. Voices of warnings from competent historians were not wanting. S Krishnaswami Aiyangar held that the value of study of history would be destroyed by the slightest interference with the recording of its actual course, or if it were made to subserve other purposes, however noble. “For instance, we cannot hope to end fanaticism in character and convictions of the nation’s youth by omitting from history all that which tends to promote sectarian fanaticism, and telling the lying tale that there were no fanatics or acts of fanaticism before us. The right way to proceed is to register the fanatical acts and those influences which were responsible for the perpetration of fanatical deeds, and by pointing out the dire consequences to human society that such deeds entailed.” (Quoted by E Sreedharan in A Textbook of Historiography, 500 BC to 2000 AD, p. 449)
R C Majumdar wrote in his presidential address at the sixth annual conference of Institute of Historical Studies at Srinagar in 1968 which he could not attend that “History divorced from truth does not help a nation. Its future should be laid on the stable foundations of truth and not on the quicksand of falsehoods, however alluring it may appear at present. India is now at the cross roads and I urge my friends to choose carefully the path they would like to tread upon.”
These words of warning have acquired an enhanced validity in the present context. The false notions strongly fortified by a doctored history have confused our intellect, clouded our vision and paralysed our will to face deadly enemies out to dismember our country and destroy our cultural identity. At same time, we are faced with a situation when the distorted version has become the standard one and any attempt to correct it immediately draws howls of protest against “brazen attempts to communalise history” even from people who should know better. We need a clearer understanding and more frank acceptance of the past so as to cope better with the present.
Virendra Parekh is the Executive Editor of Corporate India and lives in Mumbai.