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"Desaffronization" or Apology?

Vinod Kumar


On June 28, 2004, The New York Times reported that "a resolution of formal apology for "a long history of official depredations and ill-conceived policies" has been quietly cleared for a Senate vote, with proponents predicting passage."

True, no federal reparations or claim settlements are at stake. The resolution acknowledges the genocidal wounds suffered by the American Indians as a result of the government's offensive history. Among genocidal wounds suffered by the American Indians it lists specially the Trail of Tears, the Long Walk, the Wounded Knee Massacre.

Though the resolution has been received with mixed reaction among the tribal leaders but it is still "a good first step". The resolution shows that a mature civilization can rise above times and is willing to accept its past mistakes and apologize for them.

And it is not for the first time that such apologies have been offered.

The relationship between Jews and Christianity has been one of continual animosity. The primary reason has been the propaganda that it was due to the Jews that Christ was nailed to the cross. Christ’s teachings were supposed to have weakened Judaism and so he became the ‘enemy’ of the Jews. There have been numerous cases of discrimination against the Jews in various countries. The climax was the German Holocaust. The silence of Vatican in not condemning the atrocities at the time they were perpetuated has been a major bone of contention.

The Vatican has "begged for God's pardon" and asked "the Jewish people to hear our words of repentance." (Newsweek, October 13, 1997, quoted from

Similarly, in January 1995, the German Roman Catholic bishops have accepted that the Catholics share responsibility for the Nazi holocaust, since they failed to act against Nazism. In what is said to be an unusually blunt confession of guilt, the bishops said, "The denial and guilt that was prevalent in those days also came from the church. During the period of the Third Reich, Christians did not carry out the required resistance to racist anti-Semitism." As per a leading Catholic theologian, Shri Johann-Baptist Metz, there was a "a new quality" in the statement, and predicted that it would inspire "Christian moral courage." (Stephen Kinzer, "German church admits to holocaust guilt", The Times of India, Jan 30, 1995.

-- quoted from

Denial of Jewish Holocaust is a crime in Germany. Holocaust museums have been set up all across Germany and the West.

During the period of Japanese occupation between 1910 and 1945, Korea was systematically strip-mined for its raw materials and cheap labor to build Japan's newly industrializing economy. Later it also supplied the Japanese war machine, most notoriously in the form of female sex slaves for the army.

Though all Koreans are not satisfied but the Japanese Prime Minister Obuchi during his visit to Korea in October 1998 apologized in writing to the Korean people. "I would like to express deep remorse and heartfelt apologies over the pain and damage Japan inflicted on the South Korean people during its colonial rule," he said.

In 1994, the then prime minister Tomiichi Murayama apologized personally to all Asian peoples for Japan's colonial rule and wartime actions. (

It is accepted that the apology today will not change the past and also in general such apologies have failed to satisfy the wronged but still as accepting the apology from Japan, the Korean President said he believed it would finally settle the issue of past history and enable the two countries to look forward to future cooperation.

All this stands is stark contrast to when it comes to the Hindu civilization.

Starting from Muhammad bin Kasim's occupation of Sind in 712 CE and till today, the Hindu civilization has been repeatedly ravaged by Islam and for centuries by Christianity. This is not the place go into the details of genocidal and barbaric nature of such ravages -- the chronicles written by the Islamic and Christian adventurers and rulers speak for themselves.

While the contemporary Islamic and Christian chroniclers have made no attempt to hide and deny depredations on the Hindu civilization -- as a matter of fact they wrote about them with glee and with great pride -- some Hindu groups, in the vile hope that this will promote communal harmony, are burning the proverbial "midnight oil" to deny the crimes committed against their own civilization. This Hindu reaction has to be seen in relation to the reaction of the American Indians, the Jews and the Koreans, who are still not fully satisfied with the apology.

No one holds the current Americans or the Germans or the Christians or the Japanese responsible for the crimes committed in the past by their compatriots or co-religionists against the American Indians, the Jews or the Koreans -- to take the few examples -- but there is a collective feeling of guilt and it is felt that such acceptance of guilt and formal apology go a long way of laying the foundations of a new peaceful future. Whether one admits or not, one cannot deny the policies of the contemporary governments or the tenets of the religion were, in great measure, responsible for such crimes to have happened.

And it is equally true, if not more so, in the case of depredations heaped upon the Hindu civilization. The Arabs, the Afghans, the Turks, the Portuguese or others did not have anything personal against the Hindus, as such other than the Hindus were not Muslim or Christian. They were Hindus. They committed the crimes against the Hindus in the name of their religion and frequently quoted from their Holy Books in support of their actions.

While the Catholic Church is apologizing left, right and center to the Jews and others, it has refused to do so to the Hindus. Ashok Chowgule, President of Maharashtra State unit of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in his book Christianity in India - The Hindutva Perspective has narrated the acts of atrocities by the Catholic Church on the Hindus. Not only has the Church refused to apologize, it even refuses to accept it had caused any harm to the Hindus. (

As far as Islam is concerned, to the best of my knowledge, it has never apologized to anyone. It regards the period of depredations on other civilization as period of its glory.

By a strange incomprehensible sense of logic, some Hindu groups who call themselves as "pillars and defenders of secularism", have gone beyond all limits. Any attempt to write the history of this dark period of Hindu civilization, from its original sources written by contemporary Muslim chroniclers and invaders themselves, is termed "saffronization" -- a color associated with Hindu religion. History books that mention atrocities on the Hindus, specially by the Muslims, is termed "saffron" history. How can the history written by the Muslim (and Christian) chroniclers be termed "saffron" (?) -- an argument lost on the "secular" brigade of India. Others, and specially Arun Shourie, have written much about "desaffronization" and "secularization" of history -- I need not go into those details.

Since the new government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, under the banner and guiding principle of promoting secularism, has taken office, "desaffronization" -- denial of the truth of history -- has taken momentum of its own. Truth has to be sacrificed at the altar of "secularism".

It is really an irony in itself that the present government claims its legacy, among others, prominently, from Mahatma Gandhi known specially for his penchant for truth if nothing else. Also, the only words from the Upanishads, written in Devanagari script, on official emblem and seal of the Government of India, with three lions and the Dharma Chakra are "Satyameva Jayate" -- truth alone triumphs. (

Isn't the concept of "desaffronization" -- denial of history -- a mockery of the message on its own official emblem and seal? Why not let the truth speak for itself?

The road to a peaceful co-existence and future is not in denial but in accepting the realities of the past. No one is asking for reparations. The past cannot be undone. All what is needed is acceptance of history as it happened, a simple apology and repudiation of ideologies and policies that led to such horrendous crimes against the Hindu civilization.

If secularization and communal harmony is the aim, denial of truth in the name of "desaffronization" is not the way. Apology will be "a good first step".