The New Awakening of India
By Vinod Kumar
I read with dismay "The Saffron Riptide" by Prof. Bhanu Pratap Mehta (Indian Express, Sept 12, 1998). May be the fault was entirely my own because being a person of scientific bent, I was expecting facts, reason and logic with deep historical insight. I found all these ingredients missing in the piece. All Prof. Mehta makes is third rate innuendoes and baseless allegations.
By comparing with "those who come to power through crimes", Mehta accuses the BJP of coming to power through crimes but fails to enunciate what crimes has the BJP committed. Then he goes on to usual cheap tricks of name-calling "fanaticism", "most subversions of authority of constitutional norms in independent India". But again he fails to qualify what "fanatical" acts have the BJP committed and what "constitutional norms" has it violated.
The closest he comes to label the misdeeds of BJP or its allies VHP, RSS and Shiva Sena which he calls them "merely the latest in the BJP's continuing poisoning of Indian politics" are "the reconstitution of academic bodies like the Indian Council of Historical Research on dubious ideological grounds, the subversion of parliamentary norms like collective responsibility, Manohar Joshi's abominable behaviour on the Srikrishna Commission report" and goes on to say "preparations are underway to once again make Ayodhya cast a long shadow over Indian politics".
Let me take these allegations of Prof. Mehta one by one:
The ICHR was dominated by Marxist historians who had their own agenda, which had nothing to do with the facts of history. To give an example when West Bengal Board of Secondary Education had issued instructions in 1989 that "Muslim rule should never attract any criticism. Destruction of temples by Muslim rulers and invaders should not be mentioned." By any means no academician would call it history but the high mandarins of ICHR did nothing to counter the subversion of history.
Most of this controversy revolves around how the Muslim period of India is to be presented. There is only one way of presenting history i.e. just tell the truth. That is what history is all about. India is very fortunate in this respect as far as the Muslim era of India is concerned. There are well-documented records kept by contemporary Muslim rulers and historians themselves – all what modern historians have to do is just present these records.
History as a record of events as they happened is neither secular nor communal. They become so when one tries to change these according to one’s own ideology. BJP or "its historians" have neither the need nor the desire to change the facts of Muslim rule in India.
The ICHR historians were seeking gratification in glorification of India’s servitude. Such an exercise can only result in nothing but further servitude of India.
As recent articles in the press have shown the ICHR is allegedly guilty of not only intellectual fraud but financial fraud also.
Would have been better if Prof. Mehta had given some concrete examples of subversion of collective responsibility instead of making wild and baseless accusation.
The Srikrishna Report was one sided and faulty. It had discussed only one side of the equation. According to Srikrishna report it is alright for the Muslims to react but not for the Hindus. If one Muslim mosque – if it can be called a mosque – is demolished it is alright for them to take to the streets but the Hindus should keep quiet when thousands of their temples have been demolished. It is alright for the Muslims to kill, plunder and take to arson but not for the Hindus to retaliate. It is alright for the Muslims to carry out serial bomb blasts because they feel outraged but the Hindus are not supposed to be outraged.
It is intellectual prostitution to defend such one-sided report.
Chief Minister Manohar Joshi has to be applauded for giving it the burial it deserved.
The demolition of Babri masjid is an important chapter in Indian history. Before I go any further let me quote Sir VS Naipaul:
"I don’t think the people of India have been able to come to terms with that wrecking. I don’t think they understand what really happened. It is too painful. And I think this BJP movement and that masjid business is part of a new sense of history, a new idea of what happened. It might be misguided, it might be wrong to misuse it politically, but I think it is part of a historical process. And to simply abuse it as fascist, is to fail to understand why it finds an answer in so many hearts in India." (Times of India, Jan 23, 1998.)
Countries and civilizations like individuals do not live in vacuum. Every act of an individual is committed with the knowledge of his lifetime experiences. The same is true of nations and civilizations. Any time a place of worship is demolished it is a sad event and the same is true of Babri masjid. If this dictum had been followed throughout the history of India the demolition of Babri masjid would not happened. It would not have been necessary. As I said above the demolition of Babri masjid was sad but what was sadder still is the fact it took over 450 years to do it. It was more than the demolition of a masjid – it was a symbolic act – as Sir VS Naipaul wrote "it is part of a historical process". Had it been done when Muhammad bin Kasim demolished the first temple in Debal or when Mahmud Ghaznavi demolished by temples by the thousands, India would have saved much destruction. The demolition of Babri masjid is a part of the process of India coming to terms with its history. Denial of history or reality is not going to carry India forward. The sooner this process takes place the better it would for the country.
Another sad part of the Ayodhya episode is that the intellectuals of India fail to see the awakening that led to the demolition of Babri masjid. Again to quote Sir VS Naipaul:
"What is happening in India is a new historical awakening....Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in
their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening." (Times of India, July 18, 1993.)
The Indian intellectuals have an important part to play in this awakening of India. They have three options. They can give up their false pretences and join it thus speeding the awakening or they can lie dormant and thus slow down the process or if they so choose they can oppose the awakening and bring India back to the chaos that prevailed in India for a thousand years. The choice is entirely up to the intellectuals of India. The general public can sustain the awakening only up to a point – they are looking up to the intellectuals to give them a helping hand. They have already set the process in motion and now it is up to the intellectuals of India to carry it forward. For once they are asking the leaders to become the led.
I invite Prof. Mehta and other intellectuals to join in this new awakening of India and help India attain new heights unknown to any other nation in the annals of history. The heights I have no doubt India is capable of achieving.