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India: Hindutva Right Wing Turn Begins For History Writing / Activist Wants focus on Vedas

5 June 2015

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A report in Vikas Pathak in Hindustan Times about plans for History books by Hindutva activist Dina Nath Batra and a second article by Prakash Kumar in Deccan herald on the Right wing turn in History writing in India.

Hindustan Times

Rewrite history to focus on Vedas: Hindutva activist

Vikas Pathak, Hindustan Times, New Delhi| Updated: Jun 05, 2015 01:24 IST

Rewriting of history from the Vedic times onwards is a key issue on the agenda for Hindutva activist Dinanath Batra, who presides over the right-wing Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas.

“History books from the Vedic times onwards should be rewritten. There should be focus on the Vedas and the Gita. Our struggles, our victories and defeats, our achievements and failures should all be rewritten about so that we learn from our past,” he told HT in a conversation.

He said this would happen after the new education policy and the national curriculum framework come up next year. Batra has some recommendations for the new national education policy too, and has submitted a note to the HRD ministry days back. He wants a blend of spiritualism with science in the curriculum. “If you are not spiritual in your approach to science, you will make a bomb and kill. So, these two should be combined,” he said.

He also wants integration of ancient and modern knowledge: those who study Newton should also be made to study Aryabhatt. Batra said every subject should be revised in such a way that students develop pride in it. “The first chapter of every subject should deal with contribution of that subject to world civilisation,” he said.

“Each university should adopt 10 villages. And each senior secondary school should adopt one village or slum,” Batra said, adding that there should be a balance between theory and vocational training and that there should be an independent education commission and an independent Indian education service for the sector. “Give back to society even as you study. Channelise your youth power to transform the country,” he said.

o o o

Deccan Herald

When lotus blooms, history is bound to change
Prakash Kumar
, May 26, 2015

Stage is set to give a right-wing turn to the official writing of the history of India, with the reconstitution of the Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR) under the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led coalition government at the Centre. The Akhil Bharatiya Itihas Sankalan Yojna (ABISY), a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) subsidiary organisation founded in 1978-79 with the sole objective of rewriting Indian history from a “national perspective”, has now virtually taken over charge as at least four of its known office-bearers have been placed at key positions in the ICHR.

Yellapragada Sudershan Rao, a former professor of History at Kakatiya University (now in Telengana), was heading the Andhra Pradesh chapter of the ABISY before he was appointed chairperson of the Council by the Narendra Modi government last year.

While the controversy over Rao’s appointment is yet to settle down, the governing board of the Council was reconstituted in February this year and three more ABISY office-bearers, Narayan Rao, Ishwar Sharan Vishwakarma and Nikhilesh Guha, were inducted into it along with majority of other like-minded historians.

Uncomfortable with the new set up, eminent historian Sabyasachi Bhattacharya resigned as the chief editor of the ICHR’s journal, Indian Historical Review, last month, making it convenient for Rao to immediately handover the charge to newly inducted member of the governing board, Dilip K Chakrabarti. Chakrabarti, who is currently a professor at Cambridge University, was associated with the Delhi-based Vivekananda International Foundation in past. The RSS-linked think-tank has given the Modi government some of most significant and strategic appointees so far.

Meanwhile, the ICHR chairman also swiftly dissolved the journal’s advisory board to completely disassociate its members including Romila Thapar and other internationally acclaimed historians from the affairs of the Council.

The Council is now ready to execute its new mandate—to push research projects to reverse the Aryan invasion theory and rewrite ancient history of India in the light of Vedic texts and scriptures as well as Hindu epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata. “The kind of historians you have in organisations will give direction to the organisation. This is the policy. This is politics,” Thapar told Deccan Herald when her comments were sought on the reconstitution of the ICHR and disbanding of its journal’s advisory body.

Since the element of Hindutva ideology is prominent and central to the outlook of the BJP, a section of historians say, saffronisation of history, social sciences and finally education becomes an inevitable choice for the party when it is in power.

Last year, the BJP government in Gujarat sought to enforce the values of Indian epics on school students as a source of facts for subjects like history, geography and even science. Eight books, authored by right wing educationist Dinanath Batra and published by the Gujarat State School Textbook Board, were supplied to over 30,000 schools for compulsory reading at primary and secondary level, they pointed out.

“After all their (BJP’s) final plank is communalist programme. It’s not restricted to ICHR. They want to own mythology and communalise original history to influence everybody. They have a mandate,” eminent historian and former chairperson of council Irfan Habib said.

The ICHR chairman has “drawn” himself into study of Mahabharata to precisely fix the date of the “Great War”. Since archaeology has not come to rescue in previous such attempts by many, Rao is relying on astrological and astronomical data.

Allied sciences’ limitations

“History writing depends on various scientific disciplines like archaeological sciences, astronomy and geology. But, all these allied sciences have their own limitations. The modern social and historical theories could not decide the future developments as our present theories are based on a select data and human behaviour is unpredictable,” Rao said while addressing an international seminar in March. He also declared that historical research was not the “forte of professional historians” alone, suggesting that the “truth” coming even from a child should also be welcomed.

“Those great thinkers before the present genre have shown us many approaches to study history. Great thinkers like Karl Marx or Hegel are no less historians than the present. If prejudices are set aside, true history of human-kind will be possible,” Rao said. Referring to the original charter of the ICHR, however, Habib said the council’s mandate was to promote and undertake internationally accepted scientific method for historical research and maintain objectivity in such exercise,“So far, this was the case.

Now it appears, they (ICHR) want to re-construct history on mythological line,” Habib noted. Though the ICHR chairman is determined to push his agenda with his team in the council amid fears that school and higher education curriculum may get affected by such exercise, it may not be so easy for him to make drastic changes in the history of the country.

Historians, sitting on the other side of the fence, are ready to take the battle head on. “They may influence some people in academia but Indian historians are not bound by the ICHR’s diktat. The ICHR is just a body. They can make all kinds of declaration but they will have to come and debate the issues as India is a democracy. Only 30 per cent of Indian population has voted them (BJP) to power. Indian historians will continue to stand against every move to change country’s history,” Habib said.

Another noted historian D N Jha criticised the ICHR’s move, saying, “It would be the dark age in the modern history of India if the BJP-led NDA regime succeeds in its plan to destroy Indian history.”

P.S.

The above articles from Hindustan Times and The Deccan Herald are reproduced here for educational and non commercial use