March 16, 2014


R Arun Kumar

History Never Forgives AN advertisement recently on television suggests eating a candy pop to drive away your boredom while reading history. Busy man that he is, BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi might not have got the time to taste it. Otherwise, he would not have been publicly propagating his ignorance of history. It is our foolhardiness to expect expert lectures from one who is explicitly bored in reading history. After all, what interest does a person coming from an organisation that played no constructive role in the entire Indian history have, in studying the discipline? History, for many, is the mother of social sciences. For others like Modi, it is a collective memory that is best destroyed, if not forgotten. If not for history, how will Modi be viewed? Would we not believe all his self-projections and get swayed away by his oratory? If all of our collective memory is suddenly erased, wouldn't Modi be exonerated of the 2002 riots, simply because we do not have any conscious recording of that genocide he presided? History plays that role of the conscious keeper of the society, reminding us of who was what, what they are today and what they intend to be tomorrow. For persons with a murky past, history is an anathema. Facts, stated Von Ranke, a famous historian, are like fish on a fishmonger's slab. They are there to be picked up and interpreted. Modi might not be aware of Ranke or his theories, but he is adept at cooking up facts. Otherwise, how could he cook up the story of a 'vibrant Gujarat', a state where there is no illiteracy, no village without electricity, no village without road connectivity and what not. An expert cook that he is, one naturally expects him to choose his fish (facts) also carefully. But unfortunately for him, both his fish and dish are rotten. Modi promotes himself as the next Sardar Patel, the Iron Man (thank goodness that Modi did not confuse him with Robert Downey Jr of the Marvel comics movie triology, sporting the same name). As a mark of his profound respect to the man he idolises, he is building the world's tallest statue in his state. Rarely is a meeting addressed by Modi without a mention of Sardar Patel. So naturally one expects Modi to be well-informed, if not well-read about Sardar Patel. This, in fact, appears to be asking too much from Modi. Otherwise, how can he publicly denounce Nehru for not attending the funeral of Sardar? Remember, his 56-inch chest was puffing, speaking of this indignity to his idol. It is another matter that such a pumped up chest was punctured when some historian, true to profession, dug into records and proved Nehru's presence at the funeral of his esteemed colleague. Modi is not a small man, chest puffed or punctured. He traces his upbringing to that organisation which prides in the ancient history of our country. For them, it was a golden period. One cannot be blamed for expecting a rosy presentation of that history when one of the brightest of them (wasn't Modi selected by them as the one to lead the country on their behalf) speaks of that glorious period. “Taxila is in Bihar,” hunkared our learned orator, reminding the audience of their great past. Poor people who believed him, went on searching for that lost piece of land in their entire state with puffed up chests (of course not 56-inches). Others who did not have the energy, poured themselves over the maps, magnifying glasses in tow. Just as it took a small child to remind the emperor that he was not wearing any clothes, it fell upon the dotting children of those worried parents to inform that Taxila was in fact miles away – in Pakistan. It is nearer to Modi's Gujarat, than Bihar. It is really silly that every Gupta is not a Gupta belonging to the Gupta dynasty. If that is so, why should they be having Gupta in their names. And as if Gupta is not enough, why should both of them prefix the Gupta with a Chandra. Confusing? Poor Modiji, too was confused, when he was proudly reminding us of our heritage. For one who dislikes history, life should be simple and uncomplicated – Gupta should be a Gupta. As the advertisement mentioned earlier, states, 'history unfortunately cannot be changed'. So it remains that the first Chandragupta was a Maurya and is separated from the other Gupta of the Gupta dynasty by over 600 years! If names confuse so much, one is expected to remember at least those who are close to our heart. Rider is, if we have a heart! Modi, the great Hindu nationalist expressed his reverence to the founding patriarch of his party Shyama Prasad Mookherjee and reminded the audience of the demised leader’s unfulfilled last wish: “Shyama Prasad Mookerjee was a revolutionist. He died in 1930. His last wish was that his ashes should be brought to India after independence and till then it was in Geneva”. Poor Mr Mookherjee lived 23 years after Modi declared him dead and moreover, not abroad, but in India. Someone sitting by him, gathered the courage to point the blooper, which forced Modi to state that he was indeed referring to Shyamaji Krishna Varma and not Mookherjee. See how dangerous it is to share names – we will be killed before our death and buried at place unknown to us. One should be forgiving Modi for all these bloopers, because (with all due apologies to his teachers) this might be what he was taught. A look at what the children in Gujarat are being taught will certainly give us such ideas. Sample some of these from the Social Science English medium textbook for Standard 8, published by the Gujarat Council of Educational Research and Training (GCERT): 1) Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated on October 31, 1948, instead of January 30, 1948. 2) The Home Rule movement, an important landmark in the struggle for our country’s freedom, started after independence in 1961, instead of 1916. 3) Japan dropped nuclear weapons on the US during World War II and not the other way round. Pray for the children of Gujarat! They need all our blessings and strength to digest such facts (fish). Poor Ranke might not have known that one day the world will be inhabited by such people, who not only cook fish to their taste, but sell snakes as fish! Distorting facts is indeed an art that is perfected by Modi and his ilk. They tried it once, during their stint at the centre. Now, even before elections were declared, a former president of the BJP, the party with a 'difference', announced that changing textbooks and re-writing history will be again given due importance by their government (visualising their electoral victory). If only that happens, we will not be quoting facts to correct Modi, but instead, will be correcting facts as dictated by Modi. One can forget history, but history doesn't forget anyone and is quite unforgiving. History cannot be changed, but can be created. History has in its pages, both Gandhi and Godse. Similarly it also has Stalin and Hitler...a hero and a villain. History is unbiased in recording and reminding us of both sets of people. Indian version of Hitler had already announced his arrival. Waiting for his antidote and the heroic Red Army...