July 13, 2014

Defeat Attempts to Rewrite Indian History

AS we go to press, the Rajya Sabha on July 9 witnessed a furor following the raising of a news item (by the CPI(M) deputy leader in the House) that appeared in the media concerning the destruction of a large number of files containing historical records by the home ministry. On June 23, the PTI filed a report informing that, “On the direction of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Union Home Ministry is on a cleanliness drive and, in less than a month, has destroyed nearly 1.5 lakh files …” It further noted, “While going through the steel almirahs of North Block, officials also found some interesting files which gave an insight into some historic moments”. Amongst many interesting such moments was, “Another file (which had) details about the Cabinet meeting that was called before the death of Mahatma Gandhi was announced, an official said”. Those who recollect history will remember that the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi had shocked the nation. A benumbed political leadership and the government were at a loss on how this news must be announced to the people of the country and to the world. The then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru called a cabinet meeting to decide on this matter. After deliberations, it was decided that the prime minister himself will announce the tragic news of the assassination in an address to the nation through the All India Radio. That was the famous speech that is remembered by all subsequent generations till date – a speech that began, “A light has gone out from our lives…” Barring the BJP, the entire parliament rose to associate itself with the mention made by the CPI(M) of this news report demanding to know the truth from the government. Though the government denied this particular news report, it was clear that there remain very strong apprehensions that this BJP-led NDA government of Narendra Modi has begun its tenure by seriously attempting to rewrite Indian history. Apart from trying to erase from official record, any evidence pertaining to the role of the RSS or its members, both active and former then, in the Mahatma’s assassination, such efforts as these is a clear effort by the RSS/BJP to advance its ideological political project of converting the secular-democratic character of the Indian Republic into the RSS vision of a rabidly intolerant fascistic `Hindu Rashtra’. This RSS project was defeated during the freedom struggle when independent India established itself as a constitutional republic on the foundations of secularism and democracy. This, however, has never prevented the RSS from continuing to pursue its efforts to metamorphose the modern Indian republic into its vision of a `Hindu Rashtra’. Having won a clear majority in the 2014 elections, albeit with a minority 31 per cent support of the polled vote, the RSS/BJP see the best possibility they ever had to advance their project to metamorphose the Indian republic. The earlier BJP-led NDA government of Atal Behari Vajpayee suffered from coalition compulsions that forced it with to put its hardcore Hindutva agenda on the backburner. On this occasion, they appear to feel confident to pursue their project unhindered. The pursuit of this objective, amongst others like sharpening communal polarisation, requires a major re-writing of history. Media reports (June 24, 2013 HT) that a former BJP president spoke of changing textbook syllabi, when they come to power at the centre: “We tried to do this earlier too and will try it again”. Now they see the opportunity to return back to the RSS basics. It is necessary to recollect that, on the basis of the decisions taken at that very cabinet meeting whose records, we are now informed, have been destroyed, it was Sardar Patel, then home and deputy prime minister, who banned the RSS following the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. A government communiqué dated February 4, 1948, drafted by Sardar Patel, announcing the ban on the RSS says: “The objectionable and harmful activities of the Sangh have, however, continued unabated and the cult of violence sponsored and inspired by the activities of the Sangh has claimed many victims. The latest and the most precious to fall was Gandhiji himself”. Mahatma’s private secretary, Pyarelal, in his book Mahatma Gandhi: The Last Phase’ recollects: “A letter which Sardar Patel received after the assassination from a young man, who according to his own statement had been gulled into joining the RSS organisation but was later disillusioned, described how members of the RSS at some places had been instructed beforehand to tune in their radio sets on the fateful Friday for the `good news’. After the news, sweets were distributed in RSS circles at several places, including Delhi.” (p. 756) It is this historical record of the RSS and its today’s political arm, the BJP, which is sought to be destroyed by this Narendra Modi government. This is part of the overall project of rewriting Indian history in order to negate its rich diversity of intermingling of various cultures, traditions and experiences that have defined the lands of India as the churning crucible of human civilisational advance. It is part of the overall objective to straightjacket Indian history into a monolithic record of the glorification of the “Hindu nation” and “Hindus alone”. Such an effort will necessarily have as its immediate corollary a large-scale effort to change our entire educational system to dovetail the advancement of the RSS project. This is an imminent danger that all patriotic Indians will have to rise together to resist and defeat. This RSS/BJP/Narendra Modi government has, thus, sounded one of its diabolic bugles. It is time for all patriotic Indians who cherish the rich diversity and plurality that constitutes our great country to defend and further enrich the `idea of India’. (July 9, 2014)