“Social progress can be measured by the social position of the female sex” - Karl Marx


State Power's Attempts at Rewriting History

There is one thing unique about the present dispensation holding reins of power at the Centre. What one witnesses that the cabinet ministers-who go by the principle of collective responsibility-follow the dictum in letter and spirit. Thus, it is not considered unusual when a minister holding X portfolio shares their opinion about an urgent issue before Y ministry and vice versa. This process has been so normalised that when recently Home Minister Amit Shah, who according to his followers is the new 'Iron Man' of India-thanks to the abrogation of Article 370-shared his views on need for 'rewriting history', no eyebrows were raised.  

No commentator even asked why the home minister-a graduate in bio-chemistry who has also worked as a stockbroker and in co-operative banks [Sheela Bhatt, "What Amit Shah's fall really means", July 28, 2010]-was found the most apt person to inaugurate a two-day seminar on a subject of history at Banaras Hindu University where he shared his pearls of wisdom. His emphasis was that Indian historians should "rewrite history from an Indian perspective". The focus of the seminar was on Skandagupta Vikramaditya, the fifth-century AD emperor.  

Interestingly, it appeared a bit strange that, while talking about 'rewriting history' or sharing his utter disdain for 'leftist' history or presenting Hindu Rashtra proponent Vinayak Damodar Savarkar as an exemplar before scholars, Amit Shah exhibited complete amnesia about earlier attempts in this direction.  

Was the silence so inadvertent?  

Remember, it has been more than two decades since the first Bharatiya Janata Party-led government assumed reins of power at the Centre when Prof Murli Manohar Joshi handled the Human Resources Development portfolio. He sort of pioneered the attempts to 'Indianise' history. Taking a cue from the then Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh Supremo KS Sudarshan's exhortation about weeding out "anti-Hindu Euro-Indians" from the curriculum, feverish attempts then gained momentum to remake educational curriculum in Hindutva's own exclusivist image. Stalling of the Indian Council of Historical Research project 'Towards Freedom' in 1999, which was edited by noted scholars like Sumit Sarkar and K N Panikkar-as it contained enough documentary evidence about RSS and Hindu Mahasabha's compromising role during anti-colonial struggle-happened to be a significant moment of this 'Indianisation'.  

One can recall how in the year 2001, the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) decided to delete passages from prescribed textbooks on the ground that they allegedly hurt the sentiments of this or that religious sect or community. A delegation had met Joshi and had demanded that the editors of these textbooks-all of them renowned scholars of the subject-namely Professors Romila Thapar, R S Sharma and others should be put behind bars, and Joshi had no qualms in admitting that 'academic terrorists' are more dangerous than armed ones.  

The focus of this 'rewriting' was basically to "[p]rove that Hindu culture was autochthonous to India and that since its origins were connected with the Aryans, the Aryans, too were indigenous to the subcontinent: that the Vedas were composed around 9,000 BCE and the Mahabharata battles were fought in 2,000 BCE, and so on." (The Making of India : Political History, Routledge, p. 334). New courses such as Vedic Mathematics and Vedic Astrology were also introduced to project greater glory of Hinduism.  

The net effect of this project of 'Indianising' education was definitely not very encouraging. By the brute use of state power, it could stop few publications financed by the University Grants Commission or was 'successful' in deleting passages here and there, appoint its own 'scholars' at various posts, etc.  

What the saffrons, however, had not expected was that their haphazard efforts would invite criticism from their own members as well.  

Prof M L Sondhi, who was a former member of the BJP's national executive committee and headed the Indian Council of Social Science Research, had then strongly criticised his own government's approach towards education. He had said that the country's premier research bodies were being coerced into "radically changing their courses" or "forced into intellectual obscurantism".  

As expected, BJP's move did galvanise not only historians but scholars of other social science disciplines too. Perhaps, it was a reflection of this broad-based unity among scholars and teachers that, with the BJP-led government's exit from the levers of power in the 2004 and UPA's taking hold of its reins, one of its key agenda in the field of education became 'detoxifying' it.  

With the return to power of the BJP in the year 2014, the country was subjected to the second edition of this 'rewriting' history.  

One could say that Prime Minister Modi himself initiated this trend in a rather unique way by delivering a speech which was a cocktail of mythology and history. The occasion was the inauguration of a hospital started by Ambani foundation. He told the doctors gathered there that "many discoveries of modern science and technology were known to the people of ancient India." The mythological figure Karna and the Hindu god, Ganesha, Modi had said, were creations of cosmetic surgery and reproductive genetics "used thousands of years ago".  

The appointment of Prof Y Sudershan Rao, at Kakatiya University, as Chairman of the prestigious Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) could be underlined as a major step taken by the first Modi government at the Centre for its project of rewriting history. Unfamiliar to most historians, wirh little visibility of his research, Prof Rao's appointment had raised quite a furore among academics.  

What had prompted his appointment to the top post who had at 'best published popular articles on the historicity of the Indian epics but not in any peer-reviewed journal' was his long association with with the Bharatiya Itihasa Sankalan Samithi (BISS) founded by P N Oak, a soldier and a writer (1917-2007) who can be described as a fringe Hindu-centric historical negationist. Oak maintained that modern secular and Marxist historians have fabricated "idealised versions" of India's past and drained it of its "Vedic context and content". And he went on propagating his ideas writing articles, publishing books and also initiating the work of 'collecting local history' by forming BISS, which also used to bring out a journal in the 1980s.  

While Oak's weird theories like 'Christianity and Islam being both derivatives of Hinduism' or 'Like Taj Mahal, Catholic Vatican, Kaaba, Westminster Abbey were once Hindu temples to Shiva' or 'Vatican being originally a Vedic creation called Vatika and that the Papacy was also originally a Vedic Priesthood' or his complete denial of Islamic architecture in India could not find any takers in the mainstream and in fact were rejected in academia, they gathered a popular following in the Hindu Right which is still in search of a grand theory to further its agenda. It should also be noted that Oak had even petitioned the Supreme Court to rewrite the history of Taj Mahal as being built by a Hindu King during NDA's first stint of power at the Centre. Perhaps, the then conducive political atmosphere might have prompted him to gain further legitimacy but he was sadly mistaken. A two-member division bench of the Supreme Court dismissed the 'misconceived' petition with these remarks 'Somebody has a bee in his bonnet, hence this petition'.  

Any individual can spot the weirdness of Oak's theories but a cursory glance at Modi's first regime makes it evident how various leaders of the saffron party echoed Oak's 'theories' on different occasions underlining the respect he still enjoys among them.  

As one can see, like their top leaders who mix mythology and history with ease, it is rather difficult to communicate to a saffron activist on the ground that history writing is different from storytelling. With the use of state power, they can as well ask a school board to make changes in history to suit one's ego or community, but truth based on available resources would continue to haunt them. For example, merely two years back, the Rajasthan Board of Secondary Education approved a change in the history section of Class X social science books about Maharana Pratap's conclusive victory over Akbar in the Battle of Haldighati. It is a different matter that all available sources tell us that Mughals were the victors.  

Mr Amit Shah fails to understand that one has to have an understanding of historiography which is basically developing a method to discern the past. In the absence of any such theory, what can happen is that anyone can box in such grand theories.  

James Mill wrote History of British India almost 200 years back, wherein he periodised Indian history into three periods - Hindu civilisation, Muslim civilisation and the British period. These were accepted largely without question and we have lived with this periodisation for the whole period. As mentioned by this author before, "In the Hindutva version this periodisation remains, only the colours have changed: the Hindu period is the golden age, the Muslim period the black, dark age of tyranny and oppression, and the colonial period is a grey age almost of marginal importance compared to the earlier two."  

Is Hindutva fine with this association?      


  • The Taj That is India
  • The BJP and Triple Talaq
  • Rohingya: A People Condemned!
  • 9 Key Qs Raised on First Day of Aadhaar Hearing in the Supreme Court
  • A Critical Analysis of Delhi's Human Development Index
  • 3 Army Divisions For 300 Terrorists In JK But No End to Violence: Certainly the Answer Does Not Lie in Force
  • 'It is Not the Left But the Congress That's the B-Team of the BJP'
  • Kasganj: A Story of People's Unity Fractured by Engineered Hate and Violence
  • Invisible Children Of Delhi
  • India 81 in Corruption Index, Amongst the "Worst Offenders"
  • Economists Hit Out Against Move to Privatise Public Sectors Banks
  • Tripura Trades Decency For False Eldorado
  • Syria's Bloody War
  • Pakistan And China Fill Space In Maldives Willfully Vacated By India
  • The Big Private Crop Insurance Scam: Farmers Par Premium of Rs 482, Receive Rs 5 as Insurance!
  • US Attack on Syria Violates International Law, Total Hypocrisy
  • Death Penalty Is Not The Answer To Sexual Violence: Implement Justice Verma Committee Report
  • Walls on Every Side: Trying to Get Data in India
  • The Ascent of Multi-Politics In Malaysia
  • Why the Objections to Marxism are Mistaken
  • The Rise and Fall of the Malaysian Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim
  • BDS Has Placed Israel on Notice
  • Can We Promote Peace in India, Today?
  • Burying The Two-State Solution
  • Corruption And Class Rule
  • Is Ethnic Cleansing Coming to India
  • Our Real Heroes
  • Confronting Journalism's Misogynistic Trolls
  • After 17 Years of War, A Peace Movement Grows in Afghanistan
  • Taking Play Seriously: Time to Make Sports A Fundamental Right!
  • Law Commission Publishes Consultation Paper on Sedition
  • Foreign Policy: Between Folly and Foibles
  • Suu Kyi's Continued Denial And Bangladesh's
  • Economy Crumbles as Fuel Prices Skyrocket, Household Budgets Hit
  • Rupee's New Low: A Dangerous Drift
  • Are We Still Ruled by The British?
  • From Anti-National to Urban Naxal: The Trajectory of Dissent in India
  • Learning the Power of Lies: Facts vs. Falsehoods in the Age of Trump
  • The Indian Economy is in a Tailspin
  • China Walks a Tightrope on The Uighur Muslim Issue
  • Is Ram Mandir a Mere Election Strategy of the BJP?
  • The Harsher Counters of India's Drug Legislations
  • BJP's Election Strategy: Data is the New Opium
  • Geographical Indication - India's Untapped Resource
  • Climate Change to Make Prediction of Furious Storms More Difficult
  • Mountain echoes for India
  • Maldives: Has the Wheel Turned Full Circle?
  • President Sirisena Needs to be Reached Sooner Rather Than Later
  • Plastic Pollution in India
  • Prejudice by Any Name
  • 29 Years After Fall of Berlin Wall, Europe Has 1,000 Km of Walls to Stop Migrants
  • The Leftover Women of Afghanistan
  • Harmony of Music and Politics of Silencing
  • The Economics of Policy: Prohibition and Free Water Supply
  • Threat to Democracy in the Age of Social or Anti-Social Media
  • Intellectual Property- A Vital Discipline
  • What Happened in Britain, and What's Next
  • Assembly Debacle: BJP Got Taken in by Its Own Fake News
  • India: Secular Democracy or Hindu Rashtra
  • Adani is Byword for Government's Climate Inaction as Australia Gears for Elections
  • How The Modi Government is Killing Off MGNREGS
  • The Year of the Gazan
  • Assembly Polls: Ten Crucial Takeaways Ahead of 2019
  • The Real Effects of Fake Propaganda on Migrants
  • Why NGOs in Pakistan Are at The Brink of Extinction
  • Dogged by Brexit
  • In My Own Voice: Citizenship Amendment Bill And You
  • Oil Giant Shell Finally Faces Its Day In Court For Complicity In Rapes And Murders in Nigeria
  • The Geopolitics of Pulwama
  • Shah Faesal Cuts Through Calls for Blood and Lays Out a Roadmap for Kashmir
  • Modi's ABC: Avoiding, Burying, Confusing
  • The Kashmir Question: A 'Made in India' Problem
  • Opposition Must Take a Stand Against the War Politics of Hindutva
  • 'Patriotism' Made Easy in Times of 'WhatsApp Elections'
  • Urban Poor Have Set Agenda for 2019 Elections
  • Will the US End Up Putting Sanctions on Every Country That Doesn't Bend to its Will?
  • Minority and Indigenous Women Human Rights Activists More Prone to Harassment UN Report
  • Tribute to Speaker Rabi Ray (1926-2017)
  • International Participation is Necessary Where State is Part of The Problem
  • Italy Takes Belt and Road to The Heart of Europe
  • The Legacy of Shaheed-e-Azam
  • In My Own Voice: Heroes or Hiroshima
  • The Modi Years
  • Election in Israel: A Race to the Bottom
  • Why Bangladesh Overtook Pakistan
  • Digital Monopoly Platforms, Modi Regime and Threat to Our Democracy
  • Elitism and Development
  • Jawaharlal Nehru and Organised Religion
  • A Brief History of the IUML and Kerla's Muslims
  • The Immunisation of Human Rights
  • How Can India Win The Struggle on Poverty?
  • The RSS's Chanakya Neeti
  • Diversity, Belonging and Multiculturalism
  • The Chinese Ambition
  • The Role City Govts Can Play in the Health of Citizens
  • Dr. Saifuddin Kitchlew: Forgotten Warrior of Our Freedom Movement
  • Fighting Climate Change, Building Resilience
  • Mridula Sarabhai(the orignal anti-national)
  • Right to Education: A Dream Half Forgotten
  • Decoding One Nation One Poll
  • Tunisia Heads for Polls Amidst Economic Slowdown, Squsbbling and Crack Down on Islamic Extremist
  • Lynchings, Litchis and No Water: What the International Media is Saying Abount India
  • Blood in the Nile
  • Will the BNP Ever Again be a Major Political Force in Bangladesh?
  • 'Real Estate Brokers' Cannot Dampen The Palestinian Spirit
  • The Indian Liberal's Conundrum
  • Hope For Democracy in Sudan
  • In Depth: Water Crisis Looming Across Tamil Nadu
  • Missing Secularism in New Education Policy
  • Religion, Nationalism And Insurgency in Balochistan
  • Dim Lights, Closed Blinds: History Lessons From a Party in Power
  • Loan Waivers Need Better Designing to Prevent Farmer Suicides
  • Makimg Best Use of Sri Lanka's Strategic Location
  • FDI in Coal: Look Who's Coming to the Party
  • Weapons and the Never Ending Space Race
  • Thirty Years the Berlin Wall Brought Down
  • Reclaiming the Opposition and Political Space in India
  • An Interreligious Conference to Build Bridges in Sri Lanka
  • On 'Correcting' History and Akbar's Invasion of Kashmir
  • The Evolution of the 'Nobel Prize' in Economics
  • Close Coordination Between Turkey and Russia in Syria
  • Sri Lanka's Election Time Promises Costly to Keep
  • The India Economy and The Cobra Effect
  • Fascism: Is Liberal Use "Trivialising" This "Destructive Phenomenon?"
  • Treating the Poor as Development Guinea Pigs
  • A Not sp 'National Education Policy: Analysis Reveals Exclusion in Education Sector
  • University Fee Hikes Pave the Way for Selling Public Assets
  • The Truth About Middle Class 'Revolutions?
  • 50 Years of US Arms Trade: The Lasting Impact on West Asia
  • India Abjures Secularism in Bangladesh's View, Will Regional Cooperation Take a Hit?
  • Amidist Resistance to "De-Tribalisation", A Look at Why Jharkhand Polls are More Critical Than They Appear
  • The Dangerous Game of Citizenship: BJP Creates Divisive Agenda Through NRC
  • Revealed: US Losing Aghan War Due to "Fatally Flawed" War Strategies and Lack of Clear Objetives
  • 'Politics and Prejudice': Can Dalit-Bahujans and left Progressives Join Hands?
  • State Power's Attempts at Rewriting History
  • Afghanista's Tumultous Fourty-Year Journey
  • Nepal: Citizen's Needs Remain Sidelined as Turbulent Game of Politics Continues
  • "Enough is Enough": Secular India Revolts Against a " Majoritarian State"
  • Looking at Cuba's Revolution 61 Years On
  • Soleimani Murder Set to Spiral Out of Control, US Expected to Pressure India Under LEMOA
  • The Rise of Digital Media and The Viral Phenomenon of "Nowledge"
  • Thus Spake JP: Beware the Writing on the Wall
  • Sri Lankan Government Must Pay Attention to Problem-Solving in the North
  • Drowning Nation Clutches at Military Might?
  • India's Neighbourhood First Policy Crumbles
  • A Gobal Assault by the Far-Right
  • Delhi Riots: Historical Patterns, Complicity of Forces Point to Planned Violence
  • Behind The Protests Defending Public Education
  • Putting The Judiciary on Trial
  • "Sanctions Are a Crime": During Coronavirus Pandemic, Sanctions Against Iran, Venezuela Causing Medical Shortages
  • Social Messiahs or Smart Entrepreneurs?
  • Justice Gogoi Joining Rajya Sabha Points to a Constitutional Crisis
  • A Russian "Plays Long Game" Firewall for Venezuela Against US Sanctions
  • RSS and the Question of Morality
  • Establishing COVID-19 Hospitals in Record Time
  • A New "Medical Internationalism" Needed: Cuba At the Pandemic Frontlines Even As Wealthy States Neglect Healthcare
  • Why They Suffer: The Human/Animal Conflict
  • More Books and Snowy Mornings
  • Statesmanship Required to Avert Constitutinal Crisis in Sri Lanka
  • Combating 'Hate Virus': Communal Forces Divide in times of Global Pandemin
  • How Biometric Authentication Has Excluded MAny From The Public Distribution System
  • Lessons From Iraq: Before Trump Sues China, US Must pay for Unjust War on Iraq
  • The American War System And The Global 'War of Error'
  • Demilitarising Patriotism in The Covid Fight
  • Muslims Need a Fair Media
  • Sri-Lanka: Shock of Covid-19 Wanes, Nationalist Sentiments Rise as Elections Approach
  • Covid-19 in Brazil: A 21st Century 'Reenactment' of the 19th Century Yellow Fever?
  • Iran's Fuel Tankers for Venezuela Sail to Safety Under 'Chinese Shield'
  • US Protests Bear Lessons For Sri Lanka
  • India and Nepal in For A Prolonged Standoff?
  • The Fifth Schedule: Tribal Advisory Councils and International Perspectives
  • The Asian American Response to Pandemic-Era Racism Must Be Cross-Racial Solidarity
  • Is Police Brutality Exclusive to the USA?
  • Libya's Future Seema to Rest on Arrangements Between Russia And Turkey
  • China's strategic Mind And Method: "Long-Term Planning" Behind Country's Geo-Political Moves
  • Returning Migrants: A Boon For Rural Industrialisation?
  • Why Refugees in Greece Are Afraid of the Word 'Camp'''
  • Black Lives Matter Movement And Its Lessons For India
  • US Provocations Trigger Tension in Sino-American Relations
  • Inclusive Representation Required In Sri Lanka's Decision-Making Bodies
  • Humanists At Risk: Demonising Dissent, Infantilising Society