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Friday, May 18, 2012

HINDU TEMPLES - WHAT HAPPENED TO THEM -2

HINDU TEMPLES - WHAT HAPPENED TO THEM -2



Chapter Six
Historians Versus History 
Ram Swarup


Wole Soyinka, African Nobel Laureate, delivering the 20th Nehru Memorial Lecture on November 13, 1988, made an important though by no means a new observation - that the colonial histories have been written from the European viewpoint.  Speaking about Indian histories, he said that “there is a big question mark on everything that the British historians have written”.  He added that serious efforts are being made by historians back home “to rewrite African history.”

We do not know what this project involves and how it is faring in Africa, but in India efforts in this direction have yielded meagre results.  Not that there has been a dearth of rewriters, but their talent has not been equal to their zeal.

The phrase “re-writing of history” leaves a bad taste in the mouth and it is offensive to our sense of truth.  Recent instances of rewriting have not helped to improve the image of the task and they inspired little confidence.  In most cases one did not know where legitimate rewriting ended and forgery began.  In practical terms, it has meant that history is written to support the latest party line, or the latest dictator.

What does, therefore, the rewriting of history mean? How far can we go in that direction? Does it mean saying good-bye to all sense of truth and objectivity, or does it mean only restoring some neglected truths and perspective? Some have looked at our present through the eyes of the past, but will it be any better to look at our past through the eyes of the present, or even go further and write about our past and present-in the spirit of “socialist realism”-in terms of the future, in terms of tasks conceived and planned by our avante garde for the future of the country?

There are other related questions.  Is the European history of Asia and Africa all wrong and does it need wholesale replacement? Or does it also have some valuable elements, particularly in its methodology if not in its conclusions, which should be retained and even further developed? In the Indian context, is the British history of India monolithic, all painted black by motivated historians? Or, is it also pluralistic and contains many views, some of them highly appreciative of the country’s culture, philosophy and artistic creations?

And also, looked at objectively, apart from the intentions of the writers and even in spite of their jaundiced views, have not their histories sometimes helped us to become better aware of our past and made us in some ways rediscover ourselves in the limited sense in which the words ‘past’ and ‘rediscovery’ are understood today?

To hold that all British history of India was wrong will be highly unrealistic and will have few buyers.  True, many British, historians were prejudiced.  But there were also others who had genuine curiosity and in spite of their pre-conceived notions, they tried to do their job faithfully in the spirit of objectivity.  In the pursuit of their researches, they applied methods followed in Europe.  They collected, collated and compared old manuscripts.  They desciphered old, forgotten scripts and in the process discovered an important segment of our past.  They developed linguistics, archaeology, carbon-dating, numismatics; they found for us ample evidence of India in Asia.  They discovered for us much new data, local and international.  True, many times they tried to twist this data and put fanciful constructions on it, but this new respect for facts imposed its own discipline and tended to evolve objective criteria.  Because of the objective nature of the criteria, their findings did not always support their prejudices and preconceived notions.  For example, their data proved that India represented an ancient culture with remarkable continuity and widespread influence and that it had a long and well-established tradition of self-rule and self-governing republics, and free institutions and free discussion.

However, while admitting these positive factors, it is also true that the British historians distorted Indian history on some most essential points.  The distortion was not conscious but was unconscious; however, it was not less real and potent on that account.

British Historians

The mind of British scholars was shaped by their position as rulers of a fast-expanding Empire and by its need to consolidate itself ideologically and politically.  As rulers, they felt a new racial and cultural superiority and, reinforced by their religion, developed a strong conviction of their civilizing mission.  Many of them also felt a great urge to bring the blessings of Christian morals and a Christian God to a benighted paganhood, as long as the attempt did not endanger the Empire.

The rulers had also more palpable political needs.  The subject people should have no higher notion of their past beyond their present status, which they should also learn to accept without murmur and even with thankfulness.  The British rulers had an interest in telling the Indian people that the latter had never been a nation but a conglomerate of miscellaneous people drawn from diverse sources and informed by no principle of unity; that their history had been an history of invaders and conquerors and that they had never known indigenous rule; and that, indeed, they were indifferent to self-rule and that so long as their village-life was intact, they did not bother who ruled at the Centre. All these lessons were tirelessly taught and dutifully learnt, so much so that even after the British have left, these assumptions and categories still shape our larger political thinking and historical perspective.  That India is multi-racial, multi-national, multi-linguistic, multi-cultural painfully trying to acquire a principle of unity under their aegis is also the assumption of our own new leaders and elite.

These were the basic attitudes and unspoken interests that shaped the minds of the British historians, but within this framework there was room enough for individual preferences and temperamental peculiarities.  Some of them could show their genuine appreciation for Hindu language, grammar, architecture, and other, cultural achievements, but this appreciation would not go beyond a certain point, nor in a direction which began to feed the people's wider national consciousness and pride in themselves as an ancient nation.  In this respect too, our intellectual elite follow the lead of the British scholars.  Many of them-unless they are Marxists or Macaulayists - are not without a measure of appreciation and pride for some of our old cultural creations.  But this appreciation does not extend to that larger culture itself which put forth those creations, and that religion and spirit in which that culture was rooted and those people and that society which upheld that religion and that culture.

We are told that the British highlighted Hindu-Muslim differences.  They certainly did.  But they had no interest in telling the Indians that their forefathers shared a common religion, that some of them got converted under peculiar circumstances, that those circumstances were no longer valid, and that they should not lose their consciousness of their original and wider fold.  On the other hand, the way the British wrote their history perpetuated the myth of a Muslim rule and a Muslim period which could not but accentuate Hindu-Muslim differences and promote Muslim separatism.

The main interest of the British was to write a history which justified their presence in India.  They were imperial rulers and by their situation and function they felt a bond of sympathy and affinity with the rulers that had preceded them.  They held India by the right of conquest; therefore, they had to recognise the legitimacy of this right in the case of the Moghuls, the Afghans and the Arabs too.

But this justification was too crude and naked for the British conscience.  To assuage it, the British offered a legal and moral alibi.  They held that they were legitimate successors of the Moghuls and represented continuity with India’s past.  The Moghuls were presented as empire builders, those who united India and gave it law and order, peace and stability - the natural blessings of an Imperial order.  And the British themselves were merely the successors of the Imperial rights of the Moghuls and upheld the Imperial authority of Delhi.  Whatever elevated Moghul authority at Delhi, elevated their imperial authority too.

Facts sometimes compelled the British historians to speak of cruelties and vandalism of the Muslim rule but this did not stop them from upholding its authority.  For they knew that the myth of Imperialism is one and that the glory of the Moghul rulers and the myth of their invincibility added to the glory and the myth of the British Empire itself.

Thus all these factors made the British give a new boost to the Muslim rule in India. While trying to legitimise their own rule, they also gave to their predecessor a kind of legitimacy which they never had in the eyes of the Indian people.  In fact, in the larger national consciousness, the Muslim rule had as little legitimacy as the British rule had later on.  Both were considered as foreign impositions and resisted as such as far as time, opportunity and the prevailing power equation allowed it.

But by the same token and for the same reason this resistance, long and stubborn, was underplayed by British historians and presented as “revolts” or “rebellions” against the legitimate Imperial authority of the Centre.  They felt, and quite rightly from their viewpoint, that Indian history should have nothing to show that its people waged many battles and repulsed many invaders.  Thus, in this way, India came to have a history which is the history of its invaders, whose dominion its people accepted meekly.

Muslim Historians

Even before the British came on the stage, Muslim historians had written similar histories.  Those histories were mostly annals written by scribes or munshis employed by Muslim kings.  The task of these annalists was to glorify Islam and their immediate patrons, a task which they performed with great zeal and rhetoric.  In the performance of this task, they resorted to no moral or intellectual disguise.  The glory of Islam and the extension of Darul-Islam (the Muslim equivalent of the British “Empire”) was self-justified and needed no artificial props.  They spoke of the massacres of the infidels, of their forcible conversions, of their temples raced and of similar tyrannies perpetrated with great rejoice, as Sir H.M. Elliot points out.

“Hindu” Historians

The results were no better when the annalist employed happened to be a Hindu.  Elliot again observes that from “one of that nation we might have expected to have learnt what were the feelings, hopes, faiths, fears, and yearnings, of his subject race,” but this was not to be.  On the other hand, in his writing, there is “nothing to betray his religion or his nation… With him, a Hindu is an ‘infidel’, and a Muhammadan ‘one of true faith’,… With him, when Hindus are killed, ‘their souls are despatched to hell’, and when a Muhammadan suffers the same fate, he ‘drinks the cup of martyrdom’… He speaks of the ‘light of Islam shedding its refulgence on the world’.”

But what comes next intrigues Elliot even more.  Even after the tyrant was no more and the falsification of history through terror was no longer necessary (Elliot quotes Tacitus : Teberii ac Neronis res ob metum falsae), he finds that there is still “not one of this slavish crew who treats the history of his native country subjectively, or presents us with the thoughts, emotions, and raptures which a long oppressed race might be supposed to give vent to.”

This tribe of Hindu munshis or the “slavish crew” of Elliot have a long life and show a remarkable continuity.  Instead of diminishing, their number has multiplied with time.  Today, they dominate the universities, the media and the country’s political thinking.

They were reinforced by another set of historians - those who carry the British tradition.  One very important thing in common with them is that they continue to look at India through the eyes of Muslim and British rulers even long after their rule has ceased.

Elliot regards the problem with moral indignation but the phenomenon involves deep psychological and sociological factors.  It is more complex than the question of patronage enjoyed or tyranny withdrawn.

Hindus have lived under very trying circumstances for many centuries and during this time their psyche suffered much damage.  Short term tyranny may prove a challenge but long-term, sustained tyranny tends to benumb and dehumanize.  Under continued military and ideological attack, many Hindus lost initiative and originality; they lost naturalness and self-confidence; they lost pride in themselves, pride in their past and in their history and in their nation.  They learnt to live a sort of underground life, furtively and apologetically.  Some tried to save their self-respect by identifying themselves with the thoughts and sentiments of the rulers.  They even adopted the rulers’ contempt for their own people.

These attitudes imbibed over a long period have become our second nature, and they have acquired an independence and dynamism of their own.  We have begun to look at ourselves through the eyes of our rulers.

Post-Independence Period

One would have thought that all this would change after we attained Independence, but this did not happen.  It shows that to throw off an intellectual and cultural yoke is far more difficult than to throw off a political yoke.

By and large we have retained our old history written by our rulers.  The leaders of the nationalist movement are quite content with it, except that they have added to it one more chapter at the end which depicts them in a super-heroic role.  The new leaders have no greater vision of Indian history and they look forward to no greater task than to perpetuate themselves.

In fact they have developed a vested interest in old history which propagates that India was never a nation, that it had not known any freedom or freedom-struggle in the past.  By sheer contrast, it exalts their role and proves something they would like to believe - that they are the first nation-builders, that they led the first freedom struggle India has ever known and, indeed, she became free for the first time under their aegis.  This highly flatters their ego, and to give themselves this unique status we find that their attacks on India’s past are as vicious and ignorant as those of the British and Muslim historians.  No wonder histories continue to be written with all the contempt we learnt to feel for our past, and with all the lack of understanding we developed for our culture during the days of foreign domination.

A new source of distortion was opened during the period of the freedom struggle itself.  Nationalist leaders strove to win Muslim support for the Independence struggle.  In the hope of achieving this end, Indian nationalism itself began to rewrite the history of medieval times.  Under this motivation, Muslim rule became ‘indigenous’, and Muslim kings became ‘national’ kings, and even nationalists, those who fought them began to receive a low score.  R.C. Mojumdar tells us how, under this motivation, national leaders created an “imaginary history”, one of them even proclaiming that “Hindus were not at all a subject race during the Muslim rule,” and how “these absurd notions, which would have been laughed at by Indian leaders at the beginning of the 19th century, passed current as history… at the end of that century”.

Marxist Distortions

Marxists have taken to rewriting Indian history on a large scale and it has meant its systematic falsification.  They have a dogmatic view of history and for them the use of any history is to prove their dogma.  Their very approach is hurtful to truth.  But this is a large subject and we would not go into it here, even though it is related intimately to the subject under discussion.

The Marxists’ contempt for India, particularly the India of religion, culture and philosophy, is deep and theoretically fortified.  It exceeds the contempt ever shown by the most die-hard imperialists.  Some of the British had an orientalist’s fascination for the East or an administrator's paternal concern for their wards, but Marxists suffer from no such sentimentality.  The very “Asiatic mode of production” was primitive and any, “superstructure” of ideas and culture built on that foundation must be barbaric too and it had better go.

Not many realize how thoroughly European Marx was in his orientation.  He treated all Asia and Africa as an appendage of the West and, indeed, of the Anglo-Saxon Great Britain.  He borrowed all his theses on India from British rulers and fully subscribed to them.  With them he believes that “Indian society has no history at all, at least no known history,” and that what “we call its history, is the history of successive intruders.” With them he also believes that India “has neither known nor cared for self-rule.” In fact, he rules out self-rule for India altogether and in this matter gives her no choice.  He says that the question is “not whether the English bad a right to conquer India, but whether we are to prefer India conquered by the Turk, by the Persian, by the Russian, to India conquered by the Briton.” His own choice was clear.

Indian Marxists fully accept this thesis, except that they are also near-equal admirers of the “Turkish” conquest of India.  Indian Marxists get quite lyrical about this conquest and find quite fulfilment in it.  Let us illustrate the point with the example of M.N. Roy.  We are told that he gave up Marxism but he kept enough of it to retain his admiration for Muslim Imperialism.  He admires the “historical role of Islam” in a book of the same name and praises the “Arab Empire” as a “magnificent monument to the memory of Mohammad.” He hails Muslim invasion of India and tells us how “it was welcomed as a message of hope and freedom by the multitudinous victims of Brahmanical reaction.”

Earlier, Roy had spoken of “our country” which “had become almost liberated from the Moslem Empire.” But that was long ago when he was merely a nationalist and had not come under the influence of Marxism.  Marxism teaches a new appreciation for Imperialism; it idealises old Imperialisms and prepares a people for a new one.  Its moving power is deep-rooted self-alienation and its greatest ally is cultural and spiritual illiteracy.

Marxist writers and historians of a sort are all over the place and they are well entrenched in the academic and media sectors.  They have a great say in University appointments and promotions, in the awarding of research grants, in drawing up syllabi, and in the choosing and prescribing of text-books.  No true history of India is possible without countering their philosophy, ideas and influence.
Indian Express, January 15, 1989







Chapter Seven
November 9 Will Change History 
Jay Dubashi


What is the need of the hour, someone asked me the other day.  Is it stability, is it unity, is it communal peace?  It is none of these things, I told him.  The need of the hour is COURAGE.
We Hindus have become a timid race, almost a cowardly race.  We lack the courage of our convictions.  Some of us don’t even have any convictions, and have been trying to hide our shame under high-sounding but empty phrases like secularism.  For the last so many centuries, the history of the Hindus has been created by non-Hindus, first the Moghuls, then the British.  Even today, the Hindus are being denied their right to write their own history, which, to me, is almost like genocide.  Until we write our own history, this land cannot be ours.
Upendra Baxi, director of the Indian Law Institute and a noted jurist, said the other day that “when the foundation of the proposed Ram Temple will be put up in Ayodhya, it will change decisively the history of India and no amount of condemnation of the Indian psyche or public self-flagellation will change that history.” He is right.  The whole purpose of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement is to change the history of India, nothing less, nothing more.
Those who do not see this do not know what India is.  For the first time in several centuries, the history of India is being made by Indians, call them Hindu, call them anything else, if the word Hindu sticks in your gullet, as it did in Nehru’s.  The Ayodhya movement is therefore a historic movement, far more historic than Gandhi’s Dandi March or the Quit India Movement.
Freedom does not mean flying your own flag or having your own government. Freedom means making your own history, writing it in your own blood on the pages of Time.  As I said earlier, fate precluded us from doing so for so many centuries.  Now the time has come to open up the pages of Time and begin writing what every great race in this world has been doing for so long, every great race except the Hindus.
Small-minded people like Namboodiripad or editors of Indo-Anglian papers who bring out special editions at Christmas time but never on Diwali, will not understand this, because they do not know Indian history.  Whatever little they understand has been learnt from foreign historians, and from foreign books like Das Capital.  We must pity these men. Namboodiripad thinks that the Ayodhya movement is communal, a word he has learnt from the British, for whom some of his friends spied, and he repeats it parrot-like, as children do their lessons in schools.  Communists are political parrots who have been intoning Marx for years without realising that the man is already out of date.  All over Europe, his corpse is being exhumed for public exhibition.  But Indian communists are half a century behind everybody else, including their own brethren elsewhere.  Because their own faith has come down crumbling, and that too in less than three quarters of a century, they have started cursing other faiths.
But we Hindus were not born yesterday. We were not born in the British Museum and did not emerge from dog-eared copies of ancient history books.  We are history personified, history with a capital H. And we are going to survive for another five thousand years, not just fifty years, as Namboodiripad’s gods did.
I simply cannot understand what is so communal about a community trying to build a temple, the most honourable of acts, in their own land.  Would anyone deny Catholics their right to put up a church in Rome? Would anyone say no if the Saudis wanted to build a mosque in Mecca? Why on earth should there be a mosque in Ayodhya of all places? How would they feel if someone tried to build a Rama temple in Mecca?  The Babari mosque was built by Babar who had no business to be in India.  He came here as a conqueror but the right of a conqueror ceases as soon as he ceases to be a conqueror.  This country is now ours, not Babar’s and what is all this freedom worth if we cannot undo a wrong? That is also what history is, the undoing of a patently wrong act committed by a conqueror in the full flush of power.  This is what I meant when I said that we are going to re-write history, for, I repeat again, that is precisely the meaning of freedom.
I consider the time we were under foreign conquerors, no matter where they came from and who they were-and also how they came-as the most shameful time of our history.  This is what Gandhi also said and that is why we vowed to throw the British out.  If the British were foreigners, so were the Moghuls, and so is everything they left behind.  We have taken over old British firms and Indianised them.  We have taken over their railways, their ports and harbours, their buildings, their offices, even their vice-regal house.  We would have been perfectly within our rights to demolish their leftovers including the vice-regal house.  Mahatma Gandhi actually wanted to turn that house into a hospital.
Surely, if we can do all that, we can also take over their churches and cathedrals, as also those of other conquerors that preceded them.  We have not, done that, but I do not see why not.  If the descendants of these conquerors believe that their houses of worship are too important to be treated like other buildings they left behind, surely you cannot blame the Hindus if they think that their houses of worship are also too important to be defiled by foreigners.  What is good for others, is also good for us.  You cannot have one law for others, just because they happen to be in a minority, and another for the majority because it happens to be too generous, or too timid to fight back.
Make no mistake.  We are going to change history and we have begun doing so on November 9, 1989.
Organiser, November 19, 1989





Chapter Eight
From Shilanyas to Berlin Wall 
Jay Dubashi


History has its quirks but there is a method behind the madness.  I said in my last column that November 9, 1989, would go down in Indian history as one of those dates that actually make history.  I was not aware at the time that on the very same day the first brick of the Ramshila foundation was being laid at Ayodhya, the Berliners were removing bricks from the Berlin Wall. While a temple was going up in Ayodhya, a communist temple was being demolished five thousand miles away in Europe. If this is not history, I do not know what is.
There hasn’t been a squeak out of our commie friends on Berlin Wall, or, for that matter, on the turmoil in the communist world that now lies as shattered as Hitler’s fascist empire after the last war. Where is our great Mr. Know-All, the ultra-verbose pandit of Kerala who only the other day was lecturing us poor Hindus on the pitfalls of communalism? Where is Harkishan Singh Surjeet, the great oracle of Punjab, who since his operation in Moscow, seems to have given up the ghost altogether?  Even their great Natural Ally, the one and only Vishwanath Pratap Singh, has not said a word about the Berlin Wall, though he keeps advising us about what to do in Ayodhya, or rather what not to do.
The two events, one at Ayodhya and the other in Berlin, are not unrelated.  They are like the two events in Einstein’s relativity theory which appear totally unconnected but are not.
They mark the end of the post-Nehru era and the beginning of a truly national era in India on the one hand, and the end of the post-communist era and the beginning of a truly democratic era in Europe on the other.  History has rejected Nehru in India and also overthrown communism in Europe.  It is not an accident that the two events are taking place at the same time. Both Nehruism and communism were phoney creeds, though it has taken us a long time to see through the phoneyness. Some of us had seen it a long ago, but there were others, the so-called leftists and progressives, who had not. The scales have still not fallen from their eyes, but that is now only a matter of time.
The phoniest are the so-called radical humanists in India, who have given up communist clothes but not the authoritarian way of thinking, which is the hallmark of communism. Their reaction to all popular movements is authoritarian. These men helped the British during the Quit India Movement-just as their brethren the commies did-on the ground that an Allied victory was more important than freedom for India.  Now they are saying the same thing.
According to the Tarkundes and other phoneys, the Nehru version of secularism is more important than full-blooded Hindu nationalism, which is what the Ayodhya movement signifies. The Tarkundes even went to the court on the issue asking its help in stopping the Shilapujan.
The Pujan was a perfectly democratic affair carried on peacefully by citizens of this country who happen to be in a majority. If Indians do not have a right to have temples in their own country, who has?
But this is not the way these secular worthies look upon the issue. These men are elitist by nature and for them any popular movement, no matter how democratic and mass-based, is almost ipso fact suspect if it does not meet their prejudiced convictions. This is Stalinism of the worst kind, the kind that led to the building of the Berlin Wall, one of the ugliest structures in the world.
Who is Tarkunde to decide that a temple in Ayodhya is anti-social? Who was M.N. Roy to decide that Gandhi’s Quit India Movement was anti-national and not in national interest? Who are these men who mock history and then are bloodied by it? They belong to the same class as Stalin in Soviet Russia and Hitler in Nazi Germany, who presume to know what is good for you and me, the ordinary mortals. And these man will go the same dusty way as the tyrants whose bodies are now being exhumed all over the Soviet empire and thrown to the vultures.
The men who presume to think what is good for the man in the street are the most dangerous species and should be locked up in asylums. Jawaharlal Nehru was one such man. He knew what was good for you and me, just as Stalin and Hitler did, and for almost 20 years went on forcing his ideas on this hapless country.  He and his advisers decided how much steel we should have and how much electricity. They decided who should get paid what, and who should import what. They laid down laws for who should produce what and where, and whether a particular industry should be given to Tatas or Birlas or some babus in the government. What was the basis for these decisions? None at all. Simply an arrogant assumption that the Big Brother knows best what is good for you, and you should not ask too many questions.
Those who went to court on the Ayodhya issue are the same Mr. Know-Alls, the arrogant busybodies who presume to know what is good for us. This presumptuousness-that masses do not matter and do not count-was the core of the Marxist doctrine of which Nehru’s phoney socialism and Tarkunde’s equally phoney radical humanism are offshoots. What they have not still grasped-but Mikhail Gorbachev has-is that this is precisely the reason Marxism failed wherever it has been put to work, and why Nehruism has failed in India.
That is also the reason why there was no enthusiasm whatsoever for the sarkari jamboree in the name of the Nehru centenary year, for the common man in India is a victim of this Nehruism just as the common man in Russia is the victim of communism. And in healthy societies, victims don’t celebrate centenaries of tyrants.
There are a number of Nehru men in India, not only in the ruling party1 but also in the opposition and we must be on guard against them.  But this generation is on its way out, though their flame may flicker for a while.
The post-Nehru era began at Ayodhya on November 9, and it will gather momentum in the years to come, just as the post-communist era in Europe and elsewhere. It will not be an easy task, but no great task is easy.
Organiser, November 26, 1989


Footnotes:

1 The ruling Party, at the time this article was written, was the Indian National Congress.



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