Rewriting Indian history to give it a saffron spin has been the topmost priority of the Modi regime. Bhide Guruji, a Hindu Rashtra proponent from Maharashtra, once said, “Muslim invasions, British capture and Gandhiji’s rise to become the Father of Modern India are three big historic assaults on our great Hindu culture.” The saffron think tanks are now working relentlessly to erase these so-called “assaults” on the ancient Hindu culture, which took place in the last eight centuries.
The recent ‘rationalisation’ exercise by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) to delete chapters from textbooks on the Mughal empire and to remove the parts that mention the ban on Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) after Gandhi’s assassination is nothing but a smart manipulation of Indian history. This manipulation is aimed at cleverly twisting the narrative of our history to suit the present political project.
Gandhi’s killing by a Hindutva terrorist had a sobering impact on the communal situation at that time and the Hindu-Muslim riots subsided as the nation went into mourning. The Hindutva brigade doesn’t even like that mentioned in the textbooks either. They want Gandhi as a ‘cleanliness’ icon at best, as his principles of truth and non-violence will stand in a way of untruth and violence by which Hindutva fanatics are always blinded.
On the other hand, for Hindutva fanatics, the crimes of Mughal invaders from centuries back are attributable to the present-day Muslim population without realising that Muslims in modern India are equal citizens like them under the constitution. They do not like the colonial buildings of the British era but are building a new ‘Hindutva era’ parliament spending crores whilst ignoring the growing hunger and unemployment of the very people who are supposed to be represented in that parliament.
What we receive these days through WhatsApp are white lies about our history. However, these false whispering campaigns had ears in RSS shakhas for many decades. The Modi regime has let these campaigns run since 2014 by actively supporting them. But what can be said on WhatsApp cannot be written in official history books. One requires smarter saffron manipulations to distort the perception through textbooks.
Gandhi’s assassination by Hindutva forces is one historic fact that the saffron lobby wants to erase from textbooks. It is the biggest blot in their history to murder the most well-regarded Sanatani Hindu as well as the most well-known Indian worldwide and that too an apostle of peace who symbolises the highest values of human civilisation. It is Gandhi who shaped the modern notion of Indian nationalism which now the RSS desperately wants to hijack and replace with one based on an aggressive Hindutva ideology.
The RSS appointees want Gandhi out of public conscience and they have been doing it by curtailing and diluting Gandhi’s history, which actually is a glorious chapter in India’s history. Historians and intellectuals have criticised such moves, and are playing the role of whistleblowers against manipulation attempts to rewrite history.
However, we live in an era where ‘lies’ are called ‘perception management’, and ‘political frauds and crimes’ are called ‘strategy’. In order to evade the question of the veracity of Narendra Modi’s university degree, the lieutenant governor of Jammu and Kashmir tried to create doubt in people’s minds about Gandhi’s law degree. The very Gandhian ideals which are attacked by the saffron brigade will have to sooner or later come into play to prevent the moral decline that is happening around us.
White lies in Amrit Kaal
The Hindutva regime especially dislikes India’s history since 1920, the year that marked the rise of Gandhi. Their Amrit Kaal began in 2014. The idea of modern India, with all its limitations and setbacks, kept evolving in various ways between these two milestone years of 1920 and 2014. A third-world nation born after systematic imperial loot, which nobody gave a chance to become a mature democratic country, actually managed to sustain its imperfect system. The seeds were sown in the freedom movement led unquestionably by Gandhi, who, for the first time, inspired a broad-based political action for large masses of India. That spirit of a diverse nation ruled by modern laws was immortalised by Dr. Ambedkar’s constitution. On the other hand, Jawaharlal Nehru led India to become a stable polity keeping religion aside during his long tenure as India’s first premier, laying a solid foundation for a sovereign, socialist, secular, and democratic republic.
Now, WhatsApp messages from RSS shakhas – upgraded into multi-billion dollar Information Technology cells – claim Gandhi was actually a British agent and all his national political movement was a drama. You get to know through these WhatsApp forwards that constitution is a sham and Ambedkar just ‘copied’ it from the British. And Nehru, the most favourite punching icon, was a womaniser and his clothes were washed in Paris. This is going to be the scholarly level of our modern history in the coming years.
We all know rulers write history, but these rulers are rewriting history, probably because they know they have nothing original to contribute and more to hide from people, like their insignificant role in the freedom movement.
The politics of Hindutva is based on the mere exploitation of people’s religious sentiments and the polarisation of society. Sowing the seeds of hatred is much easier than building amity. Disinvestment is much easier than building blocks of the economy and creating jobs. Manipulating data and facts is much easier than producing real results.
Harshavardhan Purandare and Sandeep Pandey are associated with Socialist Party (India).