Why a nation and its people must know their true history – Makkhan Lal

India History Cartoon

No country can become a great nation, a world guru and a world leader on borrowed ideas, borrowed cultures and borrowed systems. The greatness and leadership is built upon the solid foundation and the pride of their own past. – Dr. Makkhan Lal

History, history writing and history teaching have, indeed, become newsworthy not only in India but also in most other parts of the world. The reasons may be varied—construction of a national history curriculum in India, England and Wales, the design of national history standards in the US, the content of history textbooks in Japan, China, Korea, Pakistan, Israel, and Germany, the approach to invasion of Latin American countries by the Europeans, the development of new curricula in the successor states of the former USSR, or even the rewriting of history textbooks in Russia after the collapse of the former USSR. Issues of identities, heritage, and citizenship, all rooted in the past, have become the hot stuff of politics.

Similarly, an issue can be raised about the conquest of peaceful people belonging to Inca, Aztec and Maya civilisations by the gun-trotting Europeans. Whether the victory should be viewed as the discovery of a new world and new economic resources for Europe, as is generally viewed by European and North American historians, or it should be seen as the destruction of the independently developed three native civilisations by technologically more advanced nations that have an unending lust for looting others’ treasures and making other people subservient.

A South American historian may well say: “It may be a subject of celebrations for Europeans but for us it is a subject of mourning because just in a few years the Europeans destroyed our civilisation developed over several thousands of years!”

Why study history

Questions have often been raised that when there are so many problems and differences of opinions among historians why should we study history at all.

History is all about the past. In almost every country, city, town and village throughout the world, a large number of existing buildings were built in the past to meet the needs and aspirations of people, now dead. This is most obvious in existing temples, churches, mosques, fireplaces, houses, public buildings, and so on. The systems of governments, political ideas, religious beliefs, art, architecture, cultural practices, educational systems, customs and behaviours are all products of the past, recent or remote.

The past is all-pervasive which, indeed, means that we cannot escape from it. The past signifies what actually happened—events that have taken place, societies that have risen and fallen, ideas and institutions, eating habits, dressing habits, etc. History is precisely the study of this human past. The past is our heritage; we are part of it and the past is part of us in all aspects: Be it culture, behaviour, religious faith and practices, be it rituals, be it the tradition of political, social and economic systems. It is reflected in our day-to-day living.

History is also about roots. It provides societies and individuals with a dimension of longitudinal meaning over time which outlives the human life span. It connects us with our past. History also allows us to peep into the future by providing precedents for contemporary actions and forewarning against the repetition of past mistakes. From its sense of continuity, history offers the apparent form and purpose to the past, the present and the future. In the words of E.H. Carr: “The past is intelligible to us only in the light of the present, and we can fully understand the present only in the light of the past.” He further says that history is needed “to enable man to understand the society of the past and to increase his mastery over the society of the present.” There is a need for history. It has a deeper social value and meaning.

The study of history is not a luxury. It is a necessity. This necessity has been best summed up by Arthur Marwick. He writes: “Individuals, communities, societies could scarcely exist if all knowledge of the past is wiped out. As memory is to the individual, so history is to the community or the society. Without memory, individuals find great difficulty in relating to others, in finding their bearings, in taking intelligent decisions—they lose their sense of identity. A society without history would be in a similar condition. … A society without knowledge of its past would be like an individual without memory. … It is only through a sense of history that communities establish their identity, orientate themselves, understand their relationship to the past and to other communities and societies. Without history (knowledge of the past), we, and our communities, would be utterly adrift on an endless and featureless sea of time.”

We all move ahead through the past of our own cultures, own civilisations, and values and it is this accumulation of ideas and experience, transmitted through education and sheer daily living that gives our thoughts meaning and the patterns and purpose of our actions. It is not that we live in the past but we are defined by it, and so the success of even the most forward-looking developments must inevitably rest on their relation to the ideas and practices of the society they are meant to serve. Science may forget its own history, but a society cannot.

History is neither a simple chronicle of the past nor a list of rulers and kings and the narratives of their rules. The past is not simply a collection of distinct ages or a hotchpotch of facts. History is an extremely complex discipline. Another point that needs to be emphasised is that a historian’s job is not that of a cook who prepares dishes as per the liking of his customers and adds spices accordingly. It is not the job of a historian to write politically correct history. His obligation is to write factually correct history.

It will be helpful if all historians remember what Sir Jadunath Sarkar wrote about the job of a historian: “I would not care whether the truth is pleasant or unpleasant, and in consonance with, or opposed to, current views. I would not mind in the least whether the truth is, or is not, a blow to the glory of my country. If necessary, I shall bear in patience the ridicule and slander of friends and society for the sake of preaching the truth. But still, I shall seek truth, understand truth, and accept the truth. This should be the firm resolve of a historian.”

This brief discussion on the nature of history as an academic discipline should make it abundantly clear that history is neither a static discipline nor can the writings on and of history be put into a set mould. Each generation views and writes about the past in the light of its own experience. Therefore, all interpretations and explanations are and must be as temporary and provisional as the descriptions. But in all these endeavours the sanctity of truth and facts should not be forgotten. Unanimity or one’s efforts to make others surrender is a recognisable characteristic of dictatorships, and not that of a free state. Open and continuing discussions and debates are the essence and strength of history and, for that matter, a great strength of an open society of an intellectually vibrant nation.

And now a word of caution! There is a tendency among historians to act as judges and give moral sermons. Historians must write and rewrite history. They are not supposed to be moral judges. Benedetto Crose has rightly said: “Those, who on the plea of narrating history, bustle about as judges, condemning here and giving absolution there, because they think that this is the office of history … are generally recognised as devoid of historical sense.”

Problems in history writing

Historians recognise that they are all culturally and socially influenced in their endeavour to write history but make all efforts to deny that their work is culturally, or socially, determined or constructed. As has been discussed briefly in the Introduction, EH Carr in chapter two of his book What is History provides a useful summary on this aspect of history writing. He quotes Donne Devotion that society and individuals are inseparable. “No man is an island, entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” Like any other individual, a historian too is a social phenomenon, both the product and the conscious and unconscious spokesperson of the society to which he belongs. It is in this capacity that he approaches the facts of the historical past.

Therefore, we must not forget that we cannot fully understand or appreciate the work of a historian unless we have first grasped the standpoint from which he himself approaches it, and that standpoint is itself rooted in social and historical background. It is, therefore, essential that before we study history, we must study the historian and study his historical and social environment. When some historians claim that they are writing scientific history, or that only their version of history is correct, one must conclude immediately that the historians are not only being untruthful but are also hiding their political agenda under the garb of a “scientific” history. There exists nothing like scientific history. On similar lines, Benedetto Croce also spoke with his characteristic bluntness:

“The historian must have a point of view, … an intimate personal conviction regarding the conception of the facts which he has undertaken to relate. … It suffices to read any book of history to discover at once the point of view of the author if he is a historian worthy of the name and knows his own business. … Absolutely historical historians do not and cannot exist. Can it be said that Thucydidus and Polybius, Livy and Tacitus, Machiavelli and Guicciardini, Giannone and Voltaire were without morals and political views; and in our own time, Guizot or Thiers, Macaulay or Balbo, Renke or Mommson? … If the historian is to escape from this inevitable necessity of taking sides, he must become a political and scientific eunuch; and history is not the business of eunuchs. … Historians who profess to wish to interrogate the facts without adding anything of their own, are not to be believed.”

Karl Marx buried among the crosses of Highgate Cemetery, London.

The problem with Marxist historiography and its relationship with history is much more curious. For Marx and his followers, i.e. Marxist historians, the problem of history is not just understanding “what happened”, “how it happened” and “why it happened”. For them, the problem is “how to change the world” by the use of history. At the core of this view lie two fundamental beliefs. Firstly, the Marxists believe in five universal stages of history.

These five stages are:

  1. Primitive Communism
  2. Slavery
  3. Feudalism
  4. Capitalism
  5. Communism

Secondly, they believe that the society we inhabit is a bad bourgeois society and, fortunately, this society is in a state of crisis. The good society which lies just around the corner can be easily attained if only “we” work systematically to destroy the language, the value, the culture, the ideology of this “bourgeois” society. This necessitates a massive, radical left-wing political programme, and everything the historians write, every criticism they make, is determined by that overriding objective. In this, the post-modernists are exceptions. They are fully convinced of the utterly evil nature of the “bourgeois” society but have lost all hope of change and have fallen back into destructive nihilism. They assert that the only way to achieve Marxism is to destroy society if it cannot be changed.

Marxist historians have failed to understand and appreciate the fact that the society we live in has evolved through a complex historical process, very different from the Marxist formula of the rise of feudalism over slavery and bourgeoisie overthrowing the feudal aristocracy. It is highly complex with respect to the distribution of power, authority, and influence. Just as it was not formed by the simple overthrow of aristocracy by the bourgeoisie, so, in its contemporary form, it does not consist simply of a bourgeois ruling class and a proletariat. The idea that we are now in the final period of the late-capitalist crisis is simply absurd. Marxists have been looking forward to the final capitalistic collapse for over a century—in 1848, 1866, 1918, 1946, 1963 and 1968, to mention just a few dates, but as fate would have it, they are themselves doomed forever.

Statements like “The pursuit of history is, whether practitioners choose to acknowledge it or not, a political occupation,” indeed, is not only exceptional but also far-fetched. At the same time, we have to acknowledge that the experience of colonisation around the world has shown that domination by a more powerful culture—which defines its reality in quite different ways—either totally destroys, or at least drives, the less powerful ones into a subservient role. What was considered culturally “valid” can be rendered “invalid”, and the politically weaker ones are somehow required to modify their reality to fit within the constraints of the new codes.

We, as historians, must learn to recognise: “The past is perceived in different ways by different cultures. Methods of interpreting, recording, managing and protecting the past also differ between cultures. … The way people define their existence, their world view and their creation stories, and how they value, interpret, manage and transmit their past will continue to be handed on from generation to generation.”

Conclusions

Let us remember that no country can become a great nation, a world guru and a world leader on borrowed ideas, borrowed cultures and borrowed systems. The greatness and leaderships are built upon the solid foundations and the pride of the past; deeper the foundations, taller are the superstructures. Even globalisation is built upon this foundation. Many countries are part of globalisation on a much larger scale than India without abandoning their history, culture and heritage. It is on this basis they are able to assert their authority and influence the world order. – Firstpost, 6 January 2022

› Prof. Dr. Makkhan Lal is a historian and the founder director of the Delhi Institute of Heritage Research and Management.

‘New Nationalism’ and India’s Renaissance – Makarand R. Paranjape

Sri Aurobindo

The new nationalists might differ amongst themselves in their aims and methods but are quite different from the regular Congressmen in that “they are united by … a common faith in India”. This, according to Sri Aurobindo, “is the heart of Nationalism”. – Prof. Makarand R. Paranjape

Not westernised, bourgeois gentlemen, but Samurai—or more appropriate to our civilisation—inspired yogis and dedicated tapasvis, would transform the nation and make India great again. But for this to happen, the spirit of the nation would have to be awakened. This was the message of Sri Aurobindo, whose 150th birth anniversary we are celebrating along with India@75, Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav.

A posse of armed inspectors and policemen arrested Sri Aurobindo from his modest digs on 48, Grey Street, Calcutta, on May 2, 1908, in what was to become the famous Alipore Bomb Case. He was charged with “conspiracy” and “waging war against the King”, an offence tantamount to high treason, punishable with death by hanging. Among the papers seized were five unpublished essays, intended for Bande Mataram, the periodical he edited. “The New Nationalism”, one of these, was presented as evidence against him by the prosecution during the trial. It has now been republished in Bande Mataram, Vol. 6 and 7 of The Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo (1997; 2002).

This extraordinary essay has great bearing on India’s culture wars of today. In fact, some of our current debates bear an uncanny resemblance to the quarrel between the so-called extremists and moderates or the “garam dal” and the “naram dal” of the Indian freedom struggle. Perhaps, no one articulates what the former stood for more forcefully and clearly than Sri Aurobindo. He refutes the idea that the extremists did not respect the law of the land or that they preferred violent methods to peaceful ones. In fact, he preferred to call them nationalists rather than extremists.

But who, according to Sri Aurobindo, were these “new nationalists”? What did they really stand for in contradistinction to what was imputed to them in the derisive, if not dismissive, term “extremists”? To Sri Aurobindo, the new nationalism then sweeping across India, which Mahatma Gandhi also referred to in the opening chapter of Hind Swaraj (1909), was actually the “negation of the old bourgeois ideals of the nineteenth century.” Its aim was to “transform the bourgeois into the Samurai” and “to extend the workings of the Samurai spirit to the whole nation”.

Sri Aurobindo mocks the prevalent misunderstanding of “extremism”, and “the respectable ease and safety of Congress politics”. He states: “The ordinary Congress politician’s ideas of Nationalism are associated with heated discussions in Committee and Congress, altercations at public meetings, unsparing criticisms of successful and eminent respectabilities, sedition trials, national volunteers, East Bengal disturbances, Rawalpindi riots. To him the Nationalist is nothing more than an “Extremist”, a violent, unreasonable, uncomfortable being whom some malign power has raised up to disturb with his Swaraj and Boycott, his lawlessness and his lathies …”

The new nationalists might differ amongst themselves in their aims and methods but are quite different from the regular Congressmen in that “they are united by … a common faith in India”. This, according to Sri Aurobindo, “is the heart of Nationalism”. The new nationalism, in other words, “is an attempt to create a new nation in India by reviving in spirit and action ancient Indian character, the strong, great and lofty spirit of old Aryavarta, and setting it to use, and mould the methods and materials of modernity for the freedom, greatness and well-being of a historic and immortal people”.

The new nationalism does not advocate “unreasoning violence of spirit and the preference of desperate methods”. It does not “advocate lawlessness for its own sake”. But the law that the new nationalists are “called upon to obey” is not the law of the colonial power imposed upon a conquered people but “the law of the nation, an outgrowth of its organic existence and part of its own accepted system of government”.

What, then, is this law of the nation? Sri Aurobindo repeatedly asserts that it is spirituality. In the opening essay of The Renaissance in India, he says, “Spirituality is indeed the master-key of the Indian mind; the sense of the infinite is native to it. India saw from the beginning,—and, even in her ages of reason and her age of increasing ignorance, she never lost hold of the insight,—that life cannot be rightly seen in the sole light, cannot be perfectly lived in the sole power of its externalities.”

But what is spirituality? As Sri Aurobindo clarifies in The Life Divine, it is neither the “The Materialist Denial” nor “The Refusal of the Ascetic”. Indeed, it is “not a high intellectuality, not idealism, not an ethical turn of mind or moral purity and austerity, not religiosity or an ardent and exalted emotional fervour, not even a compound of all these excellent things; a mental belief, creed or faith, an emotional aspiration, a regulation of conduct according to a religious or ethical formula are not spiritual achievement and experience”.

Instead, according to Sri Aurobindo, “spirituality is in its essence an awakening to the inner reality of our being, to a spirit, self, soul which is other than our mind, life and body, an inner aspiration to know, to feel, to be that, to enter into contact with the greater Reality beyond and pervading the universe which inhabits also our own being, to be in communion with It and union with It, and a turning, a conversion, a transformation of our whole being as a result of the aspiration, the contact, the union, a growth or waking into a new becoming or new being, a new self, a new nature”.

The soul of the triple-bodied Indian nation, with the gross outer body, the subtle body within, and inhabiting “another more deeply hidden” third body, its Shakti, the spirit of the nation, “the source of life and form … unchanging and imperishable”. This great power could be found by a living faith “not in an Anglicised and transmogrified nation” of people “unrecognisable as Indians, but in India of the immemorial past, India of the clouded but fateful present”.

This nation of Sri Aurobindo’s dreams, echoing Bankim’s Durga, was what the Mother was envisioned to be in Anandamath, “India leonine, mighty, crowned with her imperial diadem of the future; a common spirit of enthusiasm, hope, the desire to dare and do all things so that our vision of her future may be fulfilled greatly and soon”.

This, for Sri Aurobindo, is the true meaning and manifestation of the Indian renaissance. – The New Indian Express, 10 October 2022

Prof. Makarand R. Paranjape is a poet and teaches English at JNU. 

Bharat Mata

Sanskrit and the bandwagon fallacy – Oopali Operajita

Panini

Sanskrit bashing is one of the visible manifestations of both the bandwagon fallacy and ultracrepidarianism. You have to forgive these villifiers, because it is evident that they do not know Sanskrit. – Oopali Operajita

The hefty diatribes against the exquisite Sanskrit language, lodged mainly by privileged, elite members of the Western academy, of both Western and Indian origin, and by mainstream Western media—and certain sections of the Indian media—epitomise the bandwagon fallacy. India seems to be awash in self-loathing in a substantive wave of the aforementioned fallacy, coupled with a good measure of overt postcolonial cringing. Sanskrit bashing is one of the visible manifestations of both the bandwagon fallacy and ultracrepidarianism. You have to forgive these villifiers, because it is evident that they do not know Sanskrit. If they did, they would feel for the language in the way William Jones did: “The Sanskrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of a wonderful structure; more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either….”

Sanskrit is the mother of languages currently spoken by about 900 million people in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. That is where it differs from Latin and Greek. If you did not have Sanskrit, you would not have these vibrant Indian languages. Current Bengali still draws on Sanskrit in order to enrich itself; current Telugu, even if technically a Dravidian language, is delightfully rich in Sanskrit words. India Ink, the retired New York Times blog (you have to be grateful for small mercies), valorised articles by postcolonial cringers who systematically ran down Sanskrit and India.

The writings of the Sanskrit disparagers mostly emanate from ultracrepidarianism. In an embarrassing piece on Sanskrit in The New York Times, the correspondent cited linguists she had spoken to, for making a raft of erroneous statements—I am wondering who they were! No linguists worth their salt would make the ad hominem statements she attributed to them. Here is her description of a visit to a Sanskrit institution in New Delhi, “Unattached electrical wires dangle down its facade, and one of its senior scholars, Ramakant Pandey, greeted a recent visitor in a fluorescent-lighted office under a slowly revolving ceiling fan, his mouth stained bright red with paan, as betel is known in Hindi.”

Too bad for her there is only a fluorescent light, and a slow-moving ceiling fan: we are a developing nation, and if Mr. Pandey is content not guzzling huge amounts of electricity, and destroying the planet with the unnecessary use of an air conditioner, or inhabiting a modest work environment, that is just fine. As for pan, to appreciate its sense of charvana (gustibus, or relish), you need to be possessed of a sensibility as fine as E.M. Forster’s. The question you have to ask here is: How is the value and infinite richness of Sanskrit, the language, connected with a slow-moving ceiling fan or paan? That is an example of the non sequitur fallacy.

I recall the late Barbara Stoller Miller calling often on my parents in Bhubaneswar, Professor Bidhu Bhusan Das and Professor Prabhat Nalini Das, when she was working on her translation into English of the Gitagovinda. She was respectful in her attitude towards her subject—that was an artefact of the times, before Sanskrit-bashing became chic. Miller’s junior colleague, Sheldon Pollock’s claim that Sanskrit is dead is refuted by Dr Jürgen Hanneder, an authority on Sanskrit, from the University of Marburg: “On a more public level, the statement that Sanskrit is a dead language is misleading, for Sanskrit is quite obviously not as dead as other dead languages, and the fact that it is spoken, written and read, will probably convince most people that it cannot be a dead language in the most common usage of the term. Pollock’s notion of the ‘death of Sanskrit’ remains in this unclear realm between academia and public opinion when he says, ‘most observers would agree that, in some crucial way, Sanskrit is dead.’”

Sanskrit is the liturgical language in thousands of temples across India. The Vedas and Upanishads are read and recited by priests and their students in hundreds of temples across India. That is testimony enough to its being alive, in a crucial way (sorry, Sheldon). Recitation—and daily recitation at that—imbues a language with a certain amount of prana. Prana is the antithesis of death. I recall an occasion when two colleagues from Yale University were dinner guests at my country home in Nova Scotia, Canada. After dinner, I recited and explained a couple of stanzas from the Upanishads to them. They were so enchanted with the sound and the meaning of those stanzas that they kept asking for more.

Nowadays, you encounter the hubris-rich “rescuers” of Sanskrit within the elite echelons of Western and Indian academia. From whom do they seek to rescue it? Ironically, they seek to rescue it from the impoverished priests in the thousands of temples in small towns and villages across India. The prevalent discourse on Sanskrit, in both the broadcast and print media, is mostly reductio ad Hitlerum.

Thankfully, an entire new perspective on Sanskrit is opening up, owing to Vikram Chandra’s book: Geek Sublime. Reviewing it in The New York Times, James Gleick writes, “What no one told me was that generative grammar had been invented earlier in India—2,500 years earlier, in fact. … Sometime around 500 B.C., the ancient scholar Panini analysed the Sanskrit language at a level of complexity that has never been matched since, for any language. His grammar, the ‘Ashtadhyayi’, comprises some 4,000 rules meant to generate all the possible sentences of Sanskrit from roots of sound and meaning—phonemes and morpheme (italics mine). The rules include definitions; headings; operational rules, including—‘replacement, affixation, augmentation and compounding;’ and ‘metarules,’ which call other rules recursively. … Panini’s grammar of Sanskrit bears more than a family resemblance to a modern programming language. As Chandra says, the grammar is itself—‘an algorithm, a machine that consumes phonemes and morphemes and produces words and sentences.’ This is not a coincidence. American syntactic theory, Chomsky channelling Panini, formed the soil in which the computer languages grew.”

Enough said. – Firstpost, 9 August 2022

Oopali Operajita is a Distinguished Fellow at Carnegie Mellon University since 1990, where she was appointed by its president, Dr Richard Cyert. She advises world leaders on public policy, communication and international affairs.

A 17th-century birch bark manuscript of Pāṇini's grammar treatise from Kashmir.

How the Nehruvian Congress manipulated Gandhi’s assassination to emasculate Hindu nationalism – Koenraad Elst

Had Nathuram Godse foreseen the consequences of the act he contemplated, he might have thought twice about going through with it – Dr. Koenraad Elst

There are some historical events that are momentous in nature but have not received the kind of attention and examination they deserved. The topic of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination at the hands of Nathuram Godse on 30 January 1948 is one such incident. Though it comes up regularly for discussion, it is wantonly distorted to embarrass the RSS and the party associated with it, the BJP, which was actually founded in 1980, that too as a reincarnation of the Jan Sangh, which had equally been founded after the murder, in 1951. This then is the best-known long-term effect: The unrelenting allegation that anything smelling of Hindu nationalism, and certainly the RSS, necessarily leads to such crimes. But are we missing something?

Chitpavan massacre

The first consequence of the murder was immediate: Nathuram Godse’s own community, the Chitpavan Brahmins, was targeted for mass murder. The comparison with the mass killing of Sikhs by Congress secularists after Indira Gandhi’s murder is fairly exact, except that the 1984 massacre is well-known (even eclipsing the memory of the larger number of Punjabi Hindus murdered by Sikh separatists in the preceding years), whereas this one has been hushed up. The New York Times first drew attention to it, reporting 15 killings for the first day and only for the city of Mumbai (then Bombay). In fact, the killing went on for a week and all over Maharashtra, with V.D. Savarkar’s younger brother as best-known victim.

Arti Agarwal, who leads the research in “Hindu genocide”, estimates the death toll at about 8,000. On mass murders, estimates are often over-dramatised, but here we must count with a countervailing factor: The government’s active suppression of these data, as they would throw a negative light on Gandhism. But research on this painful episode has now started in earnest, and those presently trying to get at the real figures include Savarkar biographer Vikram Sampath.

Crackdown

The second consequence came right after: The government’s crackdown on the Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS. Their offices were closed down, their office-bearers imprisoned for a year or so, their stocks of literature impounded. It clipped their wings for years to come. The Hindu Mahasabha lost its president Syama Prasad Mukherjee, who went on to found the Jana Sangh. The Hindu Mahasabha would never recover from this blow. Its last MP was Mahant Avaidyanath, best known as a leader of the Rama Janmabhoomi movement and the guru of present UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath, defected to the BJP in 1991.

By contrast, the RSS did survive quite well, and even generated a whole “family” of like-minded organisations, including a new political party. In a numerical sense, it was to thrive; but in two other senses, it paid a high price.

The third consequence was a drastic change in the political landscape. After Partition, the Hindutva movement had the wind in the sails. All Congress’ assurances that warnings against Islamic separatism were mere British-engineered paranoia, had been refuted by reality. Gandhi’s promise that Partition would only come over his dead body, had proven false. The new-fangled ideology of secularism stood discredited at its birth. And yet, overnight, the Hindutva current was marginalised and Nehruvian secularism started its triumphant march. By his murder, Godse had smashed the window of opportunity of his own political movement.

Amputated backbone

Finally, the fourth consequence would only materialise over the long term: The Hindu movement began to lose its defining convictions. Rather than continuing to see India as an essentially Hindu nation, it bought into the secularist notion of a mere “Hindu community” juxtaposed to “minority communities” that were endowed with equal rights and increasingly with privileges vis-à-vis the Hindus.

When Jawaharlal Nehru was widely criticised for having facilitated the Chinese invasion, the RSS halted the publication of a Nehru-critical article by Sita Ram Goel in Organiser: Rather than clamouring that its guest author’s judgement of Nehru stood vindicated, it feared that if anything were to happen to Nehru, the RSS would again get the blame. As the Gandhi murder had shown, it wasn’t necessary to be actually guilty to still incur the punishment, viz, by “having created the atmosphere” for the crime. The RSS bought into the secularist narrative that the Hindu ideology had caused the murder and started amputating its own ideological backbone.

If Godse had foreseen these consequences of the act he contemplated, he might have thought twice about going through with it. – Firstpost, 27 July 2022

Dr. Koenraad Elst is a well-known Indologist from Belgium.

Gandhi's death reported in the NYT.

Why ‘eminent historians’ still swear by the debunked Aryan theory – Makkhan Lal

Image depicting the imaginary Aryan invasion of India from the Caspian Sea.

“It is difficult to say that all the earliest Aryans belonged to one race, but their culture was more or less the same type. Originally the Aryans seem to have lived somewhere in the steppes stretching from Southern Russia to Central Asia. On their way to India the Aryans first appeared in Central Asia and Iran. A little earlier than 1500 BC the Aryans appeared in India.” – R.S. Sharma

“By 1500 BC when the Aryans began to arrive in India, the Harappan culture had collapsed. We do not know where they came from; perhaps they came from north-eastern Iran or the region near the Caspian Sea or Central Asia.” – Romila Thapar

The two quotations from India’s two “eminent historians” sum up their approach to the Aryan Invasion Theory. Just look at expressions “difficult to say”, “seems to have”, “somewhere in steppes”, “we do not know where they come from”, “perhaps they came from north-eastern Iran or the region near Caspian Sea or Central Asia”. Despite so many probabilities, they are certain that Aryans came from outside. When and from where? No idea!

Despite all evidence to the contrary, why does the Aryan invasion/migration theory (AIT) continue to remain the lifeline of Indian Marxist historians? Let us now look at the AIT in historical perspectives.

Linguistic Evidence

Florentine merchant, Filippo Sassetti, who lived in Goa from AD 1583 to 1588, was struck by similarities between Sanskrit and European languages, especially Latin and Greek. Later, the relationship between Sanskrit and European languages was further elaborated by William Jones and many other scholars in the service of the East India Company. The efforts made towards understanding these linguistic similarities between Sanskrit on the one hand and Greek, Latin and some other modern European languages on the other gave rise to a new discipline called ‘comparative linguistics’. Its birth had questionably motivated considerations and in the last 200 years the discipline (if at all it is a discipline) of ‘Comparative Linguistics’ has shown a far greater variety of gymnastic exercises than the sport of gymnastics itself.

Since the earliest books (i.e. the Vedas) of the Aryans and so also all human beings are written in Sanskrit, it came to be recognised as the language of the Aryans. In the beginning, all European languages, along with Sanskrit, came to be clubbed as Aryan languages, and Sanskrit got identified as not only the oldest of all but also the mother of all European languages. Lord Monboddo was convinced that “Greek was derived from Sanskrit”. Frederick Schlegel, a highly respected German linguist wrote, “The Indian language is older and others [European languages] younger and derived from it.” Thus, Sanskrit came to be recognised as the mother of “all the less ancient Indo-European languages, as well as the modern European tongues and dialects”.

But these opinions did not last very long. Local pride, racial complexes and Evangelical considerations overshadowed everything as a part of a shift from ‘Indo-mania’ to ‘Indo-phobia’.

Though William Jones could not accept the earlier view that Sanskrit is the ‘mother’ of all Aryan languages. He advocated that Sanskrit is just a ‘sister’, i.e. a co-descendant of an earlier ancestor language. Following the lead provided by Jones, F. Bopp wrote: “I do not believe that Greek, Latin and other European languages are to be considered as derived from Sanskrit. I feel rather inclined to consider them together as subsequent variations of one original tongue, which however, the Sanskrit has preserved more perfect than its kindred dialects.”

So, a search for the original homeland of a language, namely ‘Proto-Indo-European’, led different scholars to different places. This search for the imagined original language homeland also meant the search for the ‘Original Homeland of Aryans’. This also gave rise to forging labels such as the ‘Indo-Aryan’, ‘Indo-European’, ‘Aryan languages’, ‘Indo-Aryan languages’, and the ‘Indo-European languages’. Sometime around the 1820s, the word ‘Aryan’ began to be dropped and it simply became ‘Indo-European’. Some German scholars even started using the term ‘Indo-German’ on the presumption that the Sanskrit and German languages, between them, covered the entire Indo-European speaking area—the farthest language to the east being Indic and German to the west.

Sanskrit, even today, may be “the greatest language of the world” or even if it “is of a wonderful structure, more perfect than Greek, more copious than Latin and more exquisitely refined” but so what? How could a language spoken by ‘niggers’ have been once the mother of languages today spoken by Europeans, i.e. white people? This position could not be accepted even by William Jones and Max Mueller, who have been so wholesome in their praise for Sanskrit.

Sanskrit was first demoted from mother to the position of a mere sister of all the ancient and modern European languages, but later on, with further building-up of the language tree, it came to be demoted to the position of grand-daughter, when it got linked to the so-called Indo-Iranian family. Thus, the position is: Proto-Indo-European language gave birth to the Indo-Iranian, which in turn produced Sanskrit. It’s already almost 200 years and the search for the grand-mother of Sanskrit (i.e. the Proto-Indo-European) is still on. We still do not know what she (the Proto-Indo-European Language) may have looked like, of what colour she may have been, or what may have been her physical and metaphysical structure. She still remains formless even in dreams. Quite often, these practitioners of philology were so illogical, so incoherent, so absurd, so adamant and arrogant, but, indeed, their impact has been so devastating that it has aptly been termed as ‘linguistic tyranny’.

Central Place Argument and Aryan Invasion

Once Sanskrit was demoted from the honoured status of being mother to all Indo-European languages and made a mere sister or niece of the European languages, a search started for the ‘original tongue’ i.e. the ‘Proto-Indo-European’. This cleared the deck also for legitimising the Aryan invasion of India; a theory which suggested that Sanskrit was brought here from the place where this imaginary language called ‘Proto-Indo-European’ was spoken. In 1842, A.W. von Schlegel claimed: “It is completely unlikely that the migrations which had peopled such a large part of the globe would have begun at its southern extremity (i.e. India) and would have continually directed themselves from there towards the northwest. On the contrary everything compels us to believe that the colonies set out in diverging directions from a central region.”

And for Schlegel this central region consisted of the areas around the Caspian Sea.

With the increasing hold of the British on India, the colonial and the Evangelical interests soon became a force in shaping Indian history for the rest of the academic world. Following the lead provided by A.W. von Schlegel, Max Mueller reiterated his position on the issue of the Aryan invasion and said in 1887: “If an answer must be given as to the place where our Aryan ancestors dwelt before their separation … I should still say, as I said forty years ago, ‘somewhere in Central Asia’ and no more.”

However, Srinivas Ayengar wrote in 1914: “The Aryans [in their entire literature] do not refer to any foreign country as their original home, do not refer to themselves as coming from beyond India, do not name any place in India after the names of places in their original land as conquerors and colonisers do, but speak of themselves exactly as sons of the soil would do. If they had been foreign invaders, it would have been humanly impossible for all memory of such invasion to have been utterly obliterated from memory in such a short time as represents the differences between the Vedic and Avestan dialects.”

It must be reiterated that it does not refer to a single name of flora and fauna found in Central Asia, Russia and Europe. If Rig Vedic people came from Central Asia how come they have no memory of it. Historically, linguistically and as per the oral traditions it is simply impossible.

The fallacy of this central-place theory as the origin of an imaginary language and then spreading all around can be explained with a contemporary example—English. Consider a situation wherein after a couple of thousand years, people forget that England was the place where the English language developed and spread from, and start looking for the place of its origin. The Central Place Theory will exclude England in the very first instance, as it is located on the outskirts of the world of the English language. The United States of America would be the natural choice from where it spread to Europe and Asia in the east, and Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, etc, in the west and Canada in the north.

Lexicographic Evidence

Lexicography (the vocabulary of spoken/written words) is another area which was pressed in the service. Besides collecting a large number of the common words in various languages to prove their affinity, a number of words were chosen to prove the location of the language. For example, it has been argued that since there is no common word for the ocean in the Indo-European language, we can safely conclude that the Indo-European people were not aware of the ocean.

Varadpande rightly presses the points: “If we carry this reasoning further we shall have to suppose that ‘Indo-Europeans’ were living in a region where there was no air and no water, since there are no common words for air and water in all the ‘Indo-European’ Languages.”

The whole situation is that first a conjecture is turned into a hypothesis; to be later treated as a fact to be used in support of a new theory. For instance, language like Proto-Indo-European, Proto-Indo-Iranian and Proto-Dravidian are no more than hypothetical constructions, which may or may not have really existed; and yet these modern creations are often imposed on populations that lived thousands of years ago, to prove migrations theories.

Shaffer writes: “The Indo-Aryan invasion(s) as an academic concept in 18th-19th century Europe reflected the cultural milieu of that period. Linguistic data was used to validate the concept, which in turn, was used to interpret archaeological and anthropological data. What was theory, became an unquestioned fact that was used to interpret and organise all subsequent data. It is time to end the ‘linguistic tyranny’ that has prescribed interpretative frameworks of pre-and proto-historic cultural development in South Asia.”

The question of Aryan invasion/Aryan migration vis-a-vis philology has always been questioned. In the beginning of the last century, Aurobindo, while commenting on the philology, wrote: “Comparative philology has hardly moved a step beyond its origins; all the rest has been a mass of conjectural and ingenious learning of which the brilliance is equalled only by the uncertainty and unsoundness. … The very idea of the science of language is chimera.”

It is important to point out that in the last 30 years renowned linguists like Ram Bilash Sharma, S.S. Misra, S.G. Talgeri, N.S. Rajaram and Koenraad Elst have proved, on the basis of linguistic evidence itself, that this whole theory of Aryan invasion/migration is a fallacy.

Aryans, Racialism and Rig Veda

Subjugation of India by the British filled the masters with a desire to prove their all-round superiority. Racialism was one angle of it. Writings of Grant, Mill, Marx, Macaulay and their accomplices denigrated Indian people, culture, civilisation, society, history and religion.

Trautmann has traced the emergence of racialism and the development of physical anthropology as a resolution of the inescapable philological reality with the colonial need for cultural superiority over the natives of India. One of the most striking types of evidence of such an attitude is best seen in the writings of ACL Carlleyle. In 1879 he wrote: “We, British Europeans are Aryans, and far more pure and genuine Aryans than the Hindus, and no talk of the Hindus can alter our race, or make us any less or any different from what we are. It is the Hindus who have altered and deteriorated, and not we. The Hindus have become the coffee dregs, while we have remained the cream of the Aryan race. The Hindus are like the monkey.”

Some scholars think that the linguistic affinities of Indians and Europeans were also responsible for the development of physical anthropology leading the whole debate towards racialism. Most of the European scholars could not accept the view that Indians (‘niggers’, that is how most of the time Indians have been referred to in those writings) could have been once related to them and could have, indeed, been their forefathers, a conclusion which comparative linguistics was suggesting.

Edwin Bryant expresses it in the following words: “Even during the earlier phase of the homeland quest, when India was still a popular candidate, many scholars were uncomfortable about moving the Indo-Europeans too far from their biblical origins somewhere in the Near East. There were those among the British, in particular, whose colonial sensibilities made them reluctant to acknowledge any potential cultural indebtedness to the forefathers of the rickshaw pullers of Calcutta, and who preferred to hang on to the biblical Adam far more than their European contemporaries.”

Max Mueller himself was sad to note the mood of the day: “They would not have it, they would not believe that there could be any community origin between the people of Athens and Rome, and the so-called niggers of India.”

The newly developing science of physical anthropology was pressed into service to project Aryans as tall, white-skinned, blue-eyed, with sharp and high nose, and dolichocephalic. The non-Aryans came to be identified as natives with dark skin, flat nose, short stature, and so on. The dasas mentioned in the Rigveda were made to represent non-Aryans, i.e., the indigenous local population of India. Thus, the frame of the invasion of Aryans and the subjugation of the non-Aryan local population got corroborated with the evidence from Physical Anthropology.

The racial theory had a devastating impact on European polity. Each nation/state started claiming to be the real descendent of the Aryan race and considered others as inferiors. Max Mueller tried to intervene by declaring again and again: “If I say Aryans, I mean neither blood nor bones, nor hair nor skull. … How many misunderstandings and how many controversies are due to what is deduced by arguing from language to blood-relationship or from blood-relationship to language. … An ethnologist who speaks of an Aryan race, Aryan eyes and hair, and Aryan blood is as great a sinner as a linguist who speaks of a dolichocephalic dictionary or brachycephalic grammar.”

Alas! It was too late. The djinn created by Max Mueller had now grown up and was no longer under Mueller’s command. In the twilight years of his life, Max Mueller realised the devastating impact of distortions that he had made in Indian history in order to please his employers and the newly acquired faith. He died a sad man, preaching at the end of his career things like India: What Can It Teach Us.

He described India as: “The country most richly endowed with all the wealth, power and beauty that nature can bestow, … a very paradise on earth, … [a place where] human mind has most fully developed some of its choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered on the greatest problems of life.”

Racialism and DNA Evidence

In this context it will be useful to recall the studies carried out by K.A.R. Kennedy and his colleagues. For almost five decades they carried out a detailed study of a large number of pre- and proto-historic skeletons found in excavations from a large number of archaeological sites from all over the Indian sub-continent.

On the basis of their research, Kennedy and his colleagues concluded: “As for the question of biological continuity within the Indus valley, two discontinuities appear to exist. The first occurs between 6,000 and 4,500 B.C. The second occurs at some point after 800 B.C. but before 200 B.C.”

Both discontinuities exclude any adjustment for Aryan Invasion.

Besides the studies of Kennedy and his colleagues on ancient skeletons, an important study has come out recently on modern humans. Keeping in mind the AIT, Kivishield and his colleagues carried out a detailed study on gene pools of Western Eurasians and people of the Indian subcontinent. They studied the ‘genetic inheritance aspect’ of genes through the Mitochondrial DNA Test. It may be mentioned here that the mitochondrial DNA test can reveal the whole history of genetic changes and mutations that may have taken place even in the remote past i.e. several thousand years ago.

Kivishield and his colleagues have reached the conclusion that the Mitochondrial DNA, typical of Western Eurasians, is present among Europeans up to 70 percent whereas among Indians it is only up to 5.2 percent. The DNA gene pool of Western Europeans is very different from that of Indians. It has been very clearly stated that if there was any Aryan invasion of India a few thousand years ago, it must be visible in the mitochondrial DNA tests in terms of a splash in percentage of Western Eurasian genes. But this is not so. Further, the percentage and types of Western Eurasian genes present among south Indians and north Indians are almost the same. This fact establishes that there is no difference between the south Indian and north Indian gene pools, and the same goes against the Aryan invasion theory.

Conclusions

Now over a period of 200 years, the meaning of ‘Aryans’ has been constructed and reconstructed as being nomadic, pastoralists, sedentary agriculturists, dolichocephalic, brachycephalic, blond and fair, and from brown-haired to dark-haired. The Aryan homeland has been located and relocated everywhere, virtually from the North Pole to the South Pole, and from the shores of the Atlantic to Chinese deserts—South India, North India, Central India, Tibet, Bactria, Iran, the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea, Lithuania, the Caucasus, the Urals, the Volga Mountains, South Russia, the Steppes of Central Asia, Western Asia, Palestine, Anatolia, Scandinavia, Finland, Sweden, the Baltic, western Europe, northern Europe, central Europe, and eastern Europe.

The Aryan homeland, however, still remains elusive. J.P. Mallory has put the whole thing very succinctly: “One does not ask, ‘Where is the Indo-European homeland?’ but rather ‘where they put it now?’”

Anthropologist Edmund Leach of Cambridge University has most aptly summed up the whole question of the Aryan Invasion Theory. In 1990 in his article, Aryan Invasions over Four Millennia, Leach wrote: “Why do serious scholars persist in believing in the Aryan invasion? Why is this sort of thing attractive? Who finds it attractive? Why has the development of Sanskrit come so dogmatically associated with the Aryan invasion? The details of this theory fit in with this racist framework. … The origin myth of British imperialism helped the elite administrators in the Indian Civil Service to see themselves as bringing ‘pure’ civilisation to a country in which civilisation of the most sophisticated kind was already nearly 6,000 years old. Here, I will only remark that the hold of this myth on the British middle-class imagination is so strong that even today, 44 years after the death of Hitler and 43 years after the creation of an independent India and independent Pakistan, the Aryan invasions of the second millennium BC are still treated as if they were an established fact of history. … The Aryan invasion never happened at all.” – Firstpost, 20 July 2022

  Prof. Dr. Makkhan Lal is a well-known historian and the founder director of the Delhi Institute of Heritage Research and Management.

Rig Veda

Time to reclaim India’s history – David Frawley

Greater India Map (US 1864)

The existing historical accounts of India starting with the Aryan Invasion Theory, reflect political and religious biases by groups who have sought to politically control or convert India, exploit it commercially, or divide India into smaller countries they can more easily dominate. – Dr. David Frawley

There remains a crucial need to correct the history of India from distorted accounts that have prevailed since the British era. As a New India arises with confidence in its own civilisation and global stature, this reductionist view of India as primitive, divided, politically incorrect and lacking in continuity is suspect and appears as India seen through the shadow of foreign rule and hostile ideologies.

India so far has not adequately reclaimed its history in the post-Independence era in a way that shows the true stature, duration and influence. Even after 75 years of Independence, the main history of India taught is coloured by derogatory interpretations of those with little respect for India’s great traditions, though a new movement to counter it is steadily rising.

The history of India as commonly given in textbooks and media accounts worldwide is the view of scholars who have little direct knowledge of India’s way of thought and view of culture, who prefer to interpret India according to their own cultural biases as if these were unquestioned truths.

Such a view of India’s history reduces India’s profound 5,000-year dharmic civilisation and its vast cultural, yogic and intellectual traditions to a mere footnote to Western culture and politics of the last few centuries, in which India has little relevance, and is often a subject of abuse and hoped for reformation.

The new reduction of India to South Asia

Recent views of India’s history add a new negationism. For them there was no India, but only a few temporary, disjointed cultures and kingdoms, with outside dominated empires like the Mughals or the British, and no enduring or characteristic Indic civilisation behind these.

Such scholars see only a nebulous South Asia region, without much cohesion or contribution to world civilisation, so no separate or unique place in history is required for India apart from the diverse groups and cultures of the region. This is a contrary position as compared to China, which is given its historical identity and cultural continuity, even though China borrowed much of its philosophy and spirituality from India through Buddhism.

The Greek author Megasthenes at the time of Alexander over two thousand years ago wrote a book called Indika about India, which the Greeks honoured. There was extensive trade between Rome, the Middle East and China with a land called India for many centuries. Note terms like Hindusthan for the region, or Bharat Varsha and its sixteen regions or Janapadas found in Hindu, Buddhist and Jain texts. Geographical terms like Indian Ocean, Indo-Pacific, Indochina and Indonesia have long been used and show the importance of India but are similarly now being rejected.

India’s contribution to science, medicine and philosophy, for example, though India gave much more than just decimal mathematics to the world, is similarly seldom highlighted. Rather the British view of Macaulay, who tried to destroy India’s extensive educational system, or the communist views of Karl Marx, are given precedence, as if India’s contribution to world civilization was minimal in all respects.

Contrary to such views, India in its Sanskrit and regional dialects has produced the largest and oldest literature in the world, replete with historical references, names of kings, kingdoms, peoples, geographical regions, sages and cultural practices. Note the many Vedas, Agamas, Puranas, Jatakas, Sutras, and local accounts for such literature.

The influence of modern India

In addition to this negation of ancient India is an attempt to negate modern India and its influence. Since Swami Vivekananda, Indic-based traditions of Yoga, Vedanta, Ayurveda, Tantra, Sanskrit, Indian music and dance have spread globally and gained a dedicated following in almost every major country and region of the world. Great yogis and gurus from India have travelled and gained followers globally

Yet in accounts of modern India the role of Indic civilisation in spiritualising the world, is hardly mentioned. Nor is the fact that Indian immigrants to the US or UK have wonderful temples and a thriving community contributing to the peace and welfare of the countries where they now arise. The youth in the West after their studies of history can scarcely name any figures of civilisational importance from ancient or modern India.

The contrary idea is given that India as a nation was created by the British and only gained its identity with India’s Independence in 1947, which can be attributed largely to Jawaharlal Nehru who was an Anglophile. Meanwhile India’s history books have largely been written by Marxists and reflect their political agenda. The idea of a superior Socialist/Nehruvian India arose to counter or even erase ancient Bharat Varsha.

The effort to reclaim India’s history

Yet sadly today, when Indian thinkers try to correct this slanted history, they are accused of political, nationalistic and religious biases, as if they had no credibility. The fact is that existing historical accounts of India starting with the Aryan Invasion Theory, reflect political and religious biases, but coming from outside of India, by groups who have sought to politically control or convert India, exploit it commercially, or divide India into smaller countries they can more easily dominate.

Certainly, independent India, for its 75th anniversary, needs to reclaim its history, just as many countries free of colonial influence are doing. An Indic criticism of Western civilisational influences should also have its place in the discussion. There should be no monopoly on history by one group or another, though efforts to control history have long occurred among colonial, communist, leftist and fascist regimes.

The fact is that a history of India without an Indian voice or point of view, given India as one the cradles of civilisation, remains incomplete and presents a distorted view not only of India but also of the history of humanity, which has an inner yogic dimension, not simply an outer political expression.

India’s textbooks need major changes providing an Indic/Bharatiya view of its place of respect. This is part of an open pursuit of truth, in which all sides must be heard. Today there seems to be an apartheid in academia and the media in which an Indic view, particularly a Hindu view, will not be given a voice.

India’s view of civilisation as the pursuit of dharma and higher consciousness, cannot be reduced to materialist concerns or to those of exclusivist beliefs. Indology has perhaps been the worst aspect of Orientalism. Time for it to be put in the dustbin of history. India’s civilisation has the most in depth cosmic dimension to its view of world and Self, which transcends all such outer historical theories, and must be examined accordingly.

Howsoever we view history, it is clear that the human race remains an unevolved species in terms of consciousness, still caught in massive violence and prejudices, which we find throughout the world.

Honouring the sages of India can help all humanity. But to truly appreciate these great yogis, rishis and gurus, we must recognise their enduring role in India’s civilisation and history, and their influence on the whole of Asia and beyond that is spreading globally today to the entire planet.

Dr. David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva Shastri) is the director of the American Institute of Vedic Studies and the author of more than 30 books on yoga and Vedic traditions. He recieved of the prestigious Padma Bhushan award in 2015.

Indian History Timeline

Why Modi and BJP leadership must communicate more with its support base – R. Jagannathan

Nupur Sharma

Is the BJP committed to its Hindu base and protection of Hindu interests in “secular” India, or will it head in the same direction as other “pseudo-secular” parties in order to propitiate the Muslim voter? – R. Jagannathan

The Narendra Modi government has shot itself in the foot over the Nupur Sharma affair, where it has simultaneously dented both its own credibility in the Muslim world, especially in West Asia, and angered its core Hindu voter base in India.

By indirectly having to call its own party spokesperson as part of a “fringe” to propitiate an angry Gulf and Muslim world after Sharma’s outburst on national television about the Prophet, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has egg all over its face.

Sharma’s provocative comment is not the real issue; she was emotionally responding to attempts by Hinduphobes to mock the Shiva Linga. The real issue is the BJP leadership, and especially the Prime Minister’s lack of communication with his own party people and voter base on what to expect from his government, and how far they can go while making public statements on social media, or in that warzone called prime time television.

The core voter base expects steady forward movement towards protecting Hindu interests, and a directional and definitional guidance on “Hindu Rashtra”—what it should mean and in what time frame the government expects it to be achieved. But the Prime Minister—or, for that matter his party and Sangh affiliates—have said nothing useful in this matter.

The voter base has kept quiet so far because Modi’s own charisma has been winning the party election after election, but that is not going to ultimately satisfy Hindu aspirations and expectations from his government. Sacrificing Nupur Sharma in order to fire-fight the blow-back against India is one thing, not telling its own party and voter base what to expect needlessly allows extreme or actual “fringe” elements to precipitate a crisis that nobody wants.

The key questions Modi and the party need to address are the following:

One, is the BJP committed to its Hindu base and protection of Hindu interests in “secular” India, or will it head in the same direction as other “pseudo-secular” parties in order to propitiate the Muslim voter? If the BJP is just another “secular” party, it may still win a few elections, but its core base will seek another party that can better articulate its aspirations. Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas is okay as a slogan, but is not enough in a democracy to win elections.

Two, while no government can promise a Hindu Rashtra tomorrow, the government needs to answer a simpler question: why is it that eight years in power, it is not able to do the simplest things that the voter base is asking for? Among them, a comprehensive rewriting of history books, or providing funds and support for Indic organisations and groups to fight for their causes?

Why is it still supporting Hinduphobes like William Dalrymple and other “secularists” in global fora, when it should be doing the opposite: starve them of government funding. Why is prioritising Muslim appeasement through exclusive scholarship programmes and other kinds of funding so important when the reality is the BJP is never going to win a significant chunk of the Muslim vote even if it crawls in front of masjids and offers madrassa students free Qurans and computers?

Three, why is the party not counselling patience to its cadres, when an expansion of economic and military power needs to be stressed over the next decade, and India has to become a $8-10 trillion economy? Why is it so difficult for the party to ask its cadres to not make statements that will disrupt the economic programme, and wait till size and scale are achieved before becoming more assertive on Hindutva? Did China not keep quiet for three decades, pretending to be a peaceful country, till it became the world’s No 2 economy?

Why can this simple point not be explained to the party’s young eager beavers, who want Hindutva today, tonight, this instant? Hindutva depends on India becoming an economic superpower, and not vice-versa. The BJP should learn from its own growth, where Mandalisation and economic empowerment of the OBCs preceded the growth of Hindutva.

Four, can the party not explain a simple number on why inflammatory statements are not needed right now? About 95 per cent of all global Hindus live in one country; but there are 153 Christian-majority nations, and 51 Muslim-majority ones, according to Pew Research.

If Indian Christians and Muslims so want, they can get the world to meddle in Indian issues, which is what happened when Nupur Sharma spoke about the Prophet, but if anything is done to Hindus anywhere, the world will just shrug it off. They will say: “That is your job, you have one billion Hindus and you can’t do a thing about the few million targeted in your neighbourhood?”

Five, if the Prime Minister can talk to millions of voters directly, through his periodic televised speeches, or his talk shows on radio through Mann Ki Baat, why does he find it so difficult to do a Mann ki Baat with his own support base, or, for that matter, his own party governments in various states? Why can’t he encourage his party to ask him difficult questions which he will not duck, so that they know they are backing the right man?

Six, why is it that a party with an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha, and an ability to cobble together a majority in the Rajya Sabha to pass difficult economic and social legislation, cannot find the gumption to free Hindu temples from state control? Among the difficult pieces of legislation passed are the nullification of article 370 and bifurcation of J&K, the unified goods and services tax, the Citizenship Amendment Act, and the ban on instant triple talaq. Why can’t the BJP at least introduce legislation in Parliament to free temples and see where it goes? But the BJP has not even begun thinking on these lines.

Seven, why is it that India, with little more than cash and intellectual resources, is not able to take its Dharmic case to global fora, and address the general publics of America, Europe and other regions, so that there is pressure from below in these countries to change their policies towards India? If yoga and meditation can be sold to the Christian West, why not the idea of a Dharmic civilisation that needs its own political space to be a contributor to global growth and well-being?

Diplomatic and social ruptures seldom come without a warning, and the BJP should learn from this episode and do two things: one, it must define itself clearly as a Hindu party wedded to Dharma, and explain what that means for its minorities, the rest of the country and the world; and two, explain to its own core voters what to expect in terms of policies and time-frames. The real problem is India’s best communicator has not communicated enough on difficult issues with both critics outside and inside his own voter base. This needs fixing. – Swarajya, 7 July 2022

Jagannathan is an senior journalist and the editorial director of Swarajya magazine.

Nupur Sharma Effigy, Belagavi.

Sita Ram Goel Vindicated: ‘Eminent historians’ no longer deny Islamic iconoclasm – R. Jagannathan

Sita Ram Goel

If the “eminent historians” now can acknowledge the reality of Islamic iconoclasm, surely they can promote Hindu-Muslim amity by getting Muslim groups to accept that damage was done in the past, and some remedy is called for in the present to let bygones become bygones. – R. Jagannathan

Our “eminent historians”, mostly from the Left, are showing signs that they are not beyond all education when hit repeatedly on their heads with facts and evidence. The late Sita Ram Goel, who was among the first to debunk the whitewashed versions of India’s Islamic history, stands vindicated.

Before the Babri was demolished, they repeatedly asserted that there was no temple below the mosque. Once the archaeological survey ordered by the Allahabad High Court established beyond doubt that there indeed was a temple below the Babri, their story-line changed from “no temple below the mosque”, to bland assertions that what was under the Babri was another mosque or even a Buddhist stupa. (Read some of what they said then here.)

When evidence kept surfacing of multiple temple demolitions under Islamic rule, the party line was that this was done not for religious reasons but political reasons. False equivalences were drawn between consistent and bigoted Islamic iconoclasm and the occasional damage done to temples or Buddhist and Jain places of worship. The latter were aberrations rather than the norm.

Now, with a survey seeking to establish the presence of Hindu carvings (and possibly a Shiv Linga) inside the Gyanvapi Mosque, these eminences are slowly abandoning the claim that no temples were destroyed.

In The Times of India today (24 May), there is a clear acceptance that Mughal rulers destroyed temples, though the argument has changed.

Irfan Habib, professor emeritus at the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), is quoted thus: “Mughal emperor Aurangzeb destroyed temples in Varanasi and Mathura to raise mosques. However, the question today is whether what was done in 1670 should be repeated, despite the existence of the Indian Monuments Act. Should we do the same things as Mughal emperors did in the past?” (Read the details here.)

This is progress. Big progress. If we should not do what Aurangzeb did, it is an indirect admission that the Mughal emperor was a bigot. Facts are no longer denied, or conveniently misinterpreted as mere political acts of rulers in the past, though that is not entirely gone.

Shalin Jani of the Delhi University department of history is quoted as saying: “As far as Mughal India is concerned, we know about the politics of temple desecration during those times. We can’t resolve our contemporary problems by looking at the past.”

Well, maybe the Germans got it wrong when they refused to airbrush history or deny Hitler and the Nazi past. Without acknowledging the past, and making some amends, we cannot move forward.

The unwillingness to see religious bigotry behind temple desecration is not entirely gone, but the facts are no longer disputed.

Nadeem Rezavi, professor of mediaeval history at AMU, is clearer. “No one can justify what Aurangzeb did. However, we can’t behave like him and keep demolishing mosques to restore temples. What difference remains then between the Mughal ruler and rulers of today?”

Clearly, Audrey Truschke, who has tried to whitewash Aurangzeb’s reign in her book Aurangzeb: The Man and The Myth, clearly needs to hear what Habib and Rezavi now have to say. Aurangzeb was a bigot. Full stop. His temple desecrations were real, not just political fallout.

Clearly, the work done by Sita Ram Goel in volume two of his two-volume work on Hindu Temples: What Happened To Them  (Vol. 1 & Vol. 2), which examines both the Hindu and Muslim evidence, should now be required reading in all history departments, including AMU.

Later books by Meenakshi Jain (Rama & AyodhyaThe Battle For RamaFlight of Deities & Rebirth of Temples, Vasudeva Krishna and Mathura, have also completely sealed the evidence in favour of the Hindu version of Islamic destruction of key temples. It is also time to revisit the older historical works of R.C. Majumdar and Sir Jadunath Sarkar and not just junk them as “communal historians”.

The only way forward from here is not to live in the past, but to acknowledge it, and negotiate a deal to hand over the Kashi and Mathura temples back to Hindus fully in return for Hindus allowing the rest of the temple desecrations to remain as acknowledged facts of history with no recompense due.

If the “eminent historians” now can acknowledge the reality of Islamic iconoclasm, surely they can promote Hindu-Muslim amity by getting Muslim groups to accept that damage was done in the past, and some remedy is called for in the present to let bygones become bygones. – Swarajya, 4 May 2022

› R. Jagannathan is a senior journalist and editor and the Editorial Director of Swarajya Magazine.

Gyanvapi Mosque back wall being the front wall of the ancient Vishwanath Temple.

Gyanvapi Mosque: A lesson in history that should lead to justice – Praful Goradia

Kashi Viswanath Temple replaced by Gyanvapi Mosque ( James Princep 1834).

Should not a crime be punished commensurately? If the criminal had got away at the time of commission of the crime, should he not be apprehended and punished when it is possible to do so later? If the wrongdoer has passed away, at least the act of crime should be reversed. What is the meaning of justice otherwise? – Praful Goradia

It was 1927; one Abdul Rashid murdered Swami Shradhanand, the successor of Swami Dayanand Saraswati, in his sickbed. The killer was arrested and tried. The British Government then had no qualms about the religions of the two men. Jawaharlal Nehru’s friend Asaf Ali, a distinguished advocate, took up Rashid’s brief. The court, nevertheless, sentenced him to death as it was a cold-blooded murder. The janaza (funeral) was attended by thousands of Rashid’s sympathisers but there was no riot or communal disturbance. Had any riot taken place, the Government would not have flinched from suppressing it. If the British were inclined to be soft, they could not have ruled an Empire for 190 years. That Empire had 40 crore Indians, with the white men from the British Isles being never more than one lakh.

Take the case of Ayodhya. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board eventually lost its long litigation in the Supreme Court; not a single Muslim stabbed a Hindu. In Ayodhya itself, everyone favoured the temple, including the local Muslims, on the grounds that it would vastly increase the number of inbound pilgrims and the city’s economy would flourish. If at all any violence took place, it was because of the firing earlier by Mulayam Singh’s police in 1990. The Mulayam regime resorted to indiscriminate shooting, not sparing even boys. No violence occurred owing to any mischief by a Muslim. It has been my consistent experience that when confronted with facts, most Muslims are willing to accept them. A member of the AIMPLB confided to me that the Board contested the Ayodhya issue in the courts for so long merely to stall the Hindus’ demands on other temples-turned-mosques.

Some years ago, the chief of the Jamaat-e-Islami visited Delhi for a few days and happened to spend a couple of hours at my place. His explanation for Islamic conquerors replacing temples with mosques was that they wished to declare to the area that a change of regime had taken place. A Hindu raja had been replaced by a Muslim sultan or badshah. In response, I asked that when a Hindu prime minister takes over in a Hindu-majority country, would it be fair to reverse the situation? Should not the mosque be replaced by a temple? Again, as a true Muslim, the Jamaat chief promptly replied that if it was the prime minister’s and his people’s desire, so be it.

In 1961, while delivering the Azad Memorial Lecture, British historian Arnold Toynbee, especially invited by Jawaharlal Nehru, said: “In the course of the first Russian occupation of Warsaw, the Russians had built an Eastern Orthodox Christian Cathedral in the city that had been the capital of the once-independent Roman Catholic Christian country, Poland. The Russians had done this to give the Poles a continuous ocular demonstration that the Russians were now the masters. After the re-establishment of Poland’s independence in 1918, about 100 years later, the Poles pulled down this cathedral. I do not blame the Polish government for having pulled down the Russian church. The purpose for which the Russians had built it had been not religious but political, and the purpose had also been intentionally offensive.” Before reaching Delhi, Sir Arnold had taken a boat ride on the Ganga and had noticed Aurangzeb’s mosque on the bank with two tall minarets. He said at his lecture that he was surprised that this mosque was standing even after the partition of India.

Gyanvapi Mosque as seen from the Ganga (1909).

To come back to the point, should not a crime be punished commensurately? If the criminal had got away at the time of commission of the crime, should he not be apprehended and punished when it is possible to do so later? If the wrongdoer has passed away, at least the act of crime should be reversed. What is the meaning of justice otherwise? And where would be the rule of law? Since 2014, quite a few intellectuals have been protesting that democracy in India is in danger and that liberals have no future here. Well, here is their opportunity to firm up democracy whose first foundation is the rule of law. One only has to read the Magna Carta of English King John, 1215 AD.

Some scholars have expressed the fears of communal riots. How many riots have taken place since 2014? It is true that recently there have been a few skirmishes in Bangalore and there was a major riot in northeast Delhi when President Trump was on a visit to India. Otherwise, the score book as far as riots are concerned has been negative over the last seven years. In any case, how can a court of law or a government shun the enforcement of justice merely due to the fear of riots?

It is well recorded that the Kashi Vishwanath Mandir was destroyed on the orders of Aurangzeb after his crowning. Fortunately, a portion of its front has survived as part of the masjid (see image below). Where people now worship Lord Shiva was built by the great Holkar Queen Ahilyabai in the 18th century. If, therefore, the Gyanvapi Mosque underwent some changes according to historical facts, no Muslim would have any objection. – The Pioneer, 30 April 2021

› Praful Goradia is an author, columnist, and a former member of the Parliament of India representing Gujarat in the Rajya Sabha.

Emperor Aurangzeb reading the Quran.

Auranzeb's firman ordering the destruction of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple (Sept. 1669).

 Maasir-i-Alamgiri: A History of the Emperor Arangzeb-i-Alamgiri by Saqi Mustaʻidd Khan.

What the Maasir-i-Alamgiri Says

The book Maasir-i-Alamgiri was written in Persian by Saqi Musta’idd Khan and was translated by historian Jadunath Sarkar during British era.

According to the book, on April 8, 1669, the Emperor came to know about the teachings by “misbelievers” in Benaras (See Ch. XII, Pg. 57).

“The Lord Cherisher of Faith learnt that in the provinces of Tetta, Multan and specially in Benaras the Brahman misbelievers used to teach their false book in their established schools and that admirers and students of both Hindu and Muslim used to come from great distances to these misguided men to acquire this vile learning,” a passage in the book reads.

“His Majesty eager to establish Islam orders to the governor of all the provinces to demolish the schools and temples of the infidels and with the utmost urgency to put down the teachings and public practice of the religion of these misbelievers,” reads the book.

On September 2, 1669, it was reported that according to Emperor’s command, his officials had demolished the Temple of Vishwanath at Varanasi, mentions the book. – Excerpted from India Today, 19 May 2022

Plan of the ancient Kashi Vishwanath Temple. Fine dotted line in the plan image indicates the Gyanvapi Mosque build over the temple's foundation (James Prinsep 1832).

Gyanvapi Mosque Area Plan (1936).

Gyanvapi Mosque

Lost rights and setting it right – S. Mukherji

Junípero Serra

We would like to ask how a process of historical truth-telling set into motion in the US is applicable to India, which was brutalised over a millennium by a long line of ruthless foreign invaders, rulers and their local collaborators? – Dr. Saradindu Mukherji

Driving by the township of Camden in north-eastern America, I saw the banner headline, “Enslaved Africans Once Sold Here”. Drawn by this nugget of history, I came closer and found the following description: “African slavery in New Jersey began with early European settlement. By 1766, circa 800 captive people had been sold here at the Federal Street Ferry and two other nearby ferry landings. In Africa, approximately 24 million captured men, women and children marched to coastal prisons. Only half survived the journey. These 12 million survivors then endured deplorable conditions on the Middle Passage ocean crossings, where an additional 2 million died from disease, malnutrition, dehydration, drowning, suicide and abuse.”

It is an impressive way of informing people about some of the most tragic episodes in American history—a message from the later generations about the brutalities and irreparable damage inflicted on their ancestors. This gesture, it is felt, might act as a balm for the descendants of the victims!

Robert E. Lee

In recent times, there have been several well-publicised events around such issues in the US related to various types of gross injustices committed in the past. From the signages standing in front of well-known historical monuments, museums, seaports and vast stretches of farm land to political-cultural narratives, one can notice this. There is no escape from such much-needed reminders. Well-publicised photographs depicting the removal of the equestrian statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee from its high pedestal in Richmond Va in September 2021 was a major milestone in this process of looking back at such acts of gross injustice and atoning, even if symbolically a perversity. The ongoing practice as pursued by some American institutions—local governments to universities, to name the native people deprived of their landed properties by force—called “land acknowledgements”, is a sign of sagacity and maturity that call for appreciation and emulation by all the right-thinking people cutting across national/racial boundaries. Every passing day, more skeletons tumble out of the cupboard. Hence, people were not surprised when the name of Woodrow Wilson, the 28th US president (1913-1921), famous for his 14+4 points, and his stellar role in facilitating the end of World War I was dropped from Princeton University’s International Affairs Department for his racist past. Even the iconic George Washington was found to be a slaveholder owning 317 black slaves. It is indeed a pretty long list.

Be that as it may, one is likely to ask as to how it is relevant for other countries? The underlying principle is certainly applicable to various countries with a similar past. Here, we would like to ask how such a process set into motion in the US is applicable to India, which was brutalised over a millennium by a long line of ruthless foreign invaders, rulers and their local collaborators?

Beginning with the Arab invasion of Sind in the 7th century, Indian society was pulverised by these religious zealots seeking to impose by savagery a different world order—establishing a dar-ul-Islam on a polytheistic India they tauntingly called dar-ul-harb. It is most regrettable that Jawaharlal Nehru described Babar, an alien invader, as “renaissance prince”, a man of culture, in his Discovery of India! In a vivid description, famous historian Arnold Toynbee said, “The Islamic conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history.”

In recent times, the movement for the liberation of Ramjanmabhoomi temple in Ayodhya was one such example of claiming back a holy piece of land/temple from illegal occupiers, who were also guilty of desecrating a sacred spot. That thousands of such desecrated temples over which mosques had been erected still remain under illegal occupation is not a classified secret. Several scholarly studies have been done on this aspect (Hindu Temples: What Happened to Them, Vol. I & Vol. II). Much, if not most, of what goes on in the name of Wakf property happens to be located on such landed properties now under unauthorised occupation [as are some Christian churches built on temple lands – Ed]. It is perhaps time to ponder over it, and set right such blatant cases of gross historical injustice!

From desecrated temples, marketplaces for selling Hindu slaves and their export, places of conversion to Islam, Jihadi battles won by “holy” ghazis, museums, political-cultural narratives and finally the all-important history books are now very much expected to see some drastic changes regarding how society must look back at the past. Victims of history from Kandahar to Khulna, Kashi to Kohat and Kashmir Valley, Mathura to Multan to Malabar want more than an acknowledgement of the sufferings: They seek immediate restoration of their habitat and holy places. The victims have waited far too long.

For any society claiming to be civilised, genuinely secular and democratic that wants to avoid the pitfalls of the past, such a moment of reckoning has to come. This generation is expected to witness many healthy debates and acrimonious battles over many such historical experiences people have gone through. It is high time to heal their wounds. – The Pioneer, 13 April 2022

Dr. Saradindu Mukherji is a historian and a member of the Indian Council of Historical Research. His most recent publication is The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019: Some Reflections.

Francis Xavier