BJP distorting history: Savarkar outshines Gandhi in Rajasthan textbooks

The authors don't miss a chance to vilify the Congress.

 |  4-minute read |   09-06-2017
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Every time the BJP has been in power, either when Atal Bihari Vajpayee or currently Narendra Modi have been prime ministers, a major task has been to rewrite Indian history textbooks.

For example, the new textbooks for the Rajasthan state Board schools have glorified Veer Savarkar, the Hindutva icon, pushing the Father of the Nation's preeminent role to the margins of nationalism.

Savarkar is not only made an icon but his actual role in the freedom struggle elevates him far above Gandhi and Nehru. What is not mentioned is that Savarkar pleaded for clemency when imprisoned during the freedom struggle.

After his release, he was careful not to critique the British Raj. He offered to galvanise the Hindu youth in favour of the British if he was released. In other words, he betrayed the freedom struggle.

The day before Gandhi was assassinated in the morning of January 30, 1948, the conspirators who were to ensure his murder, including Nathuram Godse and Gopal Godse, among others, met Savarkar, then president of the Hindu Mahasabha, at his residence on January 29, in the evening.

On the other hand, in the social science textbook of Class 10, the hagiography of Savarkar edged out Nehru from the textbook, decimating Mahatma Gandhi to a passing reference. In the previous year, Nehru, India's first Prime Minister, was erased from the Class 8 textbook.

Rajasthan state education minister Vasudev Devnani defends the changes, saying "every hero can't be included in every book".

But the issue is that a highly controversial Hindutva ideologue like Savarkar is glorified in a state government text, while the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, and the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru are dismissed in a few lines, while being almost absent in other textbooks.

godse1_060917125337.jpgA photo shows the trial of the persons accused of participation and complicity in Mahatma Gandhi's assassination in a special court in Delhi. Savarkar (in a black cap) sits in the last row while Nathuram Godse and Narayan Apte are up front. The conspirators had met Savarkar at his residence a day before the murder. Photo credit: Photo Division, GOI

The authors don't miss a chance to vilify the Congress. The Class 10 social science textbook claims without any historical evidence, that the Congress "moderates" wanted to prolong British rule in India because they felt the latter's exit would lead to lawlessness.

In reality, from 1885 onwards, Congress moderates like Dadabhai Naoroji wrote against the British in his famous text "Poverty and UnBritish Rule in India", a scathing attack on British rule. The economist RC Dutt wrote a two volume "An Economic History of India", which showed how the Indian colony had suffered economically, including in terrible famines.

In other words, the Rajasthan government's chosen authors have completely distorted history and sidelined the real heroes of the national movement.

The Class 11 political science textbook is even more vicious. In this, the Congress is described as a "nurtured baby" of the British, established by capitalists and representatives of the upper middle class.

In the Class 10 political science textbook, Savarkar has been described as a great revolutionary, a great patriot, and a great "sangathanwaadi" (organisation man). The textbook goes on to say that "the lifelong sacrifices he made for the country's independence are beyond words".

modi1_060917125351.jpgModi pays his respects to Veer Savarkar.

A chapter on the "moderates, extremists and revolutionaries" of the freedom struggle gives about three pages each to Gopal Krishna Gokhale (a "moderate") and Bal Gangadhar Tilak (an "extremist"), and one-and-a-half page each on Bhagat Singh, Chandra Shekhar Azad and Subhash Chandra Bose.

There is no reference to other revolutionaries like the Anushilan Samiti or the Chittagong Armoury Raid under Surya Sen. Nor is there any reference to Udham Singh who assassinated former governor Dwyer who was responsible for the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy.

In a chapter on India's relations with its neighbours in the Class 12 political science textbook, India-Pakistan relations during Manmohan Singh's tenure are dismissed as leading to zero results. But Modi's talks with Pakistan are described as a "positive initiative" (sic.)

In other words, a concerted attempt is being made in BJP/NDA ruled states to rewrite history while demonising or ignoring the real contributions of parties, movements or individuals. This is a brazen attempt to misrepresent history in line with partisan Hindutva ideology.

(Information from The Hindustan Times, June 9, 2017).

Also read: A hunted historian, long dead, saw RSS and BJP rewriting history


Kamal Mitra Chenoy Kamal Mitra Chenoy @kamaichenoy

The writer is an academic and activist.

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