How Modi, RSS and other Hindu fanatics are crushing India's spirit

History will remember the present government as one that led the country into a dark age.

 |  4-minute read |   24-09-2015
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My personal experience with Hindu and Jain fanatics (RSS, VHP and the extended parivar) goes back to 2001 when my book Holy Cow: Beef in Indian Dietary Traditions was published. They threatened me with dire consequences, demanded my arrest, attacked me in the university campus, tried to vandalise my house, and burned copies of my book. They went to court at Hyderabad and got the book banned. But I challenged the ban and succeeded in getting it lifted; also I got the book published from London under the title The Myth of the Holy Cow. I defied the ban but I was in police protection for more than two years.

The Hindutva forces have been carrying out their agenda of "cultural purification" even before the BJP came to power in 2014. Their ideologue Dinanath Batra got A Ramanujan’s essay on the Ramayana dropped from the Delhi University syllabus and forced Penguin Random House to withdraw Wendy Doniger’s book on the Hindus from the shelves. Emboldened by the BJP’s majority in Parliament, the saffron brigade is now using organisations like the VHP, Hanuman Sena, Ram Sene, and Sanatan Dharma Sanstha for attacking, assaulting and even killing scholars whose ideas go against their beliefs.  

Instances of the illiteracy of BJP governments at the Centre and states are multiplying every day. Beef has been banned in several BJP-ruled states, and in Rajasthan, the government has also declared cow urine as a substitute for phenyl which, we are told, will be used even in hospital ICUs. Then you have Sushma Swaraj saying that the Bhagavad Gita is India’s national book and, soon after that, we hear the Haryana government deciding to include Ramayana and Mahabharata in school textbooks. Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad recently claimed, without any basis, that Ashoka belonged to the Kushwaha caste. Relevant sources do not refer to Ashoka's caste or to the existence of the caste called Kushwaha during his time. Then, we were told that Aurangzeb Road in Delhi must be renamed as it was named after a tyrannical and oppressive ruler.

One can argue that many Hindu rulers also had negative aspects. Even Ashoka, considered to be a "good" ruler, is said to have ascended the throne after killing 99 of his brothers. So why not change the name of Asoka Road? Why do you have roads named after Bhagwan Das and Man Singh who fought the Hindutva icon Rana Pratap? The purpose of renaming roads and cities is plain and simple: to black out the Islamic past of India.

In a recent move to communalise the history of India, the Sanskrit department of Delhi University declared its intent to push back the date of the Rig Veda to 8,000 BC by using dubious astronomical evidence and ignoring the inscriptional, linguistic, ethnographic and geographical information which form the basis of the accepted Vedic chronology. This is a mockery of research, for the department has already arrived at the conclusion before researching the facts.

The Modi government is trying to destroy the basic character of academic institutions by appointing mediocre people to head them: Y Sudarshan Rao, who is better known for his ignorance than for his knowledge of history, has been appointed chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR); Baldev Sharma, the former editor of the RSS mouthpiece Panchjanya has been brought in to replace the well-known Malayalam writer A Sethumadhavan as chairman of the National Book Trust (NBT); and Gajendra Chauhan, a BJP functionary, whose claim to fame rests on his role as Yudhishthir in the TV serial Mahabharata, had been appointed chairman of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), ignoring the stalwarts who had made huge contribution to the film industry. More recently, a well-known historian Mahesh Rangrajan has been made to resign as Director, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML), to facilitate the induction of someone without any academic credentials.   

The RSS and the Hindutva brigade, including Prime Minister Modi, attribute fantastic scientific achievements to ancient Indians. We are told that they had knowledge of stem cell research, plastic surgery and aircraft much before the West came to know of them. But none of their claims is supported by evidence. On the other hand, there is much in ancient Indian science we can be proud of, such as the contributions of Charaka, Shushruta, Aryabhata, Brahmagupta, and Bhaskara. But the Hindutva brigade has seldom mentioned any one of them.

By the time the current regime runs its course, the BJP would have damaged Indian social polity irreparably and hijacked academic discourse to a level of abysmal ignorance. History will remember the present government as one that led the country into a dark age. With Modi at the helm, India has become a benighted nation.

Writer

DN Jha DN Jha

The writer is a historian, specialising in ancient and medieval India. He was former member of the Indian Council of Historical Research.

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