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Invoking history for narrow goals?

"Concocted narratives were taught to infuse inferiority. There is a need to get free from the narrow interpretation of the past in order to move forward" - this was the call of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 'Veer Bal Diwas' program on December 26. 'Veer Bal Diwas’ was started in 2021 to mark the martyrdom of the sons of Sri Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru of the Sikhs- Sahibzadas Baba Zorawar Singh and Baba Fateh Singh, aged seven and nine, respectively. However, this remark made by the Prime Minister was rejected by the Sikh community organizations Akal Takht and Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) as an attempt to assume patronage of the Sikhs. Union Home Minister Amit Shah's speech at a function in Assam in late November also had rewriting history as the main theme. He asked who would stop us from presenting history properly and said that our children need to be taught the correct history. He added that a nation that does not garner inspiration from its heroes can never create a bright future for itself and cannot create better citizens. Shah also urged Himanta Biswa Sarma, the chief minister of Assam, slate literary work on the life and times of Lachit Barphukan into 10 Indian languages, including Hindi, so that children can take inspiration from him. He recalled that the valiant life of the great Lachit Barphukan protected not only North East India but also South Asia from the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.

Two days ago, Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said at a programme organised jointly by the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-(RSS) affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Itihas Sankalan Yojana that beginning on January 26, students all over the nation will be taught the 'corrected' version of Indian history, thereby giving 'clarity' to the world about India. He also spoke about the contributions that can be made to the new education policy, in this regard.

If history is inaccurate, it is critical to understand why and how to alter or erase it. In the process, even it take a subjective turn, the intent will be clear. The reasons behind the focus placed on historical reconstruction by the three well-known BJP leaders are also quite revealing. Opposition to Aurangzeb and other Muslim rulers is the focus of Modi and Shah's policies. Hindutvawadis have a pattern of pitching Mughal rule as a foreign enemy and obliquely labelling Indian Muslims as its followers. Further, whenever independence becomes the theme, their attempt is to talk of freedom from from foreign rule that lasted eight centuries rather than from British rule. Muslim contribution to the struggle for freedom will be buried in this manner, and Muslims will be placed in an adversarial position. What the education minister talked also implied the plan to include such narrative in national textbook series. The fact of the influence of Hindutva constructs on the national education policy also is to be noted amidst this. It is no accident that the majority of the chapters recently revised in CBSE textbooks were those that spoke about Muslim history. However, examples of the Sangh Parivar intellectuals campaigning against British rule are also not highlighted as any crowning examples of patriotism.

Leaders of the BJP and the RSS, most recently including RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, generally claim that the country's ancient history and customs are essentially Hindu. As a corollary, they have tried to bring the entire Indian society, which is diverse in religion, caste and language, under the umbrella of Hinduism. Their aim is either amalgamation or if that does not happen, sidelining of particular groups. Defining patriotism itself as part of this cultural allegiance on the one hand and on the other making Aurangzeb's 'followers' the enemy, are two dimensions of the same mentality. In fact, soon after independence, all of these themes and concerns were duly discussed during the framing of the constitution, and accordingly, a secularism model has been incorporated within the constitution. Through visible as well as covert means, Hindutva forces are trying to destroy this through cultural invasion, marginalization and undermining of citizenship rights. All Indian citizens who wish social justice and peace to flourish in the nation should be on the lookout for such attempts to dig into and rewrite history.

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TAGS:Mughal era rewrite-history Amit Shah Mohan Bhagwat RSS Dharmendra Pradhan PM Modi Himanta Biswa Sarma Muslim history Hindutva 
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