Righting History – Wronging The Right

March 28, 2018 India , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

Frank Holleman photo

 

By

Ananya S Guha

 

 

The Indian government has instituted a national committee for the rewriting of NCERT text books for school children. The question also arises, why only history, why not English, Geography, Physics and Political Science? What is so irksome about history or the past? It is openly said that this is being done in order to show that events such in The Ramayana or The Mahabharata actually took place and the Hindus were the original inhabitants of the country. This is uneasy if not squeamish posturing. How are we to do it?

 

There is a strong possibility then that the history text books will be colored with myths and legends. This is controverted by the committee members on the plea that this is the culture of the country and students should know about it, maintaining at the same time that the Hindus were and presumably still are the original inhabitants of the country. This is confusing race with religion, which in the first place should be seen as a historical fallacy. It also subverts the racial theories which constitute the historical making of the country. The Aryan Dravidian theories are debunked, but not by research, by only emotion. Emotion is not going to guide scholarship or research.

 

When untruths replace truths and scientific inquiry we have hogwash statements like Darwinism being abjectly false. After all, have you seen apes actually, yes actually turn into men? So when untruths pose as facts, there will be no questions. Only questions, which national committees will ask and answer. These answers will be codified and rule as law and of course are sacrosanct. Why are they doing these, the committees? Because they are orchestrated by politics and politicians. But earlier governments did it they say. Yes they did it, but they chose better scholars, scholars who made a mark internationally.

 

So we will have one Indian history, one Indian culture? This again runs counter to the truth we see – a diverse country, culturally, linguistically and religiously. The exploitation of the country on a large scale took place during British rule. Shashi Tharoor’s ”An Era Of Darkness’‘ researches on this almost dramatically to show how British pecuniary interests and coffers were driven by their exploitation of Indian wealth. Clive was impeached because of corruption. Will not such looting, the Bengal famine for example, go into the tunnels of Indian history? If Indian history has to be rewritten, why this noise about ancient India only?

 

History is an organic whole. You can’t start at one point and stop conveniently there. There seems to be a conscious attempt to halt historical, sociological and scholarly processes in the run to Indian history; with its currents and cross currents, its dialectics and discourses, its intermingling of races, its religious and literary efflorescence, its architecture, both in the south and the north, its emergence of Bhakti and likewise eclectic thought and above all a grand design of creating a super structure on a structure. That the country has been created as a result of time, spanning thousands of years on a mammoth scale of culture, indigenous beliefs and tribal ways of life.

 

Of course in ancient India there was great development of astronomy and mathematics. We are proud of that, and we must tell the students that. But we must also show the evolution of Mathematics to them historically. Isn’t that history? Or for that matter the history of physics.

 

So it is ‘righting’ history as a TV channel would call it. But in the process of righting things, do write about the grand design of history. Show the children how history has a grand design, its illuminating chandeliers and its cavalcade of events, its synchronicity and above all its celebration of diversity, especially in the Indian context.

 

But students, the intelligent ones, are curious. They will read other books, other authors as they grow up. They will question. And parents like me will certainly facilitate such questioning. Of course bring in regional history. That in fact will add to our diversity in history.

 

The next broad matter is this fetish for history allied and associated with culture. So it is Hindu culture which is the dominant historical force in the country. How can religion be allied to culture? If you call Hinduism more of a way of life than religion, then why call it religion? This is how such thinkers are trapped in their own illogicality, contradiction and paradoxes. On one hand they will speak about local cultures, on the other a pan Indian culture. History has belied this.

 

Today the diversity of the country is its palpable reality. People basically do not care for caste, class and religion. The young are focused on professions. The game plan is to sync misplaced ideology with young minds in school. But many of these young will also study abroad and have capacious minds. This sense of urgency foisting and fostering new narratives may well rebound on the educational thinking in the country. The overall sign of educationists being under the thumb of politicians is another worrying sign. It did happen earlier but those scholars were not I think as half ingratiating.

 

The point is that the whole matter has been viciously politicized. The argument that earlier governments did the same thing also does not hold ground because one expects new governments to do better, act better and think different. But there is a problem. When rigid ideology gets the better of governance then there is a yawning gap between speech and action. It is with these paradoxes we are living today, in the midst of the clarion call for development.

 

Education is an integral part of a robust process of development in a country. However education cannot be impelled by political ideology.

 

 

 

 

Ananya S Guha

Ananya S Guha was born and brought up in Shillong, North East India. He has seven collections of poetry and his poems have been published worldwide. They have also been featured in several anthologies. He is also a columnist, critic and editor. He now is a Regional Director at the Indira Gandhi National Open University and holds a doctoral degree on the novels of William Golding.

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