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SAFFRONIZING HISTORY TEXTBOOKS
By Kallada Hamza, Calicut

The diamond jubilee session of the Indian History Congress was held at the Calicut University campus in Calicut during 28-30 December. Prominent historians from various universities in India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Japan and Australia participated in this session. Papers on topics ranging from historical geography, language, tribal history, environment, social reform, education and gender relations were presented and debated by the historians. 

Indian historians expressed grave concern over the attempts of politicians to rewrite history textbooks infusing them with the Hindutva spirit. Eminent historians who attended the five sections of the 60th session of the IHC vehemently attacked this attitude.

Historical accounts have often been controversial and arbitrary, leading to communal tension and hatred. The IHC felt rewriting history books, under pressure from politicians having vested interests, is a dangerous game. Traditionally, some historians had been influenced by the British rulers and only those versions were taught which suited their colonial rule. The IHC debated the multi-faceted issues of Indian history in the perspective of the country’s composite culture, but they fear that a distinct effort is taking shape to introduce the Hindutva version of history into the secular school system since the past decade.

The urge to rewrite history books by hard-core Hindutva historians is absolutely religious in temperament. During the past few years, the Sangh Parivar-RSS-BJP combine has been seeking admission as members to the IHC. Since its inception in 1935, the IHC has been comprised of committed professional historians, and since 1990 it has closed its doors to communally-biased historians. Some hard-liners of the Hindutva ideology have been trying to hijack this congress of historians. Now only those who have a published work in history or a doctorate in a related subject to their credit, can be a member. The ruling elite is aware that history is a potential tool that could be used to promote and propagate their ideology. The IHC has been vehemently resisting this move over the last few years.

During the past decade, absolute lies started being taught in the schools in the BJP-ruled states. Kids are unable to distinguish between myths and facts. At the tender age they are being brainwashed with fiction and falsehood. Text books have already been rewritten in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat where pupils are taught fiction based on mythology. The Vidya Bharati, Sangh Parivar’s educational arm, is publishing and distributing textbooks. There are about 6,000 Vidya Bharati schools all over the country, propagating Hindutva. The textbooks are full of biased and inflammatory versions of the country’s culture and history. Students are misguided and hence communal hatred is spread.

Some versions of such textbooks are testimony to the falsification of facts. One chapter states that Jesus Christ imbibed his spiritual knowledge from the Hindu Sadhus and China owes its culture to Indians. Another chapter describes India’s freedom struggle began 2,500 years ago, that Muslim rulers were the first colonizers. In Gujarat, a textbook calls Muslims, Christians and Parsis ‘foreigners.’ The saffron brush of the Sangh Parivar has also touched some mathematical problems. One of the bewildering questions is: ‘If it takes X number of Karsevaks to break one mosque, how many does it take to demolish 300 mosques?’

Eminent historians, Prof. Irfan Habib of the Aligarh Muslim University, Dr Sumit Sarkar of Delhi University, Dr KKN Kurupp of Calicut University, Prof. Kesavan Veluthatt of Mangalore University, Gautam Chathopadhyaya of Calcutta and many others debated various aspects of Indian history pertaining to Mysore sultans. Prof. Irfan Habib refuted the allegation that his projection of Tipu Sultan as a lion who fought the British and French colonialism, was biased. Hindutva historians could not see Tipu as a freedom fighter, but only an aggressor and dictator who converted Hindus by force! What Prof. Habib has done is placing Tipu in the proper historical perspective based on authentic documentary evidence and papers presented at a special panel debate on Srirangapatnam in 1799. Prof. Habib’s version and vision of Tipu gained well support from the other historians. Tipu was an administrator who introduced new systems like banking ,development of ports and emancipation of the lower caste Hindus in Malabar from the bondage of the Upper castes. Tipu fought the colonial powers until his last breath.

These are undeniable facts supported with records which Dr. Irfan Habib and Dr. Veluthatt retrieved from archives related to the era of Tipu at Srirangapatanam in Mysore. The BJP-RSS-VHP combine is now covertly mobilizing a parallel body of academicians to the Indian History Congress to inculcate the spirit of Hindutva with the help of text books.

The historians are not averse to correcting some factual errors that might have crept historical books that could be rectified through thorough research work. But they are worrisome of twisting the facts with fiction based on mythology, folklore and epics that fall only in the purview of religion, not history. Errors could be erased . But fictionalization of historical facts should be resisted.

Hindutva extremists are in a headlong haste to project the Hindu past as a the glorious tradition of the country . Their zeal is derived from the Nazi German ideology which was based on three principles: Aryan supremacy, anti-Semiticism and anti-communism. If Nazism type fanaticism emerges under the banner of ‘Hindutva,’ our secular system will collapse and the country would plunge into turmoil and communal hatred.
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