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Hindu zealots altering history: scholars
By Deepshikha Ghosh, New Delhi

Did the human race originate in India? Did the Indians teach Egyptians the art of building pyramids? Is the Taj Mahal a Hindu monument?

Versions of history like these, with their dangerous emphasis on Hindu nationalism, could soon worm their way into Indian schoolbooks, warned leading Indian scholars who gathered for a three-day conference in Delhi to discuss these issues.
Historian K N Panikkar said: "The communal history being propagated by the government is a concerted effort to create an alternate social consciousness of the past and historically establish a Hindu nation." The intellectuals decried the ongoing review of course content by the National Council of Educational Research and Training, which is funded by the government.

They felt the review would introduce ideas and interpretations explicitly inclined towards Hindu fundamentalist beliefs under the aegis of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which leads the coalition government at the Centre.

They resolved to wage a counter-revolution against what they termed an "assault on rational discourse" and "return to intellectual backwardness and fundamentalism".

Panikkar said attempts to create a sense of "belonging" to India, as proposed by NCERT's curriculum paper, were aimed at creating a Hindu national identity, and could have serious long term social and political implications.

He felt NCERT's value education scheme had explicit political connotations and was a socially divisive attempt. "It will foster a generation that will be incapable of critically examining the problems of the society and will be inclined towards the kind of mass conformism that breeds religious fundamentalism."

Former chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research Irfan Habib likened the attempts to distort history to Nazism.

He said: "The Sangh Parivar is trying to totally misread the entire past of the Indian civilization and culture in the name of patriotism, and their mindset is being imposed on our education system."

"They even say we taught the Egyptians to build the pyramids and that the Vedas are the oldest scriptures that date back to 8000 BC."

The ICHR has in recent times sanctioned Rs 1.5 million to an archaeologist to chart the course of the dried up ancient river Saraswati establishing the "true origin of the Aryan race that went from India" and another Rs 160,000 to prove that Dravidian languages had no independent Indian roots, he said.

According to him, it was similar to how Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler and his deputies spent exorbitant sums of money on research to establish that German blood was racially superior.

"By selectively obscuring facts, Hindu ideologues are depriving India of its heritage of great rulers and scientists who made genuine contributions."

Habib expressed worry about the BJP government justifying the destruction of mosques through NCERT textbooks that highlighted how Muslims destroyed Hindu temples.

Attempts to establish Hindu origins of world-renowned monuments like the Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri were also criticized by the gathering.

"The freedom of people is under threat, and all of us must start a counter-revolution," proposed Prabhat Patnaik, professor of economics at the Jawaharlal Nehru University.

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