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Censorship with a difference
By Ram Puniyani

Mumbai: The newspapers are abuzz with the claims of champions of correcting 'left distortions' in History, defending the deletion of different passages from the history textbooks produced by NCERT currently in use in the CBSE schools. Pending the introduction of new history books in the schools and pending the policy not to teach History as a separate subject in schools, the Govt. could not tolerate the 'insult' to National Hero, Guru Tegh Bahadur, it was upset by the insulting mention of beef eating in Vedic times etc., so this job of censorship. So incensed was the Govt. that it did not even have the patience to wait for the 'new' history books or the Social studies book, which are going to put portions of History, as the separate teaching of History is going to be stopped in coming times. It was so incensed that it had to undertake the unethical act of violating the contract with the writers of these books, who were not consulted in this matter. Anyway ethics are the last to be considered in the battle for doctoring people's mind for Hindu Rashtra, the cherished goal of RSS-BJP. The Govt. has similarly broken the understanding earlier also in the case of the two volumes of "Towards Freedom' by canceling the books which were in the advanced stage of production.

History is so important as a communal tool that the upholders of Dharma etc. are caring little about the agreement of the Govt. with authors, especially if they do not conform to the world view of the present Govt. for whom the Brahminical Hinduism based Nationalism is the be all and end all of their journey in the reverse gear. The parliamentary affairs minister, Pramod Mahajan, while defending this move to selectively delete parts of the comprehensive whole went on first to distort the parts of the book to gain sympathy of sections of society. The book says 'plunder and rapine' and the honorable minister on purpose distorted the word rapine to raping, to give an impression that the said history book alleges that Guru Tegh Bahadur was alleged with this crime. It is not for nothing that Goebbles, the champion of race based nationalism is 'dancing with joy' in his grave with the further enhancement of his art by the followers of 'Religion based Nationalism' a close cousin of his own variety of Nationalism. The argument has been put forward that mentioning that some Kings plundered is an insult to the King and the community to which he belonged. It is interesting to note that while so much is being made of plunder, it is being forgotten, on purpose, that plunder into territories of other kings was ' normal' during those times. One remembers as to how Shivaji's armies used to plunder the areas in Surat, as to how the daughter-in-law of the Nawab of Kalyan was brought in as a part of the plunder and Shivji rose beyond the accepted norms of the times and respectfully sent her back to her home with due honor.

It is being alleged that national heroes have been insulted in these textbooks. A whole look at the deleted passages gives us enough idea as to what lies behind the deletion game. Much is being made of the Guru Tegh Bahadur part, one does not know which Sikh representative body objected to this passage, which has been deleted ``The Guru, while being a religious leader, had also begun to be a rallying point for all those fighting against injustice and oppression... for the Sikhs, the Guru gave up his life in defence of cherished principles.'' In what way does it tantamount to insult to the heroes of communities one fails understand. Interestingly the other deleted portions give the real reasons of this exercise away. There are three major themes around which this censorship is applied. First relates to the distinction of mythology and history, mention that there were no human settlements around Ayodhya in the times when Lord Ram was living. This scientific truth breaks the back of the whole Ram Janmbhoomi assault, which went in to demolish Babri Masjid and in turn consolidate the BJP from a marginal outfit to the major player on the political chessboard. Second is the mention of cultural and dietary practice of eating beef. There are innumerable passages in different treatises which mention about the beef eating practices, Taittiriya Brahman categorically tells us: 'Verily the cow is food' (atho annam via gauh). Yajnavalkya's insistence on eating the tender (amsala) flesh of the cow is well known. Even later Brahminical texts provide the evidence for eating beef. Manusmiriti also did not prohibit the consumption of beef. One wonders if there is a move to take back Bharat Ratna from one of the tallest Vedic scholars, Mahamahopadhya P.V.Kane, who in his History of Dharma Shastra categorically states about the beef eating practices based on impeccable Vedic and other sources of that time. Cow, projected, as equivalent to Mother, is central to the Hindutva politics. Any mention of beef eating is dangerous to this politics. That is one of the reasons of Prof. D.N.Jha going through the nightmares of suppression and persecution for the crime of writing a scholarly book, 'Holy Cow, Beef in Indian Dietary Tradition'.

Then the other major irritants for the present controllers of power in the Education Dept. can not swallow the mention of caste, its rigidification by Brahmins as again it gives away the game of trying to present Brahminical Hinduism as THE Hinduism at the cost of Shramanic traditions of Hinduism (Charvak, Tantra, Kabir etc.), many of which had no problem with beef etc and which had larger following amongst the low caste. Then again there are portions which mention the Brahminical reaction to Ashoka's edict "prohibiting the killing of animals and birds and superfluous rituals", the stopping of which was to cause enormous material loss to Brahmins. Incidentally this was the time of rise of agricultural production, which needed cattle wealth for economic reasons. What is being objected is those parts of History, which give a glimpse of our society of that time. Today when the reason and logic is aimed to be removed from the education system (introduction of Astrology, Karmakand, Paurohitya etc) these passages are an eye sore to the proponents of retrograde fundamentalist politics. In a way Dr. Joshi is paying the compliments to the communal historians of Pakistan, who have succeeded in bringing in such type of changes in their system. In Pakistan, history teaching has been done away with (Dr. Joshi has taken the cue and is following those footsteps), and glimpses from history are part of a subject called as Pakistan Studies. These Studies have parts of history, which begins with Harappa and then jumps to occupation of Sind by Muhhamad Bin Qasim. The Pakistani secular scholars like Mubarak Ali and Pervez Hoodbhoy are distraught with this selective uncritical omission of non-Islamic portions of History and also by the blind glorification of the past. As the counterparts of Dr. Joshi, the Muslim communalists, are having an upper hand, the secular historians have been marginalized, so everything in the past is milk and honey and a bouquet of roses bereft of thorns. If BJP has its way the glorious Hindu period will be painted at least through our books, where there was no caste system, there was no Sati, the virtuous Brahmins were carrying the society on the shoulders of their spirituality. So moral of the story, vote for BJP for bringing back the glorious past. 

Can we take the history as a blind glorification of 'our selective' past? Should we not accept the methods of modern historiography in our history writing as has been done in the current NCERT books? Should we not accept the present books based on genuine sources of History, the traveler's chronicles, the messages in between the lines and the other interpretation to understand our past. Should not make the average Shudra and average woman, as the important part of our history? The points need to be addressed in serious fashion. The policy makers today are trying to encash on the sentiments of sections of communities to impose the understanding, which suits their politics. In this scheme of things a la Pakistan truth does not matter, scholarship is not needed. Hindutva Politics (not Hinduism) sitting on the driver's wheel is ready to plunge us in the dark era of communal politics.

The writer works with EKTA, Committee for Communal Amity, Mumbai. q

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