History textbooks should reflect reality, not ideology – Rakesh Sinha

Prof Rakesh SinhaLeftist historians profess that history should be secular and its content should help inculcate scientific and rational temperament among students. But that does not mean history should be used as a tool to glorify the false, exaggerate selective details and be written with an objective to help them gain dominance in the contemporary ideological-political debate. They are so obsessed with the economic interpretation of history that they metamorphose the episodes. For instance, after the Khilafat fiasco in 1921, riots broke out in Moplah in Kerala. Reports of rapes, looting, burning of houses and forcible conversion of Hindus to Islam shocked the world. … It is bizarre that the Marxists legitimised these perpetrators of rape and conversions as ‘rebels of economic oppression’.” – Prof  Rakesh Sinha

Prof Yellapragada Sudershan RaoWith the ascendency of BJP to power, yet again a debate on the proposed changes in the syllabus of history textbooks has kicked off. A similar debate was also witnessed during the Vajpayee regime. But there is a difference between the two. In the debate that took place during the Vajpayee-led NDA rule, the Left forces were against the idea of change in curriculum, but in 2014, their primary focus seems to target individuals predisposed to head academic institutions. Unfair criticism of Prof Y. Sudershan Rao’s appointment as the chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) is one such example. This clearly shows that the Leftist historians are no more in a position to carry on with their philosophy of ‘writing history’.

The debate also has a unique feature. While the Marxist-Nehruvian stream has many big faculty names with it, the nationalist stream has facts and reality on its side. In the debate during the Vajpayee premiership, ‘eminent’ historians of the Marxist clan used their names to appeal to the popular mind and tried to make the forces of alternative history defensive. They are masters in the art of using the ‘power of propaganda’, which they have learnt from the Italian Marxist thinker Antonio Gramsci, in changing the minds of common man. They left no stone unturned to prove that corrections in history lessons were nothing but ‘saffronisation’ and they use this term synonym to ‘communalism’. But they fail to contest issues raised by the nationalist historians. There are umpteen such examples, but Antonio Gramscipresenting only one instance will be enough to prove the fallacy of their argument. The NCERT textbook taught children that the ninth Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Tegh Bahadur, who we all know made unparalleled sacrifices for the freedom of religion, was linked to ‘plunder and rapine’.

Leftist historians profess that history should be secular and its content should help inculcate scientific and rational temperament among students. But that does not mean history should be used as a tool to glorify the false, exaggerate selective details and be written with an objective to help them gain dominance in the contemporary ideological-political debate. They are so obsessed with the economic interpretation of history that they metamorphose the episodes. For instance, after the Khilafat fiasco in 1921, riots broke out in Moplah in Kerala. Reports of rapes, looting, burning of houses and forcible conversion of Hindus to Islam shocked the world. British historian L.F. Rushbrook Williams wrote: “The main brunt of Moplah ferocity was borne not by the government but the luckless Hindus, who constituted majority of the population… Massacres, forcible conversions, desecration of temples, foul outrages upon women, pillage, arson, destruction—in short all the accompaniments of brutal and Ali Musliyarunrestrained barbarism—was perpetrated freely.” Reporting the event, the Times of India stated: “Not a single Moplah had been looted by these bands and it is very doubtful whether any Hindu house has been left unmolested…” It is bizarre that the Marxists legitimised these perpetrators of rape and conversions as ‘rebels of economic oppression’.

Their selective amnesia is more than obvious. They omitted important historical facts. For instance, it was Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s insistence that Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) continued. Times of India reported on December 17, 1947, that he appointed Liaquat Ali Khan as the president of Pakistan Muslim League and Mohammad Ismail of Madras as the first president of IUML in a conference held in Karachi. Moreover, their ideological predisposition can be seen while discussing the role of Indian Communists during freedom movement. Their allegation against RSS historians is akin to pot calling the kettle black. They fail to digest that history textbooks should reflect realities, not ideologies. – The New Indian Express, 10 August 2014

» Prof Rakesh Sinha  is the Hony. Director of India Policy Foundation. He is an eminent political scientist. Contact him at rakeshsinha46@gmail.com

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