Anarchists stoking campus unrest – K. G. Suresh

AISA at JNU

K. G. SureshPseudo intellectuals who have made a fortune through the liberal largesse of successive governments in the past, are finding themselves cornered today with the new regime strictly implementing academic discipline and norms. – K. G. Suresh

A planned, deliberate exercise is being undertaken by sections of frustrated, desperate and ideologically isolated faculty and students to denigrate and destabilise prestigious educational institutions, including universities, across the country. That these anarchist elements, who have enjoyed the fruits of power over the last several decades at the cost of academic discipline, accountability and standards, are becoming unnerved by the loss of their empire, is evident from the artificial protests and propaganda being unleashed from time to time ever since a new dispensation has taken over the reins at the Raisina Hill.

From Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in the north and Film and Television Institute of India in the west, to Hyderabad University in the south and Jadavpur University in the east, these elements have been trying to foment trouble and orchestrate campaigns over flimsy issues to project the government and its appointees as anti-Dalit, anti-women and anti-minorities, in connivance with fellow travellers in the media.

The pattern is the same. The foot soldiers of an ideology, which carried out the inhuman purge in Russia, the ruthless cultural revolution in China, the ethnic cleansing in Tibet, the gross human rights violations in Siberia and Xinjiang, the suppression of democracy by crushing students under military tanks in Tiananmen Square, have become ironically the self-proclaimed champions of democracy and human rights in India.

From Gajendra Chauhan to Pahlaj Nihalani and B. B. Kumar, among others, all appointees of the present regime are portrayed as ‘mediocre’, agents of the RSS and accused of saffronisation. The spit-and-run tactics of these foreign-funded activists in the garb of academics and students include making wild, sweeping, unsubstantiated allegations the moment any effort is made to make them accountable or disciplined.

They are trying to build a new narrative—that students should be consulted before the appointment of any head of the institution, and administration should not take any decision without taking faculty into confidence, even on non-academic matters. Any effort to make them accountable, including insistence on biometric attendance, is outrightly rejected. Any attempt to get vacated their long-held positions or ineligible occupation of hostels are construed as undemocratic acts, and licence to abuse is touted as freedom of speech and expression.

These pseudo intellectuals, who have made a fortune through the liberal largesse of successive governments in the past, are finding themselves cornered today with the new regime strictly implementing academic discipline and norms.

Over the years, they had penetrated every institution thanks to undeserving patronage extended to them by their godfathers. In the process, they also ensured that those who disagreed with their world view were denied their due. Being a nationalist became the albatross around the neck of many deserving academics. Nobody talked about their freedom of thought and expression—their academic freedom. They were at the receiving end in academic appointments and promotions. The nation’s academia was dominated by a mafia, which determined their fate and pushed them into the netherworld with contempt and ruthlessness.

The current protests and propaganda are only acts of desperation by these so-called scholars who have realised that their time is over, their game is up and the golden days of their dominance over national institutions are no more. The crusade undertaken by institutions such as JNU to remove the scourge of political untouchability, discrimination and apartheid that have been pursued over the last several decades, must be appreciated by all right-thinking people and supported by the government. Only then can Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream of a New India be fully realised. – The New Indian Express, 16 July 2017

» K. G. Suresh is the Director General of the Indian Institute of Mass Communication in New Delhi.

AISA anti-national protest at JNU

How to teach Indian history, and how not to – N. S. Rajaram

Kamlesh Kapur

Dr. N. S. RajaramIt is now a time-worn cliché that the teaching of Indian history has been distorted. The real question is how to correct it. A committed teacher has taken an important step by showing how to go about doing it. – Dr N. S. Rajaram

Speaking before the Kerala History Association, Kochi on 18 Dec. 2005, Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, then President and among the most respected intellectuals in India observed: “The best historians present us with descriptions and analyses of the past that make unfamiliar times and places somehow comprehensible. In seeking to penetrate the veil of the past, we end up by studying how other individuals and societies dealt with the practical and existential problems at least related to our own.” 

After this sage observation, Dr. Kalam came specifically to Indian history and noted: “My observation is that in India many have written history of India [coming] both from the Indian historians recently and by those who had conquered us. So far, even 58 years after Independence, the dogmas, rituals, systems and norms of the historical past, imposed by the last millennium of invasion and conquest, still continue to condition our minds.” Most tellingly he emphasized: 

“We tend more to conform to the past [as described by our invaders and occupiers], rather than think in true freedom and create a future, free from the pain of the past. Now time has come, in the 21st century, we need new breed of historians who can make the past meet the present and create the future….”   

More than a century before Dr. Kalam, Swami Vivekananda told a group of youngsters (1891): “Study Sanskrit, but along with it study Western sciences as well. Learn accuracy, my boys, study and labor so that the time will come when you can put our history on a scientific basis. … The histories of our country written by English writers cannot but be weakening to our minds, for they talk only of our downfall. How can foreigners, who understand very little of our manners and customs, or our religion and philosophy, write faithful and unbiased histories of India?”   

He then went on to observe: “Naturally many false notions and wrong inferences have found their way into them. Nevertheless they have shown us how to proceed making researches into our ancient history. Now it is for us to strike out an independent path of historical research for ourselves, to study the Vedas and Puranas and the ancient annals (Itihasas) of India, and from them make it your sadhana (disciplined endeavor) to write accurate, sympathetic and soul-inspiring history of India. It is for Indians to write Indian history.” 

Without resorting to polemics, Vivekananda exhorted his youthful audience to “…never cease to labor until you have revived the glorious past of India in the consciousness of the people. That will be the true national education, and with its advancement, a true national spirit will be awakened.” What he left unsaid was that such an approach would need them to develop new tools of historical research leading to new methodologies 

Historical method 

One scholar who appears to have taken this message to heart is Smt Kamlesh Kapur, an educator of great experience both in India and the US. She has put her knowledge, experience and the spirit invoked by Dr. Kalam and Swami Vivekananda into practice in producing the book Portraits of a Nation: History of Ancient India. In addition to giving the facts of history as can best be reconstructed the author provides details of methodology used and historiography.  

A book along these lines should have been, and could have been, written fifty years ago, but was not. The reasons are several, but two need to be highlighted because they have persisted. First, there was the Nehruvian feudal establishment; and pandering to his tastes and prejudices became the route to recognition and career success. This meant that the views advanced in Jawaharlal Nehru’s amateurish and entirely Eurocentric Discovery of India became entrenched in history books as the “authorized” view. To go with this, a whole generation of historians beginning with Romila Thapar and R. S. Sharma were trained by a single British professor, A. L. Basham of the School of Oriental Studies in London. Basham was more a religious scholar than a historian or archaeologist, but his legacy has persisted. 

It is unhealthy for any institution to be so in-bred in its research and faculty, with everyone trained to think the same way. A prime example is the Center for Historical Studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. Until recently it was dominated by the Marxist historian—and Basham student—Romila Thapar and a clique around her. A singular feature of ‘scholars’ belonging to this clique is their ignorance of Indian languages, especially Sanskrit. This is true of Thapar also though it has not stopped her from writing extensively about Vedic India! As a result they are totally dependent on English translations made by colonial scholars. This has resulted in what Sri Aurobindo called their “lack of sturdy independence” and “excessive deference to European authority.” 

What this clique has produced is copycat scholarship, with status tied to how closely they follow their erstwhile European masters. This makes them oppose any revisions to Eurocentric models like the Aryan invasion theory and the Aryan-Dravidian myth. In fact, the strongest defenders today of these discredited notions are not Europeans anymore but their Indian followers. Harappans as Dravidians and victims of the Aryan invasion is propagated not by European scholars but Dravidian politicians like Karunanidhi. (One exception is Asko Parpola who was paid a generous reward by Karunanidhi for endorsing the DMK ideology built on the scientifically discredited Aryan-Dravidian divide.) 

This sheds light on another aspect of the post-Independence history establishment, especially of the JNU-AMU (Aligarh Muslim University) school, known more for political activism than any contributions to scholarship. Underlying their political posturing is the denial of everything good about India. Vedas and Sanskrit were brought by invading Aryans; Indian astronomy is of Greek origin; Muslim invaders including Babar never destroyed any Hindu temples—you get the drift. 

Much of this can be explained by the fact that this arrogance and posturing is a façade to cover up their deficiency in scholarship and inferiority complex. Being ignorant of both science and primary sources (in Sanskrit), they feel their best defense lies in denial and attack. This came to the fore when this writer and the late Natwar Jha in 2000 proposed a solution to the Harappan script puzzle by linking its language to Vedic Sanskrit and presenting readings of a large number of inscriptions. 

This of course demolishes the Aryan-Dravidian myth. The reaction of JNU-AMU clique was not any attempt at refutation, but a personal attack in the Communist magazine Frontline. Even here, Romila Thapar, lacking the self-confidence to deal with our work (based on Vedic Sanskrit), went to Hindu-baiter Michael Witzel of Harvard to mount the attack. (The recent attack on Subramanian Swamy and Rajiv Malhotra by Witzel and his colleague Diana Eck is not without precedent.) 

In pursuit of their goals, this clique has not hesitated to deny and even falsify evidence. A prime example that had tragic consequences was its denial and falsification of evidence for the existence of a prior temple and its destruction beneath the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. This was noted by the judge who severely criticized these scholars for their role. In its judgment on the long-standing Ram Janmabhoomi dispute, the Allahabad High Court flayed the role played by several witnesses including Thapar’s protégé Shireen Ratnagar.  She was forced to admit under oath that she had no field experience in archaeological excavations in India. 

Still their hostility bordering on hatred towards their ancestral land and culture is hard to comprehend. They owe everything to India; unlike Indian scientists and professionals, they would be nonentities in the West. Perhaps Shakespeare said it best when Julius Caesar was murdered by his erstwhile followers: “What private griefs these men have, alas, I know not.” 

Be that as it may, Kamlesh Kapur in Portraits of a Nation: History of Ancient India suffers from no such deficiencies or ignorance of primary sources and science. She displays a refreshingly original approach to the sources. She observes that the Vedas, the Rig Veda in particular has been the most faithfully preserved text of the ancient world and hence has suffered least in terms of interpolations. We must treat the Vedic records—names, dynasties, astronomical statements, etc—as the most reliable and accord them the highest priority. 

This is a valuable insight: it means that statements that seemingly violate our beliefs—like Aryans as nomadic invaders—cannot be dismissed. If the Rig Veda describes a maritime society of rivers, oceans and ships as David Frawley pointed out more than 20 years ago, we cannot ignore it and insist that it was nomadic-pastoral. Also to be admired is the author’s bold multidisciplinary approach by looking at natural history, genetics, and archaeo-astronomy in addition to the usual sources like archaeology and literary records. In fact, some of this material appears for the first time in a textbook (as opposed to articles and research monographs by Oppenheimer, Cavalli-Sforza and this writer). 

In the process, the author succeeds in building a sound foundation in historiography not only for her book but for all future students of Indian history. A particular strength of the book is that its author is no ivory tower academic writing to impress peers, but an educationist who has worked with students and teachers for many years. She has seen the problems at ground level, and has produced a book that is at once up to date and pedagogically sound. 

To appreciate the value of Kamlesh Kapur’s work it helps to have some idea of the magnitude of the distortion, nay perversions, inflicted on generations of innocent young minds by self-serving academics in the name of history. It is a vast subject, but here is a brief summary. It is a case study in how not to teach history, or any subject for that matter. 

Historians or ‘distortians’ 

While most educated Indians now have at least an idea that their history has been distorted, few know the lengths to which “scholars”—European and Indian—have gone to preserve and perpetuate the Aryan myth. Given the Aryans’ importance to their worldview, it is extraordinary that after two hundred years of voluminous outpourings, these scholars are still unable to identify them. Originally they were claimed to be a race related to Europeans but science has discredited it. 

After the defeat of Nazi Germany, scholars avoid overtly racial arguments but the basic idea of an invasion by Europeans bringing civilization to India is retained even if they acknowledge that ancient Indian records know nothing of any such invasion. All we have are repeated assertions of their central dogma. As expressed by the late Murray Emeneau, a leading linguist: 

“At some time in the second millennium B.C., probably comparatively early in the millennium, a band or bands of speakers of an Indo-European language, later to be called Sanskrit, entered India over the northwest passes. This is our linguistic doctrine which has been held now for more than a century and a half. There seems to be no reason to distrust the arguments for it, in spite of the traditional Hindu ignorance of any such invasion.” 

This is typical of the field, with arguments closer to theology than to science. In short Emeneau and his ilk are telling us: “Evidence be damned, we know Aryans invaded India and brought the Vedas.” Aryans are needed because there can be no Aryan invasion without the Aryans. It is a case of the tail wagging the dog, but theology cannot exist without such “logic”. Scientists, however, had long ago dismissed the idea of the Aryan race. As far back as 1939, Sir Julian Huxley, one of the great biologists of the twentieth century had observed: 

“In England and America the phrase ‘Aryan race’ has quite ceased to be used by writers with scientific knowledge, though it appears occasionally in political and propagandist literature…. In Germany, the idea of the “Aryan race” received no more scientific support than in England. Nevertheless, it found able and very persistent literary advocates who made it appear very flattering to local vanity. It therefore steadily spread, fostered by special conditions.” 

These “special conditions” were the rise of Nazism in Germany and British imperial interests in India. Its perversion in Germany leading eventually to the Nazi horrors is well known. The fact that the British turned it into a political tool to make their rule acceptable to Indians is not generally known. A recent BBC report acknowledged as much (October 6, 2005): 

“It [Aryan invasion theory] gave a historical precedent to justify the role and status of the British Raj, who could argue that they were transforming India for the better in the same way that the Aryans had done thousands of years earlier.” 

That is to say, the British presented themselves as “new and improved Aryans” that were in India only to complete the work left undone by their ancestors in the hoary past. This is how the British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin put it in the House of Commons in 1929:

 “Now, after ages, … the two branches of the great Aryan ancestry [Indians and the British] have again been brought together by Providence…. By establishing British rule in India, God said to the British, “I have brought you and the Indians together after a long separation. … It is your duty to raise them to their own level as quickly as possible …brothers as you are….” 

Preposterous as it sounds today, it was a ploy to create an Indian elite loyal to the British rulers by flattering them as long-lost brothers, now being uplifted from their degraded state. The ploy was so successful that English educated Indians continue to cling to this fiction long after the British themselves admitted to the fraud. While the British can live without their creation, their followers in the Indian history establishment cannot do without it. Their identity no less than their politics is bound up with it. 

All this is a matter of record. Our historians don’t have to learn Sanskrit or study the Vedas to understand it. Yet they are curiously reluctant to expose such passages that bring their whole history into discredit. They loudly denounce the Nazi misuse of Aryan myth, but carefully avoid mentioning its British version. Worse, they continue to perpetuate it by resorting to various subterfuges. 

Thomas Trautman (Aryans and British India) makes no mention of these even while acknowledging the British effort to create an Indian identity through a concocted Aryan kinship. In India: Brief history of a civilization (2011), he falls back on the Aryan migration—or invasion—with Sanskrit as a foreign import. He resorts to spurious arguments like the ‘rare’ depiction of the Aryan horse in Harappan archaeology to preserve the Vedic-Aryan, Dravidian-Harappa divide. (Why? Did those horses speak Sanskrit?) 

When I presented some of this material at a workshop in the U.K., a member of the audience, not a historian, joked that these people who engaged in distortion on such a monumental scale should be called “distortians” rather than historians. Historians in the audience did not find it funny. 

In the U.S., these “distortian” scholars are in a state of near panic and running to wealthy Indians for money with cries of “Sanskrit in danger if you don’t fund us.” Our response should be: “Sanskrit thrived for thousands of years long before any of you Indologists appeared on the planet. Vyasa, Valmiki, Bhasa, Kalidasa nor any of the great figures in the Sanskrit pantheon needed to go to you distortians or your blighted departments.”  – Vijayvaani, 18 February 2017

» Dr N. S. Rajaram is a mathematician who publishes on topics related to ancient Indian history and Indian archaeology, alleging a Eurocentric bias in Indology and Sanskrit scholarship, and arguing for the Indigenous Aryans theory instead. He publishes with Voice of India, New Delhi.

Portraits of a Nation: History of Ancient India by Kamlesh Kapur

How Irfan Habib tried to highjack Indian history – Jayakrishnan Nair

Irfan Habib

K. K. MuhammedAccording to Prof M. G. S. Narayanan, Prof Irfan Habib  has poisoned not just history, but culture and social life by his narrow groupism, nepotism and treachery. – Jayakrishnan Nair

Few decades back, at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), Prof Irfan Habib  summoned his former student and now faculty member K. K. Muhammed to his office.  Muhammed had discovered Ibādat Khāna in Fatepur Sikri. Built by Akbar in 1575 CE, the  Ibādat Khāna was the place where various religious scholars held discussions. A major discovery, this was reported in various newspapers, something which Prof Habib was not too happy about. The conversation went as follows:

Irfan Habib: “This is not Ibādat Khāna”

Muhammed: “No? This is not Ibādat Khāna?”

IH: “What you gave in Times of India is not Ibādat Khāna”

M: “How can you say that? Are you an archaeologist?”

IH: “I may not be as good an archaeologist like you”

M: “Sorry, you are not an archaeologist.” Irfan Habib was speechless.

Habib pushed a paper to Muhammed and said, “write what you discovered is not Ibādat Khāna”. Muhammed refused and walked away.

After working both at AMU and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in various designations, K. K. Muhammed has now written an autobiography in Malayalam titled, ഞാനെന്ന ഭാരതീയൻ (Me, the Indian), which has details of his encounters with Prof Habib and his cabal. As part of his education,  Mr Muhammed learned how a historian becomes secular.

CPI (M) FlagWhen Muhammed reached AMU as a student, he was initially excited to have someone as famous as Prof. Habib as his teacher. Muhammed recollects, “As a teacher, he did not make any impact on me.” His other classmates too had similar opinion. This news reached Habib’s ears. Muhammed ran for the Student’s Union as a Congressman. This too did not go well with the Marxists and they decided to contain him. This would cause various encounters between the Irfan Habib group and Muhammed and they are detailed in the first few chapters of the book.

Due to some Machiavellian maneuvers by the Marxists, Muhammed did not get admission as a researcher and hence opted for archaeology. After completing his post-graduate diploma in archaeology, he returned to AMU. He thanks Habib for blocking his path, because it led him to archaeology where he made a name for himself by discovering not just the  Ibādat Khāna, but also a Christian church Akbar had built for the missionaries.

The Marxist attack came in multiple ways. First, they tried to prove that the discovery was not Muhammed’s. That failed. The second attack claimed that if Muhammed had discovered this, then it could not be the Ibādat Khāna. Soon after that Habib became the Head of the Department and that’s when the direct confrontation mentioned earlier happened.

Muhammed was a Communist sympathizer, but what he encountered in the campus was a new form of it. The petty version. Muhammed writes that he could never get along with Irfan Habib.

Habib group could cause career damage. They controlled the purse strings: they could decide who got scholarships or who would be admitted as researchers.  If you were not part of his group, you were branded communal. Independent thinking was anathema. But if you joined his group, you became secular.

For this Muhammed cites the example of Prof Ramachandra Gaur, with whom he worked. An enemy of Habib, Prof Gaur was branded an RSS man. Once he became the Head of the Department, he changed his allegiance. Gaur also advised Muhammed that it was better to switch to Habib’s group for career advancement. Once Prof Gaur joined the Habib group, he was considered “secular”. Muhammed says, he refused to follow Gaur’s example.

Aligarh Muslim UniversityAnother encounter he mentions, occurred in front of an interview panel consisting of among others, the Vice Chancellor and Habib. During the interview, the Vice Chancellor said he could not consider anyone for AMU, who did not respect Prof Habib. Muhammed replied that respect has to be earned not demanded. He mentioned how a person who got less marks than him was admitted as a researcher. Another case was when someone with less marks and no post-graduate diploma was given the post of assistant archaeologist instead of him. Muhammed also had evidence against a false accusation that Irfan Habib had made. While Muhammed said all of this, Irfan Habib sat with his eyes down. Muhammed, writes, “His behavior towards me changed, but I was sure he would stab me at the first opportunity”

Muhammed writes that Prof Habib preferred people who flattered him like Makkan Lal.  Prof Habib tried to get Prof Makkan Lal as the deputy director instead of Muhammed. When this was challenged by Muhammed in court, Makkan Lal became an ally of Irfan Habib. Muhammed writes, “Unholy alliances are short lived”. By the time of the World Archaeology Congress in Delhi, the Habib group and Makkan Lal group were openly fighting and in the  Babri Masjid dispute, Irfan Habib and Makkan Lal were on the opposite sides.

Muhammed was finally selected as the Deputy Superintending Archaeologist at the Archaeological Survey of India. According to Muhammed, Prof Habib met the Director General of ASI and asked him to reject Muhammed. The DG replied that it was a UPC selection and he did not have the power to reject it. Then Prof Habib had one final request. Don’t post him in Agra. (What if he discovers something else.) Muhammed was posted to Madras Circle. But he would visit AMU for lectures and then efforts were made to block them. The only place where they were successful in blocking him was at JNU (no big surprise there), but everywhere else Muhammed was able to speak freely.

K. K. Muhammed's book in MalayalamIn the foreward of the book, Prof M. G. S. Narayanan, too writes about Prof Habib. According to Prof MGS, Prof Habib  has poisoned, not just history, but culture and social life by his narrow groupism, nepotism and treachery. At the same time, he writes that Prof Habib is a hard working person, but crafty. His group would threaten, cheat and would be part of various intrigues. Anyone who criticized this group would be branded a Hindutvavaadi and communalist. At the same time, Prof MGS says, Prof Habib is not an Muslim fundamentalist. He is not sure even if he is a believer. Prof MGS attributes this group for making Babri Masjid a national issue.

According to Muhammed, it was during the Babri Masjid time that his mask of secularism came off. As the head of a government body (ICHR), he should not have taken sides in the dispute. People saw this as an effort to to increase his influence by taking sides with the Muslim side in the dispute. The one historian who had to courage to say that the head of ICHR should not take sides in the dispute was Prof M. G. S. Narayanan. Prof MGS initially had a great opinion of Prof Irfan Habib. He even disagreed with Muhammed on his opinion of Prof Habib, Once Prof MGS worked with Prof Habib in ICHR, he realized that truth of Muhammed’s statements. Not being able to work with Irfan Habib, he left ICHR. Very soon Prof MGS was branded with the Hindutva label.

These are just few select incidents from the first few chapters of the book. It is these petty people who get to define Indian history on if a Ram temple existed or if Saraswati flowed in India or in Afghanistan (see The Lost River). This is the price for continuing the British practice for having an “official” history. We have become bystanders while our history has been hijacked by Marxists like Prof Irfan Habib. – Varnam, 4 September 2016

» Jayakrishnan Nair is  a history enthusiast.

Akbar's Ibadat Khana in Agra

Devdutt Pattanaik’s mythical Aryan race – Aravindan Neelakandan

Devdutt Pattanaik

Aravindan NeelakandanIt is time we jettison forever the ideas of an Aryan race or an Aryan homeland and stop trying to make the poor ‘Aryans’ of imaginary realms authors or outsiders of any past culture of India. – Aravindan Neelakandan

Pop-mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik, in a Swarajya column, makes some interesting observations. He says that Hindu nationalists were upset with the Aryan invasion theory (AIT) because the British used it to delegitimise Hindus, to make them as much alien to India as Muslims and British. Then he goes on to say that the Aryan homeland was Eurasia and that the Indo-European languages developed some 7,000 years ago. Aryans domesticated horses and, forced by climate change, they marched on. In Iran they split into two groups and one group entered India and that was 4,000 years ago. This is typical Aryan Migration Theory and, at any time, with a rhetorical flourish this can be turned into an AIT (Aryan Invasion Theory).

Aryans with their horses, their Indo-European language, their Soma/Haoma ritual and their genes moved into India. Harappan civilisation was already declining with its metropolitan areas becoming ghost cities. Aryans started mingling with the Harappans and incorporated their memories of Saraswati into their lore. With this Pattanaik makes an ingenious attempt to explain away one of the glaring problems of the AIT/AMT model: mention of the Saraswati river in Vedic hymns. At last Pattanaik makes a veiled insinuation: opposition to AIT/AMT comes from the Hindu “the fear of contamination and the desire for purity”.

What is the problem with this model? Almost everything.

Vinayak Damodar SavarkarHindu Nationalists and Aryans

Hindu nationalists were not upset because Aryans were aliens. They do not claim Aryans to be indigenous either. On the contrary they deny that the term has any racial connotations. Historically, Veer Savarkar never cared much about invasions or migrations, Aryan or otherwise. He mostly accepted the Western idea of the Aryan race entering India and mingling with an already established civilisation here. His definition of Hindu and Hindutva was not impacted in the least by AIT/AMT. At a time when even the best minds in the West believed in racial categories, Savarkar questioned the notion of racial purity.

When Western scholarship was making a biological race out of the Aryan, Savarkar give a cultural basis to even the terms ‘race’ and ‘blood’, rejecting European categories of race by blood. Thus for him “some of us were Aryans and some Anaryans” and “some of us are Brahmans and some Namashudras or Panchamas” and “some of us were Rakhasas and some Yakshas”. But, he says, “we are all Hindus and own a common blood. … We are not only a nation but a Jati, a born brotherhood.” Savarkar makes the ‘Hindu blood’ a common element between supposedly two distinct racial categories, ‘Aryan and Anaryan’; ‘Rakhasas and Yakshas’ and so-forth. This is consistent with his world view that there is no human group that can claim purity:

After all, there is throughout this world, so far as man is concerned, but a single race—the human race kept alive by one common blood, the human blood. All other talk is at best provisional, a makeshift and only relatively true. Nature is constantly trying to overthrow the artificial barriers you raise between race and race. To try to prevent the commingling of blood is to build on sand. Truly speaking, all that any one of us can claim, all that history entitles one to claim, is that one has the blood of all mankind in one’s veins. The fundamental unity of man from pole to pole is true, all else only relatively so.

Savarkar was least bothered with the Aryan homeland and did not question the racial meaning given to the name Aryan. Sri Aurobindo and Dr B. R. Ambedkar emphatically rejected the very idea of ‘Aryan’ race.

Sri AurobindoSri Aurobindo warned against “the blunder talking of the Indo-Aryan races, claiming or disclaiming Aryan kinship and building on that basis of falsehood the most far-reaching political, social or pseudo-scientific conclusions”. Echoing Sri Aurobindo, Ambedkar independently arrived at almost the same conclusion. For him the theory of an Aryan race was “based on nothing but pleasing assumptions and inferences based on such assumptions” and that it was “a perversion of scientific investigation”.

The mainstream Hindu nationalist organisation, the RSS, takes a stand that resonates with both Sri Aurobindo and Ambedkar. Aryans: Who were they?, a 1991 publication of the RSS history wing, Bharathiya Ithihasa Sankalana Samithi, asks a very relevant question with respect to the search for the original home of Aryans: “Did the Aryans and their original home exist?” It concludes that such a quest is “searching for something which simply does not exist” like “searching for a black cat in a dark room which is not there.”

So contrary to the popular perception in academic and media circles, Hindu nationalists do not want to prove Aryans as natives of India. They know Aryan is a cultural term which applies to individuals and not a racial term applied to a collective. The RSS, whom our leftists and western-academics love to portray as Aryan supremacists trying to prove India as the Aryan homeland, believes in something more sensible: The Aryans and their homeland do not exist!

Also, Hindu nationalists do not consider Muslims of India alien invaders. And both Golwalkar and Deoras, the second and third heads of RSS, squarely blamed Hindu society for the evil of untouchability and took the responsibility of removing it.

Iravatham MahadevanThe Harappan and the Vedic

Let us take just one statement of Pattanaik distinguishing so-called Vedic religion from Harappan. He says that Aryans brought the Soma ritual into India.

Now, a significant number of important scholars are beginning to say that the Harappan civilisation knew the Soma ritual. Iravatham Mahadevan, a person who believes in the Dravidian nature of Harappans, says talks about a ‘cult object’ before the famous ‘unicorn’ in Harappan seals. Mahadevan finds textual references in the Rig Veda to filter-like objects for making Soma and associates them with this cult object. Later Harappan archaeologist Mark Kenoyer discovered a filter-like vessel which aptly fitted the Vedic description. So Mahadevan comes to an extraordinary conclusion that a “soma-like cult based on some kind of hallucinogenic drug … must have existed in Harappa and that it was taken over by the Indo-Iranians and incoming Indo-Aryans”.

Now what is the truth?

  • Aryans bringing the Soma ritual with them?
  • Aryans ‘taking over’ the Soma ritual from Harappans?
  • Or even more fantastically, Aryans having their own Soma ritual and, by a strange coincidence, Harappans having a similar ritual and both merging?

On the one hand, there is solid evidence of a Vedic ritual being central to the Harappan life while, on the other hand, we cling on to the Aryan delusion with convoluted speculations bordering on the ridiculous.

Instead of attributing the changes to Aryans during the last phase of Harappan culture, archaeologist Kenoyer points out that “changes and discontinuities reflect a transformation of the local population rather than the appearance of new people and the eradication of the Harappan inhabitants”. According to eminent archaeologist B. B. Lal, “the combined evidence of archaeology, radiocarbon-dating, hydrology and literature” places Vedic civilisation prior to 2000 BCE, and, indeed, the third millennium BCE. The problems and paradoxes indeed disappear if one accepts that the fact staring us in the face, that Harappan culture contained in it the Vedic.

AIT (Aryan Invasion Theory)Then there is the question of genetics. India does have ANI (Ancestral North Indian) and ASI (Ancestral South Indian) gene pools of which ANI does have linkages with the Eurasian gene pools. There is even a possibility that ANI could have arisen somewhere in central Asia. But what the genetic studies say definitely is that “both Indian ancestry components are older than the purported Indo-Aryan invasion 3,500 YBP (Years Before Present)”.

Given all these facts, it is time we jettison forever the ideas of an Aryan race or an Aryan homeland and stop trying to make the poor ‘Aryans’ of imaginary realms authors or outsiders of any past culture of India. Whether it is Harappan or Vedic, the makers of Indian civilisation come from the stalks of ANI as well as ASI. They spoke diverse languages and perhaps were ethnically diverse. But they were united by one great Indic idea—the Truth as the substratum binding all existence and diversity with infinite ways of perceiving It: Not rebirth, but Ekam Sat Vipra Bahuta Vathanthi marks the one great idea that makes India, India.  – Swarajya, 27 June 2016

» Aravindan Neelakandan is an author, economist and psychologist. He is a contributing editor to Swarajya Magazine.

JNU was never a bastion of open debate – Swapan Dasgupta

JNU

Swapan Dasgupta“Contrary to recent mythology, JNU wasn’t ever the bastion of free, open and convivial debate. There was a pre-determined view of what was acceptable and what was beyond the pale. In political terms, openness meant a dialogue that involved all the 57 varieties of Marxism … and the new fangled ‘alternative’ currents emerging from Left orphanages. In recent years, and partly as a response to bleeding hearts in Western universities, even Islamism has been accommodated under the radical roof. What has been consistently shown the door are India’s indigenous conservative traditions and their contemporary expressions.” – Swapan Dasgupta

Oxford UnionDuring the course of the acrimonious exchanges over a series of incidents that originated in Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, some commentators alluded to a controversial motion—“This House would not in any circumstances fight for King and Country”—that was passed by the Oxford Union in 1933. The argument was that universities are natural centres of heretical and unconventional views and that the authorities should not overreact.

Whether or not the Union home ministry and Delhi police were guilty of astonishing stupidity by charging an excitable student politician with sedition for hobnobbing and sharing a platform with separatists is an issue that will prompt different responses. In 1933, for example, Winston Churchill described the Oxford students who voted for the grandstanding motion as “abject, squalid, shameless and nauseating”—sentiments that many who don’t possess the same measure of erudition would echo in the case of the JNU radicals. Indeed, the reaction of British society to the Oxford poseurs was unwaveringly hostile and evidence of universities harbouring spoilt brats. Likewise, there is little doubt that had the provocative slogans championing the breakup of India been chanted in public—and not within the safe haven of the campus or, indeed, the Delhi Press Club—the street reaction would not have been couched in niceties.

Echoes of a similar town-gown divide appear to be quite evident in the furore over the sedition charges levelled against a student—not that this excuses the disgraceful behaviour of some lawyers in Delhi’s Patiala House court. But what has complicated the situation is that the political opponents of the Narendra Modi government ranging from the Congress to the Maoists have joined hands to scream fascism. The assault on the government has been complemented by the international rent-a-cause brigade that has become accustomed to circulating pious petitions on issues that range from who Indians should not vote for to the state of higher education in India.

Arnab GoswamiPart of the problem stems from the caricatured views the Indian Right and Left-Liberals have of each other, a process the civil war of journalists has added to.

In the normal course, universities should have been a forum for informed and intelligent conversations. Even if a dialogue didn’t narrow the political divide, it would have prevented demonology and the near-complete absence of social interaction and the ostracism of those who violate a consensus—Arnab Goswami is the most recent target.

To blame this ghettoisation on the Modi regime is being disingenuous. Contrary to recent mythology, JNU wasn’t ever the bastion of free, open and convivial debate. There was a pre-determined view of what was acceptable and what was beyond the pale. In political terms, openness meant a dialogue that involved all the 57 varieties of Marxism, Nehruvian and Lohiaite thought and, the new fangled ‘alternative’ currents emerging from Left orphanages. In recent years, and partly as a response to bleeding hearts in Western universities, even Islamism has been accommodated under the radical roof. What has been consistently shown the door are India’s indigenous conservative traditions and their contemporary expressions.

This exclusionary process was confirmed in a recent article upholding the ‘idea’ of JNU by an alumnus, Professor Peter DeSouza: “the liberal persuasion was not allowed the space it should have been given by the Stalinist Left. The political spectrum was wide but could have been wider. Analytical thinking was feeble and ideological camps gave protection to the less capable.” JNU reproduced itself ideologically over decades, a reason why its intellectual establishment initially thought there was nothing odd about students being associated with divisive slogans. The ‘sedition’ overkill provided an escape route from troubling questions centred on JNU’s relationship with nationhood.

Bharat MataThe ideological bubble that sustained JNU was shaken by the post-2014 political change. The exclusion of its stalwarts from the new establishment has bred insecurity and added to its determination to paint the ‘outlanders’ as cretinous, semi-educated and aesthetically suspect. This phenomenon was also in evidence last week in the post-modernist ghettos of Jadavpur University.

The ‘sedition’ stir will pass but the partition pangs of Indian academia will have to be addressed. The question of whether India is merely a geographical mass or is also blessed with sacredness will be a basis of a wider polarization.- The Times of India, 21 February 2016

Kanhaiya Kumar

 

Statement on Hypocrisy and Indian History by 48 Scholars of Indian Civilization

Nalanda, Bihar

A public statement by concerned Indian historians, archaeologists and scholars of Indian civilization 

On 26 October, 53 Indian historians voiced alarm at what they perceived to be the country’s “highly vitiated atmosphere” and protested against attempts to impose “legislated history, a manufactured image of the past, glorifying certain aspects of it and denigrating others….” This was soon followed by an “Open letter from overseas historians and social scientists”, 176 of them, warning against “a dangerously pervasive atmosphere of narrowness, intolerance and bigotry” and “a monolithic and flattened view of India’s history.”

Such closely-linked statements appearing with clockwork regularity in India and abroad — there have been several more from various “intellectual” circles — are a well-orchestrated campaign to create a bogeyman and cry wolf. They are neither intellectual nor academic in substance, but ideological and, much more so, political.

As historians, archaeologists and academics specializing in diverse aspects of Indian civilization, we wish to respond to these hypocritical attempts to claim the moral high ground. Many of the signatories of the above two statements by Indian and “overseas” historians have been part of a politico-ideological apparatus which, from the 1970s onward, has come to dominate most historical bodies in the country, including the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), and imposed its blinkered view of Indian historiography on the whole academic discipline.

Anchored mainly in Marxist historiography and leftist ideology, with a few borrowings from postmodernism, the Annales School, Subaltern and other studies, this new School, which may be called “Leftist” for want of a better term, has become synonymous with a number of abusive and unscholarly practises; among them:

1.  A reductionist approach viewing the evolution of Indian society almost entirely through the prism of the caste system, emphasizing its mechanisms of “exclusion” while neglecting those of integration without which Indian society would have disintegrated long ago.

2. A near-complete erasure of India’s knowledge systems in every field —philosophical, linguistic, literary, scientific, medical, technological or artistic — and a general underemphasis of India’s important contributions to other cultures and civilizations. In this, the Leftist School has been a faithful inheritor of colonial historiography, except that it no longer has the excuse of ignorance. Yet it claims to provide an accurate and “scientific” portrayal of India!

3. A denial of the continuity and originality of India’s Hindu-Buddhist-Jain-Sikh culture, ignoring the work of generations of Indian and Western Indologists. Hindu identity, especially, has been a pet aversion of this School, which has variously portrayed it as being disconnected from Vedic antecedents, irrational, superstitious, regressive, barbaric — ultimately “imagined” and, by implication, illegitimate.

4. A refusal to acknowledge the well-documented darker chapters of Indian history, in particular the brutality of many Muslim rulers and their numerous Buddhist, Jain, Hindu and occasionally Christian and Muslim victims (ironically, some of these tyrants are glorified today); the brutal intolerance of the Church in Goa, Kerala and Puducherry; and the state-engineered economic and cultural impoverishment of India under the British rule. While history worldwide has wisely called for millions of nameless victims to be remembered, Indian victims have had to suffer a second death, that of oblivion, and often even derision.

5. A neglect of tribal histories: For all its claims to give a voice to “marginalized” or “oppressed” sections of Indian society, the Leftist School has hardly allowed a space to India’s tribal communities and the rich contributions of their tribal belief systems and heritage. When it has condescended to take notice, it has generally been to project Hindu culture and faith traditions as inimical to tribal cultures and beliefs, whereas in reality the latter have much more in common with the former than with the religions imposed on them through militant conversions.

6. A biased and defective use of sources: Texts as well as archaeological or epigraphic evidence have been misread or selectively used to fit preconceived theories. Advances of Indological researches in the last few decades have been ignored, as have been Indian or Western historians, archaeologists, anthropologists who have differed from the Leftist School. Archaeologists who developed alternative perspectives after considerable research have been sidelined or negatively branded. Scientific inputs from many disciplines, from palaeo-environmental to genetic studies have been neglected.

7. A disquieting absence of professional ethics: The Leftist School has not academically critiqued dissenting Indian historians, preferring to dismiss them as “Nationalist” or “communal”. Many academics have suffered discrimination, virtual ostracism and loss of professional opportunities because they would not toe the line, enforced through political support since the days of Nurul Hasan. The Indian History Congress and the ICHR, among other institutions, became arenas of power play and political as well as financial manipulation. In effect, the Leftist School succeeded in projecting itself as the one and only, crushing debate and dissent and polarizing the academic community.

While we reject attempts to portray India’s past as a glorious and perfect golden age, we condemn the far more pernicious imposition by the Leftist School of a “legislated history”, which has presented an alienating and debilitating self-image to generations of Indian students, and promoted contempt for their civilizational heritage. The “values and traditions of plurality that India had always cherished in the past” are precisely those this School has never practised. We call for an unbiased and rigorous new historiography of India. 

Statement signed by

1.   Dr. Dilip K. Chakrabarti, Emeritus Professor, Cambridge University, UK; Dean, Centre of Historical and Civilizational Studies, Vivekananda International Foundation, Chanakyapuri, Delhi; member, ICHR

2.   Dr. Saradindu Mukherji, historian, retired from Delhi University; member, ICHR

3.   Dr. Nanditha Krishna, Director, CPR Institute of Indological Research, Chennai; member, ICHR

4.   Dr. M.D. Srinivas, former professor of theoretical physics; former vice-chairman, Indian Institute of Advanced Study; chairman, Centre for Policy Studies, Chennai; member, ICHR

5.   Dr. Meenakshi Jain, associate professor of history, Delhi University; member, ICHR

6.   Michel Danino, guest professor, IIT Gandhinagar; member, ICHR

7.   Prof. B.B. Lal, former Director General, Archaeological Survey of India

8.   Dr. R.S. Bisht, former Joint Director General, Archaeological Survey of India

9.   Dr. R. Nagaswamy, former Director of Archaeology, Govt. of Tamil Nadu; Vice Chancellor, Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi Viswa Mahavidyalaya, Kanchipuram

10. Dr. B.M. Pande, Former Director, Archaeological Survey of India

11. Prof. Dayanath Tripathi, former Chairman, ICHR; former Head, Dept. of Ancient History, Archaeology and Culture, D.D.U. Gorakhpur University, Gorakhpur; former Visiting Professor at Cambridge, British Academy

12. Prof. R.C. Agrawal, President, Rock Art Society of India; former Member Secretary of ICHR

13. Prof. K.V. Raman, former professor of Ancient Indian History & Archaeology, University of Madras

14. Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam, Dancer and Research Scholar

15.    Prof. Kapil Kapoor, former Rector, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi; Chancellor, Mahatma Gandhi Antararashtriya Hindi Vishwavidyalaya, Wardha (Maharashtra)

16. Prof. Madhu Kishwar, Professor, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, New Delhi

17. Dr. Chandrakala Padia, Vice Chancellor, Maharaja Ganga Singh University (Rajasthan); Chairperson, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla

18. Sachchidanand Sahai, Ph.D. (Paris), National Professor in Epigraphy, Ministry of Culture, Government of India, Advisor to Preah Vihear National Authority under the Royal Government of Cambodia; member, ICHR

19. Dr. J.K. Bajaj, Director Centre for Policy Studies, Former Member ICSSR

20. Dr. Makarand Paranjape, Professor of English, JNU; Visiting Global South Fellow, University of Tuebingen

21. Dr. Nikhiles Guha, former professor of history, University of Kalyani, West Bengal; member, ICHR

22. Prof. Issac C.I., member, ICHR

23. Prof. (Dr.) Purabi Roy, member, ICHR

24. Prof. Jagbir Singh, Former Professor and Head, Dept. of Punjabi, University of Delhi; Life Fellow, Punjabi University, Patiala.

25. Dr. G.J. Sudhakar, former Associate Professor, Dept. of History, Loyola College, Chennai

26. Dr. Bharat Gupt, Former Associate Professor, Delhi University

27. Prof. O.P. Kejariwal, Central Information Commissioner & Nehru Fellow

28. Dr. S.C. Bhattacharya, former Professor and HOD, Ancient History, Culture and Archaeology, Allahabad University; former National Fellow, IIAS, Shimla

29. Prof. S.K. Chakraborty, former professor, Management Centre for Human Values, Indian Institute of Management Calcutta

30. Dr. Amarjiva Lochan, Associate Professor in History, Delhi University; President, South and Southeast Asian Association for the Study of Culture & Religion (SSEASR) under IAHR, affiliated to the UNESCO

31. Dr. R.N. Iyengar, Distinguished Professor, Jain University, Bangalore

32. Professor (Dr) R. Nath, former Professor of History, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur

33. Kirit Mankodi, archaeologist, consultant to Project for Indian Cultural Studies, Mumbai

34. Prof. K. Ramasubramanian, Cell for Indian Science and Technology in Sanskrit, IIT Bombay; Council Member International Union for History and Philosophy of Science; member, Rashtriya Sanksrit Parishad

35. Dr. M.S. Sriram, Retired Professor and Head, Department of Theoretical Physics, University of Madras; Member Editorial Board, Indian Journal of History of Science; Former Member, Research Council for History of Science, INSA

36. Dr. Amartya Kumar Dutta, Professor of Mathematics, Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata

37. Dr. Godabarisha Mishra, Professor and Head, Dept. of Philosophy, University of Madras

38. Dr. R. Ganesh, Shathavadhani, Sanskrit scholar

39. Sri Banwari, Academic and Journalist; former Resident Editor, Jansatta

40. Dr. S. Krishnan, Associate Professor, Dept of Mathematics, IIT Bombay

41. Dr. Rajnish Kumar Mishra, Associate Professor, Special Centre for Sanskrit Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

42. Dr. Vikram Sampath, Director, Symbiosis School of Media and Communication; former Director of Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) – SRC; historian and author

43. Prof. K. Gopinath, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore

44. Prof. M.A. Venkatakrishnan, former Professor and Head, Dept. of Vaishnavism, Madras University

45. Dr. Sumathi Krishnan, Musician and Musicologist

46. Dr. Prema Nandakumar, Author and translator

47. Dr. Santosh Kumar Shukla, Associate Professor, Special Centre for Sanskrit Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

The above list was released on 17 November; on 18 November, three scholars who had been contacted but could not send their answer in time owing to the flood situation in Chennai have added their names. We include them here for the record:

48.  Dr. Siniruddha Dash, former Professor & Head, Dept. of Sanskrit, University of Madras

49.  Dr. Mamata Mishra, Managing Trustee, Prof. K.V. Sarma Research Foundation

50.  Dr. Chithra Madhavan, historian and epigraphist

Those who wish to express their support for the important statement above, may sign the petition at Change.org HERE. Make sure you keep your name visible and, if you wish, add a comment.