January 3, 2002


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Rajeev Srinivasan

Historicide: Censoring the past... and the present

I would like you to take the following quiz: How many of the following recent news stories (all from the year 2001, except one, maybe) have you personally heard of?

  • Two Hindu priests were dragged out of a temple in Jammu and beheaded by suspected Islamic terrorists.
  • There was a conference in New Delhi on the preservation of diversity in religion, which was attended by luminaries such as the Dalai Lama.
  • A Hindu Bangladeshi professor, a college principal in Chittagong and a prominent freedom fighter, were shot dead during the genocide against Hindus in that country.
  • Two Christian Rwandan nuns were convicted of crimes against humanity for their roles in the massacres of minority Tutsis in their country.
  • The Konkan Railway, the first major railway project in India since Independence, has been a major success despite the difficult terrain and the logistics nightmares.
  • The Vatican released a report admitting that many nuns have been raped, impregnated and even murdered by priests, missionaries, et al.
  • A group of Indian and foreign experts got together to release their plans for preserving the heritage of India for humanity and for all time.
  • The Tarun Bharat Sangh has succeeded in reviving many rivers in the arid foothills of the Aravalli ranges in Rajasthan through simple traditional water conservation measures.
  • The Kansas City Star reported that the levels of AIDS amongst Catholic priests in the US were 4 times the rates of AIDS among the general population.
  • An acclaimed Russian film about Lenin was prevented from being exhibited in West Bengal by the state government because it was less than laudatory.
  • Muslim militants went on a rampage in Pathanamthitta, Kerala, burned the BJP offices as well as gas stations and buses, and attacked Sabarimala pilgrims.
If you recall seeing more than three of the above, I would wager that you do not live in India. Because the English-language media in India completely censored almost all of these stories.

Many of these got substantial airplay in the international media. The shocking story of the Rwandan nuns accused and convicted, Nazi-like, of crimes against humanity has been in the news in Europe for some time. For instance, this is what The Economist had to say about the nuns in Rwanda: in "Judging genocide", June 16, 2001.

At the end of April, Kenyan police arrested a former Anglican bishop, Samuel Musabyimana, who is accused of genocide and of paying militiamen to kill Tutsis...

On June 8th... two Roman Catholic nuns were found guilty... of complicity in the Rwandan genocide... Sister Maria and Sister Gertrude had handed over to their killers up to 7,000 Tutsis who were sheltering in their convent; later, they provided petrol so that militiamen could set fire to a barn in which about 500 Tutsis had taken refuge. They were sentenced to prison terms of 12 and 15 years by a jury... in Belgium. It was the first time that a jury of citizens from one country had judged defendants for war crimes committed in another.

As for the story about the Konkan Railway, it is an inspiration. In the face of obstacles, including extremely difficult terrain (many tunnels, bridges, etc) as well as the task of raising large amounts of money through a public bond issue, the railway was constructed on schedule and within budget. It used to be said that Indians could never match the feats of the British engineers who built much of India's network; isn't it amazing that E Sreedharan, the man who ran this Herculean effort, is a virtual unknown?

We have heard all about 'Mother' Teresa, but why is Baba Amte, whose work with lepers deserves at least as much renown as the Albanian nun's work, is not pushed forward for a Nobel Prize? Nor do large sums of money get thrown at him.

Michel Danino told me about the International Forum for India's Heritage that has been formed with the express intent of preserving India's remarkable heritage, some of which is in danger of being lost due to neglect and mismanagement. In this context, see also an interview with Maneka Gandhi. However, notes Michel with chagrin, not a single English-language Indian newspaper carried the announcement.

India's Marxists and their fellow travellers had a field day complaining about censorship in regards to Fire and Water. Why then did they not extend the upholding of the freedom of expression to the Lenin film, Taurus, by renowned Russian director Alexander Sokurov? And why did the media not upbraid them for this hypocrisy?

Swami Dayananda Saraswati, a respected Hindu monk and scholar, hosted a major conference in Delhi in mid-November. It was the "World Congress for the Preservation of Religious Diversity", intended to support the preservation of the mosaic of religious traditions and cultures, "a priceless heritage of humankind". His Holiness the Dalai Lama attended. Yet, India's English-language newspapers almost completely blacked out this conference. Why? Because it was challenging the rationale for religious conversion.

I could go on and on, but let me sum it up: I think the English-language media in India is in the hands of a cabal of vested interests; in many cases these interests appear to be Christian-funded. In other cases they appear to be heavily influenced by Marxists, possibly the Chinese. None of these vested interests worry overly about India's national interests, not surprisingly.

If there is anything positive and good happening in India, you certainly won't find it written up by the regular media, which is too full of bellyaching and accusations. Incidentally, I found many inspiring examples of success stories in India on the site (no, not, which is one of those offensively smarmy Christian fundamentalist sites), which apparently is a labour of love for a gentleman named D V Sridharan. I salute this person's persistence and spirit of service for the nation, which is so sorely lacking in the mainstream media.

Therefore I find the current brouhaha in the English-language media about history textbooks most alarming. They who are so worried about censoring the past (as they accuse the BJP of doing) certainly do censor the present with gay abandon! This is important: the young become what they are fed, a topical case in point being the Islamic seminaries of Pakistan. These have inculcated in an entire generation of Pakistanis a mindset of intolerance and violence against Hindus and Indians based on a falsified history of the Indian subcontinent. If we inculcate in our children a false history of India we will create a society of monsters: much like our lost generation that worships America, Russia or China, but never India. This cannot be countenanced.

I think it was Oscar Wilde who said that the only thing we owe to history is to rewrite it. The Marxists have been true believers in the virtues of "truth by repeated assertion". They have been adept at fabricating history to suit their pet theory du-jour. They have used history as a tool for propaganda and for their agit-prop tactical goals.

Let us remember the Soviet Union's habit of manufacturing a different history every day, excising purged comrades (such as Trotsky) from history and even cutting them out of photographs; the Chinese fabrication of abominable lies about Tibet (read Claude Arpi's The Fate of Tibet, Har-Anand) and the literal attempt by the Khmer Rouge to entirely erase history and start with Year Zero.

Consider the status of the leftist historians who are now waxing eloquent about their 'objectivity'. It turns out that large numbers of them were friendly witnesses cited by the Sunni Waqf Board in their case in the Ayodhya matter. If they are testifying on behalf of one side, the Muslims, in a litigation where the facts are anything but crystal clear and there is a lot of room for interpretation, how they could then be considered purely 'objective' or 'impartial' is somewhat mysterious. Interestingly, almost all of the grey eminences currently breathing fire were associated with the Babri Masjid Action Committee, according to Arun Shourie, in Eminent Historians, ASA Publications, 1999:

  • R S Sharma
  • Suraj Bhan
  • D N Jha
  • Romila Thapar
  • Irfan Habib
  • B N Pandey
  • R L Shukla
  • Satish Chandra
  • Gyanendra Pandey

Shourie skewers each of the individuals famously grousing now about their lovely textbooks being rejected: R S Sharma, D N Jha, Satish Chandra, et al. He shows them to be shady characters just short of being charlatans, scarcely the saintly academics they like to pretend to be. It is nothing short of astonishing that these are the people who have been allowed to mould India's children for the past half-century. India's citizens have clearly failed in their duty of vigilance.

There is an unholy alliance of these 'eminent historians' and others, for example Bipan Chandra and K N Panikkar. These people have formed a cozy clique, where they review and applaud each other's works and ensure they all have cushy, government-funded posts where they are supposed to write books that never do get written; but large sums of money do get paid, and they get 'research grants', 'travel grants' and other porkbarrel goodies to hand out at taxpayer expense. The sinecures have continued till now; the real problem is that the BJP is now ensuring that some of these 'eminent historians' are forced to do some work to justify their existence.

Romila Thapar, taking up cudgels on behalf of her friends, has accused those on the other side of being "pulp historians". She targets, in particular, scholars such as Koenraad Elst, Subhash Kak, David Frawley, N S Rajaram, et al who are not necessarily holders of PhD in history; but then they are also not fattening at the trough of Indian taxpayer money.

There are several responses to such an ad hominem attack. First, granted, they may not be professional historians, but that probably enables them to see the Emperor's New Clothes very well indeed. Second, if they are pop historians, why, then Thapar et al might well be considered court hagiographers. Third, non-professionals often contribute dramatically to the growth of a discipline as compared to hide-bound traditionalists.

First, they are not professional historians, granted. But then, why do leftists not object when Amartya Sen, Nobel Prize winner in economics, not history, holds forth on history? But they do not: Romila Thapar shared the stage with Sen, and surely nodded approvingly, at the Indian History Congress in Kolkata on January 2. The title of Sen's address was "History and the enterprise of knowledge". This quote will give a flavour of the content:

There is also a systematic confounding here of mythology with history. An extraordinary example of this has been the interpretation of the Ramayana not as a great epic but as documentary history which can be invoked to establish property rights over places and sites possessed and owned by others.

Sen pontificates thus about Ayodhya. To put it bluntly, what does Sen know about either mythology or history? A Nobel Prize in one discipline is no guarantee of knowledge in any other. I am reminded of William Shockley, Nobel Prize winner in physics, who later became a laughing-stock for his idiotic theories on race and intelligence. Why isn't Thapar asking Sen to cease embarrassing himself with inane pronouncements?

And frankly, even Sen's economics is suspect. Kerala, the Marxist paradise and object of much adulation by Sen, has now become a basket case, a 'money-order economy' sustained only by remittances from expatriates, along with large doses of Christian and Arab money for conversion and church-/mosque-building activities. Kerala is perilously close to having a cargo cult: it would come to a standstill without produce-laden trucks from Tamil Nadu.

Furthermore, as a friend remarked, if you have in Sen the left-wing Nobel Prize winner with pithy quotes to support Thapar and company, then there is in V S Naipaul the right-wing Nobel Prize winner. Do the two cancel each other out? In point of fact, Naipaul certainly knows much more than Sen does about people and societies, as a much-admired travel writer. Why won't India's leftists then accept Naipaul's opinions? Why do they attack him instead?

PART II: Indians will no longer be impressed by Marxist histrionics

Rajeev Srinivasan

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