Did you know that Jesus Christ wandered the Himalayas and drew his inspiration from Hinduism? That the Qutb Minar, originally known as Vishnu Sthambha, was built by a Hindu named Samundragupta? That the Taj Mahal was really a Hindu Temple known as Tejo-Mahalaya (Shiva’s Palace)? That the Red Fort in Delhi was a Brahmin palace? Or that the largest Holocaust in human history was perpetrated by Muslims against Hindus in India?
This is news to me. Probably is to most people. No, these are not extracts from a child’s fable nor the impression of a lunatic few. These “historical truths” are increasingly becoming accepted in the Indian mainstream and gaining adherents even outside the country. In fact, some of the proponents of these ludicrous claims are none other than foreign pundits and scholars.
The Hindutva movement, led by the Hindu-chauvinist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has embarked on a mission to rewrite Indian history. Already students attending more than 20,000 religious schools in India are being taught these new “facts.” And public school students in BJP led states are also being fed such distortions. What will happen if the BJP is victorious in the upcoming elections?
Anyone following the developments in India would have at least heard of the attempts to rewrite history, but not many are fully aware of the magnitude and scope of the mission. I was rudely awakened to the reality of the situation when I stumbled upon an article in the Toronto Star a couple of weeks ago. Ajit Adhopia, a regular columnist on Hinduism, was promoting the work of P. N. Oak, the head of the Institute for Rewriting Indian History. Adhopia was praising the “historical research” of Oak in the Saturday edition of the paper, which has a circulation of close to one million.
Oak, who has written a number of books, including Some Blunders of Indian Historical Research and Islamic Havoc in Indian History, is one of the main proponents of the view that Indian history, as it is taught today, is developed out of myths planted by British historians and adopted and promoted by Indians of the Marxist, Secularist and Islamic persuasions. According to Hindutva theorists the intelligentsia, led by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, set out to erase from Hindu memory the history of their persecution and subjugation by Muslims. Why would they do this? Oak and those of his ilk have a number of absurd theories. The Marxists wanted to win favor with Arabs who were fertile ground for Marxism and Secularists wanted to nurture Hindu-Muslim unity. Muslims, obviously, had a vested interest in not exposing the fact that they had nothing to contribute to Indian history or culture or that they destroyed thousands of temples and perpetrated the largest Holocaust in history.
Interestingly, such views are not that new. In fact, the first major endeavor to research Indian history was financed by Nehru (yes, the same Nehru who the revisionists claim is one of the main propagators of false history) in 1951. This project carried out by a leading Brahmin (an upper caste) historian by the name of R. C. Majumdar concluded that Muslims had distorted Indian history. It also found that Muslims had persecuted the masses of non-Muslims during their reign. A group of upper caste historians set out to make the “corrections” in 1964. This group produced a number of works that forms the basis of the recent efforts to rewrite Indian history.
In addition to working at the grass roots by changing school curriculum the BJP is also working at the higher levels. In 1998, the party reconstituted the once respected Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR] by appointing Hindutva leaning members. In fact, of the eighteen new members four where members of the World Hindu Council’s panel that worked to promote the idea of a temple at the site of the Babri Mosque and five others were closely associated with the movement. Moreover, there is a fear that the body responsible for developing curriculum, the National Council for Educational Research and Training, will also end up with the same fate. The membership-based Indian History Congress has so far been able to fight off the Hindutva tide. An attempt by 360 Hindutva historians to take over the group was defeated in 1991.
The Hindutva scholars are joined by foreign scholars such as Koenraad Elst and Francois Gautier. Elsts’s work Negationism in India: Concealing the Record of Islam and Francois Gautier’s Rewriting Indian History is part of the growing literature attacking Indian history textbooks. Their version of history portrays Muslims as having contributed nothing to India other than death, destruction and subjugation. Gautier, for instance, who is political correspondent for the French daily Le Figaro and the Swiss daily Le Nouveau Quotidien, writes that the massacres perpetrated by Muslims in India were worse than the Holocaust of the Jews.
The fact that the bulk of historical evidence do not back these claims appear not to stand in the way of these “historians.” After all what does evidence have to do with anything when “facts” can be created and more rigorous historians can be dismissed as anti-Hindu or ignorant of the caste system. For instance, in a glowing review of Elst’s work Negationism in India, A. Ghosh writes that the view advocated by many Indian historians, including the Marxist M. N. Roy, that Islam was welcomed into India because it brought equality and respect to lower classes, is based on an incorrect picture of the caste system. Not surprisingly, the main proponents of the new history are upper caste Hindus.
There is no denying that many crimes were perpetrated by Muslims, some perhaps even in the name of Islam, but to paint Islam and Muslims with such a broad brush is unjustified, baseless and bigoted.
The Hindutva agenda is clearly driven by an agenda other than objective research. Their ultimate goal is nothing other than to marginalize the contribution of Indian Muslims. Obviously, a marginalized community is easier to alienate and cleanse. However, it seems that the ease and speed with which they have been able to propagate their revisionist theorists suggests that there is not enough resistance and challenge whether from Muslims or others.
They appear to have a lot of help from outside. What, if anything, are we – Muslims in the West — doing to counter this?