2 – Distorting Indian History: A Marxist monopoly – S.L. Bhyrappa

Dr. N.S. RajaramIntroductory Note – N.S. Rajaram

In his previous column S.L. Bhyrappa recounted his experience while serving on a government appointed committee that used ‘national integration’ as pretext for propagating a version of history that whitewashed the unpleasant aspects of Islamic rule in India. He gave also his view of the methodology and subterfuge followed by some of India’s prominent historians. In the present article Bhyrappa expresses his views on the writing of history in India since Independence. What is given here is not a near verbatim translation but a summary of his views prepared by the contributing editor.

Background: Muslim rulers of India have left behind voluminous records of their deeds and misdeeds. Beginning with the semi-legendary Chachnama that gives a garbled account of the Arab invasion of Sind, and going well into the 19th century of the Nawabs of Oudh and what was left of the Mughals. We have many court chronicles of rulers great and small covering almost a thousand years. Most of them are in Persian with a few in Turkic dialects (like Babar’s autobiography in the Chagtai dialect). A significant number of these were translated into English by H.M. Elliot with the editorial help of John Dowson. It has been in continuously in print as The History of India as Told by Its Own Historians ever since was published by Truebner of London in eight volumes in 1867–77.

Most of these are written in the Persian court chronicle style so some caution is advisable in reading them. They are by no means objective accounts of the rulers they describe. Hindu records are few and far between, but rich in inscriptions. There could be several reasons for this paucity of Hindu literary records. To begin with, the massive destruction of Hindu and Buddhist centres of learning at the hands of Muslim invaders. To take just one example, in 1781 Tipu Sultan of Mysore burnt down the royal library containing manuscripts going back to the 14th century. And Tipu ruled for less than twenty years. Second, dislocation of the hereditary character of professionals like local administrators that did not need elaborate documentation.

This has led to a general thesis that Indians (meaning Hindus) lacked any sense of history. This appears to be hasty and exaggerated. We have a mature and objective history like the Kashmirian Kalhana’s Rajatarangini (c. 1150 AD) that could not have grown out of a historiographical vacuum. Kalhana uses sources like coins and inscriptions that scholars began to study only in the 18th century. Also, he does not write like a court chronicler but an objective historian often critical of kings and rulers. Nonetheless we have to live with the fact literary records for the Hindu period are not voluminous.

What follows is a summary of Dr. Bhyrappa’s views supplemented by Dr. Rajaram’s comments.

Dr. S.L. BhyrappaDistorting Indian History: The European period – S.L. Bhyrappa

British scholars who started writing Indian history on the lines of European history have introduced us to a basically sound method. But theirs was motivated scholarship, for they had an axe to grind—to make their rule acceptable to the natives. First they established that Indian culture is rooted in the Vedic culture. (There was never any dispute about this.) Then they introduced a convenient falsehood. They claimed that the creators of this culture are Aryans who they asserted were not Indians but outsiders from Eurasia. This was the beginning of the Aryan invasion theory which claims that they established themselves by destroying the local (native) civilisation.

[Sic: These natives were supposed to have been ‘Dravidian’ speakers driven south by the Aryan invaders. The person most responsible for this was the missionary Robert Caldwell, Bishop of Tirunelveli. Later, in the 1920s when Indian archaeologists Daya Ram Sahni and Rakhal Das Bannerji working under John Marshall discovered Harappan and Mohenjo-Daro of the Indus Valley (or Harappan) Civilization, these were labeled as ‘Dravidian’ without any evidence let alone proof. We now know they belong to the Late Vedic Age (c. 3000–2000 BC), or just after the Mahabharata War (c. 3100 BC).

There is no record of or even hint of this Aryan invasion—it is just conjecture which its supporters insist on calling a theory. It has persisted only because the rulers who created them—first the British, and then their disciples and Marxists—were in control of history writing as we shall soon see. Incidentally these so-called Aryan invaders were the only ones that have left no records. All the invaders who came later have left records. These include Persians, Scythians (Shakas), Huns (Huna), all of whom have left extensive literary and inscriptional records. Last of the invaders were the Muslims. – NSR]

Bishop Robert CaldwellAs Bhyrappa notes, the British claimed: only after all these invaders, we (British) came. Therefore if we are not natives of this country, you too are not natives of this land because your Aryan ancestors came from Eurasia and brought with them the Sanskrit language and the Vedas. The British introduced and strengthened this argument in the universities, media and also in the minds of the English educated people. According to them the Rigveda the religious text of the Aryans was composed when they were outside India. That means the basic religion of Indians was originated from a foreign land.

This argument effectively severed the spiritual relationship between the land and its people—India and Indians—that had sustained them for thousands of years. So India or Bharatavarsha was not the punya bhumi of Indians, even of Hindus because the roots of their religion and culture lay outside India. Their ancestors, the Aryans were outside invaders who brought their language, religion and culture.

This is essentially the view reflected in the influential work Discovery of India by Jawaharlal Nehru. It became also the way of influential historians after Independence seeking power and patronage. Karl Marx also said the same thing—India has no history, but only a record of successive invaders. This suited Nehru as well as Marxist historians that followed. The one important scholar to reject the Aryan invasion and the foreign origin of the Vedas was Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, but Indian historians had nothing to gain by following him.

English educated Indians were grappling with this alien feeling for about 100 years, and persisted with it even after India became free. This sowed the seeds of hatred and racial hostility between Aryans who were said to be outsiders and the supposedly native Dravidians. It is easy to create hatred and hostility. But it is very difficult to come out of such feelings even after it is shown that the reasons quoted in support of these arguments were proved wrong. Although later research has shown all this to be false, nobody has yet written a complete history of India from the Indian point of view. [Sic: See how Catholics have clung to their beliefs even after science has discredited them and history has exposed its horrors like the Inquisition and the genocide of Native Americans. – NSR]

K. M. MunshiK.M. Munshi and the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan

The eminent scholar and national leader Kanhailal Munshi, who founded the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan had planned to produce a complete history of India from an Indian perspective. He invited the distinguished historian R.C. Majumdar to be the editor of a multi-volume series later to become famous as History and Culture of the Indian People. Majumdar agreed but demanded and obtained complete freedom with regard to the selection of writers and the content. Munshi being a scholar himself agreed.

It is the outstanding product of historical scholarship of post independence India. While it is in need of revision, especially the first volume on the Vedic Age, the scholarship, integrity and thoroughness that went into its writing cannot be questioned. Even the revisions have become necessary because of new discoveries relating to Harappan archaeology, population genetics, collapse of the Aryan invasion and the identification of Harappans as Vedic people. The authors, especially Majumdar did not hesitate to take unpopular positions. For example he denied that the 1857 uprising was really India’s first War of Independence. He wrote: “The so-called First National War of Independence is neither the First, nor National nor a War of Independence.”

[Sic: It is interesting to compare this with Ramachandra Guha’s recent India After Gandhi covering the post-Independence period. Chronologically it should be the successor to the final volume (Struggle for Freedom) of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan magnum opus. But in style and spirit it is more in tune with the Persian court chronicles of Medieval India. The court it serves is needless to say the Nehru-Gandhi family. – NSR]

National Book Trust, a government body had proposed to translate these volumes into all the Indian languages. But the proposal was shot down by the ICHR (Indian Council for Historical Research) because it had come and the control of Marxists like S. Gopal, Tapan Roy Choudhary, Satish Chandra, Romilla Thapar, R.S. Sharma and others; the committee that ruled against it was made up entirely of Marxists. Further, the committee came up with an alternative list of books for the translation into Indian languages. All these books were written by either these members of the committee or by their fellow Marxist comrades. Their list included five books of ICHR president R.S. Sharma, three books of S. Gopal (the son of scholar philosopher S. Radhakrishnan), three of Romilla Thapar, two of Bipin Chandra, two of books by Irfan Habib, two books of his father Mohammed Habib, one by Satish Chandra, and the books of E.M.S. Namboodripad, the senior leader of Communist Party of India and their ilk. But there was not a single book of Lokamanya Tilak, Jadunath Sarkar or R.C. Majumdar.

[Sic: This kind of complete monopoly is what one expects in a totalitarian state like Nazi Germany or Stalinist Soviet Union, not in a supposedly democratic country like India. But in many respects India remains a feudal state whose institutions are controlled by court favorites. There is also a financial angle to this. These were prescribed in schools and colleges and sold in large numbers yielding hefty royalties to the authors. All this is discussed by Arun Shourie in his book Eminent Historians. This will be the subject of a future column. – NSR]

Nehru & MaoNehru and Marxist dominance

At the time of Independence, Gandhi’s influence on the Indian public had begun to wane. The Partition and the horrors it had inflicted on the people of North India had made him highly unpopular. (His assassination by Godse greatly helped his elevation to sainthood.) Nehru was never a follower of Gandhi or Gandhian thought with its Indian roots. By temperament and upbringing Nehru was an Englishman, but with great admiration for the communism of Russia and also China. After he came to power he sidelined leaders that were close to Gandhi. The death of Patel removed his major rival. The disappearance of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose also proved highly convenient. [Sic: At the time of Independence the most popular leader in India was neither Gandhi nor Nehru, but Subhas Bose. He was also younger than Nehru. – NSR]

After side-lining the veterans, Nehru cultivated and supported Communists like V.K. Krishna Menon, K.N. Panikkar (Indian ambassador to China who proved more helpful to China than to India) and the like. Under their influence Nehru surrendered Tibet to China while getting nothing in return—not even a boundary agreement. He also signed the now discredited Panchsheel Agreement with Mao. He neglected the defence of the India-China border because Communists like Menon told him China would never attack India because India was also socialist! The result was that India was humiliated by China in the 1962 border war.

Nehru & MenonIn the meantime Communists (Marxists) had occupied the Indian intellectual space. Nehru had a scheme to divide Hindus and to please the Muslims for his political survival. It was the same strategy that British used to continue their regime in this country. Only he called it ‘Secularism’ which really means unrelated to religion—that is to say of this world or laukik. But in Nehruvian terms it meant favouring Muslims and Christians over Hindus. Nehru even introduced Haj Bill in 1959, to provide government subsidies for Muslim pilgrims. The distinguished lawyer and judge M.C. Chagla has written that when he wanted to stand for election to the Lok Sabha, Nehru asked him stand from Aurangabad because Chagla was a Muslim and Aurangabad had a large Muslim population, even though Chagla had lived all his life in Mumbai!

So Nehru was responsible for vote bank politics as well as distortion of history. (In his books he glorified Islamic vandals like Babar and even Mohammed of Ghazni as tolerant.) Indira Gandhi who succeeded him had only one aim—holding on to power at any cost. She eliminated the old guard, and allowed the Communists in. The Communists knew very well that they were in no position to occupy the seat of power directly, so they devised a plan so that at least they would be influential both politically and intellectually. So they supported Indira Gandhi who rewarded them by allowing them to enter and occupy the posts in the universities, media, ICHR, NCERT and others. It still continues.

Communist Russia also put pressure on India to tread this path. Nehru and his daughter had become so close to Russia that they were not in a position to oppose her strongly, especially after the 1962 China debacle. Communists adopted the tactics they had learnt from the dictatorial models of Russia and China to gain compete control after occupying the seats of power in the intellectual life of the country. This helped them when the UPA government controlled by Sonia Gandhi came to power, the Communists were in a position to destabilise the government. Also, the built in anti-Hindu bias of Sonia Gandhi and her court ensured continuance of the same policies.

Sonia Gandhi & Ottavio QuattrocchiIn the years since the UPA came to power (2004) it has become clear that Sonia Gandhi’s loyalty and attachment to her family and friends (like Ottavio Quattrocchi) greatly exceeds her loyalty to her adopted country, if she has any at all. She has ensured her hold over power by installing Manmohan Singh as PM and Pratibha Patil as President, neither of whom has any popular base and are not elected. She and her family members have no educational qualifications to understand what is going on in the intellectual field. They neither understand nor care if history is distorted, as long as their dynasty is glorified above all others. This their sycophants and the media are ever ready to do.

This is facilitated by a servile media, especially the English language media and the elite which treat Sonia Gandhi with kid gloves. Perhaps it is the residual colonial influence and inferiority complex towards Whites still lingering. Perhaps as Sri Aurobindo said, India needs a second Freedom Movement to become completely free. That is yet to happen. — Folks Magazine, 24 May 2012