With the Sangh parivar gathering up steam to construct the Ram temple in Ayodhya, one question could be asked: Why did the Hindutvawadis put Ram before Krishna in Mathura or Vishwanath (Shiva) in Benares?
There is distinct evidence of the destruction of the temples at Benares and Mathura by Muslim rulers, whereas in the case of Ayodhya, there is none. The answer is the power of mythography. When something cannot be definitely proved, the power of manipulating people’s beliefs and fears is all the more potent, and thereby it is easy to pile myth upon myth.
Herein lies the essence of the phenomenon of ‘politicisation of history’, which, to put it simply, is nothing but inventing things that never existed or dressing up events of the past or appropriating historical personages to suit the needs of the moment. Its essence has been conditioning the minds of the present generation either about great achievements of the past or impressing upon them great injustices perpetrated by either colonisers or conquerors. The conduct of the Sangh parivar is testimony to this.
Consider Swami Vivekananda, whom the Sangh reveres. What Vivekananda had written in his essay The Ideal of a Universal Religion is vastly at variance with what the parivar espouses. He wrote: ‘My idea, therefore, is that all these religions are different forces in the economy of god, working for the good of mankind. I believe they are not contradictory; they are supplementary…” To be honest, Vivekananda recognised that there was fanaticism in the way Islam had spread. But he also hammered home the point that such fanaticism had its limits and the fanatics had to ‘cry halt. So will it be with other religions if they follow the same methods’. What is the upshot of this? It is that Vivekananda certainly did not preach ‘counter-fanaticism’. ‘What I want to propagate is a religion that will be equally acceptable to all minds,’ he wrote. How far this view is from those of VD Savarkar or MS Golwalkar! And yet, people who want to build a temple by bringing down a mosque call Vivekananda their own.
The Sangh parivar is ‘nationalist’, but is strangely silent on what its contribution to the nationalist movement was. If it had any disagreement with Mahatma Gandhi, it could have carried on its struggle on an alternative path in the manner the Bengal revolutionaries did. But there is not a shred of evidence on this.
It is futile to expect the Sangh parivar to broaden its vision now. It can only probe old sores in the pursuit of its cultural agenda.
CP Bhambhri taught politics at JNU. The views expressed are personal.