The BJP government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi can be faulted for betraying every promise that they had made to the people during the 2014 general elections, except one. This is the relentless pursuit of sharpening communal polarisation to establish the RSS project of a rabidly intolerant, fascistic ‘Hindu Rashtra’ in place of our present constitutional republic.
Coming weekend, Delhi University will host scholars to re-date the Vedas as originating, according to the host Sanskrit department’s head, “5,000 or 10,000 years back”. Historical evidence so far holds that the Indus Valley Civilisation declined around 1800 BC and only around 1500 BC, the Aryan influence entered these lands. Using philological evidence and the overlap between Vedic Sanskrit, old Persian and ancient European languages, most scholars showed that the Rigveda Aryans came from outside. Eminent historian Romila Thapar, however, establishes that “the linguistic evidence of Vedic Sanskrit supports the coming into India of an Indo-European language (from Western Asia) but does not support the notion that India was the homeland of the Aryan speaking people” (Seminar, No. 400, 1992). All this is brushed aside by the RSS with ‘faith’ replacing evidence, mythology replacing history and theology replacing philosophy.
On September 19, the RSS’ All India Prachar Pramukh, Manmohan Vaidya, said: “The Bharatiya tradition has from time immemorial regarded all faiths and sects as one and that the artificial injection of secularism is not needed.” Indeed, why this renewed communal offensive against religious minorities, Muslims and Christians?
The 2014 BJP election manifesto begins by stating ‘India is the most ancient civilization of the world…’ (not one among others). The time has come to ‘pick up the thread from the point where the continuum of our civilizational consciousness was lost and reorient the polity in consonance with those strong points of Indian psyche which will be the engine for our future glory’. And this psyche, it says, is ‘one country, one people and one nation’. Thus, echoing the RSS and negating the rich plurality of our country.
MS Golwalkar, in his 1939 tract ‘We, or our Nationhood Defined’, chillingly articulated the RSS ideological project. He says: “The glory of the Hindu civilization (was) interrupted by foreign invaders. …We — Hindus — have been in undisputed and undisturbed possession of this land for over eight or even 10 thousand years before the land was invaded by any foreign race” and, therefore, this land, “came to be known as Hindusthan, the land of the Hindus”. There is a deliberate silence on the wealth of investigations of ancient Indian history, including the possibility of the name Hindusthan originating from people outside India describing these lands as being across the Indus river.
Such an assertion is absolutely central to the RSS political project since otherwise, the Aryans/Hindus would be as much of a ‘foreign race’ as anybody else who came to these lands.
Hence, the assertion that the Aryans did not migrate to India from anywhere but originated here. Historical evidence is dismissed as the ‘shady testimony of western scholars’. The RSS guru, however, had to contend with Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak’s theory of the Arctic origin of the Vedas. Unable to reject the thesis of a popular Hindu leader, an incredible assertion is made that the Arctic zone was originally that part of the world which is today called Bihar and Orissa, ‘...that then it moved north-east and then by a sometimes westerly, sometimes northward movement, it came to its present position. If this be so, did we leave the Arctic Zone and come to Hindusthan or were we all along here and the Arctic Zone left us and moved away northwards in its zigzag march? We do not hesitate in affirming that had this fact been discovered during the lifetime of Tilak, he would unhesitatingly have propounded the proposition that “The Arctic Home of the Vedas” was verily in Hindusthan itself and that it was not the Hindus who migrated to that land but the Arctic Zone which emigrated and left the Hindus in Hindusthan’.
Astounding indeed! Golwalkar may have been unaware of the advances in geological sciences and plate-tectonics (which fairly accurately allow us to map the movement of various land masses over centuries). A simple question arises: If the Arctic zone moved away from Bihar-Orissa, how could it leave behind the people who inhabited that land mass? When the land mass moves, it moves along with everything on it. People cannot be left hanging in a vacuum only to drop down when and where the RSS wishes. Such is the perfidy to ‘establish’ that the Aryans originated in India.
Indian history is depicted as a single thread of a long war by the ‘Hindu nation as a whole’ against the invading Muslims. Golwalkar, however, says that the Hindu nation, which was finally emerging victorious, was subjugated by a new foe — the British. “The attempt (1857) failed but even in their defeat a whole galaxy of noble Hindu patriots stands out — glorious objects of the Nation’s worship.” What a distortion! The symbol of this revolt against the British, declared by the heroic and devout Hindu queen, Rani Laxmi Bai of Jhansi, was the Mughal Badshah, Bahadur Shah Zafar. Was this the war of ‘Hindus’ against Muslim invaders or that of Indians together against the colonial rule?
The RSS and Modi today are carrying forward such gross distortions of history as assertions of ‘faith’. In the bargain, the intensity of the attacks on religious minorities, particularly Muslims, is increased to accomplish their project. History is being rewritten in order to control the present and shape the future. Can we permit such a metamorphosis of our modern secular democratic republic to succeed?
Sitaram Yechury is general secretary of the CPI(M) and a Rajya Sabha MP. The views expressed are personal.