Painting Mughals as looters to hailing ‘Indian’ heroes: How to rewrite history

Hindustan Times | ByHT Correspondents
Sep 24, 2017 12:03 PM IST

From pushing leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi to the margins to painting Mughal rulers as looters and celebrating ‘India’ heroes, the attempts to rewrite school history textbooks have multiplied in recent years.

Uttar Pradesh deputy chief minister Dinesh Sharma said that Mughal rulers played no role in Indian history except plundering the country – reason, according to him, to rewrite history text books. Sharma added that the state government was working towards introducing a new school syllabus. Sharma is not alone. His counterparts in BJP-ruled states have been finding ‘faults’ in history (see accompanying stories) time and again.

(Mohit Suneja/HT)
(Mohit Suneja/HT)

The RSS has been publicising what it thinks is the appropriate version of history through its Saraswati Shiksha Mandir Prakashan and Vidya Bharti Publications. The recent trend is to use the state government resources and institutions to rewrite history, omit important figures, promote a communal angle. “They are doing it in the pursuit of a Hindu Rashtra,” said historian Harbans Mukhia, whose area of specialisation is medieval India. “The idea is to present an ‘Indianised’ version of history. Indian, in this case, equals Hindu, which equals Hindutva. And Muslim is the common enemy in this scheme of things.” Other than the criticism that history textbooks create heroes out of ‘Muslim rulers,’ a frequent charge is that Marxist historians have enjoyed a monopoly over history writing. But assertions without solid research cannot replace scholarship.

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Rewriting history textbooks has been an old priority of the right-wing. In 1977, Jana Sangh members in Janata Party pushed for the withdrawal of history textbooks written by Romila Thapar, Bipan Chadra and Harbans Mukhia, among others. The effort failed because the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) as well as the intelligentsia opposed the move.

The positive thing, Mukhia said, is that the discipline of history has moved beyond the binaries of Hindu and Muslim. “This is not the Stone Age. We are now talking about the history of ecology, habitats and different sciences,” he said.

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