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Those who have no history are compelled to create it!

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh does not have any commendable history, and has forever been trying to create a glorious past for itself.

mumbai Updated: Dec 27, 2017 11:14 IST
Sujata Anandan
Sujata Anandan
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,news,Anandan on Wednesday
(HT File)

A Pakistani journalist I had met abroad in the 1990s and who became quite a good friend during the time both of us spent at the same organisation, had been greatly after me to send him a video cassette of Bhisham Sahni’s ‘Tamas’ once I went back to India. The story was aired as a serial on Doordarshan in the late 1980s and had made waves in both India and Pakistan. It was about how a Hindu butcher is persuaded by some communal miscreants to slaughter a pig and throw the carcass inside a mosque that leads to a conflagration at partition and the migration of his own family to India — they are forced to abandon their home, their land, even their pet parrot and the butcher blames himself for setting off the riot and the chain of events that followed.

I remember the nation was as gripped by Tamas as it was by Mahabharata which was also aired by Doordarshan the same decade though Tamas was a shorter serial than the epic Mahabharata. It was, however, banned by Pakistan after that nation caught the first few episodes and my Pakistani colleague told me they were all dying to see the entire film in his country. It was from him I learnt how Pakistan was either banning or distorting every piece of history that was related with India. So apart from Tamas, children in Pakistan were given a distorted version of even Moghul history. It pained the Pakistani state immensely that Moghul monuments like the Red Fort, the Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri were all located in India and there was very little history in modern-day Pakistan — except for Takshila and Mohenjodaro. And those they found difficult to acknowledge as glorious traditions of a pre-Islamic past.

“Pakistan has no history. Our history begins in 1947 and there is very little to be proud of even after that. So they try to create and rewrite a history that has no bearing in the truth. That is why we have to learn the truth from books and films like Tamas, written by neutral authors,” he told me.

Somehow, I always thought, that Pakistani dilemma is reflected in that of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological parent of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), that similarly does not have any commendable history and has forever been trying to create a glorious past for itself. The BJP itself is in a similar position and has, in recent years, attempted to appropriate icons from India’s past struggle for Independence like Sardar Vallabbhai Patel and to a lesser extent Subhash Chandra Bose for itself. Irony dies a thousand deaths when one realises that the BJP is even building a freedom memorial in the form of the tallest statue in the world in the image of Sardar Patel — to claim ownership of a man who had banned the RSS, forced it to declare itself as a mere cultural organisation and refrain from entering the political space in India.

Now irony dies a million more deaths as the Maharashtra government decides to give the status of freedom fighters to RSS workers who went to jail during the Emergency. I do not know whether to be shocked or amused, cry or laugh at this attempt by the RSS to create a history for itself. They have only one icon who can be reasonably called a freedom fighter — Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. But when one compares his petitions for mercy to the British to release him from imprisonment in the jail at Andamans to Bhagat Singh’s steadfast refusal to seek clemency and save himself from the gallows, Savarkar certainly covers himself in less glory than even others like Lokmanya Tilak, Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who never sought commutation of their prison sentences from the British. They served their time without seeking release on the promise of serving British interests for the rest of their lives.

The last of India’s genuine freedom fighters may all have gone by now. If anyone survives, I am sure he or she would have to be at least 90-100 years old presuming they were of adult age at Independence in 1947. The RSS was not a participant in the Quit India movement but now seems to be craving for the status of freedom fighters and creating one for itself. Those who do not have a history, clearly, are compelled to create one for themselves.

First Published: Dec 27, 2017 11:14 IST