Arun Shouries Articles

Devices to Further the Circular | May 26, 2008

Arun Shourie

As we have seen, the explicit part of the Circular issued by the West Bengal Government in 1989 in effect was that there must be no negative reference to Islamic rule in India. Although these were the very things which contemporary Islamic writers celebrated, there must be absolutely no reference to the destruction of the temples by Muslim rulers, to the forcible conversion of Hindus, to the numerous other restrictions which were placed on the Hindu population. Along with the Circular, the passages which had to be removed were listed and substitute passages were specified. The passages which were ordered to be deleted contained, if anything, a gross understatement of the facts. On the other hand, passages which were sought to be inserted contained total falsehoods: that by paying jazia Hindus could lead “normal lives” under the Islamic rulers!

A closer study of the textbooks which are today being used under the authority of the West Bengal Government shows a much more comprehensive, a much more diabolic design than that of merely erasing the cruelties of Islamic rule.

Of course, there is no reference to those cruelties. But in addition, the growth of the Aligarh Movement and its objectives, the role of Sir Syed in founding this movement, the role of the Muslim League, its close association with the British, its espousal of the Two Nation doctrine — all these are almost entirely erased in the half a dozen books which teachers in Calcutta have been so kind as to send.

It was only in one book, Sabhyatar Itihash by Dr Atul Chandra Ray, Prantik, 1998, for Class VIII, that there was a reference to the Muslim League, the Lahore Resolution, the Two Nation theory, and Jinnah’s “Direct Action”. Even in this book the only reference to Sir Syed Ahmad was one projecting him as a great, progressive religious reformer: “All his life he struggled against blind faith and tradition, conventional rituals, practices and ignorance.”

That he founded the Aligarh Movement, that he was the original proponent of the Two Nation theory, that he exhorted Muslims to stay away from the Congress, that he wrote essays followed by books followed by essays to establish in the eyes of the British how loyal Muslims had been through the 1857 Uprising, how loyal they were and would always be to the British because of their nature and their religion, that he gave very special “interpretations” to passages from the Qur’an to establish that it was the religious duty of Muslims to support and stand by the British rulers — to the point that if the British asked them to eat pork, they were in religious-duty bound to do so in good cheer : not a word on any of this.

Similarly, while Ram Mohan Roy is mentioned, while Keshab Chandra Sen — in whom Max Muller had seen such hope of Christianizing India — is mentioned, while Devendra Nath Tagore is mentioned in this “History of Civilization”, Bankim Chandra is not mentioned! After all, for the constituency which our secular Communists have been wooing, Bankim Chandra, being the author of Bande Matram, of Ananda Math, is anathema. Many would think it natural that as such “Histories of World Civilization” are written in and for Bengal, Bengali personages — including K. C. Sen — should figure more prominently than reformers and leaders from outside Bengal. But even they would be surprised — though you would not expect me to be surprised! — by what the teachers point out in regard to the most widely used textbook : that while Swami Vivekananda gets one line, Karl Marx gets forty two!

In regard to our religion, the trick is threefold. The textbooks denigrate religion, attributing to it the evils which it serves their purpose to highlight. Second, in each of these instances the examples they give are linked by them to Hinduism. Third, among religions, Islam is always presented as the one, progressive, emancipatory religion. Of course, the final emancipation comes in the form of Soviet Revolution of 1917!

Itihash o’ Bhugol, Pratham Bhag, West Bengal Shiksha Adhikar, Calcutta, 1993 is a book for Class III. It has the customary section on “Vyaktigat Sampatti o’ Das Pratha” and it sets out the customary Marxist exposition. The emergence of two classes, rich and poor, is attributable to personal property and the profit motive…; to augment its growth, one class of society fights another class…; some lose out their property; others grab everything of theirs’…; those who lose out are made prisoners and employed as labourers; they become slaves; they are absolute paupers….; those who make them work like this become their malik…; gradually those maliks, without working, start enjoying the fruits of the labour of slaves….; thus society gets divided into rich and poor, owners and slaves; the rich and owners and craftsmen class of people start fleecing these slaves; not only are the latter denied their dues, they are also subjected to atyachar (oppression)…; sometimes these poor and these slaves used to rebel when they could no longer bear the atyachar; to discipline them the rich created law, police and courts… A proper preparation of the Class III child for abiding by law!

On the next page this account is merged into the account of “rituals and ceremonies of society.” The illustration on the page shows Hindu pundits around a fire with the caption “Rishis performing Yajna (religious rituals)”. Having described the emergence of two classes, the oppression of one class and its being pushed into becoming slave labour, having described law, police and courts as instruments of this oppression, the textbook now tells the Class III student “these priests devised and got busy in creating laws and rituals for worship. That is how scriptures were written.

And they started teaching the children from these scriptures, and they themselves became the teachers. Gradually they established themselves at the top of the social ladder. That is how they became leaders of society. And they became the allies of those who were ruling the world.” Not just the usual Marxist clap-trap, the Marxist rendition of the Macaulay-design: make them ashamed of the three things they revere — their Gods, their scriptures, their language, Sanskrit; and make them hate the one class which has been charged with the task of continuing their religion and culture.

The theme is continued in and the association of Hinduism with everything evil is deepened in the textbook, Itihash o’ Bhugol, Part II (West Bengal Vidyalaya Shiksha Adhikar, 1995, Calcutta), meant for the Class IV students. On page 10 the standard account is given � one which has been called into serious question by current scholarship. Aryans come from the North West…. They institute four castes, the Shudras are consigned to be the lowest caste. They were the original inhabitants of this land, of dark complexion… No right to education… That is on page 10.

On page 17 we learn of the great emancipatory event. Mohammed is born. He establishes Islam… It creates a great civilization, a civilization educationally, culturally advanced. It establishes a vast Empire — but because of fighting in various parts this Empire yields to the emergence of different states. Two pages later again: Mohammed is born…, a great Mahapurush…, his religion Islam means “Peace”. He taught all to give alms to the poor, and to pay the worker his legitimate due. He taught, do not cause pain or suffering to slaves, do not take interest on loans. He stopped idolatry. These are the principal doctrines of Mohammed. Many accepted Mohammed’s religion… And then the insinuation: “All great men have taught peace… but people have forgotten their message and are quarreling and fighting. The rich instead of helping the poor, duped them, and added to their own wealth. They indulge in loot, blood-letting in the name of religion. When Jainism and Buddhism spread in India, the Brahmin pundits saw danger. They thought that if men did not follow the rituals, they may not obey and care for them. Therefore, on the pretext of saving Hindu religion and to maintain their hold on society, they became desperate. They were helped by many kings. Thus the influence of Jainism and Buddhism declined and the influence of Hinduism increased.” That is on page 20.

On pages 25 and 26 this superimposition is carried further. The standard Marxist “thesis” is once again driven into the child. Peasants exploited… surplus appropriated… his cattle, land expropriated… suffering… progressive immiserisation day by day… and then, “in the name of God, the pundits extracted gifts for puja and festivals. The pundits became oppressive and began living off the labour of others, becoming exploiters and oppressors. They were helped by kings and landlords. Shudras, slaves and the poor suffer most from religious persecution. This is how the stratification of society between high and low started. Shudras became untouchables but there was no restriction on exploiting their services and every excuse was good enough for the men of higher castes to exploit and persecute the Shudras…. The upper caste men used to kill off Shudras and wipe out entire villages on any excuse whatsoever.”

And there is an illustration on the page to reinforce the message into the child’s mind. Captioned, Dharmiya Utpidan, “Religious Persecution”, it shows a man in a bush-shirt, flogging a poor person with a whip — in the foreground is a Brahmin, in a dhoti, with a chutia, a menacing frown, directing him to do so.

By predictable contrast, Itihash (Prachin), West Bengal Shiksha Parishad, 1994, on page 94 gives an illustration of the ruins of Nalanda, it says how important these seats of learning were. But it is studiously silent on who it was that destroyed them! After all, alluding to that would violate the Circular!

The Class III textbook, Itihash o’ Bhugol, Pratham Bhag, at page 32, teaches the child, “With the emergence of personal property one section has been depriving the other. The differences between rich and poor have grown. Suffering has been created. The downtrodden have lost all their rights. They have been subjected to many indignities. Even now people are killing each other, even now a man exploits a fellow-being, even now there are wars, battles. If peace ever comes to this earth, if exploitation and oppression are stopped, if every man can enjoy equal happiness and peace, then how wonderful this earth would become.”

This pattern — of sowing anger against the state of things and attributing that condition to the entities the Communists want to target — continues from one year to the next. Itihash, Part III, (West Bengal Shiksha Adhikar, 1996), after giving the same sequence and “theses” of exploitation, of division of society, of religion as a handmaiden of exploitation, turns to “the emergence of new consciousness”. An exploitative order… Brahmins wielding great influence… Those of the working class, of Shudras pushed down… no rights or dignity… Shudras not even to perform religious rituals… Exploitation… Rebellion of Christian slaves… Spartacus… Shakes the very foundation of the Roman Empire… After 600 years of Christ, a new religious creed that every man has equal rights, this religious creed was preached by Hazrat Mohammed… Ideas of great men abandoned… Exploitation continues. At last! Lenin, the Bolshevik Party… “This is how the common man’s revolt took place in November 1917 and an exploitation-less [shoshan-mukt] society of the working class was established. Tagore visited Russia in 1930 and said that if he had not visited Russia, he would have missed out on the most sacred place of pilgrimage…” The Chinese Revolution… The Industrial Revolution in England… Proprietors expropriate… Labour is progressively immiserised… Country becomes rich but is controlled by a few; the rest sink into misery, getting hardly anything, not even two square meals a day… And then, on page 32, the Russian Revolution: “In November 1917 before the end of the First World War, the workers and peasants of the Russian Empire led by Lenin and his Bolshevik Party staged the Revolution and uprooted the Czarist Empire and thus established the first exploitation-less [shoshan-mukt] rule of Workers and Peasants in Soviet Russia…”

And then the Second World War: Hitler, Japan and Italy combined. Japan also was very greedy and ambitious, and planned to set up an Empire in Asia. The Axis came into conflict with “Britain, France and the American imperialists.” “The issue,” it tells the student, “was who will exploit and plunder the world. That is how the Second World War started…” Bengal Famine… In 1941 Germany attacked Soviet Russia. The Russian people fought to defend the Motherland and finally defeated Hitler’s Germany. Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki… After the end of the Second World War, the movement for freedom in colonies became vigorous.

Like this book, Sabhyatar Itihash, “The History of Civilization,” 1998, also presents the Russian Revolution as the culmination of that evolution. A remarkable, comprehensive revolution… While these books are published in 1995, 1998 etc., there is not a word in them about the purges under Stalin, about the fact that under him at least 28 million Soviet citizens were killed, nor of the fact that close to 60 million were killed under Maoist rule in China, there is not a word of the slave labour camps of these regimes. And, of course, there is not a word about what has happened to the Soviet Union, to Eastern Europe since then, nor about the leap which China has taken to abandon the bankrupt Communist economic system.

Hence the design is not just what was set out in that Circular -� to erase the evil that Islamic rulers heaped upon India and Indians. It is to attribute evil to the religion of our country, Hinduism; it is to present Islam as the great progressive force which arose; it is to lament the fact that humanity did not heed the teachings of progressive men like Mohammed — till the “remarkable and comprehensive” Russian Revolution of 1917!

To do anything but swallow and vomit this design, even to document it, is to be communal, chauvinist, fascist!

India Connect
September 1, 1998


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