Arun Shouries Articles

Fabrications On The Way To The Funeral | May 26, 2008

Arun Shourie
“Rational vs. National,” screams the headline of the new pall-bearer of secularism, the magazine Outlook. “Fresh evidence available with Outlook,” the story announces, “reveals that not only has the ICHR [the Indian Council of Historical Research] been packed with ‘sympathizers’ but a new statement of objectives or resolution [sic.] has been added, changing certain key words from the original Memorandum of Association of 1972, legitimised by an Act of Parliament. While the original Memorandum of Association states that ICHR’s aims would be to give ‘rational’ direction to historical research and foster ‘an objective and scientific writing of history’, the new resolution, which will be included in the Gazette of India, states that ICHR now seeks to give a ‘national’ direction to an ‘objective and national presentation of history’. So, ‘rational’ has been changed to ‘national’, and ‘scientific’ too has been changed to ‘national’…”

“Tampering with history,” proclaims the old pall- bearer, The Hindu. “Apprehensions of this kind [that the fabled ‘Sangh parivar’ is out to rewrite history] have been substantiated by a related decision. The resolution by the Ministry of Human Resource Development — nodal Ministry under which the ICHR comes — that details the new nominations carries with it an amendment to the Memorandum of Association by which the ICHR was set up; while the institution was set up ‘to foster objective and scientific writing of history such as will inculcate an informed appreciation of the country’s national and cultural heritage,’ the new Government’s mandate is that the ICHR will give a ‘national direction’ to an objective and national presentation and interpretation of history’. This amendment is certainly not just a matter of semantics. Instead, one can clearly see in this an intention on the part of the BJP-led Government to rewrite history….”

The next issue of the CPI(M) mouthpiece, Peoples Democracy, reproduces this editorial ! And carries with it an article by one of the ring-leaders, K. N. Panicker. “Saffronization of historical research,” proclaims the heading. Panicker repeats the charge of the word “rational” having been replaced by “national”. He adds another : the Memorandum of Association of the ICHR mentions five objectives, he says, but the Resolution put out by the Saffron-brigade mentions only two.

Thus, the charge rests on three bits of “evidence” : that the Memorandum of Association of the ICHR has been changed; second, that a word — “rational” — in the Resolution announcing the new members of the ICHR has been surreptitiously replaced by another word — “national”; third, that while the original Memorandum of Association specifies five objectives for the ICHR, the new Resolution cuts out three of these.

Having been educated by The Hindu that the “nodal ministry” for the matter is the Ministry of Human Resource Development, I ring up the Secretary of that Ministry. Has the Memorandum of Association of the ICHR been changed?, I ask. No, he says. It has not been changed, he says.

And then about the Resolution announcing the new members. The allegation, you will recall, is that the aim which in the Memorandum of Association is, “to give a national direction to an objective and RATIONAL presentation and interpretation of history…, ” has been altered in the Resolution to read, “to give a national direction to an objective and NATIONAL presentation and interpretation of history….”

I have before me the statement of the Ministry of Human Resources Development [Number F 30-28/86-U3] dated 6th October, 1987, that is of eleven years ago. It gives the text of the Resolution of the Government of India announcing the new members — announcing, among other things, that Irfan Habib is being appointed as Chairman with retrospective effect from 9 September, 1986. The corresponding expression in it is, “to give a national direction to an objective and NATIONAL presentation and interpretation of history…”

I have before me the statement of the Ministry of Human Resources Development [Number F. 30-13/89-U3] dated 15th May, 1991. It gives the text of the Resolution of the Government of India announcing the new members — announcing, among other things, that Irfan Habib is being re-appointed as Chairman with retrospective effect from 12 March, 1990. The corresponding expression in it is, “to give a national direction to an objective and NATIONAL presentation and interpretation of history…”

To test my hypothesis yet again, I look for and obtain the immediately preceding statement of the Ministry. It bears the number F 30-3/94-U.3, and is dated 8th September, 1994. Like the others, it furnishes the text of the Resolution of the Government of India announcing the new members — announcing, among other things, that Ravinder Kumar, another “historian” of the same hue, is being appointed as Chairman with retrospective effect from 8 September, 1990. The corresponding expression in it is, “to give a national direction to an objective and NATIONAL presentation and interpretation of history…”

That is how far I am able to get on my own. I request the Secretary of the Ministry : can he please request someone to look up the Resolutions of the earlier years, and see whether they contain anything different? Can he help me trace when this “alteration” got made ?

Till the time of my dispatching this article, the Secretary has been able to trace Resolutions going back up to 1978 — that is, twenty years. Each of them carries the very same words !

The research of the Secretary and his colleagues establishes that — to reproduce the word the Secretary uses — the whole mystery has arisen from a “typographical error” : some typist banging away on his typewriter some twenty-odd years ago typed “rational” as “national”. As each typist, when asked to type out the subsequent Resolution, copied the preceding one, that word continued to be typed as “national” year after year. The leftists inferred no conspiracy. But, lo and behold, now that a BJP Government is in power, inferring conspiracies — to use their favorite phrase — is a historical necessity. It is objective history! It is progressive methodology! Perhaps they will put on their Sherlock Holmes caps again, and establish that the Governments of Mrs. Indira Gandhi, of Rajiv Gandhi, of V. P. Singh, of Narasimha Rao have all been in league with the RSS, and therefore parties to this grave conspiracy!

I then ring up Mr. Vinod Mehta, the editor of Outlook. “But the reporter says she has the text and everything,” he says. I narrate what I have found. He promises to check and get back to me. When we talk again he says he has sent me the text of the Resolution. But that is the current one. My point was that the “change” which Outlook had built its story on has existed in all Resolutions for at least twenty years. He says he will get back to me. That is where matters stand.

The exact same thing holds for that fabrication of K. N. Panicker : about five objectives having become two. In every single one of the Resolutions — including the 1994 Resolution under which this man was himself nominated to the ICHR, a Resolution he can find printed at page 342 of The Gazette of India, October 22, 1994 — the exact same sentences are used : only those objectives are mentioned as are mentioned in the Resolution issued this year ! And another thing : if an RSS publication publishes even an interview with me, that is further proof of my being communal; but so tough are the hymen of these progressives that, even when they contribute signed articles to publications of the Communist Party, their virginity remains in tact !

As I have had occasion to document several times in the past, such forgeries, such allegations are the standard technology of this school. Fabricating conspiracy theories is their well-practiced weapon. And they have a network : stories containing the same “facts” about the ICHR figured in paper after paper. In The Asian Age on June 6 : “ICHR revamp has RSS tilt.” In the Indian Express on June 8 : “Historians cry foul as HRD Ministry paints ICHR saffron.” In the Hindustan Times on June 9 : “Historians see saffron in ICHR appointments.” In The Hindu editorial of June 12 : “Tampering with history.” In Outlook of June 22 which was on the stands on June 15. The frontmen having spoken, the master steps forth — the Peoples Democracy of June 21 : “Saffronization of historical research.”

The associated charge, repeated in Outlook and all the other publications, is that historians who have been now nominated to the ICHR are ones who supported the proposition that there had been a Ram-temple at Ayodhya before it was replaced by the Babri Mosque. Assume that the charge is entirely correct. What about the members who have not been re-nominated ? They were the intellectual guides and propagandists of the Babri Masjid Action Committee. They represented it at the meetings Mr Chandrashekhar’s Government had convened for settling the matter by evidence. That was an outstanding initiative of Mr Chandrashekhar : for such contentious issues ought to be dissolved in the acid of evidence. These leftist “historians” attended the initial meetings. They put together for and on behalf of the Committee “documents”. It is a miscellaneous pile. It becomes immediately evident that these are no counter to the mass of archaeological, historical and literary evidence which the VHP has furnished, that in fact the “documents” these guides of the Babri Committee have piled up further substantiate the VHP’s case, these “historians”, having undertaken to attend the meeting to consider the evidence presented by the two sides, just do not show up !

It is this withdrawal which aborted the initiative that the Government had undertaken of bringing the two sides together, of introducing evidence and discourse into the issue. Nothing but nothing paved the way for the demolition as did this running away by these “historians”. It was the last nail : no one could be persuaded thereafter that evidence or reason would be allowed anywhere near the issue.

Not only were these “historians” the advisers of the Babri Masjid Action Committee, its advocates in the negotiations, they simultaneously issued all sorts of statements supporting the Babri Masjid Committee’s case — which was the “case” they had themselves prepared! A well-practiced technique, if I may say so : they are from a school in which members have made each other famous by reviewing each others books!

Not just that. These very “historians” are cited as witnesses in the pleadings filed by the Sunni Waqf Board in the courts which are considering the Ayodhya matter!

Their deceitful role in Ayodhya — which in the end harmed their clients more than anyone else — was just symptomatic. For fifty years this bunch has been suppressing facts and inventing lies. How concerned they are about that objective of the ICHR — to promote objective and rational research into events of our past. How does this square with the guidelines issued by their West Bengal Government in 1989 which Outlook itself quotes — “Muslim rule should never attract any criticism. Destruction of temples by Muslim rulers and invaders should not be mentioned” ? But their wholesale fabrications of the destruction of Buddhist vihars, about the non-existent “Aryan invasion” — to question these is to be communal, chauvinist ! It is this which has been the major crime of these “historians”.

But these are not just partisan “historians”. They are nepotists of the worst kind. I had documented several years ago the doings of some of them in regard to the appointments in the Aligarh Muslim University. Their doings in the ICHR have been true to pattern. How is it that over twenty five years persons from their school alone have been nominated to the ICHR? How come that Romila Thapar has been on the Council four times ? Irfan Habib five times? Satish Chandra four times? S Gopal three times?… The same goes for the post of Chairman.

Not only are these “historians” partisan, not only are they nepotists, they are ones who have used State patronage to help each other in many, many ways. Let me give two examples, and make four specific proposals for the Ministry — that “nodal Ministry”, remember — which has been their instrument in all these entrepreneurial ventures.

By a brain-wave a milch-cow was thought up : it is no use having books only in English, these worthies, dedicated as they were to the cause of the illiterate downtrodden Indians, argued; we must have the works of leading historians translated into our regional languages. And which were the “historians” whose books — old, in many cases out-of-date books — got selected for translation ? R S Sharma : five books. Romila Thapar : three books. Irfan Habib : two books — one being a collection of articles. Bipan Chandra : two books. Muhammad Habib : three books. D N Jha : two books. S Gopal : four books. Nurul Hasan : two books…. In a word, the “historians” discovered, I am sure much to their embarrassment, that they were themselves the leading historians ! All these, but not Professor R C Majumdar ! Even sundry leaders of the Communist parties got the honour — E. M. S. Namboodripad, P C Joshi, even Rajni Palme Dutt, the leader of the British Communist Party who functioned as the controller and director of the Indian Communists in the forties. As a result, the books and pamphlets of these fellows are available in all regional languages, but the works of even Lokmanya Tilak are not available except in Marathi! And that too because of the Kesari Trust, no thanks to the ICHR.

My query is : did these persons get royalties paid to themselves, if so how much, for the honour they had conferred on themselves of having their books translated on the ground that they were the leading historians of the country — a ground which they had prepared so well by arranging reviews of each other’s books ?!

Second, in 1972, almost simultaneously with the establishment of the ICHR, a project was launched to collect and publish a record of the Freedom Struggle from the Indian point of view. The British had launched their Transfer of Power Documents series — which deliberately made out that the British were ever so ready to leave, and it was only the cussedness of and discord among Indians which delayed their doing so. The project was to be based on Indian documents. Its budget was to be a few lakhs. Ten volumes were to be brought out in five years.

The scholars who were to undertake the job ? Yours forever : S Gopal, Bipan Chandra, Ravinder Kumar, Sumit Sarkar, Parthasarthi Gupta, Mushirul Hasan, K. N. Panicker etc. — in other words, the same lot of like-minded friends!

Twenty seven years have gone by. Not a few lakhs, instead two crores of Rupees have been spent. The project is lost in the wilderness — one of the major scandals of Indian academia.

Not just that. These were leftists. At various stages, the leftists had done their best to thwart the Freedom Movement. Salivating at the thought that by doing so they would attract Muslim youth to their fold, the Communist Party had supported the demand for the Partition of India. And so, the dedicated historians who had been conveniently handed the project, did everything to suppress documents, and derail volumes which could not but have brought the facts about the left on record.

That is history. That is objective history. Not to take these fellows back on to the ICHR is to colour it saffron.

So, my query to the Ministry is : who has got how much of the two crores which are said to have been spent on the Towards Freedom Project?

Third, the ICHR has been the funnel for a larger amount of largesse than most other academic bodies. Will the Ministry please furnish how much money has been paid to whom under the guise of National Fellowships and Senior Fellowships? And against each project for which the grant has been disbursed, will the Ministry please indicate what happened to the project — with the name of the scholar in capital letters, if that is not too much trouble?

Fourth, the ICHR has been the conduit for patronizing scholars through travel grants. It isn’t just the foreign trip that the grants get one. More important are the impressions that are created : the “scholar” gets known abroad as a leading historian of India, his drivel comes to be regarded as the Voice of Indian History; and back home, each trip redoubles his influence — for one thing, by confirming the fact that he is close to the sources of patronage. So, my query to the Ministry is : since 1972, who has got how much of these travel grants ?

The fabrications show that this secularist tribe is on its last legs. The answers will speed the funeral.

India Connect
June 27, 1998

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