Hypocrisy and Indian History: A Public Statement

A public statement by concerned Indian historians, archaeologists and scholars of Indian civilization. On 26 October,…

A public statement by concerned Indian historians, archaeologists and scholars of Indian civilization.

On 26 October, 53 Indian historians voiced alarm at what they perceived to be the country’s “highly vitiated atmosphere” and protested against attempts to impose “legislated history, a manufactured image of the past, glorifying certain aspects of it and denigrating others….” This was soon followed by an “Open letter from overseas historians and social scientists”, 176 of them, warning against, “a dangerously pervasive atmosphere of narrowness, intolerance and bigotry” and “a monolithic and flattened view of India’s history.”

Such closely-linked statements appearing with clockwork regularity in India and abroad—there have been several more from various “intellectual” circles—are a well-orchestrated campaign to create a bogeyman and cry wolf. They are neither intellectual nor academic in substance, but ideological and, much more so, political.

As historians, archaeologists and academics specializing in diverse aspects of Indian civilization, we wish to respond to these hypocritical attempts to claim the moral high ground. Many of the signatories of the above two statements by Indian and “overseas” historians have been part of a politico-ideological apparatus which, from the 1970s onward, has come to dominate most historical bodies in the country, including the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), and imposed its blinkered view of Indian historiography on the whole academic discipline.

Anchored mainly in Marxist historiography and leftist ideology, with a few borrowings from postmodernism, the Annales School, Subaltern and other studies, this new School, which may be called “Leftist” for want of a better term, has become synonymous with a number of abusive and unscholarly practises; among them:

  1. A reductionist approach viewing the evolution of Indian society almost entirely through the prism of the caste system, emphasizing its mechanisms of “exclusion” while neglecting those of integration without which Indian society would have disintegrated long ago.
  2. A near-complete erasure of India’s knowledge systems in every field philosophical, linguistic, literary, scientific, medical, technological or artistic—and a general under-emphasis of India’s important contributionsto other cultures and civilizations. In this, the Leftist School has been a faithful inheritor of colonial historiography, except that it no longer has the excuse of ignorance. Yet it claims to provide an accurate and “scientific” portrayal of India!
  3. A denial of the continuity and originality of India’s Hindu-Buddhist-Jain-Sikh culture, ignoring the work of generations of Indian and Western Indologists. Hindu identity, especially, has been a pet aversion of this School, which has variously portrayed it as being disconnected from Vedic antecedents, irrational, superstitious, regressive, barbaric — ultimately “imagined” and, by implication, illegitimate.
  4. A refusal to acknowledge the well-documented darker chapters of Indian history, in particular the brutality of many Muslim rulers and their numerous Buddhist, Jain, Hindu and occasionally Christian and Muslim victims (ironically, some of these tyrants are glorified today); the brutal intolerance of the Church in Goa, Kerala and Puducherry; and the state-engineered economic and cultural impoverishment of India under the British rule. While history worldwide has wisely called for millions of nameless victims to be remembered, Indian victims have had to suffer a second death, that of oblivion, and often even derision.
  5. A neglect of tribal histories: For all its claims to give a voice to “marginalized” or “oppressed” sections of Indian society, the Leftist School has hardly allowed a space to India’s tribal communities and the rich contributions of their tribal belief systems and heritage. When it has condescended to take notice, it has generally been to project Hindu culture and faith traditions as inimical to tribal cultures and beliefs, whereas in reality the latter have much more in common with the former than with the religions imposed on them through militant conversions.
  6. A biased and defective use of sources: Texts as well as archaeological or epigraphic evidence have been misread or selectively used to fit preconceived theories. Advances of Indological researches in the last few decades have been ignored, as have been Indian or Western historians, archaeologists, anthropologists who have differed from the Leftist School. Archaeologists who developed alternative perspectives after considerable research have been sidelined or negatively branded. Scientific inputs from many disciplines, from palaeo-environmental to genetic studies have been neglected.
  7. A disquieting absence of professional ethics: The Leftist School has not academically critiqued dissenting Indian historians, preferring to dismiss them as “Nationalist” or “communal”. Many academics have suffered discrimination, virtual ostracism and loss of professional opportunities because they would not toe the line, enforced through political support since the days of Nurul Hasan. The Indian History Congress and the ICHR, among other institutions,became arenas of power play and political as well as financial manipulation. In effect, the Leftist School succeeded in projecting itself as the one and only, crushing debate and dissent and polarizing the academic community.

While we reject attempts to portray India’s past as a glorious and perfect golden age, we condemn the far more pernicious imposition by the Leftist School of a “legislated history”, which has presented an alienating and debilitating self-image to generations of Indian students, and promoted contempt for their civilizational heritage. The “values and traditions of plurality that India had always cherished in the past” are precisely those this School has never practised.We call for an unbiased and rigorous new historiography of India.

  1. Dilip K. Chakrabarti, Emeritus Professor, Cambridge University, UK; Dean, Centre of Historical and Civilizational Studies, Vivekananda International Foundation, Chanakyapuri, Delhi; member, ICHR
  2. Saradindu Mukherji, historian, retired from Delhi University; member, ICHR
  3. Nanditha Krishna, Director, CPR Institute of Indological Research, Chennai; member, ICHR
  4. M.D. Srinivas, former professor of theoretical physics; former vice-chairman, Indian Institute of Advanced Study; chairman, Centre for Policy Studies, Chennai; member, ICHR
  5. Meenakshi Jain, associate professor of history, Delhi University; member, ICHR
  6. Michel Danino, guest professor, IIT Gandhinagar; member, ICHR
  7. B.B. Lal, former Director General, Archaeological Survey of India
  8. R.S. Bisht, former Joint Director General, Archaeological Survey of India
  9. R. Nagaswamy, former Director of Archaeology, Govt. of Tamil Nadu; Vice Chancellor, Sri ChandrasekharendraSaraswathiViswaMahavidyalaya, Kanchipuram
  10. B.M. Pande, Former Director, Archaeological Survey of India
  11. DayanathTripathi, former Chairman, ICHR; former Head, Dept. of Ancient History, Archaeology and Culture, D.D.U. Gorakhpur University, Gorakhpur; former Visiting Professor at Cambridge, British Academy
  12. R.C. Agrawal, President, Rock Art Society of India; former Member Secretary of ICHR
  13. K.V. Raman, former professor of Ancient Indian History & Archaeology, University of Madras
  14. Padma Subrahmanyam, Dancer and Research Scholar
  15. Kapil Kapoor, former Rector, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi; Chancellor, Mahatma Gandhi Antararashtriya Hindi Vishwavidyalaya, Wardha (Maharashtra)
  16. Madhu Kishwar, Professor, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, New Delhi
  17. ChandrakalaPadia, Vice Chancellor, Maharaja Ganga Singh University (Rajasthan); Chairperson, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla
  18. SachchidanandSahai, Ph.D. (Paris), National Professor in Epigraphy, Ministry of Culture, Government of India, Advisor to PreahVihear National Authority under the Royal Government of Cambodia; member, ICHR
  19. J.K. Bajaj, Director Centre for Policy Studies, Former Member ICSSR
  20. MakarandParanjape, Professor of English, JNU; Visiting Global South Fellow, University of Tuebingen
  21. NikhilesGuha, former professor of history, University of Kalyani, West Bengal; member, ICHR
  22. Issac C.I., member, ICHR
  23. (Dr.) Purabi Roy, member, ICHR
  24. Jagbir Singh, Former Professor and Head, Dept. of Punjabi, University of Delhi; Life Fellow, Punjabi University, Patiala.
  25. G.J. Sudhakar, former Associate Professor, Dept. of History, Loyola College, Chennai
  26. Bharat Gupt, Former Associate Professor, Delhi University
  27. O.P. Kejariwal, Central Information Commissioner & Nehru Fellow
  28. S.C. Bhattacharya, former Professor and HOD, Ancient History, Culture and Archaeology, Allahabad University; former National Fellow, IIAS, Shimla
  29. S.K. Chakraborty, former professor, Management Centre for Human Values, Indian Institute of Management Calcutta
  30. AmarjivaLochan, Associate Professor in History, Delhi University; President, South and Southeast Asian Association for the Study of Culture & Religion (SSEASR) under IAHR, affiliated to the UNESCO
  31. R.N. Iyengar, Distinguished Professor, Jain University, Bangalore
  32. Professor (Dr) Nath, former Professor of History, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur
  33. KiritMankodi, archaeologist, consultant to Project for Indian Cultural Studies, Mumbai
  34. K. Ramasubramanian, Cell for Indian Science and Technology in Sanskrit, IIT Bombay; Council Member International Union for History and Philosophy of Science; member, RashtriyaSanksritParishad
  35. M.S. Sriram, Retired Professor and Head, Department of Theoretical Physics, University of Madras; Member Editorial Board, Indian Journal of History of Science; Former Member, Research Council for History of Science, INSA
  36. Amartya Kumar Dutta, Professor of Mathematics, Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata
  37. Godabarisha Mishra, Professor and Head, Dept. of Philosophy, University of Madras
  38. R. Ganesh, Shathavadhani, Sanskrit scholar
  39. Sri Banwari, Academic and Journalist; former Resident Editor, Jansatta
  40. S. Krishnan, Associate Professor, Dept of Mathematics, IIT Bombay
  41. Rajnish Kumar Mishra, Associate Professor, Special Centre for Sanskrit Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
  42. VikramSampath, Director, Symbiosis School of Media and Communication; former Director of Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) – SRC; historian and author
  43. K. Gopinath, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore
  44. M.A. Venkatakrishnan, former Professor and Head, Dept. of Vaishnavism, Madras University
  45. Sumathi Krishnan, Musician and Musicologist
  46. PremaNandakumar, Author and translator
  47. Santosh Kumar Shukla, Associate Professor, Special Centre for Sanskrit Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

The above list was released on 17 November; on 18 November, three scholars had been contacted but could not send their answer in time owing to the flood situation in Chennai. We include them here for the record:

  1. Siniruddha Dash, former Professor & Head, Dept. of Sanskrit, University of Madras
  2. Mamata Mishra, Managing Trustee, Prof. K.V. Sarma Research Foundation
  3. ChithraMadhavan, historian and epigraphist

 

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  • rama ranjan

    Indiafacts, you have nailed it. It looks like when they stomped a dust storm only 2 months ago, it did not blow away the planet. Now, rinse, repeat until Congress funds run dry. Looks like the list is now longer with all the acolytes in the tow.

    Add to the list of traits of shoddy scholarship: a complete lack of training and understanding of the Sanskrit and Vedic languages and the inability to read anything beyond 4th derivative translations of original Indian texts.

  • Prasad

    A great effort. I hope the small trickle that started last year slowly develops into a giant flood which will wash away all the flotsam that have been polluting our country since independence. Thanks..

  • NARAYAN MAO

    This is a terribly fascist and communal article. I will be returning my High School Leaving Certificate in protest. I urge all my fellow eminent secular progressive inclusive left-wing intellectuals to do the same.

  • kumar

    Leftists are copy paste historians of their colonial masters. They are against hinduism and Indian culture and their version of history deserves to be thrown into dustbin.

  • Capt.Ajit Vadakayil

    Rubbish all the Scholars who signed the petition are co conspirators of the Jewish Zionist Rothschild so dont believe them.

  • Krispy K

    “While we reject attempts to portray India’s past as a glorious and perfect golden age…”, “We call for an unbiased and rigorous new historiography of India.”

    The second assertion cannot be satisfied by imposing the preconception of the first. By all means conduct an unbiased study, but when avoiding the assumption that the past was glorious and perfect, one should also avoid the assumption that it wasn’t.

    • Savarkar’s Disciple

      Your right about the part of an unbiased study about the past that it might have been glorious,but I feel what they are trying to say is to avoid the Pushpak Viman type claims without any proper evidence.

      • Krispy K

        That’s fine. Then they should make it clear. Otherwise it looks like they want to replace one bias with their own.

        • Savarkar’s Disciple

          I think in a letter or a petition I dunno if it would be appropriate mentioning the part about Pushpak Vimana but this letter or petition will not work beyond a point.We need our HOME TEAM countering the other side with serious works and we Hindus should support their works by buying and promoting their works also have our own Hindu Literary Festival.

          • Krispy K

            There are so many things we need to do, so many good ideas have been floated. Can’t rely on the government to do it.

          • Savarkar’s Disciple

            Govt whats that does it have anything to do with the word Hindu or Dharma I dont think so.They say their ideology is GOOD GOVERNANCE right!!You have the leading most candidate for a proabable President of USA so clear in his thoughts to the point claiming to Shut Down Mosques if he comes to power and here we have people shying away from even abolishing Article 30 and freeing Hindu institutions and temples.On the contrary Modi and his gang ask the temples for GOLD viow!!! isn’t that wonderful you tax us then you take away our GOLD even our land our Dharmik practisioners and teachers are in a hand to mouth situation and hey why not Hindus sacrifice for the nation if Roads are build its not gonna be just for Muslims or Christians it will be for everyone.

          • NARAYAN MAO

            Why shouldn’t roads be built just for innocent secular Christians and Muslims? What business do fascist Hindus have using these roads? This is a secular country! Next you’ll be demanding equal rights for bloody Hindus! What kind of nasty communal fellow are you?

          • Savarkar’s Disciple

            Your absolutely right!!!

          • rama ranjan

            This “Capt.Ajit Vadakayil” is an impostor & a troll using the name of another prolific blogger. Do not bother replying to him. He will disappear sooner then.

          • Savarkar’s Disciple

            This Captain Ajit Vadakayil the blogger is an Asshole and those who eulogize him are bigger Assholes these Anti-Semites come up with all kinds of conspiracy and pseudo science theories which end up becoming a poison pill for us Hindus.

        • Capt.Ajit Vadakayil

          Pushapak Viman is real you need 12 strand DNA to fly it.You ppl dunno anything

    • NARAYAN MAO

      Look fascist, everyone knows India’s history is one of barbarism, superstition, and widespread dalit-enslaving and Muslim-eating. That’s all. White people said it first and Romilaji agrees so it must be true. All of this “literature” you have, some people seem to think it is full of lofty ideals, philosophies that have never been matched by any other civilisation and inquiries into the deepest nature of the material manifestation, human consciousness, our connection to the divine, the various paths to enlightenment and salvation, and so on, but proper scholars from world-class institutions like JNU have shown that really they are just a collection of recipes for cooking Muslims, nothing more. It is up to YOU to prrrroooove otherwise.

      Links! References! Don’t bother providing any that are not from places like JNU because they don’t count. I’m waiting, fascist. I’m here to learn, don’t abuse me.

  • Sibby

    Great article. They still teach Aryan invasion theory in school which has be contested by other theories. Our politicians, media and history does not forget to remind us that we are NOT indians but Hindu, Muslims, Chistians, Dalits, OBC, aka vote banks. Every death of Muslim or dalit has to labelled with religion/caste and should be looked through communal prism. We read about contributions of various Congress leaders to freedom struggle be it MK Gandhi, Nehru, Patel, etc but we have only passing references to Bhagat Singh, Netaji, and others. We read that partition was the result of British divide and rule and because of Jinnah, but we do not read that Nehru was equally involved in partition.

    • Krispy K

      The biggest irony of this age is that all of those maggots constantly harping on about communalism, caste, intolerance etc. are the primary instigators of all of those things. What they want and need is for these problems to persist, as well as to continue projecting that they are some kind of crusaders against them. That’s what keeps the moolah rolling in. These people are like heavy chains around the neck of India.

    • NARAYAN MAO

      What a communal post. The proper secular way to do things is to create as many categories as possible and provide reservations for all of them, except fascist Hindus who should not even be allowed to breathe oxygen for free. One day we will achieve the dream of EVERY single human being having their own category! This is secular and equal, fascist. Read and learn. I’m here to teach, don’t abuse me.

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