The Indian Council of Historical Research is a body that receives funding from the Indian government with regards to history. A lot of it’s work involves development of history textbooks.
One of the things I have mentioned is that Indian history is often warped to portray Indian history in a way more positive light.
The two examples I quote are Subash Chandra Bose, a man who threw his lot in with the Empire of the Sun and Nazi Germany. Yes, the man is a fascist and even has airports named after him…
And the other is a tale about the first Mughal Emperor, Babur. Babur’s story is told as one where he lead his troops to drink from a stream, leaving those who plunged their heads into the water behind as he regarded them as unaware and thoughtless. That was the source of his victory.
Not the first usage of cannons in Indian warfare that he brought with him that effectively changed how war was fought.
History is rewritten to be more romantic and more fantastic rather than realistic. And it allows for this fantasy that the past of India was this paradise ruined by the Brits. And no where is this seen by the new head of the ICHR, Yellapragada Sudarshan Rao was a member of the Hindutva group, the RSS and his fundamentalist leanings shine through in this interview.
You have lashed out against Marxist historians and their interpretation of history. Why is the writing of history a Right vs Left debate?
I think it is time to think about India’s history from an Indian perspective. For the last 60 years, our writing and understanding of history has been influenced by the West. Indian research has been far too dependent on the West to write its own history. We are dependent on their translations and interpretation. And, these are my personal views, history writing in India is Euro-centric and imperialistic. The ICHR, I understand, is in the process of acquiring digital records from centres of history in the US and Europe. This will not only give us access to our own records but will also aid us in writing history from our perspective.
Marxist Historians? Typical strategy is to denounce your detractors as things like “marxist” without knowing what that actually means.
The lens of history must be unbiased lest we warp it through our own foolishness. In effect, the RSS and the Hindutva wish to write history to push Hinduism in a special light. India already fares poorly as it is through the politicisation of history into stories, the Hindutva will only make it worse.
You have been appointed by the BJP government. Don’t you think institutions such as the ICHR should be free of politics?.
The MoU (memorandum of understanding) prepared by the founding fathers of ICHR gave the powers to the government to appoint heads of social and historical institutes. I have no qualms in admitting that these appointments are political. Have previous heads of social institutes been questioned about their appointments? Why are these questions asked only about me? The government has been formed by a democratic process. It has been elected by the people. To question that is to question democracy itself. Unlike other social institutes, the ICHR attracts a lot of attention because history is an important subject. But history belongs to the people. We have not shown or written a comprehensive history of India to the people of India. History is by the people, for the people and of the people.
You know there is a hilarious problem with demanding Indians write history and then quoting Abraham Lincoln.
You are the author of the Mahabharata project? What is the project about?
There is a certain view that the Mahabharata or the Ramayana are myths. I don’t see them as myths because they were written at a certain point of time in history. They are important sources of information in the way we write history. What we write today may become an important source of information for the future in the future. When analysed, of course, they could be declared to be true or false. History is not static. It belongs to the people, it’s made by the people. Similarly, the Ramayana is true for people…it’s in the collective memory of generations of Indians. We can’t say the Ramayana or the Mahabharata are myths. Myths are from a western perspective.
Yes. The man thinks the Ramayana and Mahabaratha are not epics but historical records. This is one of the reasons I tend to laugh at the whole demands to prove the historicity of Jesus. Even if there was a Kuru kingdom and a Krishna there was no war where opponents killed each other by the millions. The death toll of the Mahabaratha exceeds the number of people alive at the time across the planet! Lanka was not burned by a flying monkey. Now these conflicts may have had a shred of truth to them, but they are like King’s Cross Station to Harry Potter.
You may have wondered why I was initially scathing about his “History for Indians by Indians and of Indians” and here it is. Whenever someone tries to exclude ViTAL parts about India and believe me one of the parts he will want to exclude is the Indians of WW I and II who are an already poorly remembered and sorry lot…. they generally want to exclude things in order to insert their own bullshit.
I LIKE the Mahabaratha, don’t get me wrong. But I also like reality and see it as a story rather than historical fact.
What does that mean?
For us, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata are true accounts of the periods in which they were written.
Yes, the man is clear about his stance. I am not just reading between the lines. It’s like declaring the Bible as historical fact.
But shouldn’t the writing of history be rooted in historical evidence and research?
Western schools of thought look at material evidence of history. We can’t produce material evidence for everything. India is a continuing civilisation. To look for evidence would mean digging right though the hearts of villages and displacing people. We only have to look at the people to figure out the similarities in their lives and the depiction in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. For instance, the Ramayana mentions that Rama had travelled to Bhadrachalam (in Andhra Pradesh). A look at the people and the fact that his having lived there for a while is in the collective memory of the people cannot be discounted in the search for material evidence. In continuing civilisations such as ours, the writing of history cannot depend only on archaeological evidence. We have to depend on folklore too.
In effect the ICHR will begin to detract from archaeology. After all? Who needs evidence when you can make up wild stories from local accounts. We may as well claim the Mandaha is real and will gobble up the sun!
In politicising archaeology only archaeology and the people’s genuine history will suffer. This is like smashing Buddhas. In fact?
I would consider this more harmful than the idiots who destroy historical artefacts. See? Those are destroyed because of the fear of the truth. What he wishes to do is to take a bunch of lies and label them as true and then use the archaeology to support his claim. Ancient beakers become trinkets of Rama to be worshipped at temples next to pointless dolls as we fall for the same foolishness as the Catholic Church and it’s relics.
Are you for correcting the writing of history?
I won’t put it that way. But real history has to come through. I am a follower of truth. The ICHR should encourage research about India and Greater India—from Southeast Asia all the way to Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran. There is enough archaeological evidence to show the connect of our civilisation there.
And the truth being the Hindu Creationist World VIew.
What is your view on Ayodhya?
Is it not a fact that mosques as structures came to be in India in 1000 AD? Is it not a fact that the mosque was built by a lieutenant of Babur? A historian can only enlighten people on the facts of history. Historians can at best say evidence of earlier remains of a Hindu structure are there. Conflicting views are created by political leaders. If Ayodhya is not the place of Ram, where did he live? Looking at the present structures in Ayodhya, we can see people still living the way that finds a mention in the Ramayana. Historians can only give their opinion to enlighten people.
I say this to Israel and I say this here yet again. Historical Ownership of the Land does not justify CURRENT ownership of the land especially if no one alive at the time is left. The past is the past and to use it to spread hate and fear and justify the deaths of thousands is poison we should not adhere to. I am proud that I am no longer a Hindu solely due to this vile action. My path of atheism began when the RSS and people like yourself whipped each other to a frenzy and destroyed the Babri Masjid leading to the riots.
We killed each other for a stupid doll. We are no different from the stupid Israelis and Palestinians and Christians who fought over a stupid piece of land on the entire planet because they thought their special version of the same god told them so. Enlightened? We are not the Buddhas and Gandhis when we act like this.
We are Tamerlane. Butchers and Barbarians. It doesn’t matter what was there before the Babri Masjid was built, the fact it stood meant that there were people alive who used the area.
The joke here is that this hampers development. How many pointless and illegal temples exist in India that are defended by fanatics that turn cities into gridlocks and roads into nonsensical kafkaesque nightmares? Tear them down. Let the cities of India breathe and flow. Build them in proper places.
The fact here is that the agenda is simple.
1. Rama Exists
2. He is a god
3. His Birthplace was Ayodhya
4. Therefore it was okay to tear down the Muslim Mosque (and kill all those people) if it means restoring the History of India.
Doesn’t correcting history pose a problem? Why only cast it in the context of two communities? How about Dalits and untouchability?
The question of untouchability is relatively recent, as recent as 3,000 years. And it has its basis in the economy. It was not based on social status. Did we hear of untouchability before this period of 3,000 years? Let me give you an example. Sage Vishwamitra went to a Dalit hut and asked for dog’s meat as he was hungry. The Ramayana and Mahabharata are replete with instances of different castes, did we find a mention of untouchability there?
Yes. Yes we fucking did you moron. Karna specifically is cursed as he is a Vaishya pretending to be Kshatriya. He is cursed to forget his most powerful weapons at the time he needs it the most so at no point is he able to win Kurukshetra despite being (arguably) the most powerful adversary the Pandavas face. He is cursed by the freaking Avatar of Vishnu who hates fucking Kshatriya! Karna’s caste repeatedly denies him progress in life and he is heavily mistreated by everyone for being effectively a “double casted person” leading to Duryodhana finally recognising him thus winning his undying loyalty despite Duryodhana being a victim.
In fact? Karna is MEANT to teach you perspective. In Karna’s eyes, his mother abandoned him because she was ashamed of him at birth. He was effectively raised by people who drove carts while his brothers lived in luxury. His armour meant he could never fit in as a cart driver but his parents caste held him back from learning the skills of war. Karna’s learning of the art of war was by guile and cunning to Parushurama. He has it hard throughout his life. The only “break” he gets is that the villain of the entire damn book treats him like a human being.
The untouchables are MENTIONED repeatedly by old stories including by Narada. One of the stories of the sage includes a test of a man attaining Morksha or Transcendence. As he sits Vishnu in the form of an untouchable comes up to him and asks him for water. The man gives it to him out of kindness, that is the test for Morksha, whether he was kind of simply acting. But they are mentioned.
And this tries to rewrite caste as something mild and harmless in the Mahabaratha. Parushurama is the Avatar of Vishnu who slew ALL kshatriya men to place Brahmins at the top of the social strata.
As a historian, are you trying to give a religious interpretation to history?
I am a Hindu and a Brahmin. To be a Hindu isn’t a religion. In my personal practices, I can adopt religious practices of the community to which I belong—as a Shaivite or a Vaishnavite. But that is not what being a Hindu is about. Religions are recent manifestations. I feel there’s only Sanatana Dharma. There was no conflict between communities or on religious lines as there was only one sanatana dharma. Now there are several reasons for conflict to take place. Besides, Muslims are the only ones who have retained their distinct culture. Can Christians or Muslims say all religions are one? A Hindu can say that. There was no conflict when there was sanatana dharma, Conflict or contests came about when temples were destroyed and mosques built on the sites in medieval times.
And the medieval conflicts being pursued today by a sullen RSS are just stupid. Do you have any idea of how stupid it is that Kumar should hate Iqbal solely because Iqbal’s ancestors were douchebags? I mean? That’s like most of China kicking the shit out of Mongolia! It’s stupid, and the fact this is the man who is now in charge of history books in India leads to a frighting conclusion that education in India is allowing hindutva nonsense to sneak in.
Didn’t Hindus destroy Buddhist monuments?
I agree. But Buddhism was on the wane then, in decline. But were thousands of people killed as they were in the raids to the Somnath temple? I won’t use the word corrections here. But the real history has to come up.
It’s okay if we do it!
And you want to know something funny? The majority of my readers won’t have a damn clue about what I am talking about since this isn’t Christianity and the gods and topics being discussed are not mainstream in Atheism.
TL;DR, Indian Hindu Nationalist government appointed Hindu Fundie to a post on History Education and he believes that Hindu Epics are true stories and that they should be taught as history and also wishes to try to change the tone of education and history from archaeological sources to a fantasy.
He is a Hindu Creationist and they just gave him the keys to the History Textbooks.