Renowned educationists, eminent historians and democratic-minded intellectuals are outraged at the way the BJP-led central government is out to distort history in the name of rewriting it and thereby depriving the students from knowing the truth. In a webinar on the issue held on 24 July 2022, they vehemently criticized this sinister move. Inaugurating the webinar, Shri Prakash N Shah, President of All India Save Education Committee, a distinguished intellectual and front-ranking crusader against the hideous education policy of the government, said that India consists of its entire people and not a particular section of people from any region, caste or religion. He further said that the way history is used as an ideological weapon to propagate sectarian views by the present government is of grave concern. Their interpretation of history is narrow, partial, sectarian, fanatical and semi-pervert. This is an ideological calamity and a danger to formation of an all-inclusive society.
Prof Irfan Habib, a Historian of international repute pointed out that history of a country is its national memory. History of a country cannot be that of only rulers and priests but of all people. The cardinal principle of history is accuracy of facts and comprehensiveness of presentation. There may be difference of opinion among historians but they all base their finding on evidence, facts and reasoning. The new thing that is being promoted now is myths mixed with facts and presented as history. The present syllabus says ‘‘We are Aryans, we went and peopled the world’’. The racial theory of Aryans and non-Aryans has been discredited throughout world, but the present government and its ally RSS still proclaim like the Nazis in the superiority of Aryans and contempt for non-Aryans. The general consensus of historians, anthropologists, linguistics and geneticists is that Indo-Aryan (an ethnic group based on language) migrated to India after the decline of Harappan civilization. But the RSS and its partners say that there was no migration to India and the Harappan civilization was also Vedic civilization. This is total misrepresentation of evidence and distortion of history with an ulterior motive. They have also distorted the medieval history of India. The rulers of medieval period have been labelled as foreigners which is not true as they came from a foreign land but settled here, ruled here, collected revenue and used it here only, unlike the Britishers. This misrepresentation is totally mischievous. In national freedom movement the role of Savarkar has been glorified but the facts are that Savarkar had rendered apologies to British Government thrice. The role of Savarkar and Viswa Hindu Parishad in freedom movement was that of divisiveness. He appealed to all historians of India and asserted ‘‘To oppose falsified version of history and to stand up for the integrity of the profession. Indian history will be defended by Indian Historians.’’
Prof Ram Punyani, retired Professor of IIT, Mumbai said that saffronization and communalisation of history started from the days of Vajpayee-led BJP government. They label all Hindu kings of medieval period as nationalists and all Muslim kings as foreigners and aggressors. Kings of medieval period irrespective of their religion were of same character that is to rule their kingdom and expand their kingdom. Some were liberal and some despotic. The administrators, head of army or commanders, or advisors of Hindu kings were Muslims and vice versa. Medieval period was a period of religious synthesis. There was no large-scale religious conversion during that period. It is wrong to look at history from a communal angle. The syncretic tradition in religion during that period like the Bhakti or Sufi movement has not been given importance.
Professor A. Karunanandan, retired professor from Chennai, said, ‘‘History is not an unalterable scripture. There may be inadequacies, commissions or omissions in history. Rewriting of history should be done by the academic deliberations and not by bureaucrats or politicians.’’ He further said that the present rewriting of history is tampering with facts and distortion of history. This is being done with a hidden political agenda and dismantling very foundation of modern India based on secular, federal, liberal and democratic values. It is an irrational imposition through UGC rather than an academic deliberation and consensus by experts in the field. India is a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic entity. It is a land of unity in diversity. It is irrational and unscientific to say that our culture is only from one source that is Vedic. The contention that there was no pre-Vedic period and to predate Vedic period to 10,000 BC is false and not based on evidence. We are all immigrants starting from the hunter gatherers who came to this part of Asia around 55,000 years back. Then the growth of farming and Indus Valley civilization, then the Indo-Aryan or Vedic migration around 1500 BC after the decline of Indus valley civilization. The Dravidian civilization which existed before the Vedic civilization is not recognised in the present rewriting of history. The recent excavations in South India around Vaigai basin shows the features of Dravidian civilization similar to that of Indus Valley civilization. We have four distinct language groups in India—Dravidian, Sanskrit, Austro-Asiatic and Sino-Tibetan language groups. Indian culture is not all Vedic but a synthesis of many migrating populations, cultures, ethnic groups, languages, etc. The unitary concept imposed upon is politically designed.
Professor Anita Rampal, retired Professor from Delhi University outlined the methodology for developing textbooks. She gave importance to critical pedagogy that is to inculcate critical thinking, not to look at things from a personal perspective and getting around personal prejudices. History textbooks should be written with an intent for social learning, to question common sense, challenge or question existing knowledge and to be inquisitive, she added. The aim should be to make children sensible, reasonable and empathetic to past memories and present conditions. History is the collective memory of a society. The erasing or distortion of history is not acceptable. The bubble chamber that we live in is of fake news. The more lie they propagate is to create more addiction. The fabrication and falsification of history should be opposed by raising our voice.
Professor Pradeep Mohapatra the moderator of the webinar, concluded with an appeal to all right-thinking people, educationists and students to take the message to the masses. He also urged upon all to develop a strong mass movement to fight the evil design of the present government.