ANANYA S GUHA
The ending of this year has not exactly been propitious. Apart from Elections in Bihar which seemed a major focus of political parties issues got tangled with politics. But that is India, politics is evinced everywhere from the home to the institution. But what was significant is that how writers and intellectuals protested vehemently against a country they said was being obliterated. Its history, its polity, its society and above all its stolid pluralism which was the making of centuries — historical assonance, dissonance and then what they believe a flourishing cultural synthesis. This was being sullied by feverish attempts to rewrite history, change historical and cultural contexts, inheriting all these from Anglo interpretation of history and colonial texts. Not this was new Way back in the 1990s similar attempts were made and NCERT text books for school students were attempted to be revamped. Historians like Romila Thapar and Bipan Chandra were the culprits. Why? Because they were ‘Marxist’ Historians and such specious arguments continue till today and have climaxed into a Hindu orthodoxy versus a liberal force, which takes into account the historical shaping and moorings of a great country which gave birth to at least three religions, with two more seeking pastures here, the resultant mix- a cosmopolitan country with an intermix of race, religion and culture.
But wait what were and are these rationalists saying? They were saying as Romila Thapar pointed out that in whatever rule there was always a syncretistic flyover which was a watchdog to India’s cultural dimension, its progressive history and its attempts towards cultural assimilation, whether it be in the form of the flowering of the Urdu language, the Sufis or the Baul chant. Similarly extending this we can say that in North East and in the South Christianity emerged as a major cultural voice to educate and take a kind of assimilative role further. So, although there was diversity, it was rich, although there was diversity, there was assimilation, and that led to secularist ideals palpably designed by the founding fathers of the Constitution.
But the question is: why remake history? Why turn a blind eye to historical truths, imperatives and compulsions? The votaries of a one nation, one religion country have not seen the past, so they cannot simply understand the present or the future. They are befuddled as to how history works out as a phenomena over centuries, through interaction, dialogue, food habits, customs and even language. So when the writer protesters raised their voices they meant exactly this – read and you will find out, if a person is rationalistic and is against religious superstitions that does not by any means says that he does not love his religion or is anti-religion. What about Vidyasagar and Raja Ram Mohun Roy? Simply because the British patronized then, they are given a clean chit? The modern Kalburgis had to pay the price of confronting rabid fundamentalists.
The sad part about all this uproar was that there was no debate. Voices were suppressed or gagged and the Dadri incident was one horrific example of human atavism, which many people brushed off lightly. We should hang our heads in shame because this is not a shining example of a shining country. It is the worst form of aberrant behaviour. Even history will be ashamed to record it. And then so much irreverent and vitriolic fun was made of great intellectual stalwarts like Romila Thapar and other writers. Instead of being proud that she is one of the most eminent Historians in the world today, we are abusive in extremely hurting tones. Shame on us. And the same treatment was meted out to Nayantara Sehgal. But let this be a warning, you can invoke the past, but you can’t quarrel with history. History has its own logic, destiny and uprising. History can make and remake with the help of land and geography.
Let us hope that in 2016 our country’s leaders and all the powers that be understand this simple fact: tarnish history, obliterate it and you are not only not forgiven, but obliterated. Don’t forget Bihar in a hurry! And yes the moral of the story- don’t for heaven’s sake mix religion with politics. They are nasty bedfellows