Modi’s Rewriting of History


Zafar Aziz Chaudhry

Two flamboyant Indian intellectuals, Arundhati Roy and Shashi Tharoor, are among the most prolific in their outputs about the manner Modi runs his governance. They have vastly commented upon Modi’s regime through their books, interviews and writings. Arundhati Roy reveals the truths about Modi’s policies in her appealing discourses in her YouTube interviews. Shashi Tharoor, due to his extremely debonair looks and an astonishing command over spoken and written English through his varied writings, discloses deep implications of Narendra Modi’s policies, which affect the Indian minorities in particular and the Indian public in general. In his recent book, titled. “The Paradoxical Prime Minister,” Tharoor declared Modi as Paradoxical because according to him, “He says one thing and does another.”
Since most of BJP’s policies are surreptitious and are little exposed to the general public, any leak is not tolerated. Recently, Narendra Modi, shocked by a BBC documentary disclosing some facts about his policies, declared emergency laws to ban its viewing. The Pakistani public also has no easy access to Indian newspapers. Thus, the internationally published books of these writers become our best source of information. What these writers write has a ring of truth and sincerity, which they independently and fearlessly express.
The greatest leaders of India who paved the way for India’s freedom were Mahatma Gandhi and Pundit Jawahir Lal Nehru, the latter being secular by nature and wanted India to be a secular country, which should live in peace and brotherhood in the expanding pluralistic society of the world. But ultra-nationalist critics, like Deepak and Sampass, under Modi’s guidance and his RSS force have initiated to defame both the pioneers of India: Nehru for his secular stance (despite Nehru’s success to give the Indian Constitution its secular complexion) and removed the word of Mahatma from Gandhi’s name to prevent public adulation for him. Mahatma Gandhi was also accused of being a pacifist to the English and delaying freedom for India.
The government of Narendra Modi has constituted an Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) about a few months ago, deciding that no Muslim ruler should find mention in the re-written history of India. Experts have raised questions about the intentions of the Council. This historic research will be a “comprehensive history of India,” which will be 12 to 14 volumes in length and will be a record of Indian history from the Indus Valley civilization to date. It may take several years to prepare, its members have claimed. Arundhati Roy revealed that this history would cause “dangerous divisiveness” and expose “deep fault lines,” Modi has cultivated during his tenure as prime minister. According to her, “For most Indians, it’s the texture of our daily lives: sword-wielding mobs, saffron-clad god-men routinely calling for the genocide of Muslims and the mass rape of Muslim women, the impunity with which Hindus can lynch Muslims on the street, and be congratulated for it by senior ministers in Modi’s cabinet.”
The Guardian newspaper revealed the complexion of “violent Hindu nationalism,” in its issue of 18 February 2023. In another story, the Mughals have been described as the Latest Villains of the BJP and the Hindutva Brigade.
Historic events can, indeed, be rewritten if new facts emerge about the past or if there is new evidence that challenges previous interpretations. But in the case of Modi, his rancour against Muslims and other minorities is such that he wants to re-write History without the discovery of evidence or the appearance of new interpretations. The BJP undermines and insults the Dalit population. In a country ruled by Hindu nationalists, says Arundhati Roy, “it is safer to be a cow than a Muslim woman.”
Arundhati Roy writes that Narendra Modi is a lifelong member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a paramilitary Hindu nationalist organisation founded in 1927 and inspired by the fascist movements of Europe. Adolf Hitler was their greatest hero. Just as the Fascists of Germany took great pride in their racial superiority and purged their country of the Jewish minority, the same way RSS have faith in their Hindu superiority, which is termed as “Hindutva” and firmly believe that all entities other than Hindus are interlopers, who should be gradually eliminated from the Indian soil. In 1948, a former member of the RSS murdered Gandhi for being too soft on Muslims. The followers of RSS mostly dominated by upper-caste Hindus, have since led many vicious assaults on minorities.
Recently, the famous Mughal Gardens of Rashtrapati Bhavan was renamed ‘”Amrit Udyan.” In 2017, under a BJP-led government in Maharashtra, not only were the chapters on Mughal rulers removed from school textbooks but mentions of monuments and buildings built by Muslims were also edited out. The nationalist Jay Deepak condemned the Indian National Congress because according to him foreseeing unrest among Hindus, the British had created the Congress party as a safety valve.
In the last eight years, the BJP government’s frenzy to erase any name or identity with the slightest hint of being Muslim has become blatantly clear. Recently, the famous Mughal Gardens of Rashtrapati Bhavan was renamed “Amrit Udyan.”Mahatma Gandhi, who was admired abroad as the embodiment of peace, is reviled in India by the followers of Modi and is accused of being imported from South Africa to pacify Hindus. Mahmud of Ghazni, Emperor Aurangzeb, and Mr M A Jinnah are heroes in Pakistani culture but demonized as villains in India. The Guardian paid glowing tributes to Shahrukh Khan and wrote that he provided more fun than James Bond. The BJP had declared Pathaan an anti-Indian film and warned cinemas not to exhibit it.
Ultranationalist Indian scholars like J Sai Deepak and Dr Vikram Sampath promote a consolidated narrative of Indian history. This generation of ultranationalist historians is relatively young and very prolific in their output, publishing books, appearing in chat shows, and getting advantage of taking benefit of online social media; they are extravagant in their claims and aggressive in their style. The main motto of their target is “hate Muslims.” This is their version of history: According to them, India was paradise on earth in the ancient past. Hatred against Muslim culture is expressed by them again and again through their actions. There is only one object in their mind – to completely erase Muslims from history leaving no trace even in the names of buildings, gardens, cuisine, or anything else. Members of Modi’s senior party have declared with confidence that they have every intention of finishing the minorities, which means Muslims and Christians shall be eliminated by 2024. India would then become a pure Hindu nation. Their programmes are heart-rending as they have planned to demolish mosques and churches as well. When LK Advani and Jaswant Singh, two leading lights of the BJP, wrote glowing accounts of Jinnah, both were shown the door by their party.
Any historical research should be balanced and pragmatic and should not be suffused with hatred and anger which would reduce it more into propaganda than history. Muslim contributions to art, architecture, music, language etc. are ignored, reduced or played down. The ethnic cleansing by the BJP is continuing as its core policy in India.