RSS push to rewrite Indian history: Will BJP tread the same path again?

The RSS has added another task to its grand plans to celebrate its centenary: newspaper reports claim that the Sangh is planning to piece together the history of over 670 districts and 600 tribal communities in the country. The Sangh is already undertaking a decade-long project to produce a version of Indian history based on the Puranas.

To this end, the Akhil Bharatiya Itihaas Sankalan Yojna (ABISY), a Sangh affiliate, established the Bharatiya Puran Adhyayan Sansthan (Indian Institute of Purana Studies) within the RSS headquarters premises in Delhi, reported the Indian Express. Dubbed 'Puranantargat Itihaas', the project is based on ABISY's argument that it's incorrect to say that there are only 18 Puranas, when there are 106.

"These additional “Puranas”, it claims, were arranged from different libraries, universities and personal collections in India and other countries," Indian Express said. The projects were discussed at a meeting of senior RSS leaders last month near Indore.

Both BJP and RSS have denied working in tandem since the polls ended, despite many expressing fear that their alleged agenda of rewriting Indian history would eventually trickle into school syllabi. The whispers of the alleged influence of the RSS grew to a point that the Hindu outfit's chief spokesperson had to clarify recently that the organisation wasn't "controlling" the Modi goverment.

 RSS push to rewrite Indian history: Will BJP tread the same path again?

Representational image. Agencies

"The RSS would not act as a guiding or controlling force for the Narendra Modi government," said Manmohan Vaidya, RSS Chief spokesperson said recently. RSS' motives were to install a nationalistic government, he had said. "Now the RSS is back to its normal activities and using its energy for national development and social activities."

Many allege that the trickle down of RSS' agenda was evident from day one, when HRD minister Smriti Irani declared that ancient Hindu texts should be included in school curriculum. Even Dinanath Batra - who was behind Penguin's withdrawal of American scholar Wendy Doniger's book The Hindus - sent proposals to Irani after she assumed office, demanding a revamp of school curriculum so that "values and nationalism' could be inculcated in students.

"NCERT textbooks will be rewritten according to the aim and objects of the nation so that it inculcates feeling of patriotism among children. Modernity is not westernisation. We want modernity with Indian base," TOI quoted Batra as saying after he said he would meet the PM to discuss these issues.

Batra has historically been the man behind the push for more 'saffron textbooks'. As Firstpost columnist Hassan Suroor points out, as the lead campaigner for RSS-affiliated Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas (SSUN), Batra was the driving force behind reforms Murli Manohar Joshi introduced as HRD minister. Joshi had pursued the issue of rewriting history doggedly, even introduced changes to NCERT textbooks and later faced backlash for them from non-BJP ruled states, which claimed that the books had extensive factual errors and refused to use them. Batra's involvement, Suroor writes, is the clearest indicator of who is driving such decisions:

"It is simply amazing that given the myriad problems facing the government school sector—a shocking lack of infrastructural facilities, poorly qualified and indifferent teachers, low enrollment, high dropout rate—the first thing that the new HRD minister chooses to do is talk about introducing "Hindu perspective". Dr Joshi was often derisively dismissed as someone stuck in a time warp because of his age and old-fashioned style, but how does one explain such lopsided priorities coming from a young and supposedly “dynamic" minister brought in to clear the "mess" blamed on the UPA government? Either she is hopelessly incompetent and has no understanding of her complex brief,or she is simply doing the RSS bidding."

The Indian Express report says the ABISY is "planning to tap local historians who can write the history of their districts, providing them all possible help." Even during Joshi's time, critics had derided him using the garb of "reformation" to sell the saffron agenda: claiming the reforms were objective and academic.

After all, neither the party, nor the outfit have ever concealed that rewriting India's history is an important part of their agenda. At the BJP national council meet, where Amit Shah was named party president, Shah's powerful ideological statements were met with an applause:

"We won't get a better chance to take our ideals to the people. We need to introduce the people to the ideologies on Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay. We also need to strengthen the party's organisation. We cannot stay in power long otherwise," Shah had said.

The extent to which Irani allows ABISY and Batra to become involved with rewriting history will tell if she has chosen the same path as Joshi.

Updated Date: Sep 20, 2014 22:09:51 IST