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Shourie is wrong - The Asian Age

Prof. K. N. Panikkar ()
July 7, 1998

Title: Shourie is wrong
Author: Prof. K. N. Panikkar
Publication: The Asian Age
Date: July 7, 1998

Referring to the records of the Ministry of Human
Resource Development, Arun Shourie has
discovered that the alleged change in the BJP
government's resolution reconstituting the Indian
Council for Historical Research from "rational" to
"national" is in fact a typing error. The mistake
occurred, according to him, not now but some 20
years ago. Thereafter, every time the council was
reconstituted the mistake was carried forward.
And it happened this time as well.

Even if Shourie's contention is true (unlike Shourie
who is a BJP MP, a resident of Delhi elected from
UP, I have no means to ascertain from the
ministry), the question is why is it that such a large
number of people are exercised now, whereas in
the past, it was not even noticed.

Shourie suspects a well-planned conspiracy against
the BJP, orchestrated by the "pall bearers of
secularism" and progressive historians. How else,
he asks, could such a public outcry on a trivial
matter happen? He lists a large number of
newspapers and journals who are part of this
conspiracy. I can add to his list. In fact, there is
hardly any newspaper or journal in the country,
except those supporting the Sangh Parivar, both in
English and in other Indian languages, not
apprehensive about the government's intentions.
And they are not a part of any conspiracy, but
liberal independent newspapers and periodicals.

This rather wide-spread concern is because of two
reasons. First, the concept of nation the Sangh
Parivar has tried to promote and secondly, its
attitude towards the past. Drawing upon V.D.
Savarkar's idea of nation. the Parivar has launched
an aggressive campaign of cultural nationalism
based on Hindutva, subverting thus the territorial
and secular concept of the nation evolved during
the struggle against colonialism. Understandably,
when the national interpretation of history is stated
as one of the objectives of the resolution passed by
the BJP government, it arouses apprehensions in
the public as to what would constitute the nation
in the new dispensation.

The past record of the Parivar tends to reinforce
these apprehensions. Right from 1977 the Parivar
has not lost any opportunity to "Hinduise "Indian
history. In Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh,
they tried to change the content of text books to
suit the Hindu interpretation of our past. It is
reported that the RSS is currently engaged in
writing a multi-volume history of India, revising
our past from the period of Indus civilisation to
the freedom movement.

In the textbooks published by the Bharatiya
Shiksha Samiti of Rajasthan and prescribed in
schools run by the Parivar, the karsevaks who died
in the assault on Babri Masjid are accorded the
status of national heroes. Apart from all this the
Parivar has effectively used history as an ideology
for political mobilisation, mythologising, distorting
and falsifying it. Therefore, the widespread
apprehension when the BJP government sought to
fill the Council with historians of their hue. It is
not just a matter of a typing error. What is
involved is much deeper than that which has
serious implications for the discipline of history.
The historical research based on a religious
interpretation of history which the new council is
likely to promote would push Indian
historiography backwards at least by a 100 years.

The main objective which I had raised, Shourie has
chosen to ignore. A national council, be it of
history or philosophy, or social sciences should
reflect the state of the art in that discipline. The
historical scholarship in India has several streams
which engage in healthy and active dialogue. The
ICHR in fact was conceived as a platform for such
a dialogue. By packing the Council mainly with
historians of one persuasion the government 'has
defeated the very objective of the ICHR.

Shourie has insinuated that historians associated
with the Towards Freedom project (I am one of
them) sponsored by the ICHR have swindled
money and has asked the Ministry to clarify who
has got how much. This is an old charge which
keeps surfacing now and then. About a Year back
Times of India carried a front page story on this.
The historians had then clarified through a public
statement, published in several newspapers, that
they have not drawn any money from the ICHR
and that they worked for five years purely in an
honorary capacity. When he gets the information
>from the ministry, if lie does, that the editors have
in fact not taken any money, I would normally
expect Shourie to tender a public apology. But
given hi! intellectual honesty and cultural level
reflected in his article, I do not think it would be
forthcoming. The alternative of suing for
defamation the likes of Shourie is below one's
dignity. But I do not expect at least the ministry
to make it a public statement on the factual
position.

About some of our distinguished and respected
historians Shourie has chosen to make unfounded
and undignified remarks. He alleges that they
belong to a mutual admiration club and that they
built their reputation "by reviewing each others
books"! If he believes, as he apparently does, that
the fame of historians like S.Gopal, R.S.Sharma,
Romila Thapar and Irfan Habib who are held in
high academic esteem, both nationally and
internationally, are based on cheap manipulation,
there must be something congenitally wrong with
his mind. Otherwise it is possible that he is
reflecting his own personal experience as to how a
"fellow" like him who writes communal mythology
has come to be regarded a distinguished journalist.

Finally, about hymen and virginity about which
Shourie, as a good Hindu, is rightly concerned. In
the public eye his hymen has not remained intact,
not because where he writes or to whom he gives
interviews and articles only because what he
writes. Needless to say that the RSS publications
carry his interviews and articles only; because they
are rabidly communal. He can not hope to remain
a virgin after selling himself in the flesh market.
Being a BJP member of the Parliament and an
ideologue of Hindu communalism, Shourie should
get his hymen tested, if he is still under
misconception about his virginity. As for me,
unlike him, I do not try to hunt with the hound and
run with the hare. I contribute signed articles to
the publications of the Communist Party, because I
believe in the ideals it stands for democracy,
secularism and socialism. By doing so, if my
hymen is broken I do not lament it, as Shourie
does. Incidentally, for the sake of record, the
name of "this man" whom Shourie describes as a
"ring leader" is not K.N.Panikkar, but
K.N.Panikkar. If riot his facts, he should at least
get the spelling right.

(Prof. K. N. Panikkar is the chairman of the
Archives on Contemporary History, Jawaharlal
Nehru University)