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Red green clubs - The Telegraph

Rakesh Sinha ()
June 30, 1998

Title: Red green clubs
Author: Rakesh Sinha
Publication: The Telegraph
Date: June 30, 1998

Changes in the composition of the Indian Council for Historical
Research, an autonomous body under the Union human resources
development ministry, have provoked the country's Marxist
historians. They have opposed the nomination of the new
appointees, questioning their ideological integrity by dubbing
them "communal". The controversy has reignited debates on Indian
historiography and the role of various educational and research
institutes in the country.

The ICHR was founded in 1972 with a declared objective to "bring
historians together and provide a forum for the exchange of views
between them" and "give a national direction to an objective and
rational presentation and interpretation of history".
Unfortunately the ICHR - along with other research and policy
institutes like the Indian Council of Social Science Research,
the National Council of Educational Research and Training, the
Indian Council of Philosophical Research and the Jawaharlal Nehru
Memorial Museum have been dominated by a combination of Marxist
and Islamic scholars. Collectively they are called the "red
green clubs".

There was a complete exclusion of nationalist historians and
scholars from these institutions. The history writings and
textbooks produced by these bodies reflect Marxist theology
rather than an "objective and rational presentation".

After the adventurism of the Telengana movement, Indian Marxists
realized the futility of class struggle. They also found solace
in camaraderie with Nehru. The many Cambridge and Oxford
University educated Marxist scholars who returned to India played
a significant role in bringing these two schools of thought

As a consequence of this marriage, a new privileged intellectual
class, a hybrid intellectual tradition, was born. This tradition
has dominated the Indian mindset since the mid-Fifties. Nehru and
his successors were given legitimacy by this new hybrid class
while the latter, in return, enjoyed state patronage and
privilege. Nehru's sympathetic outlook on Marxists is well
known. Another facet is the leftwing, Nehruvian tilt of many
Islamic scholars. This intellectual alliance between Indian
Marxists and Indian Islamic scholars can be traced to pie-
independence days.

But the cathedral of this hybrid culture is Jawaharlal Nehru
University. Along with all academic and research institutions, it
was overrun with Marxist appointees. Other strongholds of hybrid
thinking are Aligarh Muslim University, Delhi University and
Jamia Milia University Those opposed to their line were
ridiculed, their works rejected. Independent and objective study
was shown the door An academic caste system was introduced, with
non-Marxist schools of thought accorded untouchability.

It is a matter of open debate as to what should be the approach
for writing history or interpreting an event. There will always
be different opinions on particular modes of study. But all
alternative approaches and writings, including the very need for
debate, were denounced by Indian Marxists as reactionary and

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Hindu Mahasabha and other
Hindu national leaders who propagated a concept of cultural
nationalism were dubbed communal. Even leaders like Bal Gangadhar
Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai and Bipin Chandra Pal were dubbed as
unacceptable faces of Indian nationalism. The Tilak school of
thought, recognized inside the Congress movement, received biased
treatment. Subhash Chandra Bose found no adequate place in
history books. Swami Vivekananda and Aurobindo Ghosh were
relegated to marginal status, dismissed as revivalists.

This pattern was repeated even with the ancient past. National
heroes like Shivaji and Rana Pratap were denounced or ambiguously
characterized. Russians, Britons and Greeks derive pride from
their history For some reason Indians cannot. In particular,
Hindu history and Hindu movements were treated by Marxists as
enemy ground. In 1982, the NCERT issued a directive on the
rewriting of schoolbooks. Among its stipulations:
"Characterization of the mediaeval period as a time of conflict
between Hindu and Muslims is forbidden."

Marxist historians were successfully challenged in the early
Nineties by nationalist scholars on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri
Masjid controversy The findings of many historians and, in
particular, archaeologists, went in favour of the Vishwa Hindu
Parishad. Many academics presented the VHP's case in the two
rounds of talks between the VHP and the all India Babri Masjid
action committee.

Marxist historians denounced academic arguments in favour of the
VHP as the "communal abuse of history". Those who pleaded the
masjid's cause were hailed as secular. The action committee named
22 historians as witnesses on its behalf in the high court case.
But it is a sign of the weakness of the left's case that they
eventually shifted the debate from "temple or no temple" to the
question of Rain's existence.

Of the academics who substantiated the VHP's claim, not one was
groomed m an RSS shakha. Often, failing to counter the evidence
collected by nationalist historians and archaeologists, Marxists
simply took to slandering them personally. In February 1991, the
noted Marxist historian, Irfan Habib, made a speech at Aligarh
Muslim University in which he personally attacked scholars who
defended the Hindu claim in the Ayodhya dispute.

Those who accuse Murli Manohar Joshi of giving a "saffron tilt"
to the ICHR protest too much. Though the ICHR has eight councils
with 18 seats per council, only 60 historians have been made
members in the last 25 years. Why was membership confined to a
handful of academics, all of whom are diehard red green hybrids?
It also should be asked why the funds of a nonpartisan body like
the ICHR were spent in translating the works of E.M.S.
Namboodiripad and other card carrying communists.

Bodies like the ICHR have little to show for the public money
they spend. Towards Freedom, a projected 10 volume history of the
freedom movement, was launched in 1972. It was to have been done
in five years at the cost of a few hundred thousand rupees. After
25 years, only one volume has been printed and costs have run
into the tens of millions. The quality is also suspect: no non-
Marxist historian is attached to the project.

This pattern of patronage and spoils is repeated in academic
centres and projects throughout the country. It would not be an
exaggeration to say various social science institutes were turned
into employment exchanges for former cadres of the leftwing
Students Federation of India and the All India Students
Federation. Definitely nothing even remotely positive about
Hindutva has ever been sponsored by these institutions.

The degree of state sponsorship for leftwing scholars and
institutions has been remarkable. For instance, the Safdar Hashmi
Memorial Trust was given grants of millions of rupees when Arjun
Singh and S.R. Bommai held the human resources development
portfolios. In essence, government money was used to wage
ideological war with the RSS behind a facade of "unbiased,
objective and secular" history.

The war has been waged in media other than the printed word. What
impression of the RSS did Bhishma Sahani's Tamas serial give? In
the partly state sponsored movie Gandhi there is a scene where a
man resembling M.S. Golwalkar leads demonstrators in khaki shorts
protesting against M.K. Gandhi. This reflects history texts which
claim RSS volunteers showed black flags to Gandhi in September
1944 during his talks with Mohammed Ali Jinnah. This is factually
wrong. The RSS held no such demonstration. They were held by the
Hindu Rashtra Dal, an organ of the Hindu Mahasabha.

Joshi faces a major challenge. The educational system needs bold
reform. He has to liberate academic institutions from the grip of
the hybrid intelligentsia. The ministry should issue a white
paper on all the 403 academic and research institutions funded by
the human resources development ministry. Reform is about
confronting pseudo-secularism. It is about doing something with
the abysmal state of NCERT textbooks. It is about asking why
Kalahandi remains mired in poverty while hundreds of millions of
rupees are spent studying why it is poor.

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