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HVK Archives: After selling himself in the flesh market

After selling himself in the flesh market - The Observer

Arun Shourie ()
January 15, 1999

Title: After selling himself in the flesh market
Author: Arun Shourie
Publication: The Observer
Date: January 15, 1999

Arun Shourie is not a historian. He is a mythologist of Hindu
communalism. He is a political pornographer," declared one of
these eminent historians, K N Panikkar, in Kerala the other day.
He had been asked for an answer to the facts I had set out in
Eminent Historians. And he was giving reasons why it was beneath
his dignity to give one.

He had been a little less lofty will just a few weeks ago! And
had deigned to write an entire article trying to explain the
facts I had set out about the goings on in the Indian Council of
Historical Research. "This is an old charge which keeps
surfacing now and then," he had written in The Asian Age. I had
shown that the story they had planted - about 'rational' having
been made into 'national,' had been a complete forgery.

I had also drawn attention to the way large sums had been
consumed in projects of the ICHR - such as the Towards Freedom
Project - and how little had come of them. He wrote that The
Times of India too had put out a front-page story about the
Towards Freedom Project the previous year. And the historians
had clarified the facts through a public statement.... They had
not received a penny. They had worked in a purely honorary
capacity....

We have seen more of the facts since. But what he said - "This
is an old charge...."- is something to bear in mind - there is
never a right time to ask a question about them. If events are
still fresh, their response always is: "But where are the facts?"
If you happen to have enumerated and substantiated the twenty
facts about which evidence is in, their response is: "But he has
not taken into account item 21; this selective focus on just a
handful of facts shows that he is working to a purpose." When
sufficient time has elapsed, and you have garnered and presented
evidence about all the facts, their response is: "gut this is an
old charge. That he is raking it up now shows how the forces of
reaction are panic-stricken at the growing consolidation of
forces of secularism and democracy."

And each time they set forth a spate of angry words! "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
(sic) based on cheap manipulation," wrote Panikkar, "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," Panikkar continued. "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 interview and articles only because they
are rabidly communal. He cannot hp[e to remain a virgin after
selling himself in the flesh market. Being a BJP member of
Parliament and an ideologue of Hindu communalism, Shourie should
get his hymen tested, if he is still under misconception about
his virginity."

That is scholarly response. Indeed, in their circles it passes
for 'devastating refutation'! But one must go the extra mile:
Proclaim your belief in double-standards - yes, I do what he
does, but I do so because I believe in The Cause!

"As for me, unlike him, I do not hunt with the hound and run with
the hare," Panikkar continued, though it wasn't clear what the
colloquism was in aid of. "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."

All this as an answer to the facts about the working of the ICHR
to which I had drawn attention!

Since, then, an additional mountain of facts has been published.
About pilferage, about doctored textbooks, about the intellectual
dishonesty in the way these eminents treat facts and sources.
Their response now is twofold. First, an entire theory! "There is
not such thing as 'objectivity' in history," Panikkar told the
audience in Kerala. So, when you find them concocting 'facts',
you cannot but applaud them: Having liberated themselves from
bourgeois scruples, they are propagating what will serve The
Great Cause! And the evidence you adduce which establishes that
what they are saying is a concoction, that evidence is of no
consequence - because in any case in history there is no such
thing as objectivity! they plotted the assassination of CP
Ramaswamy Aiyer, the Diwan - these provide ready examples. The
craven accolades our Communists showered on the Emergency when it
was in force, and how, the moment it had ended, they coloured
themselves up as heroes who had fought it - these will do as
well.

"The criticism that Communists decide their policy not in the
Interests of their own country but in the interests of the Soviet
Union is neither new nor original," thundered the Communist Party
of India at Gandhiji and the Congress when it was confronted with
evidence of having betrayed the National Movement during the Quit
India struggle, and teamed up with the British. "It has been an
old, very old gibe of the reactionary parties and their scribes
the world over. It was the main theme the British Prosecutor
played up against us In the Meerut Conspiracy Case. It 17 years
later you make the same suggestion against us, we cannot but ask
you - Is this worthy of you?" (Communist Reply to the Congress
Working Party Charges, by the General Secretary of the Party, PC
Joshi, Communist Party of India, Calcutta, 1946, abridged
version, pp 3-4.)

And always there is perhaps, I should now say, "there used to be"
the decisive proof: Of having been vindicated by History! "All
our brother parties had to live down this slander through their
work among their own people," the Communist Party continued.
"And If in the world of today there is any single political force
which is growing, it is the Communist movement. If any banner
has lost ground in every country, it is the bankrupt banner of
blind anti-communalism."

Towards the end of 1983, VM Tarkunde Invited me to deliver the MN
Roy Memorial Lecture for 1984. The lecture was held in Bombay on
the same day in 1984 as It is every year - the birth anniversary
of MN Roy. I documented the treacherous role the Communists had
played during the 1942 Movement. Pritish Nandy, then Editor of
The Illustrated Weekly, carried the text in a series. The text
contained secret Masons of the Communist functionaries with
British rulers, the request they made and the concessions they
were given, the accounts they submitted to Richard Maxwell, the
Home Member, and Richard Tottenham, the Additional Secretary who
the brutal suppression of that campaign, reports in which the
Communist Party set out the good work its members had done to
help the government....

EMS Namboodiripad rushed to Bombay. Shourie is speaking for the
forces of reaction, he thundered at a specially-convened press
conference. These forces have panicked at the growing unity of
secular and democratic forces.... They are unnerved that they win
get a sound drubbing at the elections which are round the
corner....

No elections were round any corner. Tarkunde had given his
invitation five months earlier. The Communists' role In the Quit
India Movement had not been the topic I had thought of in the
first instance. I had thought that I would speak on 'Ideology as
Blinkers,' and that I would Illustrate my argument with four
examples. by the time of the lecture only one example was ready -
that relating to the Communists during the 1942 Movement. And
that is how I got to speak on the topic when I did. Nonetheless,
'conspiracy, 'unnerved', "elections round the corner".... it was!

That was in 1984. Soon, EMS took a giant step towards owning up
to what could no longer be hidden! Of course, he did so in the
way characteristic of those who have appropriated The Great
Cause! Yes, we entered into a liaison with the British. But we
did so to master the arts of war: The dumbos in the Congress
could not grasp the international situation, we alone could - for
we had The Theory, and we saw that the principal task was to save
the country from the Japanese, that for this what was needed was
a mastery of the arts of war, and that the only way to gain
access to these arts at the time was to establish a working
relationship with the British!

The rationalisation is typical of his A History of Indian Freedom
Struggle, the 900-page book he published in 1986, just two years
after that fusillade about my lecture.

Congress policy was wrong and suicidal, Namboodiripad wrote.
Gandhi had not thought the matter through, he wrote, and had left
no instructions on how the struggle should be carried on in the
event of the principal leaders being arrested. The Congress had
not prepared for guerrilla war against the advancing Japanese, he
wrote. It had devised no way to Provide medical assistance to
victims of bombing, nor had it thought of mobilising the masses
against hoarders and profiteers, he wrote. It was the Communist
Party which took up these tasks, Namboodiripad wrote. "It did
not hesitate to establish contact with the government and accept
the assistance n for carrying out this programme."

Thus, it was just a 'contact'! That 'contact' was established to
train the cadres for guerrilla war against the invading Japanese.
And what the comrades did was not to assist the British, they
only "did not hesitate.... to accept the assistance" which the
British proffered! And the poor Communists had to take on this
repugnant task because the Congress and Gandhi had not thought
the matter through!

In any case, there were disagreements within the Congress too,
Namboodiripad wrote. In fact, having themselves carted off to
prison enabled the Congress leaders to escape responsibility for
what had to be done. At the back of the Congress leaders'
decision to launch the Quit India Movement was the object of
furthering their bourgeois class interests by eventually
negotiating and compromising with the British rulers,
Namboodiripad wrote. It is the Communist Party, and not the
Congress which acted in accordance with the resolutions of the
Congress, he claimed. Moreover, though the Communist Party
opposed the Quit India struggle, it simultaneously organised
campaigns against the general policies of the government, he
claimed.

The familiar blend of indignation, apologia, explanation,
evasion. By the end of Namboodiripad's account, this of half-
truths, smears, pasting motives on others, non-sequiters,
contradictions becomes laughable.

"This does not, however, mean that the Communist Party did not
commit any error in translating its general approach towards the
Quit India struggle into Practical activities," the General of
the Party allowed. "Failing to properly appreciating (sic) the
popular feeling behind the struggle, the Party had often
displayed a tendency to denounce those participating in the
struggle as fascist agents. It had also made certain errors in
organising mass struggles during this period. All such errors
were subjected later to sever self-criticism, particularly in the
Second Party Congress held in Calcutta in 1948." That last bit
has an immediate practical consequence: If before their self-
criticism you criticised their doings, you were clearly a fascist
agent; if you do so after that, you are even more conclusively a
fascist agent - the Party having already acknowledged its
'error', that you are still raking up the 'old canard' is proof
positive that you are doing so at the behest of the forces of
reaction!

But, clearly, to admit that the Party made a fundamental error
would cut at the claim to infallibility. Hence, there is the SOP
- the Standard Operating Procedure. If sticking by the Line is
too costly, the Party and its intellectuals acknowledge the
'error', but immediately add that the 'error' was just a tactical
one! True to the SOP, Namboodiripad concluded, "Despite the
omissions and commissions, the Party adopted a policy which was
by and large correct during the Quit India struggle."

That is because the Hitler-Stalin Pact was correct, it was a
clever countermove: The capitalist-imperialists conspired to set
Hitler to destroy the Soviet Union, Namboodiripad maintained; by
entering into a Pact with Hitler, Stalin foiled their conspiracy.
The consequence was as decisive as it was immediate: "Hitler
could now turn westwards," the General Secretary noted with
satisfaction.... That is why the Indian Communist Party
characterised the War as an Imperialist War in this phase, and
insisted that the Congress take advantage of the difficulties of
Britain to push it in India - for Britain was arrayed against
Hitler who was the ally of the Soviet Union. Of course, Hitler
turned perfidious: In spite of the Pact, he invaded The Only
Fatherland. The War immediately turned into a Peoples War, the
General Secretary explains. And that is why the Communist Party
insisted that Gandhi and the Congress desist from doing anything
which will inconvenience the British - for they were now allied
with the Soviet Union. "The characterisation of the war by
Communists as 'imperialist' in the first phase and as 'peoples
war' in the second phase was based on one and the same
principle," Namboodiripad wrote. "It is certainly a crucial issue
what attitude the ruling classes take towards the Soviet Union
which is destined to decide the future of human society." This in
1986! "The Communist Party had never hidden its stand on this
issue," he declared. Not just the Communists, "Everyone who is
interested in man's onward march to socialism would take the same
stand," Namboodiripad declared.

All this in a book published in 1986! In any event, there had
been an advance. In 1984, Namboodiripad had denounced mention of
their doings. In 1986 he acknowledged the 'error'. Three years
did not pass and he was talking more about the 'mistake', and
less about the explanations for it! So, when they come down on
us, we just have to wait a while.

But Namboodiripad's press conference, it turned out, was just the
opening salvo, as we shall see.


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