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Towards Freedom Project

Towards Freedom Project

Rakesh  Sinha
April 20, 2000
Title: Towards Freedom Project
Author: Rakesh  Sinha
Publication: Newstime, Hyderabad
Date: April 20, 2000

The excruciating polemics over the historiography of the freedom struggle is not far fetched. It is somewhat an extension of the dichotomy between the Marxist and liberal- nationalist historians in their interpretations of ancient and medieval Indian history. However, unlike them, the present debate is bound to create wider horizon of participation and interest since the history of the anti -colonial struggle is very much rooted in the nostalgia of the four main ideological or political groupings, the Congress, Communists, socialists and the RSS.

The role of the masses is no less important in influencing the historiography of the country. In the Indian context it can be well argued that the sentiment and actual experiences of the Indian people perhaps forced the Marxist historians to make a retreat from their earlier position in evaluating historical personalities and their actions, like, Swami Vivekananda, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Mahatma Gandhi, Sub hash Chancre Base, Jay Parkas Aryan,  et. al.  Thus the limitations of their ideological predisposition in turning and twisting modern Indian history led them to manipulate facts to suit their ideological presumptions. Exactly the same was  done by the Marxist historians in the "Towards Freedom",  a project under the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) to compile the archival documents of freedom struggle from the year 1937 to 1947.

One volume covering the year 1943-44, hours of the Quit India movement, edited by Prof. P.S. Gupta, for instance, contains 150 selective documents on the Communist Party of India(CPI). The 120 pages report  submitted to the colonial government by the  CPI  and the  confidential  correspondence between the party General secretary P.C. Joshi and the British Home department were suppressed.  Thus documents were subjectively selected and edited to glorify its role! Significantly the CPI, which was banned between 1934 to 1942, was legalised at the eve of the August revolution. While the entire nation was facing severe British repression, and the British targeted all volunteer organisations, including the RSS , who refused to join the Civic Guard, ARP and army to help the British war efforts, the communists were free birds.  The symbiotic  relationship between the Indian communists and the British colonialism was  both unjustifiable and unpardonable. And the historians of the Marxist ilk have been trying to cover up communist betrayal by   stressing on peasants or trade union movements, or projecting it as only 'genuine' anti -Fascist. Madhu Limaye , a veteran socialist, wrote in  1951("CPI: Facts and Fictions") , "The communist activities throughout the August struggle of 1942-45 were directed towards active sabotage of people's resistance to imperialist tyranny and opposition to struggle in every form , vilification of all patriots and progressives and lastly the support in the name of the right of self determination of all tendencies, which sought to disintegrate the country." Even the CPI (ML) Liberation , dared to concede the "historic blunder" by their ideological forefathers during the freedom movement. It seems that the Marxist historians  have been  working on behest of the Communist International, now extinct, than the ICHR .

Absolute patronage had been provided  to them by the Nehruvian state on the quid pro quo basis. The successive education ministers in the center  from Narul Hasan to S.R. Bomai had been custodian of their interest  and they, in turn,  vouched  Centrists and Congress politicians as 'secular' and 'progressive.' It underpinned them to establish an absolute control over all academic and research institutes. As Bipan Chandra wrote in 1992, "For the last 25 years or so historians of broad left orientation  have had large presence  in the leadership of the History Congress". Their ignominious silence to well documented book by Arun Shourie, "Eminent Historians Their Technology, Their Line, Their Fraud," exposing the misuse of patronage is conspicuous. Shourie  wrote about them ,  "Can you walk off with six lakh seventy five thousand and not submit a thing in return? The eminent historians can. Can you promise to produce six volumes on Economic History, get a governmental institution to disburse the dough, produce nothing, have the project disappear from the reader screen, and just a while from the same institution to fork out another nineteen lakhs- this time seventeen volumes on the same subject, and still produce nothing?...can you stretch over twenty seven years a project which was have been to be completed in five, can you have the government defray close to two crores, when it had set the cost at a few lakhs...?" Any question of ideological predisposition or irregularities on their part provoke them to harp it as  a 'saffron conspiracy'. The saffron upsurge is more painful to them than the political parties ousted from the power. Another folly  has been their presumption that the talents and academic pursuit do not exist outside the Marxist-Nehruvian  orbit. Their delusions were somewhat based on their own iron handedly suppression of the liberal -nationalist school represented by (KM)Munshi- (RC) Majumdar-(Jadunath) Sarkar . Two  foreign scholars Mr. J.A Curran Jr  and Criag Baxter  worked on  the RSS and the Jan Sangh in the 50's. It led the Sampradayikata Virodhi Committee of Subhadra Joshi, whose publications have been authoritatively  quoted by the Marxists social scientists, to publish,  "American Interest in RSS",  in 1973. It slandered the RSS for its alleged CIA link.

It was during the Ram Janmabhoomi movement in 90's they confronted with the assertive  nationalist historians and archeologists. The evidences produced by  Dr. S P Gupta ,formerly director of Allahabad museum, and has been General Secretary  of the Indian Archaeological society, and Prof. B.B. Lal ,both of them were associated with the Archaeology of Ramayana sites, approved by Prof. Narul Hasan the then  education minister, coincided with the VHP's claim.  The Marxist historians retorted it rather  polemically in "Political abuse of History." When A. R. Khan of HP university accused them for distorting facts the Marxists denounced Khan allegedly for his , " inability to comprehend  the language" of their argument, and rushing in "where angels fear to tread" . Mr. Mahmud K. K., Dy. Superintending Archaeologist, Archaeological Survey of India, Madras circle, blamed them for  suppressing the  facts of their findings. All of them were accused as "VHP turncoats" by the Marxist historians. It is perhaps that only Marxist can tell  when B.B. Lal, S.K. Lal or A.R. Khan took Sangh training? It is an indicative that the RSS perspective of history brings it closer to the nationalist spirit of Majumdar-Munshi-Sarkar .  As M. S. Golwalkar, second RSS chief  says ,"histories have to be studied not only of blind faith and regard for all that our predecessors did, but to know and understand their good points and failings, the rights and using of their policies and practice of the same , the virtue and vices they manifested and to take inspiration and guidance from what is best and a lesson from what they lacked in, to avoid all that resulted in failures and frustrations and thus proceed more unerringly on the path of progress."

Ironically Marxist historians who clamoured against the  liberals for their 'partisan' role  themselves  acted as   apologists of the Babri Masjid Action Committee.  Several of them offered themselves as witnesses on behalf of the Sunni Waqf Board in the courts considering Ayodhya matter. It included Prof. R.S. Sharma (witness number 63), D N Jha ( No. 65),  Romilla Thapar (No. 66),  Irfan Habib (No. 70) K M Shrimali (No. 95)  Sumit Sarkar (No. 101) and others. It is not their scholarship but its conscious use by them to question the  cultural nationalism which is  disputable. They are the victims of their own obsession with metaphysical ideological mould. They are thus  like Shakaracharya,  who used his tapa and sadhana not for construction but destruction.

(Author teaches political Science in Delhi University)

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