It has long been recognized that there is a link between theories of knowledge and the lens of ideas through which the authors of these theories view knowledge. This has an application to scientific advances as well as the formulations of the social sciences. However, such links between knowledge and ideology do not justify the passing off of political agendas as knowledge as is being done in the rewriting of history by the present central government ; and that too of a kind not based on the understanding of history current among historians. Far from advancing knowledge, this new history on the contrary, is being used for forging an identity that can be exploited to support political mobilization. As a historian therefore, I am deeply concerned with what is essentially an assault on history, and the use to which it is being put is, at the same time, an abuse of history.
Some of the organizations that constitute the Sangh Parivar have, since their inception, used education to forge this identity. It is in some ways ironic that these organizations took education as a means of ideological imprinting far more seriously than those who were committed to the values of an independent, modern society. This method of creating an identity through doctoring history is familiar to us from the treatment of history in Pakistan and Bangladesh as well, although the identities thus forged are different. The tragedy is that in India there has been a strong tradition of independent historical writing of an extremely high quality that is now under attack.
The attempt in India is currently focused on history, but it raises the broader issue concerning the nature and quality of the new educational curriculum now introduced at school level, and with the intention of extending a similar interpretation of history to the university level as well. Defending history assumes importance because the attack is not confined to history alone since the nature of the attack suggests that the social sciences in general will now be targeted. Furthermore, the defence of the discipline of history as an exploration of knowledge is also part of the defence of the idea of India as a democratic, secular society.
The aim to establish democracy, secularism and social justice became the ambition of the independent state of India in 1947. The debate on democracy was encapsulated in the discussions on adult franchise and the holding of regular elections. A secular society implied that there would be no discrimination on the basis of religion and to that extent the state would distance itself from religion. Secularism assumes the right to follow the religion of ones choice, a right stated in our constitution. Social justice requires that there be an equality of citizenship and a priority for human rights. Earlier governments endorsed these values, and even if their practice was inadequate, the goal was clear. Negating these values was unheard of even if they were problematic for some sections of society.
The undermining of democracy today lies in insisting that Indian society is constituted of communities identified only by religion.Since in a democracy the wishes of the majority prevail, it is said that the Hindus being the majority community in terms of numbers, should determine public decisions. This of course makes a mockery of democracy, since a democratic majority is not a pre-determined majority and decisions can and do cut across identities of religion and other identities. It is also a refusal to concede that actually Indian society in the past had multiple identities - of caste and social hierarchy, of occupation, of language, of religious sect and of region. Religion was only one amongst these. The focus of each identity was dependent on the issue in question.
Pre-modern societies tend to regard social hierarchies as normal and although there was some questioning of these, this was not an axiom of social organization. Questioning hierarchies is fundamental to modernization. Nor was there in the earlier past any significant concern with issues of human rights, whether they related to the availability of justice, employment, education, health, welfare or other minimum facilities. In the process of modernization and particularly after independence, these were seen as the necessary foundation to the development of the nation. But today, with the reversal of the values that Indian independence stood for, they are of little consequence. They are under attack from state policies, from the leaders of industry and business houses that are supposed to provide an alternate leadership, and from those supporting a nationalism that gives priority to the Hindu citizens of India, rather than maintaining the equal rights of all citizens. This change is encapsulated in the notion of Hindutva, claiming to be guiding force of Indian nationalism. It is constantly referred to and continually redefined as and when it becomes necessary.
Hindutva is becoming the primary example of what has elsewhere been called, double-speak. It started as a political slogan in the writings of Savarkar and since then has been explained in every expedient way possible. So we have had Hindutva meaning Hindu Rashtra, that is India or as recently explained, Indianness. We have had Hindutva equated with Hinduism. This equation is unacceptable to many Hindus for whom Hinduism is not an aggressive ideology, and the Hindu religion does not require to be defended by organizing the killing of Muslims and Christians. Nevertheless, Hindutva has a following, and an influential following at that, among middle-class Hindus. It has given a new shape to what it describes as the Hindu religion and despite its hostility to Islam and Christianity, it borrows substantially from these religions in its structure and organization. This makes it different from earlier Hinduism. I have elsewhere referred to Hindutva Hinduism as a form of Syndicated Hinduism.
Hindutva has also rather perversely, been described as secularism. And now we are told that Hindutva is cultural nationalism. But we are not told whose culture is being made the national one out of the many hundreds of distinctive cultural communities that constitute India. Because cultural nationalism implies choosing a single culture and defining it as national, the inevitable choice will be upper-caste Hindu culture. This is a contradiction in India where the Indian identity has grown out of multiple cultures across the social spectrum. As is normal to all cultures these constantly mutated and changed, within the changing historical process.
Despite its initial geographic and ethnic meanings, the term Hindu finally settled as the name of a religion. It has been argued that the early religions of India were essentially religions of orthopraxy of conservative ritual practice, rather than orthodoxy, of conservative belief. Religion in India was a mosaic of juxtaposed cults and sects. Some of these had an inherent and close identity with particular social groups, others deliberately cut across groups. There was no single label by which they described themselves and they were identified as Vaishnava, Shaiva, Shakta, Lingayat and so on. Belief ranged from animism to the most sophisticated philosophy. This permitted a flexibility of belief, although not a flexibility of social identity. I am not suggesting that if belief is not rigid it brings about tolerance, although this may be so, but rather, that a distinction has to be made between intolerance inspired by religious agendas and that inspired by the rules of social organization. There was more of the latter than the former. The form taken by the Semitic religions in their Indian manifestations, particularly at the popular and regional level were also characterized by similar tendencies.
The new form now being given to Hinduism is at the root of the particular view of Indian history and culture of the current ideology of the Sangh Parivar. This is evident from the attempt to replace existing views that range over many historical explanations by a single view, supporting this ideology.
This new attitude among those now in power is not unconnected with their trajectory of knowledge. I shall try and demonstrate this with reference to the way in which history is being projected. Let me preface this by saying that the updating of knowledge is necessary to the advancement of knowledge. This involves the constant assessment and rewriting of studies that advance knowledge, as for example, standard works in history. Indian history has been rewritten with each advance in knowledge. The rewriting has moved from an initial colonial interpretation largely drawn from Oriental research and the requirements of the colonial state, to the questioning of this interpretation by historians sympathetic to the national movement. This in turn was questioned by historians of the last fifty years who were intellectually wide-ranging Liberals, Marxists, vehement non-Marxists, and such like. They covered a range of opinion. The most striking aspect of this rewriting was that the changes of interpretation grew out of intense debates and discussions, as well as critical enquiries into the historical data and the generalizations derived from it.
The so-called new history that is currently being propagated has been introduced in entirely different ways : through mangling existing school textbooks by insisting on absurd deletions ; through surreptitiously introducing new textbooks without going through the normal procedures of having them vetted by educationists and historians ; through trying to control the history syllabus of all Indian universities by mandate of the University Grants Commission ; and through imposing the authority of the party in power by arbitrary actions preventing the publications of research institutions such as the ICHR.This change is not the result of investigating new theories of history ; it is the imposition of propaganda.
I would also like to argue that the theories being expounded in the Hindutva version of Indian history are a jump backwards to nineteenth century colonial history - the history that had been questioned by nationalist historians and discarded by more recent historians. Not only is it a borrowed history from colonial writing but it endorses the worst aspects of Orientalism. Fundamentalist histories of various kinds in ex-colonies, base themselves on the initial colonial theories about the history of their colonies. In this the Hindutva version of history is no exception. We are now being forced to return to nineteenth century colonial history. This is being dressed up as a new, original, authentically Indian version of history. It is none of this. It merely repeats much of what was said in colonial histories of India and without even the sophistication of colonial authors.
The colonial interpretation was carefully developed through the nineteenth century. By 1823, the History of British India written by James Mill was available and widely read. This was the hegemonic text in which Mill periodised Indian history into three periods - Hindu civilization, Muslim civilization and the British period. These were accepted largely without question and we have lived with this periodisation for almost two hundred years. Although it was challenged in the last fifty years by various historians writing on India, it is now being reinforced again. Mill argued that the Hindu civilization was stagnant and backward, the Muslim only marginally better and the British colonial power was an agency of progress because it could legislate change for improvement in India. In the Hindutva version this periodisation remains, only the colours have changed : the Hindu period is the golden age, the Muslim period the black, dark age of tyranny and oppression, and the colonial period is a grey age almost of marginal importance compared to the earlier two. This also echoes the views of Sir William Jones and Max Mueller. It allows a focus on the Hindu and Muslim periods which as we shall see was part of the political stand of the religious nationalisms of the early twentieth century.
Anti-colonial nationalist historians, often referred to as secular nationalist historians, had initiated a critique of the colonial period, but tended to accept the notion of a Hindu golden age. They did not distance themselves to assess the validity of such descriptions. Many were upper caste Hindus, familiar with Sanskrit and sympathetic to the idea of a glorious Hindu past. This was in some ways an attempt to assuage the hurt of having been reduced to being a colony. Similarly, the argument that the Muslim period was based on Persian and Arabic sources tended to attract upper-caste Muslims to this study and they too were sympathetic to what was stated in the sources without questioning them too closely. Even those who critiqued Mills periodisation merely changed the nomenclature from Hindu-Muslim-British to Ancient-Medieval-Modern in imitation of the periodisation of European history. There was a debate over colonial interpretations, but with less effort to change the methods of analysis or the theories of explanation.
Mills projection was that the Hindus and Muslims formed two uniform, monolithic communities permanently hostile to each other because of religious differences, with the Hindus battling against Muslim tyranny and oppression. This was the view of many colonial writers on India and in terms of presenting historical sources is exemplified in Elliot and Dowsons, History of India as Told by her Own Historians, published in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Chroniclers of the medieval courts writing in Persian and others writing in Arabic are included, the assumption being that there was no writing of Indian history prior to the coming of Islam. Nor was there concession to segmentation within the communities in terms of varying histories of castes and sects.
This view was further reinforced in the colonial theory that the Muslims of India were foreign and alien. The subject was treated as if Muslims were - one and all - migrants, all claiming descent from the Arabs, Turks, Afghans, Mongols and what have you, who settled in India. This may have held true for a fraction of the elite, but as we know the vast majority of Muslims was Hindus converted to Islam. The few claims to an origin beyond the frontiers of the sub-continent were more often claims to status rather than a statement of ethnic origins. The regional and linguistic variations among Muslims in India gave rise to many cultural and sectarian differences that militated against a uniform, monolithic religious community. Groups labelled as Hindu were also treated as if they were identical and conformed to a single, homogenous culture.
Aziz Ahmed for instance, writing in 1963 characterized the sources of medieval history as being the Muslim epics of conquest in Persian and the Hindu epics of resistance in Hindi. These are the concepts now used in the new textbooks. There was conquest and there was some resistance but there was much else besides that should be discussed. The conquest and the resistance were more frequently over territory, political power and status. Religion was not the dominating factor as is clear from studies of these epics. The fading away of formal religious boundaries was particularly evident in the non-elite sections of society - in effect, the majority of the people. But their religion was regarded as inferior and set aside, even by historians. What earlier historians failed to emphasize was that conversion is seldom a break with the previous way of life. It invariably carries many of the culture ways of the earlier identities. Further, not all the Muslim migrants were invaders since most came as pastoralists, traders, adventurers and associates of Sufis and other such sects.
The views establishing what is now the Hindutva version of history are reflected in the writings and beliefs of the founding ideologues of the RSS and of Hindu nationalism. V.D.Sarvarkars definition of an Indian required that he be a person whose pitribhumi (the land of his ancestors) and punyabhumi (the land of his religion) had to be within the territory of British India. This for him disqualified the Muslims, Christians and Parsis - and he added the Communists to the list as well. M.S. Golwalkar stated unambiguously that non-Hindus could not be citizens.Further, that there had always been a single Hindu society and culture rooted in Vedic Brahmanism. Islam intervened and tried to destroy it therefore Islam should be expunged. No concession was made to the many religious movements in pre-Islamic India that questioned and challenged Vedic Brahmanism both in debate and in rituals. The Buddhists, Jainas, Shakta and Tantric sects, the Lingayats and many others, expressed their religious commitments very differently from the Vedic. Hindutva sets aside the efflorescence of Hinduism through Bhakti - the devotional movements, which began in the pre-Islamic period in the peninsula but became more widespread in the north in later times. These were in many cases the coming together of Hindu, Islamic and other religious strands.
In the early twentieth century two new kinds of nationalism, other than the mainstream anti-colonial nationalism, acquired visibility. These were religion-based national groups for whom the identity of an independent nation-state was to derive from the religion of the majority community in the proposed state. Religion-based nationalism, whether Hindu or Muslim, drew directly from the colonial interpretation of Indian history and catered to the ambitions of a section of the Indian middle-class. It projected imagined uniform, monolithic religious communities and gave them a political reality. There was an entwining of communal historiography and religious nationalism. Muslim nationalism aspired to and eventually succeeded in establishing Pakistan. Hindu nationalism is aspiring to make India into a Hindu Rashtra. The two-nation theory was essential to both the Muslim League and the Hindu Mahasabha in the early twentieth century. It continues to be essential to the communal movements of today. These nationalisms were not primarily anti-colonial. They accepted the colonial views of the past and what they were opposed to was the other religious community.
Thus for Muslim nationalism history became significant only with the conquest of India by various Muslim rulers and the establishment of Muslim rule. This is the point when the study of history is taken seriously in Bangla Desh and Pakistan. Despite having a vast treasury of sources in Sanskrit - both texts and inscriptions - they no longer have younger scholars to read these and integrate them into their view of the past. For Hindu nationalism, Hindu civilization was the sole identity of India. The Muslims in conquering India are said to have attacked the earlier civilization and the result was a permanent conflict. The history of the second millennium AD was seen as that of Muslim conquest and Hindu resistance, and there is a falling off of interest in this period at many universities because they see it as the Muslim period. This nineteenth century colonial interpretation of Indian history is being projected once again, this time by Indians, in the new history textbooks for schools.
The proponents of Hindutva object to the history that has been written in the last fifty years. There is an insistence on calling it Leftist history assuming that this will discredit it. In fact this history incorporates a range of opinions, based on intensive research and analysis and the range enriches the understanding of the past.Its main concern was to ensure a valid historical method and exploration as the basis of this understanding. Many historians made extended analyses of some of the themes initiated by anti-colonial nationalism, such as the questioning of Mills periodisation and the colonial concept of Oriental Despotism as the dominant political economy of India. Other historians have explored facets of the social, economic and cultural history of India. A number of new and relevant questions have been raised and sources used in fresh ways to answer these questions. The field of history has widened out to include the study of economies, technologies, the theories of state-formation, the social context of religious sects, environment and ecology, gender studies and social history - in fact the normal components of what today is regarded as good history. Research of this kind established the legitimacy and recognition of the multiple voices and cultures that go into the making of the past and the plurality of religions in India for all periods.
This has resulted in Mills scheme being replaced by an alternate periodisation : Pre-history and Proto-history, Early Historical, Early Medieval, Medieval and Modern periods. The attempt has been to bring history into the purview of the social sciences and this extends the scope of history as also the methods of analyses. This change began with debates about a variety of Marxist and non-Marxist interpretations, some readings of the French Annales School, and the use of the comparative method in history. What this meant was that theories developed in relation to other societies were not applied directly to Indian data, but were used for asking questions of the Indian data. The reading of texts as sources is not limited to a literal reading and there is a questioning of texts for new kinds of information that helps delineate the details in our understanding of the past. Historical research in recent times has introduced new features that included more intensive testing of the reliability of the evidence and not taking all sources at face value ; encouraging a critical enquiry into the data ; and seeking rational analyses on which to base historical generalisations. This is far removed from the politically motivated, mono-causal view of history that Hindu nationalism is propagating.
The insistence on this interpretation is in order to claim that the Hindus have had an unbroken, lineal descent for five thousand years. In order to maintain that the Hindus are Aryans and all others are non-Aryan and therefore foreigners, it has to be argued that the Aryans and their language Indo-Aryan, are indigenous to India. This view is taken to such lengths that there was even a computer distortion of a Harappan seal attempting to pass off a single-horned animal (generally identified as a rhinoceros or the mythical unicorn) as a horse. This was done in order to establish that the horse - associated with Aryans - was known to the Indus civilization. These views are attempts to endorse those of Savarkar on the question of who qualifies to be an Indian. Aryan consciousness thus, has become the key to Indian civilization.
One is reminded of the parallels in the Nazi abuse of archaeology in the 1930s to prove the Aryan origins of the Germans. The associations become much closer now that it has been established that both Savarkar and Golwalkar had connections with the Fascists in Italy and Germany. Savarkar repeatedly expressed his admiration for Fascism and ridiculed Nehru for opposing it. There was admiration for Hitlers solution to the Jewish population in Germany and parallels were drawn with the Muslim population in India, both being described as Semites. B.S. Moonje, mentioned with respect in the RSS shakhas, was greatly impressed by the organization of the Italian fascists when he visited Italy in 1931, and these became the models for the organisation of similar groups in India.
But even this theory of the Aryan identity and the Vedas being the bedrock of Indian civilization, is a return to nineteenth century views. Among Indologists, both European and Indian, Aryanism in its racial dimension was the prevailing theory in explaining the origins and inter-relations of societies in Europe and parts of Asia. The most influential writing linked to Aryans and India was that of Max Mueller who postulated the coming of the Aryans, and their bringing civilization to northern India at the expense of the local, autochthonous people. The centrality of the Aryan, of Sanskrit and of the Vedas, is of course taken from Max Mueller, but the theory is turned upside down by arguing that the Aryans were indigenous to India, as also was their language. They originated in India.
Interestingly even this insistence on the Aryans and their language being indigenous, and of India being the cradle of world civilization, has an ancestry that goes back to the nineteenth century, to western, non-scholarly but influential sources. Madame Blavatsky, who together with Col. Henry Steel Olcott and others, founded the Theosophical Society in 1875, propounded similar views. They spoke of the dark-skinned Aryans from Oudh / Avadh, civilizing Egypt in pre-Vedic times. The Egyptians, Jews and Arabs were all said to be such Aryans and the migration even went to pre-Columbian America. Olcott was closely connected with the brief merger of the Theosophical Society with the Arya Samaj of Dayanand Sarasvati, a merger that fell apart quite quickly. Dayanand wrote of a migration from Tibet into Aryavarta / north India, and the Indian Aryan nation civilizing and ruling over the rest of the world. Their technology was said to be superior to all others. The Aryans were projected as virtually indigenous. A much discussed question at that time was whether the British and the Indian could be related by blood, since they both belonged to the Aryan race !
Madame Blavatsky established many centres, especially in Europe, where theories of the occult in Hinduism and Buddhism were becoming increasingly popular. Such theories were said to give Indians a pride of place as through her contacts Hinduism was being honoured in the west. In some circles, this was projected as support for the aspirations of Indian nationalism. Few however, followed up what was actually being said in the name of Hinduism and the use that it was being put to. In recent years there have been studies showing the links that these centres had with the germination of the Nazi ideology. There was therefore, a cross-current of Aryanism that linked up a variety of European and Indian groups. The projection of Aryanism generated similar political ideologies.
At the time when Olcott was maintaining that the Aryans were indigenous, Jyotiba Phule writing in Marathi, had a different take on the theory. Regarded by Dalits as a mahatama and a founding thinker, Phule supported the theory of an Aryan invasion which he saw as an invasion of alien brahmans speaking Sanskrit, and as a result of which the existing indigenous inhabitants were subjugated, oppressed and relegated to lower caste status. For him the lower castes were the rightful inheritors of the land but were denied this right by the brahmans. The conflict therefore was over the establishment of caste, which became the process by which the foreign brahmans appropriated the rights and the land of the indigenous peoples.
The Hindutva version on the other hand follows the views of Col. Olcott and the Arya Samaj and goes to the other extreme. It had a long gestation period with some ambiguities about the status of various groups of people. In the Hindutva version, the crux of the theory is not the difference in caste, as in the theory of Phule, but the difference in religion. The Hindu Arya - in which category the Buddhist, Jainas and Sikhs are subsumed - is indigenous and therefore the inheritor of the land ; and other religious groups are foreigners. The theory of Savarkar provides the framework for this analysis.
We may well ask why the proponents of Hindutva are going back to colonial ideas of the nineteenth century and claiming them as new and indigenous ? Is it because of their intellectual barrenness and their intention of pursuing history as propaganda ? It is assumed that Indian society and culture did not change in past times. This was axiomatic of and central to, colonial views of Indian history. Indian society was said to have been so static that it did not even have a consciousness of history, since history assumes the recognition of change. In the Hindutva adaptation of this perspective the Hindu period was one long, unchanging golden age. The notion of an unchanging Indian society was questioned in the historical writing of the last century and was discarded as a generalization even about Hindu civilization. But it is back again in the new textbooks.
Those supportive of the Hindutva versions have not over the years produced any theoretical critiques of a seriously historical kind in refuting mainstream history - perhaps because such critiques require wide reading and an intellectual understanding of historical problems. They have little familiarity with even the minimalist historical method that we demand from our history students - namely a familiarity with the historical process of change, an awareness of the complications in handling source material and of the theories of historical explanation. Their only refutation consists of publicly abusing a few selected historians who are invariably described as leftists and have even been referred to as academic terrorists by the Minister for Human Resource Development.
Going back to the views of the nineteenth century means that no attempt is made in the Hindutva version to understand the important historical question of the interface of cultures and societies and how these get transformed and evolve. This has a direct relevance to the study of society and culture as depicted in the Vedic corpus, the texts that are being quoted as the foundations of Indian civilization, but which it would seem are not being studied by those who claim to be using them in this manner. For example, there is no concern with analyzing the varying processes through which languages spread, or, how crucial these variations are to understanding change within cultures, or for that matter, acculturation through juxtaposition with other societies.
That there was an Aryan invasion was once held as the explanation for the arrival of the Indo-Aryan language in the northwest of the sub-continent. Few support this today. The focus has shifted to seeing the coming of the Indo-Aryan language through a series of migrations, probably small-scale ones at that. Such migrations would introduce some new facets of culture that are interwoven, together with the languages, into the emergence of societies whose presence is recorded in the Vedic corpus. The interweaving of languages is evident from the presence of Dravidian and Munda linguistic forms in the Rigveda. The cultural facets require a more careful evaluation of archaeological evidence and that of language.
The Hindutva version dismisses the arguments supporting the Aryans having come from the Indo-Iranian borderlands. Furthermore, there is no recognition that invasion and a graduated migration are two different processes, and particularly so in the impact they have on existing cultures and societies. Those historians that argue for migrations are continually branded as supporters of the theory of an invasion. Cultural change is a complex subject, requiring control over varieties of data and some familiarity with explanations of such change. Migration is a graduated process and change may be manifested in a slow transformation of language and in aspects of social organization. Invasions are serious disturbances where change is relatively sudden and widespread. None of these are issues for discussion in the Hindutva version. It is of course much easier to merely insist on a theory than to discuss its implications, particularly if the new theory replacing the old fantasizes wherever it chooses to, rather than remaining within the boundaries of history, and casually dismisses existing theories.
History does not move through Either/Or generalizations as there are many areas between the two that have to be investigated. There are many nuances and negotiations that are involved in how societies accommodate internal contradictions and external interventions. But the Hindutva version of history is a sledge-hammer history reducing everything to a single reading, narrowly defined according to its own choice. The teaching of this history therefore, takes on the form of a kind of catechism - one question, one answer and no discussion - as is evident from the history textbooks used in schools in Gujarat and in the schools run by the RSS - the Shishu Mandirs.
The intention of the present central government is to rapidly introduce their new Hindutva version of history, to become the only version since other interpretations are being reviled and abused. This intention has been projected at every level of the educational system as I have said. Perhaps the most offensive part of the suppression of the earlier school textbooks in history, was the refusal to allow any discussion on the portions that were deleted. These significantly include seminal questions such as the eating of beef in early India, and the origins and history of caste. In a society where caste remains a predominant factor it is ridiculous not to allow a discussion on the subject in schools. These are not subjects that can be dismissed unless the intention is to close the Indian mind.
Let me conclude with the question of how we should defend not only the discipline of history but also the future of education in India, so essential to the kind of society that we set out to build in 1947. We shall have to continually critique the propagandist versions of history as in some of the new NCERT textbooks, where there are factual errors and there is a revival of colonial prejudices in interpreting Indian history. We not only have to explain to the public what we object to in the books and why, but also what professional history is actually about and how it differs from the Hindutva version. The scrutiny would include what is taught in the schools run by a variety of religio-cultural organisations - the Shishu Mandirs, the Madrassahs, the mission schools, and other such schools. Huge amounts of money are being channeled into these schools, and after Gujarat it has become essential that there be transparency and accountability of the funding for and the syllabi used, in all these schools.
We shall have to try to re-establish the earlier procedures involving consultation and discussion through professional bodies and educational institutions, and reduce if not eliminate, the possibility of decisions about education being taken arbitrarily by any politician who happens to be in power. It will be an absurd situation if the educational curriculum has to be changed each time the government changes.
The intention of the new educational curriculum is to produce a generation of pliant, unthinking Indians. Significantly this echoes the agenda of colonial education. However this will affect the aspirations of the Indian middle class. So far, it has been notoriously unconcerned with what is actually taught in school. Well-to-do sections of the middle-class can send their children to private schools to prepare them for study and jobs abroad. Schools for other sections of society are therefore allowed to deteriorate. But with larger circles of rising expectations and competition, parents have to start inquiring into the quality of what is being taught, and not remain content with only the scoring of marks.
It is not just a coincidence that increasing religious fundamentalism in India - Hindu, Sikh and Muslim - was contemporary with the induction of India from the 1980s into the economies of globalization. The rising aspirations of the middle class are generated by the visions held out by globalization and by the success of a small fraction of this class.But the downside is that for the majority of the middle-class these aspirations are not met, and there is a widening disparity between the suddenly affluent fraction and the rest who remain on the margin. The latter are caught up in intense competition over employment and suffer from insecurities with the breaking down of earlier forms of broad-based community living. The propagation and glamourising of hate, and the easy availability of deadly weapons, serves to heighten the uncertainties. The new communities created by globalization are supposed to be modern but where modernization fails them they use religious identities as a cover for a barbaric cult of terror and fear.
Together with this is the constant search for ways of upward social mobility, one of which is seen as recruitment into the well-financed, religio-political organizations of narrow nationalisms, often parading as cultural organizations. The past is distorted by them and used to enhance the hatreds generated in the present. The process has been fuelled by a wealthy section of the Indian diaspora- Hindu, Muslim, Sikh - that has no intention of returning to India but acts as an incendiary by financing and supporting the politics of religious fundamentalisms and of violence, as happened recently in Gujarat and earlier in Punjab, and which is still continuing in Kashmir.
There are bigger and broader issues involved in these changes which go beyond history or the educational curriculum. They are altering the principles of our society. Democracy, secularism and equal rights for all citizens are fast becoming receding values. Some citizens are more equal than others now, and they determine the past, the present and the future in accordance with what they regard as a homogenous, integrated view of the Indian state and society. History, when not controlled by this ideology is a barrier to this view because history discovers and retrieves multiple pasts that underline the pluralities of our society. This plurality is also essential to exploring and advancing knowledge. Hence the assault on pluralities and on knowledge. The deliberate eradication of knowledge, motivated by a fear of knowledge, is often a prelude to massive political violence and oppression. We have to commit ourselves to continuing the exploration and endorsing of the plurality. We have to ensure that there will be no closing of the Indian mind.