Editorial: Discourse Correction in History
As I look back upon the history of my country, I do not find in the whole world another country which has done quite so much for the improvement of the human mind. Therefore I have no words of condemnation for my nation. I tell them, “You have done well; only try to do better.” – Swami Vivekananda
The purpose of history is not only to state facts chronologically, or, as the Marxist maxim indict to the eminent historians in India – ‘change the world rather than interpreting it’- but to carry forward the wisdom of mankind, rectify the mistakes and build a constructive future. Its other major and pertinent purpose is to ask right questions for positive purpose and to look for answers through the objective lens.
The question here is also whether or not discipline like history can ever be completely objective or is that there is always a conscious or tacit ideology that makes for history? The reason why I raise these questions on history is due the recent hue and cry about ‘saffronisation’ of institutions following the appointment of Prof Y Sudershan Rao as the Chairman of Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR. It is beyond doubt that education should be autonomous and no ‘political meddling’ is justifiable. But what is equally important is who is raising these objections and on what grounds.
The objections of established historian’s network range from knowing Prof Rao, his ideological affiliations, to his research interests and views. Till date, India’s social science discourse is dominated by the western perspective, by so called liberals or leftists. The research is authenticated only if it is in English language and recognized by the established lobby patronaged by the ruling party. Because of this dictum, historians constructed Indian history mostly on the foundations laid down by the British historians. Therefore, Ramayana and Mahabharata have always remained imaginary stories; Aryan invasion theory is the only truth; and, all Muslim rulers were great administrators and true seculars.
It got reflected down the ages that only because of British rule India could be modernized and came into existence as a nation. To his misfortune Prof Rao did most of his research in his mother tongue Telugu. That is also on early modern Andhradesa, Ancient Indian Culture with special focus on Indian mythology, Vedic Literature, Mahabharata and Sanatan Dharma. How he will be then so readily accepted as a member of the eminent league? And if eminent historians don’t know him, what is his authority to head the reputed institution established, nurtured and milked by this league?
Prof Rao took another provocative step of differentiating Varnas from Caste in ancient India. How dare he? Even Mahatma Gandhi was labeled as conservative for the same reason, even by some Gandhian Marxists. Above all, in his first interview itself, Prof Rao garnered courage to talk about an Indian perspective on history (is that what is troubling the elite historians). When there is a league of western historians from Marx to Hobsbawm, Durants and Mills in India with a series of prodigies, how one can talk about an Indian perspective?
Thus the real problem is not Prof Rao and so called saffronisation but his indigenous research in his mother tongue with emphasis on Indian perspective. Maybe it is this which is being perceived as a danger by the academic elites’ jugglery to sustain their eminence. Or, perhaps it is contradicting that their understanding and interpretation of history.
Fortunately or unfortunately discourse correction on history is inevitable. The primacy of Indian perspective is the reality. It would therefore be encouraging, if rather than condemning everything that is Indian and continuing with the divisive agenda of distorting history, these eminent historians try becoming a part of national reconstruction process, as suggested by Swami Vivekananda.