The government has secretly appointed a committee of scholars to prove that Hindus have descended from India’s first inhabitants. As per a Reuters investigative report, the decision was taken last year in a meeting where a group of scholars gathered to discuss – how to rewrite the history of India?
After interviewing members of the committee, Reuters reported that the aim of the committee is not only to find about the existence of Hindus but also to prove that ancient Hindu texts like Ramayana are facts, not a myth. For the mission, scholars are asked to use evidence such as archaeological findings and DNA. Also, Modi’s Cabinet Ministers and the 14 members of the committee have hinted that the ambition of the supporters of ‘Hindutva’ ideology extends way beyond to maintain power in the country as they desire to form a nation that matches both their political and religious views. The sole reason behind the formation of a committee is to establish the thought that India is a nation of and for Hindus.
“I have been asked to present a report that will help the government rewrite certain aspects of ancient history,” told the committee’s chairman, K.N. Dikshit to Reuters.
Mahesh Sharma, the Culture Minister of India who has created the committee further informed Reuters that the group’s efforts and achievement were the part of larger plans to reassess India’s history.
Are India’s minorities worried about the committee?
The unique thing about India is that the country is among the most religiously and ethnically diverse nations in the world. It is the birthplace of Jainism, Sikhism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and several other religions. Undoubtedly, the decision has borne apprehension in the minds of Muslims in that country that the saffron ruling Center wants to make them ‘second-class’ citizens.
Since the BJP Government came to power, several unfortunate incidents of discrimination and religious violence occurred in the name of cow lynching, love-Jihad and ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’. While talking about the interests of the Muslim community, the leader of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, Asaduddin Owaisi, said that his people had “never felt so marginalised in the independent history of India.”
According to the report by Reuters, when they approached Prime Minister Modi he did not reply to a request to comment to their article titled ‘By rewriting history, Hindu nationalists aim to assert their dominance over India’.
The very idea of the committee degrades multicultural narrative existing since the colonial rule of British that says India was born from migration, conversions, and invasions. Also, the view is justified by demographic facts.
We have all witnessed the bond between BJP and its nationalist Hindu parent Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) that helped Modi sweep to victory in 2014. In a way to return the favour, one can see RSS members holding ministerial charge of highways, agriculture and internal security. RSS has been an open supporter of Hindutva and they never hesitate to assert that ancestors of all Indians including Muslims were Hindus. Since childhood, Modi has been a follower of RSS. Not only the PM, but Culture Minister Sharma has also been a part of the Sangh parivar for many years.
RSS spokesman Manmohan Vaidya told Reuters, “The true colour of Indian history is saffron and to bring about cultural changes we have to rewrite history.”
Another member of RSS, Balmukund Pandey who often meet Sharma, said that the right time has come to restore India’s past glory by manifesting that ancient Hindu texts are fact, not a myth.
Sharma told that the team plans to add the conclusion of scholars in the curriculum of school texts and academic research. The school textbooks presently teach that people from central Asia arrived in India some 3,000 to 4,000 years ago and transformed the population.
Sharma would submit the committee’s final report to parliament and lobby the nation’s Ministry of Human Resource Development to write the findings into school textbooks. Notably, the Ministry of HRD is headed by a disciple of the RSS, Prakash Javadekar.
“We will take every recommendation made by the Culture Ministry seriously,” Javadekar told Reuters. “Our government is the first government to have the courage even to question the existing version of history that is being taught in schools and colleges,” he added.
RSS members and several leading ministers deny the idea that India was created by mass migration. However, they wholeheartedly accept the view stating Hindu population has directly descended from the land’s first inhabitants. According to Historian Romila Thapar who taught at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, for nationalists it is essential to know the colour of the soil because “if the Hindus are to have primacy as citizens in a Hindu Rashtra (kingdom), their foundational religion cannot be an imported one.” To assert their supremacy, nationalists are now required to prove their descendants from ancestors.
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The theory of influx was not only embraced by the British but also by India’s first and the longest running PM, Jawaharlal Nehru, who was a staunch supporter of a secular state. Nehru also said that it was “entirely misleading to refer to Indian culture as Hindu culture.”
Shashi Tharoor, a prominent Indian politician and member of the Congress party, said right wing Hindus are “leading a political campaign over Indian history that seeks to reinvent the idea of India itself.”
The President of BJP, Amit Shah slammed Nehru in an event in 2016 by saying that he was influenced by the western world. “We have always believed that our policies should have the smell of Indian soil,” Shah added.