Amidst repeated allegations by professional historians that history is being rewritten by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led NDA government, a two-day All India History Summit kicked off at the Nehru Memorial Museum Library (NMML) on Saturday with prominent historians asserting that the major institutions in the country are being populated by “mediocre” people with RSS patronage.
They also expressed fear that this will damage the country’s academic discourse.
Asked about allegations by intellectuals, activists and historians that there have been attempts to “re-write” history, Thouseef Madikeri, the Director of Centre for Educational Research and Training (CERT), which organised the summit, agreed that there is “no question about it”.
“The Hindutva forces are trying to rewrite history, and it is not a recent phenomenon, they have been trying to do so since 1970s. Akhil Bharatiya Itihas Sankalan Yojana (a subsidiary organisation of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) worked on it for a long time. The changes that we are now seeing in history textbooks are old contributions, but they are being implemented now,” Madikeri told IANS on the sidelines of the summit.
“What they are doing now is getting control of the institutions like the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) and Universities by populating them with their people. So whatever RSS wanted to do, is now being implemented since the past four years. Attempts and research are over, now they are implementing the changes by placing their mediocre historians at the top posts of our institutions,” he added.
He said that the position of historians is that they believe that such things happen “all the time”.
“But the problem with the BJP is that they do not have credible people, they do not have qualified historians, they are placing mediocre people at top posts of the institutions. We have no problem with ideology but the person concerned should have credible qualities. That is missing and that is a big problem because it is going to do damage to the academic discourse,” he contended.
Prof Najaf Haider, from Centre of Historical Studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) pointed out that there are two ways in which history is being rewritten.
“One is under the excuse that the syllabus should be cut short and the theme should be downsized and then you are bringing changes to the history textbooks. You are selective. You have the mandate to remove things but when you remove, you are removing them with an agenda,” Haider told IANS.
He further said that the second method of rewriting history is by contesting the established facts of history.
“Very well established facts of history are being contested and new facts are being given without any evidence or basis. Evidence is very important, there is a tendency to make statements without evidence and in history, evidence is sacred. Without evidence you cannot say anything.
“Of course, interpretation is also important but interpretation without evidence has no value. So we are very concerned that, particularly the history of medieval India is being rewritten and we are all protesting against it. Professional historians, in their writings and teachings, are trying to resist as much as possible the attempt to rewrite history and also to support the writing of history in a scientific and non-sectarian way,” he added.
The All India History Summit is organised by CERT in collaboration with Centre for Study and Research (CSR) Hyderabad and Student Islamic Organisation of India (SIO).
In exhaustive sessions, experts are debating on topics such as “History of India: Theoretical Approaches”; “Caste in Indian History”; “Histories of Adivasis”; “Minorities in India”; “Islam and Muslims in Indian History” and “Hindutva Attempts in Indian History”, among others.