A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin, and culture is like a tree without roots
— Marcus Garvey Quotes
Ever since I came across him, I have always thought of Vikram Sampath as a consummate debonair, a trait which rests on the secure foundations of exhaustive research. Naturally, he comes across as quite elegant in his speech in general. I for one thought all of his answers perfect; he hardly left any scope for disagreement.
Dr.Vikram Sampath has been a treasure trove of Indian history and has the distinction of being a doctorate in History with a basic degree in Engineering. He is a celebrated historian with no biases and political leanings.
When it comes to distortions in Indian History and few people who have made Indian History, their fiefdom and have reduced History to their personal opinions, Dr. Sampath minces no words. This so happened during the India Today Conclave 2021, organized by the India Today group. As usual, Rajdeep Sardesai used his skills of fishing in troubled waters by coaxing Dr Sampath to make political statements, but in vain! Dr Sampath’s crystal clear understanding of the Indian event chronology and the reasons for the wrong depiction of Indian History was evident in his talk. He attributed the colonization and the colonial mindset, the Nehruvian socialism and the uprise of the Marxism as the causes of the distortion. Dr Shashi Taroor, who was part of the debate too spoke eloquently and in an unbiased state of mind!
Dr Sampath was right in saying that Indian history needed to be reclaimed from every part of India and that it has been too Delhi centric! There were thought provoking statements made. They agreed to “truthify(sic)” the history rather than eulogize or demonize the so called protagonists and the antagonists of the past! So true indeed!
It suffices to adduce as an instance the conversation he had with Dr. Vikram Sampath on the India Today Conclave. The equally urbane Dr. Sampath was tireless in his incisive but unpolemical recriminations of Marxist historiography that had monopolized history in Indian academic circles. He noted as an instance the callous elisions, of centuries of oppression of Hindus in their own homeland by Islamist invaders, in history curricula. The response of Dr. Tharoor was so eminently preposterous, that only the pliant chambers of Indian ‘intellectuals’ could agree with it. He noted that post-independence historiography was dictated by the need to build a new nation, and that, to paraphrase him, history was therefore used in nation-building, and, further, that the wounds of old animosities had therefore healed. He added that, with the sudden exponential rise in interest in history, the BJP-led government was reopening those wounds; the unsaid corollary being that this was again generating social fissures. Now, to anyone with a modicum of sense, the justification that history was used in nation-building is an infuriating euphemism for “we wrote history for our political convenience”. This, however, does not suffice to prove how utterly hollow Dr. Tharoor’s fanciful notions were.
A group of willy-nelly politicians [Read – Congress] has hijacked the story to suit their end in the name of not opening up the past wounds for want of consolidation of their vote bank. The ‘History of the Victors’ prevail and defeated are burnt, razed, and culturally corrupted. Thanks to the 200 years Colonial Rulers who described Indians as ‘beastly people with a beastly religion’ have left the country but their legacy lives on thanks to persons like Mr. Sardesai and Mr. Tharoor.
The following quote more or less reflects on the History of Independence, who and why was the history whitewashed especially the suppression of Hindu History –
In 1952 the ministry of education appointed the Board of Editors for the compilation of the History. Professor Majumdar was appointed by the Board as the Director and entrusted with the work of sifting and collecting materials and preparing the draft of the history. However, the Board as consisting of politicians and scholars was least likely to function harmoniously. Perhaps this was the reason why it was dissolved at the end of 1955. The scheme remained in balance for a year until the government decided to transfer the work to a single scholar. To the disappointment of Professor Majumdar the choice of the ministry of education fell on one Dr.Tara Chand, a historian but also an ex-secretary of the Ministry of Education. Professor Majumdar then decided to write independently
Source – https://archive.org/download/the-history-and-culture-of-the-indian-people-11-vol.-set-by-r.-c.-majumdar-j.-n.
The questions, which no pliant eminence would pose, but which any sane man would, are as follows:
- How does elision of such unpleasant aspects of history constitute nation-building? Concomitantly, how does this result in the healing of old wounds? Is it not commonsensical that truth eventually emerges from the shadows and booms once into the light? Consequently, should aspects of history be hidden now, is it not natural that their emergence should prompt questions in the future? Would it not be natural for future generations of Hindus to pose the following questions :
- Why did the government of my country hide this from me?”;
- “Was there indeed no alternative but to build the nation at the expense of the truth concerning what my community went through in the past?”;
- “What prevents governments in the future from further building the nation at the expense of my community, if such has been the precedent, and if there has always been intellectual justification for it?”?
- If you insist that this was necessary for nation-building, do you imply that truthful exposition could have impeded nation-building? In what sense? Do you mean in the sense of disturbing social harmony? But who could possibly be irate at such a truthful exposition? Certainly not the Hindus, for they would, doubtless, welcome the academic recognition of their historical experience. Then? Muslims? It is natural to suppose that the Muslims should be offended, for it is their community that might without design end up appearing villainous. But why must the average Muslim be affronted? Is he not as much an Indian as a Hindu? Concomitantly, is it not true that he refuses to identify himself with those genocidal cranks who tormented his Hindu brethren in the name of his religion? And you eminences of the Congress always insist that we are all Indians. So, even if such fears had existed, why did your own belief that the Muslim was as much an Indian as the Hindu, not prevail over your fears?
- Is it because the Congress was made aware of how foolish, how naïve and how gainsaid its eminences appeared, that notwithstanding their impassioned rhetoric of ‘Hindu-Muslim unity’, Bhāratavarsha nonetheless stood brutalized by a considerable section of Muslims, by vice of the Partition, and that the top brass of the Congress was privately apprehensive that the Muslim community might again rise up in arms in post-independence India?
- If such was its apprehension, why did the Congress not adhere to Dr. Ambedkar’s view that a complete exchange of population might best serve national interests? One might contend that not all Muslims could afford to move, but Dr. Ambedkar’s book Pakistan or the Partition of India also contains plans to address that impediment; even a draft statute for that purpose. And the book was published in 1945 as an enlarged edition of a book published in 1942. This was certainly a considerable interval before Partition. Then, one might contend that, certainly, not all Muslims wanted Partition. But the electoral results of 1945 indicate that too considerable a number of Muslims did. Consequently, in the interests of the security of a nascent and therefore a vulnerable nation-state, would it not have been judicious for the Congress to have chosen, between the idealistic option of non-exchange and the pragmatic option of population exchange, the latter one? Bear in mind that this is in context of the supposition advanced in point (a), in which we have logically assumed that the Congress was fearful of what the Muslim community might do in the future should it feel affronted.
- If, notwithstanding such apprehensions, the Congress chose the idealistic way, it logically implies that its top brass was prepared to imperil national security in pursuit of its ideal. Does this not occasion the rise of uncomfortable questions concerning their nationalist credentials? Would posing such questions not be justified?
- If you insist that those hidden aspects of history could not have been discussed back then because it would have imperiled the project of nation-building, and cannot be discussed now because they ‘uncover old wounds’ and that the BJP is not ‘allowing them to heal’, when would the time be opportune? Never? Is that it? Is Indian history never allowed to liberate its caged elements? Then how does it do justice to history? But considering that we have already established, that neither lies nor elisions can actually heal wounds, and only cover them up, the whole edifice of your argument stands dismantled. Demolished. Pulverized.
For the likes of brown sepoys and other so-called intellectuals, who abide by the airy fabrics of postcolonial thought, and who have dominated the intellectual scene, there is a quotation from the famed T.V. series Chanakya (1991–92):
Nandavansha Magadha nahi hai aur Magadha Nandavansha nahi hai.
To the Edifice, however, Dr. Sampath was blasphemous in his objective assessment of the derelictions of India’s post-independence historiography. Unlike the complaisant eminences with whose credendum he dared differ, he had primary sources with which he lent credence to his illuminations. There was, on part of the host, the prosaic characterization of Hindu nationalists as troglodyte Neanderthals — after all, their respect for great men of weltanschauungs different from theirs must necessarily be the odious act of ‘appropriation’, whereas the respect of ‘liberals’ for great men of thoughts differing with theirs, if they could be so liberal as to profess such respect, must be an act of ‘gentilesse’. As if one sees within the Hindutva groundswell the pervasive claims of Bhagat Singh or Subhas Chandra Bose as proponents of Hindutva; it does not occur to Mr. Sardesai that the Hindu nationalists respect these freedom fighters regardless of their non-Hindutva political perspectives; purely for their patriotism and sacrifice for the cause of Indian freedom.
It translates to, “The Nanda Dynasty is not Magadha, and Magadha is not the Nanda Dynasty.” Analogously, this ‘secular-liberal’ orthodoxy is not India, and India is not the secular-liberal orthodoxy. Its ‘idea of India’ is not India, and India is not the ‘idea of India’ espoused by this orthodoxy. This orthodoxy might direct a hundred, a thousand, a million invectives at the post-2014 cultural nationalist groundswell, but the latter shall advance unfazed, despite its intestine faults. It can no longer be cowed by mediocre accusatory adjectives of ‘communalism’, ‘illiberalism’, ‘retrogression’, ‘fascism’, ‘majoritarianism’, ‘divisiveness’ and suchlike. It dared to defy your dogma, it dares to defy your dogma and it shall dare to defy your dogma. It shall incisively and objectively respond to such accusatory adjectives with its own set of adjectives, and those shall be rooted in objectivity. Its nascent and poorly equipped scholarship shall bloom and vanquish the airy fabrics of ‘scholarship’ that worships the ‘idea of India’ of a few, and it shall vanquish those who are prepared to protect the ‘idea of India’ at the expense of India herself.
So germane is the T.V. series, Chanakya, that it has another wonderful quote, which is much more pleasing to the ear in Hindi, but the English translation of which is as follows:
He who obstructs the unification of this Rāshtra and the elevation of its stature shall be destroyed. I shall destroy him, and until such time as I do not see this Rāshtra attain glory again, brace yourself, Prime Minister! Pralaya makes known its arrival, and not the might of the Devas can halt its looming tide!
History and politics, regardless of the perspicacity and prescience of historians and statesmen, are ever slightly miscible, and it is only natural that history should sooner or later be employed for political purposes. For, should new research oppugn that which has authoritatively been passed off as history, such questions as, “Why did my government, composed of the disciples of Gandhi’s precepts of truth, lie to me?” are very naturally posed. This is a very obvious precursor to amplifying social animosities.
It is in this background that Dr. Sampath’s recommendation of a ‘Truth and Reconciliation’ appears reasonable. We may not impose a facsimile of the South African model; the modalities of our own may be left to the wisdom of academic, political and social eminences. To make peace with history and to move on is of inestimable importance, and objective historiography is a major stepping stone in the consummation of that quest.
It is very much to be suspected that those detractors of Dr. Sampath are in any way ‘reputed’, other than owing to solemn affirmations to that effect by fellow academicians sympathetic to a particular ideology. They challenge him with claims; he adduces evidence. His timeline has lately been replete with sources. The truth is under assault — not, it must be emphasized, by the coattails of those whom one might term ‘hillbillies’ who form today’s political executive, but by the mondaine class which has for long been regarded as an intellectual syndicate, and its political patrons who claim to defend the ‘idea of India’. And it is the restoration of that truth which is an uphill battle.
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