Twenty-three years past the independence of Pakistan, history writing has been rather disappointing. Official historians and textbook writers focus exclusively on and reiterate the Pakistan movement and there is no research on ancient India, the medieval period or the colonial era. In the absence of any alternative school of history, grandiose national narratives come across as dull and boring. According to official history, partition not only divided the subcontinent into two separate countries but it also partitioned history. Consequently, ancient India is not a part of our historiography. History writing in Pakistan is controlled by the bureaucrats and politicians who direct historians on how to write history which suits their interests and justifies their policies. It is in the interest of the state to use it to historicise the ideology of Pakistan. This task was faithfully accomplished by I.H. Qureshi in his two books Muslim Community in the Indian subcontinent and Ulema and Politics, in which he skillfully distorts events and adjusts them within the framework of the ideology of Pakistan. The next historian to follow him was S.M. Ikram, who traced the roots of two nations in medieval India. Hence officially, the history of Pakistan begins from the Arab conquest of Sindh. According to this point of view Sindh became Bab-ul-Islam or the gateway to Islam. It linked our history with the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates, alienating it from ancient Indian history. This interpretation creates a Muslim consciousness that seeks its identity outside India. However, the truth of history is quite different. Sindh became separate and independent as soon as the Abbasid caliphate declined and local dynasties replaced Arab rule. Arabs who settled in Sindh assimilated in the local culture and identified themselves as Sindhis. Pakistan has rich cultural heritage and a glorious ancient past. The discovery of the Indus valley civilisation astonished and amazed the world of its achievements. Its important towns, Harappa and Mohenjodaro, located in Pakistan, boasted of the advanced and developed culture of this area unlike the Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilisations. Although there were no palaces here, the temples and tombs indicate that the common man was not exploited like in other civilisations across the world. REFERENCE: Past Present: History they wrote by Mubarak Ali 29th May, 2011 http://dawn.com/2011/05/29/past-present-history-they-wrote/
Dr Mubarak Ali on Indo Pak Peace SAFMA Seminar
The Subtle Subversion The State of Curricula and Textbooks in Pakistan Editors: A. H. Nayyar and Ahmad Salim
The Subtle Subversion
Ayaz AmIr (Renowned Pakistani Columnist, MNA PML - N) addressing SAFMA Seminar on Building Bridges in the Subcontinent
Communalization of History
Hardtalk India Romila Thapar 6.8.2004
SOMANATHA — The Many Voices of a History: Romila Thapar; Penguin Books India (P) Ltd., 11, Community Centre, Panchsheel Enclave, New Delhi-110017. Rs. 375. "LISTEN TO the many voices of a history" before assessing the nature of a historical event is the main refrain of Romila Thapar's present book on Somanatha. The book makes a re-appraisal of the sources on the most challenging of historical events, i.e. the raid of Mahmud of Ghazni on Somanatha (Prabhas Pattana) in 1026 A.D. which has been repeatedly misrepresented and abused for political ends and raises serious questions of methodology in the existing histories and offers fresh readings of the narratives and fresh insights into the nature of the event through a highly rigorous and nuanced analysis of six categories of sources, most of which have been either ignored or marginalised by communal approaches, privileging one set of sources over the others as reliable and hegemonic. The work underlines the need for an uncompromising pursuit of the context in the analysis of the complexities of historical processes, which are beyond simplistic, mono-causal explanations and literal reading of sources of different periods, which have their own agenda of how an event is to be represented. Juxtaposing six categories of sources and situating them in their historical contexts i.e., contemporary to the raid down to the Mughal and the colonial, Thapar shows through a comparative analysis, how and why their perspectives are varied, diverse and even contradictory, not only from one another but even within a single category of sources. Her findings are most revealing and worth serious consideration. The dominance of the Turko-Persian narratives and chronicles of Al- Biruni (Kitab al-Hind) through Firdausi to Ferishta in the construction of the event, is attributed by Thapar not only to their large number, but also to the erroneous periodisation of Indian history into the Hindu, Muslim and the British and the languages in which their major sources are available, i.e. Sanskrit, Persian and English. Diverse and often ambiguous, their most significant strategy of representation is the politicisation of the event, creating a deep divide in the identities of the Hindu and the Muslim. Of greater significance is the identification, by a near contemporary source (Zain al- Akhbar), of the idol (supposedly desecrated by Mahmud) with a pre-Islamic Arabic female deity, Su- Manat of the Semitic pantheon, which was believed to have been secreted away to Kathiawar for safety from Islamic iconoclasm. Continuing contradiction as to whether the idol was that of a female goddess or an aniconic linga or an anthropomorphic Siva, further embellishments and fantasies about the age of the icon and its size and description, the curious claim that the temple was converted into a mosque and that there were repeated attacks (on the mosque?) by later Muslim rulers (e.g. Khaljis) show that the temple itself became part of the rhetoric of conquest as a symbol of political authority and legitimacy. Hence Thapar emphasises the need to situate the event in the larger context of Central Asian politics, the crises in the Caliphate leading to a shift in the representation of Mahmud from an iconoclast, looting and plundering for financing his Central Asian empire, to Mahmud glorified as the ideal Islamic ruler, who laid the foundation of Islamic rule in India, which is historically inaccurate. The receding Central Asian context turned the event into a confrontation between Hindus and Muslims projected as two monolithic communities. This version was adopted by all subsequent narratives like those of Barani, Isami and later Ferishta, hailing his rule as protector of Islam through the Sharia both from the Muslim heretics (Shia) and Hindu infidels. The Turko-Persian sources chose to ignore the perceptions of the non-orthodox Islamic communities in India and their multi-cultural and regional backgrounds, such as the Ismailis, Khojas, Bohras and Navayats, many of whom were converts. That the Somantha temple never ceased to function as a temple is established by another category of sources i.e., the Sanskrit and bilingual Sanskrit and Arabic inscriptions dating from the 11th to 15th Centuries A.D., which maintain a puzzling silence about the raid. On the contrary they attest to the continuing importance of Somanatha as a pilgrimage centre under royal patronage, recording the reconstruction of a smaller structure dilapidated due to ravages of time (and the sea) and its enlargement with fortifications under the Chaulukya Kumarapala (12th Century A.D.). Located near the port of Veraval, Somanatha was important for Gujarat's commerce even from the Mauryan times. In the early medieval period (6th-13th Centuries A.D.), its commercial potential was enhanced by the close relations among the Jains, Arabs and Turks apart from other sects in Gujarat, royal patronage to the building of Jain temples and mosques, the most significant being the mosque built in 1264 A.D. on land belonging to the Somanatha temple (recorded in a bilingual Sanskrit and Arabic inscription), with the approval of powerful elite groups of Somanatha, including the merchant community, who had close relations with a Persian ship owner (Noradina Piroj or Nur-ud-din Firuz from Hormuz). Thapar draws attention to the social and cultural dimensions of such interaction. The most pertinent question which Thapar raises is, "Should we not attempt to sift the actions and reactions according to social groups and specific situations," and not as, "a `Hindu' reaction to the event created by the `Muslim'?" A far more diverse picture emerges from the third major category of sources viz., the Jain biographies and chronicles from 11th to 15th Centuries A.D., which are more concerned with the Jain Sangha, the commercial significance of the region and negotiations with other traders including the Muslims, while only passing references are made to the Somanatha event. The Rajput chronicles and epics like the stories of Prithviraja Chauhan and Hammira, Thapar argues, are not to be read as epics of resistance by the Hindu to the Muslim conquests, but as derived from the genre of heroic literature of pre-Islamic times insisting on the values of a warrior aristocracy such as loyalty and honour, condemning deceit, irrespective of whether it was a Muslim or a Hindu. The use of terms such as Yavana, Turushka, Saka and Tajikas (Arabs) in Indian literature point to their geographical and ethnic associations similar to Al-Biruni's term al-Hind, for the inhabitants beyond the Indus. The religious connotation came later. Oral traditions recorded in Colonial ethnography provide popular perceptions of Mahmud and his raid. The popular ballads and Sufi literature convey different sentiments, which are an assertion of the magical power of piety over actual power. The stories revolve round places of pilgrimage (Muslim and Hindu) and saints, who performed miracles, like pirs, faqirs, wali, sadhu, gurus, siddhas, figures that cut across formal religious boundaries between the Muslim and the Hindu, creating new religious articulations, drawing from the grass root religious forms, using mixed languages, an area which has not been explored systematically. As Thapar points out, in all this the character of Mahmud has changed with his submission to and incorporation into an ethos of piety, magic and defence of the poor. Colonial interpretations, following the dominant Turko-Persian sources, constructed the memory of a trauma among the Hindus, depicting Muslims as uniformly tyrannical and oppressive, even inventing the false story of the sandalwood gates of Somanatha being carried away to Ghazni, when "the Proclamation of the gates" was issued in 1842 for their retrieval, instigating the Hindus to avenge the Muslims' insult of 800 years, the background to which was political i.e., British interests in Afghanistan. After the discussion in the House of Commons on the gates, the traumatic memory of the event became an established fact. "British interventions due to ideological and administrative needs and their misrepresentations of history wiped out the nuances of community relationships and particularities of each occasion and the varying identities of people involved." The hegemonic colonial version was nurtured by the communal politics of the 1920s, eroding the anti-colonial, inclusive mainstream nationalism of the late 19th Century and fostering communal ideologies and the religious nationalism of the 20th Century. The view of segregated monolithic communities emerged. The rebuilding of the Somanatha temple in 1951, wiping out all medieval vestiges, despite protests from archaeologists and historians, was carried out by K.M. Munshi as Central Minister, by claiming the consent of Sardar Patel and the sanction of the Government, which was vehemently denied by Jawaharlal Nehru. Munshi's views equating Aryan with Hindu culture and his understanding of Indian culture and nationalism, turned a regional or specific incident into a national one. The secular credentials of society and state were challenged by the communal politics of recent years, the two Ratha yatras (ending in the destruction of the Babri Masjid, 1992), all of which are part of a "Hindutva" campaign for mass mobilisation and for power, causing riots and leading to the genocide in Gujarat in 2002. In social memory this event has been consciously constructed as a trauma to the Hindus, "which has superscribed the history of an event." Its opposite, i.e., " structural amnesia" was selective and ignored the destruction of Hindu temples and mosques by Hindu rulers. As for the temple of Somanatha, a natural process of decline may have occurred, says Thapar, due to technical aspects like poor foundations and weight bearing devices, pointed out by Henry Cousens, as also a shift in the region of commercial potential after the 15th Century A.D. Thapar cautions against the use of the past to legitimise present concerns. She points out that the relation between religion and politics has complex dimensions and institutions like temples, monasteries, mosques, Khanqahs, churches, synagogues and gurudvaras have multiple roles. Their functions were not only religious but clearly also social and political. Thapar's re-look at the Somanatha event is a strong proof of the need for "more accurate and sensitive insights into the Indian past." REFERENCE: Perspectives of a history R. CHAMPAKALAKSHMI Tuesday, Apr 27, 2004 http://www.hindu.com/br/2004/04/27/stories/2004042700121600.htmRomila Thapar: India's past and present — how history informs contemporary narrative
“..an historian who is indefatigable in the pursuit of knowledge and prolific in its publication, and who is above all a devoted partisan of the truth. ... The early history of the country has been illuminated by Professor Thapar, whom I now present, more than by almost any other scholar. An historian of that period who seriously wishes to refute accepted fictions and dispel the general darkness will need several high qualities...” - Citation presented by Oxford University to Romila Thapar while conferring on her an honorary Doctorate of Letters, 2002. - The distinguished scholar Eric Hobsbawm, author of a four-part history of the 19th and 20th centuries, recently gave a talk at Columbia University in New York City. In a speech on politics, memory and historical revisionism, he said, “The curious fact is that as we move into the 21st century, historians have become central to politics. We historians are the monopoly suppliers of the past. The only way to modify the past that does not sooner or later go through historians is by destroying the past”. “Mythology”, Hobsbawm added, “is taking over from knowledge”. He then mentioned the case of Italy, where, he said, a government commission has been ordered to revise history textbooks in an effort to discredit the Italian republic’s anti-fascist, communist roots. On the other side of the world, in India, simultaneous with Hobsbawm’s speech, history was also being ‘rewritten’ in a disturbing manner with the unleashing of a vicious campaign against one of the Subcontinent’s most distinguished historians, Romila Thapar. Emeritus professor of ancient Indian history at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi, author of many seminal works on the history of ancient India, recipient of honorary degrees from many leading world universities, Thapar was recently honoured by the US Library of Congress in a manner befitting her scholarly standing. The library announced that it was appointing Professor Thapar as the first holder of the Kluge Chair in Countries and Cultures of the South, and that she would spend 10 months at the John W Kluge Centre in Washington DC pursuing “historical consciousness in early India”. While 72-year-old Thapar’s appointment was greeted with applause by serious students of history, little did anyone realise that acolytes of the Hindutva brand of politics, primarily those in the Indian diaspora, would unleash a vitriolic campaign against her built on name-calling and the disparaging of her professional qualifications. Claiming that “her appointment is a great travesty”, an online petition calling for its cancellation has, as of the last week in May, collected over 2000 signatures. Thapar, according to the petition, “is an avowed antagonist of India’s Hindu civilization. As a well-known Marxist, she represents a completely Euro-centric world view”. Protesting that she cannot “be the correct choice to represent India’s ancient history and civilization”, it states that she “completely disavows that India ever had a history”. The petitioners also aver that by “discrediting Hindu civilization” Romila Thapar and others are engaged in a “war of cultural genocide”. The petition, accessible at http://www.petitiononline.com/108india/petition.html, includes space for signatories to comment on their opposition to Thapar’s appointment. Entries range from the unintentionally ironic (“Thapar is a pseudointeelectual [sic]” – Ravi Kandula, #1106) to the overtly communal (“Do you know the similaries [sic] between muslims and commies? They are both anti-national (they don’t believe in nations). They believe in killing all non-believers” – V Jayaram, #2072) to expressions of injured Indian honour (“Romila is a hindu-hating marxist who would stoop to anything to denigrate her own country. I hope that New Delhi revokes her citizenship, seizes her assets and declares her and her family persona non grata” – Gautam P Ganesh, #1578) to a sense of American patriotism rooted in anti-communism (“As a proud Indian-American, I feel the US has an obligation not to appoint Communists or Extremists/Leftists to important positions in the Library of Congress” – Raj Mohanka, #490) and even to an ostensible commitment to prevent an unqualified person from receiving an appointment (“How can someone with no knowledge of history and shoddy research be nominated to this post!!!! I protest strongly as a US citizen and active voter!” – Chetan Gandhi, #762). While most signatories chose to leave the comment space blank, the presence of a large number of hostile expressions from Indian-Americans drawing on right wing strands of both Indian and American nationalisms helps to locate the campaign’s geographic and ideological coordinates. As stated by SRIDHAR, #750, “Romila Thapar is a Indian Traitor”, a succinct statement clear enough in its meaning, notwithstanding the misused article.
History as politics: While the Internet is full of such character assassination, which in its vulgar ignorance need not be taken seriously, it does represent a particular mindset that begs questions about the radicalising of the Indian Hindu diaspora. Questions may also be raised about the increasing ‘democratising’ of a discipline that is required to build its corpus with sophisticated tools of research, where evidence, methodology and theory intersect in the mind of a scholar trained to ‘write history’. For all the popular naysaying, Romila Thapar’s credentials in the profession are secure. She has, in the words of a reviewer writing in The Hindu in April 2003, “adapted herself decade after decade to changing trends and tendencies, and [has] continued nevertheless to produce work of a consistent quality”. Ranging from her contribution to the Penguin History of India, which has been continuously in print since 1966, to her latest work, Early India: From the Origins to AD 1300 (Penguin India, 2003), she is the author of numerous academic tomes, including Ancient Indian Social History (Orient Longman, 1979), Interpreting Early India (Oxford University Press, 1994), Asoka and the Decline of the Mauryas (Oxford University Press, 1998), and Cultural Pasts: Essays in Early Indian History (Oxford University Press, 2003). That, of course, does not include the hundreds of articles and academic papers in which she has pioneered both the study of early Indian texts and the integration of archaeology with written sources. Thapar’s academic work is controversial with the Hindutva lobby because it is grounded in professional methods of historical investigation, rather than in the pet historical theories of Hindu extremists relying on extrapolation from Sanskrit texts. The disagreement may appear academic in nature but the controversy around her appointment speaks to a larger cultural project being advanced under the guise of anti-communism. While it is true that Thapar makes use of some Marxist categories of historiography, unremarkable in itself given the strong Marxist tradition in professional Indian history writing, her opponents’ objections are essentially political rather than academic. Thapar’s documentation of early Indian life is at odds with Hindutva preference, grounded in a regressive Hindu orthodoxy, of seeing India as a purely Hindu civilisation, the political implications of which for contemporary India being obvious. A letter of protest against the rabid petition sent to the Library of Congress puts the facts straight. “Since the 1960s”, it states, “Professor Thapar has written powerfully against the colonial stereotypes that India had no past, no sense of time, and no historical consciousness. The petitioners attribute to her precisely those ideas that she has spent a lifetime battling against”. The letter also comments on the reasons why so many petitioners experience discomfort with the way Professor Thapar and many other professional scholars view Indian history. According to the correspondents:
INDENT Professor Thapar’s conception of Indian past is different from that of the petitioners. Professor Thapar has looked at a variety of cultural traditions in the making of ancient India. To the petitioners Indian past is monolithic, unified and unmistakably only Hindu. Those who disagree with this notion are accused of committing cultural genocide.
The fact is that Romila Thapar has been pointing out for more than three decades that the historical theories expounded by the Hindutva club are a jump backwards to the assumptions of 19th century colonial history. (See Thapar’s Communalism and the Writing of Ancient Indian History, Popular Prakashan, 1969.) In February 2003, in delivering the Athar Ali Memorial Lecture at Aligarh Muslim University, she elaborated on this theme again:
INDENT: 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 civilisation, Muslim civilisation and the British period. These were accepted largely without question and we have lived with this periodisation for almost two hundred years. ... Mill argued that the Hindu civilisation 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.
Hindutva McCarthyism: In a December 2001 article in Mainstream under the title ‘Communalising Education’, JNU historians Mridula Mukherjee and Aditya Mukherjee discuss the politics of history as seen in the ironies inherent in the ongoing history textbook controversy. “Paradoxically, the present regime is imitating Pakistan which made a similar move in the 1970s of keeping history out of a particular level and then prescribing a distorted, one sided version at the senior level”, they write. “Regimes uncomfortable with history or with an agenda which is narrow, sectarian and undemocratic often seek to suppress or distort history”. This is not for the first time that Thapar has come under attack by the Hindutva brigade, nor is she the only scholar to suffer its abuses. With the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) assumption of power at the centre in 1998 and its ongoing attempts to remake the educational curriculum in its own chauvinistic image gaining momentum, intellectuals and academic positions at odds with the Sangh Parivar’s view of history have come under attack under various pretexts. The BJP has pursued a concerted effort to malign and delegitimise scholars and intellectuals at odds with its view of India’s past. After the stalling of the Indian Council of Historical Research-sponsored ‘Towards Freedom’ project edited by professors Sumit Sarkar of University of Delhi (DU) and KN Panikkar of JNU, the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) went all-out to weed out the influence of, in the words of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief KS Sudarshan, “anti-Hindu Euro-Indians” from the curriculum. In 2001, when the moves by NCERT were underway to delete passages from school textbooks that allegedly ‘hurt’ the sentiments of this religious sect or the other, a delegation of Arya Samajis met Murli Manohar Joshi, the human resource development minister, and demanded that Thapar, along with historians RS Sharma of DU and Arjun Dev of NCERT, be arrested. Not to be outdone, Joshi has also reiterated time and again his pet thesis that ‘academic terrorists’ are more dangerous than armed ones.
While the vilification campaign against Romila Thapar will have no impact on her Library of Congress appointment, it is evidence that the Hindutva campaign to falsify history has reached new heights. The letter of protest sent by scholars and intellectuals supporting Thapar rightly concludes:
INDENT This is a not just a shocking intolerance of perceptual differences. It is a politics that seeks to silence critique, and battles for a notion of the past that is homogeneously Hindu. It is part of a wider attack that we are witnessing in India today against intellectual and artistic freedom, and against cultural plurality. In a political milieu where dissent is being regularly repressed through intimidation, this petition against Professor Thapar and the hate mails that accompany it, become particular cause of concern.
In a 13 May Rediff.com column, the Indian political commentator Praful Bidwai argues that “The campaign represents the rebirth of McCarthyism…” Bidwai’s reference to McCarthyism is fitting – the Wisconsin conservative denigrated his political and ideological opponents by drawing on a deep-seated religious suspicion of left-wing ideologies, and advanced a powerful, dangerous cocktail of American nationalism grounded in so-called Christian values and unquestioning support for the nation and its political institutions.
The matrix of political conditions in 1950s America and present-day India (and the outlook of many in the Indian diaspora) is similar. Hindu nationalists, both in India and abroad, are sensitive to India’s position in the world and see themselves as fierce defenders of the Indian nation against ‘dangerous’ elements, typically constructed as Muslim and also at times as communist/Marxist. McCarthyism and the anti-Thapar campaign are both built on a populist politics of denunciation, of collecting a supposedly monolithic people against a hostile force. In 1954, in a move strikingly similar to the history book shenanigans in India today, the US Congress inserted two words into the ‘Pledge of Allegiance’ recited every morning by American schoolchildren – “…one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all”, so that the pledge would differ from similar statements of loyalty in the Soviet Union that express no divine connection. The insertion in the US pledge is mild in comparison to the broader ideological project of Hindutva, but it rests on a similar assumption, that religion can be used to buttress state-inspired formation of identity. Unlike many of McCarthy’s targets, Thapar will not fall victim to the ongoing assault. Tragically, though, the ambitious designs of the Hindutva brigade are already being realised in part throughout India. REFERENCE: Analysis Hating Romila Thapar June 2003 BY Subhash Gatade http://www.himalmag.com/component/content/article/1827-Hating-Romila-Thapar.html
Changing Interpretations of Indian History - Romila Thapar
OPINION: Creationism By Any Other Name… Hindu Americans have a legitimate right to a fair and culturally sensitive representation in public school curricula. However, no one has a right to distort the truth and push their own political agendas at the expense of American school children. ROMILA THAPAR, MICHAEL WITZEL FEB 28, 2006 http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?230381 "Delhi Historians Group's Publication "Communalization of Education: The History Textbooks Controversy", A report in 2002, New Delhi: Jawaharlal Nehru University, India http://www.friendsofsouthasia.org/textbook/NCERT_Delhi_Historians__Group.pdf
While some of us lament the repetition of history, the men who run India are busy rewriting it. Their efforts, regrettably, will only be bolstered by the landslide victory earlier this month of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the Western India state of Gujarat. The B.J.P. has led this country's coalition government since 1999. But India's Hindu nationalists have long had a quarrel with history. They are unhappy with the notion that the most ancient texts of Hinduism are associated with the arrival of the Vedic ''Aryan'' peoples from the Northwest. They don't like the dates of 1500 to 1000 B.C. ascribed by historians to the advent of the Vedic peoples, the forebears of Hinduism, or the idea that the Indus Valley civilization predates Vedic civilization. And they certainly can't stand the implication that Hinduism, like the other religious traditions of India, evolved through a mingling of cultures and peoples from different lands. Last month the National Council of Educational Research and Training, the central government body that sets the national curriculum and oversees education for students up to the 12th grade, released the first of its new school textbooks for social sciences and history. Teachers and academics protested loudly. The schoolbooks are notable for their elision of many awkward facts, like the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi by a Hindu nationalist in 1948. The authors of the textbook have promised to make revisions to the chapter about Gandhi. But what is more remarkable is how they have added several novel chapters to Indian history.
Thus we have a new civilization, the ''Indus-Saraswati civilization'' in place of the well-known Indus Valley civilization, which is generally agreed to have appeared around 4600 B.C. and to have lasted for about 2,000 years. (The all-important addition of ''Saraswati,'' an ancient river central to Hindu myth, is meant to show that Indus Valley civilization was actually part of Vedic civilization.) We have a chapter on ''Vedic civilization'' -- the earliest recognizable ''Hindu culture'' in India and generally acknowledged not to have appeared before about 1700 B.C. -- that appears without a single date. The council has also promised to test the ''S.Q.,'' or ''Spiritual Quotient,'' of gifted students in addition to their I.Q. Details of this plan are not elaborated upon; the council's National Curriculum Framework for School Education says only that ''a suitable mechanism for locating the talented and the gifted will have to be devised.''
More recent history, of course, is not covered in school textbooks. So we will have to wait to see how such books might treat this month's elections in Gujarat. They were held in the wake of the brutal pogrom of last February and March, in which more than 1,000 Muslims were murdered and at least 100,000 more lost their homes and property. The chief minister of Gujarat, who is among the leading lights of the B.J.P., justified this atrocity as a ''natural reaction'' to an act of arson on a train in the Gujarati town of Godhra, in which 59 Hindu pilgrims lost their lives.
The ruling party's subsequent election campaign was conducted against the rather literal backdrop of the Godhra incident: painted billboards of the burning railway carriage. The murdered Muslims were not accorded the same tragic status, although their pleas for justice created a backlash that played neatly into the campaign theme of Hindu Pride. It was, of course, a great success. The carefully nurtured sense of Hindu grievance has been nursed rather than sated by acts of mob violence: the destruction of the 15th-century mosque in Ayodhya, for instance, or the persecution of Christians in earlier pogroms in Gujarat's Dangs district. The B.J.P., along with its Hindu-supremacist cohorts, the R.S.S. (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) and the V.H.P. (Vishwa Hindu Parishad), has a seemingly irresistible will to power. (The R.S.S. and the V.H.P. are not political parties but ''social service organizations'' that have served as springboards to power for B.J.P. leaders like Narendra Modi, chief minister of Gujarat.)
In vanguard states like Gujarat, thousands of students follow the uncompromisingly chauvinistic R.S.S. textbooks. They will learn that ''Aryan culture is the nucleus of Indian culture, and the Aryans were an indigenous race . . . and creators of the Vedas'' and that ''India itself was the original home of the Aryans.'' They will learn that Indian Christians and Muslims are ''foreigners.'' But they still have much to learn. I once visited the bookshop at the R.S.S. headquarters in Nagpur. On sale were books that show humankind originated in the upper reaches of that mythical Indian river, the Saraswati, and pamphlets that explain the mysterious Indus Valley seals, with their indecipherable Harrapan script: they are of Vedic origin.
After I visited the bookshop I stopped to talk to a group of young boys who live together in an R.S.S. hostel. They were a sweet bunch of kids, between 8 and 11 years old. They all wanted to grow up to be either doctors or pilots. Very good, I said. And what did they learn in school? Did they learn about religion? About Hinduism, Christianity? They were silent for a few seconds -- until their teacher nodded. A bespectacled kid spoke up. ''Christians burst into houses and make converts of Hindus by bribing them or beating them.'' He said it without malice, just a breathless eagerness, as if it were something he had learned in social science class. Perhaps it was. Hijacking India's History By Kai Friese Published: December 30, 2002 http://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/30/opinion/30FRIE.html