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Historical Revisionism, as a concept, is based on a practice of distortion of the historical record. To suit future pursuits, sometimes radical, idealistic political groups try to change history to suit their ideological needs. In the leftist vs. rightist struggles of idealism, both sects have tried to showcase history in a manner that helps them. As a theory, it was first propounded by James McPherson –

History is a continuing dialogue, between the present and the past. Interpretations of the past are subject to change in response to new evidence, new questions asked of the evidence, new perspectives gained by the passage of time. There is no single, eternal, and immutable “truth” about past events and their meaning. [1]

Revisionism believes that the social concept of any past event relies on its current social correlation. How people view, that event will decide its relevance, magnanimity and its positive or negative connotation. If the current social ideology of any past event is changed, then the perception of that event for the present and future generations changes, ultimately changing the event, as history as a study only works on perceptions. One of the biggest examples is the attempt to deny the Holocaust, which started from a Marco Polo article in 1995. [2] Works of Alfred Cobban and François Furet also suggest the practice to exist for the French Revolution.

Now, India is seeing symptoms and signs of the same practice, which is very dangerous and must be countered. The starting tip of the iceberg, when spotted, must be avoided. India has also seen, in recent times, a saffronisation of history, to focus more on the Hindu achievements and glorification and put non-Hindu, especially Muslim history as a non-influential part of our cultural establishment over the years.

A few weeks back, everyone was gazing eyes upon an Uttar Pradesh Tourism Brochure, the likes of which were never seen before. It soon became clear why this brochure was getting so popular so quickly.

Well, we all know which brochure it was. The brochure that did not promote Taj Mahal, probably the most tourist attracting monument in the entire country, as a tourist spot. A huge mausoleum of pure white marble, in Agra, was named by UNESCO, for real, as a World Heritage Centre. But, the same level of respect was not shown by our own country for the exceptional wonder of this world. Instead, the brochure promoted tourists to visit Hindu attractions like the riverside Ghats of Varanasi and the famous temples of Mathura.

One wonders why it is so. The state is under the leadership of Yogi Adityanath, of the BJP. Known to be a strict follower of the “One Nation, One Culture” theory, Yogi is very fond of the strong and radical Hindu groups and not so fond of the Islamic religion, to sugar-quote it. He also believed that the Taj Mahal has nothing to do with the Indian culture”. Other BJP leaders have supported the brochure-omission by saying that Shah Jahan, the creator of the beauty, wanted to wipe out Hindus and thus should not be supported, while others call the monument a symbol of barbarism.

What is even more worry-some is that the conquest to erase Mughal history is not only fixated on tourism brochures. Another such old example is the history textbooks. The Education Board in the State of Maharashtra reduced the entire Mughal history to simply one chapter. The History curriculum now focusses more on the rule of Maharaja Shivaji. This attempt is extremely strong headed as if the students themselves don't learn about the Mughal history, then the entire idea that surrounds the magnanimity of the Mughal Empire does not develop in the future generations.

This was also supported by the entire drive of the RSS to rename roads that were named after Mughal rulers. This rechristening was not only restricted to roads, but also to railway junctions. One of the oldest railway stations, the Mughal Sarai, was renamed after the leader of the Bhartiya Jana Sangh, the forerunner for the present day Bhartiya Janata Party, Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay.

This entire idea of “Hindutva” can be very dangerous for a nation like India, with its multi-religious culture and its rich heritage. The problem is complex, as these anti-secular practices get support from some sections of the majority sect of the religious sphere, i.e., The Hindus. These practices have the power to divide a nation into antagonisms, as it has done at various points in the modern history of India. The Mughal Empire was an important era in the history of our country, which is based on Islamic heritage that is as important to the history of this nation, as Hindu heritage or any other heritage, for that matter. Trying to wipe it out is not just distortion of history but discrediting a lot of achievements of the Empire. 1992 Mumbai riots and 2002 are concrete examples of why religious politics can never result in a peaceful environment.

Difference of opinion on history is considerable but distorting as per ideologies affects the collective conscious of the nation. As we see in the ever-lasting Israel and Palestine issue of ownership of the Gaza Strip or the Aryan race dominance in Germany, historical differences always rip a wave of redemption movements, which will seek to bring back their point of historical view to the table, disputing what we know as fact again. Thus, as a political policy to butter up the radical Hindus, it is not very favorable as such policies soon become obsolete. The dangerous things about these are that revisionism is like a pendulum. It oscillated from one viewpoint to another, only not automatically, but with struggles. Such revisions can also cause an imbalance in the status quo, as it did after World War I.

With such majority groups appealing to a specific cultural group in a democratic setting, it boggles the mind as to whether India is still secular or not?

 

[1] https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/september-2003/revisionist-historians

[2] Masanori Nishioka, “The Greatest Taboo of Post-war World History: There were no Nazi’ Gas Chambers (February 1995)

Photo Credits: https://dailypost.in/news/national/mughal-srai-railway-station-renames-pandit-deen/

 

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Written By Devesh Kapoor

Give power to words. Some have moved the world. Some have inspired others to do so.

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