Home > POLITICS, social > What every Indian must know of BJP’s politics and Hindutva movement .

What every Indian must know of BJP’s politics and Hindutva movement .


Amartya SenOn Inventing The Past (Page number 65 to 68) From the Book ‘The argumentative Indian’ written by Respected Amartya Sen ,Nobel Laureate in economics 1998

Given the priorities of Hindutva ,the rewriting of India’s history tends to favour internal and external isolation,in the form of separating out the celebrations of hindu achievements from non-hindu parts of its past and also from intellectual and cultural developments outside India.But an isolationist programme is particularly difficult to sustain ,given the importance of extensive interactions throughout India’s history ,both internally within the country and externally with the rest of the world.Thus,the isolationist perspective runs into severe conflicts with many well-known aspects of India’s history.

The problem starts with the account of the very begining of India’s history.The ‘Indus Valley Civilization’ dating from the third millennium BCE,flourished well before the timing of the earliest Hindu literature,The Vedas,which are typically dated in the middle of the second millennium BCE.

There is obvious material here for national or civilizational pride of Indians.But this poses an immediate problem for the Hindutva view of India’s history,since an ancient civilization that is clearly pre Sanskrit and pre Hindu deeply weakens the possibility of seeing Indian history in pre-eminently and constitutively Hindu terms.

Furthermore,there is a second challenge associated with India’s ancient past,which relates to the arrival of Indo-Europeans(Aryans) from the West,most likely in the second millennium BCE,riding horses(unknown in the Indus valley civilization),and speaking a variant of early Sanskrit(the Vedic Sanskrit as it is now called).The Hindutva view of history ,which traces the origin of Indian civilization to the Vedas has,therefore double ‘difficulty’of (1)having to accept the foundational basis of Hindu culture came originally from outside India; and (2)being unable to place Hinduism at the begining of Indian cultural history and its urban heritage.

The hindutva enthusiasts have also been great champions of so called ‘Vedic mathematics’ and ‘Vedic sciences’,allegedly developed in splendid isolation in exceedingly ancient India.As it happens ,despite the richness of the Vedas in many other respects,there is no sophisticated mathematics in them nor anything that can be called rigorous science.There was however ,much of both in india in the first millennium CE.These contributions were early enough in history of mathematics and science to demand respectful attention ,but the BJP-created proposed history textbooks tried ,with little reason and even less evidence,to place the origin of some of these contributions in the much earlier ,Vedic period.

Thus in Hindutva theory ,much hangs on the genesis of the Vedas.In particular :who composed them(it would be best for Hindutva theory if they were native Indians ,settled in India for thousands of years,rather than Indo-Europeans coming from abroad)?Were they composed later than the Indus valley civilization (it would be best if they were not later ,in sharp contrast with the accepted knowledge)?How ancient were the alleged Vedic sciences and mathematics (could they not be earlier than Greek and Babylonian contributions,putting Hindu India ahead of them)?There were therefore,attempts by the hindutva champions to rewrite Indian history in such a way that these disparate difficulties are simultaneously removed through the simple device of ‘making’ the Sanskrit speaking composers of Vedas also the same very people who created the Indus valley civilization!

The  Indus valley civilization was accordingly renamed ‘The Indus Saraswati  civilization’,in honour of a non observable river called the saraswati which is referred to in the Vedas.The intellectual origins of Hindu philosphy as well as of the concoted Vedic Sciences and Vedic mathematics are thus put solidly into third millennium BCE,if not earlier.Indian school children were then made to read about this highly theoretical ‘The Indus Saraswati  civilization’ in their new history textbooks ,making Hindu culture  and Hindu sciences more ancient ,more urban ,more indigenous,and more comfortably omnipresent throughout India’s civilizational history.

The problem with this account is,of course ,its obvious falsity going against all the available evidence based on archaeology and literature.To meet that difficulty ,’new’ archaeological evidence had to be marshalled.This was done  or claimed to be done in a much publicized book by Natwar Jha and N.S.Rajaram called The Deciphered Indus Script ,published in 2000.The authors claim that they have deciphered the as yet undeciphered script used in the Indus valley which they attribute to mid fourth millennium BCE stretching the ‘history’ unilaterally back by further thousand years or so.They also claim that the tablets found there refer to Rigveda’s Saraswati river.Furthermore ,they produced a picture of a terracota seal with a horse on it ,which was meant to be further proof of the Vedas and aryan -identity of the Indus civilization,whereas the Indus remains have plenty of bulls but -so it was hitherto though -no horses.

The alleged discovery and decipherment led to a vigorous debate about the claims and the upshot was the demonstration that there was in fact ,no decipherment whatever and that the horse seal is the result of a simple fraud based on a computerized distortion of a broken seal of a unicorn bull ,which was known earlier.The alleged horse seal was a distinct product of which has to go to the Hindutva activists .The definitive demonstration of the fraud came from Michael Witzel ,professor of Sanskrit at Harvard University ,in a joint esaay with Steve Farmer.The demonstration did not ,however,end references in official school text books to ‘terracota figurines; of horses in the ‘Indus Saraswati  civilization’.

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