Mythologizing the Past: A Strategy to Make the People Uncritical - Rajan Gurukkal
Mythologized history combined with the anti-Muslim attitude and upper caste prejudices constitute the ideology of the characteristically aggrandising Hindu nationalism. The Brahmin and other landed upper castes believe that their status and power had suffered under the Muslim rulers who plundered temples, killed the Hindu kings, led their queens to the pyre and destroyed the glorious Hindu civilisation of great sages. This ideology, nurtured by them as the basis of Hindu nationalism, had come up steadily as ‘backdoor nationalism’ from the days of the Freedom Struggle to the present (Bipan Chandra, 2008). Since majority of the educated upper caste Hindus of postcolonial India were influenced by the Nehruvian, socialist, secular, rationalist, inclusive nationalism of modernity, there were lesser opportunities for the orthodox and casteist communal Hindu groups to carry forward their ideological agenda beyond a point.
Nevertheless, these groups, relatively insignificant, sustained themselves through distorted history, religious intolerance and communal riots. They acquired greater following and state power under the aegis of the political economy of the onset of capitalist globalisation in the late 1980s when the IMF, World Bank and WTO had begun to impose neo-liberalism heavily. Subsequently the entailing widespread corruption and the nasty tradeoff in the regional party-politics, which grew rampant under the Congress gave the Hindu communalists a chance again to wield state power towards the end of 1990s. Now the Hindutva groups are again in power ending the grossly corrupt crony capitalist reign of the Congress, and many of the new generation upper caste youth with communal and caste sentiments kindled under grievances against the national policy of educational and employment reservations for the subaltern castes and women, are dallying with temptations around the power. Whenever, the Hindu communal groups wielded the state power, communalisation of history by the RSS had become a national programme of top priority.
Hindu communalists who include several scientists, technologists, Sanskrit scholars, archaeologists, historians and others even today sincerely believe in the glorious past of India distinct for the rare systems of knowledge generated and spiritually endowed by great sages of supernatural or extra sensory powers. The rare legacy of this glorious Hindu civilisation is firmly believed to have been singled down to destruction by the Mohammedan invasion earlier and to vitiation of its cultural heritage by the British conquest and Christianisation later. In recent times several non-resident Indian academics moved by factoids have taken on mythologizing the country’s past as part of their de-colonisation enterprise. Many rich immigrants with lot of finance capital are running huge research projects for retrieving Hindu Civilization out of the Mohammedan ruination and the colonial vitiation.
There are two types, the old and new, among the Hindutva enthusiasts. Arguments of the old Hindu communalists are widely known for their straightforward antagonism towards the Mohammedans. Different from the orthodox scholars of bizarre notions about the country’s past Hindu culture, the neo-Hindutva type are modern and hence pseudo-scientific in their explanations of the bizarre. They argue that the non-Western cultures, particularly the south Asian, which differ from the characterisation prevalent in the West whose cultural identity is founded on the Christian religion, necessitate an analysis of the ‘how’ of the construction of religions and cultural differences in India. They feel the need for a thorough re-doing of the intellectual and social history of South Asia, in order to demonstrate as to how it was shaped without having a hegemonic explanatory account of the Cosmos decisive, becomes obligatory. This is indeed a good idea, but why are they not doing it? Ultimately both the types serve the same purpose of communalisation of the people by mythologizing and mystifying their past.
The Neo-Hindutva scholars do not have the linguistic competency to do their project, for most of them are academics not initiated in Sanskrit or historiography. Many are technologists and industrialists. They debunk history and historians’ craft as what the colonised uncritically accepted from the West and passed on to their progenies who could only perpetuate Eurocentrism. According to the neo-Hindutva enthusiasts what Indians need is their cultural past that Rāmāyaṇa, Mahābhārata and Purāṇa-s contain, i.e., the past ‘as existed or exists in reality for the natives of India’ (S.N. Balagangadhara, 2005 & 2012). The institutions like the varṇa, jāti, sati, and stridhana are allegedly constructs by historians of Western consciousness, who distort the Hindu past as the way Western people experienced Indian culture, which they argue, speaks ‘more about the Western civilisation than the native Indian civilisation.’ The neo-Hindutva enthusiasts say that the true history of India is what the epics and Purana-s contain, access to which is being denied to the people due to the European and Marxist misrepresentations of the country’s sacred texts like Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata besides the traditional chronicles like the Purāṇa-s. Alas ! It appears that jāti, sati and all kinds of other institutions of Hinduism, exposed by historians and social scientists atrocious, are in his presumption integral to intrinsic human values of Indian culture (R.Gurukkal, 2014). Compared to the ways and means of the orthodox scholars who had believed in what they preached, the strategies of neo-Hindutva scholars are pretentiously academic and sophisticated in their mythologizing of the Indian past. They hardly believe in what they seek to academically argue out. Not trained in historiography and least acquainted with the traditional texts unlike the orthodox scholars, ultimately they go by mythological accounts and factoids, but very cleverly.
Unable to take up the real academic challenge behind their grand project, the neo-Hindutva scholars end up with argumentation without any substance. They should have acquired scholarship to comprehend the contextual relationship between the past texts and the nature of their historical, cultural consciousness. A detailed treatment of the embedded tradition represented by the fragmentary narratives from the Vedas, the Mahābhārata and Rāmāyana is necessary, for which they have no technical competence. It requires analysis of the emerging past consciousness as exemplified by genealogies in the making of a historical tradition in the Purana-s. Then one has to ascertain the historical sense in the texts, alternative histories as exemplified by the Buddhist tradition and the externalization of the historical tradition as exemplified by biographies like the Harshacarita and the Rāmacarita. Uninitiated in historical methodology and unable to access the original texts, they escape from substantiating the thesis through a demonstration of how ancient Indian intellectual formation and cultural context are distinct.
Romila Thapar is the only scholar who has done a deeper analysis of all this, but the neo-Hindutva academics have not cared for reading her study of the historical consciousness and its expressions reflected in the texts of early northern India (R.Thapar, 2013). Instead they seem to recommend the Rāmāyaṇa, Mahābhārata and Purāṇa-s as true history, despite their being composed over a long period of time by multiple authors. They do not know that there are multiple versions of Rāmāyaṇa belonging to disparate periods. There is the Buddhist version called Daśaratha Jātaka and the Jain version called Paumachariyam. These versions contradict the Valmiki version of Rāmāyaṇa. Which version is to be treated as genuine history? Similarly Mahābhārata took several centuries to evolve itself into its present state. Its earliest form was Jaya consisting of some twelve thousand couplets. The next form namely, Vijaya was an expanded version. Then it became Bhārata and finally Mahābhārata. Which form is to be considered the true version of history – a part or the whole?
How do we determine the date of events in the multiple forms ? Purāṇa-s are many and of widely separated periods between second century and eighteenth century. There are a few Purāṇa-s belonging even to recent times. How do we decide the date and sequence of events in these multiple Purāṇa-s? Which of the Purāṇa-s is to be treated as history? These are not problems for the Hindutva enthusiasts, for they do not know such details of these texts that they equate to history. If a knowledgeable historian points out such problems and speak about the plurality of textual versions and their widely separated periods the Hindutva scholars would accuse the person of being Western or Marxist. That the Buddhist Daśaratha Jātaka and the Jain Paumachariyam contradict the Valmiki Rāmāyaṇa or that certain parts of the Mahābhārata seen in Jātaka-s contradict with the Brahmanical version, is not just a Western misinterpretation or Marxist erasing of continuity and originality of India’s past (R.Thapar, 2013). So do the contradictions appearing in the inscriptional texts. Similarly the fact that we cannot pinpoint any one of the Purāṇa-s as authentic is not the fallout of the Leftist conspiracy. Accessing of history beyond such texts through inter-textual analysis is a universally accepted procedure in the case of literary sources. It is evident from the efforts even by Sanskrit scholars and text based historians to support mythologizing history that they are ignorant of the scientific techniques of analysing texts. Least bothered about the text in terms of its variants, they do not require methods to confirm the historicity, and imply that both historicity and history are irrelevant to them. Hardly do they seem to feel the need to think about the audience, the purpose and the patronage of the text in the past at the different stages of its composition.
Instead of methodologically updating themselves, the neo-Hindutva scholars re-assert the need for retrieving the Indians from their colonial consciousness by decolonising them with postcolonial theoretical insights. Their concern is more about rejuvenating postcolonial ways of representing the West rather than how one could evolve an alternative understanding of the East. How a comparative science of cultures can be conceived of has been their main question because for them a culture is the way a particular social group generates a process of learning to learn (meta- learning). They maintain that meta-learning dominates and crystallize to structure its way of going about understanding the world (R.Gurukkal, 2014). By way of self-justification for being evasive about the task all by themselves, they say that their allocated job (providential ?) is only preparing the ground for building up a huge mansion of alternative social sciences, which is not a job, that a few books or one generation of scholars can accomplish. Their project of mobilising a big team across continents and organizing a big consortium of European and Indian Universities for re-thinking Asian culture is part of this groundwork. Nonetheless, shouldn’t their disciples be shown a sample output of the so called radical mode of re-thinking that they have been preaching?
There is nothing strikingly fresh about the decolonising perspective with which the neoHindutva academics are obsessed. Like colonisation, decolonisation also came from the West. Michel Foucault tried to do its archaeology and genealogy of the knowledge production and its organisation and classification, which was the major source for Edward Said’s discursive processes of how the West went to terms with the East by constituting the latter its opposite. Dismissing such studies replete with jargons, the neo-Hindutva academics express the central problems of modern India studies and potential direction for the socialscientific study of the Indian culture, their central concern. Debunking history and social sciences as mere theological reflection, what is this social scientific study that they propose? They are entrapped in Hussurlian double bind with an antithesis of the West formulated in European positivist ideography, just as post-structuralists sought the language of structuralism to capsize it. On the one side stressing the need for an alternative understanding of the Western culture and blaming it a reflection of Protestant theology, yearning for a social scientific study on the other, is a trap. It is a pity that the radical decolonising agents have not only to try and construct knowledge against the West in the western positivist empirical methodology and articulate it in the knowledge-language of the West but also as construed by the West. This would mean that colonial consciousness is the political unconscious of their writings. Why blame other Indians allegedly promoting the same old colonial ideas and lacking original framework, when the neo-Hindutva scholars themselves have no framework of comprehension other than the colonial. They say exactly as the coloniser accused long ago that the ‘native Indian’ knows no Indian view of India. What is this so called Indian view of India ? That is what the neo-Hindutva scholars see articulated in the epics and Purāṇa-s. They think that these texts help us formulate alternative definitions of culture, colonialism, secularism, and orientalism.
There is a striking self-contradiction in the arguments of neo-Hindutva scholars. They argue that their mythologizing of India’s past is scientific. In fact, according to them it is science itself. Interestingly, the main defect of the Western way of understanding the world, according to the neo-Hindutva philosopher is that it is unscientific! (S.N. Balagangadhara, 2012). Is not Newton’s Principia scientific? Though it was called Natural Philosophy during his times, we know that in 19th century when the term science began to be applied exclusively to the type of knowledge that Principia embodied.
The neo-Hindutva philosopher would call it unscientific because of a reflection of the Christian theology in it. Least reflexive about the historical constitution of science, the philosopher goes self-contradictory in his celebration and promotion of pseudo-science as science. The neo-Hindutva philosopher is a victim of internalising the Western cognitive mode, logical structure, constitutional texture and communicative strategy of knowledge in science final. Not only the West and the colonised, but all including himself (now in the state of ‘enlightenment’) are subsumed by it.1 How this Hindutva mission to make the ‘alternative science of culture’ scientific goes well with the equation of Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata to history or celebrating of jāti (not caste), sati and all kinds of other institutions of Hinduism as integral to intrinsic human values of Indian culture, is the problem. This is a self-contradictory position of equating science with epics. Is this way the colonised getting out of the historically given influence of colonial consciousness? Several historians and social scientists, allegedly of ‘colonial consciousness,’ are at least aware of the epistemic injustice involved in the imposition of science as the only universally valid truth. This would mean that it was the so called ‘colonial consciousness’ that empowered them to discover the imperialist substratum of science.
The neo-Hindutva philosopher should try and understand how historians of India have sought to wrench themselves away from the shackles of colonial historiography. They know that the current definition of what constitutes history is based on European understanding of its own past, which has been considerably enlarged in recent times, with the enlightenment emphasizing the notion of progress, and Marx and Weber seeking fundamental laws governing historical forms. Although not altogether free of Western presumptions, Indian historiography had a course of development through Nationalist reactions against the imperial views. Indian historians of modern times have shown a sense of history in conformity with how history is defined in modern times. In the sense that the history of every age has been representation of contemporary consciousness, they had asked much before this neoHindutva philosopher’s articulation of the thesis of ‘colonial consciousness,’ as to how come that the colonial European sense of history, which was contemporary consciousness too, could set the universal normative (R.Gurukkal, 2014). Are we justified in judging the historicity of early writing in the light of the criteria of what we define as history, which are impermanent too ? Just because the various texts of the past do not match the contemporary genre called history, can we, succumbing to the Western prejudice, continue to deny the existence of past consciousness, with the implicit presumption that there is no historical sense other than the contemporary sense of history ? Since historical consciousness has been taking different forms from time to time how could any particular form be superior? Could we insist that the status of history in a past text to be what one would construe today? 1 [On 7 July 2014, he declared himself ‘enlightened,’ a clear indication of the creation of a charismatic aura for constituting his following with the status of a cult.]
The neo-Hindutva philosophers should study forms, features, structure, constitution and dynamic of traditional Indian knowledge in the perspective of historical epistemology. It, then would really enlighten them about the fact that ‘every society sees its past in a particular way, which it may refer to as history or not, but which is relevant to understanding that society’(R.Thapar, 2013). There is no epistemological discontinuity between the Indian and the Western in several fields of knowledge like astronomy, mathematics and linguistics. Epistemological principles such as rationality, objectivity, verifiability, proof and notion of truth in the enterprise of knowledge production made no difference between the East and West. Epistemological properties like premises, inferential logic, nature of evidence, and concept of truth about traditional Indian knowledge, with a view to understanding the historical trajectory of the advancement of knowledge, the historical development of knowledge in traditional India, in terms of epistemic concepts like objectivity, rationality, methodology, and fundamental concepts that organize knowledge systems of different historical periods. It was hard work, sustained engagement, genuine curiosity and critical inquiry as in the case of the intellectual anywhere in the world, which enabled early Indian scholars to generate deeper knowledge. Why mystify them as sages of supernatural powers and extrasensory perception when some of them at least make their methodology explicit?
Several Hindutva archaeologists and historians tacitly over-defensive of the BJP rule criticise the rational historians and social scientists engaged in resisting the move towards mythologizing and mystifying the country’s unpleasant social truth about the past as well as the present. They are branded as Leftists and Marxists hypocritically claiming scientific outlook and moral high ground to cry-wolf the issue of spreading false consciousness among people through distorted history. The Hindutva lobby accuse them of dominating historical bodies like the Indian Council of Historical Research, the Indian History Congress etc., turning them into arenas of political and financial manipulation, imposing the blinkered view of history on the discipline, deliberately sidelining, discriminating, ostracizing and depriving the critics of professional opportunities since the 1970s (R.Gurukkal, 2016). One would immediately feel like asking what prevented them from rectifying all this when they were in power during 1998-2004. Anyway, such trifling remarks in frustration deserve no reply, but those with academic criticisms, ostensible though, have to be answered, for they try and debunk critical scholarship in historiography.
One thing that the assailants make clear through accusations is their hostility to the Leftists in general and Marxists in particular. But they seem to be failing to identify their enemies, for they think any historian critical of the BJP Government could be either a Marxist or a Leftist. It appears from the allegations that any historian of rational approach distinguishing history from myths and factoids is their enemy too. Their main irritant to them in rational historiography is its critical explanatory method free of narrow sentiments and pride. A widely accepted fact that distinguishes rational history from the sentimental is its intellectual depth and theoretical preoccupation. A fact of wide acceptance about history is its inseparability from theory that enables a historian to make the invisible, visible and the inaudible, audible. Theory is indispensable for a historian to sensibly piece together, manage the bewilderingly complex old time data and draw critical insights into them. It is widely known that historical materialism is the only comprehensive theory available for interpreting the past social processes, relations and structures. How can historians afford to be abstaining from theory and remaining ignorant of historical materialism? Nevertheless, for both communalists and liberalists who are largely idealists of low level analytical sensibility, Marxism is a blinkered view, biased and reductionist. Accusing the other of bias is largely due to the ignorance about the biased self. Reductionism is not the theory’s problem but that of the approach, for in serious Marxist historiography one sees interpretations, strikingly differing from one another. Where is the question of blinkered view in a framework of comprehension that allows hypothetico-deductive investigation? What the Hindutva historians’ prejudice denotes is distaste for theory, the secret of sustained obsolescence from which their ignorant criticisms emanate.
Their academic criticisms against the ‘Left’ historians are in the form of allegations such as the reductionist approach to history, erasure of India’s knowledge systems, denial of the continuity and originality of India’s Hindu-Buddhist-Jain-Sikh culture, refusal to acknowledge the well-documented the brutality of many Muslim rulers, neglect of tribal histories, biased use of sources, neglect of scientific data from palaeo-environmental to genetic studies, absence of professional ethics, pernicious imposition of legislated history, and promotion of contempt for cultural heritage. The allegation that the Marxist historiography is tainted by ‘a reductionist approach viewing the evolution of Indian society almost entirely through the prism of the caste system, emphasizing its mechanisms of exclusion while neglecting those of integration without which Indian society would have disintegrated long ago,’ exposes ignorance about Marx’s theory of social change, in which ‘class’ has precedence over ‘caste.’ Marxist historiography stresses on the function of caste as part of the fetters of productive relations, and systematically unveils the secret of integration. It does not neglect at all the role that caste played in enduring the contradictory structure of the Indian society by containing class struggle. It is surprising that they take pride about caste without which the Indian society ‘would have disintegrated long ago’ (R.Gurukkal, 2016)
Who has erased India’s knowledge systems – those Leftists/Marxists who tried to show that serious knowledge systems of traditional India had adhered to epistemic principles such as rationality, objectivity, verifiability, and notion of truth in their production or those philologists who tried to mystify the origins of knowledge system by assigning them to extrasensory abilities and super-natural powers of sages ? It is in the writings of the former, not exhaustively though, that we see critical inquiries unravelling the logical procedures behind the knowledge systems of early India (D. Chattopadhyaya, 1977, 1986, 1991, 1996). What the accusers consider as erasure is the academic exercise in humanising the past knowledge systems by looking for the epistemic universals behind their production and on the basis of which characterising some of them axiomatic and some others scientific due to insistence of proof.
The allegation of the Leftist ‘denial of the continuityThe allegation of the Leftist ‘denial of the continuity and originality of India’s Hindu-Buddhist-Jain-Sikh culture, ignoring the work of generations of Indian and Western Indologists’ is based on methodological ignorance. What they mean by ‘continuity and originality’ has to be examined against the source texts concerned and the methodological devices for using them for historical understanding. It is in total ignorance of all this they accuse the Leftists of the denial of the continuity and originality of India’s Hindu-BuddhistJain-Sikh culture, and ignoring the work of generations of Indian and Western Indologists.’ Allegations about the biased use of sources and promotion of contempt for cultural heritage actually stem from this basic methodological obsolescence. In fact, who stops them from historicising the Hindu identity, rationality, progressiveness and legitimacy scientifically? Instead of making an idealistic call from the pulpit for ‘an unbiased and rigorous new historiography of India,’ why are they not going ahead with their long-cherished project of re-writing India’s past. Why cry about the Leftists’ neglect of advanced Indological researches in the last few decades, rather than taking on them all by themselves? If the socalled archaeologists have developed alternative perspectives after considerable research, the scholarly world would have accepted them. Why blame the Leftists to have sidelined them rather than looking into what failed them in securing scholarly recognition?
The Marxist and Leftist historians are alleged to have refused to accept the welldocumented brutality of many Muslim rulers, empirical studies exposing their wartime plunders and religious attacks. Indeed such predatory campaigns were brutal and the historians, who sought to expose the hollowness of communal interpretations, had to be in a historiographical struggle for the cause of secularism. This was not to hush up the events of brutality but to unveil the actual historical context for checking the historiographically contingent communalism that unleashes acts of vengeance upon the present day population that has nothing to do with the past events. The neo-Hindutva historians accuse the Marxist historians to have neglected the tribal history. We owe the relative neglect of tribal histories to various factors including the lack of data and promotion of methodological sophistication for writing the history of the people without history (B. Misztal, 2003; E.Wolf, 2010). I do not think that the Leftists can be singled down as responsible for it in any way, for the major part of the work already done goes not to the credit of Hindutva scholars (K.S. Singh, 1985; B.B. Chaudhurri & A. Bandopadhyay, 2004; and Sanal Mohan, 2015). Anyhow, has anyone among the accusers studied ‘India’s tribal communities and their rich belief systems and heritage? Who has studied the tribal cultures to enable the sweeping generalization that they have many things in common with the Hindu religion? Let us not talk about the neglect of scientific data, since the serious readership know how regional archaeo-metallurgical studies are labeled as Indian with nothing Indian about. It is explicit why the casteist and communal historians are interested in genetic studies today.
All that is discussed so far, which underscores methodological preoccupation, exposes the Hindutva historians’ total lack of professional ethics. It is largely due to their ignorance in social scientific methodology that they tend to denigrate those who use it for writing early Indian history, because it questions the Hindu communal distortion. They seem to be unaware of the process of the existing knowledge undergoing improvement or even replacement by new knowledge that is increasingly analytical, self-reflexive and critical. In fact, a high degree of reflexivity is inevitable for those indulging in the study of early Indian history. It is essential for them to be preoccupied in methodology, without which their knowledge base goes obsolete and criticisms become exhibits of ignorance.
Purpose of Mythologising
The primary goal of mythologizing the past is the cultural preparation the people into an uncritical public. People exposed to rational knowledge are normally inspired by the deeper dimension of it that has a radical critical stance based on the fire of social justice. Ethical postulates are integral to deeper knowledge that is inherently subversive and critical, for it unveils the hidden unjust practices in human affairs and social processes (B. Latour and C. Poter, 2004; P. Freire, 2005). In the process of acquisition of rational knowledge one experiences this subversive dynamic and develops critical consciousness. Critical consciousness, the most vital attribute of quality learning, may vary between the liberal pragmatic and the radical critical theoretical type (M. Horton, 2003, S.D. Brookfield, 2005). Of all critical stances, critical theory based criticism ranks foremost, for it is raised right against the dominant socio-economic and politico-cultural power that the state embodies. People with this radical level of critical consciousness are emboldened to speak truth to power.
Our education is divested of its critical quality by historically contingent social structural devices which thinkers have theorised differently. What the dominant economy (Technocapitalism popularly called knowledge economy) needs is a well disciplined, workaholic and apolitical youth trained in various skills. Whatever education that produces this robotic youth is quality education or innovative education to it. As a result, critical consciousness is almost alien to our pedagogy at all levels. One is supposed to be acquiring critical consciousness in the process of higher education; but it hardly happens today. Even the critical attitude of a liberal pragmatic kind, which spontaneously comes up in any educated citizen of democratic values, passions and ethical postulates, is uncommon today.
In the capitalist world the critical dimension of knowledge is not easily available to all because of its being incessantly diffused and strategically distracted. Knowledge production is an alienated and highly encumbered activity, inevitably under the systemic control of capitalism. There is a strong, built-in system for depoliticizing the students through the process of acquisition of knowledge. Spread of the myth that knowledge is invariably neutral is the basic strategy. Delinking of knowledge with social reality is another strategy. Yet another strategy is the conversion of knowledge itself as part of the rhetoric and ideology of capitalism. They draw blank about the social use or consequences of it. They become neutral, self-centred, apolitical and least perturbed by social consequences if any. Subsequently they constitute the larger public of conformity, totally bereft of critical thinking.
Karl Marx called the process as ideological control of the emerging critical impulses. Michel Foucault named the phenomenon as discursive control and Pierre Bourdieu identified it as habitus. In neo-Marxist social theory this process is known as autopoiesis (N. Luhmann, 1990; I. Livingston, 2006). It operates in myriads of ways through the entire people, relations, institutions, practices, ideas and spaces. Knowledge is a very crucial object of autopoietic control and hence its production as well as transmission would not escape the influence of autopoiesis. Naturally education, one of the most powerful social institutions, is inevitably a major channel of operation for autopoietic power. Its main function is containment of antithetical elements in the capitalist socio-economic system involving dehumanising processes and relations, which could otherwise cause upsurges. Autopoietic strategies of containment would act as a safety valve averting systemic overturns.
Nevertheless, it is a significant need of capitalism to transform the general public without any exposure to higher education into an apolitical and uncritical mass. It is mainly for this purpose that the corporate houses make an alliance with the Hindu communalists aspiring to be de facto actors in the aggrandising national state power. The Hindutva middleclass lobby is desirous of a fascist state for aggressively accomplishing a Hindu nation of communal exclusiveness and casteist orthodoxy. Techno-capitalist corporate houses want a crony capitalist state for juridico-political protection and financial patronage through diversion of public revenue as well as natural resources for expanding their enterprises. This alliance between the state and its middleclass actors is a natural development in advanced capitalism.
A state sponsored mythologizing and communalising of the country’s history by debunking rational, secular historiography has to be viewed against the background of the alliance between the Hindutva aspirants of de facto state power and corporate capitalists. Both the groups at the outset need to turn the general public into an uncritical mass. Substitution of rational history with mythological accounts can prevent the rise of critical consciousness in the people. Mythical accounts of the past can trigger antiquarian interests and develop blind sentiments and devotion to the idea of Hindu nationalism. Mythology is enough for them for it keeps people emotionally encumbered. Explanatory historical accounts providing insights into the problems of the present empowering the poor people are not only the unwanted but also the impermissible for them. While the mythologised past full of semidivine heroes excites people’s pride, the rational historical accounts educate them about the past misery due to relations of exploitation, institutions of oppression and structures of domination. One engenders a politically disengaging uncritical mass of people, while the other promotes the formation of a political people craving for emancipation.
Both the Hindu as well as Muslim communalists are ideologically in the same track of ungrounded history, for distorted history is the only ideological means of self justification for them (Bipan Chandra, 2008). Their mutual exclusionism is based on the single question, who should rule India. Communalists of all types distort and glorify an imagined past and disregard the people’s everyday life of the present. It is the veneration of the nation as an abstract semi-divine notion rather than the realisation of a concrete territorial nation inclusiveness assured of the citizens’ peaceful co-existence and collective welfare, which matters to the Hindutva ideologues. It turns the people susceptible to deadly sentiments of caste and religion, and degenerates nationalism into false consciousness. An immediate manifestation of it is social intolerance of the de facto type, the clearest symptom of advanced fascist cultural preparation. This is how the inevitable ontological convergence of communal essentialism and revivalism on the politics of fascism happens (P. Bourdieu, 1991).
Impairment of democracy, the inevitable consequence of capitalist development, has been progressing in the country for the last two decades, and slowly turning the democratic state into functional autocracy as a system of the corporates driven bureaucracy–political heads combine. The process is accelerated under Techno-capitalism run by corporate houses, heavily dependent on the transaction of new knowledge in science and technology, for enhanced accumulation through trading in intellectual property rights and patents (A. Feenberg, 1991; M. Perelmal, 2004). It has given rise to ‘corporatocracy,’ a new type of governance that enmeshes and destroys democracy (L. Suarez-Villa, 2012). In India corporates have succeeded in intensifying their state control under the dominance of the BJP that mobilises people’s acceptance of functional autocracy through the rhetoric of national development and communal cultural preparations by penetrating into all bodies of educational policy-making in general and historical research in particular.
Attempts at a slow process of legislating fascism have been set in during the previous government under the mask of neo-liberal structural adjustments. Bringing the whole higher education under a single regulator by replacing democratic bodies was tried througthe NHE&R Bill (2011) first and now through NHA Bill 2015. The high level environment committee headed by TSR Subrahmanian, a retired bureaucrat gave its Report (2014) recommending the scrapping of all Pollution Control Acts, Wildlife and Forest Conservation Acts for making diversion of land and natural resources for corporate industrial establishments. Fortunately both the houses of the Parliament disallowed the Bill. Now the same Bill is back again as ESA Amendments Notification (2015). TSR Subrahmanian is heading the drafting committee of the New Education Policy 2016 with three other retired bureaucrats and one name-sake academic. These Bills designed by bureaucrats under the direction of corporates, repeatedly pushed forward to the houses of the Parliament indicate sustained moves towards legislating functional autocracy. They are symptomatic of the measured death of democracy.
The Hindutva academicians’ specific interest in the policy making institutions of educational and cultural affairs is making the agenda explicit. Pick the children for ideological social preparation aiming the making of the youth into an assortment of uncritical and apathetic individuals is the strategy. This explains why the Hindutva lobby is eager to quell the dissent of even the liberal pragmatic kind through repressive measures like branding the dissidents as terrorists and traitors. There are attempts at erasing the cultural signatures of other religions through certain apparently legitimate substitutes as exemplified by the case of the governmental imposition of the observance of ‘the good governance day’ on the Christmas Day. Asking through Government Orders the Navodaya Vidyalayas, Schools under the Central Board of Secondary Education, the Central Universities, Indian Institutes of Technology and Indian Institutes of Management to the celebration the birth anniversaries of Atal Behari Vajpayee and Madan Mohan Malaviya is an example of disguised communalisation. Bringing in changes in the schemes and contents of education for nurturing communal divisiveness and hatred among the people of one religion against the other has been in progress. Mythologising the public consciousness will go on in various ways and means under unstinted state support, because it is a crucial need of the political economy to silence the oppressed and exploited.
1. Balagangadhara, S.N. The Heathen in His Blindness: Asia, the West, and the Dynamic of Religion (Revised edition, New Delhi, Manohar, 2005
2. Balagangadhara, S.N. Reconceptualising India Studies, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2012.
3. Bourdieu, Pierre. The Political Ontology of Martin Heidegger, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991, pp. 3-4
4. Chandra, Bipan. Communalism in Modern India, Har Anand Publishers, Delhi, 2008.
5. Chattopadhyaya, D. History of Science and Technology in Ancient India, Vol.1: The Beginnings (1986) Calcutta: Firma KLM; Vol.2. Formation of the Theoretical Fundamentals of Natural Science 1991, Vol.3. Astronomy, Science and Society, 1996
6. Chattopadhyaya, D. Science and Society in Ancient India, K.P. Bagchi and Company, Calcutta, 1977.
7. Chaudhuri, B.B. & A. Bandopadhyay, (eds.) Tribes, Forest and Social formation in Indian History. Manohar, New Delhi, 2004.
8. Feenberg, A., Critical Theory of Technology, Oxford University Press, New York, 1991
9. Graff, R.G., Reiskin E.D., White, A.L., Bidwell, K., Snapshots of Environmental Cost Accounting: A Report. US EPA Environmental Accounting Project, New York, 1998
10. Gurukkal, R. “A Blindness about India,” Economic & Political Weekly, Vol. XLIX No.49, December 6, 2014, pp.12-15