Fabrications on the Way to the Funeral

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Arun Shourie

Arun Shourie (born 2 November 1941) is an Indian journalist, author and politician. He served as an economist with the World Bank (1968–72 and 1975–77), a consultant to the Planning Commission, India, editor of the Indian Express and Times of India and a minister in the government of India (1998–2004). He was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1982.

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FABRICATIONS ON THE WAY TO THE FUNERAL

Publication: India Connect
Author: Arun Shourie
Date: June 26, 1998

“Rational vs. National,” screams the headline of the new pall-bearer of secularism, the magazine Outlook. “Fresh evidence available with Outlook,” the story announces, “reveals that not only has the ICHR [the Indian Council of Historical Research] been packed with ‘sympathizers’ but a new statement of objectives or resolution [sic.] has been added, changing certain key words from the original Memorandum of Association of 1972, legitimised by an Act of Parliament. While the original Memorandum of Association states that ICHR’s aims would be to give ‘rational’ direction to historical research and foster ‘an objective and scientific writing of history’, the new resolution, which will be included in the Gazette of India, states that ICHR now seeks to give a ‘national’ direction to an ‘objective and national presentation of history’. So, ‘rational’ has been changed to ‘national’, and ‘scientific’ too has been changed to ‘national’….”

 

“Tampering with history,” proclaims the old pall-bearer, The Hindu. “Apprehensions of this kind [that the fabled ‘Sangh parivar’ is out to rewrite history] have been substantiated by a related decision. The resolution by the Ministry of Human Resource Development — nodal Ministry under which the ICHR comes — that details the new nominations carries with it an amendment to the Memorandum of Association by which the ICHR was set up; while the institution was set up ‘to foster objective and scientific writing of history such as will inculcate an informed appreciation of the country’s national and cultural heritage,’ the new Government’s mandate is that the ICHR will give a ‘national direction’ to an objective and national presentation and interpretation of history’. This amendment is certainly not just a matter of semantics. Instead, one can clearly see in this an intention on the part of the BJP-led Government to rewrite history….”

 

The next issue of the CPI(M) mouthpiece, Peoples Democracy, reproduces this editorial ! And carries with it an article by one of the ring-leaders, K. N. Panicker. “Saffronization of historical research,” proclaims the heading. Panicker repeats the charge of the word “rational” having been replaced by “national”. He adds another: the Memorandum of Association of the ICHR mentions five objectives, he says, but the Resolution put out by the Saffron-brigade mentions only two.

 

Thus, the charge rests on three bits of “evidence”: that the Memorandum of Association of the ICHR has been changed; second, that a word — “rational” — in the Resolution announcing the new members of the ICHR has been surreptitiously replaced by another word — “national”; third, that while the original Memorandum of Association specifies five objectives for the ICHR, the new Resolution cuts out three of these.

 

Having been educated by The Hindu that the “nodal ministry” for the matter is the Ministry of Human Resource Development, I ring up the Secretary of that Ministry. Has the Memorandum of Association of the ICHR been changed?, I ask. No, he says. It has not been changed, he says.

 

And then about the Resolution announcing the new members. The allegation, you will recall, is that the aim which in the Memorandum of Association is, “to give a national direction to an objective and RATIONAL presentation and interpretation of history….,” has been altered in the Resolution to read, “to give a national direction to an objective and NATIONAL presentation and interpretation of history….”

 

I have before me the statement of the Ministry of Human Resources Development [No. F 30-28/86-U3] dated 6th October, 1987, that is of eleven years ago. It gives the text of the Resolution of the Government of India announcing the new members — announcing, among other things, that Irfan Habib is being appointed as Chairman with retrospective effect from 9 September, 1986. The corresponding expression in it is, “to give a national direction to an objective and NATIONAL presentation and interpretation of history….”

 

I have before me the statement of the Ministry of Human Resources Development [No. F. 30-13/89-U3] dated 15th May, 1991. It gives the text of the Resolution of the Government of India announcing the new members — announcing, among other things, that Irfan Habib is being re-appointed as Chairman with retrospective effect from 12 March, 1990. The corresponding expression in it is, “to give a national direction to an objective and NATIONAL presentation and interpretation of history….”

 

To test my hypothesis yet again, I look for and obtain the immediately preceding statement of the Ministry. It bears the number F. 30-3/94-U.3, and is dated 8th September, 1994. Like the others, it furnishes the text of the Resolution of the Government of India announcing the new members — announcing, among other things, that Ravinder Kumar, another “historian” of the same hue, is being appointed as Chairman with retrospective effect from 8 September, 1990. The corresponding expression in it is, “to give a national direction to an objective and NATIONAL presentation and interpretation of history….”

 

That is how far I am able to get on my own. I request the Secretary of the Ministry: can he please request someone to look up the Resolutions of the earlier years, and see whether they contain anything different? Can he help me trace when this “alteration” got made?

 

Till the time of my dispatching this article, the Secretary has been able to trace Resolutions going back up to 1978 — that is, twenty years. Each of them carries the very same words!

 

The research of the Secretary and his colleagues establishes that – to reproduce the word the Secretary uses – the whole mystery has arisen from a “typographical error”: some typist banging away on his typewriter some twenty odd years ago typed “rational” as “national”. As each typist, when asked to type out the subsequent Resolution, copied the preceding one, that word continued to be typed as “national” year after year. The leftists inferred no conspiracy. But, lo and behold, now that a BJP Government is in power, inferring conspiracies — to use their favourite phrase — is a historical necessity. It is objective history! It is progressive methodology! Perhaps they will put on their Sherlock Holmes caps again, and establish that the Governments of Mrs. Indira Gandhi, of Rajiv Gandhi, of V. P. Singh, of Narasimha Rao have all been in league with the RSS, and therefore parties to this grave conspiracy!

 

I then ring up Mr. Vinod Mehta, the editor of Outlook. “But the reporter says she has the text and everything,” he says. I narrate what I have found. He promises to check and get back to me. When we talk again he says he has sent me the text of the Resolution. But that is the current one. My point was that the “change” which Outlook had built its story on has existed in all Resolutions for at least twenty years. He says he will get back to me. That is where matters stand.

 

The exact same thing holds for that fabrication of K. N. Panicker: about five objectives having become two. In every single one of the Resolutions — including the 1994 Resolution under which this man was himself nominated to the ICHR, a Resolution he can find printed at page 342 of The Gazette of India, October 22, 1994 — the exact same sentences are used: only those objectives are mentioned as are mentioned in the Resolution issued this year!

 

And another thing: if an RSS publication publishes even an interview with me, that is further proof of my being communal; but so tough are the hymen of these progressives that, even when they contribute signed articles to publications of the Communist Party, their virginity remains intact!

 

As I have had occasion to document several times in the past, such forgeries, such allegations are the standard technology of this school. Fabricating conspiracy theories is their well-practiced weapon. And they have a network: stories containing the same “facts” about the ICHR figured in paper after paper. In The Asian Age on June 6: “ICHR revamp has RSS tilt.” In the Indian Express on June 8: “Historians cry foul as HRD Ministry paints ICHR saffron.” In the Hindustan Times on June 9: “Historians see saffron in ICHR appointments.” In The Hindu editorial of June 12: “Tampering with history.” In Outlook of June 22 which was on the stands on June 15. The frontmen having spoken, the master steps forth – the Peoples Democracy of June 21: “Saffronization of historical research.”

 

The associated charge, repeated in Outlook and all the other publications, is that historians who have been now nominated to the ICHR are ones who supported the proposition that there had been a Ram-temple at Ayodhya before it was replaced by the Babri Mosque. Assume that the charge is entirely correct. What about the members who have not been re-nominated? They were the intellectual guides and propagandists of the Babri Masjid Action Committee. They represented it at the meetings Mr. Chandrashekhar’s Government had convened for settling the matter by evidence. That was an outstanding initiative of Mr. Chandrashekhar: for such contentious issues ought to be dissolved in the acid of evidence. These leftist “historians” attended the initial meetings. They put together for and on behalf of the Committee “documents”. It is a miscellaneous pile. It becomes immediately evident that these are no counter to the mass of archaeological, historical and literary evidence which the VHP has furnished, that in fact the “documents” these guides of the Babri Committee have piled up further substantiate the VHP’s case, these “historians”, having undertaken to attend the meeting to consider the evidence presented by the two sides, just do not show up!

 

It is this withdrawal which aborted the initiative that the Government had undertaken of bringing the two sides together, of introducing evidence and discourse into the issue. Nothing but nothing paved the way for the demolition as did this running away by these “historians”. It was the last nail: no one could be persuaded thereafter that evidence or reason would be allowed anywhere near the issue.

 

Not only were these “historians” the advisers of the Babri Masjid Action Committee, its advocates in the negotiations, they simultaneously issued all sorts of statements supporting the Babri Masjid Committee’s case – which was the “case” they had themselves prepared! A well-practiced technique, if I may say so: they are from a school in which members have made each other famous by reviewing each others books!

 

Not just that. These very “historians” are cited as witnesses in the pleadings filed by the Sunni Waqf Board in the courts which are considering the Ayodhya matter!

 

Their deceitful role in Ayodhya — which in the end harmed their clients more than anyone else — was just symptomatic. For fifty years this bunch has been suppressing facts and inventing lies. How concerned they are about that objective of the ICHR — to promote objective and rational research into events of our past. How does this square with the guidelines issued by their West Bengal Government in 1989 which Outlook itself quotes — “Muslim rule should never attract any criticism. Destruction of temples by Muslim rulers and invaders should not be mentioned”? But their wholesale fabrications of the destruction of Buddhist vihars, about the non-existent “Aryan invasion” — to question these is to be communal, chauvinist! It is this which has been the major crime of these “historians”.

 

But these are not just partisan “historians”. They are nepotists of the worst kind. I had documented several years ago the doings of some of them in regard to the appointments in the Aligarh Muslim University. Their doings in the ICHR have been true to pattern. How is it that over twenty five years persons from their school alone have been nominated to the ICHR? How come that Romila Thapar has been on the Council four times? Irfan Habib five times? Satish Chandra four times? S. Gopal three times?…. The same goes for the post of Chairman.

 

Not only are these “historians” partisan, not only are they nepotists, they are ones who have used State patronage to help each other in many, many ways. Let me give two examples, and make four specific proposals for the Ministry — that “nodal Ministry”, remember — which has been their instrument in all these entrepreneurial ventures.

 

By a brain-wave a milch-cow was thought up: it is no use having books only in English, these worthies, dedicated as they were to the cause of the illiterate downtrodden Indians, argued; we must have the works of leading historians translated into our regional languages. And which were the “historians” whose books — old, in many cases out-of-date books – got selected for translation? R. S. Sharma: five books. Romila Thapar: three books. Irfan Habib: two books — one being a collection of articles. Bipan Chandra: two books. Muhammad Habib: three books. D. N. Jha: two books. S. Gopal: four books. Nurul Hasan: two books…. In a word, the “historians” discovered, I am sure much to their embarrassment, that they were themselves the leading historians! All these, but not Professor R. C. Majumdar! Even sundry leaders of the Communist parties got the honour — E. M. S. Namboodripad, P. C. Joshi, even Rajni Palme Dutt, the leader of the British Communist Party who functioned as the controller and director of the Indian Communists in the forties. As a result, the books and pamphlets of these fellows are available in all regional languages, but the works of even Lokmanya Tilak are not available except in Marathi! And that too because of the Kesari Trust, no thanks to the ICHR.

 

My query is: did these persons get royalties paid to themselves, if so how much, for the honour they had conferred on themselves of having their books translated on the ground that they were the leading historians of the country — a ground which they had prepared so well by arranging reviews of each other’s books?!

 

Second, in 1972, almost simultaneously with the establishment of the ICHR, a project was launched to collect and publish a record of the Freedom Struggle from the Indian point of view. The British had launched their Transfer of Power Documents series — which deliberately made out that the British were ever so ready to leave, and it was only the cussedness of and discord among Indians which delayed their doing so. The project was to be based on Indian documents. Its budget was to be a few lakhs. Ten volumes were to be brought out in five years. The scholars who were to undertake the job? Yours forever: S. Gopal, Bipan Chandra, Ravinder Kumar, Sumit Sarkar, Parthasarthi Gupta, Mushirul Hasan, K. N. Panicker etc. — in other words, the same lot of like-minded friends!

 

Twenty seven years have gone by. Not a few lakhs, instead two crores of Rupees have been spent. The project is lost in the wilderness — one of the major scandals of Indian academia. Not just that. These were leftists. At various stages, the leftists had done their best to thwart the Freedom Movement. Salivating at the thought that by doing so they would attract Muslim youth to their fold, the Communist Party had supported the demand for the Partition of India. And so, the dedicated historians who had been conveniently handed the project, did everything to suppress documents, and derail volumes which could not but have brought the facts about the left on record.

 

That is history. That is objective history. Not to take these fellows back on to the ICHR is to colour it saffron. So, my query to the Ministry is: who has got how much of the two crores which are said to have been spent on the Towards Freedom Project?

 

Third, the ICHR has been the funnel for a larger amount of largesse than most other academic bodies. Will the Ministry please furnish how much money has been paid to whom under the guise of National Fellowships and Senior Fellowships? And against each project for which the grant has been disbursed, will the Ministry please indicate what happened to the project — with the name of the scholar in capital letters, if that is not too much trouble?

 

Fourth, the ICHR has been the conduit for patronizing scholars through travel grants. It isn’t just the foreign trip that the grants get one. More important are the impressions that are created: the “scholar” gets known abroad as a leading historian of India, his drivel comes to be regarded as the Voice of Indian History; and back home, each trip redoubles his influence — for one thing, by confirming the fact that he is close to the sources of patronage. So, my query to the Ministry is: since 1972, who has got how much of these travel grants?

 

The fabrications show that this secularist tribe is on its last legs. The answers will speed the funeral.

 

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Title: TO UNDO THE SCANDAL, UNDO THE CONTROL

Author: Arun Shourie

Publication: India Connect

Date: July 24, 1998

 

“There can be no doubt that the fall of Buddhism in India was due to the invasions of the Musalmans,” writes the author. “Islam came out as the enemy of the ‘But’. The word ‘But,’ as everybody knows, is an Arabic word and means an idol. Not many people, however, know that the derivation of the word ‘But’ is the Arabic corruption of Buddha. Thus the origin of the word indicates that in the Moslem mind idol worship had come to be identified with the Religion of the Buddha. To the Muslims, they were one and the same thing. The mission to break the idols thus became the mission to destroy Buddhism. Islam destroyed Buddhism not only in India but wherever it went. Before Islam came into being Buddhism was the religion of Bactria, Parthia, Afghanistan, Gandhar and Chinese Turkestan, as it was of the whole of Asia….”

 

A communal historian of the RSS-school? But Islam struck at Hinduism also. How is it that it was able to fell Buddhism in India but not Hinduism? Hinduism had State-patronage, says the author. The Buddhists were so persecuted by the “Brahmanic rulers”, he writes, that, when Islam came, they converted to Islam: this welled the ranks of Muslims but in the same stroke drained those of Buddhism. But the far more important cause was that while the Muslim invaders butchered both — Brahmins as well as Buddhist monks — the nature of the priesthood in the case of the two religions was different — “and the difference is so great that it contains the whole reason why Brahmanism survived the attack of Islam and why Buddhism did not.”

 

For the Hindus, every Brahmin was a potential priest. No ordination was mandated. Neither anything else. Every household carried on rituals — oblations, recitation of particular mantras, pilgrimages, each Brahmin family made memorizing some Veda its very purpose…. By contrast, Buddhism had instituted ordination, particular training etc. for its priestly class. Thus, when the invaders massacred Brahmins, Hinduism continued. But when they massacred the Buddhist monks, the religion itself was killed.

 

Describing the massacres of the latter and the destruction of their vihars, universities, places of worship, the author writes, “The Musalman invaders sacked the Buddhist Universities of Nalanda, Vikramshila, Jagaddala, Odantapuri to name only a few. They raised to the ground Buddhist monasteries with which the country was studded. The monks fled away in thousands to Nepal, Tibet and other places outside India. A very large number were killed outright by the Muslim commanders. How the Buddhist priesthood perished by the sword of the Muslim invaders has been recorded by the Muslim historians themselves. Summarizing the evidence relating to the slaughter of the Buddhist Monks perpetrated by the Musalman General in the course of his invasion of Bihar in 1197 AD, Mr. Vincent Smith says, “….Great quantities of plunder were obtained, and the slaughter of the ‘shaven headed Brahmans’, that is to say the Buddhist monks, was so thoroughly completed, that when the victor sought for someone capable of explaining the contents of the books in the libraries of the monasteries, not a living man could be found who was able to read them. ‘It was discovered,’ we are told, ‘that the whole of that fortress and city was a college, and in the Hindi tongue they call a college Bihar.’ “Such was the slaughter of the Buddhist priesthood perpetrated by the Islamic invaders. The axe was struck at the very root. For by killing the Buddhist priesthood, Islam killed Buddhism. This was the greatest disaster that befell the religion of the Buddha in India….”

 

The writer? B. R. Ambedkar.

 

But today the fashion is to ascribe the extinction of Buddhism to the persecution of Buddhists by Hindus, to the destruction of their temples by the Hindus. One point is that the Marxist historians who have been perpetrating this falsehood have not been able to produce even an iota of evidence to substantiate the concoction. In one typical instance, three inscriptions were cited. The indefatigable Sita Ram Goel looked them up. Two of the inscriptions had absolutely nothing to do with the matter. And the third told a story which had the opposite import than the one which the Marxist historian had insinuated: a Jain king had himself taken the temple from Jain priests and given it to the Shaivites because the former had failed to live up to their promise. Goel repeatedly asked the historian to point to any additional evidence or to elucidate how the latter had suppressed the import that the inscription in its entirety conveyed. He waited in vain. The revealing exchange is set out in Goel’s monograph, “Stalinist ‘Historians’ Spread the Big Lie.”

 

Marxists cite only two other instances of Hindus having destroyed Buddhist temples. These too it turns out yield to completely contrary explanations. Again Marxists have been asked repeatedly to explain the construction they have been circulating — to no avail. Equally important, Sita Ram Goel invited them to cite any Hindu text which orders Hindus to break the places of worship of other religions — as the Bible does, as a pile of Islamic manuals does. He has asked them to name a single person who has been honoured by the Hindus because he broke such places – the way Islamic historians and lore have glorified every Muslim ruler and invader who did so. A snooty silence has been the only response.

 

But I am on the other point. Once they occupied academic bodies, once they captured universities and thereby determined what will be taught, which books will be prescribed, what questions would be asked, what answers will be acceptable, these “historians” came to decide what history had actually been! As it suits their current convenience and politics to make out that Hinduism also has been intolerant, they will glide over what Ambedkar says about the catastrophic effect that Islamic invasions had on Buddhism, they will completely suppress what he said of the nature of these invasions and of Muslim rule in his Thoughts on Pakistan, but insist on reproducing his denunciations of “Brahmanism,” and his view that the Buddhist India established by the Mauryas was systematically invaded and finished by Brahmin rulers.

 

Thus, they suppress facts, they concoct others, they suppress what an author has said on one matter even as they insist that what he has said on another be taken as gospel truth. And when anyone attempts to point out what had in fact happened, they raise a shriek: a conspiracy to rewrite history, they shout, a plot to distort history, they scream.

 

But they are the ones who had distorted it in the first place — by suppressing the truth, by planting falsehoods. And these “theses” of their’s are recent concoctions. Recall the question of the disappearance of Buddhist monasteries. How did the grand-father, so to say, of present Marxist historians, D. D. Kosambhi explain that extinguishing? The original doctrine of the Buddha had degenerated into lamaism, Kosambhi wrote. And the monasteries had “remained tied to the specialized and concentrated long-distance ‘luxury’ trade of which we read in the Periplus. This trade died out to be replaced by general and simpler local barter with settled villages. The monasteries, having fulfilled their economic as well as religious function, disappeared too.” And the people lapsed!

 

“The people whom they had helped lead out of savagery (though plenty of aborigines survive in the Western Ghats to this day), to whom they had given their first common script and common language, use of iron, and of the plough,” Kosambhi wrote, “had never forgotten their primeval cults.”

 

The standard Marxist “explanation” — the economic cause, the fulfilling of historical functions and thereafter disappearing, right to the remorse at the lapsing into “primeval cults”. But today, these “theses” won’t do. For today the need is to make people believe that Hindus too were intolerant, that Hindus also destroyed temples of others….

 

Or take another figure — one saturated with our history, culture, religion. He also wrote of that region — Afghanistan and beyond. The people of those areas did not destroy either Buddhism or the structures associated with it, he wrote, till one particular thing happened. What was this? He recounted, “In very ancient times this Turkish race repeatedly conquered the western provinces of India and founded extensive kingdoms. They were Buddhists, or would turn Buddhists after occupying Indian territory. In the ancient history of Kashmir there is mention of these famous Turkish emperors — Hushka, Yushka, and Kanishka. It was this Kanishka who founded the Northern School of Buddhism called Mahayana. Long after, the majority of them took to Mohammedanism and completely devastated the chief Buddhistic seats of Central Asia such as Kandhar and Kabul. Before their conversion to Mohammedanism they used to imbibe the learning and culture of the countries they conquered, and by assimilating the culture of other countries would try to propagate civilization. But ever since they became Mohammedans, they have only the instinct of war left in them; they have not got the least vestige of learning and culture; on the contrary, the countries that come under their sway gradually have their civilization extinguished. In many places of modern Afghanistan and Kandhar etc., there yet exist wonderful Stupas, monasteries, temples and gigantic statues built by their Buddhist ancestors. As a result of Turkish admixture and their conversion to Mohammedanism, those temples etc. are almost in ruins, and the present Afghans and allied races have grown so uncivilized and illiterate that, far from imitating those ancient works of architecture, they believe them to be the creation of super-natural spirits like the Jinn etc….”.

 

The author? The very one the secularists tried to appropriate three-four years ago — Swami Vivekananda.

 

And look at the finesse of these historians. They maintain that such facts and narratives must be swept under the carpet in the interest of national integration: recalling them will offend Muslims, they say, doing so will sow rancour against Muslims in the minds of Hindus, they say. Simultaneously they insist on concocting the myth of Hindus destroying Buddhist temples. Will that concoction not distance Buddhists from Hindus? Will that narrative, specially when it does not have the slightest basis in fact, not embitter Hindus?

 

Swamiji focussed on another factor about which we hear little today: internal decay. The Buddha — like Gandhiji in our times — taught us first and last to alter our conduct, to realise through practice the insights he had attained. But that is the last thing the people want to do, they want soporifics: a mantra, a pilgrimage, an idol which may deliver them from the consequences of what they have done. The people walked out on the Buddha’s austere teaching – for it sternly ruled out props. No external suppression etc., were needed to wean them away: people are deserting Gandhiji for the same reason today — is any violence or conspiracy at work ?

 

The religion became monk-, and monastery-centric. And these decayed as closed groups and institutions invariably do. Ambedkar himself alludes to this factor — though he puts even this aspect of the decay to the ravages of Islam. After the decimation of monks by Muslim invaders, all sorts of persons — married clergy, artisan priests — had to be roped in to take their place. Hence the inevitable result, Ambedkar writes: “It is obvious that this new Buddhist priesthood had neither dignity nor learning and were a poor match for the rival, the Brahmins whose cunning was not unequal to their learning.”

 

Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo and others who had reflected deeply on the course of religious evolution of our people, focussed on the condition to which Buddhist monasteries had been reduced by themselves. The people had already departed from the pristine teaching of the Buddha, Swamiji pointed out: the Buddha had taught no God, no Ruler of the Universe, but the people, being ignorant and in need of sedatives, “brought their gods, and devils, and hobgoblins out again, and a tremendous hotchpotch was made of Buddhism in India.” Buddhism itself took on these characters: and the growth that we ascribe to the marvelous personality of the Buddha and to the excellence of his teaching, Swami Vivekananda said, was due in fact “to the temples which were built, the idols that were erected, and the gorgeous ceremonials that were put before the nation.” Soon the “wonderful moral strength” of the original message was lost “and what remained of it became full of superstitions and ceremonials, a hundred times cruder than those it intended to suppress,” of practices which were “equally bad, unclean, and immoral….”

 

Swami Vivekananda regarded the Buddha as “the living embodiment of Vedanta”, he always spoke of the Buddha in superlatives. For that very reason, Vivekananda raged all the more at what Buddhism became: “It became a mass of corruption of which I cannot speak before this audience…;” “I have neither the time nor the inclination to describe to you the hideousness that came in the wake of Buddhism. The most hideous ceremonies, the most horrible, the most obscene books that human hands ever wrote or the human brain ever conceived, the most bestial forms that ever passed under the name of religion, have all been the creation of degraded Buddhism”….

 

With reform as his life’s mission, Swami Vivekananda reflected deeply on the flaws which enfeebled Buddhism, and his insights hold lessons for us to this day. Every reform movement, he said, necessarily stresses negative elements. But if it goes on stressing only the negative, it soon peters out. After the Buddha, his followers kept emphasising the negative, when the people wanted the positive that would help lift them.

 

“Every movement triumphs,” he wrote, “by dint of some unusual characteristic, and when it falls, that point of pride becomes its chief element of weakness.” And in the case of Buddhism, he said, it was the monastic order. This gave it an organizational impetus, but soon consequences of the opposite kind took over. Instituting the monastic order, he said, had “the evil effect of making the very robe of the monk honoured,” instead of making reverence contingent on conduct. “Then these monasteries became rich,” he recalled, “the real cause of the downfall is here….some containing a hundred thousand monks, sometimes twenty thousand monks in one building — huge, gigantic buildings….” On the one hand this fomented corruption within, it encoiled the movement in organizational problems. On the other it drained society of the best persons.

 

From its very inception, the monastic order had institutionalized inequality of men and women even in sanyasa, Vivekananda pointed out. “Then gradually,” he recalled, “the corruption known as Vamachara (unrestrained mixing with women in the name of religion) crept in and ruined Buddhism. Such diabolical rites are not to be met with in any modern Tantra….”

 

Whereas the Buddha had counseled that we shun metaphysical speculations and philosophical conundrums – as these would only pull us away from practice — Buddhist monks and scholars lost themselves in arcane debates about these very questions. [Hence a truth in Kosambhi’s observation, but in the sense opposite to the one he intended: Shankara’s refutations show that Shankara knew nothing of Buddha’s original doctrine, Kosambhi asserted; Shankara was refuting the doctrines which were being put forth by the Buddhists in his time, and these had nothing to do with the original teaching of the Buddha.] The consequence was immediate: “By becoming too philosophic,” Vivekananda explained, “they lost much of their breadth of heart.”

 

Sri Aurobindo alludes to another factor, an inherent incompatibility. He writes of “the exclusive trenchancy of its intellectual, ethical and spiritual positions,” and of how “its trenchant affirmations and still more exclusive negations could not be made sufficiently compatible with the native flexibility, many-sided susceptibility and rich synthetic turn of the Indian religious consciousness; it was a high creed but not plastic enough to hold the heart of the people….”

 

We find in such factors a complete explanation for the evaporation of Buddhism. But we will find few of them in the secularist discourse today. Because their purpose is served by one “thesis” alone: Hindus crushed Buddhists, Hindus demolished their temples….In regard to matter after critical matter — the Aryan-Dravidian divide, the nature of Islamic invasions, the nature of Islamic rule, the character of the Freedom Struggle — we find this trait — suppresso veri, suggesto falsi. This is the real scandal of history-writing in the last thirty years. And it has been possible for these “eminent historians” to perpetrate it because they acquired control of institutions like the ICHR. To undo the falsehood, you have to undo the control.

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Title: NOT JUST WHITEWASH, HOGWASH TOO!

Author: Arun Shourie

Publication: India Connect

Date: July 27, 1998

 

“This is an old charge which keeps surfacing now and then,” wrote one of those “eminent historians”, K. N. Panikkar, in response to an article of mine — the charge that close to two crores had been spent on the “Towards Freedom” project of the Indian Council of Historical Project, and little had been achieved. “About a year back Times of India carried a front page story on this. The historians had then clarified through a public statement published in several newspapers, that they have not drawn any money from the ICHR and that they worked for five years purely in an honorary capacity. When he [that is, me] gets the information from the ministry, if he does, that the editors have not taken any money, I would normally expect Shourie to tender a public apology. But given the intellectual honesty and cultural level reflected in his article, I do not think it would be forthcoming. The alternative of suing for defamation the likes of Shourie is below one’s dignity. But I do expect at least the ministry to make a public statement on the factual position.”

 

Strong stuff, and definitive, one would think. It turns out that on 17 July, 1998, in answer to a question tabled in the Rajya Sabha, the Ministry stated that only one part of the project has been completed and published since the original volume of Dr. P. N. Chopra. This is the volume — in three parts — by Dr. Partha Sarthi Gupta covering 1943-44. In answer to another question, the Ministry has reported that “After publication of the Volume he was paid an honorarium of Rs. 25,000/- in September, 1997.”

 

Dr. Partha Sarthi Gupta, in other words, is the one editor who has completed the work which he had undertaken. For that he has been paid Rs. 25,000. The others have not completed the work they had undertaken, they have therefore not been paid the Rs. 25,000 which are to be paid to them only when their volumes are completed and published. That is how they go about proclaiming themselves to be social workers — we have been working in an honorary capacity, we have not taken a penny!

 

And as bits and pieces about the ICHR at last start trickling out, we learn that the “Towards Freedom” project isn’t the only one on which large amounts have been spent and which has not been completed. There is an “Economic History of India Project.” Rs. NINETEEN LAKHS AND FIFTY FIVE THOUSAND have been spent on it. Nothing has been published as a result. Though, the Ministry told the Rajya Sabha that “according to the information furnished by the ICHR,” two volumes of the project — on Railways and Agriculture — are “ready for the press”.

 

The Ministry also told the Rajya Sabha that “Professor Bipin Chandra was sanctioned a sum of Rs. 75,000/- during 1987-88 for the assignment entitled ‘A History of the Indian National Congress’. A sum of Rs. 57,500/- [FIFTY SEVEN THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED] has been released to him till 23.6.1989. The remaining balance of Rs. 17,500/- is yet to be released because a formal manuscript in this regard is yet to be received.” In a word, spare readers this social-worker stance — “doing all this in a strictly honorary capacity”. It is as if Bipin Chandra were to go about saying, “See, I have not even taken the Rs. 17,500/- which the ICHR still owes me.” And do not miss that effort from the ICHR to help to the extent possible — “The remaining balance of Rs. 17,500/- is yet to be released because a formal manuscript in this regard is yet to be received.” Does that mean that some “informal” manuscript has been received, or that no manuscript has been received?

 

As newspapers and magazines such as Outlook had done, Panikkar had concocted his conspiracy theory on the charge that the BJP Government had changed the word “Rational” into “National”, and that it had suppressed three of the five objectives of the ICHR by changing the Memorandum of Association of the ICHR. I had reproduced relevant paragraphs from the Resolutions to show that the same wording had continued for at least twenty years. I had given the numbers and dates of the Resolutions. I had also reported that I had requested the Secretary of the Ministry to help ascertain the year since which the same wording had continued. And what was the response of this “eminent” historian who, as he said, writes signed articles in publications of the Communist Party “because I believe in the ideals it stands for”? “Even if Shourie’s contention is true (unlike Shourie who is a BJP MP, a resident of Delhi elected from UP, I have no means to ascertain from the Ministry)….”

 

That is a much favoured stance: when caught peddling a lie, insinuate that the other fellow is privileged! And that as you are from the working masses, you cannot ascertain whether the facts he has stated are true. Therefore, what you stated must stand as fact — Q.E.D.!

 

Exactly the same dodge was used a day or so later by another of these progressives. Manoj Raghuvanshi had invited K. M. Shrimali and me to discuss on Zee Television’s Aap ki Adalat the charge that history was being rewritten in communal colours. Raghuvanshi read out what Outlook had reported — that the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education had issued instructions in 1989 that “Muslim rule should never attract any criticism. Destruction of temples by Muslim rulers and invaders should not be mentioned.”

 

Raghuvanshi asked Shrimali, whether this did not amount to distortion ? True, that was a painful period of our history, Raghuvanshi said, but should it be erased from our history books? Would that be objective, rational history? Shrimali’s response was the well-practised script: firstly, he did not know that such an instruction was ever issued; if it was issued, he said, he was against it; but one must see what the context was in which the instruction had been issued….

 

Concerned teachers in West Bengal have been so kind as to send me the circular relating to textbooks for class IX. Dated 28 April, 1989, it is issued by the West Bengal Secondary Board. It is in Bengali, and carries the number “Syl/89/1”.

 

“All the West Bengal Government recognised secondary school Headmasters are being informed,” it begins, “that in History textbooks recommended by this Board for Class IX the following amendments to the chapter on the medieval period have been decided after due discussions and review by experts.” ”

 

“The authors and publishers of Class IX History textbooks,” it continues, “are being requested to incorporate the amendments if books published by them have these aushuddho [impurities, errors] in all subsequent editions, and paste a corrigendum in books which have already been published. A copy of the book with the corrigendum should be deposited with the Syllabus Office (74, Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road, Calcutta — 16).” Signed, “….Chattopadhyaya, Secretary.”

 

The accompanying pages contain two columns: aushuddho — impurity, or error — and shuddho. One has just to glance through the changes to see the objective the progressives are trying to achieve through their “objective”, “rational” approach to the writing of history. Here are some of the changes.

 

Book: Bharat Katha, prepared by the Burdwan Education Society, Teachers Enterprise, published by Sukhomoy Das….

Page 140: Aushuddho — “In Sindhudesh the Arabs did not describe Hindus as Kafir. They had banned cowslaughter.”

Shuddho — “Delete, ‘They had banned cow-slaughter’.”

Page 141: Aushuddho — “Fourthly, using force to destroy Hindu temples was also an expression of aggression. Fifthly, forcibly marrying Hindu women and converting them to Islam before marriage was another way to propagate the fundamentalism of the ulema.”

Shuddho : though the column reproduces the sentences only from “Fourthly….”, the Board directs that the entire matter from “Secondly…. to ulema” be deleted.

Page 141: Aushuddho — The logical, philosophical, materialist Mutazilla disappeared. On the one hand, the fundamentalist thinking based on the Quran and the Hadis….”

Shuddho — “Delete, ‘On the one hand, the fundamentalist thinking based on the Quran and the Hadis’….”

 

Book: Bharatvarsher Itihash, by Dr. Narendranath Bhattacharya, published by Chakravarty and Son….

Page 89: Aushuddho — “Sultan Mahmud used force for widespread murder, loot, destruction and conversion.”

Shuddho — “There was widespread loot and destruction by Mahmud.” That is, no reference to killing, no reference to forcible conversions.

Page 89: Aushuddho — “He looted valuables worth 2 crore dirham from the Somnath temple and used the Shivling as a step leading up to the masjid in Ghazni.”

Shuddho — “Delete ‘and used the Shivling as a step leading up to the masjid in Ghazni.'”

Page 112: Aushuddho — “Hindu-Muslim relations of the medieval ages is a very sensitive issue. The nonbelievers had to embrace Islam or death.”

Shuddho — All matter on pages 112-13 to be deleted.

Page 113: Aushuddho — “According to Islamic law non-Muslims will have to choose between death and Islam. Only the Hanafis allow non-Muslims to pay jaziya in exchange for their lives.”

Shuddho — Rewrite this as follows : “By paying jaziya to Allauddin Khilji, Hindus could lead normal lives.” Moreover, all the subsequent sentences “Qazi….”, “Taimur’s arrival in India….” to be deleted.

Page 113: Aushuddho — “Mahmud was a believer in the rule of Islam whose core was ‘Either Islam or death’.

Shuddho — Delete.

 

Book: Bharuter Itihash, by Shobhankar Chattopadhyaya, published by Narmada Publishers.

Page 181: Aushuddho — “To prevent Hindu women from being seen by Muslims, they were directed to remain indoors.”

Shuddho — Delete.

 

Book: Itihasher Kahini, by Nalini Bhushan Dasgupta, published by B. B. Kumar.

Page 132: Aushuddho — According to Todd [the famous chronicler of Rajasthan annals] the purpose behind Allauddin’s Chittor expedition was to secure Rana Rattan Singh’s beautiful wife, Padmini.”

Shuddho — Delete.

Page 154: Aushuddho — “As dictated by Islam, there were three options for non-Muslims: get yourself converted to Islam; pay jaziya; accept death. In an Islamic State non-Muslims had to accept one of these three options.”

Shuddho— Delete.

Page 161: Aushuddho — “The early Sultans were eager to expand the sway of Islam by forcibly converting Hindus into Islam.” Shuddho — Delete.

 

Book: Bharuter Itihash, by P. Maiti, Sreedhar Prakashini.

Page 117: Aushuddho — “There is an account that Allauddin attacked the capital of Mewar, Chittorgarh, to get Padmini, the beautiful wife of Rana Rattan Singh.”

Shuddho — Delete.

Page 139: Ashuddho — “There was a sense of aristocratic superiority in the purdah system. That is why upperclass Hindus adopted this system from upper-class Muslims. Another opinion has it that purdah came into practice to save Hindu women from Muslims. Most probably, purdah came into vogue because of both factors.”

Shuddho –delete.

The most extensive deletions are ordered in regard to the chapter on “Aurangezebe’s policy on religion”. Every allusion to what he actually did to the Hindus, to their temples, to the very leitmotif of his rule – to spread the sway of Islam – are directed to be excised from the book. He is to be presented as one who had an aversion — an ordinary sort of aversion, almost a secular one — to music and dancing, to the presence of prostitutes in the  court, and that it is these things he banished. The only allusion to his having done anything in regard to Islam which is allowed to remain is that “By distancing himself from Akbar’s policy of religious tolerance and policy of equal treatment, Aurangzebe caused damage to Mughal rule.”

 

Book: Swadesho Shobhyota, by Dr. P. K. Basu and S. B. Ghatak, Abhinav Prakashan.

Page 126: Ashuddho — “Some people believe that Allauddin’s Mewar expedition was to get hold of Padmini, the wife of Rana Rattan Singh.”

Shuddho — Delete.

Page 145: Ashuddho — “Apart from this, because Islam used extreme inhuman means to establish itself in India, this became an obstacle for the coming together of Indian and Islamic cultures.”

Shuddho — Delete.

 

Book: Bharat Katha, by G. Bhattacharya, Bulbul Prakashan.

Page 40: Ashuddho — “Muslims used to take recourse to torture and inhuman means to force their religious beliefs and practices on Indians.”

Shuddho — Delete.

Page 41: Ashuddho — “The liberal, humane elements in Islam held out hope for oppressed Hindus.”

Shuddho — The entire paragraph beginning with “the caste system among Hindus…. was attacked” is to be deleted. Instead write, “There was no place for casteism in Islam. Understandably, the influence of Islam created an awakening among Hindus against caste discrimination. Lower caste oppressed Hindus embraced Islam.”

Page 77: Ashuddho — “His main task was to oppress non-believers, especially Hindus.”

Shuddho — This and the preceding sentence to be deleted.

 

Book: Bharuter Itihash, by A. C. Roy, published by Prantik.

Page 102: Ashuddho — “There is an account that Allauddin attacked Chittor to get the beautiful wife of Rana Rattan Singh, Padmini.”

Shuddho — Delete.

Page 164: Ashuddho — “It was his commitment to Islam which made him a fundamentalist.”

Shuddho — Delete.

 

Book: Bharut Kahini, by G. C. Rowchoudhury, published by A. K. Sarkar and Co.

Page 130: Ashuddho — “That is why he adopted the policy of converting Hindus to Islam — so as to increase the number of Muslims. Those Hindus who refused to discard their religion were indiscriminately massacred by him or his generals.”

Shuddho — Delete.

In a word, no forcible conversions, no massacres, no destruction of temples. Just that Hinduism had created an exploitative, casteist society. Islam was egalitarian. Hence the oppressed Hindus embraced Islam!

 

Muslim historians of those times are in raptures at the heap of Kafirs who have been dispatched to hell. Muslim historians are forever lavishing praise on the ruler for the temples he has destroyed, for the hundreds of thousands he has got to see the light of Islam. Law books like The Hedaya prescribe exactly the options to which these little textbooks alluded. All whitewashed away.

 

Objective whitewash for objective history. And today if anyone seeks to restore truth to these textbooks, the scream, “Communal rewriting of history.”

 

But there isn’t just whitewash of Islam. For after Islam came another great emancipatory ideology — Marxism-Leninism.

 

The teachers furnish extracts from the textbook for Class V.

“…. in Russia, China, Vietnam, Cuba and in other East European countries, the workers and peasants are ruling the country after capturing power, whereas in U.S.A., England, France and Germany the owners of mills and factories are ruling the country.”

“…. after the Revolution in Russia the first exploitation-free society was established.”

“…. Islam and Christianity are the only religions which treated man with honour and equality….”

Thus, not just whitewash, there is hogwash too.

*******************************************************

 

Title: THE EMINENT ENTREPRENEURS!

Author: Arun Shourie

Publication: India Connect

Date: Aug 24, 1998

 

Answer by the Ministry for Human Resources Development to Unstarred Question number 3466 in the Rajya Sabha: “Professor Bipin Chandra was sanctioned a sum of Rs. 75,000/- during 1987-88 for the assignment entitled ‘A History of Indian National Congress’. A sum of Rs. 57,500/- has been released to him till 23.6.1989. The remaining balance of Rs. 17,500/- is yet to be released because a formal manuscript in this regard is yet to be received.”

 

I, therefore, wrote to the Ministry: “Does this mean that some informal manuscript has been received ? Or that no manuscript has been received? If the latter is the case, how is it that nine years having passed, the scholar having taken Rs. 57,500/- for a project and not having submitted the manuscript, no action has been taken?”

 

After some reminders, the Ministry eventually wrote to say: “…. it has been confirmed by ICHR that no manuscript — either formally or informally — has been received so far.” As regards the action taken, the Ministry said, information was being obtained from the ICHR.

 

I am now informed in writing that the Rs. 75,000/- allotted to this “eminent historian” for this project — “the Oral History Project” — was but a part, a small part of the total take. Bipin Chandra was given in addition Rs. TWO LAKHS by the ICSSR and Rs. FOUR LAKHS through the Jawaharlal Nehru University. Neither institution has received any manuscript.

 

Actually this matter became an issue when time came for this “eminent historian” to retire from the JNU. The University, naturally, could not do without his eminence. A proposal was, therefore, put up to engage him again after retirement. The then Rector of the University pointed out that, according to the University’s rules, the retirement dues etc. could not be settled, and a contract to engage Bipin Chandra again could not be entered into till the accounts for the FOUR LAKHS had been submitted, and that Bipin Chandra had studiously neglected to furnish the accounts. No accounts came. The then Vice-Chancellor papered over the matter.

 

As nothing but nothing has turned up in the ICHR in return for its grant, the second part of my query remained: what action has the ICHR taken in the matter? I am now told, “No action has been initiated on this as Dr. Bipin Chandra is stated to be still working on the project.” That is the position nine years after his eminence collected the money!

 

From documents which have been furnished in response to my queries, it turns out that this is the pattern. The ICHR commenced a National Movement Project — to which I shall come in a moment — to document our freedom struggle from the mid-1850s. Bipin Chandra took Rs. 12,000/- to produce the volume covering 1885-86. Result? Nothing has been heard of it since. He took another Rs. 12,000/- for the volume covering 1932-34. Outcome? “Not submitted,” says the ICHR. Being eminent, Bipin Chandra is naturally in the circle of friends among whom the “Towards Freedom Project” was parceled. To assist him to shoulder his onerous load in this regard, the ICHR has employed over the years one “regular” staff member plus eight staff members “on consolidated salary”. Result? “Volume not submitted.”

 

But, to be fair, this pattern is not confined to this eminent historian alone. It has been the pattern for the entire institution manned and controlled by these “eminent historians.”

 

Mr. V. N Gadgil, the Congress member, asked a written question in the Rajya Sabha about the projects which had been undertaken by the ICHR, and what had happened to them. In its reply (to Unstarred Question number 3476) the Ministry of Human Resources Development stated, “According to the information furnished by the ICHR, three major projects — namely, the ‘Towards Freedom,’ ‘Dictionary of Inscriptions,’ and the ‘Economic History of India’ — started between 1976 and 1992 have been continued during the last five years. These are in different stages of completion….”

 

The rat was there for everyone to see: Gadgil, after all, had not asked about “major projects,” nor had he said anything about projects “started between 1976 and 1992.” Therefore, after some inquiries with, as journalists say, “informed sources,” I asked, “But what about the project for documenting the National Freedom Movement from 1857 to 1936? How many volumes were to be produced under it? To whom was each volume assigned? How much was paid to each scholar? How much has been spent on each volume? How many volumes have been produced under this project?”

 

The Ministry replied, “…. the Indian Council of Historical Research have stated that no project was commissioned by them to document National Movement between 1857 and 1937.” What a foolish evasion! All I had to do was to draw the attention of the Ministry to successive annual reports of the ICHR which had been presented to Parliament over two decades: report after report had listed this as one of the major projects which the ICHR had initiated!

 

Please look at the account commencing from page 26 of the Annual Report for 1972-1973, I wrote; please look at the account commencing from page 16 of the Annual Report for 1973-1974, I wrote…. The result? I am now informed that such a project had indeed been undertaken. Nineteen volumes were to have been produced. The volumes were assigned to different scholars — our eminencies as usual led the rest! Each scholar collected Rs. 12,000/- per volume he had been assigned. The result? Here, in the words of the ICHR, is a list of the period to be covered by the volume, the scholar to whom it was assigned, the money the scholar collected, the result:

1. Before 1857: K. Rajayan: Rs,. 12,000/-; Submitted but not traceable.

2. 1857-1885: S. R. Mehrotra: Rs,. 12,000/-; Not submitted.

3. 1885-1886: Bipin Chandra: Rs,. 12,000/-; Not submitted.

4. 1896-98: Bipan Chandra: Not assigned.

5. 1899-1902: B.L. Grover: Rs. 12,000/-; Submitted and published.

6. 1902-1903: B.L. Grover: Not assigned.

7. 1903-1905: B.L. Grover: Not assigned.

8. 1905-1907: Sumit Sarkar: Rs. 12,000/-; Not submitted.

9. 1907-1909: Sumit Sarkar: Rs. 12,000/-; Not submitted.

10. 1910-1915: M.N. Das: Rs. 12,000/-; Not submitted.

11. 1915-1919: T.K. Ravindran: Rs. 12,000/-; Not submitted.

12. 1919-1920: V. N. Duty: Rs. 12,000/-; Submitted and published.

13. 1920-1922: Sita Ram Singh: Rs. 12,000/-; Submitted, under production.

14. 1922-1924: Sreekumaran Nair: Rs. 12,000/-; Submitted and published.

15. 1924-1926: Amba Prasad: Rs. 12,000/-; Not submitted.

16. 1927-1929: Bimal Prasad: Rs. 12,000/-; Not submitted.

17. 1930-1931: Bimal Prasad: Rs. 12,000/-; Not submitted.

18. 1932-1934: Bipan Chandra: Rs. 12,000/-; Not submitted.

19. 1934-1937: Gopal Krishna: Rs. 12,000/-; Not submitted.

 

As you read the amounts, do remember that they were paid out in the mid-1970s, when they amounted to much, much more than they do in these days of scams.

 

And what about the project to document the Praja Mandal Movement, the freedom movement in the princely states?, I inquired. The requisite details are being collected by the ICHR, the Ministry wrote.

 

After a reminder, the Ministry wrote: “The ICHR had taken [sic.] such a project. No further information is readily available.”

 

“Surely, you would not like to leave the matter at that,” I had to write. “Was a large sum of public money not spent on the Project? Who had been assigned the Project? What has resulted from the large expenditure of public money?” The ICHR has furnished the details now. These conform to the norm, so to say: the Project was assigned to one of the key-point men of the “eminent historians” in the Council, R. C. Shukla. Staff was assigned.

 

Materials are reported to have been collected between 1976 and 1982. A sum of Rs. FOUR LAKHS AND THIRTY FIVE THOUSAND was spent. The net outcome? “No publication has come out on PMM [the Praja Mandal Movements], to the best knowledge of the Council,” says the Council.

 

What about the project which was undertaken to document “Peasants Movements”?, I inquired. Fourteen volumes were to be produced, the ICHR says. Six of these were assigned among three scholars at Rs. 12,000/- per volume. One of these has been published. Two are listed as “Not Submitted.” And three as “Submitted but not traceable.”

 

What about the “Economic Data and Statistics Project,” which was listed with such fan-fare in the Annual Reports till some years ago?, I asked. Six volumes were to be produced under it, the ICHR says. The authors, the subjects they were to cover in the volume assigned to them, the money which was paid to them, and the outcome, in the words of the ICHR, are as follows:

1. B. B. Chaudhuri: “Agriculture, Rent and Revenue”; Rs. 12,000/-; Not submitted.

2. S. Bhattacharya: “Financial and Currency Policies”; Rs.12,000/-; Not submitted.

3. Surendra Gopal: “Trade (inland and foreign) in the 17th and 18th Centuries”; Rs. 12,000/-; Not submitted.

4. Nilomani Mukherjee: “Trade (inland and foreign) in 19th and 20th Centuries”; Rs. 12,000/-; Not submitted.

5. A. K. Bagchi: “Indian Industries (1860-1939”; Rs. 12,000/-; Not submitted.

6. V. B. Singh: “Labour, Prices, and Wages (1914-45)”; Rs. 12,000/-; Submitted but not traceable.

 

In a word, as against the six volumes which were to have been published, not one has been published. The money having been disbursed, the project was just given up!

 

Only to be succeeded by an even more ambitious project around the same theme, the “Project on Documentation on Economic History.” What about this one?, I asked. After all, it had been listed by the ICHR itself as one of the major projects the Council had undertaken. The project was commenced in 1992, says the ICHR. Seventeen volumes were to be produced between 1992 and 1997. The total cost was to be Rs. 25 lakhs. As of today, says the ICHR, no volume has been published. And a cool Rs. NINETEEN AND A HALF LAKHS have  already been spent.

 

What about the “Medieval Sources Project”?, I asked. After some search, the ICHR has supplied the following list of the scholars to whom the work was assigned, the subject he was to cover, the money sanctioned to each, and the result:

1. Satish Chandra & Co.: Hindi translation of “Early Sources of Akbar’s Reign”; Not completed, money not indicated.

2. Irfan Habib: Akbarat-e-Aurangzeb: Rs. 27,000/-; Not completed.

3. Moonis Raza: “Atlas of the Mughal Empire”: Rs. 22,400/-; Not completed.

4. Anis Faruqi: Tashir-ul-Aqwani: Rs. 9,000/-; Not completed.

5. Satish Chandra: Documents on Social and Economic History: Rs. 23,000/-; Not completed.

6. P. Saran: Tarikh-i-Akbari: Rs. 18,500/-; Submitted but not traceable — but on that last entry, more in a moment.

 

What about the much-touted “Translation Project”, I inquired. It began in April, 1972, the ICHR says, when the National Book Trust proposal for translating the volumes in the Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan Series on the history and culture of India was received in the ICHR. A committee consisting of the usual eminencies — S. Gopal, Tapan Raychaudhuri, Satish Chandra, Romila Thapar — was constituted. This Committee resolved that the Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan volumes — which in fact are the very best and most outstanding of works produced in the last fifty years –“are not suitable for translation into Indian languages,” and that this proposal should not be pursued any further.

 

The Committee suggested that alternative titles be selected for translation.

 

And, lo and behold!, the largest number of titles which the eminent historians selected were of the eminencies themselves, and of those who advocated their line! R. S. Sharma, a Chairman of the ICHR: five titles; S. Gopal: three titles; Romila Thapar: three titles; Bipin Chandra: two titles; Irfan Habib: two titles; his father, Mohammed Habib : two titles; Satish Chandra: one title….

 

What amount has been spent on this Project, I inquired, how much royalty was paid to the authors, I inquired. The ICHR has incurred an expenditure of Rs. FORTY ONE LAKHS AND EIGHTY NINE THOUSAND, the Ministry said, and added, “Authors of the books selected for translation were not paid royalties.”

 

Having got to know their ways by now, I persisted. Had I used the wrong word?, I inquired. Had they got payment under some head other than “royalties”? The ICHR has now said that in fact authors were paid, “a lump sum for translation rights”: Rs. 1,000 per language per volume if the book was more than 200 pages, and Rs. 500 per language per volume if the book was less than 200 pages. Hence, R. S. Sharma got a total of Rs. 47,000 for his books; Bipin Chandra, Rs. 14,000; Irfan Habib, Rs. 11,000; Romila Thapar, Rs. 12,000….

 

What other projects have been undertaken?, I inquired, and to what result ? The ICHR’s list:

1. K.K. Dutta : “Old Zamindari Records of Bihar” : Rs. 12,000/-; Submitted two volumes but not traceable.

2. B. Ramakrishna : “Writings of Veerasalingam” : Rs. 12,000/-; Not submitted.

3. Bipan Chandra : “Oral History Project” : Rs. 75,000/- from ICHR, Rs. 2,00,000/- from ICSSR, and Rs. 4,00,000/- from JNU; Not completed.

 

Having reached our friend, the eminence, again, I abandoned the search.

 

In his question V. N. Gadgil had asked the Minister to state “whether several hundred manuscripts are either missing from the Council’s custody or are totally damaged; if so, what action Government have taken in the matter.” In its written reply to the Rajya Sabha the Ministry stated, “The ICHR have informed that a few manuscripts are reportedly either missing or have not been sent to the Press for certain reasons. The Council have intimated that it has initiated action to ascertain whether any manuscript has been lost or appropriated otherwise.”

 

Another rat: see how the case of manuscripts which were “missing” had been clubbed with that of manuscripts which “have not been sent to the Press for certain reasons.” And how the case of manuscripts which have been lost had been clubbed with that of manuscripts which have been “appropriated otherwise.”

 

I, therefore, wrote to the Ministry inquiring, “How many manuscripts are covered by the phrase ‘a few manuscripts’?” Second, could information please be compiled separately for manuscripts which have been “lost” and those which have “not been sent to the Press for certain reasons?” Third, “Since when has the ICHR ‘initiated action to ascertain whether any manuscript been lost or appropriated otherwise’? What is the current status of this so-called action? In particular, is it a fact that the manuscript submitted by one of the most distinguished medieval Indian historians, Dr. P. Saran has been ‘missing’? Is it a fact that an inquiry has been instituted to ascertain whether this very manuscript has been purloined by a staff member and printed under his name?”

 

On 24 July, 1998, I received not one but two letters from the Ministry. One stated that details in this regard were being collected. The second letter of the same day stated, “As regards missing manuscripts, the Council has stated that to the best of their knowledge no manuscript is missing.”

 

I naturally had to draw the attention of the Ministry to the fact that this was at considerable variance with what they had implied in reply to Gadgil’s question. But much more curious was what they said about the specific manuscript to which I had drawn their attention — namely, that of Dr. Parmatma Saran. The note accompanying one letter said, “The Council has been requested to furnish details in this regard.” The note accompanying the second letter of the same day said, “As regards Dr. Parmatma Saran’s manuscript entitled ‘Tarikh-i-Akbari’ (English translation) does not appear to have been received in the Council. However, an extensive search is on to trace it in the archives.”

 

I pointed out to the Ministry that this assertion was, to say the least, odd. How did it square with the fact that the Annual Report of the Council for 1976-1977 on pages 10 and 11 had listed the “English translation of Arif Qandhari’s Tarikh-i-Akbari by Dr. Parmatma Saran” as being among the volumes which “have already been completed and received in the Council”? How did what was being said now — that the manuscript “does not appear to have been received in the Council” — square with the fact that the Annual Report of the Council for 1977-1978 had on page 9 listed “Tarikh-i-Akbari of Arif Qandhari: English translation by Dr. Parmatma Saran” as having “been received in the Council”?

 

The ICHR has at last taken a giant step closer to the truth. It says, Yes, the Annual Reports confirm that the manuscript prepared by Dr. Saran was indeed received in the Council. Yes, Dr. Saran died, his son-in-law wrote to the Council in 1995. He pointed out that the Annual Reports of the Council themselves showed that the manuscript had been received by the ICHR, and added, “As we understand, this project of my father-in-law was to be later published by the ICHR. We are not aware if this has indeed been done by the ICHR although nearly 20 years have elapsed since the translation was completed, but we have been extremely disturbed to hear stories to the effect that not only has someone else published the translation as his own work, but that this has been done by a member of the staff of the ICHR….” The ICHR now acknowledges that an inquiry was initiated in 1995. The heads of the Publications Section, of the Grants-in-Aid Section, and of the Medieval Unit were asked what had happened to the manuscript. The Grants-in-Aid Section had confirmed that the manuscript had been received. The Publications Section said the manuscript had never been forwarded to it. That left the Section which was in a sense responsible for overseeing the project – the Medieval Unit. The Deputy Director in charge of this unit said that the manuscript was not traceable in his unit. Not satisfied with the reply, the then Director once again urged the Deputy Director, Medieval Unit, “to do his best efforts [sic.] to trace out the manuscript.”

 

But the friends, all entangled in those “webs of mutual complicity,” intervened. And the inquiry was killed.

 

Guess who obtained a Ph. D. from Rajasthan University in 1992 by submitting “an annotated English translation of Arif Qandhari’s Tarikh-i-Akbari”. Guess who has published the book in his name? The very same Deputy Director in charge of the ICHR’s Medieval Unit — Tasneem Ahmed! And guess who has written the preface to the book?

 

The very eminent Irfan Habib!

 

And guess what has happened now that the issue has been pursued? The appropriator had thought he had executed the perfect crime — that he had destroyed the manuscript of Dr. Saran. But the thorough search initiated by the current Chairman of the ICHR yielded sixty two pages of the manuscript in another file — with corrections in the late Dr. Saran’s own hand! And wonder of wonders — that manuscript written twenty years earlier was an exact verbatim prelude to the book published by Tasneem Ahmed as his own!

 

A new Committee was therefore constituted to compare the two and assess the chances that this miracle could have happened without the Deputy Director of the Council Tasneem Ahmed having stolen Dr. Saran’s work! I look forward to the happy result.

 

Next: Part II

 

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Arun Shourie (born 2 November 1941) is an Indian journalist, author and politician. He served as an economist with the World Bank (1968–72 and 1975–77), a consultant to the Planning Commission, India, editor of the Indian Express and Times of India and a minister in the government of India (1998–2004). He was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1982.

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