Devices To Further the Circular

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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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Author: Arun Shourie
Publication: India Connect
Date: September 1, 1998.


As we have seen, the explicit part of the Circular issued by the West Bengal Government in 1989 in effect was that there must be no negative reference to Islamic rule in India. Although these were the very things which contemporary Islamic writers celebrated, there must be absolutely no reference to the destruction of the temples by Muslim rulers, to the forcible conversion of Hindus, to the numerous other restrictions which were placed on the Hindu population. Along with the Circular, the passages which had to be removed were listed and substitute passages were specified. The passages which were ordered to be deleted contained, if anything, a gross understatement of the facts. On the other hand, passages which were sought to be inserted contained total falsehoods: that by paying jazia Hindus could lead “normal lives” under the Islamic rulers!


A closer study of the textbooks which are today being used under the authority of the West Bengal Government shows a much more comprehensive, a much more diabolic design than that of merely erasing the cruelties of Islamic rule.


Of course, there is no reference to those cruelties. But in addition, the growth of the Aligarh Movement and its objectives, the role of Sir Syed in founding this movement, the role of the Muslim League, its close association with the British, its espousal of the Two Nation doctrine — all these are almost entirely erased in the half a dozen books which teachers in Calcutta have been so kind as to send.


It was only in one book, Sabhyatar Itihash by Dr. Atul Chandra Ray, Prantik, 1998, for Class VIII, that there was a reference to the Muslim League, the Lahore Resolution, the Two Nation theory, and Jinnah’s “Direct Action”. Even in this book the only reference to Sir Syed Ahmad was one projecting him as a great, progressive religious reformer: “All his life he struggled against blind faith and tradition, conventional rituals, practices and ignorance.”


That he founded the Aligarh Movement, that he was the original proponent of the Two Nation theory, that he exhorted Muslims to stay away from the Congress, that he wrote essays followed by books followed by essays to establish in the eyes of the British how loyal Muslims had been through the 1857 Uprising, how loyal they were and would always be to the British because of their nature and their religion, that he gave very special “interpretations” to passages from the Qur’an to establish that it was the religious duty of Muslims to support and stand by the British rulers — to the point that if the British asked them to eat pork, they were in religious-duty bound to do so in good cheer : not a word on any of this.


Similarly, while Ram Mohan Roy is mentioned, while Keshab Chandra Sen — in whom Max Muller had seen such hope of Christianizing India! — is mentioned, while Devendra Nath Tagore is mentioned in this “History of Civilization”, Bankim Chandra is not mentioned ! After all, for the constituency which our secular Communists have been wooing, Bankim Chandra, being the author of Bande Matram, of Ananda Math, is anathema. Many would think it natural that as such “Histories of World Civilization” are written in and for Bengal, Bengali personages — including K. C. Sen! — should figure more prominently than reformers and leaders from outside Bengal. But even they would be surprised — though you would not expect me to be surprised! — by what the teachers point out in regard to the most widely used textbook : that while Swami Vivekananda gets one line, Karl Marx gets forty two!


In regard to our religion, the trick is threefold. The textbooks denigrate religion, attributing to it the evils which it serves their purpose to highlight. Second, in each of these instances the examples they give are linked by them to Hinduism. Third, among religions, Islam is always presented as the one, progressive, emancipatory religion. Of course, the final emancipation comes in the form of Soviet Revolution of 1917!


Itihash o’ Bhugol, Pratham Bhag, West Bengal Shiksha Adhikar, Calcutta, 1993 is a book for Class III. It has the customary section on “Vyaktigat Sampatti o’ Das Pratha” and it sets out the customary Marxist exposition. The emergence of two classes, rich and poor, is attributable to personal property and the profit motive….; to augment its growth, one class of society fights another class….; some lose out their property; others grab everything of theirs’….; those who lose out are made prisoners and employed as labourers; they become slaves; they are absolute paupers….; those who make them work like this become their malik….; gradually those maliks, without working, start enjoying the fruits of the labour of slaves….; thus society gets divided into rich and poor, owners and slaves; the rich and owners and craftsmen class of people start fleecing these slaves; not only are the latter denied their dues, they are also subjected to atyachar….; sometimes these poor and these slaves used to rebel when they could no longer bear the atyachar; to discipline them the rich created law, police and courts…. A proper preparation of the Class III child for abiding by law!


On the next page this account is merged into the account of “rituals and ceremonies of society.” The illustration on the page shows Hindu pundits around a fire with the caption “Rishis performing Yajna”. Having described the emergence of two classes, the oppression of one class and its being pushed into becoming slave labour, having described law, police and courts as instruments of this oppression, the textbook now tells the Class III student “these priests devised and got busy in creating laws and rituals for worship. That is how scriptures were written.


And they started teaching the children from these scriptures, and they themselves became the teachers. Gradually they established themselves at the top of the social ladder. That is how they became leaders of society. And they became the allies of those who were ruling the world.” Not just the usual Marxist clap-trap, the Marxist rendition of the Macaulay-design: make them ashamed of the three things they revere — their Gods, their scriptures, their language, Sanskrit; and make them hate the one class which has been charged with the task of continuing their religion and culture.


The theme is continued in and the association of Hinduism with everything evil is deepened in the textbook, Itihash o’ Bhugol, Part II (West Bengal Vidyalaya Shiksha Adhikar, 1995, Calcutta), meant for the Class IV students. On page 10 the standard account is given – one which has been called into serious question by current scholarship. Aryans come from the North West…. They institute four castes, the Shudras are consigned to be the lowest caste. They were the original inhabitants of this land, of dark complexion…. No right to education…. That is on page 10.

On page 17 we learn of the great emancipatory event. Mohammed is born. He establishes Islam…. It creates a great civilization, a civilization educationally, culturally advanced. It establishes a vast Empire — but because of fighting in various parts this Empire yields to the emergence of different states. Two pages later again: Mohammed is born…., a great Mahapurush…., his religion Islam means “Peace”. He taught all to give alms to the poor, and to pay the worker his legitimate due. He taught, do not cause pain or suffering to slaves, do not take interest on loans. He stopped idolatry. These are the principal doctrines of Mohammed. Many accepted Mohammed’s religion…. And then the insinuation: “All great men have taught peace….. but people have forgotten their message and are quarreling and fighting. The rich instead of helping the poor, duped them, and added to their own wealth. They indulge in loot, blood-letting in the name of religion. When Jainism and Buddhism spread in India, the Brahmin pundits saw danger. They thought that if men did not follow the rituals, they may not obey and care for them. Therefore, on the pretext of saving Hindu religion and to maintain their hold on society, they became desperate. They were helped by many kings. Thus the influence of Jainism and Buddhism declined and the influence of Hinduism increased.” That is on page 20.

On pages 25 and 26 this superimposition is carried further. The standard Marxist “thesis” is once again driven into the child. Peasants exploited…. surplus appropriated…. his cattle, land expropriated ….suffering…. progressive immiserisation day by day…. and then, “in the name of God, the pundits extracted gifts for puja and festivals. The pundits became oppressive and began living off the labour of others, becoming exploiters and oppressors. They were helped by kings and landlords. Shudras, slaves and the poor suffer most from religious persecution. This is how the stratification of society between high and low started. Shudras became untouchables but there was no restriction on exploiting their services and every excuse was good enough for the men of higher castes to exploit and persecute the Shudras…. The upper caste men used to kill off Shudras and wipe out entire villages on any excuse whatsoever.”

And there is an illustration on the page to reinforce the message into the child’s mind. Captioned, Dharmiya Utpidan, “Religious Persecution”, it shows a man in a bush-shirt, flogging a poor person with a whip — in the foreground is a Brahmin, in a dhoti, with a chutia, a menacing frown, directing him to do so.


By predictable contrast, Itihash (Prachin), West Bengal Shiksha Parishad, 1994, on page 94 gives an illustration of the ruins of Nalanda, it says how important these seats of learning were. But it is studiously silent on who it was that destroyed them! After all, alluding to that would violate the Circular!


The Class III textbook, Itihash o’ Bhugol, Pratham Bhag, at page 32, teaches the child, “With the emergence of personal property one section has been depriving the other. The differences between rich and poor have grown. Suffering has been created. The downtrodden have lost all their rights. They have been subjected to many indignities. Even now people are killing each other, even now a man exploits a fellow-being, even now there are wars, battles. If peace ever comes to this earth, if exploitation and oppression are stopped, if every man can enjoy equal happiness and peace, then how wonderful this earth would become.”


This pattern — of sowing anger against the state of things and attributing that condition to the entities the Communists want to target — continues from one year to the next. Itihash, Part III, (West Bengal Shiksha Adhikar, 1996), after giving the same sequence and “theses” of exploitation, of division of society, of religion as a handmaiden of exploitation, turns to “the emergence of new consciousness”. An exploitative order…. Brahmins wielding great influence…. Those of the working class, of Shudras pushed down…. no rights or dignity…. Shudras not even to perform religious rituals…. Exploitation…. Rebellion of Christian slaves…. Spartacus…. Shakes the very foundation of the Roman Empire…. After 600 years of Christ, a new religious creed that every man has equal rights, this religious creed was preached by Hazrat Mohammed…. Ideas of great men abandoned…. Exploitation continues. At last! Lenin, the Bolshevik Party…. “This is how the common man’s revolt took place in November 1917 and an exploitation-less [shoshan-mukt] society of the working class was established. Tagore visited Russia in 1930 and said that if he had not visited Russia, he would have missed out on the most sacred place of pilgrimage….” The

Chinese Revolution…. The Industrial Revolution in England…. Proprietors expropriate…. Labour is progressively immiserised…. Country becomes rich but is controlled by a few; the rest sink into misery, getting hardly anything, not even two square meals a day…. And then, on page 32, the Russian Revolution: “In November 1917 before the end of the First World War, the workers and peasants of the Russian Empire led by Lenin and his Bolshevik Party staged the Revolution and uprooted the Czarist Empire and thus established the first exploitation-less [shoshan-mukt] rule of Workers and Peasants in Soviet Russia….”


And then the Second World War: Hitler, Japan and Italy combined. Japan also was very greedy and ambitious, and planned to set up an Empire in Asia. The Axis came into conflict with “Britain, France and the American imperialists.” “The issue,” it tells the student, “was who will exploit and plunder the world. That is how the Second World War started….” Bengal Famine…. In 1941 Germany attacked Soviet Russia. The Russian people fought to defend the Motherland and finally defeated Hitler’s Germany. Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki…. After the end of the Second World War, the movement for freedom in colonies became vigorous.


Like this book, Sabhyatar Itihash, “The History of Civilization,” 1998, also presents the Russian Revolution as the culmination of that evolution. A remarkable, comprehensive revolution…. While these books are published in 1995, 1998 etc., there is not a word in them about the purges under Stalin, about the fact that under him at least 28 million Soviet citizens were killed, nor of the fact that close to 60 million were killed under Maoist rule in China, there is not a word of the slave labour camps of these regimes. And, of course, there is not a word about hat has happened to the Soviet Union, to Eastern Europe since then, nor about the leap which China has taken to abandon the bankrupt Communist economic system.


Hence the design is not just what was set out in that Circular – to erase the evil that Islamic rulers heaped upon India and Indians. It is to attribute evil to the religion of our country, Hinduism; it is to present Islam as the great progressive force which arose; it is to lament the fact that humanity did not heed the teachings of progressive men like Mohammed — till the “remarkable and comprehensive” Russian Revolution of 1917!


To do anything but swallow and vomit this design, even to document it, is to be communal, chauvinist, fascist!




Author: Arun Shourie

Publication: India Connect

Date: Sept 7, 1998


How fulsome they have been in commending each other — the patrons and subalterns!


First the significance of Arif Qandhari’s Tarikh-i-Akbari: it confirms what we know from Abul Fazl’s Akbar Nama, says the eminent historian, it furnishes information we did not have earlier. He then recalls what has been done in regard to Qandhari’s history by scholars already: “The Tarikh-i-Akbari has been excellently edited and annotated by Muinuddin Nadvi, Azhar Ali Dehlawi and Imtiaz Ali Arshi.” And so, the need of the hour : “What it [ the Tarikh-i-Akbari ] now needed was a full-scale English translation.” This pressing need, at last fulfilled: “This has been provided by Dr. Tasneem Ahmad in a very competent manner, aiming at faithful accuracy and at a critical assessment of the information here received by comparing it with that offered by other sources.”


Not just that. This most eminent of historians writes: “The publication of Dr. Tasneem Ahmad’s translation is a notable contribution to the National celebration of the 450th Anniversary of Akbar’s birth. I feel confident that it would reinforce the interest in Akbar’s age widespread among those who have a care for the long process of the creation of a composite culture and a unity that together constitute what is India.”


Not just the needs of history, therefore, those of secularism, of unity based on a composite culture too fulfilled! Such fulsome commendation from the very eminent, Irfan Habib himself in his Foreword to the book. And don’t miss the description of India — just the composite culture and unity which it has taken a long process to create! The unity of course being nothing but a manifestation of, and totally dependent on that composite culture! So, composite culture it is.


The compliments duly returned: “The first and foremost [sic.],” writes Tasneem Ahmad, “I express my profound sense of gratitude, very personal regards and respects to Professor Irfan Habib, who encouraged and guided me at every stage of the work. In spite of his very pressing engagements and pre-occupation, he ungrudgingly spared his valuable time to examine with care every intricate problem, arising out [sic.] during the course of work.”


The debt to another of these eminences not forgotten either: “My debt to my revered teacher,” writes Tasneem Ahmad, “Professor Satish Chandra is incalculable. He took great pains in reading and correcting the work and his considered suggestions have paid me rich dividend.”

“Examining with care every problem arising out during the course of work”? Taking “great pains in reading and correcting the work”? Advancing “considered suggestions” which “pay rich dividend”? — when the entire manuscript has been lifted word for word from the work of Dr. Parmatma Saran ?


It isn’t just a part of that composite culture that a subaltern should execute such genuflections towards his patrons. It is plain prudence. By thanking them for their “guidance at every stage,” for their “corrections” and “suggestions”, the subaltern ensures that they too are culpable, and, therefore, to protect themselves if for no other reason, they will shield him!


The plagiarised book is appropriately dedicated: “To the memory of my revered Ustad,” writes Tasneem Ahmad, “Professor S. Nurul Hasan” — a “scholar” famous for his unpublished writings, the initial master-mind who coordinated the capture of academic institutions by the progressives. How fitting — that when it comes to dedicating something to such a person, the devotee should give as offering a stolen manuscript!


And what do we learn now?


“For some time an allegation has been made on one of the employees of the Council,” begins a note prepared for the ICHR meeting held on 31 August and September 1, “that a work entitled Tarikh-i-Akbari, translated by Professor Parmatma Saran under the scheme of the ICHR, was appropriated by the Deputy Director of a Medieval Unit [of the ICHR itself].” Because of the persistence of this allegation, and because of questions raised by members of Parliament, it goes on to say, the Chairman constituted a Fact-Finding Committee on 8 August, 1998 to get to the bottom of the matter.


The Committee consisted of Professor K. S. Lal, an authority on medieval India, Professor Harbans Mukhia of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, and Dr. T. R. Sareen, former Director of the ICHR. It was asked to assess, inter alia, whether Dr. Parmatma Saran’s manuscript had been received in the Council [you will recall that in one of their letters to me the Ministry of Human Resource Development had said that it did not seem that the manuscript had ever been received ], and to ascertain whether the manuscript had been “in any form plagiarised by any body, within or outside the Council.”


The manuscript of 62 pages which, as I reported earlier, had been recovered in the almirahs of the ICHR was turned over to the Committee. Here are the Committee’s findings on the questions:

“(1) On the strength of the published Annual Report of the ICHR for the year 1976-77 (p. 11), it is obvious that the translation of Tarikh-i-Akbari into English done by Professor Parmatma Saran was received in the Council. This is also confirmed by the report submitted by the Grants-in-Aid Unit of the Council dated 24.8.1995 when a preliminary enquiry was constituted to locate the manuscript. The fact(s) (are) that full payment of honorarium was made to the scholar (which in normal case is only done after the receipt of the completed manuscript), and the second project was granted to Professor P. Saran only after completion of the first project. This related to the translation of Mirat-ul-Istlab, which was assigned to Professor P. Saran in February, 1978. This also indirectly confirms the receipt of the earlier manuscript on Tarikh-i-Akbari. With this evidence, the Committee is led to believe that there is no reason to doubt the receipt of the manuscript Tarikh-i-Akbari by the Council.

(2) The Committee was provided with sixty odd pages of type-script of the translation of Tarikh-i-Akbari done by Professor P. Saran. These pages were recovered from the file dealing with the translation assigned to Professor P. Saran. These pages were compared with that published by one of the members of the ICHR, Shri Tasneem Ahmad, and the Committee found overwhelming similarity between Professor P. Saran’s translation and Shri Ahmad’s book. The Committee felt that the similarity could not be accidental and the element of plagiarism cannot be ruled out.”


How befitting : as tribute to the 450th anniversary of Akbar, to that “composite culture and unity that together constitute India” a plagiarised book!


And the finale: in his office at the ICHR Tasneem Ahmad has kept on display a photograph — it shows him presenting the book to the then President of India, Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma! The touch of a master, that!


As the days proceed, more and more gems regarding the doings of these eminent historians keep tumbling out. The latest project I have learnt about can any day match the ones we have been considering in ambition — and in non achievement too. In addition, the records relating to it give us a glimpse of the entrepreneurial techniques of the eminences.


This particular project was started in 1987. It was to produce a Dictionary of Socio-Economic and Administrative Terms in Indian Inscriptions. The Dictionary was to be in nine volumes — that is a key element in the technology: always propose many volumes! The project was to completed in fifteen years — another key element: who knows who will be around 15 years hence! Twenty lakhs of Rupees were to be taken for the project — a third element: never be niggardly in demanding public funds!


Who were to be in charge? Our good friends. R. S. Sharma, a leading light of the Leftists, a former Chairman of the ICHR, later a leading advisor to the Sunni Wakf Board in its efforts to wrest the Babri Masjid site — he graciously agreed to be the “General Editor”. K. M. Shrimali, who has been very voluble on behalf of the Camp in the recent controversies, and K. V. Ramesh, with as much grace, agreed to be the “Main Editors”. In addition an “Advisory Board” of another eleven eminences was constituted to oversee the project — this is always a good device: thereby friends can meet at Government expense, and responsibility of the main suspects is always scattered.


Soon, the scope of the project was enlarged: Arabic, Persian and Urdu inscriptions too would be included. And soon this new part too was enlarged: farmans and the like in these languages would also be included, not just inscriptions. This too is always useful: enlarge the project every few months, the new items become the explanation for not having kept to the deadlines specified for the original proposal ! And who would do this part of the project?


Why, the most eminent of them all: “Responsibility for compiling the Arabic, Persian and Urdu inscriptions was accepted by Professor Irfan Habib on the request of the ICHR,” the records state.


How kind!


Everyone was to work in an “honorary capacity” — but in the special sense in which these worthies use the term “honorary”! Each of the two “Main Editors”, the “Editorial Committee” of the project decided in its meeting on 20 September, 1990, would be paid “an honorarium” of Rs. 5,000/- for every four months. The General Editor too would be paid an honorarium of Rs. 3,000/- for every four months. A very important rule that — never take money, take honoraria! The Committee also decided, “Professor Shrimali may be allowed to purchase relevant books in connection with the work of the project if the books are not supplied to him by the ICHR within a reasonable time” — a bit of honorariness which every scholar would lust after!


By 1994 there was a problem: there was little progress to record, though money was getting spent. The then Chairman, Ravinder Kumar [very eminent, the head of the Nehru Museum and Library etc.] convenes a meeting of what the record christens the “Consultative Committee”. The solution? The Committee decides that a revised proposal be prepared! Another sure-winner: months can be put to debating, drafting, redrafting, circulating, finalizing this, soon you can be arguing that the revised proposal contains elements which can be attended to only with an enhanced budget….Better still — prepare not a “revised proposal”, prepare a “draft revised proposal”. And that is what was done. A “draft revised proposal” was prepared, and, the record states, “handed over to the Chairman [Ravinder Kumar] for necessary action and approval.”


Sunk without trace! “It seems, that the draft proposal was not approved,” states the review note prepared by the ICHR now, “and work was not taken up as per revised plan [sic.].”


A spat is always useful, specially one involving principle, personal honour, self-respect. And, happily, one erupted. At a meeting of the Research Projects Committee, someone — perhaps Irfan Habib, I am not able to make out from the record — raised an objection: a Committee “in which there was very substantial membership of those who were to be beneficiaries of such a decision” should not have decided about payments to be made to the editors etc., he objected. Arguments ensued, tempers rose. But even as it decided that this shall be a “firm policy for the future”, the meeting decided that “each Main Editor, on completion of a particular volume with which he has been associated, be paid an honorarium of Rs. 25,000/-.”


It noted that this decision was strictly in accordance with precedent! “The Committee was prompted to this decision,” the minutes record, “in the knowledge that in the ‘Towards Freedom’ project of the ICHR each volume Editor was to be paid Rs. 25,000/- for his contribution.” Unassailable logic: as editors were to get that amount under a project which was not getting anywhere, why not under another project which was not getting anywhere either?


That decided, through an innocuous sentence tagged on to the end of a paragraph, the minutes slipped in another opportunity: “It may be noted,” the minutes noted, “that two or more Main Editors may be associated with the completion of each volume of the Dictionary project.” From two “Main Editors” for nine volumes, to “two or more Main Editors” for each volume!


“As for the Chief Editor [a promotion that, he had till now been known as the ‘General Editor’!],” the minutes recorded, “he should receive a sum of Rs. 30,000/- on the publication of each volume.”


R. S. Sharma, as befits his eminence as much as his Leftism, threw a fit — always a useful thing to do a few years into a project: you can then allow yourself to be persuaded, and, when questions are raised later about nothing having been done, you can always claim that you in any case had not wanted any part of the project. “In view of the strictures passed on the ‘beneficiaries’ of the Dictionary project in the RPC [Research Projects Committee] meeting,” he wrote to the Council, “I would not like to continue as Chief Editor. I neither asked for any ‘benefice’/’benefit’ in any meeting or outside nor did I receive any remuneration for the work that I did for the project. As far as I can remember none of the Main Editors asked for any benefit or remuneration in any meeting of the Editorial Committee.”


H. R. Deve Gowda, the then Prime Minster, and S. R. Bommai, the then Minister for Human Resource Development, selected the well-known art historian, Professor S. Settar to be the Chairman of the ICHR. In a sense an outsider, he was duly alarmed at the state of such projects. He addressed letters to Sharma, Shrimali and Ramesh in March 1997 inquiring about the work they had done. Months went by, he could not nudge anyone concerned to get on with the work. He accordingly convened a meeting of R. S. Sharma and Irfan Habib on 29 September, 1997. He was asked to contact Shrimali and Ramesh again.


Ramesh now deployed the next weapon: ask for more! Fools will always throw in good money after bad. He wrote back saying that for him to do the work, the Council should appoint three more scholars to assist him [so helpful was he that he specified the names of the three also!], that the Council provide him with a computer assistant, and also with rented accommodation! The Chairman wrote pointing out that already Rs. 45,000/- had been paid to Ramesh, seven years had passed, and asked how much more time was required. Another year “may be required” if the terms he had proposed were met, Ramesh answered!


In despair, Settar turned to Irfan Habib and Sharma again and “appealed” to them to help out — another tactic: subalterns block the pass; the only way the fellow can hope to proceed is by beseeching, and thereby getting in the debt of the principals! Sharma recalled that he had already dissociated himself from the project — vide the “beneficiaries” spat. In any event, the two met Settar, and agreed to submit — by now you should be able to guess — a revised project each!


“The detailed note of the revised project promised by Professor Sharma has not been received so far,” the ICHR was informed at its meeting on August 31-September 1. “Professor Irfan Habib has yet to send his detailed proposal which he promised to send on 10.3.98.”


As more and more queries were coming about the project, R. S. Sharma wrote to the Chairman on 7 July, 1998 that “at present I and Shrimali are terribly busy with the editing of Comprehensive History of India, Vol. IV, pt. 2. I will consult Shrimali to find out whether he can spare some time for the project this year, though I am not hopeful. A meeting of Ramesh, Shrimali and other members of the editorial board should be helpful for completing the project as soon as possible.”


Notice the tone: far from being the one who shares a major part of the responsibility for the state of affairs, the person is offering to do a favour, to, against his better judgment, contact Shrimali and see if something can be done to help the Chairman out !


The result? By now eleven years have passed. Rs. THREE LAKHS SEVENTY FOUR THOUSAND have been spent. Nothing but nothing has been published. Thousands of “cards” are said to have been compiled by specially hired “compilers” — these remain in the personal custody of Shrimali and Ramesh. And the Chairman is under advice that to get the project going he has to convene a meeting of the very persons who have brought the project to this state — with the caveat, of course, that the conditions specified by one of them must first be met, and that the other — the TV star — is “terribly busy” on some other project!


And, never forget, if the ICHR takes any step to bring them to account, if it takes any step to hand over the project to anyone else, it is doing so because these eminent historians are secular, and the Council is now set to saffronize history!




Author: Arun Shourie

Publication: India Connect

Date: Oct 20, 1998


The pattern of these textbooks thus is set in stone: concoct a picture of pre-Islamic society of Indian history as a period riddled by discord, tensions, inequity and oppression — evidence or no evidence; on the other side, concoct a picture of the Islamic period as one in which a “composite culture” flowered, one in which, in spite of the errors of few who acted out of normal, non-religious motives, there was peace and harmony — evidence or no evidence!


This pattern continues throughout the textbook, Medieval India written by Satish Chandra, and published by the NCERT for Class XI students. Satish Chandra has been a recipient of the ICHR’s projects, he has been a member of the ICHR, he has been a National Fellow of the ICHR, he has been Chairman of the University Grants Commission. It is about him that Tasneem Ahmad wrote in his plagiarised book, “My debt to my revered teacher, Professor Satish Chandra is incalculable. He took great pains in reading and correcting the work and his considered suggestions have paid me rich dividend.” In a word, as eminent as they come.


“Thus, there was no atmosphere of confrontation between the Sikhs and the Mughal rulers during this period,” says Satish Chandra. “Nor was there any systematic persecution of the Hindus, and hence, no occasion for the Sikhs or any group or sect to stand forth as the champion of the Hindus against religious persecution. The occasional conflict between the Gurus and the Mughal rulers was personal and political rather than religious. Despite some display of orthodoxy by Shah Jahan at the beginning of his reign and a few acts of intolerance, such as the demolition of ‘new’ temples, he was not narrow in his outlook which was further tempered towards the end of his reign by the influence of his liberal son, Dara.”


That being the case, what do these eminent historians have to say about Guru Nanak, and his searing cry,

Khurasan khasmana kiya Hindustanu daraiya

Aapae dosu na deyi karta jamu kari mughlu chadhaiya

Aiti maar payi karlande tain ko dardu na ayiya

Karta tu sabhna ka soi

Je sakta sakte kayu mare taa mani rosu na hoyi

Sakta sihu maare paye vagaye khasme sa pursai

Ratan vigadi vigoye kuttin muiya saar na koyi….

Having lifted Islam to the head, You have engulfed Hindustan in dread….

Such cruelties have they inflicted, and yet Your mercy remains unmoved….

Should the strong attack the strong the heart does not burn.

But when the strong

crush the helpless, surely the One who was to protect them has to be called to account….

O’ Lord, these dogs have destroyed this diamond-like Hindustan, (so great is their terror that) no one asks after those who have been killed,

and yet You do not pay heed….

What do they say of Guru Nanak’s account of the young brides whose youth, jewels, honour have been snatched away by the invaders on the orders of Babar? What of his wail,


Ikna vakhat khuvai ahi ikhan pooja jayi

Chadke vindu hindvandiyan kiyu tike kathi nayi

Ramu na kabhu chetiyo hundi kahndi na mile khudai….


Hindus have been forbidden to pray at the time of the Muslim’s namaz, Hindu society has been left without a bath, without a tilak.

Even those who have never uttered “Ram”, even they can get no respite by shouting “Khuda,


The few who have survived Babar’s jails wail….

The desolation which has come over the land….

The entire races which have been exterminated, which have been humiliated….


The account not of some merely eminent historian, but of Guru Nanak. [The verses given above are merely illustrative. For a comprehensive account of the question see, K. P. Agarwal’s forthcoming, Sri Guru Granth Sahib aur Islam.] Not some account written by looking at records of centuries ago, but testimony of the moment, of what Guru Nanak had been witness to himself….


Let us hear these eminent secularists, then, declare that this cry of Guru Nanak was a concoction. And that the entire life and campaign of Guru Govind Singh was born of “personal and political” factors rather than from a profound religious impulse, and that, therefore, all his own explanations, his impassioned, soul-stirring explanations in this regard are that much deception.


Akbar is the epitome of tolerance, Shah Jahan “despite some display of orthodoxy…. at the beginning of his reign and a few acts of intolerance” remains broad-minded. The only opposition to this liberalism comes from “orthodox elements”. But here too Satish Chandra executes the “balancing”. The orthodox elements in question are always of “the two leading faiths, Hinduism or Islam,” together! Both sides strive to undo the liberality of the Islamic rulers out of the same mundane motivation, that is, they oppose the liberal policy because it threatens their entrenched interests.


Aurangzeb’s orthodoxy cannot, of course, be entirely denied. Therefore, explanations upon explanations – secular explanations! — are invented. While reading the following, bear in mind the far-reaching assertions these historians made about ancient India on the basis of little evidence, and contrast them with how they treat unambiguous, overwhelming evidence in the case of Aurangzeb.


“Later, in the eleventh year of his reign (1669),” remarks Satish Chandra, “Aurangzeb took a number of measures which have been called puritanical, but many of which were really of economic and social character, and against superstitious beliefs…. Many other regulations of a similar nature, some of a moral character and some to instill a sense of austerity, were issued….”


The destruction of temples upon temples by Aurangzeb naturally comes in for the longest explanations! Firstly, we are told that all that Aurangzeb did was to reiterate the old order of the Shariat — that no new temples shall be built, and that this “order regarding temples was not a new one” — it merely reaffirmed the position which had existed during the Sultanate period, the period, remember, of “general toleration”! Satish Chandra adds a second explanation: “In practice, it [the order] left wide latitude to the local officials as to the interpretation of the words ‘long standing temples’.”


A third extenuating circumstance is then invented. Having noted the destruction of temples in Gujarat by Aurangzeb when he was the Governor of that province, and having noted his reiteration of the Standing Order under the Shariat, Satish Chandra says, “however, it does not seem that Aurangzeb’s order regarding ban on new temples led to a large scale destruction of temples at the outset of the reign.” It is only when Aurangzeb “encountered political opposition from a number of quarters, such as, the Marathas, Jats etc.,” that he “seems to have adopted a new stance”. When he now came in “conflict with local elements,” he began to consider it “legitimate to destroy even long standing Hindu temples as a measure of punishment and as a warning.” Thus, first, the order was just an old one! Second, the order left wide latitude to the local officials! Third, even this order was not implemented “at the outset of the reign”! Fourth, it is only when he encountered political opposition and when he came in conflict with local elements that Aurangzeb began to consider it legitimate to destroy Hindu temples! Fifth, this “new stance” too is only something which seems to have been adopted!


Moreover, Aurangzeb did so, Satish Chandra tells us, because “he began to look upon temples as centres of spreading subversive ideas, that is ideas which were not acceptable to the orthodox elements. Hence the destruction of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple at Banaras and the temple at Mathura.” “The destruction of these temples had a political motivation as well ….,” Satish Chandra emphasizes, and continues, “it was in this context that many temples built in Orissa during the last 10 to 12 years were also destroyed.” And then, “but it is wrong to think that there were any orders for the general destruction of temples.” Lest anyone come up with citations upon citations from contemporary historians, another sentence to explain away what was actually done: “however, the situation was different during periods of hostilities.”


The general conclusion: what Aurangzeb did “was a setback to the policy of broad toleration followed by his predecessors”! And even he did it for secular reasons! And even though, compelled by these reasons, he did it only for the shortest time, for the years marked by hostilities instigated by “local elements”! “However,” concludes Satish Chandra, “it seems that Aurangzeb’s zeal for the destruction of temples abated after 1679, for we do not hear of any large scale destruction of temples in the South between 1681 and his death in 1707.”


Yes, Aurangzeb introduced the jaziya, but, cautions Satish Chandra, “it was not meant to be an economic pressure for forcing Hindus to convert to Islam, for its incidence was to be light.” For this assertion Satish Chandra gives two bits of proof, so to say. First, “women, children, the disabled, the indigent, that is, those whose income was less than the means of subsistence, were exempted as were those in government service.” How could even Aurangzeb have exacted a tax from those “whose income was less than the means of subsistence? ” And why would he exact a discriminatory and humiliating tax from those who were in government service, that is, from those who were already serving his interests and those of the Islamic State? ! The second proof that Satish Chandra gives is that “in fact, only an insignificant section of Hindus changed their religion due to this tax” — but could that not have been because of the firm attachment of Hindus to their faith, because of their tenacity rather than because of the liberality of Aurangzeb?


The jaziya was not meant either to meet “a difficult financial situation”. Its reimposition was in fact, says Satish Chandra, “both political and ideological in nature.” Political in the sense that “it was meant to rally the Muslims for the defence of the State against the Marathas and the Rajputs who were up in arms, and possibly against the Muslim States of Deccan, especially Golconda, which was in alliance with the infidels.” A parity twice-over — one, that Aurangzeb was only trying to rally the Muslims just as those opposing him had rallied the Marathas and Rajputs! And, in any case, the ones who were opposing him were “infidels”!


And what about the “ideological” impulse? “Ideological,” yes, but the “ideology” was everything except Islam! Furthermore, Satish Chandra explains, “jaziya was to be collected by honest, God-fearing Muslims who were specially appointed for the purpose and its proceeds were reserved for the Ulama.” As the proceeds went to Ulama, there was a secular reason for exacting the tax — it was to be “a type of bribe for the theologians among whom there was a lot of unemployment,” and, second, as the tax was being collected by “honest, God-fearing Muslims,” one can be certain that they were considerate and, like Allah in the Qur’an, would have never imposed upon anyone a burden which he could not bear!


Some modern writers, Satish Chandra says, are of the opinion that Aurangzeb’s measures were designed to convert India into Dar ul Islam but, in fact, “although Aurangzeb considered it legitimate to encourage conversions to Islam, evidence of systematic or large scale attempts at forced conversions is lacking.”


And finally a piece of evidence which is a favourite with the secularists: “Nor were Hindu nobles discriminated against. A recent study has shown that the number of Hindus in the nobility during the second half of Aurangzeb’s reign had steadily increased, till the Hindus, including Muslims, formed about one-third of the nobility as against one-fourth under Shah Jahan.” Correspondingly, one can claim on behalf of the British Empire that close to 98% of the titles it conferred – Rai Sahib, Rai Bahadur, knighthoods and so on — were conferred on Indians! That they were conferred because these Indians were serving the British Empire faithfully, just as Aurangzeb was taking into his nobility those who were serving his purposes faithfully, is a matter of detail by which naturally Class XI students would not like to be confused!


The final assessment of our secularist eminence could not be more empathetic! First, Satish Chandra emphasizes that “Aurangzeb’s religious beliefs could not be considered the basis of his political policies.” Aurangzeb was an “orthodox Muslim,” true; he was “desirous of upholding the strict letter of the law,” true; but he was also a ruler and was “keen to strengthen and expand the empire.” The former required that he be tough with the Hindus. The latter, on the other hand, required that he retain “the support of the Hindus to the extent possible.” The two impulses – his religious ideas and beliefs on the one hand and the requirements of empire on the other — sometimes “led him to adopt contradictory policies which harmed the empire.”


Our eminent historian then proceeds to give an account of the Marathas, the Jats, the campaigns against Golconda and Bijapur. At every turn he labours to show that the religious impulse did not have much to do with Aurangzeb’s attitude towards any of these “rebellions”. Indeed, Aurangzeb’s religious policy must be seen in the context of the rebellions which were challenging his empire, we are told! Thus, Satish Chandra’s final conclusion: “Aurangzeb’s religious policy should be seen in the social, economic and political context. Aurangzeb was orthodox in his outlook and tried to remain within the framework of the Islamic law. But this law was developed outside India in vastly dissimilar situations, and could hardly be applied rigidly to India. His failure to respect the susceptibilities of his non-Muslim subjects on many occasions, his adherence to the time-worn policy towards temples and reimposition of jizyah as laid down by the Islamic law did not help him to rally the Muslims to his side or generate a greater sense of loyalty towards a state based on Islamic law. On the other hand, it alienated segments of the Hindus and strengthened the hands of those sections which were opposed to the Mughal empire for political or other reasons. By itself, religion was not a point at issue. Jizyah was scrapped within half a dozen years of Aurangzeb’s death and restrictions on building new temples eased.”


“In the ultimate resort,” Satish Chandra concludes, “the decline and downfall of the empire was due to economic, social, political and institutional factors” — notice, no religious factors! Akbar held the forces of disintegration in check for some time. But it was impossible for him to effect fundamental changes in the structure of society, says our author, and therefore : “By the time Aurangzeb came to the throne, the socio-economic forces of disintegration were already strong. Aurangzeb lacked the foresight and statesmanship necessary to effect fundamental changes in the structure or to pursue policies which could, for the time being, reconcile the various competing elements.


“Thus, Aurangzeb was both a victim of circumstances, and helped to create the circumstances of which he became a victim.” Empathy personified! And this is the point: the litmus test of secularist writing is whether you are prepared to stand up for Aurangzeb or not.





Author: Arun Shourie

Publication: India Connect

Date: Nov 11, 1999

“Arun Shourie is not a historian. He is a mythologist of Hindu communalism. He is a political pornographer,” declared one of these eminent historians, K. N. Panikkar in Kerala the other day. He had been asked for an answer to the facts I had set out in “Eminent Historians”. And he was giving reasons why it was beneath his dignity to give one. He had been a little less lofty till just a few weeks ago! And had deigned to write an entire article trying to explain the facts I had set out about the goings on in the Indian Council of Historical Research. “This is an old charge which keeps surfacing now and then,” he had written in The Asian Age. I had shown that the story they had planted — about “rational” having been made into “national”, had been a complete forgery. I had also drawn attention to the way large sums had been consumed in projects of the ICHR — such as the Towards Freedom Project — and how little had come of them. He wrote that The Times of India too had put out a front-page story about the Towards Freedom Project the previous year. And the historians had clarified the facts through a public statement…. They had not received a penny. They had worked in a purely honorary capacity….We have seen more of the facts since. But what he said — “This is an old charge….” — is something to bear in mind — there is never a right time to ask a question about them. If events are still fresh, their response always is: “But where are the facts?”


If you happen to have enumerated and substantiated the twenty facts about which evidence is in, their response is: “But he has not taken into account item 21; this selective focus on just a handful of facts shows that he is working to a purpose.” When sufficient time has elapsed, and you have garnered and presented evidence about all the facts, their response is: “But this is an old charge. That he is raking it up now shows how the forces of reaction are panic-stricken at the growing consolidation of forces of secularism and democracy.”


And there is never a right person to question them either. If the critic happens to have been one of them at some time in the past, and speaks from inside knowledge, they denounce him: “His writing itself shows that he has crossed the barricade.” If he has not, they shout: “A habitual Left-baiter, notorious for having been at the World Bank, a self-confessed apologist for the forces of reaction….”


And each time they set forth a spate of angry words!


“If he believes, as he apparently does, that the fame of historians like S. Gopal, R. S. Sharma, Romila Thapar and Irfan Habib who are held in high academic esteem, both nationally and internationally, are [sic.] based on cheap manipulation,” wrote Panikkar, “there must be something congenitally wrong with his mind. Otherwise it is possible that he is reflecting his own personal experience as to how a ‘fellow’ like him who writes communal mythology has come to be regarded a distinguished journalist.”


“Finally, about hymen and virginity about which Shourie, as a good Hindu, is rightly concerned,” Panikkar continued. “In the public eye his hymen has not remained intact, not because where he writes or to whom he gives interviews and articles, only because what he writes. Needless to say that the RSS publications carry his interviews and articles only because they are rabidly communal. He cannot hope to remain a virgin after selling himself in the flesh market. Being a BJP member of Parliament and an ideologue of Hindu communalism, Shourie should get his hymen tested, if he is still under misconception about his virginity.”


That is scholarly response. Indeed, in their circles it passes for “devastating refutation”! But one must go the extra mile: proclaim your belief in double-standards – yes, I do what he does, but I do so because I believe in The Cause!


“As for me, unlike him, I do not hunt with the hound and run with the hare,” Panikkar continued, though it wasn’t clear what the colloquism was in aid of. “I contribute signed articles to the publications of the Communist Party, because I believe in the ideals it stands for – democracy, secularism and socialism. By doing so, if my hymen is broken, I do not lament it, as Shourie does.”


All this as an answer to the facts about the working of the ICHR to which I had drawn attention! Since then, an additional mountain of facts has been published. About pilferage, about doctored textbooks, about the intellectual dishonesty in the way these eminents treat facts and sources. Their response now is twofold.


First, an entire theory! “There is no such thing as ‘objectivity’ in history,” Panikkar told the audience in Kerala. So, when you find them concocting “facts”, you cannot but applaud them: having liberated themselves from bourgeois scruples, they are propagating what will serve The Great Cause! And the evidence you adduce which establishes that what they are saying is a concoction, that evidence is of no consequence — because in any case in history there is no such thing as objectivity!


This consummation is inevitable. When they are caught having forged a news story, when they cite a source in their textbook and that source manifestly contains the opposite, what other defence can they give than to denounce reason and evidence itself?! Inevitable, yes. But also self-correcting.


As the needs of The Great Cause change every now and then, their “theses,” their “facts” change: you just have to read in a row the successive editions of the History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolshevik), to see the somersaults. The way they collaborated with the British during 1942, the passion with which they advocated the demand of the Muslim League for Partition, and how today in Kerala they have spawned a film to show that Communists are the ones who forced the rulers of Travancore to merge with India — to the point that they plotted the assassination of C. P. Ramaswamy Aiyer, the Diwan — these provide ready examples. The craven accolades our Communists showered on the Emergency when it was in force, and how, the moment it had ended, they coloured themselves up as heroes who had fought it — these will do as well.


But with somersault following somersault, even the slow-witted see through their harangues. Soon, therefore, their only defence is to denounce reason and evidence per se. The perfect boomerang: they started by claiming that their’s was the only objective, scientific approach to history, to every discipline, and this is the position to which they are soon driven — that of denouncing the relevance of evidence, that of denouncing that very objectivity.


The less they have by way of an answer, the harsher the words in which they say it! “An ignoramus,” declares a budding-eminent in The Asian Age. “A part-time historian,” declares another in The Indian Express — what is so bad about being a part-timer exposing their whole-time fraud?


An old charge…. Mythologist of Hindu communalism…. Political pornographer Guilt-by-association…. In a word, shout, scream, throw a label, paste a motive – and thereby frighten. How familiar. “The criticism that Communists decide their policy not in the interests of their own country but in the interests of the Soviet Union is neither new nor original,” thundered the Communist Party of India at Gandhiji and the Congress when it was confronted with evidence of having betrayed the National Movement during the Quit India struggle, and teamed up with the British. “It has been an old, very old gibe of the reactionary parties and their scribes the world over. It was the main theme the British Prosecutor played up against us in the Meerut Conspiracy Case. If 17 years later you make the same suggestion against us, we cannot but ask you – Is this worthy of you?”


[Communist Reply to the Congress Working Party Charges, by the General Secretary of the party, P. C. Joshi, Communist Party of India, Calcutta, March 1946, abridged version, pp. 3-4.]


And always there is — perhaps, I should now say, “there used to be” — the decisive proof: of having been vindicated by History! “All our brother parties had to live down this slander through their work among their own people,” the Communist Party continued. “And if in the world of today there is any single political force which is growing, it is the Communist movement. If any banner has lost ground in every country, it is the bankrupt banner of blind anticommunism.”


Towards the end of 1983, Mr. V. M. Tarkunde invited me to deliver the M. N. Roy Memorial Lecture for 1984. The lecture was held in Bombay on the same day in 1984 as it is every year – the birth anniversary of M. N. Roy. I documented the treacherous role the Communists had played during the 1942 Movement. Pritish Nandy, then Editor of The Illustrated Weekly, carried the text in a series. The text contained documents from Indian and British Archives – of secret liaisons of the Communist functionaries with British rulers, the requests they made and the concessions they were given, the accounts they submitted to Richard Maxwell, the Home Member, and Richard Tottenham, the Additional Secretary who directed the brutal suppression of that campaign, reports in which the Communist Party set out the good work its members had done to help the Government….


E.M.S. Namboodiripad rushed to Bombay. Shourie is speaking for the forces of reaction, he thundered at a specially-convened press conference. These forces have panicked at the growing unity of secular and democratic forces…. They are unnerved that they will get a sound drubbing at the elections which are round the corner…. No elections were round any corner. Mr. Tarkunde had given his invitation five months earlier. The Communists’ role in the Quit India Movement had not been the topic I had thought of in the first instance. I had thought that I would speak on “Ideology as Blinkers,” and that I would illustrate my argument with four examples. By the time of the lecture only one example was ready – that relating to the Communists during the 1942 Movement. And that is how I got to speak on the topic when I did. Nonetheless, “conspiracy”, “unnerved”, “elections round the corner”…. it was!


That was in 1984. Soon, E. M. S. took a giant step towards owning up to what could no longer be hidden! Of course, he did so in the way characteristic of those who have appropriated The Great Cause ! Yes, we entered into a liaison with the British. But we did so to master the arts of war: the dumbos in the Congress could not grasp the international situation, we alone could — for we had The Theory; and we saw that the principal task was to save the country from the Japanese, that for this what was needed was a mastery of the arts of war, and that the only way to gain access to these arts at the time was to establish a working relationship with the British!


The rationalization is typical of his A History of Indian Freedom Struggle, the 900-page book he published in 1986, just two years after that fusillade about my lecture. Congress policy was wrong and suicidal, Namboodiripad wrote. Gandhi had not thought the matter through, he wrote, and had left no instructions on how the struggle should be carried on in the event of the principal leaders being arrested. The Congress had not prepared for guerrilla war against the advancing Japanese, he wrote. It had devised no way to provide medical assistance to victims of bombing, nor had it thought of mobilising the masses against hoarders and profiteers, he wrote. It was the Communist Party which took up these tasks, Namboodiripad wrote. “It did not hesitate to establish contact with the government and accept the assistance necessary for carrying out this programme.”


Thus, it was just a “contact”! That “contact” was established to train the cadres for guerrilla war against the invading Japanese. And what the comrades did was not to assist the British, they only “did not hesitate…. to accept the assistance” which the British proffered! And the poor Communists had to take on this repugnant task because the Congress and Gandhi had not thought the matter through!


In any case, there were disagreements within the Congress too, Namboodiripad wrote. Other leaders too were confused, he wrote. In fact, having themselves carted off to prison enabled the Congress leaders to escape responsibility for what had to be done. Violence and sabotage broke out, and Gandhi did not condemn these, he charged. At the back of the Congress leaders’ decision to launch the Quit India Movement was the object of furthering their bourgeois class interests by eventually negotiating and compromising with the British rulers, Namboodiripad wrote. It is the Communist Party, and not the Congress which acted in accordance with the resolutions of the Congress, he claimed. Moreover, though the Communist Party opposed the Quit India struggle, it simultaneously organised campaigns against the general policies of the Government, he claimed.


The familiar blend of indignation, apologia, explanation, evasion. By the end of Namboodiripad’s account, this mixture of half-truths, smears, pasting motives on others, non-sequiters, contradictions becomes laughable.


“This does not, however, mean that the Communist Party did not commit any error in translating its general approach towards the Quit India struggle into practical activities,” the General Secretary of the Party allowed.


“Failing to properly appreciating (sic.) the popular feeling behind the struggle, the Party had often displayed a tendency to denounce those participating in the struggle as fascist agents. It had also made certain errors in organising mass struggles during this period. All such errors were subjected later to sever self-criticism, particularly in the Second Party Congress held in Calcutta in 1948.” That last bit has an immediate practical consequence : if before their self-criticism you criticised their doings, you were clearly a fascist agent; if you do so after that, you are even more conclusively a fascist agent — the Party having already acknowledged its “error”, that you are still raking up the “old canard” is proof positive that you are doing so at the behest of the forces of reaction!


But, clearly, to admit that the Party made a fundamental error would cut at the claim to infallibility. Hence, there is the SOP — the Standard Operating Procedure. If sticking by the Line is too costly, the Party and its intellectuals acknowledge the “error”, but immediately add that the “error” was just a tactical one! True to the SOP, Namboodiripad, concluded, “Despite the omissions and commissions, the Party adopted a policy which was by and large correct during the Quit India struggle.”


That is because the Hitler-Stalin Pact was correct, it was a clever counter-move: the capitalist-imperialists conspired to set Hitler to destroy the Soviet Union, Namboodiripad maintained; by entering into a Pact with Hitler, Stalin foiled their conspiracy. The consequence was as decisive as it was immediate: “Hitler could now turn westwards,” the General Secretary noted with satisfaction…. That is why the Indian Communist Party characterized the War as an Imperialist War in this phase, and insisted that the Congress take advantage of the difficulties of Britain to push it in India — for Britain was arrayed against Hitler who was the ally of the Soviet Union. Of course, Hitler turned perfidious: in spite of the Pact, he invaded The Only Fatherland. The War immediately turned into a Peoples War, the General Secretary explains. And that is why the Communist Party insisted that Gandhi and the Congress desist from doing anything which will inconvenience the British — for they were now allied with the Soviet Union.


“The characterisation of the war by Communists as ‘imperialist’ in the first phase and as ‘peoples war’ in the second phase was based on one and the same principle,” Namboodiripad wrote. “It is certainly a crucial issue what attitude the ruling classes take towards the Soviet Union which is destined to decide the future of human society.” This in 1986! “The Communist Party had never hidden its stand on this issue,” he declared. Not just the Communists, “Everyone who is interested in man’s onward march to socialism would take the same stand,” Namboodiripad declared. All this in a book published in 1986!


In any event, there had been an advance. In 1984, Namboodiripad had denounced mention of their doings. In 1986 he acknowledged the “error”. Three years did not pass and he was talking more about the “mistake”, and less about the explanations for it! So, when they come down on us, we just have to wait a while.


But Namboodiripad’s press conference, it turned out, was just the opening salvo, as we shall see.







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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