Tag Archives: Indian History

A feminist take on the Rani Padmavati-Bhansali controversy

By now you must be already aware of the attack on film-maker Sanjay Leela Bhansali on the sets of Rani Padmavati, the movie that he is making on the legendary Rajput queen.

The controversy broke when the prospect of some romantic scene between Allauddin Khilji and Rani Padmavati began to surface in various newspapers.

If you know the tragic story of Rani Padmavati you also know that she had to commit Jauhar because of Allauddin Khilji. Jauhar means jumping into a burning pyre to save yourself from a marauding army of rapists and plunderers. Although there are different opinions on whether she should have committed Jauhar or not – the confusion is mostly in the liberal circles – she is respected for her valor, and the legend is an integral part of the Rajput culture.

So obviously people were incensed that their beloved queen who died due to a barbarous villain, was being shown as having a soft spot for the villain. Whether Bhansali actually intended to do that isn’t clear because since then he has been denying it, the general perception was like that.

Since Rani Padmavati was a woman and she died, willingly, to save her honor, feminists are debating whether it is right to hero worship a woman who died to save her honor. What can be more worth saving than life itself, they say? Feminists are specially disturbed that honor-killing or honor-self-killing is again being extolled in the name of history and pride.

Keeping this issue in mind Neha Srivastava has published an article in DailyO titled “Allauddin Khilji harassed a woman. Romanticising his story is an insult to women“. In the article she recalls when she visited the historic Chittorgarh when she was 15 the story of the brave queen deeply affected her.

From a feminist angle she points out that the poet, Malik Muhammad Jayasi, who originally wrote “Padmavat”, totally objectifies Rani Padmavati by turning her into a mere object of desire. She writes:

Jayasi’s entire poem is a travesty in its own right, for all the male characters dominate the narrative and the main character Padmavati is reduced to nothing but an object to be desired and possessed. Her thoughts, her fears, her wishes, her hopes reduced to sidelines as a madman’s lust overcomes him so much so to preside over wanton murder. Why? Because a woman cannot say “NO”. Even if she does, it is of as little consequence then, as it is now.

It is a work of female objectification which I, as a woman, do not find romantic in any shape or form. Even when faced with the prospect of attack on her home and her people, the Rani says a vehement “NO”. But since a woman’s “No means Yes” since time immemorial, that doesn’t dissuade “lover boy” Khilji, who wanted another “possession” for his harem, where he could rape her whenever he wanted, use her to entertain guests and perhaps even trade her like a material possession.

Many commentators have remarked that the reason why Rani Padmavati doesn’t feature in official records even when Allauddin Khilji and her husband Ratan Singh do, is because it embarrasses the patriarchal mindset of both the sides. Historic chroniclers like Amir Khusro on Khilji’s side mention her just in the passing because it was embarrassing for Khilji to have lost her in front of his eyes even after having won the battle to capture her. On Ratan Singh’s side, it must had been humiliating to agree to show her reflection in the mirror to a lecherous emperor to avoid imminent bloodbath. This is what liberal feminists should object to, not whether, since her records are not there, it’s fine to twist her story according to one’s convenience or not, but, she not getting her rightful place in the recorded history of the country.

Image source

 

 

The withdrawal of Wendy Doniger’s book and the text of the petition against it

The Hindus by Wendy Doniger
Update: An interesting point that is being raised is that instead of raising a hue and cry against Penguin, the left-libs are going after Dinanath Batra who was simply exercising his right. It is Penguin who has decided to withdraw all the copies of the book and pulp them instead of fighting it out in the court. These people don’t want to piss off Penguin for obvious reasons.

The problem is with the 1st Amendment. In India, freedom of speech is not absolute, it is subject to conditions and it can be challenged by anybody (and hence, Wendy Doniger’s book was challenged). If your freedom of speech offends my religion or hurts my sentiments, I can easily sui you.

Instead of baying for the blood of the person who is merely exercising his right, people should strive for change of the Constitution.

Update ends

At the time of writing this I haven’t read Wendy Doniger’s The Hindus – An Alternative History but I have downloaded a digital copy from the various links being posted on the Internet with a missionary zeal to protect “freedom of speech”.

Before downloading a free copy (PDF and EPUB versions) I tried to purchase it from Amazon through my Kindle, but somehow it is not possible to purchase it may be because as Penguin has decided to withdraw all the existing copies, maybe the digital copies – the ones that are sold through proper channels – aren’t available too.

You can be judged by the company you keep and this was my first reaction when I saw what sort of people were defending Wendy’s book. I’m not saying I’m in favor of banning books and not allowing people to read something that they want to read, but when certain people say that Wendy Doniger is an authority on Hinduism, I’m made to wonder exactly what sort of authority has she manifested to earn praise from these worthies?

Penguin has withdrawn all the published copies of the book because the Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti had filed a lawsuit for the withdrawal of the book. The lawsuit claims that the book has been written with a Christian missionary’s zeal.

Now you may find the expression “the Christian missionary’s zeal” a bit puzzling and unless you have been sensitized about this whole parallel universe going on you won’t understand the depth of it. In my review of Breaking India – Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines I had written:

Christian organisations play a prominent part in raking up cultural, religious and social divides to propagate their own ideologies. Their basic methodology is, weaken cultural roots in the name of secularism and then gradually expose people to Christianity. Billions of dollars of funds are channelised to support these missionary organisations. You will be amazed to find renowned and prestigious institutions and organisations pumping money into India to instigate one religion against another.

If you think it is conspiracy theory, maybe it’s time you brushed up your reading.

Anyway, should books be banned or banished the way Penguin has been made to do? Legal recourse is not as bad as it seems, as pointed by my wife with whom I was discussing the issue in the morning while having tea. “At least people are not being beheaded or stabbed, or at least there are no bomb explosions as it happened in the case of The Satanic Verses,” she said, and I agree with her. It is silly to compare the reaction to the Wendy Doniger’s book to the reaction to the Salman Rushdie book. If Hindus didn’t like the book, they filed a lawsuit instead of issuing death threats.

That settled, one must think why a big publisher like Penguin chose to withdraw the case instead of slugging it out in the court? What was there in the book that was indefensible? Wouldn’t it be preferable to fight the case, lose it and let the book be banned with your disagreement fully expressed, rather than meekly giving in to your opponent and withdrawing your book? After all, even if reluctantly, Penguin stood by Salman Rushdie even in the face of international Islamic terrorism.

The full text of the notice sent to Wendy Doniger, Penguin Group (USA) Inc. and Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd by Dina Nath Batra

Why the controversy? I haven’t read the book yet, but according to the various sources available on the Internet, the book not only contains lots of factual inaccuracies, it also distorts many Hindu beliefs and philosophies. How it distorts, I have no idea because one, I haven’t read the book yet, and two, I’m not an authority to decide what is correct and what is not factually and historically correct. Presented below are a few extracts of the petition that was filed and it may give you an idea of what might had been the problem.

Throughout the book, Doniger analyzes revered Hindu Gods and Goddess using her widely discredited psychosexual Freudian theories that modern, humanistic psychology has deemed limiting. These interpretations are presented as hard facts and not as speculations. Doniger makes various faulty assumptions about the tradition in order to arrive at her particular spin. In the process, the beliefs, traditions and interpretations of practicing Hindus are simply ignored or bypassed without the unsuspecting reader knowing this to be the case. This kind of Western scholarship has been criticized as Orientalism and Eurocentrism. The non Judeo-Christian faith gets used to dish out voyeurism and the tradition gets eroticized.

Here is a list of factual errors presented in the petition:

Maps in front pages: Maps titled Indias Geographical Features and India from 600 CE to 1600 CE

COMMENT: In the first map, the Waziristan Hills area is marked erroneously as Kirthar Range. The Kirthar Range is at least 200 miles further south. In the third map, Janakpur, Nagarkot, Mandu and Haldighati are marked several hundred miles from their correct geographical location.

Pg. 67 – It is claimed that the entire Harappan culture had a population of 40,000!

COMMENT: This is estimated as the population of Mohenjo-Daro alone. The population of the entire culture is estimated around 500,000.

Pg 112 – Wheat is mentioned as a food item in the Rigvedic period.

COMMENT: Wheat is not mentioned in the Rigveda at all. It first occurs in the Maitrayani Samhita of the Yajurveda.

Pg 130 – The author claims that there are no Gods in the Vedas who are Shudras.

COMMENT: It is anachronistic to assign castes to Rigvedic deities, but nevertheless, Pushan, Vesmapati and others have been considered Shudra deities in later times.

Pg 194 fn.- Gandhi’s commentary on the Gita (a sacred Hindu scripture) was titled ‘Asakti Yoga’ (translated as the science of deep attachment).

COMMENT: The title of Gandhis work is ‘Anasakti Yoga’ (trans. Science of non-Attachment).

Pg 206 – The book wrongly states that the Hindus had only a triad of passions.

COMMENT: Hindu scriptures list six main evils and the concept of shadripus (six internal enemies) is very well known.

Pg 441 – The book claims that Firoz Shah redeemed a number of Hindu slaves

COMMENT: A misrepresentation of the fact that he employed (not redeemed) 12,000 of his 180,000 slaves forcibly in royal factories for producing articles of consumption by Muslim elites. No manumission was involved.

Pg 445 – Dates of Saint Kabir are given as 1450 1498.

COMMENT: His demise is believed to have occurred in 1518, and the traditional date of birth is 1398.

Pg 448 – In 713 Muhammad ibn Qasim invaded Sind.

COMMENT: Muhammad bin Qasim invaded Sind in 711.

Pg 450- It is claimed that Emperor Ala-ud-Din Khalji did not sack temples in Devagiri.

COMMENT: His contemporary Amir Khusro clearly mentions that the Emperor sacked numerous temples and raised mosques instead.

Pg 459 – King Ala-ud-din Husain of Bengal patronized Saint Chaitanya.

COMMENT: Saint Chaitanya never met the king, and left his kingdom to avoid persecution, as did his disciples. The king had destroyed Hindu temples in Orissa.

Pg 532 – Emperor Akbar moved his capital from Fatehpur Sikri to Delhi in 1586.

COMMENT: Emperor Akbar moved his capital to Lahore in 1587, and thereafter to Agra.

Pg 537-8 – The Sikh teacher Guru Govind Singh was assassinated in 1708, while ‘attending Emperor Aurangzeb’. Emperor Aurangzeb died in 1707.

COMMENT: Guru Gobind Singh was assassinated in 1708 during the reign of Aurangzebs successor, Emperor Bahadur Shah I. It is insulting to say that the Guru was attending on the Emperor.

Pg 550 – The book claims that Mirabai lived from 1498-1597, and then on p. 568, the author claims that Mirabai lived from 1450-1525!

COMMENT: Both dates are wrong and the commonly accepted dates are 1498-1547.

Pg 552 – The book claims that the Ramcharitmanas was written at Varanasi.

COMMENT: Both modern scholarship as well as tradition accept that the work (or at least most of it) was written in Ayodhya.

Section on Bibliography: Shekhawat, V. Origin and Structure of purushartha Theory: An attempt at Critical Appraisal. Journal of Indian Council of Philosophical Research 7:1 (1900), 63-67.

COMMENT:The correct issue and year of this Journal issue are actually 8:2 and 1991. The bibliography has dozens of errors. Some references cited by Doniger simply do not exist.

Listed below are some offensive statements presented in the petition:

Clumsily written, each chapter is a shocking and appalling series of anecdotes which denigrate, distort and misrepresent Hinduism and the history of India and Hindus. Doniger uses selective quotations from obscure and non-original, peripheral and ignorant references with a bizarre emphasis on sexuality and eroticism. Cited below are only a handful of quotes along with our understanding and interpretation, with references from Hindu scripture.

Pg 40 If the motto of Watergate was Follow the money, the motto of the history of Hinduism could well be Follow the monkey or, more often Follow the horse.

COMMENT: Very derogatory and offensive. The motto of Hinduism is to follow the truth and unite with God.

Pg 112 – The author alleges that in Rigveda 10.62, it is implied that a woman may find her own brother in her bed!

COMMENT: The hymn has no such suggestion. It is offensive to suggest that the sacred text of Hindus has kinky sex in it.

Pg 128 – The book likens the Vedic devotee worshipping different Vedic deities to a lying and a philandering boyfriend cheating on his girlfriend(s).

COMMENT: This is offensive and ignores that fact that in the Rigveda, the gods are said to be all united, born of one another, and from the same source.

Pg 225 -Dasharathas son is certainly lustful… Rama knows all too well what people said about Dasharatha; when Lakshmana learns that Rama has been exiled, he says, The king is perverse, old, and addicted to sex, driven by lust (2.18.3)

COMMENT: Sri Rama is revered and worshipped as a deity. The highly acclaimed and critical edition of Valmikis Ramayana records no such statement attributed to Lakshmana. An imagined phrase, ‘kama-sakta’ is mistranslated as ‘addicted to sex’ by the author whereas it normally means filled with desires. Valmiki uses a phrase ‘samani-madhah’ (trans. Possessed of passion).

Pg 467 – Harihara and Bukka (the founders of the Vijayanagara Empire that saved Hindu culture in S India) double-crossed the Delhi Sultan when they reconverted to Hinduism.

COMMENT: The brothers committed apostasy as they had been imprisoned and forcibly converted to Islam, and immediately reverted to Hinduism when they were 1000 miles from the Sultan, under the influence of a Hindu ascetic.

Pg 468-469 -The mosque, whose serene calligraphic and geometric contrasts with the perpetual motion of the figures depicted on the temple, makes a stand against the chaos of India, creating enforced vacuums that India cannot rush into with all its monkeys and peoples and colors and the smells of the bazaar

COMMENT: It is simply unacceptable that a scholar can flippantly, pejoratively and derogatorily essentialize the Hindus as monkeys and peoples, colors and smells.., and chaos in most insulting manner with the aspersion thrown at the entire Hindu culture and community all over the world. Such generalization has no place in serious scholarly work.

Pg 509 – Shankara and the philosopher’s wife This tale contrasts sex and renunciation in such a way that the renunciant philosopher is able to have his cake and eat it, to triumph not only in the world of the mind (in which, before this episode begins, he wins a series of debates against the nonrenouncing male Mimamsa philosopher) but in the world of the body, represented by the philosophers wife (not to mention the harem women who clearly prefer Shankara to the king in bed). The author attributes the tale to Shankaradigvijaya of Madhava and to Ravichandra’s commentary on Amarushataka.

COMMENT: The author concocts the story as a sexual orgy in which the Saint Adi Shankara and King Amruka take turns making love to the latter’s wives after he is tired. Both her sources however state that the King was already dead and the Saint transferred his soul into the dead Kings body through his yogic powers. There is no suggestion in the texts that the queens prefer Shankara to the king in bed.

Pg 571- It is alleged that in a hymn from Saint Kshetrayyas poetry, God rapes the women devotees.

COMMENT: The hymn merely presents devotion using spiritual metaphors and the hymns of the Saint seen collectively depict it as a passionate love affair between the God and the devotees. No rape is implied in this hymn at all.

Again, the above is simply a sampling of the scandalous and offensive statements in the book. By her own admission in the book, Doniger has no credentials as a historian and the title of the book is misleading as the book is not on the History nor an Alternative History of India. This shows that the author is not an authority on the subject as she is not able to understand the deep meaning of Sanskrit verses or Indian Concepts. These cast serious doubts about the authors integrity as a researcher and ability to interpret accurately. Additional examples of the authors shoddy
scholarship will be made available upon request.

If you go through the contents of the petition one is made to wonder what indiscretions are available to you in the name of interpretation. What recourse people have who don’t agree to you? What makes Doniger a greater authority than the petitioner who has countered the portions in the book with his own knowledge?

As of now, I believe that the petition was filed in the right spirit.

Related links on Wendy Doniger and The Hindus

  • Wendy’s Child Syndrome — “The Bhagavad Gita is not as nice a book as some Americans think…Throughout the Mahabharata … Krishna goads human beings into all sorts of murderous and self-destructive behaviors such as war…. The Gita is a dishonest book …” — Wendy Doniger, Professor of History of Religions, University of Chicago. Quoted in Philadelphia Inquirer, 19 November, 2000.
  • Wendy Doniger’s book: ‘You must tell us what terrified you’, Arundhati Roy writes to Penguin India — What are we to make of this? Must we now write only pro-Hindutva books? Or risk being pulled off the bookshelves in ‘Bharat’ (as your ‘settlement’ puts it) and pulped? Will there be some editorial guide-lines perhaps, for writers who publish with Penguin? Is there a policy statement?
  • BBC – Why did Penguin recall a book on Hindus? — Doniger, who teaches at the University of Chicago and has written nearly half a dozen books on Hinduism, including a translation of the Kama Sutra, was writing about how her 2009 book The Hindus: An Alternative History quickly became a lightning rod for Hindu anger.
  • Invading the Sacred Hinduism has become a targeted frontier because of its unique status. It is the last of the truly indigenous religions, one that has sprung forth from the land and not been supplanted by alien faiths. (Most of the other indigenous religions of the world have either been decimated or driven to the brink of extinction by colonising forces.) Among the major world religions, Hinduism is perhaps the most incompatible with Western religious frameworks. By far the oldest living religion in the world, Hinduism has been the source of the Dharmic traditions, as Judaism has been the source of the Abrahamic religions; however, it has developed along a tract distinct from that of the Semitic faiths. The core concepts of Sanatana Dharma do not translate into Abrahamic terms–dharma, karma, moksha, and yoga have no English equivalents. Yet, it continues to flourish with almost a billion adherents; it has not abandoned its rich pantheon of an infinite variety of forms and manifestations of Ishwara; from time immemorial, it has worshipped and revered Shakti, the female divine; it has not yielded to Islamic conquest or Christian conversion; and it has not obligingly morphed itself to adapt to Western paradigms. Thus, Hinduism stands apart, and in this light, may pose the most serious challenge to Western intellectual and philosophical hegemony today.
  • Why the Wendy Doniger episode is not a free speech issue The outrage over Penguin withdrawing Doniger’s book has emanated mostly from the section that calls itself secular and liberal, among other things. And this outrage cleverly sidesteps the valid and vast critiques of Wendy Doniger’s scholarship and frames the issue as one of a book ban and Hindu fundamentalism. The kind of arson and violence that erupted across the world in the wake of the Danish cartoons fits the definition of religious fundamentalism. It is clear that the petitioners simply took to legal recourse in this case. Besides, it was Penguin’s decision to voluntarily withdraw the book in an out-of-court settlement for reasons best known to it. Therefore, raising the din that freedom of expression is under threat by Hindutva forces is off the mark.
  • Oh, But You Do Get It Wrong! Doniger’s prominence and clout as a “definitive” authority in the discourse on Indian traditions and history give her views considerable significance. For, it is Doniger’s (and her colleagues’) versions of Hinduism and Hindu history (which are often at serious variance with traditional Hinduism as practised and understood by Hindus themselves) that form the curriculum of university courses, line the bookshelves of the “Hinduism” sections of bookstores (physical and virtual), and are given play in the Western and Indian mainstream press.
  • Pulping Doniger: Don’t just blame the Right; the Left paved this illiberal road — As has been said before, the best way to combat a wrong idea or distorted book is to write another view and another book to contest it with facts. This is how Arun Shourie debunked the distorted Left view of Indian history, and this is how Rajiv Malhotra is combatting – against the odds of western media biases, which is nowhere as liberal as we assume it to be – western-centric views of Hinduism and Dharmic religions. Withdrawing Doniger’s book is thus a defeat for liberal values and open debate in a democratic society.

Review: Tipu Sultan – The Tyrant of Mysore

Tipu Sultan The Tyrant of Mysore

Today’s Republic Day (2014) tableau from Karnataka featuring Tipu Sultan titled “The Tiger of Mysore” reminded me that I needed to review a book I recently read titled “Tipu Sultan – The Tyrant of Mysore” by Sandeep Balakrishna. The title tallies with the nomenclature attributed to Tipu: the Tiger of Mysore.

People in India may remember the serial they used to show on Doordarshan (the state-(completely) controlled TV channel) called The Sword of Tipu Sultan in which Sanjay Khan played the role of Tipu. The serial showed how bravely the southern Sultan fought with the British by not just striking strategic alliances with the French but also developing his own firearms. In the serial they depicted that Tipu, with a scientific bent of mind, was able to develop missiles at a time when the weapon hadn’t even been conceptualised. We were awed. People who saw the serial, and perhaps people who read the book by the same title, have had this maudlin image of Tipu Sultan imprinted upon their psych.

I don’t easily say that but I have been a fan of Sandeep’s writing for many years now – ever since blogging happened in India. My opinion is limited to just a few non-fiction writers but after Arun Shourie, Sandeep is the only the so-called right-wing writer I respect and trust even when sometimes his language seems unpalatable (in terms of less bullshitting and more straightforwardness). He counters the popular left-lib opinion and propaganda not simply by berating and criticising them, but by factually countering them, and this is what unnerves them, and totally disturbs them. Reading his blog is sometimes a complete intellectual experience. That’s why the moment he declared on Twitter that his book has been published, I headed to Amazon and purchased the Kindle version.

In the days of the Aam Aadmi party when deeming every politician as villainous and antinational a fad, surprisingly, The Tyrant of Mysore begins with a quotation from the higher education Minister of Karnataka, D. H. Shankaramurthy’s statement that

Tipu Sultan was a traitor to the Kannada language. Kannada, which was the administrative language of the Mysore State under the Wodeyars, was replaced by Farsi by Tipu Sultan. He was an opponent of the Kannada language. We don’t need to give him a place of respect in the history of Karnataka. It’s a mistake to glorify him. It is typical to glorify Akbar, Aurangzeb and Tipu as patriots in national history. Alexander and Akbar are glorified with the “the great” suffix. Respect and honour are given to those who embarked on a conquest of our nation, and to those who defeated our own people. Instead, our textbooks need to have lessons on people who made positive contributions for the nation; the lives of people like Sir M. Vishveswarayya and Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV who developed the state must be included in our history textbooks. What is now happening is a perversion of history.

People who care to know about reality – the real history – know that the history textbooks that we read in schools and colleges don’t tell us the complete reality. The entire intellectual landscape has been overtaken by Marxist historians who continuously collude with various vested interests including highly influential international organisations and propagate confounding versions of history. In the name of preserving the delicate communal fabric of the country, the exegesis of various historical facts has been presented in an entirely twisted manner. To illustrate this he quotes an essay from an acclaimed Kannada litterateur, Dr. S.L. Bhyryappa:

Around 1969-70, the Central Government under Smt Indira Gandhi mooted a programme whose aim was to foster national integration through education. To this end , it formed a committee headed by G. Parthasarathy, a former ambassador and someone who was close to the Nehru-Gandhi family . Then, I was serving as a lecturer of philosophy in the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) in Delhi , and was selected as one of the five members of this committee. During the inaugural meeting, Mr. Parthasarathy , in the smooth tone of a practiced politician spoke about the aims of the committee, “It is our duty not to sow seeds of thorns in the minds of growing children, which would in future prove to be a hurdle in national integration. Most of our history textbooks contain such seeds of thorns. These seeds are also present here and there in subjects like language and social studies. Our history and other subjects must contain lessons that foster national integration. This committee has been entrusted with such a serious responsibility.”

The remaining four members respectfully nodded their heads in agreement.

I asked : “Sir, I didn’t understand you. Can you please explain with examples?”

“Ghazni Mahmud broke the Somanath temple and looted it; Aurangzeb demolished the Kashi and Mathura temples and built mosques in their place, and imposed Jaziya…what purpose does these kinds of useless episodes serve in the present time other than sowing seeds of hatred? How will they help in building a strong India of the future?”

“In that case, aren’t these episodes historical truths?”

“There are several truths. However, maturity and discrimination lies in using discretion in selecting them.”

The rest again nodded their heads in agreement.

“You gave the examples of Kashi and Mathura. Even today, lakhs of people from various corners of the country visit them each year. All of them can see with their own eyes the sight of enormous mosques, which have been built using the pillars and walls of their sacred temples, which were demolished. They can also see that the original temples- on whose site these mosques now stand- were built recently in a space as big as a cowshed. These pilgrims experience hurt when they witness this sight. When they return home, they describe this sight to their family, neighbours, friends and relatives. Does this fact help in ensuring national integration? We can suppress history in textbooks prescribed for schoolchildren. But how can we suppress it when they go on educational or other tours? Research shows us that over thirty thousand temples were demolished. Can we suppress all of them…”

Mr. Parthasarathy cut me off and said, “You a lecturer of philosophy. Please tell us what is the purpose of history.”

“Nobody can say what the purpose of history is. Nobody can predict the direction in which science and technology will take us. Some Western thinkers have written about the Philosophy of History. However, most of this kind of writing is dense. What we need to discuss here is: what is the purpose of teaching history? History is our quest of the truth about our past and the lives of the people of our past. It is a quest which is undertaken using instruments such as inscriptions, records, literary works, remnants, and ruins. Historical truth helps us learn lessons of not making the same mistakes our ancestors did and of imbibing their good qualities…”

He interrupted me with, “does that mean we can hurt the sentiments of the minorities? Can we cleave the society? Sowing poisonous seeds in the minds of children…”

“Sir, the very categorization as minority and majority in itself shows that there is intent to divide the society. The concept of “poisonous seeds” contains prejudice. Why should minorities identify a sense of solidarity between themselves and Ghazni Mahmud and The Tyrant of Mysore Aurangzeb? Aurangzeb’s extreme narrow-mindedness in religious matters caused the Mughal Empire to disintegrate. Akbar’s broad policy of religious toleration helped the Mughal Empire flourish. Can’t we teach these lessons to children without betraying the historical truth? Before we teach the lessons we must learn from history, shouldn’t we teach the actual historical truths? All idealistic pronouncements that cloak the truth are politically motivated. These pronouncements won’t last long. Be it minorities or the majority, unless they develop the intellectual and emotional maturity that comes from facing the truth directly, any education is useless- and dangerous, even.”

You can read the entire debate in the book and this will give you a fair idea of why you need to read different versions of the history and how you need to deal with the bogeyman of communal divide.

Anyway, according to the book the comments made by the Karnataka Minister sent Girish Karnad, one of the greatest scholarly supporters of the Mughal rule in India, into a tizzy. Karnad is credited with the works like The Dreams of Tipu Sultan and Tughlak. He has been suitably awarded by the government. He challenged the Minister for a public debate and as it often happens, despite repeat reminders from the minister, the famed writer and blue blooded secular never turned up for a one-one exchange of ideas. But that’s another story.

Sandeep’s style reminded me of Arun Shourie and I’m pretty sure he’s influenced by him one way or another. Just like Shourie, Sandeep refrains from blowing his own horn and presents hard facts. He has republished articles in scholarly papers from renowned historians, intellectuals and scholars. He has also published texts from various treaties signed by Tipu Sultan to show what sort of mental and intellectual rot he was in. He has also published accounts of contemporary historians including the one closely working with and under Tipu Sultan. So if you want to counter him, he can simply point to the source and say, if you want to counter me, then counter the source.

Unlike the secular and saintly image often propagated, Tipu was totally the opposite, according to the book. He was a tyrant, and stupid, egotistical tyrant at that, which made him more dangerous. In fact, Sanddep seems to be having at least some respect for Aurangzeb because at least the Mughal emporer seemed to know what he was up to, but in the case of Tipu Sultan it was total befuddlement. He took it upon himself to wage the holy war against every infidel in the region, and if possible, in the world. He was fanatic when it came to implementing Islamic laws. He changed the names of the months, the names of time periods, the names of coins and notes, the names of unit measurements and every possible thing that could be renamed according to strict Islamic guidelines. He even changed the traditional accounting system language to Farsi, wrecking havoc with the economy of his sultanate.

He razed every temple he came by and ruined every city and town he conquered. He tortured people with relish and the ones who didn’t die he made them Muslims. When it comes to forcibly converting the non-Muslims into Muslims, there are very few Islamic rulers in the continent who can compete with him. His ruthlessness is so legendary that people of the Coorg region call street dogs as “tipus”.

These, and many more revealing facts about Tipu you will find in The Tyrant of Mysore. If you want to know alternative versions of our history, then you must read the book, although it is his first book and you can make out that his writing is more enjoyable in terms of presentation when he writes for his blog. But I’m sure this is going to change with his subsequent books.

Review of Breaking India – Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines

Breaking India – Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines

Breaking India – Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines by Rajiv Malhotra and Aravindan Neelakandan is a disturbing book and unless you’re actually receptive to the central theme, all that is described in the book you may construe as a conspiracy theory.

Through various examples and case studies the authors have explained how various individuals and organisations are constantly trying to break India on the lines of religion, caste and even race. These individuals and organisations involve anthropologists, scholars, historians, theologians, missionaries, extremists and politicians. Famous personalities, journalists, writers and activists are all part of this big conspiracy spanning almost a couple of centuries.

There are many reasons why when the Western colonisers came to India from the 16th century onwards, wealth wasn’t always one of the primary reasons. For examples, when the Germans came, people like Max Muller thought that the ancient glory of the German race could be traced in the Aryan invasion/migration. These guys were really stumped how such a backward and ancient-looking civilisation could create the Vedas and a complex language like Sanskrit? The only logic they could come up with was that the Aryans originally came from Sumeria and Europe and they were the ones who intermixed with the aboriginals and then came to be known as Indians in general and Hindus in particular. The ones who came from Europe to inhabit the northern parts of India were the original superior Aryans and whatever deformities had occurred they had occurred due to intermixing. Brahmins were the closest to the invaders and they tried their best to maintain the racial purity and this is the reason why people of the higher classes and castes are fairer compared to those who are not and they preferred not to marry and socialise with people of darker skins and flatter features.

The biggest drawback of this theory was that it divided the Indian society forever. There were classes in the ancient India, even up till the arrival of Western scholars, but castes were fewer. If you find mention of castes in mythological texts, the opponents of these theories claim that they were included later on so that people thought that such divides have existed since the time immemorial. Even the atrocities and clashes between upper and lower classes can be attributed to the ideological valleys created by such fallacious logics. The authors of the book claim that intellectuals, politicians, missionaries and scholars are continuously trying to create a Rwanda-like situation leading to a bloody civil war. Aside from Rwanda, they also provide a real-time example of Sri Lanka. In Rwanda, Brahmin-Dalit-Dravidian-like divide was created between the Hutus and the Tutsis that resulted in millions of deaths. A similar divide was created in Sri Lanka between Sinhalese and Tamilians and we all know what happened over there.

The information contained within the book is mind-boggling and also distressing. Of course a discerning reader already knows that some deeper conspiracy is going on to widen the fault lines and divide the Indian society as much as possible, but when the information is factually presented and when real names of individuals and organisations are used it becomes more disturbing. The authors chronicle various conferences, scholarly papers and prolonged campaigns used to not only disseminate and promote atrocity literature but also sow the seeds of hatred among various communities.

According to the book, there are many historians and scholars who claim that India is basically a collection of various races and there are very few things common, and whatever sense of commonality exists, it has been forcefully imposed on the weaker sections of the population. For instance, people living in a region like Bastar are not just culturally and regionally different from people living in Punjab, but they are racially different and hence, they deserve their own country. Such scholars believe that India should be Balkanised because there is no valid reason for it to exist in the present state.

Take for instance the Dravidian culture. According to the various theories floated by Dravidian scholars (based on the early Western anthropologists’ erroneous conclusions) the Dravidians are totally a different race, not even belonging to the Indian subcontinent. Around 1500 years ago there was a continent called Lemuria that was far ahead of its times, just like the mythical Atlantis, that connected Africa to India. When this continent submerged under the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea, these Dravidians came to inhabit the lower parts of India. When the Aryans started invading the Indian subcontinent they also came to southern India. Dravidians and Tamilians were simple, hard-working and unsuspecting people. They were easily overpowered and enslaved by the cunning Aryans who called themselves Brahmins.

These theories begin to take a bizarre turn when they claim that it were the Tamils that established the Sumerian civilisation and before Babel it was Tamil that was spoken all over the world.

To further make a dent into the historical significance of Sanskrit, many historians claim that Sanskrit came to India in the second century A.D. and it was brought to India by Christian missionaries. They completely ignore the fact that many of the Sanskrit texts that have been found existed even before 500 and 600 BC.

This fabrication is used to incite Tamilians against Hindus/Brahmins in particular and north Indians in general. In Sri Lanka, this conspiracy was used to portray Sinhalese as superior Aryan descendants and Tamilians, the real inhabitants who were overpowered by perpetual scheming and atrocities.

Through modern techniques and DNA sampling scientists have proved that these theories have no real basis and they are mere concoctions and motivated imaginations. Even ancient texts reveal that various parts of India have always been connected religiously, mythologically, culturally as well as socially. Despite concrete evidence to the contrary, historians like Romila Thapar keep on promoting their outdated and disputed historical conclusions in every international forum. Scholarly papers are written based on wrong facts, and then these erroneous papers are quoted in other scholarly papers and this is how seeds of wrongful history are sown, doing irreparable damage to the real Indian history.

Christian organisations play a prominent part in raking up cultural, religious and social divides to propagate their own ideologies. Their basic methodology is, weaken cultural roots in the name of secularism and then gradually expose people to Christianity. Billions of dollars of funds are channelised to support these missionary organisations. You will be amazed to find renowned and prestigious institutions and organisations pumping money into India to instigate one religion against another.

This book is a must read for every concerned Indian. It’s a bit lengthy and it seems to drag on but this is because they have documented in detail the processes and techniques used to create faultlines and divide people as much as possible. After reading this book you realise that everything that is mentioned in the book is quite apparent all around you. You will notice how mediocrity is purposely promoted in the name of liberal thought and experimentation. You will learn that criticising Hindu festivals and cultural activities is not just an ideological manifestation, it is a part of a prolonged conspiracy. You will need lots of time to read this book, but do read it.