Whitewashing history | By Sadia Susic


Whitewashing history

THE Hindutva ideology, an extreme form of Hindu nationalism, is openly embraced by the ruling BJP and its parent wing RSS.

Not only have the Hindu nationalists succeeded in occupying prominent positions in the Indian government, but they’ve also taken upon themselves to rewrite the history of India.

Recent attempt of trying to distort Indian history was made by none other than the current Defence Minister of India, Rajnath Singh.

During a book launching ceremony, the Minister offered an apologetic defence of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, who is popularly known as the Father of Hindutva, by claiming that the mercy petition he had written during his time in jail was done solely on the direction of Gandhi.

The mercy petitions written by Savarkar to the British were always a source of discomfort for the Hindu nationalists which were also regarded by many as an act of capitulation to the British Raj.

It is for this reason that the controversial attempt to exonerate Savarkar has stirred uproar in the country with many accusing Rajnath Singh of attempting to distort historical facts. A closer study of the national archives of India portrays a different picture.

Savarkar, during his time in jail, had written not one but several mercy petitions and it was only when his previous petitions were rejected that his brother, Narayan Savarkar, decided to write to Gandhi for advice.

Upon receiving the letter, Gandhi advised Narayan to file a petition on the grounds that Savarkar’s offence was of political nature.

The archives also point out to an additional historical fact, which the Hindu nationalists are not comfortable with admitting, that the previous mercy petitions filed in 1911 and 1913 were written during the time when Gandhi was in South Africa, thus leaving out the possibility of any form of correspondence between the two .

Moreover, the mercy petitions filed by Savarkar were of no ordinary nature, in fact they went as far as to pledge loyalty to the British along with a promise to refrain from any political activism that might undermine the British interests in India.

Not only did Savarkar write those petitions but he also honoured them by refraining from participating in the freedom struggle.

Similarly, Savarkar and Gandhi were at odds ideologically, in fact it is worth mentioning that Nathuram Godse, who assassinated Gandhi, was a disciple of Savarkar.

Moreover, in the aftermath of Gandhi’s assassination, India’s then Home Minister, Sardar Patel in a letter addressed to Nehru on 27 February 1948, wrote “It was a fanatical wing of the Hindu Mahasabha directly under Savarkar that had (hatched) the conspiracy and saw it through.” (The letter is mentioned in “Sardar Patel’s Correspondence, Volume 6, page 56″. )

The BJP and RSS have also attempted to claim the leaders of Indian Freedom Struggle Movement.

However, the fact is that some of the most prominent faces of India’s struggle for Independence, such as Bhagat Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose were socialists and they certainly did not share the Hindu nationalists’ enthusiasm for Hindu supremacy.

Hindu Nationalists portray themselves as the true flag bearers of Indian Freedom Struggle and patriotism, while demonizing Muslims and political opponents for not being “patriotic enough”. However, the overwhelming evidence shows that history is not on the side of the Hindutva nationalists which explains the desperate attempts made on their part to rewrite it.

—The writer is contributing columnist, based in Islamabad.

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