Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Defending our civilisation

THERE are three dimensions to the issue regarding the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library. One, the technical aspect of revamp. Two, the allegation that the Modi government is trying to undermine Jawaharlal Nehru and other Congress leaders. Three, the charge that we are trying to alter history.

Regarding the first point, our government reconstituted the committee after its term ended. In fact, after that, we continued with two members appointed by the UPA government—Pratap Bhanu Mehta and Nitin Desai. Mahesh Rangarajan remained as director, despite the fact that he was appointed on May 19, 2014, three days after the results of the Lok Sabha elections were announced. The UPA government made the appointment after they lost the polls. Was it appropriate to make the appointment—and that, too, for a term of almost ten years, till Rangarajan retired?

Still, we did not remove him. Rangarajan resigned. The reason he gave was personal, not political. So, it is ridiculous to say that we are indulging in political vendetta.

We have been questioned about the need for revamp. The proposal for a revamp of the Nehru museum was made by the previous government. We are just taking it forward. We want to make it more modern. Nehru was not just a Congress leader—he was the first PM of independent India. We want the museum to reflect his political vision and how India started emerging post independence. We may have strong differences with Nehru, but still, the good work he and his government did should be portrayed properly and judiciously.

Regarding the second point, allegations of undermining Nehru-Gandhi icons are in contrast with facts. We celebrated 125 years of Nehru with due respect. Our government issued commemorative stamps in honour of Jayaprakash Narayan and even Ram Manohar Lohia, with whom we had clear political differences. In contrast, a senior minister in the UPA government had the inscription of Vir Savarkar removed from the Cellular Jail. We cannot indulge in that kind of political vendetta. Howsoever strong our majority is, and howsoever different our political thinking may be, those who fought for the country will get all the respect they deserve.

Regarding the third point, India was not born on August 15, 1947. It is the oldest living civilisation in the world. Freedom fighters should get their due for the roles they played. Nehru played a role, and got more than his due. Revolutionaries like Chandra Shekhar Azad, Bhagat Singh and Khudiram Bose, who sacrificed their lives for the country, are yet to get their due.

Do we have the appropriate version of Indian history? Textbooks say Maharana Pratap was a “fanatic” patriot, that Chhatrapati Shivaji “looted” Surat, that Guru Tegh Bahadur created a “law and order problem”, that Raja Suraj Mal was a “plunderer”, and that the First War of Indian Independence in 1857 was a “sepoy mutiny”. And history books teach that Vedic hymns were the songs of shepherds.

On the contrary, it was the ancient Indian civilisation that gave zero, quadratic equations and theorems of geometry to mathematics. It also developed the most ancient medical system in the form of ayurveda, and the structured principles of statecraft in the form of Rajdharma and Chanakya Niti. German scholar Arthur Schopenhauer called the Upanishads “the product of the highest human wisdom”.

V.S. Naipaul correctly said that Indian history, as it is taught, demeans nationalism and national pride. India is the only country that accepts its history as written by foreigners and adversaries. We have to come out of the colonial mindset, as it was designed to subjugate and undermine the virtues of India. Then only can the true potential of India be realised.

Sudhanshu Trivedi is the BJP’s national spokesperson.

This New is Originally Posted on THE WEEK

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