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India: Tearing down the Hindu state
New Indian congress is digging up the foundations of a Hindu state set up by predecessors
 
Wednesday, July 07, 2004
by Elizabeth Kendal
 

AUSTRALIA  (ANS) -- India’s new Congress-led government has begun the process of digging up the Hindutva foundations laid by its predecessors, the right-wing Hindu nationalist BJP. Congress is actively working to restore India’s former foundations as a politically secular state with religious freedom and opportunities for all. The Hindutva “idol” (or dream of a Hindu state) was a work in progress and it is still craved by many in the Hindutva camp. The deconstruction of Hindutva will not be without its opponents and challenges. Even since the BJP election defeat, the RSS has been actively advancing its attack on Christianity through the setting up of armed militias called “Raksha Sena” (Defense Army) that are being trained and sent out specifically to prevent conversions to Christianity.

RECONSTRUCTING HISTORY

In November 2001 Congress politician Arjun Singh accused the BJP of “Talibanising” the education system. The BJP government had commissioned Hindu nationalist scholars to “saffronise” India’s history texts by filling them with Hindu nationalist delusions and religious bigotry all presented as historic fact. Through the texts the BJP sought to change the perception of Indian culture from an ethnic and religious melting pot which developed through mass migrations and trade links, to one that is unique, historically Hindu, superior and resistant to foreign invasion.

The BJP’s revised history texts credit Hindus with “lighting the lamp of Chinese culture” and the commissioning and design of India’s greatest pieces of Islamic architecture, including the Taj Mahal. The texts denigrate Muslims and blame Christians for the partition of India, alleging that missionaries are actively “fostering anti-national tendencies”.

Randeep Ramesh reports from Delhi for the Guardian (26 June 2004), “India's new government is poised to rewrite the history taught to the nation's schoolchildren after a panel of eminent historians recommended scrapping textbooks written by scholars hand-picked by the previous Hindu nationalist administration.

“Hundreds of thousands of textbooks are likely to be scrapped by the National Council of Educational Research and Training, the central government body that sets the national curriculum for students up to 18.

“The move, one of the first made by the new Congress led government, will strongly signal a departure from the programme of its predecessor.”

Ramesh reports, “The three-member panel of historians examining the ‘inadequacies’ of history textbooks recommended the ‘discontinuation’ of their use in the national syllabus. After submitting a report to India's education minister, Professor S Settar, a distinguished historian of ancient India, told reporters: ‘We found it not advisable to continue (with these books).’

“The government will decide early next month to what extent it will accept the academics' verdict, but as it has stressed that it will seek to reach out to minorities, it is expected to implement Prof Settar's report in full. … Many on the Hindu right are furious that their revisionist interpretation of history is now being revised, blaming the influence of ‘leftists and Marxists’.” (Link 1)

PROTECTING AND ADVANCING MINORITIES

Immediately upon winning the elections in May 2004, the Congress, via its new Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, vowed to actively pursue social harmony and protect religious minorities. "We are the most tolerant civilization and we cannot divide people on the basis of religion and race," Singh said. (AFP 21 May 2004)

The government is now working on a new law to protect religious minorities from communal violence. The BBC reports, “Interior minister Shivraj Patil told reporters the law would combat communal violence - and would target those who instigated, abetted or funded unrest. ‘We will definitely not tolerate it,’ PTI (Press Trust of India)


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