How history writing in India was systematically destroyed through institutional takeover
Of the countless victims of the Sultanate-culture-loving Nawab Nehru, Kulapati K.M. Munshi ranks as one of the more high-profile ones. Nehru never forgave Munshi for that ultimate crime of all: rebuilding the sacred Somanath Temple. Munshi was uncompromising in his abiding Shraddha in Sanatana Dharma. Here’s a sample from a stinging letter he wrote to the Nawab of Nothingness:
As the Nawab of the Night grew in strength and political affluence, K.M. Munshi observed with alarm and unease the long-lasting damage that his Hindu-hatred cum Islamic-love masquerading as secularism was causing to the Dharma of our Rishis. He said,
But K.M. Munshi didn’t merely content himself with such acerbic retorts. He decided to do something constructive about it with a farsighted vision that ensured that this “something” would outlive and outlast him, and endure the proverbial test of time. He approached Acharya R.C. Majumdar with this vision. The result: the majestic eleven volumes of The History and Culture of the Indian People, which continues to remain a classic. Here is a slice from Munshi’s Foreword to the first volume.
After seventy-two years of independence, we notice that Munshi’s remark regarding the so-called Indian histories remains valid. The fact that we still debate about the “true history” of India, and how this field is still highly politicized, bitter, and filled with distortions should be the surest proof that Munshi’s vision and Sankalpa has largely remained unfulfilled.
Of course, there exist excellent and accurate Indian histories: the selfsame History and Culture of the Indian People, Cultural Heritage of India, and several standalone works by scholars can be cited as outstanding examples. But these works are far and few between and are mostly forgotten by or lost in the mainstream narrative, which is heavily lopsided and some are openly hostile to the cultural and civilizational ethos of India. This sort of self-alienation and hatred towards one’s own identity and sense of Self is unparalleled anywhere in the world.
Think about it. Think about a perverse parallel, which exists next door. In Pakistan. Pakistan’s official history books deny and disavow its Hindu past, propagate hatred towards Hindus and India, and seek to forge an “independent” Pakistani identity that has no basis in history.
And what has the Indian “history” establishment done for the last seven decades? The same thing. Shaming, blaming, abusing, and trying to disclaim, denounce, and disown its Hindu roots. And it is here, in these roots that we must seek an answer to forge what we can call an indigenous narrative of India’s history.
In this backdrop, it’s instructive to examine the state and nature of scholarship that flourished roughly in the period encompassing the mid-19th and mid-20th centuries. This was truly the era of Bharatavarsha’s Modern Renaissance populated by a galaxy of stalwarts in almost all fields of human endeavor and spanning the length and breadth of this country. Needless, the world of scholarship was no different. If time is a soil, it was at its fertile best in this era, supplying to India and the world such luminaries as Pandurang Vaman Kane, Mysore Hiriyanna, Jadunath Sarkar, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyaya, Parashuram Krishna Gode, Ramesh Chandra Majumdar, Ananda Coomaraswamy, Shama Shastri, Devudu Narasimha Sastry, Ganganath Jha, Govind Chandra Pande, S. Srikanta Sastri, Moti Chandra, Acharya Chatursen Sastri, Radha Kumud Mukherji, Kashi Prasad Jayaswal…the list is breathtaking in number and dazzling in its accomplishment.
While each of these scholars distinguished himself in seminal, exhaustive, and penetrating research in one area—P V Kane is most notable for his definitive work, the multi-volume History of the Dharmashastras, Jadunath Sarkar for his volumes on Aurangzeb, Surendranath Dasgupta for his five-volume History of Indian Philosophy, and others in a similar vein—they also distinguished themselves for their solid multidisciplinary grasp. They had attained enormous proficiency in multiple languages (both Indian and foreign), could decipher epigraphic sources, literary texts, numismatics, sculptural nuances, and so on. This is a truly extraordinary feat by any standard. Small wonder that all of them contributed to learned and scholarly journals and publications like the various Gazetteers, Indian Antiquary, Epigraphia Indica, Bombay Asiatic Society, and numerous other independent journals and magazines. S Srikanta Sastri for example, could contribute to these scholarly journals and to a popular Kannada newsmagazine like Prajamata with equal élan.
These scholars were household names in their own time. Yet barring very few people in our own time…an era ruled by the Internet where most information is freely, easily and instantly accessible, how many “educated” Indians are even aware that such scholars actually existed in flesh and blood just forty years ago? R.C. Majumdar for instance, died as recently as 1980. In my limited reading, I didn’t come across a single “mainstream” newspaper or magazine that devoted say, a Sunday Supplement or Special Feature to cover his seminal contributions and rich legacy. What does that tell us about the nadir we have reached?
But by 1980, this decline was near-comprehensive and in many cases, irreversible. From then onwards, the world of historical scholarship was full of self-righteous, meaningless and political nonsense, defining history as merely a “clash of perspectives.” When history becomes a mere clash of perspectives, the first casualty is truth because anybody whose perspective has the support of brute force or political power will become the truth. For example, the fierce debates that began in the mid-to-late 1960s over the actual impact of colonial rule quickly give birth to the umbrella subject of Subaltern studies. As a result, these subaltern narratives eventually reduced history to nothing more than a handmaiden of crass Leftist sociology. Look around us today. Anybody who has a pet grievance and can drum up a rowdy, street-lobby endowed with enough lung power can get himself/herself classified as a Subaltern.
We can now trace the trajectory of the calculated downfall of the aforementioned historical scholarship. At a very high level, this trajectory passed through the following stages:
First, at the zenith of Bharatavarsha’s Modern Renaissance, scholarship of the highest degree was not only actively sought after but was passionately, carefully nurtured and passed on to successive generations in keeping with the true traditions of the Indian learning heritage.
Second, this same level and standard of scholarship was sustained for at least seven decades in almost all universities, and institutions of higher learning.
Third, a systematic attempt was put in place to dismiss such a high standard of scholarship by condemning it in terms such as, “this knowledge is archaic and useless for the modern time,” “all this is a conspiracy,” “this does not earn a livelihood,” “this is a Hindu revivalist approach,” etc. For a vivid and blunt picture of how this phenomenon worked in practice, read, Perversion of India’s Political Parlance, Genesis and Growth of Nehruism, Decolonising the Hindu Mind, and Negationism in India: Concealing the Record of Islam.
Fourth, flows from the third. This resulted in the marginalization of the still-surviving scholars of this Renaissance era, which in turn, resulted in the shutting down of various valuable departments in our universities. This loss has since become irretrievable.
Finally, an era of actively discouraging this sort of scholarship. In retrospect, if we lament at the state of historical scholarship in the last fifty or so years, it’s clear that the reason can be found here, in this trajectory. Needless, without this active sabotage, the Marxist and similar ideological distortions that have become commonplace in Indian history wouldn’t have even been possible in the first place.
In parting, here is a quote from the Grandma of History Distortions, Romila Thapar recounted by Prof Dilip K Chakrabarti. The topic? Romila Thapar’s “vision” of India at the end of the 21st Century:
To put it in the correct perspective: this was not Romila Thapar’s “vision,” but her wish from the innermost recesses of her unpatriotic heart. And such innately toxic people sat on various educational boards and for over four decades, virtually dictated what was India’s history. And they’ve been extraordinarily successful in their ruinous project. This vandalism of Indian history mirrors the industrial-scale vandalism, desecration and destruction of Hindu Temples by medieval Muslim barbarians: the decimation was complete but what was it replaced with?
The answer is self-evident.
It’s now up to ordinary Hindus to find out a corrective mechanism on their own, at the individual and community levels.
 See for examples:  The Subtle Subversion: The State of Curricula and Textbooks in Pakistan: A. H. Nayyar and Ahmed Salim, Sustainable Development Policy Institute, 2003.  Partition of History in Textbooks in Pakistan: Implications of Selective Memory and Forgetting: Ashok K. Behuria and Mohammad Shehzad, 2013