Sunday 21 November 2021

India shares a common DNA (The Sunday Guardian)

Carbon dating and analogous scientific methods have established that the Republic of India has a provable history going back 5,000 years, if not more. Any conqueror wishes to demoralise the minds of those that are colonised, and the British were no exception. References do get made in school and college curricula about the ancient past, usually in the form of scraps of knowledge resembling the ruins left behind by millennia of destruction and neglect of monuments that many other countries preserve and very often rebuild. Of the 5,000 years of demonstrable history possessed by India, the first 250-300 years are outlined in detail by textbooks, another 300-350 years less comprehensively, while the previous 4,500 or so years are given short shrift. Much of what is known about that period, especially during the initial couple of millennia, is dismissed as myth. The war described in the Mahabharata “never took place”, while Lord Ram “never existed”, such is the content in much of books learnt by rote in our schools, as well as in literature dealing with that period. As a reaction, another school of thought has made gains, which holds that the actual history of India comprises only that 4,500 or so years, and what followed was somehow “not truly Indian”. Countering those who deny 4,500 or so years of Indian history and focus only on the 500-550 years that are most recent by ignoring the latter period and focusing only on the earlier period is as misguided as those who regard the very idea of a flourishing ancient civilisation from several millennia ago as fanciful. If that period is termed the Vedic period, the period that saw the advent of conquest by armies from central Asia as Mughal, and the era of British rule as Western, it is obvious that the history of India is a compound of all three stages. The Vedic, the Mughal and the Western. As elaborated in a 1990s oped (“Importance of Indutva”) in the Times of India, the three strands are intertwined together to form a common cultural DNA in the people of India, irrespective of the faith they are born into. Every citizen of India is heir to the entire 5,000-year chain of easily provable Indian history. Unfortunately, the residue of the Two Nation theory and variants suggest that those from different faiths are equivalent to having been born on different planet rather than, as emphasised by RSS chief Dr Mohan Bhagwat, having as they do the same DNA. So successful has been the Sino-Wahhabi project of communal polarisation, that there are those from different faiths who object to whatever the RSS chief says, even if that be exactly what they themselves have been saying all along.

The present writer has long sought to convince people across society to press for the restoration of Kashi, Ayodhya and Mathura to what each was before they were destroyed by Aurangzeb. Such a change would not inflame but dampen down communal passions. Whether it be Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Mecca or Medina, they stand undestroyed by the whims of a conqueror who was a religious supremacist. Even the most observant of Muslims after a while accepted the logic that it was illogical to deny Hindus their three holy sites, especially after the country had been torn apart by Partition on the basis of the false theory that Hindus and Muslims were Two Nations. The founder of Pakistan (at least publicly) believed that Muslims should never have to live in a country where they did not form the majority of the population. That must be news to the many from that faith who raise families in countries where the Muslim community forms only a small percentage of the entire population, for example in the US. These Muslims, joined by those who opted to remain in India rather than migrate to Pakistan, prove the Two Nation theory to be wrong. Their fear was only that the return of the three holy sites of the Hindus may open the floodgates to demands calling for a similar change in hundreds of sites that were once Hindu temples. When this writer visited Indonesia for the first time, he was surprised to see ham being openly sold in markets, despite the country having an overwhelmingly Muslim majority. No faith has the right to force others to adopt the ways that its clergy claims is needed on others. Each time a local government in India bans, for example, shops selling meat, eggs and fish—as some local bodies did in Gujarat, despite the CM correctly pointing out that the state government had no objection to the eating of meat, that it was a personal choice—it has no business seeking to dictate the lifestyle, dress or diet of any individual. Only through conciliation and consent can the three holy sites of the Hindu community be returned to what they were before Aurangzeb’s rule. Each show of ill-considered muscle by those who deny the legitimacy of the last 500-550 years of our history and believe that the previous period is all that is truly representative of India is pushing into the more and more distant future that Grand Reconciliation that would restore the three holy sites to what they ought to be. Sometimes, enemies are to be found not just outside but inside. Just as Lord Ram was an authentic Indian colossus of history, just as the entire 5,000 years of history needs to be taught and accepted, so must be the fact that, as Omar Khayyam wrote, “The moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on, nor all their piety nor wit lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all your tears wash off a word”. Indic values are anchored in harmony and ours is still an Indic society, thanks to the common cultural and societal DNA we share with fellow citizens.