Manipulation of History for Social Engineering | Ram Puniyani
The agenda of Hindu nationalism is to polarize the communities along religious lines and to subjugate the lower castes within its gambit. The first major target of this politics was to demonize the Muslim kings as foreigners, aggressors, who tried to convert and due to whom the caste differences came up. Their second obsession so far has been to glorify Aryans and uphold Hindu mythology as history. Lately newer forays are being made to promote Branmanical values through their icons as well as to instill new icons to co-opt dalits and OBCs.
One recalls that to instill Brahmanical norms Amit Shah the reigning BJP President through a tweet greeted the people on the occasion of Onam saying that this festival marks the birth of Vaman, the fifth avatar of Vishnu (September 2016). At the same time RSS mouth piece Kesari carried an article which said that there is no reference or description in mythology books which can support the story that Mahabali was pushed to the netherworld by Vamana. According to their version there is no mention of Mahabali’s annual homecoming in the Malayalam month of Chingam.
This is very much in contrast to popular understanding that Onam, a harvest festival is celebrated to mark the popular King Mahabali visiting them. Pongal has assumed a syncretic dimension in Kerala while attempt of RSS is to give it an upper caste tilt by revoking Vishnu Avatar Vaman, who tried to push Mahabali in to netherworld.
There is yet another dimension to use of History in contemporary times by RSS combine. In their newly renovated BJP office in UP there is a portrait looking like that of Rajput king Maha Rana Pratap, but in reality the portrait is that of an eleventh century king Suhel Dev. Maharaja Suheldev, is a little-known king, whom both Pasi and Bhar communities own. Over a period of time how has Suhel Dev come up to find place in BJP icons? In Baharaich in UP Amit Shah had unveiled a statue of Suheldev along with launching a book on him. He is being presented as a National hero who fought for independence. A train has also been started in his name, Suheldev Express.
To add to this UP Chief Minister Mr. Adiyanath Yogi, has announced (June 2017) that Suhel Dev’s statues will be installed in the Ambedkar Park along with existing statutes of Chatrapati Shahu, Jotirao Phule, Ambedkar, Kaknshiram and Mayawati. The park built by Mayawati Government will now have the statues of icon of other castes as well. While Mayawati had overdone the installing of statues, still they were an attempt to give dalit identity an honorable place in public memory. The present move comes with propagating a version of History which suits Hindu nationalism. About Suhel Dev what is being propagated is that he took on Salar Mahmood (Ghazi Miyan), a nephew of Mahmood Gazani, who had come to the region to settle, seeing its beautiful environment.
As per Prof Badri Narayan (Fascinating Hindutva, Sage) the popular narrative is that Suhel Dev, was very tyrannical against Muslims and dalits. On insistence from the local people Salar Mahmood on took on Suhal Dev and in the battle both the kings died. The dargah of Ghazi Miyan is located here where number of Hindus visit and popular understanding is that a visit to dargah helps them getting rid of diseases, particularly a bath in the lake located there eradicates leprosy.
In contrast, the story being popularized by RSS affiliates is that Ghazi Miyan was a foreign aggressor and Suhel Dev, to protect Hindu religion, engaged with him in a battle, losing his life in defense of Hindu religion. There was a mention of this king in Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his speech (August 2016). He hailed Suhel Dev as a king who protected cows and also used them in warfare by placing them in front of his army.
Here again the popular narrative as reflected in the visit of Hindus to the tomb of Ghazi Miyan shows that people see him in a positive light, the popular narrative has been twisted to give it a pro Hindutva angle in projecting Suhel Dev and now is deciding to honor him in various ways. In case of Suhel Dev there is a twofold strategy, on one hand to present him as a Hindu icon against Islam and secondly to add to him on the icon of Pasi-Rajbhar communities for electoral and social goals. The goal is to create icons from each sub caste from among dalits, irrespective of whether they contributed to dalit uplift or not. This is to divide the dalit unity. This also adds a king to the number of icons they are trying to bring up. We need to remember that kings presided over a system of society based on hierarchy, in contrast to icons which are there in Ambedkar Park. These icons had done something to liberate the dalit community from caste slavery, to add to their struggles for equality in society. Kings are being brought forward mainly for identity politics.
Since history is so much important to this nationalism, they will go to any extent to glorify the Hindu kings. The political system of kingdoms is not something which we can uphold today. Still for the sectarian nationalism the political structure and values of feudal times, the period of kingdoms is what they want to restore in a sublte way. It is in this direction that Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh Rana Pratap should be called great. To take the matters forward Rajasthan’s education minister Vasudev Devnani states that in the Haldighati battle, it was Rana Pratap who won. So far what was happening was giving an interpretation of events; now with likes of Mr. Devnani coming to the field even the events can be mauled to suit their political goals! Eric Hobsbawm correctly stated that ‘history is to nationalism what poppy is to opium addict!’