|This above all||
Saturday, November 28, 1998
IF I had to write Arun Shouries profile, I would entitle it "Arun Shourie ko gussa kyon aata hai". Everything he writes is in anger. He looks very calm. He is soft-spoken and courteous. No sooner does he pick up his pen, he bursts out like a volcano spewing red-hot lava. To start with it was fundamental Islam as interpreted by mullahs in their fatwas. Then it was Christian missionaries. His latest victims are Leftist historians. He had been going for them for several weeks in the columns of The Asian Age. He has put it all together in one volume Eminent Historians: Their Technology, Their Line, Their Fraud (ASA). The list of these "fraudulent historians" is long and contains many recognised authorities on their subjects: K.N. Panikkar, K.M. Shrimali, Suraj Bhan, Athar Ali, B.N. Pandey, Nurul Hassan, Irfan Habib, R.S. Shukla, G. Gopal, Romilla Thapar, Bipin Chandra, Satish Chandra, D.N. Jha and Ravinder Kumar. According to Shourie, they have three things in common: They have gained eminence they do not deserve. Being Leftists, whatever they write has a strong Socialist bias at the cost of truth and objectivity. And they have poisoned the fonts of historical knowledge with falsehood which has, and is, spreading venom in young minds of school and college students.
According to Shourie, there is a pre-conceived plan to whitewash the Islamic period of its temple-destruction, forcible conversions and massacres of Hindus. He also accuses them of "positive hatred for pre-Islam period and traditions of the country". He believes that this jaundiced view of historical events has persisted in explaining away the role of the Muslim League, Allama Iqbal and Jinnah in the demand for a separate sovereign Muslim state, Pakistan.
Shourie further alleges that Leftist state governments like that of West Bengal and Kerala support such re-writing of history textbooks. He quotes guidelines moved by Jyoti Basus government issued in 1989 to the effect that "Muslim rule should never attract any intrusion, destruction of Hindu temples by Muslim rulers and invaders should not be mentioned". He further alleges that institutions like the Indian Council of Historical Research have been taken over by Leftists who feed off each other by apportioning grants for research and writing between themselves. "This mafia must be disbanded and such brainwashing of young minds stopped immediately", he writes. In short, Shourie provides justification for what the Education Minister, Murli Manohar Joshi, is trying to do to give a Hindu version (i.e. the truthful version) of Islamic and British rule right up to the break up of the country in 1947.
Writing history is tricky business. However much a researcher may try to be objective, his or her personal bias will be reflected in his or her writing. British historians of India, and following them Hindus, stress the negative aspects of Muslim rule: Destruction of temples, forced conversion and massacres of infidels. They overlook the fact that non-Muslims often paid them back in the same coin. Banda Bairagi destroyed scores of dargahs and mosques in present-day Haryana. Every time Ahmed Shah Abdali blew up Harmandar Sahib and filled its sarovar with carcasses of cows, Sikh misldars, when they occupied Lahore, slaughtered pigs in the courtyard of the Badshahi mosque. Hindu historians like Shourie and Sita Ram Goel, who hold Muslim leaders from Sir Syed Ahmed Khan to Jinnah, responsible for the break-up of the country forget that long before these men it was Veer Savarkar who propounded the two-nation theory of Hindus and Muslims, and Lala Lajpat Rai, President of the Indian National Congress, spelt out the division of the country along communal lines. Many terrotist organisations like the Anusilan Samities refused to enrol Muslims. In short, when it comes to apportioning blame for the partition of the country, it should be remembered that not all the angels were on the side of the Hindus and all devils supporting Muslim demands. As for distorting history, no better example can be cited than that of P.N. Oak, whose articles used to appear in the RSS Journal Organiser. He produced two booklets, one on the Taj Mahal and the other on the Kutub Minar, trying to prove that both were Hindu monuments. It is time the kettle stopped calling the pot black.
I first met Deepti Naval about four years ago. Not being a film-goer, all I knew about her was her odd-sounding name and that she was a successful screen actress. She came to see me as she was planning to make a film on Amrita Shergil, and meeting everyone who knew her to collect biographical data on the painter. She asked me which actress in Bollywood resembled Amrita most. I replied without hesitation; "You. Except you are a lot better looking". She blushed. Film magazines described her as looking like the girl next door. There must have been a lot of good looking girls in their neighbourhood.
Next, I ran into her at Santa Cruz airport. We embraced each other like long lost lovers. In between Deepti had married. And divorced. I asked her if she intended to marry again. "Never!" she replied, "One experience was enough".
Deepti was born and went to school in Amritsar. She went to New York City University, where she took degrees in fine arts, English and psychology. To her main subjects she added photography, astronomy and theatre. Back home she went into films and did leading roles in over 50 films, including a few box office hits: Ek baar phir, Chashme Baddoor, Andhi Gali and others. She wrote and directed serials for Doordarshan. She painted, wrote and published poems in Hindi, Urdu and English.
Last February Deepti was in Delhi for the film festival. She was mobbed by fans, autograph hunters, press and film cameramen. She had more of humanity than she could stand and decided to go away somewhere where no one would recognise her and she would be alone by herself. She chose a village a few miles from Ladakh where there were no hotels, no tourists. Her only companion was her faithful Canon camera. She spent 13 days in this remote hamlet in a village home and took photographs of snow-covered mountains, the Indus, villagers, yaks, monastries and whatever else that caught her eye. She had her pictures enlarged and put them on exhibition in Gallery Espace in New Delhi. I havent seen Ladakhi landscape so beautifully captured by a photographer. Most of Deeptis snapshots looked like paintings by a master.
Deepti made me ponder over another problem: Why is God so generous in bestowing gifts on some people and niggardly towards others? Here is Deepti Naval who has been granted good looks, talent for acting, painting, poetic composition and photography, as if she was his favourite daughter and the rest of us His step-children. Deepti has more than her fair share of Gods bounty. Her only failure was inability to make a success of her marriage.
I write on your birthday
And I dare say
That politics was not your way
An over-trusted man, a visionary and a dreamer
You just could not measure,
The perfidy at the heart of a neighbour,
And so, more than once, courted disaster.
But Jawahar, you should have been around today,
For your modern mind, your scientific temper,
Your feeling heart, your customary anger,
For the incorrigibly secular, statesman, scholar,
For the man who could see the present, past and future,
For the incorruptible man of the peoples order
More than ever before
Today, I think, we need you Jawahar.
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