Omission of Nehru from ICHR poster symptomatic of rightwing zest to twist India’s history to serve its agenda
A poster released by ICHR to mark 75 years of independence did not have photograph of Jawaharlal Nehru, the architect of modern India, making us realise why it’s imperative to keep historicity alive
In a poster released by the Indian Council of Historical Research on the 75th anniversary of our independence, among the eight leading freedom fighters, the photograph of the country’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was omitted. A visionary, he was against the division of the country and opposed the proposition to accept religion as the basis for that. He was declared by Gandhi ji as his political heir and was in jail for nine years.
It was during his tenure as the Congress president when it adopted the resolution of complete independence in 1929. While fighting against British, he was also formulating the concept of the democratic structure the country was to have after attaining freedom.
It was Nehru who declared the victory of his party in the first general elections held in 1952, when people voted them to power in an independent India. It was time to take steps towards building the nation, which had faced severe damage in its past at the hands of divisive forces.
Defining the newly emerging nation, Nehru had said secularism was the polity of our country and the content was spirit of unity in diversity. Nehru was also the author of the agrarian-industrial blueprint for the country to ascend the heights for becoming a great economic power.
The forces of the rightwing, led by V D Savarkar, who looks at you from the poster not amicably but grimly, was not a spokesperson for democracy, but autocracy. He had said in his monograph written in 1923, ‘…the whole of India is for Hindus by virtue of the fact that they alone, and not Muslims or Christians, considered its territory sacred.’ Summing up, he said, “We [Hindus] are one because we are a nation, a race and own a common Sanskriti (culture).’ It was his iconoclasm that wanted to establish a nation, led by one race, one ideology of Hindutva.
It was a self negation by someone Indian, of the concept of India, which keeps alive only in its multiplicity. In 1937, when he became the head of Hindu Mahasabha, in his presidential speech, he said, “As it is, there are two antagonistic nations living side by side in India. Several infantile politicians commit the serious mistake in supposing that India is already welded into a harmonious nation, or that it could be welded thus for the mere wish to do so. These are well- meaning but unthinking friends take dreams for realities. That is why they are impatient of communal tangles and attribute them to communal organisations. But the solid fact is that the so called communal questions are but a legacy handed down to us by centuries of a cultural, religious and national antagonism between the Hindus and Moslems.”
In contrast to our concept of multiplicity and the unity, the democratic super structure and the homogeneity with which each of our freedom fighters sacrificed their lives with a smile on their lips, there was the Hindutva leader pouring out the divisive trends, “Let us bravely face unpleasant facts as they are. India cannot be assumed today to be a unitarian and homogeneous nation but on the contrary there are two nations in the main: the Hindus and the Moslems, in India.”
Savarkar was clearly laying down the first exposition of the two nation theory. Once taken up three years later by Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the two nation theory of the Hindutva leader started snowballing into a communal crisis, and finally culminated in the horrors of partition.
The history of freedom struggle, starting against colonialism, ended in 1947, but that was not the end. Since then, in all the seven and half decade, the country kept facing challenges against its unity, secularism, and finally the democratic values. There were failures and setbacks, but optimism remained alive. That was precisely because we believed in historicity. Our optimism has roots in the past, in struggles and failures.
One of its record keepers has been the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR). Founded in early 1970s by the doyens of history, among them Prof Nurul Hasan, then education minister, Prof R S Sharma, then head, history department in Delhi University and later professor emeritus and many other such jewels. They were the scientific thinkers and guarded the lessons of history. It was to conserve, consolidate and keep moving towards nation building and the most important asset was its mobility, irresistible, continual. The then forward forces of peace and solidarity, led by the Congress, started building the basics of a nation, though always struggling against the forces of the rightwing.
In the process, it was realised that the unity or the oneness of the country would have to be always asserted, recognised and consolidated. Its multiple identities have to be preserved, respected, not allowing the rightwing to usurp them. It is history itself that has shown us the path, long and arduous, that does not allow us either to waver or stagnate. The identity of India has always to be redefined, with every shift.
Hence was the vast project divided in various parts and called “Towards Freedom” launched by the ICHR in the seventies. In every district, local communicators with the history and the present of the region was appointed who was to send reports with regularity. There was coverage of each and every important event making a dent of its own. The entire story of the freedom struggle was woven brick by brick. The credit for it goes to ICHR.
This one poster make us realise why historicity should be kept alive. And that interpretation of history cannot be selective.
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