The Statesman Be Better Informed Special Article
Marx and Clio~II Pakistani Textbooks Now A Source Of Indian History Dipak Basu
It is scarcely known in India that Karl Marx and Swami Vivekananda had similar views on the historical cycle of the world. According to Marx, world history has four cycles starting with primitive communism of tribal societies, followed by feudalism, capitalism and ultimately socialism. This is eventually followed by advanced communism. These cycles occur on account of the contradictions or dialectics in the existing system. Marx wrote:
“Changes occur in society because of contradictions in prevailing ideology, in its social, economic and political order. These contradictions arise from hostilities between the social classes” (A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy).
Similarly, Swami Vivekananda divided world history into four cycles, starting with the Age of the Priests, the Age of the Warriors, the Age of the Merchants (contemporay history) and finally the Age of the Worker. With every cycle, society attains a higher level of development.
Explaining the contradiction in society, Vivekananda wrote:
“At a certain time every society attains its manhood, when a strong conflict ensues between the ruling power and the common people” (Collected Works, vol iv, page 399).
In the new Age of the Workers,
“just distribution of material values will be achieved, equality of the rights of all members of society to ownership of property established and caste differences obliterated” (Collected Works, vol vi, page 343).
Sri Aurobindo had expressed similar views on history. The views of the Marxist historians in the former Soviet Union ought to be seriously considered if only to grasp the Marxian view of India. Their perception is exactly the opposite of the Anglo-American view. “The cosmic hymn of the Rigveda is, in our view, fundamentally a realistic work with strong elements of spontaneous materialism and dialectics. The Vedic literature has a great significance for the study of the forms of social life in ancient India” (Vladimir Brodov, Indian Philosophy in Modern Times; Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1984).
While examining the Muslim period the historians of AMU, JNU and Delhi University have followed the Pakistani version of Indian history, which is very different from the Soviet version. Jamia Millia’s Mushirul Hasan writes in India Partitioned (Oxford University Press, 1985) that Muslims came to the Malabar coast peacefully. However, in Notes on Indian History, Marx wrote: “Mussulman Conquest of India: First Arab entry into India AD 664 (year 44 of the Hegira): Arabs reached Kabul; in the same year Muhallab, an Arab general, raided India, advanced as far as Multan.”
Referring to Aurangzeb, Soviet historians wrote: “This cold calculating politician was a fanatical Moslem and his victory over Dara Shukho signified the advent of a policy, which stripped Hindus of their rights. Between 1665 and 1669, he gave orders for Hindu temples to be destroyed and for mosques to be erected from their debris. Hindus were not allowed to wear any marks of honour, to ride elephants etc. The heaviest burden of all was the poll-tax on non-Moslems, or jizya, introduced in 1679...” (The History of India by K Antonova, G Bongard-Levin, G Kotovsky, Progress Publisher, Moscow 1979, page 255).
The historians of JNU and AMU will certainly dispute such views about Aurangzeb and other Muslim emperors of India, who are considered by them and their fellow Pakistani historians as progressive reformers. The Soviet historians summarized modern India thus: “Progressive thought in India in the latter half of the 19th and early 20th century is characterised by the following features ~ direct links with the historical destiny of the country, with the search for the solution of political and economic problems and for the ways of the country’s democratic transformation (Dayananda Saraswati, Swami Vivekananda, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Sri Aurobindo and others)”.
Russian historians have emphasized various popular uprisings against British rule in the 18th and 19th centuries, including the revolt of the Sanyasis mentioned in Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay’s Ananda Math, the revolutionary movements in the 20th century, the role of Tilak, Vivekananda and Tagore, the revolt of the Indian Navy in 1946. In comparison, they have ignored the Gandhi-Nehru factor and the prolonged negotiations between the British and Gandhi. On the contrary, the Western historians put extreme emphasis on the process of transfer of power from the British to the pro-British Indian and Pakistani politicians like Gandhi-Nehru-Jinnah. The historians of JNU and AMU also emphasise the role of Gandhi-Nehru-Jinnah, dismissing every other aspect of the political and historical developments of India.
Romila Thaper in her book, History of India, has dismissed the Indian revolutionaries as “bomb throwing terrorists’ in one sentence. She has devoted only two sentences on Subhas Bose and the Azad Hind Fauz. Bipan Chandra dismissed Subhas Bose as an “associate of the Fascists”. It is worthwhile to remember that the former Soviet Union had recognised the Azad Hind government and allowed Subhas Bose to open a consulate in the Soviet Union while the British had branded him as a war criminal. British historians (the best example is The History of the Second World War written by Winston Churchill) do not even mention Indian revolutionaries or Subhas Bose. Thus, India’s so-called Marxist historians of JNU and AMU have followed the British historical tradition, not the Marxist one.
Karl Marx was one of the greatest philosophers of the world, and he was highly sympathetic to India. Both Marx and Lenin wrote substantially on India. This has inspired a number of anti-British writers and politicians of India during the days of the freedom struggle. The writings of Karl Marx and the Soviet historians are very pro-Indian, unlike those of the Anglo-American writers. However, the historians of JNU and AMU, ideological gurus of the leaders of the CPI-M are the followers of the Anglo-American Indologists and Pakistani historians, who are by nature anti-Marx, anti-Soviet, and anti-Indian.
Yvette Rosser in her PhD thesis, “Curricula as Destiny: Forging National Identities in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh” in the University of Texas in Austin, has proved that the source of the recent writings of the JNU-AMU-Delhi historians are the Pakistani textbooks. The ideas, dressed up as the new history of India by some American historians are not only biased but also full of ignorance, falsehood, and misinterpretations of facts. It is unfortunate that the historians of JNU-AMU-Delhi university are pursuing a policy to reflect and amplify the Anglo-American and Pakistani opinion, which are hostile towards India and particularly towards the Hindu religion and the Marxist leaders of India, former students of JNU, are their very faithful admirers. (Concluded)
I would not go so far as some who would insist that a Hindu is not the person to ask about Hinduism, as Harvard professor Roman Jakobson notoriously objected to Nabokov's bid for chairmanship of the Russian literature department: "I do respect very much the elephant, but would you give him the chair of zoology?"
That is from Wendy Doniger's new and noteworthy The Hindus: An Alternative History. Here is a favorable Michael Dirda review of the book. Read the Wikipedia section on "Criticism" of Wendy Doniger, some of it from fundamentalist Hindus. Here is a defense of Doniger.