If you are looking for some information on an exhibition by Ramachandra Guha (RG) or pictures, you are mistaken. This one is about how some historians also become ‘painters’ in their own write. They ‘paint’ history. Communists and “eminent” historians of the JNU class have been doing it for ages. Modern day painters will include the likes of Arundhati Roy and Ramachandra Guha. Both are similar in many ways, though RG is often very critical of Arundhati. Their paintings are full of emotions, sentimentalism, falsehoods and a deep dislike for facts. Both are frequent guests at Outlook Magazine which recently carried one of RG’s paintings. You can read the piece titled ‘A nation consumed by the State’ at Outlook.
This particular rant by RG is about ‘three enemies of India’ or probably the idea of India. Here’s a paragraph from this rant:
“The plural, inclusive idea of India has three enemies. The best known is the notion of a Hindu rashtra, as represented in an erratic fashion by the Bharatiya Janata Party and in a more resolute (or more bigoted) manner by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Bajrang Dal and other associated organisations. When Khilnani published his book in 1997, Hindutva appeared to be the major challenge to the idea of India. To the “theoretically untidy, improvising, pluralist approach” of Gandhi and Nehru, he wrote, the Sangh parivar offered the alternative of “a culturally and ethnically cleaned-up homogeneous community with a singular Indian citizenship, defended by a state that had both God and nuclear warheads on its side”.
That pretty much sums up the central idea of the entire piece itself and you can guess where his entire argument or theory will go from there. Of course, he manages to sprinkle it with bits of Maoism and Corruption destroying the idea of India, but that is more like an afterthought. So, when the basic premise of a painting starts with a half-truth one can understand the persuasion of its author. Where it lies is that it doesn’t recognise the fact Hinduism is essentially secular. RG goes on to mention that many religions flourished in India but refuses to recognise that it is Hinduism that allowed that in the first place. Writers like RG will spare no effort to distinguish between Hinduism and Hindutva. Their entire theory is based on this superficial and non-existent distinction. They will not recognise the fact that our society has existed as a pluralist, multicultural society for centuries because of Hindutva and not otherwise.
As for the “theoretically untidy, improvising, pluralist approach” of Gandhi and Nehru our historians typically whitewash the many ideological mistakes that the two have made in their pursuit of this ‘untidy’ approach. Mind you, secularism is not bad, but it is bad the way it was practiced and is still being practiced by the party that claims the legacy of Gandhi and Nehru. First and foremost, the Gandhi-Nehru idolisation has been taken to such an extent that our “eminent” historians will not even question or explore many of their mistakes. The RSS, BJP and other outfits RG refers to were born in the 20th century much after the Congress. And there is a reason why those ideologies were conceived. To equate this with Maoism or Communism shows the warped logic employed to decipher the perceived threat to the idea of India.
Nowhere in his entire piece does RG try to explain why the BJP, a political party, which had just two seats in 1984 in the parliament has come to not only become the main Opposition party but was also in power from 1998 to 2004. He would like us to believe that the ugly head of Hindutva or the Rath Yatras of L.K. Advani were core reasons. And most of all ‘Islamic Terror’ or ‘Islamofascism’ is not even a threat to the idea of India.
RG is typically not a historian in the league of “eminent” ones such as Romila Thapar. But he continues their cause by not recognising the failures of Gandhi-Nehru which has contributed to the ills of India. If it took a foreigner to make a film about ‘Gandhi’ then it also took a foreigner to analyse the mistakes of Gandhi. No one has chronicled it better than Konrad Elst in his piece “Learning from Mahatma Gandhi’s mistakes”. There are many others too. But like the enthusiastic IPS officer who wanted the ‘I hate Gandhi’ page removed from Facebook and filed a criminal complaint, our historians tend to completely overlook the mistakes of Gandhi-Nehru which have contributed to the divisiveness of India. (And by the way that IPS officer may need to file criminal complaints against Facebook pages like ‘I hate Sonia Gandhi’ and ‘I hate Rahul Gandhi’ and others that abound in there.)
RG likes to fault RSS or the BJP for their ideology. One has yet to hear from him or from any other historian what exactly is the ideology of the present Congress (I). That is more important given that it is the ruling party and may come to power in the future too. He is not a bad writer. He indulges in erudite, sentimental and intellectual claptrap as much as the Arundhatis do. Ramachandra Guha denies he is a socialist or a communist but his writings don’t back that. The greatest award he received for literary work was for his cricket history. Maybe he should stick to cricket. He might win more awards.