Friday, January 05, 2007

Rewriting of history to blot out Indian Christians

Rajasthan state government to "correct imbalances" in official history in an effort that professional historians and Catholic Church consider unscientific and an effort by the ruling party to impose Hindu nationalism

Rajasthan's state government in India plans to 'correct imbalances' in its official history, chronicled by colonial officials. It will do so by revisiting all 41,000 villages and 186 cities and towns in this western Indian state to collect fresh historical material and set the record straight.

The decision has however caused controversy and criticism. Professional historians but also the Catholic Church have said that the project is unscientific; instead, they view it as another attempt by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to impose its Hindutva-centred nationalism.

Under the plan, called Aapno Dharti, Aapno Log (our land, our people), starting January 4 school teachers are to talk to village leaders and elders to check for any errors in the histories of local villages, towns and cities.

For Rajasthan's Education Minister, Ghanshyam Tiwari, whilst the history written by British author Colonel James Todd during the days of the Raj was believed to be authentic, it was controversial in certain points and so should be reviewed.

The project, which should be completed by 2008, includes listing and recording the state's numerous monuments, historical and heritage sites, old idioms and phrases, folk dance, folk songs and all other culturally, socially, economically and politically relevant items.

Data collection will be done using pre-prepared standardised forms that will be distributed in all of the state's villages, towns and cities.

Former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has slammed the decision to rewrite history books claiming that the operation is part of the BJP'S attempt to 'saffronise history'. Saffron is the BJP's colour.

For Fr Babu Joseph, spokesperson for the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, "researching and writing history is a complex exercise and cannot be left to untrained citizens. Myths, legends and hear-say cannot be the basis of history as a scientific discipline. History cannot be arbitrarily written, especially when it has the potential of creating social cleavages".

Other sources, who preferred to remain anonymous, told AsiaNews that in its attempt at historical revisionism the BJP will likely try to belittle and distort the important work Christians have done in favour of the oppressed and the marginalised.

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