Odisha Literary Festival: India’s great ideological war over history on display

The debate on 'The history we were Taught: Bunkum or Brilliant?' saw panellists engage in sharp verbal duel over the issue.

Published: 23rd September 2019 09:38 AM  |   Last Updated: 23rd September 2019 09:38 AM   |  A+A-

Sanjay Dixit, Samhita Arni, Ratan Sharda, Saba Naqvi and Ravi Shankar debate ‘The History We Were Taught: Bunkum or Brilliant’

Sanjay Dixit, Samhita Arni, Ratan Sharda, Saba Naqvi and Ravi Shankar debate ‘The History We Were Taught: Bunkum or Brilliant’ |( Photo | Irfana )

Express News Service

BHUBANESWAR: The ideological war over India’s history, that has intensified since the Narendra Modi Government came to power in the last five years, was in full display at the Odisha Literary Festival 2019 here on Sunday.

The rising challenge of right-wing discourse to the supposed Left-leaning historians and ecosystem evoked a strong resistance from the latter.

The debate on “The history we were Taught: Bunkum or Brilliant?” saw panellists engage in sharp verbal duel over the issue. While accusing the Modi Government of trying to rewrite history, journalist and commentator Saba Naqvi said the right-wing historians lacked legitimacy.

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She was vehemently opposed by panelists including author and expert on RSS Ratan Sharda and senior IAS officer Sanjay Dixit.

Naqvi said right-wing history has not been scrutinised by internationally acclaimed historians and does not meet the standards. Alleging that the right-wingers pass myth as history and then try to prove it, she said that they try to portray established history as rubbish. But their theories are based on subjective opinion and do not stand scrutiny.

Both Dixit and Sharda strongly refuted  her and maintained that history had so far been in the control of the Left establishment which ignored the real history of the country. As the ‘so-called eminent historians’ of the country are being exposed one after the other, they are trying to fight back the efforts to present the true history of the country before the people.

Referring to the Aryan invasion theory, Dixit said new revelations are exposing the establishment. Besides, if any scientifically researched theory questions the Aryan invasion theory, it is rejected.

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“But the same people never accept fact about existence of Saraswati river and a civilisation flourishing on its banks,” he said.

Dixit said the hold of Left on the cultural and historical establishments was so strong that right-wing writers like Sitaram Goel and Ram Swarup could never make it to the mainstream.

 Stating that partial reading of history is the problem, Sharda said RSS was never found guilty of doing something wrong by the courts or elsewhere, but was demonised as the murderer of Mahatma Gandhi. He said one should stick to facts and should not try to pass opinion as history.

However, Samhita Arni, author of ‘Sita’s Ramayana’ pointed towards the irrelevance of discussing history in such a manner and said, “We should think how to go forward from here.”

History should be a tool to know about the past and how to apply it for benefitting the present generation, she said and added that people are also not serious about history.

“How many of us know about the Tamil Sangam era,” she said.

Arni, who said Ramayana and Mahabharata are myths, described these two epics as wonderful work of beauty. 

Ravi Shankar Etteth, Consulting Editor of The New Indian Express was the moderator for the session.


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