Geetanjali Mehra explains how the Left historians have interpreted Indian history as per their own whims and prejudices and created an utterly false narrative.
Marxism is a hypothesis and is claimed as a ‘world-view’ by its proponents. Marx starts with the basic assumption that ‘’matter’’ is the moving force of the world. Instead of seeing the progress of civilization as interplay of many factors, it assumes that it is the material forces which are the basis (substructure) of change and development and other factors (superstructure) like ideology, religion, social are just reflecting the prevailing relationship between haves and have not’s. Leftist portrays a linear development of society which would pass through 5 stages of development. Since each stage of development has irresolvable economic paradoxes and have inbuilt opposite forces, a new better stage will come replacing the old decaying stage. This material determinism would ultimately lead to a utopian state of classless and stateless society. The notion of nation-state would also wither away which is also a temporary phenomenon.
Post Independence, communist leaders were not as successful in influencing people as the communist and leftist academics. This was primarily due to the fact that Nehru was much influenced by the Soviet model and India’s proximity to Soviet Union gave undue clout to the Leftist in all the higher academic, policy-making and key-institutes. All the upper echelons of key posts, academic-institutes, universities were seized by the left. This led to the left-intelligentsia dictating as the main stream of narration of Indian History at institutional-level. The Leftist usurped all the channels of flow of information and created an intellectual-hegemony where any counter idea was disdained as reactionary, communal or non-scientific.
With this background of unchallenged control and dwelling on the ‘’scientific-methods’’ of Marxist interpretation of history, Indian Left historians have interpreted Indian history as per their own whims and prejudices. When we read their viewpoint, any student of history can observe that all the narrative has been built on this assumptive-hypothesis of material-determinism in which the social, religious and cultural aspects of any time must confirm to the prevailing economic-structure. The moot problem with the Leftist historians of the Indian history is that they first ‘’presume’’ this thesis of the inevitability of the course of historical development and then deduce by picking and narrating those facts in a way which fits into their basic presumption of Marxism.
Be it the Ancient History, Medieval or Modern History, the basis of development is presumed to be economic factors and with the change in economic factors and structure, there is a change in social and political events. In their quest to explain the events from a ‘secular’ perspective, they undermine the basic tenants and glory of Indian past. It was a systemic destroying the idea of India and identity of Hinduism. Even the theory of Aryan-Invasion has over stressed ignoring all the archaeological and recent researches. The traditions of India were challenged not on merit but with an intention to discredit dominant identity of Hinduism. Historians like D.D. Koshambi and D.N. Jha, have taken all the pain to somehow prove that the Vedic people were cow-eaters. They miserably fail to point-out how this ‘practice’ of Vedic people to fatten upon a steady diet of sacrificed beef was discontinued.
Another problem with the leftist historians is that they understate the role of ‘’idea’’ or ideology or any other factors like feeling of nationalism in shaping the course of historical events. The Left conveniently ignores the basic factors of progress of society like political, social and religious factors. Even the struggles between the invading Muslim forces and their attempt to establish the Mughal-empire is explained as emanating from a class-perspective rather than a struggle between an invading alien force and the its valiant resistance by the local people against the aggressors. Take for example D.D.Koshambi who is hailed as the father of Marxist Historicism in India, he tries to explain unsuccessfully the feudal structure of the medieval India as the feudalism from above vis a vis feudalism from the below. All struggles are portrayed as class struggle. If even there is a struggle of ideas like clash between the basic ideology of Hinduism and Islam, it is attributed to the prevailing economic-struggles and ideological playing only an ancillary-role. The loot, plunder and mayhem of the Islamic-rule against the Hindus were justified by giving a counter-argument that it was not only the Muslims alone who were oppressors but also Indian rulers who killed people in war. The Islamic invaders were tacitly justified as it brought many positive, scientific and cultural progresses. Many of the achievements of great empires like Chola and Vijaynagar empires were downplayed.
Bipin Chandra who is considered as a Leftist authority (who later reversed his stance) on freedom struggle of India, interprets Indian struggle as a primary struggle between the Indian upper classes and lower-class on the one hand and a struggle between the Indians led by the Indian bourgeoisie, landlords and capitalist with the British imperialist forces on the other hand. Take for example the interpretation of the withdrawal of Non-Cooperation Movement by Mahatma Gandhi after the incident of burning alive of policemen at Chauri-Chaura in 1922. This incident is interpreted that the Indian bourgeoisie represented by Gandhi wanted freedom from the imperialist forces but not at the cost of their own entrenched positions and control of means of production. Since there was growing militancy and radicalization of the masses and this radicalized masses were ready to attack the status-quo of property-relations. So it was not Gandhi’s believe in non-violence rather his intention to protect the interests of landlords and
capitalists who would inevitably be at the receiving end of this violence, Gandhi halted this movement. In case the struggle of Indian Haves not become aggressive, the Indian bourgeoisie led by Mahatma are ready to recluse their fight just to save their entrenched positions from the lower class. It is an intellectual-hypocrisy to say that was led by the fear of the Indian Bourgeoisie that the while bringing revolution by the lower class, the capitalist of India who were leading the freedom struggle may not be uprooted of their own position. So, it should be an evolutionary and slow revolution without compromising the dominant class led by Gandhi and others. Even Gandhi is portrayed as a representative of the Indian-bourgeoisie who is even ready to mingle with the Britshers when the lower classes are up in arm against both the Britishers and the Indian capitalist.
For the Leftist, the ultimate end of progress of civilization is classless society. So, the idea of Nation-state as we conceive it is abhorred by the Marxist historians. For them, nation or country will also wither away with progress. The struggle of nations on the basis of nationalism and feeling of nationalism is alien to their scheme of things. So in the struggle of nations, they priorities class over nation. That is why there was a split in CPI and CPM when India was attacked by the Chinese aggressive forces as CPM chose their proletariat “brothers” over Indian nationalism and hailed the aggressive forces as emancipating forces.
It is clear that now is the time to correct the wrongs done by Marxist historians. We must reinterpret the Indian history and break the ‘hegemony’ of the left !
(The writer is a freelance columnist. The views expressed are personal)