‘Correcting’ Indian history, consequences be damned

This rush to “correct history” and claim monuments as Hindu structures in the past has become a free-for-all war. Ayodhya started it and then Kashi and Mathura were promised. Kashi is dominating news today and the front on Mathura has already been opened

Mughals vs us Indians? A former ASI officer has said that Qutub Minar was built by King Vikramaditya not by Qutub al-Din Aibak

This is how a debate on Gyanvapi mosque issue that aired on a leading Hindi news channel at prime time on Wednesday (May 18) went.

A prominent news women anchor pleaded, in all sincerity, with AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi, “Sir, why are you seeing this (Gyanvapi mosque) as a Hindu vs Muslim issue; it is not that. It is Mughals vs Indians.”

“It is a bid to correct our history,” she exhorted, leaving the generally, sure-of-himself politician flustered.

He retorted, “Then why do you stop at 500 years, go back 1,000 years, 2,000 years, to correct history when Buddhist stupas were broken to build temples.”

Unlike the politician, the anchor was not flustered at all. “Yes sir, the route of the court is open for them too,” she answered back, no doubt to score a debating point. But she said it without batting an eyelid.

She found no irony in what she said. She saw no danger in a country, grappling with high inflation, getting caught up with events from the past. She had no problems with courts – where thousands of cases, criminal and civil, are pending involving common citizens – being deluged with such emotive issues that pit religions against each other. She did not realise that when this happens, it is actually the citizenry that gets divided and fights each other as enemies.

She, without realizing of course, had reduced the future of the country to a day in television channels. For, the past week or so, the television channels, especially the Hindi ones, have been stuck on just one issue without any break, the Gyanvapi mosque issue. There is no other news in the country worth reporting, it seems.

Also read: Explained: The legal tangle over Varanasi’s Gyanvapi mosque

To make the debate more farcical was the fact that not even one panellist, who were drawn from almost across the political spectrum, deemed it fit to object to the anchor’s line of thinking. It was par for course for a TV debate, as it is fast becoming all around us.

So, it came as no surprise that the same day a former Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) officer was reported by India Today to have said that Qutab Minar was actually built by King Vikramaditya – and not Qutub al-Din Aibak, as history books have told us so far. And, that he had built it as an observatory to study the direction of the sun.

This comment was not made by any junior officer but ex-regional director of the premier archaeological organisation in our country who said that he “had a lot of evidence” to prove that “it isn’t Qutub Minar but a sun tower…constructed in the 5th century by Raja Vikramaditya, not by Qutb al-Din Aibak.”

Where that leaves the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s (VHP) claim of Qutub Minar being Vishnu Stambh is another issue at all!

And, that’s not all. Deputy Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Keshav Prasad Maurya, while speaking to India TV after claims of a Shivling at Gyanvapi mosque were made, said, “I am happy that Mahadev has appeared in Gyanvapi. I can say that if you dig at Mecca, Mahadev will even appear there too.”

One might be tempted to ignore this statement as just as an euphoric expression. But remember, claiming Kaaba (at Mecca) to be a Shiv temple is one of the popular right-wing theories for a long time now. And, what were conspiracy theories just a decade back are being aggressively touted as proven history today.

By the way, the monuments latest in the list to be claimed as Hindu temples are the pyramids in Egypt, for these believers are of the view that all humanity ‘has risen from Sanatan dharma’. Social media posts laying claims on pyramids are no longer a novelty for the past few months or so.

Also read: Gyanvapi structure is a mosque, and will remain so: AIMPLB

These statements and claims are no laughing matter today; they no longer can be ignored. Changing names of cities is already being done with alacrity in the name of “correcting history” and no one even deigns to raise a voice of protest. It seems such a minor issue today. The stakes have been raised much higher now.

The Places of Worship (Special Provision) Act, 1991, seems to be just a minor irritant for a brute majority government. Its acronym PoW points today towards another, older variation – Prisoner of War.

This rush to “correct history” has become a free-for-all war. Ayodhya started it and then Kashi and Mathura were promised. Kashi is dominating news today and the front on Mathura has already been opened. Increasingly loud noises are being made about Qutub Minar and Tile wali Masjid in North India and Tipu Sultan’s mosque in the South.

And, as the anchor said, the route of the court is open for all these issues for, “it’s Mughals vs Indians”. It doesn’t matter that Qutub Minar was not built by the Mughals, but by the slave dynasty king. One can’t be caught in such nitty-gritty, as that would obfuscate the truth – it is actually “Hindu vs Muslim,” which the anchor sought to deny.