Recently I read an article in the ‘FRONTLINE’ by Meera Nanda, titled Hindutva’s Science Envy. It is about how some powerful organizations have twisted some facts of science/history to suit their purpose. This is not a far-fetched fact. We know it is becoming a common thing now. But how far can we allow this to go on?
Some politicians and the Hindutva “nationalists” try to instil national pride by claiming some unverified rumours and reports as authentic. People tend to take them so gullibly that critical thinking is left only to the experts. Some of these “facts” are even taught in the schools. A famous one among these is that India is the discoverer of “zero” as we know it today. But now it seems that the evidence for the theory of zero is not in favour of this proposition. The same can be said about other claims made on the origin of the Pythagorean theorem and the Veda being the mother of modern science.
Another problem we have with history is the way misrepresentation of history is believed to be the truth by some who fight tooth and nail to make even others believe it. Recently, the Uttarakhand government allocated Rs.25 crores to search in the Himalayas a mythical medicinal plant mentioned in the Ramayana, Sanjeevani Booti. It wouldn’t be a surprise, if they propose next to build a Pushpak Viman to carry out covert operations in Pakistan.
I think the first problem is due to the inferiority feeling felt by the Hindutva ideologists. We have not reached the heights in modern science that the West has achieved; or perhaps, we may not do it even in the next decade. So twisting data may turn out to be a good pacifier. This is not to say that India never had a glorious past. But that glorious past in no way is comparable to the present situation.
The other problem is the wrong perspective we have of history itself. For most of us, history is merely some data, facts or information. That is a child’s way of looking at history. Not all of us are ready to do some hard work by thinking critically, synthesizing different ideas. Our intention should be to know the truth as completely as possible. For this one needs to look objectively at the data whose composition is in a subjective or biased manner. If we want better citizens for today and tomorrow, we have to encourage this way of teaching history.
We learn the Bible by looking at different perspectives, thanks to the works of great scripture scholars. We could use the same method to teach or learn history; especially the history of India. Then we can enter into the mystery of history with passion.
By Sch. Melwil Vas SJ