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Forward to a mythical past

Published Sep 19, 2013 07:03am


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ONE of the features of fascism is its invention of a golden past. The retrieval and projection of the mythical era into the future becomes the stated objective of its leaders to work their followers into a violent froth.

Hitler and Mussolini harked to a glorious past but there was a line of crassness even they would not cross. They seem to have left that endeavour to their Indian protégés, and presciently so. The European duo would not be disappointed with the Indian outcome.

In their imitation of right-wing movements in early 20th-century Europe, though much of that was not objectively germane to their context, India’s fascists began to conjure up intriguing notions of the cosmos.

First, they needed to prove that all agreeable cultures flowed from India to the world and not the other way round.

Al-Biruni, the late 10th-century chronicler from Khorasan, noted with frustration how Indians whom he met during his long tour of the country would uniformly claim that “there was no king like their king, no religion like theirs”.

To keep the spirit from flagging, even Wagner’s theory of continental drift was subsequently harnessed to show that light-skinned Indians originally came from the Indian region located on the border of Bihar and Orissa.

Later, the border drifted away to form the North Pole, thus proving that Caucasian and Central Asian genes travelled from India to their current abode, not vice versa.

Let’s grant that all this was necessary to give some kind of legitimacy to the light-eyed Chitpawan Brahmins of Maharashtra who were to lead the formation of the early fascist impulses in India in the early 20th century.

They were the true sons of the soil and not of foreign origin, the subverted version of Wagner’s theory would reveal.

In his remarkable book We or Our Nationhood Defined, a revered head of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the group that this week effectively anointed Narendra Modi as India’s prime ministerial candidate, held forth on the theory of continental drift.

In the course of his ramblings, he also praised Adolf Hitler’s treatment of the Jews while exhorting Hindus to mete out the same treatment to India’s Muslims.

It must really take an appalling amount of cretinism to sway to jingoistic movie songs in Indian fascism’s charge towards another myth — a happy horizon with its roots in the golden past.

“Jaha’n daal daal per soney ki chidiya karti hai basera, wo Bharat desh hai mera.” (Birds of gold flock on the tree branches. That’s my country, India.) A Hindi-speaking Raja Porus, the projected son of the soil, would thus take on a Persianised Urdu-speaking Alexander of Macedonia, the alien in Sikander-i-Azam. That movie from the 1970s sought to cleverly juxtapose Hindi and Urdu (both non-existent in Alexander’s time) as adversarial languages.

Using a conjured past for current and future mischief doesn’t stop there. A similar song from Upkaar, another box office hit about a trader’s notion of nationalism, claimed in its lines that India’s farmlands were lush with gold and assorted jewels.

An uncle, in his 90s now, revealed recently to me, however, that an early culprit behind the gold idiom as an ingredient of jingoism was not a Hindu revivalist but Majrooh Sultanpuri, the impish leftist poet.

Carried away, not about an imagined past but over the promise of idyllic socialism to which he subscribed, Majrooh declared in his lilting tarannum: “Ahle dil ugaen gey khet mei maho anjum. Ab gohar subuk hoga ek jau ke daane se” (In times to come, despondent lovers will harvest not grain but a glistening moon and twinkling stars, when the shine of the grain will humble the glow of the sun.)

It goes to the credit of Majaz Lucknavi, a perpetual backbencher and chronic hooter in poetic symposiums, to have deflated Majrooh’s hyperbole. “Bhaiya, phir hum log khaenge kya?” he shouted to everyone’s mirth. (What do you suppose we will get to eat then, brother?)

Asking searching questions is not fascism’s métier, injecting cretinism in a discourse is. Sullen and abusive demeanour is its forte.

My daughter perhaps mischievously gave me a book on Indian history recently. Lucknow imambargahs are Hindu palaces, the title says. Its author P.N. Oak is known as a pathetic self-proclaimed historian. He has also written trashy books about how the Taj Mahal was a Hindu temple and so on. A blurb on the cover of the book on Lucknow imambargahs advertises another work of the author’s creative mind. Christianity is Chrisn-nity, asserts the author in this masterpiece.

“This volume expounds our finding that the term Christianity is in fact a popular variation of the Hindu, Sanscrit [sic] term Chrisn-neety ie the way of life preached, advocated or exemplified by the Hindu incarnation Lord Chrisn, spelled variously as Crsn, Krsn, Krishn, Chrisn, Crisna or Krisna also,” Mr Oak writes.

I would understand if you did not wish to read the book at all. But it is fables like these that are driving India’s religious revivalism, a feasting ground for Modi-style wooing of the unlettered, gullible voters.

Your knowledge of Lucknow’s Bara Imambargah would be that Nawab Asaf-ud-Daulah who ruled Oudh between 1775 to 1797 built it. That’s how it came about. Mr Oak’s claim? It is an ancient Hindu palace “dating back to Ramayanic times”.

The frightening thing about revivalism in India and its cousin, Hindu fascism, is that it does not seem to worry a whole gamut of intellectuals and journalists that have rushed to Modi’s defence, not without a nudge from his corporate minders, shall we add.

In their effort to play down his pronounced obscurantist edge, some writers have likened him to Margaret Thatcher, except that there is no evidence the British prime minister subscribed to the existence of the unicorn.

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (39) Closed

Prakash Sep 19, 2013 08:27am

Author is again indulging in his oft repeated condemnation of Hinduism and India,so there is nothing new that he is telling us this time.There are many historical sites in India which were earlier a Hindu/Budhist/Jain temple which were destroyed and another structure was built Qutub Minar in Delhi were Author lives is great example, where the remnants of different temples have been used.I am not endorsing the view points of Mr PN Oak that he is quoting that may be wrong.

Ravi Sep 19, 2013 08:44am

Mr. Jinnah said Hindus and Muslims cannot live together and he created a separate state for Muslims . After after reading this blog I am convinced he was right . If Muslims like Jawed Naqvi cannot accept the religious beliefs of Hindus in a country where 80 % of its population are Hindus then they should go to the country that was created for them .

Nabarun Dey Sep 19, 2013 10:29am

Mr Naqvi, Don't beat around bushes when you pen a piece. Hindus can and never have been fascist, history would vouch for that. India should have been a Hindu Rashtra when it was partitioned on religious lines. It did not because Hindus were not fascists. Look at the dwindling numbers of minority population in Pakistan and Bangladesh contrary to India, and you will get your answer. Direct action was not a call from a Hindu, neither Hindus ever spoke the language that Syed Sahabuddin said 'Hindus speak about secularism because they are coward and afraid of the Muslim countries'. Forward to a mythical past of Hindutva cannot be a fascist Idea.

Ejaaz Sep 19, 2013 10:40am

I am missing something. When and where has Midi supported PN Oak? Naqvi obviously hates Modi and understandably so, but painting so crudely merely discredits Naqvi and builds Modi.

Muthu Sep 19, 2013 10:47am

Please Mr.Naqwi, save your energy. Nobody cares about the 'hindu revivalists' except yourself. However hard you try to project Indians as bigots in a Pakistani forum, people there know that India is a tolerant nation.

Utkarsh Singh Sep 19, 2013 11:39am

I do agree that Indians have a tendency to look back at history with a kind of reverent nostalgia, even if the details of are vague and biased. I'll say though that this is a universal human tendency, looking back at mythic pasts with rose-tinted glasses. Doesn't the Muslim ummah think of how wondrous and utterly perfect the caliphates of old were, though they probably weren't, and how it'll be great if they follow the same rules and methods now?

It's true to a large extent though that till the renaissance in the West, and colonialism and the industrial revolution, with all which we simply couldn't keep up, the Indian subcontinent was rich in manufacturing of cloth, and traded in all kinds of merchandise.

zaheerkazim Sep 19, 2013 01:51pm

Am I glad cousin that we share the same monsters.The pity however,is that both our countries are chickening out in front of them!

sanjay Sep 19, 2013 05:05pm

Jawed bhai, Mr Oak has nothing to do with Modi. In fact Modi is there as long as he delivers progress to his people or else people of India have other options. Modi might have the support of the saffron parties but when he is at the helm of affairs its only the development which will count and that's what people are expecting of him. He is not a fascist as he is made out to be and we Indians do not anyway care a damn for these facists which are in a minority.

Raveesh Varma Sep 19, 2013 05:49pm

Richard Wagner was a Romantic composer, Alfred Wegener was a German geophysicist. Also, parochial views will be common the early middle ages on account of an obvious lack of effective means of transmission of information. I own a copy of Edward Sachau's translation of Al Biruni's "India", and I did not think him frustrated when I read the pages you advertise; rather a little amused at the closed-mindedness of Indians of that time, and how easy it will thus be to mount a successful invasion of Hindustan, as it meant geographically in those days. This Hindu-Muslim issue has accomplished nothing for India in the past 70 years, let us see, maybe by continuing to concentrate on this and this alone (rather than things tangible like a defined foreign and economic policy), India may yet be a colony again!

Onkar Sharma Sep 19, 2013 06:26pm

Jawed bhai, Hindus are not one bit interested whether the Imambargah of Lucknow were Hindu palaces. They are supporting Modi for his vision of India and inclusive growth. Don

Saq Sep 19, 2013 06:57pm

Enjoyed this article - thanks.

human Sep 19, 2013 07:45pm

I am a hindu and believe in peaceful coexistence of all communities. Having seen the violence perpetuated by fundamental muslims since 1980s in Pakistan, I always thought that creation of Pakistan was good for India at least we got rid of perpetual violence of islamists and jihadis. But after having witnessed Gujrat riots and now hindu jingoism to its extreme, I am thinking that Pakistan should not have been created, as jingoist muslims would have provided equal balance in India against fundamentalist hindus and ordinary muslims and hindus would have lived peacefully in this great land for the progress of humanity.

Raj Patel Sep 19, 2013 07:46pm

Mr. Naqui you should do Ph.d on Modi. Can you give the statistics of your column with / without mentioning Modi's name. There are thousands and one leaders in India. Why don't you write about them. Or Modi's strature is becoming so big that you can't see beyound Modi. Let the people of India decide how worth he is. We hindus don't give any hid to Mr. Oak's book majority Indian might be not knowing his name even. Take a leave and go to some resting place. You are working double time to propogate Modi.

Allaisa Sep 19, 2013 08:00pm

You could have said "Al-Biruni, the late 10th-century chronicler from Khorasan, noted with ADMIRATION". Is this not what Muslims today claim "There is no God but Allah and there is no religion like Islam". You would not criticize them for that, would you?.

IndianInUS Sep 19, 2013 08:44pm

I am happy you wrote something that is truly an ongoing problem in India. But, it also brings to mind an individual who said that the kabbah exists from time immemorial whereas, the truth is that it was created by people who worshipped polytheistic gods before it became what it is today. Although, he was far more successful than Modi will ever be in his agenda. Hypocracy goes both ways.

IndianInUS Sep 19, 2013 08:48pm

I am happy you wrote something that is truly an ongoing problem in India. But, it also brings to mind an individual who said that the kabbah exists from time immemorial whereas, the truth is that it was created by people who worshipped polytheistic gods before it became what it is today. Although, he was far more successful than Modi will ever be in his agenda. Hypocracy goes both ways.

Anees Sep 19, 2013 08:55pm

What is this?

pathanoo Sep 19, 2013 09:32pm

Are you trying to say some thing,Mr. Naqvi? Is there a sense, forget the message, in all of this blather you seem to gin up every now and then. I don't mind if you criticize India or Hinduism because there is much to criticize there. But, this mindless nonsense that you spew is embarrassing to say the least. It only confirms your hatred towards India and Hinduism. Who cares about some idiot Indian "alleged" writer having delusional thoughts of non-existant glory of India. Is this the only kind of literature you read? Grow up, Jawed. If it is possible.

Raman Sep 19, 2013 10:01pm

...A Hindi-speaking Raja Porus? Mr. Javed Naqwi, are you sure about that? I think you are full of bull and let me tell you why. Like human being, the Hindi (and Urdu as well) evolved after the foray of Muslim marauders into Indian subcontinent. The language assimilated Persian/Arabic along with Sanskrit. So you are plain wrong but I sincerely do not know what language he spoke.

Shubs Sep 19, 2013 10:08pm

An author who panders to the lowest common denominator will always find others at his own level to praise or criticize. No wonder that Jawed Naqvi has taken on P N Oak, an author whose work is about as well known or believable as those of holocaust deniers or proponents of alien abductions. Mr Naqvi, you live in a vast country. Look around you, and the wealth of intellectualism around. But as always, your mission is to find filth, and extrapolate that to a community, culture, nation. You approach a subject with a pre-conceived conclusion, and will contort logic beyond all imaginable measure to reach that conclusion. Your mocking of lyrics which even a child can understand to be poetic license is, frankly, laughable. Also, your narration of the story of your daughter presenting you "mischievously" a book about what you condescendingly label as "Indian history", perhaps unwittingly expose what you really think about my country and its culture. There are millions of Indians who question the politics and ideology of right-wing organizations in India. But they still understand the value of what it means to be Indian, to be the inheritors of its glorious history of thousands of years. Your weekly rants, on the other hand, show an extremely superficial understanding of the Indian ethos. Quoting a few Urdu couplets does not an Indian make, Jawed saab. Pride in your past does not make you a fascist, just like pride in your past does not mean you believe in P N Oak's fairy tales. For a person who has made a career out of stereotyping, I don't think that's very easy to understand. You have no understanding of my country. You do not deserve to portray yourself as an expert on my country. The readers of Dawn deserve better.

Rajiv Sep 19, 2013 10:37pm

Every community and countryman ought to take pride in their system of beliefs. Yes, India being sort if an island, separated from rest of the world with oceans and tall mountains for thousands of years, did develop exceptionalism to some extent as Al Beruni correctly pointed out. The same author also pointed out the technical advances, belief in one formless God and important role of women in Hindu society. Al Beruni also observed how all the development and learning in Hindu society retreated wherever barbaric sword of the tyrant Ghanavi fell.

Milind Sep 19, 2013 11:53pm

Mr Javed you have right to love or hate but can not impose your thinking on others by your baseless thinking off course what ever you write it is your thinking and you blame Hindu now one question untill Mogul came to india was hindu and no evidence of muslim in India but after Mogul some of lower caste Hindu by force or other reason they converted in to Islam and in ancient book there was witten abot Malechh but from where we never know by the way you put your venoum here as a muslim but may be your great great father come from Hindu culture

Laxman Sep 20, 2013 12:30am

I pray my dear GOD, please give me enough wisdom of this author, to live in modi's India as a culprit hindu.

NORI Sep 20, 2013 01:25am

Mr.Naqvi, One more pathetic article !! For a change why don't you write how Indian Muslim youth from relatively better-doing states such as Karnataka are getting into Jihadi trap ? Why don't you write how come Muslims, once rulers of India, came to such a situation that today they demand for reservations and are the only minority in India to demand reservations and government aid ? Recently, a famous Deobandi cleric declared that photos are un-islamic and issued fatwa that Muslims stay away from photography (unless for passport !!). Why don't you write to approve/disapprove such fatwas ? Why don't you write on - why only Muslims worry about Modi when other minorities don't care that much ?

If even 50% of Hindus of India take to the ultra or conservative views of some people, then going by their population, BJP would be in power forever, but that's not the reality. That means, Hindus don't care much about the writings that you seem to be worried so much about. Stop worrying about unnecessary things and start writing on any of the above topics.

Prakash Sep 20, 2013 01:40am

@Raveesh Varma: You are as incomrehensible as Jawed Naqvi, joining the dots where no relation exists..

DK Sep 20, 2013 02:17am

Reading the title and the word "fascism" in the very first line of this article, I searched for the word Modi and sure enough, that was the ultimate victim of this pointless bitter rant. You are a little late to the game Mr. Naqvi, Aakar Patel has this market all wrapped up. Get yourself your own angle, will you?

Seriously though, I am neither unlettered, nor often gullible, nor at all religious nor do I believe in any glorious lost past. What I see in Modi are the qualities of an excellent CEO who has the added ability to make his people a part of his vision. That vision is modern, progressive, environmentally sustainable and egalitarian. It is open to all who share his optimism and can-do spirit. Not only does it not have anything to do with the past, it is decidedly futuristic.

The likes of Mr. Naqvi's ilk are unsettled and flustered. His brand of dreamy romanticism written from comfortable hovels is being abandoned as the world around him dreams bigger dreams.

Tariq K Sami Sep 20, 2013 02:54am

@Ravi: Ravi bhai there is just one small problem, these guys also believe: "Cheen o Arab hamara hindostan hamara, Muslim hain hamwatan hain sara jehan hamara."

ROHIT PANDEY Sep 20, 2013 04:52am

I do not have Ayatollah Khomeini's Little Green Book with his quotes in it.

I will certainly look for it and tap some of his quotes in the Dawn forums.

I am sure we can compare it with Mr Oak's assertions with the much revered Ayatollah's!

Ayatollah's quotes are far more hilarious and I am sure he will give Mr Oak a run for his money!

Ravi Sharna Sep 20, 2013 07:01am

I find this author very similar to Shireen Mazari who used to write in one of the other leading newspapers of Pakistan. Indians/ Pakistanis/ Hindus/ Muslims are mostly fine and give a damn to what anyone like any Oak or Creek says; but these two invariably create issues out of nothing. Mr. Hassan Nisar once said a very good couplet for such people: Mujhe dekhne se pehle apni aankhon ki gandi putliyan dho Varna dhundhla nazar aayega thujhe chehra mera

s.khan Sep 20, 2013 07:23am

@Nabarun Dey: Mr. Naqvi is not criticizing Hinduism but a group of people notably RSS who claim India to be originator of science, philosophy, medicine and everything else.This sense of superiority and tendency to put themselves above all is a characteristics of fascism. Hitler glorified Aryan race and denigrated everybody else inferior and claimed right to rule over them.Mr. Naqvi's example of history book making claim of Imambargha built on the site of temple and Taj Mahal also built on the site of temple and just about every mosque also. This clearly portrays muslims as usurpers of everything Hindu in India and is a clarion call to return to their glorious past and relegate muslims to a lower status. This is what "hindutvata" is all about. It doesn't suggest that the government policies and actions reflect this ideology. A large number of Hindus don't subscribe to this ideology.Expect it to be a tussle between these groups on social and cultural issues. Modi may not accept this ideology but he will get lot of pressure from RSS. Mr. Vajpayee did and he offered to resign several times to make RSS back off.

ROHIT PANDEY Sep 20, 2013 02:28pm

Modiphobia when Narendra Modi is looked upon as purposeful leader who can deliver goods!

Ah,that is the way politics works,I guess?:):):)

commoner Sep 20, 2013 03:55pm

@NORI: Anti Hindu sentiment is largest industry in Pakistan! The terror industrialist involved gain alot by say pumping fake currency, money laundering -collecting from Indian muslims in large qauntities and redeploying a small portion equip IM recruits

Rao Sep 20, 2013 05:51pm

@human: No Sir: creation of Pakistan was the best thing that had happened. Al through the history, except for rare episodes, there was nothing but animosity, conflicts and wars between Muslims and Non-Muslims in the Indian subcontinent, even though most Muslims are converts fro Hindus. It is Islam, that creates this difference. Sad

Rao Sep 20, 2013 05:54pm

@Utkarsh Singh: Muslims always talk of the Golden age of Rightly guided Khalifs!! They forgot three of these Khalifs were slaughtered by fellow Muslims. That is The story of Muslims.

ROHIT PANDEY Sep 20, 2013 06:26pm

@s.khan: Going by the same token..there exists a clarion call among Muslims as how superior is the Islamic religion as compared to others.

"Pakistan studies" a government-approved curriculum in Pakistan openly denigrates Hindus..

There are more dictatorships in Muslim countries when compared to countries which are kaffur.

There is a tremendous pressure on secular dispensations in Muslim countries from Islamists..and often armed forces intervene to put these pressures down-the latest being the blood bath in Egypt.

There is Persian-Arab rivalry which spills over into Sunni-Shia rivalry-each claiming superiority over the other...

Ayatollah Khomeini had put out a bounty on the head of Salman Rushdie's "apostasy".

I am sure there are Sunni clerics of the same ilk?

Ahmediyas are told that they are not Muslims and Abdus Salam gets ignored even if he is sole Nobel Prize winner with a Pakistani nationality!

And,the RSS matches in scope and size with all these asininity?

I yield the floor to dear readers here to come up with comparable RSS fatuousness?

seema Sep 20, 2013 10:32pm


How else they could tolerate these two monkeys, naqwi and the zakir naik?

raja hindustani Sep 21, 2013 01:10am

Muslims had created separate land for themselves- called Pakistan citing that they couldn't co-exist with Hindus in India. Pakistan is now pure Islamic state but still almost all the Pakistani wants India to become total secular state (though India is a already secular state as per its constitution). Pakistani people praise person who speaks Pro-Islam in Pakistan but the same Pakistani hates Indians (read- Modi) who speaks pro-Hindu. I think Pakistani shouldn't complain even if India choose to become total Hindu state. This is what Pakistani demanded 65 year back....division of state on the basis of religion...!!!

shivanshpig Sep 21, 2013 02:03am

Ok. What he wrote and what he meant is beyond my comprehension. It seems the writer is reading a lot of B grade literature as always and then vomiting out incoherent articles in total frustration and disorientation. Its high time for The Dawn to take a call on this writer and press a rational mind in the service of your readers. Shivansh.

Javed Sep 21, 2013 05:00am

So what's wrong? In Pakistan we talk of Ottoman empire and Turk Sultans. What's wrong if India has such heroes and they talk about them. It is true that some of our forefathers built new buildings by destroying the existing ones. What's wrong in accepting?