There is a common belief that Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, in the guise of promoting secularism and scientific temper, banished Hindu culture and heritage from the Indian education system.
To prove the point I would like to suggest a simple experiment. Please wait outside any college and ask the students whether they know who Aryabhatt, Varahmihir, Kanad, Nagarjun, Aapastamb, Baudhayan, Bhaskaracharya, Brahmgupt and Katyayan et al were and what they had done; what is the Bakhshali Manuscript known for; who invented the decimal-place value numeral notation; what is Lilawati; what is so special about the Brihadeeshwar Temple at Tanjore, the Kailasnath Temple at Ellora, the Amriteshwar Temple in Karnataka, or the Sucheendram Aanjaneyar Temple at Kanyakumari; what are the different types of surgeries mentioned by Sushruta; what is Wootz steel and what was so special about it; why is it that the Iron Pillar of Delhi standing next to the Qutub Minar has not rusted even after exposure of about 1,600 years to the elements; and where the formula of a toxic gas that could be used in warfare has been mentioned in ancient texts; to name a few.
Who kept Indians in the dark about Hindu heritage?
I guarantee you, an overwhelming majority (in most cases 100%) of students would have never heard of these things whereas they would know about the Lal Qila, Qutub Minar and Buland Darwaza, etc. Why Hindu heritage has been banished from their syllabi? Why is it that our students are kept so blissfully ignorant of the outstanding scientists of ancient India and their seminal contributions to mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry, civil engineering, architecture and metallurgy etc., not to speak of the great Hindu literary, philosophical and cultural heritage!
Indian education, crafted mainly under Nehru’s stewardship, methodically downplayed the intellectual achievements of ancient Hindus, projecting it as primitive or regressive, and an impediment to the progress of ‘modern India’. As Pavan Varma, author of ‘The Great Hindu Civilisation’ says, Nehru was a product of colonial prejudice and had internalised the superficial but deliberate disdain of Indian culture, and specifically Hindu civilisation. Martha C. Nussbaum of the University of Chicago has very insightfully observed in ‘The Clash Within’ that Nehru’s disdain for religion in general and Hinduism, in particular, led to what was perhaps the most serious defect in the new nation. Historian Sita Ram Goel called him ‘a bloated Brown Sahib who distrusted Hindus and Hinduism’. In his yearning for modernity or whatever his notion of it was, he rejected the ancient Hindu past as dead wood.
Systematic subversion of History to run down the Hindus
Pavan Varma is emphatic that India’s history textbooks were written with Nehru in mind: “Thus, our history books made little mention of great Hindu kings like Krishnadevaraya of the Vijayanagara dynasty, or of Raja Raja Chola I. No attempt was made to focus on the political insights of Kautilya’s Arthashastra, or the Shanti Parva of the Mahabharata…Leaders like Shivaji and Maharana Pratap were relegated to the background.”
Nehru, even as he pretended to be a commentator on history for the benefit of his daughter, very craftily avoided any condemnation of Muslim atrocities from 712 AD onwards. As the great historian Dr R. C. Majumdar notes in ‘Hindu Muslim Relations’ (in Volume 6 of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Series), to study these horrors and to narrate them without judgmental comments on the value system of the perpetrators amounts to tacit approval. Nehru is therefore guilty of downplaying the driving force of bigotry behind the Muslims’ military campaigns and atrocities that ensued from them.
Not only that, he presided over the methodical and subtle glorification of the Muslim invaders in the educational history prepared during his years. With the obvious motive of reducing the gravity of what the invaders had done to the Hindus, the historians commissioned by Nehru’s government presented brutal conquistadors as great administrators and generations of students have been ‘forced’ to study the ‘nuances’ of their administration and made to marvel at how people coming from some of the harshest lands in the world like the deserts of Arabia and the barren mountains of Afghanistan ‘obliged’ the Hindus by bringing ‘sophisticated culture and refined things of life’ with them that still enliven the ‘composite culture’!
Deriding all ancient Hindu things as regressive
Nehru was never infused with an emotional connection with the ‘soul of the ancient Hindu culture’, which an ordinary Hindu, though far less educated, has always had by instinct and intuition in him. Biographer B. R. Nanda writes that in his presidential address to the Lahore Congress in 1929, Nehru admitted that although he was born a Hindu, he did not know how far he was justified in calling himself one or speaking on behalf of the Hindus. Raja Rao, the author of ‘The Meaning of India’, writes about his meeting Nehru in Germany where, when he asked, “You certainly believe in something, Panditji? In some form of Deity, in philosophy?” Nehru answered angrily, “Deity, what Deity? Why Siva and Parvati, Sri Krishna? Three thousand years of that and where’s that got us—slavery, poverty.” Well, he was entitled to his opinion, but can anybody believe that if he was alive today, could he dare speak in the same disparaging tone about Islam also in view of poor people getting killed in stampedes for a 20 kg bag of subsidized flour in Pakistan? What else needs to be said of his inherently anti-Hindu bias?
Appeasement par excellence
The moment Congress grasped the immense value of the politics of the vote bank, they invented the policy of appeasement in words or deeds whichever was practicable; and infiltrated every space—educational, cultural, entertainment or social. Nehru regarded the Hindu Right as his ‘natural and foremost opponent’ and committed the blunder of identifying it with the Hindu religion per se. They systematically undermined the role of the Hindus in India’s history and their immensely rich heritage of centuries in every imaginable field. It projected almost all things Hindu as regressive and incompatible with their notions of modernity, whereas in the name of furthering what they had been tom-tomming as a ‘composite culture’, all things non-Hindu were accorded undue importance. Muslim orthodoxy was treated reverentially and accorded a sort of ‘touch-me-not’ status of delicate and sophisticated ancestry whereas Hindu orthodoxy was derided as primitive.
Reducing secularism to minorityism and discrimination against Hindus
Nehru started the process of reducing secularism to minority or minoritarian-ism when he codified the Hindu personal laws (concerning Hindus’ diverse customs, rituals and practices) in 1956, but despicably backtracked on doing so towards Muslim personal law. A man of the stature of Acharya J. B. Kriplani opposed the Hindu Code Bill on the ground that the Nehru government was “communal”. He told Nehru, “If you want to have a divorce for the Hindu community, have it; but have it for the Catholic community also. I tell you this is the democratic way; the other is the communal way. It is not the Mahasabhites who alone are communal, it is the government also that is communal, whatever it may say. I charge you with communalism because you are bringing forward a law about monogamy only for the Hindu community. You must bring it to the Muslim community. Take it from me that the Muslim community is prepared to have it but you are not brave enough to do it.” UCC was avoided just to appease the Muslims. Still, polygamy and UCC aside, the preferential treatment accorded to the Muslims has been so shameless that while there is a statutory law ‘Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006’ (superseding the Sarda Act of 1929) making child marriages an offence for the Hindus but, since 1912, Muslim girls can marry at just 15 years of age and the Supreme Court has yet to decide whether it is illegal. Everybody knows that Hindu temples have been placed under government control whereas mosques and churches are autonomous. Even as the word ‘minority’ has not been defined under the Constitution, the so-called minorities were given the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice vide Article 30(1)!
Lodi Garden proves how he trampled upon Hindu sentiments
A most glaring and painful example of Nehru’s policy of exalting Muslim tyrants and thereby appeasing the Muslim community is the Lodi Gardens located in the heart of Delhi. It was named so by Nehru’s government because it also houses the tomb of Sikandar Lodi even though the original garden was not created by him but by Alauddin Alam Shah, who built it in 1444 AD in honour of his father Mohammed Shah, one of the last of the Saiyyid rulers. Sikandar Lodi’s tomb occupied the place in 1517 only when his son Ibrahim Lodi erected his mausoleum there.
Lady Willingdon, the wife of Marquess of Willingdon had landscaped the area and turned it into an attractive garden. The garden was officially inaugurated in 1936 and was given the name Lady Willingdon Park to honour her efforts. Soon after independence, it was renamed Lodi Gardens.
Why it should have been named after one of the most bigoted persons in the history of India as far as the persecution of Hindus is concerned? He frequently razed temples to the ground and erected mosques and public utility buildings in their place, as illustrated by his behaviour at Mandrail, Utgir and Narwar. He prevented the Hindus from taking baths at their sacred ghats at Mathura. In fact, he gave away the stones of broken Hindu idols brought from Nagarkot to Muslim butchers to be used as weights. Dr Motichandra Agrawal, the famous author of Kashi ka Itihas, maintains that not only he demolished the Kashi Vishwanath Temple but perhaps not a single temple was left intact in Benares.
If Nehru was so keen on changing the name of the garden from that of a British ruler (even as a thousand place names in India still carry vestiges of British rule), it could have been given a neutral or national name. If they wanted to avoid mentioning anybody’s name at all, they could have called it Central Park, like the one in New York! The only inference possible is that this was done on purpose with the dual intention of ‘pleasing’ the Muslims who still identified themselves with the medieval rulers, and of subtly hurting Hindu sentiments.
It is like the hypothetical scenario of Israel naming a public garden after Reinhard Heydrich (generally accepted as the principal architect of the Holocaust and the darkest figure within the Nazi regime) or China naming a garden in Nanking (infamous in history for the so-called Rape of Nanking during 1937-38 when the imperial Japanese forces are believed to have raped 20,000 to 80,000 women and massacred 260,000 to 430,000 people) after the convicted war criminal Gen. Hideki Tojo! Can the world imagine that? Obviously, not! In that case, how can the Hindus be comfortable with naming of that garden after Sikandar Lodi?
What did he achieve by manipulating History?
Nehruvian manipulation of history did not help the nation one bit. To claim that Nehru prevented India from the systemic clash of religious hatred, as Vikram Seth does, is outrageous, to say the least. One has only to analyse the statistics of communal conflicts in the post-independence period. Irrespective of all the contrived pretences of a ‘composite culture’ and the fraud of the so-called ‘Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb’; Hindus paying obeisance to the Muslim saints at dargahs; and politically motivated Iftar parties, etc., the harsh fact, as it screams out aloud from the sheer frequency of all sorts of communal troubles on the smallest of pretexts and horrific incidents of beheadings (‘sar tan se juda’) in the country, is that the two communities have all along been living with their fingers held on hair triggers without the slightest hint of any reconciliation or rapprochement!
In his obsessive desire of appearing as the ‘messiah’ of what independent researcher Gino Battaglia calls his ‘incomplete secularism’, Nehru did great injustice to the glorious heritage of the Hindus, for which he can never be pardoned.