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Alternative Narratives

Pralay Kanungo

By Meenakshi Jain
Aryan Books International, Delhi, 2013, pp. 342, Rs. 695.00


One of the critical currents of con- temporary Indian political history has been Hindutva’s cerebral politics over the Ram Janmabhumi-Babri Masjid conflict and continuous struggle by its historians to create a coherent and authentic historical narrative that would demolish the dominant narrative on Ram and Ayodhya as constructed by the ‘Left Historians’. While many such earlier attempts have by and large produced trash, propagandist pamphlets without much credibility, this time, Meenakshi Jain, one of the few accomplished Hindutva historians, has made a serious exercise which could not be dismissed outright. Earlier, Jain’s contribution as the author of the NCERT’s text-book on Medieval Indian History became a face saving for the then BJP government when the sponsored volumes on Ancient and Modern India were found to be atrocious.   Jain’s volume is quite timely when an upbeat Hindutva is in a quandary whether or not to bring Rama back to the 2014 elections campaign; while it cannot afford to dump Rama altogether, still it would not risk invoking him with the same passion as it did in the past. In the midst of this tentativeness, this volume aspires to create a quiet impact when the Left’s usual fiery opposition to Hindutva has been by and large absent in the current public discourse. As the Rama wave loses its force and fury, the counter aggression obviously becomes frail and feeble.   The book has 15 chapters consisting of 29 coloured photographs of terracottas, seals, pillars, excavation sites and maps relating to Ram and Ayodhya, since the second century BCE onwards. In the introduction, Jain makes her intention clear: Hindutva’s Ram Katha cannot be told without running down the ‘Left Historians’. Thus, she begins by pointing out ‘the belligerence of Left academics’ like Romila Thapar and Irfan Habib toward the 2010 Allahabad High Court Judgement on the Ramjanmabhumi/Babri Masjid dispute. As Jain mentions, Thapar calls this verdict ‘a political Judgement’ and ‘a response to an appeal by Hindu faith and belief’, which has not only ‘annulled respect for history and seeks to replace history with religious faith’ but also made a serious omission by not mentioning the ‘act of wanton destruction’ of the Babri Masjid. For Habib, the Judgement has been ‘astonishingly one-sided’ and ‘an absolute legitimation’ of the demolition of the Babri Masjid; moreover, the conferment of judicial entity on ‘a supernatural power’ is inconsistent with the secular tenets of the ...

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