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On his blog, how to back history up with Puranas

This is from the latest post on the blog of Y Sudershan Rao, the newly appointed ICHR chairperson.

Written by Alokparna Das | New Delhi |
Updated: July 16, 2014 12:31:38 am

“We already have history in form of Puranas, Itihasas and Kavyas. What we need is to identify our ancient historical events in their proper geographical locations. This would enable us to authenticate our history from Puranas.”

This is from the latest post on the blog of Y Sudershan Rao, the newly appointed ICHR chairperson. Since he started blogging in 2007 — Rao hasn’t been very regular, sometimes writing only one post in a year — his emphasis has been on a relook at history through religion, rather Hinduism.

“In influencing the public opinion in favour of Muslim community, the ‘secular’ historians and ‘progressive’ intelligentsia make concerted endeavor in support of the Muslim cause. They condemn all those who sympathise the Hindu cause as Hindu fundamentalists and ‘saffron brigade’,” he wrote in 2013.

Throughout his 25-odd posts, be it a book review or a report on a seminar, Rao seems to insist on merging history and mythology, which has now prompted some historians to raise questions on his appointment in ICHR.

Historian Prof Harbans Mukhia says there’s already a paradigm shift in the way history is being read, and the RSS-BJP way of reading it only from the point of view of religious identity is a thing of the past. That, according to Mukhia, is the reason the earlier NDA regime couldn’t find a historian who still followed religious identity. He cites M G S Narayan and B R Grover who, though appointed heads of the institution by the NDA, had a “secular approach”.

“And as far as looking at history and mythology as opposition [is concerned], the dichotomy between the two is actually a western positivist construction in which history is equated with truth, and mythology with falsehood — therefore the BJP attempt to treat mythical figures as historical figures. Actually, mythology has a much wider cultural reach than history. We will undermine the greatness of Ram as a cultural figure if we say that he was a historical figure, a ruler of a tiny kingdom.” Mukhia adds that rewriting history happens with changes in perception. “But using history as a tool to attain political goals — what was done by the erstwhile Soviet Union or the RSS’s idea of a Hindu Rashtra — needs to be opposed,” he says, adding that the real issue is the autonomy of institutions such as ICHR.

A common point in almost all his blogs is Rao’s gratitude to Satguru Sivananda Murty. Rao has published papers in Supatha, a journal by Satguru’s trust, and as per his profile on his blog, some of Rao’s projects have been ‘guided’ by the Satguru and ‘sponsored’ by his trusts. However, Radha Kumari of Sivanandaguru Educational and Cultural Trust, who identifies herself as the Satguru’s adopted daughter, denies the trust having sponsored any of his projects. “Rao only seeks guidance from the Satguru, who has a collection of 20,000-odd books on history,” she says.

A footnote on Rao’s blog, however, says, “He owes his understanding of the subject to Satguru Sivananda Murty ji, Bheemunipatnam, A.P. India.”

When contacted, Rao alleges the media is selectively citing portions from his blogs. “These are mostly old blogs. Why this sudden interest? Why should you call up Satguru and others to find out about me? Wait for me to formally meet the media,” he says.

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