YEH HAI INDIA
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Gift your parents good health
He is a man the liberal intelligentsia loves to hate most.
Soft-spoken, suave, with a doctorate in nuclear physics, Murli Manohar Joshi, Union minister for human resources development, is a man who refuses to leave the eye of the storm.
With his recent attempts to revise history, Doctor Saheb, as he is known in Allahabad, is again at the receiving end of some well-directed liberal ire.
No stranger to controversy, with whispers still echoing about his role in the demolition of the Babri Masjid, the minister took time off after a hectic final day of campaigning in Varanasi and Allahabad to explain why he does what he does in the way he does to R Swaminathan. Excerpts:
The VHP has announced that it will go ahead with the construction of the Ram temple starting March 15, while Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee recently admitted defeat in his efforts to arrive at a political solution to the tangle saying he will await the court verdict. What is your position on the dispute?
Being a witness before the Liberhan Commission, I will only say that the issue can be resolved through consensus. I have always maintained that this issue has to be sorted out through mutual agreement. There is no other way.
Do you mean to say that the courts don't have a role to play at all?
Even if you want to give a role to the courts, there must be consensus that the court verdict will be accepted by all.
The Babri Masjid Action Committee has said that it will accept the verdict of the court. It is only the Vishwa Hindu Parishad that has refused to abide by the court verdict.
Then it means there is no consensus. I wouldn't want to comment on this issue any further.
Vajpayee has said that the verdict in Uttar Pradesh will affect the government at the Centre. How do you think the verdict will affect the Centre?
I haven't read any statement of the prime minister to that effect. If I had known about it I would have asked him in the morning today (laughs). On the contrary I have heard the prime minister say that the Uttar Pradesh election is not a referendum on the performance of the central government. Even today in his speech he did not say that the UP election results would affect the Centre.
Mulayam Singh Yadav says his party is a 'natural threat' to the Vajpayee government and will spare no efforts to topple it if it doesn't change its policies. Any comments?
Well, this means that Mr Mulayam Singh's approach to politics is that of destabilising the country. I think people should be completely scared of his approach. It means that this fellow [Mulayam] has no intention of keeping the country in one piece. Destabilising means fresh elections, which in turn means uncertainty. But if his intentions are like that, then it is a dangerous game. One can equally say that if Mr Mulayam Singh comes to power in Uttar Pradesh, he will not be allowed to rule. What will they do? Is that the correct way? This shows Mulayam's level of thinking. He is interested only in his personal interest and has nothing to offer the nation.
In one of your public meetings, you alleged that some of the parties have a vested interest in making sure that an election takes place every six months. Which are these parties and why would they want to do that?
Mayawati said it. So did Kanshi Ram. This is a game of destabilisation that some parties are playing. They want the country to be held to ransom every six months. These parties do not give tickets to nominees. They sell them to the highest bidder and it makes sense for them to have elections as often as possible so that they can make more money. By doing that they are making a mockery of democratic norms.
In Gorakhpur, the official BJP nominee is being opposed by a rebel Hindu Mahasabha candidate supported by BJP MP Mahant Adityanath. Isn't it a clear indication that there are contradictions within the BJP on the Ram temple issue?
This is not because of any issue. It is a personal fight between the BJP nominee, Shiv Prasad Shukla, and Mahant Adityanath. There is no political motive to it.
You have been one of the main supporters of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, which is advocating a policy of an insulated economy. Your government, however, is following a policy of linking up with the global economy. How do you reconcile your position with that of the government?
Well, by swadeshi I mean an economy for the people, by the people and of the people so that Indians have pride in their own products, Indian brands are internationally accepted and the evils of consumerism are not allowed to take root. Some companies have been in India for almost 60 to 80 years, much before Indian independence. What do we do with such companies? We are a democratic system and part of a global market, good or bad. There are international commitments. The only thing we can do now is to make the best out of the worst. Within the system, we have to protect our own industries.
Whether I like it or not, today India is part of the WTO. You have to work within the rules of WTO in such a manner that you try to get maximum benefit out of it. You also have to fight those WTO rules that are injurious to us. I opposed WTO tooth and nail. I told Narasimha Rao not to sign the Marrakesh agreement. But once you have signed the agreement, then you have to abide by it.
But swadeshi doesn't mean that there should be no competition and your quality should be poor. Successive governments have followed two extreme policies. On one hand they overprotected the economy and on the other they suddenly asked the polio-stricken economy to run a marathon. In fact, when some Western companies tried to patent ayurvedic products, it was our scriptures and Sanskrit that helped us fight these companies in international courts. We didn't protect our products due to our semi-literate historians (laughs).
There has been a major controversy about your efforts at rewriting history. Why is there a need to revise history? Say, for example, the textbooks written by Prof Romila Thapar.
I am just saying that her premises are wrong. I am saying this because her postulates are based on the Western worldview, which is fragmentary and compartmentalised. But the Western worldview even in the field of science is under attack. The emphasis these days is on a holistic worldview.
Why is India poor today? If you go back in history, there is ample evidence to suggest that India was one of richest countries in the world. What Hsuien Tsang and Fa Hien wrote in their books [about India] is completely different from what we find today. If you want to understand the reasons for India's poverty, you need to analyse history. And when you do that you realise that the primary reason for poverty in India was British colonialism.
If you look back even further, some 500-600 years back, you will see that much of India was fighting foreign invasion on its northern borders. Obviously, there was very little time left for taking forward the process of development. Not surprisingly the Industrial Revolution in England took place in the 17th century, approximately the time the British colonialists set up base in India. In fact, the money for the Industrial Revolution came from Bengal, especially after the Battle of Plassey (1757).
Assuming that new scientific evidence is being unearthed which question established theories, isn't it essential to follow a process before including or deleting something from the school curriculum?
The Delhi assembly has passed a resolution asking certain portions in the NCERT books to be deleted. There are cases pending before various high courts demanding the deletion of offending portions...
But the Delhi assembly isn't an expert panel and history isn't about majority opinion either...
Who are the experts? The same people who introduced it? Who is an expert? (Laughs) I am surprised to say that if I do something then I am a non-expert, but if they do something then they are experts. Which expert did they consult when they introduced all this? Where was a democratic process then? No country would or should allow the distortion of its history. The fragmentation of Indian society has taken place because the Leftist historians have been saying that India is not a nation. Since the new facts demolish their theories, they are scared. Their entire edifice of calling themselves eminent historians ... the sheen of that eminence is completely over. I am not saying don't teach Marxism. Nor am I banning them from writing whatever they want to write...
Many social scientists, like Prof K N Panikkar, say that your agenda in revising history is to marginalise the history of deprived groups like the dalits.
These social scientists have created a schism in Indian society by their teachings. I am simply saying that these are the facts and should also be taught so that children do not develop a biased outlook or are scared against any community. When you say that the Jats are plunderers, aren't you giving a false impression about the community? These historians all along have been adopting a Goebbelsian technique that if you keep repeating a lie thousand times it will become the truth. Panikkar has now become vice-chancellor of the Adi Sankara Sanskrit University, and he doesn't know a word of Sanskrit (laughs).
Why are you so obsessed with Sanskrit? It is after all an archaic language, which no one speaks. Then why are you forcing schools and colleges to teach Sanskrit to students who do not find any utility in learning the subject?
Every Indian language is associated with Sanskrit. Some are directly derived from it and some have a large component as their diction, vocabulary and grammar. For example, your name Swaminathan is entirely Sanskrit. When I mention your name, am I not speaking Sanskrit? Whatever you speak in India today is either Sanskrit or derived from Sanskrit...