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Re-narration Indian history gets support St Xavier’s event

Audience backs debate motion at the Fr Joris Memorial Nihil Ultra Trophy National Debate

Debraj Mitra | Published 13.03.22, 04:23 AM
(From left) St Xavier’s College (Calcutta) Alumni Association secretary Firdausul Hasan; rector of St Xavier’s College Fr Jeyaraj Veluswamy; lawyer and RSS ideologue Desh Ratan Nigam; principal economic adviser to the Union finance ministry Sanjeev Sanyal; JNU professor Anand Ranganathan; BJP leader and former chairperson of the National Commission for Women Lalitha Kumaramangalam; cardiac surgeon and president of the Calcutta Debating Circle Kunal Sarkar; St Xavier’s College principal Fr Dominic Savio, time keeper Shukla Sil; former Congress spokesperson Sanjay Jha; former bureaucrat and Rajya Sabha MP Jawhar Sircar; former diplomat, former Congress MP and former Union minister Mani Shankar Aiyar and Congress MP in Lok Sabha Manish Tiwari at the debate on Saturday.

(From left) St Xavier’s College (Calcutta) Alumni Association secretary Firdausul Hasan; rector of St Xavier’s College Fr Jeyaraj Veluswamy; lawyer and RSS ideologue Desh Ratan Nigam; principal economic adviser to the Union finance ministry Sanjeev Sanyal; JNU professor Anand Ranganathan; BJP leader and former chairperson of the National Commission for Women Lalitha Kumaramangalam; cardiac surgeon and president of the Calcutta Debating Circle Kunal Sarkar; St Xavier’s College principal Fr Dominic Savio, time keeper Shukla Sil; former Congress spokesperson Sanjay Jha; former bureaucrat and Rajya Sabha MP Jawhar Sircar; former diplomat, former Congress MP and former Union minister Mani Shankar Aiyar and Congress MP in Lok Sabha Manish Tiwari at the debate on Saturday.

Picture by Pradip Sanyal

An overwhelming majority of the audience at St Xavier’s College supported the re-narration of Indian history on Saturday evening.

The show of hands, represented by cellphone lights since it was dark, followed close to two hours of back and forth arguments at the St Xavier’s College (Kolkata) Alumni Association presents Fr Joris Memorial Nihil Ultra Trophy National Debate, in association with CDC and partnered by The Telegraph,

The motion — This House believes that it is necessary to re-narrate our History — was carried.

“Can two views of history be omnipresent?.. That, I believe, will go on stage this evening as our panelists debate,” said principal Fr Dominic Savio.

Proposing the motion, Sanjeev Sanyal, principal economic adviser to the Union finance ministry and social historian, said Indian history, in its current form, was “not Indian history at all but a history of invaders”. “Marathas ruled more of India than Akbar ever did but this seems to have been forgotten,” he said.

His arguments prompted Mani Shankar Aiyar, former diplomat, former Congress MP and former Union minister, to wonder about the history taught at St Xavier’s, the alma mater of Sanyal.

“I don’t wish to denigrate St Xavier’s but I’d be astonished if Xavier’s had only a colonial view of Indian history of India to teach its children because otherwise our children would not be so distinguished as to become the economic adviser to the Prime Minister of India,” he said.

He cited a question in his civil services paper — India was taken by the British from the Hindus, not Muslims. Discuss — to drive home his point.

If the speakers for the motion kept stressing the “deliberate omission” of what they called “Indian-ness” from Indian history, those opposing it called the re-narration “distortion” with a bigoted motive.

Desh Ratan Nigam, lawyer and RSS ideologue, said he met history at the “esteemed corridors” of St Xavier’s College. “She painfully told me  ‘I don’t want to repeat myself’,” said Nigam.

Before going to present a litany of charges against Jawaharlal Nehru for banning books and films, JNU professor Anand Ranganathan said “you cannot demonise evil racist King Leopold and eulogise Tipu Sultan who had, in his manifesto, urged for coming together of Muslims for annihilation of infidels”.

Manish Tewari, Congress MP in Lok Sabha and lawyer, said re-narrating history would not change the fact that Muhammad Ghori was invited to India by Jaichand or that Hakim Khan Suri, a general of Maharana Pratap, fought the Mughal army under Raja Man Singh, a general of Akbar. “This path is laden with peril. It will open past wounds.”

Jawhar Sircar, former bureaucrat and Rajya Sabha MP, said the “attempt to re-narrate is subterfuge, akin to the promise of Rs 15 lakh in every account”.

“Keeping politics aside,” Lalitha Kumaramangalam, BJP leader and former chairperson of National Commission for Women, said “Indian history had not done justice to women”. “Tribal queen Durgavati to Sucheta Kripalini, history has left out women.”

Sanjay Jha, former Congress spokesperson, equated the attempt to re-narrate history to an India where “Gandhi was being questioned and Godse revered”.

Cardio-thoracic surgeon and the president of the Calcutta Debating Circle, Kunal Sarkar, was the moderator.

“A certain 14-year-old attended this institution for all of 14 months…. That 14-year-old was later referred to in the epithet of Gurudev by his great debating adversary, whom he referred to as the Mahatma. Their opinions differed, that did not affect their respect for each other,” Sarkar said before introducing the speakers and prayed for that glorious tradition to be alive.

Last updated on 13.03.22, 04:23 AM
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