Tuesday 25th October 2016,
Hindu Human Rights Online News Magazine

The Gujarat textbook affair : Framing Modi as a Nazi

The Gujarat textbook affair : Framing Modi as a Nazi

 The secularists are bad losers. They are the kind of pupil who tampers with his school report before showing it to dad. For fifteen years, I have seen them bluffing to obscure the fact of their defeat in the Ayodhya evidence debate. Now, their thesis of a Hindutva fascism had not been confirmed on any score at all even after six years of BJP rule at the Centre. So, they had to make up some evidence for the same.

While the BJP hadn’t behaved like Nazis in practice, at least we could turn them into mental Nazis, just regular Indians but who harboured a morbid admiration for the Nazis? Fresh from the textbook controversy at the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT), secularist attention was turned to the textbooks in Gujarat , supposedly a Hindutva hellhole under BJP Chief Minister Narendra Modi. There, it was alleged, children were indoctrinated with pro-Nazi propaganda.

In the inevitable Times of India ( 30 September 2004 ), one Harit Mehta claims: “In Modi’s Gujarat , Hitler is a textbook Hero”. Let’s hear his story: “Gandhi is not so great, but Hitler is. Welcome to high school education in Narendra Modi’s Gujarat , where authors of social studies textbooks published by the Gujarat State Board of School Textbooks have found faults with the freedom movement and glorified Fascism and Nazism. While a Class VIII student is taught ‘negative aspects’ of Gandhi’s non-cooperation movement, the Class X social studies textbook has chapters on ‘Hitler, the Supremo’ and ‘Internal Achievements of Nazism’.”

  Readers familiar with secularist and generally Indian English discourse will know that “Supremo” is a simple descriptive term, meaning “the man at the top”. It does not imply that the user of the term is an admirer of the person designated “Supremo”. Thus, the secularists themselves often refer to the RSS Sarsanghchalak as the “RSS Supremo”, though they hate him. As for the internal achievements of Nazism, practitioners of the “political abuse of history” (to borrow the title of a 1989 pamphlet by the JNU historians) may prefer morality tales in black and white, where the evil German race supported Hitler in spite of his purely negative achievements, but genuine historians acknowledge that the Nazi programme contained attractive points and the Nazi regime achieved real successes in some fields, otherwise Hitler’s popularity and rise to power would have been unexplainable.

Mehta specifies: “The Class X book presents a frighteningly uncritical picture of Fascism and Nazism. The strong national pride that both these phenomena generated, the efficiency in the bureaucracy and the administration and other ‘achievements’ are detailed, but pogroms against Jews and atrocities against trade unionists, migrant labourers, and any section of people who did not fit into Mussolini or Hitler’s definition of rightful citizen don’t find any mention. ‘They committed the gruesome and inhuman act of suffocating 60 lakh Jews in gas chambers’ is all the book, authored by a panel, mentions of the holocaust.”

So, even in the partisan reporting by the Times of India, at least in the fine print, it is admitted that the textbook (1) does mention the Holocaust, detailing its death toll as 6 million, and (2) adds an explicit condemnation of the Holocaust as “gruesome and inhuman”. The title of this article and even more so the titles of all the derivative articles in the world press alleging Holocaust denial are thereby rendered mendacious. The reporter, or more formally the Times of Indiaeditor, responsible for the article titles, stands exposed as a liar. All those who based their stories on the Times of India headline, stand exposed as either accomplices in the lie or silly fishwives.

Mehta continues: “The section on ‘Ideology of Nazism’ reads: ‘Hitler lent dignity and prestige to the German government within a short time by establishing a strong administrative set up. He created the vast state of Greater Germany. He adopted the policy of opposition towards the Jewish people and advocated the supremacy of the German race. He adopted a new economic policy and brought prosperity to Germany . He began efforts for the eradication of unemployment. He started constructing public buildings, providing irrigation facilities, building railways, roads and production of war materials. He made untiring efforts to make Germany self-reliant within one decade. Hitler discarded the Treaty of Versailles by calling it just ‘a piece of paper’ and stopped paying the war penalty. He instilled the spirit of adventure in the common people.’”

I have checked with the original (Social Studies textbook, standard 10, Gujarat State Board of School Textbooks, 2003 reprint of the 1993 edition, p.71), and the last-quoted sentence reads in full: “He instilled the spirit of adventure in the common people, but in doing so he led Germany to extreme nationalism and caused the Second World War.” This was obviously not meant as a compliment to the Nazis, which is why the Times of India chose to unquote it.

The wording is clumsy, but the account is not untruthful. Hitler was a charismatic speaker, he did pursue an anti-Jewish policy, he did advocate German racial superiority and he did discard the Treaty of Versailles. His Keynesian economic policies were indeed successful in the short run, particularly in pushing back unemployment, which is why they were emulated by many social-democratic governments after 1945. So, the textbook gives a balanced account of the Nazi era: acknowledging its economic and diplomatic successes up to 1939, but also teaching about the anti-Jewish policies and the “gruesome and inhuman” Holocaust.

But the Times of India is against balanced history-writing, and not only on the subject of Nazism. Thus, India ’s leading newspaper rejects any account of Mahatma Gandhi that is less than hagiographical: “A few classes junior, students in Gandhi’s home state read that the Bapu really may have been overrated. In the chapter on ‘Gandhian Era and National Movement’, there’s a section sub-headlined ‘The Negative Aspect’.” Here at least, the Marxist hard core in the educational establishment should not have any objections against the so-called BJP textbooks, for in his day, Gandhiji was fiercely criticized by the Left. Oh yes, there were negative aspects to the Mahatma’s career.

The story of the “Nazi” schoolbooks got picked up quickly, lies and all, in policy-making circles in Washington D.C. On 15 March 2005 the US House of Representatives heard Rep. John Conyers introduce House Resolution 156, reintroduced a few days later as Resolution 160, indicting Narendra Modi:

“Condemning the conduct of Chief Minister Narendra Modi for his actions to incite religious persecution and urging the United States to condemn all violations of religious freedom in India . (…) Whereas the Supreme Court of India has reported that those arrested in connection with the bombings and retaliatory attacks on Hindus in India have claimed that they carried out their actions ‘in revenge for the state-assisted killings of Muslims in Gujarat’; Whereas the United States Department of State has discussed in one of its reports the role of Chief Minister Modi and his government in promoting attitudes of racial supremacy, racial hatred, and the legacy of Nazism through his government’s support of school textbooks in which Nazism is glorified; Whereas the United States Department of State has found that Chief Minister Modi revised the text of high school social studies textbooks in Gujarat schools to describe the ‘charismatic personality’ of ‘Hitler the Supremo’, and the ‘achievements’ of Nazism at great length, while failing to acknowledge the Nazi extermination policies, the concentration camps, and the religious persecution that occurred under the Nazi regime; Now therefore, be it Resolved, That the House of Representatives (1) condemns the conduct of Chief Minister Narendra Modi for condoning or inciting bigotry and intolerance against any religious group in India, including people of the Christian and Islamic faiths; (…)”

 Note the exculpation of the numerous Islamic terror attacks on Hindus as “retaliatory”. This is now the standard secularist line: any and every Islamic crime is an understandable “retaliation” for the central event of Indian history, the Gujarat riots. It makes me wonder whether Rep. Conyers would dare to say on the floor of the House that Islamic attacks on Americans are “retaliatory”. Yet, that exactly is the explicit message of the perpetrators, who invoke American mass killings of Iraqis and the like as the justification for “hitting back” at America .

After this expression of American brain-dead parroting of Indian secularist propaganda, it was no surprise that the USA subsequently refused an entry visa to Narendra Modi when he was scheduled to visit the country. The stated reason was his violation of the International Religious Freedom Act. Indo-American Communists and American Christian fanatics jointly hailed this ban as a great success for their own lobbying.

The Gujarat textbook affair, bis

Indian secularist discourse is, among other unpleasant things, very repetitive. If it has discovered a successful line for incriminating the Hindus, it is bound to repeat and revive that line endlessly. So, a few months after the American domino effect of the “Nazi textbook” offensive, theTimes of India’s Tina Parekh claims in her title that “Modi’s Gujarat worships Hitler” (23 July 2005). Note first of all the wildly exaggerated language: nowhere in her actual report is any fact mentioned that amounts to “worship”, a concept of which the secularists have no experience anyway.

  It seems the reprints of the indicted textbooks hadn’t changed sufficiently. So this is her story: “The world over, it would be outrageous to attribute the Holocaust, in which millions of Jews were butchered by Nazis, to German nationalism, without the faintest hint of condemnation. But not in Gujarat where, a year after the eruption of a controversy over distortion of history in school textbooks, students got updated books that continue to talk about Nazism as ‘a co-ordination of nationalism and socialism’.”

Are we now supposed to feel scandalized? What else did she think Nazism, or National-Socialism in full, really was? Yes, much as Indian leftists may want to deny it, Hitler did pursue a form of socialism along with nationalism. Only socialists would read that as a form of praise. And as we have already seen, even the unchanged textbooks did condemn the Holocaust. There was no reason to change an account that happens to be factual, even if authored by Congress-appointed historians, and even if misrepresented by Ms. Parekh as follows: “In the revised social studies textbooks for classes IX and X, grave distortions persist along with an uncritical appraisal of Hitler and his Nazis. Times of India last year raised the issue of glorification of Hitler in the Class X textbook, but that book is still taught in classrooms across the state because the BJP government took the defence that these books were introduced during the previous Congress regime.”

Then she mentions the Class IX social studies textbook which apparently covers the same ground and again “glorifies Hitler”. As proof, she quotes: “Hitler adopted aggressive policy and led the Germans towards ardent nationalism.” And: “Due to severe nationalism of Italy and Germany and their aggressive policy, the nations of the world thought of forming groups.” Once more, the account is not untruthful, eventhough the wording is embarrassingly clumsy. Twice it mentions Hitler’s “aggressive policy”, which only the Times of India reads as a way of “glorifying Hitler”. It is simply a lie to say that the book treats the Nazi record “without the faintest hint of condemnation”.

The BBC News website (bbc.co.uk, 23-7-2005, “‘Nazi’ row over Indian textbooks”) immediately relayed the story worldwide: “Human rights campaigners in India ‘s Gujarat state have condemned school textbooks which they say praise Hitler. The books are issued by the Hindu nationalist state government. One includes a chapter on the ‘internal achievements of Nazism’. A Jesuit priest and social activist, Cedric Prakash, says the books contain more than 300 factual errors and make little mention of the holocaust.”

The Jesuits are wiser than the secularists, who are smitten with hubris and drunk on their currently unlimited power. Whereas the Times of India prefers to quote itself and highlight its own earlier “revelations” on the matter, the Jesuit leaves the honour to others and positions himself as a humble go-between for the “protests from parents, peace activists and educationists”. The secularists’ lies are bound to get exposed one day, and their names will become synonymous with “liar”, but the Jesuits have famously perfected the art of “lying without lying”. Rarely do they get caught in the act of uttering an actual lie, even when their audience comes away with an understanding of matters that is different from the truth. They won’t formally lie by alleging that the book denies or ignores the Holocaust, but create the same effect among receptive audiences by saying that it “makes little mention” of the Holocaust. But what is “little” in schoolbooks that have to cover the causes, conduct, outcome and after-effects of World War 2 in just a few pages? As I’ve been able to verify, all the other subplots of Nazi history are equally rushed through in a few sentences, if discussed at all.

The BBC has learned a thing or two from the Jesuits. It is often aggressively partisan but has perfected the art of creating a false semblance of even-handedness. In this case, it also gives a say to the accused party: “The Gujarat government has dismissed the charges as baseless. A senior official from the state education department told the BBC that anomalies arose when the book was translated from Gujarati into English, and are being quoted out of context.”

That’s definitely not all he told the reporters, for he can hardly have left unmentioned that upon scrutiny, the textbook turns out to be pretty mainstream in its view of World War 2 history. Yes, it is a vague on details and shabby in language, not unlike textbooks in many Indian states and on many subjects, but it does teach the principal facts. The BBC, however, prefers to withhold that crucial information and presents the government spokesman as being evasive by shifting the problem from the English to the Gujarati version of the textbook rather than defending the textbook’s contents in either version.

Under the present power equation, where the pro-Hindu forces have almost no capable presence in the media and among the influential experts, this kind of libel against a Hindu-minded government is virtually inevitable. It will keep on happening until Hindus get their act together and their message across.

On the bright side, though, we should also notice that the Hindu-hating coalition is practically admitting the hollowness of its case if it is reduced to proving “Hindu fascism” with nothing better than the misrepresentation of a provincial school textbook. Not actual policies, nothing of material consequence to any of the minorities, not even the much-discussed NCERT national history textbooks, only a few paragraphs from two textbooks in a single state, and even those had to be misrepresented for the desired effect. The uninformed public (which includes quite a few so-called experts) may be fooled by the Hindu-baiters’ bluff, but anyone who scrutinizes the arguments will see through it. The record of BJP governance has utterly disproved the shrill allegations of “Hindu fascism”.

Excerpted from Return of the Swastika, ch.1.3-4, Voice of India 2007.



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About The Author

Dr. Koenraad Elst : Belgian Author and Orientalist :A Graduate in Philosophy, Chinese Studies and Indo-Iranian Studies at the Catholic University of Leuven. He frequently returns to India to study various aspects of its ethno-religio-political configuration and interview Hindu and other leaders and thinkers. His research on the ideological development of Hindu revivalism earned him his Ph.D. in Leuven in 1998. He has also published about multiculturalism, language policy issues, ancient Chinese history and philosophy, comparative religion, and the Aryan invasion debate.