History belongs to the rulers, not to the ruled. Since Indian historiography was dominated by Brahmins and feudalists, they put their heroes on a higher pedestal and ensured that the memories of the heroes of the exploited or the ruled were effaced from the collective memory of society. Tilak, who was a reactionary and a diehard opponent of the marginalized classes, was given the title of “Lokmanya”. Rashtrapita Mahatma Jotirao Phule was forgotten and Rashtramata Savitribai Phule was not accorded any place in history.
Dr B.R. Ambedkar, who was a national leader, was reduced to a leader of the Dalits while Jawaharlal Nehru, whose appeal was limited to the Brahmins, was given the status of a national leader. Similarly, Shaheed Jagdev Prasad, who fought for the oppressed and the exploited, was branded as an anarchist while notorious criminal Brahmeshwar Mukhiya, who massacred hundreds of unarmed Dalits, was elevated as a martyr. There are many such examples. Shrikrishna Singh was given the title of “Builder of Bihar” while the darling of the masses, Karpoori Thakur, was called the leader of the Backwards. The invading Aryans began addressing their heroes as surs and gods while they portrayed the heroes of the indigenous peoples as asurs, monsters and devils.
The same forces were instrumental in getting the birth anniversary of former president Radhakrishnan, whose contribution to the field of education was nil, declared Teacher’s Day when this honour should have actually gone to Rashtramata Savitribai Phule, who established the first school for girls in the country.
We will have to dig out our heroes from the pages of forgotten history and place them on the highest pedestal. We will have to declare point-blank that our Father of the Nation is not Gandhi but Mahatma Phule; that Radhakrishnan’s birth anniversary is not Teacher’s Day, Rashtramata Savitri Bai Phule’s birth anniversary (3 January) is. Great revolutionary and thinker Bhagat Singh is our hero, not reactionary Tilak.
The need of the hour is to reread and rewrite history, to build a new culture of the toilers. We will have to carve out new names for our heroes
Published in the October 2015 issue of the FORWARD Press magazine