BJP aims to 'rewrite' history

June 26, 1998

Indian historians identified with the destruction of a mosque six years ago have been given a dominant role on the country's official body for historical research.

Eighteen eminent members of the board of the Indian Council for Historical Research have been replaced by historians linked to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which leads the new coalition government.

The government has told the council to focus on "national presentation and interpretation of history".

The council's original aim - "to foster objective and scientific writing of history" - has been dropped from its memorandum of association by the government.

The new board is now dominated by historians who justified BJP activists' demolition of the 16th-century Babri Masjid mosque, in the temple town of Ayodhya in 1992 by arguing that Mughal invaders deliberately built the mosque on the spot where Lord Rama was born. In the ensuing religious riots 2,000 people died.

The 18 historians who have been removed led a campaign against the demolition.

The BJP faced criticism for seeking to "rewrite history" and "hijack" the board.

Murali Manohar Joshi, who now heads the education ministry, which administers and funds the council, is a former president of the BJP known for his hard line on "cultural nationalism".

A historian at Jawaharial Nehru University said: "One can clearly see that the BJP-led government is working on a plan to rewrite history."

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