All entries for Saturday 17 September 2005

September 17, 2005

Change the Script

The Telegraph, 16.09.2005

Githa Hariharan tries hard to keep to the centre ground in her article, “Perfecting the past” (Sep 11), about the debate over deleting objectionable references to Dalits from our scriptures, yet all she manages to do is to muddy the waters. By claiming that “the villains of the present have ancestors” and citing a sentence from the Ramcharitmanas that shows bias towards Dalits, she makes the same mistake as those who vilify Islam by quoting the Quran. We must study old texts in the context of the times they were written in, otherwise we are no better than the extremists.

Hariharan also seems to have problems with Hindutva ideologues glorifying the Gupta and Mauryan ages. Perhaps she will be convinced by Western endorsement of the successes of these two dynasties in the areas of international trade, taxation, general prosperity and entrepreneurship. Their achievements are also recounted in our folklore and popular culture. There were drawbacks such as the caste system (a distortion of the original varna system). But then, every age has its drawbacks. All that left-leaning intellectuals can see in India’s early history are Brahminical oppression and poverty. Writing new texts for the new age is the way forward, as the author rightly argues. But it is time to acknowledge the achievements of ancient Indians — for only then will we realize how far we’ve fallen behind.


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