Union Human Resources Minister Murli Manohar Joshi caused a stir in the Bharatiya Janata Party when he resigned from his post after a Rae Bareli court decided to frame charges against him in the Babri Masjid demolition case.
Twelve days after sending his resignation, he withdrew the letter after Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee refused to accept it.
Joshi was in the United Kingdom recently. Not one to shy from courting controversy, he told a gathering that Britain's industrial revolution was funded by the booty looted from the colonisation of India.
In an interview to Senior Editor Shyam Bhatia in London, the minister spoke about his early beginnings in politics, his impressions of the freedom movement and India's proud heritage.
Where do you draw your political roots from? Are they from [founder of the Jan Sangh] Shyama Prasad Mukherjee?
I knew Shyam Prasadji long before I joined the Jan Sangh. He was president of the Hindu Mahasabha and one of my near relatives was affiliated to the Hindu Mahasabha. So I've seen him as a young boy and I've been with the RSS since 1944.
Did you join because you thought Hindus were being mistreated?
There were two or three things happening in the country. Those were the days when the country was surcharged with nationalism -- that the country must be independent, the Britishers must go.
Now you see for young impressionist students like us, it had great significance. Our teachers, senior students, people in the locality were all talking about Indian values, the history of the British arrival, attitude of the Muslims. All these things were in the air.
There were demands for Pakistan and statements from Muslim leaders, those were also being discussed.
The other feeling was to work together against the British and throw them out by organising the people.
As a minister what have you tried to do?
First of all, I tried to create a sense of self-confidence in Indian scholars by telling them that gentlemen you have made such great contributions in the past. Till the 18th century you have contributed to nearly all fields of knowledge. I tell them that this information technology is based on a system of binary numbers.
Who invented binary numbers? Indians. So you should be confident. There are funds in everything and you can see their research flourishing, you can see the social sciences flourishing, labs are flourishing.
What about the text books? Have you organised a rewriting of historical texts to give a different perspective?
You see we have not rewritten, we have only corrected things. If you say that Guru Tegh Bahadur was not assassinated by Aurangzeb but that he was a plunderer, a marauder, that's the history which is being taught. It is said that the Jats were dacoits.
My point is that this type of history is being written by many of those scholars trained under the British system. They were taught like that initially. Then there was the Marxist influence and they continued with their theories.
Other scholars continue to insist that there was an Aryan invasion of India, although that has been disproved. Yet they insist with this. The reason was that whatever they had built up with the sociology in India was based on the fact that the Aryans invaded India and drove out a section who became the Dravidians. So there is a continuous divide between north and south, between Aryans and Dravidians.
What is the dispute between you and historian Professor Romila Thapar?
There is no dispute with her, it is the approach to history. She doesn't know Sanskrit, she has never read the original Sanskrit. She may have read a tertiary source, what to talk of a secondary source. All I am saying is please read the original source. None of these Marxists know primary sources.
On what are you taking issue with her?
The Aryan invasion for example. We have proved by our ocean development scientists that there is enough proof of the existence of human activity in the region of Bay of Cambay in 7500 BC. We have proved it.
I am saying let us know whether Indian civilisation is 2,000 years old, 7,000 years old, 10,000 years old. These are the results my scientists have shown, this is the result of carbon dating.
Marx wrote India had no history, that it has a stagnant history, it has resisted change and has no resistance to foreign attacks. Thus you build up a theory on which their sociology, everything is dependant.
They argued that there is a north-south divide, that India is not a nation, but a group of nations. All these things break down when the Aryan invasion theory is disproven. A large number of scholars are now saying we are right. The implication is that that the Saraswati civilisation is prior to the Indus Valley civilisation and the antiquity of this civilisation goes back long before 2000 BC.
Surely, that's a cause of pride?
Yes if you have self-respect, but not if you don't have self respect.
What are the political implications?
The implications are for the Marxist analysts. They say India is not one nation, that goes; they are saying that the Aryans converted certain people into slaves and made them Dravidians, all this goes. Social cohesion, national unity, all this becomes more important.
Coming to the 20th century, how do you view Mahatma Gandhi?
Mahatma Gandhi was central to the national movement, but he appeared at a particular point of time. Look to the war of Independence after 1857, the first attempt to throw out the Britishers.
There were many attempts to give a purpose for the movement of national independence. Take the movement of Swami Dayanand. He talked about the removal of untouchability, he talked about other reforms, giving more rights to women.
I am saying the attempt to push the mainstream of independence was not started by one person. Look how Vivekananda energised the country, Lokmanya Tilak, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Lala Lajpat Rai. All these people were fighters for independence, they believed in the pride of India.
Mahatma Gandhi entered the scene in the 1920s as a Congress leader and adviser to the freedom fighters. He carried the Congress according to his own philosophy. But remember Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose was also there, revolutionaries were also there.
Do you and the RSS blame Gandhi for Pakistan?
The RSS does not blame Mahatma Gandhi alone for Pakistan. As a matter of fact Pakistan resulted because of the internal weakness of the Congress leadership who were tired of the struggle. Mahatma Gandhi was also forced to accept Partition.
What could they have done?
They could have waited for a few more years. The Britishers had to leave, but we fell prey to British machinations. Mr [Jawaharlal] Nehru made some serious miscalculations. It was fatigue and a desire to take control, these are the factors that operated.
You have been credited with trying to distribute modern educational technology, including computers that can be accessed by minority community students, how has the Muslim community reacted?
Very well, I have given them 200 computer centres. The resistance comes from some of the madrasas [Islamic seminaries]. But now some madrasas have also come round. I have given them teachers of mathematics and science. I say if you teach mathematics and science I will give you two teachers from the central government. I give them enough support for Urdu journalism and literature. I have introduced science, biotechnology, computers almost at all levels in all schools.
When I took office there were only five IITs [Indian Institute of Technology] by the time the government goes for elections hopefully there will be 11.
Image: Dominic Xavier