India inaugurated the Ram Mandir—built on the site of the demolished Babri Masjid—this week, highlighting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s aim to “correct” Indian history and return the country to its “nativist” roots. Since assuming power, Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have made no secret of wishing to erase the “irrelevant” Mughal period that sought to integrate the various religions that comprise India. Contrary to that aim, Modi wants to separate the masses into Hindu and non-Hindu sections, sidelining the secularism enshrined in the Indian Constitution.
Last year, daily Indian Express questioned the “Hindutva” worldview Modi is imposing on India, noting the rewriting of Mahatma Gandhi’s mission in textbooks, which earlier acknowledged his “steadfast pursuit of Hindu-Muslim unity provoked Hindu extremists so much that they made several attempts to assassinate him.” Under the BJP, the description of Gandhi’s assassination no longer mentions Hindu extremists and has also excised assassin’s Nathuram Godse’s Brahmin caste, which is an important constituency of the BJP. Textbooks similarly no longer make note of the dislike of Gandhi by groups who wanted India to become a country for Hindus, just as Pakistan was destined for Muslims “to make conflict between the two states permanent.” A key point to recall is that Hindutva’s paramilitary wing, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), was banned after Gandhi’s killing.
The Indian Express also examined the impact on Indian society of RSS growing in prominence. In 2002, in Gujarat, over 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in sectarian violence. Modi, then chief minister, remained “silent over the activities of Hindu lynch mobs.” Defending the historical changes, the head of the Education Council of India claims they “are an act of kindness, reducing content load for kids who have had a tough time during the pandemic.” Regardless, Modi has already transformed India’s idea of itself, resolving his publicly stated disdain of a “concocted historical narrative about India as a place of diverse multitudes.” As far back as 2017, he established a committee—solely comprised of Hindu men—to rewrite India’s early history to prove that “Hindus are the direct descendants of India’s very earliest inhabitants and that Hinduism’s ancient scriptures are not myth but a fact.”