In normal discourse, branding any community as cultureless, and pitting one section against the other would be treated as hate speech or xenophobic behaviour. However, if the person who indulges in such a behaviour belongs to the ‘left-liberal’ eco-system, somehow such acts escape these attributions and are rather looked at as a ‘research note’, ‘scholarly mention’, ‘free thinking’ and what not.
This is what happened with ‘eminent historian’ Ramchandra Guha. He fired the gun from someone else’s shoulder when he quoted a British writer to say, “Gujarat, though economically advanced, is culturally a backward province… Bengal in contrast is economically backward but culturally advanced”.
The Cost of Showing Regional Bias
So, what is the consequence one had to face if one attributes things like, “oh, you came from this place or you have this surname, so you must be like this only”?
See this example from United Kingdom. In 2014, a senior immigration judge was forced to resign. What had led to that? He reportedly made the derogatory comments against the woman surnamed Patel at Preston Magistrates’ Court saying “She can’t be doing anything important….With a name like Patel she can only be working in a corner shop or off licence.”
Now, here we have Ramchandra Guha who is casting aspersion on fellow Indians, suggesting that if you come from this particular state you are cultureless! But, hey, after all, he is an ‘eminent historian’.
The Ugly Impact of Such Bias
One can see Ramchandra Guha regularly dish out advice to the government, leaders, and society about the right and wrongs. But does he not know the impacts of picturing a particular state in a negative way?
The examples are plenty. The attacks on people from the North-east in many parts of the country can be attributed to our early administrators after our Independence, as they and the ‘eminent historians’ under them have failed to integrate the community by making other Indians to realise that they are one of us. A positive discourse on North-east states emerged only recently with the present ruling dispensation putting in humungous effort on many fronts. Even after this there are ‘well-educated’ people who find the attire of North-east people ‘outlandish’. Such is the bias deeply embedded into the psyche. And here you have an ‘eminent historian’ who tries to establish more of the same.
Promoting a regional bias has severe implications on society. What happens when a particular state is stereotyped as illiterate and backward? Referring by the name of the origin itself becomes a slur in popular discourse, causing ugly fall-outs in the society. In 2014, a jalebi server at the Bangla Sweet House in Gole Market of Delhi was shot dead by a security guard. Reason? The security guard was enraged by the ‘Bihari’ slur heaped upon him by that server in that shop.
At a time when India is striving as one to achieve greater heights and fight the present challenges, here we have ‘eminent historians’ like Ramchandra Guha who are mischievously trying to create new fronts to damage the fabrics of society.
Game of Divide
It appears that the ‘eminent historian’ wanted to kickstart some hateful reactionary discussion by provoking the people of one state so that they abuse the other state he mentioned in his tweet. But the folks on social media have largely given a measured response asserting that they don’t want to enter this ‘this state vs that state’ trap and want India to rise collectively.
The Gujarat Chief Minister himself came up with a matured response in which he emphasised that all states have their strength.
Earlier it was the British who tried to divide and rule. Now it is a group of elites who want to divide Indians.
Indians won’t fall for such tricks.
Gujarat is great, Bengal is great…India is united.
Our cultural foundations are strong, our economic aspirations are high. https://t.co/9mCuqCt7d1
— Vijay Rupani (@vijayrupanibjp) June 11, 2020
It is evident that the game of divide that the ‘eminent historian’ borrowed from the book of colonial era failed to play out.
The Credentials of a Historian
Ramchandra Guha calls himself a historian. His tweet episode, besides exposing him of his hateful mindset, makes his expertise on history questionable. Using a quote from a writer which may have its own context, Guha tries to establish that the state of Gujarat and people of Gujarat have no cultural heritage. The students of history and culture, even an ordinary enthusiast would know:
- A Hindu king provided shelter to persecuted Parsi community that arrived at the shores of Gujarat back in 16th The community since then has immensely contributed to this nation in many walks of life.
- Dholavira, a place in Gujarat regarded as a major Harappan city with elaborate water conservation and town planning structures. The state made a mark when the civilization started and we have ‘eminent historians’ who is trying to argue that people of Gujarat have no cultural lineage!
- Gujarat was famous for its Chalukya Solanki rulers vigorously defending the Somnath temple from the hordes of the barbarian Mahmud Bin Ghazni, which the likes of Ramchandra Guha never highlight.
- The book through which Ramchandra Guha attempted to establish his fame is based on the personality who came from the land of Gujarat- Mahatma Gandhi.
- Gujarat has given several freedom fighters – Shyamji Verma, Madam Bhikaji Cama and Sardar Valllabh bhai Patel to name a few.
- One of the earliest literary references of promoting widow remarriage in India as an act of social reform comes from Gujarat in the magnum opus Saraswatichandra written by Goverdhan Das Tripathi.
- Gujarat’s capital Ahmedabad is a UNESCO world heritage city, while Patan’s famous step well Rani ki Vav is a UNESCO heritage site along with Champaner in Pavagadh.
- Gujarat was the birthplace of India’s space program designer Vikram Sarabhai.
- Gujarat has its own school of Ayurveda that still survives to date in Saurashtra, whose medicines are found useful by millions across India.
Now, it is left to your discretion to wonder if one should treat Ramchandra Guha as a historian, a hateful propagandist, or to casually move on quipping “what’s your good name, saar?”