The government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has appointed a committee of scholars to rewrite the history of the nation in favour of Hindus, Reuters has reported.

Narendra Modi addressing a crowd in the western state of Gujarat in March 2014 (Flickr / CC / Narendra Modi)
Narendra Modi addressing a crowd in the western state of Gujarat in March 2014 (Flickr / CC / Narendra Modi)

The news agency said that minutes of a January 2017 meeting of the 14-person committee and interviews with members indicated that the scholars’ task was “to use evidence such as archaeological finds and DNA to prove that today’s Hindus are directly descended from the land’s first inhabitants many thousands of years ago, and make the case that ancient Hindu scriptures are fact not myth.”

Reuters concluded that the Hindu-nationalist government is seeking “to shape the national identity to match their religious views: that India is a nation of and for Hindus”.

One-fifth of India’s population belongs to a religion other than Hinduism. Christians, Muslims and Sikhs have complained of increasing discrimination and violence since Modi was elected.

The committee’s chairman, K.N. Dikshit, told Reuters: “I have been asked to present a report that will help the government rewrite certain aspects of ancient history.”

Hindu nationalists and senior figures in Modi’s party reject the idea that has long been taught in India, that its population was transformed by a mass migration from Central Asia 3,000 to 4,000 years ago.

Historian Romila Thapar said: “If the Hindus are to have primacy as citizens in a Hindu Rashtra [kingdom], their foundational religion cannot be an imported one.”

Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma, who set up the committee of scholars, confirmed in an interview that its work was part of a larger plan to revise India’s history. He added that he expects its conclusions to be reflected in school textbooks and academic research.

The head of Muslim party All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, Asaduddin Owaisi, said that India’s growing Muslim population had “never felt so marginalised in the independent history of India”. “The government,” he told Reuters, “wants Muslims to live in India as second-class citizens.”

Christian groups have expressed similar concerns. The Evangelical Fellowship of India described 2017 as “one of the most traumatic” years for Indian Christians in a decade after it recorded 351 verified incidences of hate crimes against Christians during the year, while date published by the Indian government itself showed a rise in religious hate crimes.

Professor Prabhu Guptara, a business leader and author of ‘Indian Spirituality’ (Grove Books, 1984), who refers to himself as a “Hindu follower of Jesus”, accused the Hindu nationalists of tricking Indians to gain power and access to the country’s resources.

He told World Watch Monitor: “Posing as ‘Hindu nationalists’, they were able to fool Indians by what they themselves call ‘jumlas’ [tall tales] in order to get into power. However, these people do not represent the majority of Hindus; they belong to a minority group called Hindutvans [who adhere to the fundamentalist Hindutva theology]. And so far from being ‘nationalists’, they have revealed their true colours in presiding over the looting of the country by those with whom they are in cahoots.”