The government of Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi had quietly appointed the committee of scholars about six months earlier.Details of its existence are reported here for the first time.REUTERS/Saumya Khandelwal India’s first post-independence leader, Jawaharlal Nehru, who promoted a secular state and tolerance of India’s Muslims, said it was “entirely misleading to refer to Indian culture as Hindu culture.” That outlook informed the way India was governed by Nehru and then by his Congress party for more than half a century.The rights of minorities - including the prohibition of discrimination based on religion - are enshrined in India’s constitution, of which Nehru was a signatory in 1950.Doing so would help bolster both conclusions the committee wants to reach: that events described in Hindu texts are real, and today’s Hindus are descendants of those times.The minutes and interviews with committee members lay out a comprehensive campaign to achieve this, including the dating of archaeological sites and DNA testing of human remains.Referring to the emblematic colour of the Hindu nationalist movement, RSS spokesman Manmohan Vaidya told Reuters that “the true colour of Indian history is saffron and to bring about cultural changes we have to rewrite history.” Balmukund Pandey, the head of the historical research wing of the RSS, said he meets regularly with Culture Minister Sharma.
Interviews with members of the 14-person committee and ministers in Modi’s government suggest the ambitions of Hindu nationalists extend beyond holding political power in this nation of 1.3 billion people - a kaleidoscope of religions.
The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has appointed a committee of scholars to prove that Hindus are descended from India's first inhabitants.
Members of the country's Muslim minority worry the government wants to make them second-class citizens.
It helped sweep Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party to power in 2014 and now counts among its members the ministers in charge of agriculture, highways and internal security.
The RSS asserts that ancestors of all people of Indian origin - including 172 million Muslims - were Hindu and that they must accept their common ancestry as part of Bharat Mata, or Mother India. An official biography of Culture Minister Sharma says he too has been a “dedicated follower” of the RSS for many years.
The chairman, Dikshit, is a former senior official with the Archaeological Survey.