Saturday, April 05, 2008

Remembering PN Oak: The original Hindutva historian

Does the name of Professor Oak ring a bell? The 'historian' who used to make claims about Taj Mahal originally being a Hindu temple and similar other assertions about Qutub Minar and many other mosques.

That was the era when RSS didn't have historians, scientists, writers, journalists, doctors, academicians and other professionals in its fold. 
But Oak, was quite dedicated to his cause. He was mocked at, but he continued to publish his works, make such claims and write letters in newspapers.

Oak died sometime back. Not many tears were shed. Perhaps, because he had become irrelevant. Or may be, the Saffron brigade now had an army of able professionals to espouse its cause in every field, much more eloquently in TV cameras.

Still, one expected a few obituaries. Hardly any attention was paid to the demise of the original Hindutva Historian. The man who had founded the Institute for Writing Indian History, spent all his life, for the cause, especially in the era when Marxist historians dominated all institutions.

Ironicallly, the Indore-born Oak didn't get much attention in the era when such theories which were then considered wild are now heard quite attentively and are lapped up by the monster--live 24 hr news channels.

After all, Rupert Murdoch's Star News happily beams the stories about the evidence of existence of Ravana's air-craft repair centre in Sri Lanka, and mythology has gained more credence than science in our age, the era of the death of rationalism.

We have often heard that Saffronites dump the guys when they lose their utility. [Has anybody heard the name of 88 year old Balraj Madhok, the founder of Bharatiya Jan Sangh, for years and that he is still alive!].

I remember reading Oak's letters on the editorial pages of newspapers, sometimes with irritation and sometimes with an awe over his 'single-minded devotion to an almost lost cause in the early 80s".

Today RSS has no dearth of experts on any subject who can forcefully argue on any subject from astrology to zoology in accordance with Sangh's views. It pays these days to be on its side. In the era of PN Oak, it was neither lucrative nor glamorous, rather it invited trouble and the risk of getting branded as a 'crackpot' or Sangh historian unlike today.

Still, he was not missed much even among the rank and file of Sangh Parivar and media sympathetic to its cause. A website, Hindu Jagrati, did recall him as the lone fighter in an obit. Purushottam Nagesh Oak was 90 and died just a couple of days before the anniversary of Babri Masjid demolition. But one does feel bad for him. He was one of his own kind. Not like the hate-preachers and vitriolic Togadias of today.