NRI Pulse


Francois Gautier on why Indians are ignorant about their history, and why it matters


Atlanta, GA, May 10, 2019: “You cannot just come and merge into the American system. You need to respect the laws and contribute, but do not lose your Indianness. Defend India whenever it is attacked unfairly in the media or anywhere. Standing up for your country is the first sign of pride and respect (for your country),” said well-known international author and journalist, Francois Gautier, in his exclusive interview with NRI Pulse. Gautier was in Atlanta as part of events organized by USHA (United States Hindu Alliance), including a talk at GA Tech about the need to rewrite Indian history and a community meet in Cumming on the topic, “Why Indians are ignorant about Indian history and why it matters”.

“I’m not a historian but I read a lot and have realized that Indian history is not written as it happened,” Gautier said, while pointing to specifics such as the history written about the Aryan invasion theory, Aurangzeb and the recent history of Indian Independence.

Currently the editor-in-chief of the Paris-based La Revue de l’Inde, Gautier was a political correspondent in South Asia for 10 years for Le Figaro, France’s largest daily. He is the founder of the Foundation for Advancement of Cultural Ties (FACT), an NGO dedicated to Indian history.

He is also the founder of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Museum of Indian History in Pune, a private museum that houses exhibits on Indian history.

Gautier has authored several books including Un autre Regard sur l’Inde” (Editions du Tricorne, Geneva-Paris), “Arise O India”, “A Western journalist on India”, “India’s Self Denial”, to name a few. Travelling from Paris at the age of 19, Gautier reached New Delhi and found himself in the establishment of Auroville in Pondicherry, where he currently resides with his wife, Namrata Gautier.

“Indian history is ancient, glorious and also very bloody. People speak about Jewish holocaust, but holocaust of Hindus is a hundred times more. Hindus have been slaughtered for years, “Gautier said, steering towards the Mughal periods in history which have been glorified. “The brutal rule of Aurangzeb is grossly distorted.  India needs to face this brutal period to come to terms with it.” He added that understanding and accepting its history has prevented recurrence of another Jewish Holocaust.

“India has never recovered from the trauma of partition. In 1990, 350,000 Kashmiri Hindus were driven away from Kashmir and are living as refugees in camps in their own country for the past several years.  The number of terror deaths and terror incidents in India is comparable to Iraq.” Gautier said he witnessed exodus of Kashmiri Hindus from the valley, while covering the region as a journalist.

“I studied Indian history as part of my research for work. And I found that this narrative of history was documented by the British for their own vested interests,” Gautier said. “I grew up to be proud to be French, but in Indian schools the British brain drained the Hindus and put their psyche in a western mould. More than the physical, the British colonized the mindset of Indians.” He said, when Indians in this frame of mind migrate to different countries like the USA, they simply merge into the American way of life. “There is nothing wrong with that, except when you don’t retain or respect your roots,” he said, adding that most Indian origin practices such as Yoga, Meditation, Pranayama or Ayurveda have found their importance in the west not because of Indians living there promoting it, but more due to curiosity from the western world. “The eyes of the western world which discovered Ayurveda or Yoga or the Mudras makes Indians look again at their own culture and rediscover it. It is a great paradox,” he said.

Of all the royals and kings of India, why Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj? “Shivaji was an extraordinary being. Whoever binds him to a particular caste, a particular guru, demeans him and hampers his work, for he was a supra national figure and his qualities of dedication to Mother India, of extreme courage, of respect of human rights and honest administration, are badly needed in today’s India.” Gautier said Pune was the choice not only since it was his birth place but also because Gautier sensed a stronger national fiber than other states and felt that the museum will be better protected there. Having researched about Shivaji Maharaj through books, Gautier says he was curious to learn about him during his first visit to Pune. But when he did not find a single exhibit at the Kelkar museum, the idea to start a museum dedicated to him took shape.

Gautier formed FACT using the prize money he received for winning the ‘Nachiketa’ award of excellence in journalism.

“The problem with the way Indian history is written is that, it does not make Indians proud of it,” Gautier concluded.

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