Sunday, 20 August 2017

Indian History in text books: Rewrite or Retain?

India has the longest unbroken civilization that dates back to more than 10,000 years. But still there is an unceasing end to the debates and controversies on several aspects of its documented history especially as described in the text books. Distortions as we see are of three kinds – 
1.       More coverage for some while others are overshadowed
2.       Painting a very black or white pictures of characters while they have a combination of both.
3.       Absolving some characters of their barbaric crimes Illustrations on blackouts and distortions.

More coverage for some while others are overshadowed.

Maurya, Ashoka and Mughal era have been given more prominence in text books but the Vijayanagara Empire which ruled almost entire South India and lasted for 300 years as against Mughal Empire of 170 years has hardly any mention. This kingdom was formed by two brothers who got reconverted from Islam to Hinduism and formed this kingdom to take on Muslim invaders. How many of you know this?

Maratha Empire which ruled from Western Shores to Cuttack in the east founded by ChharapatiShivaji nearly brought the end of Mughal rule. The Peshwas and Queen of Jhansi resisted the East India Company. Barely few paragraphs were allotted for them in text book history.

The Sikh empire (18th Century) and their great MaharajhaRanjit Singh and his great general Hari Singh or Ahom empire of Assam which ruled Assam region for nearly 600 years and who defeated Mughals at the banks of Bramaputraare not given any importance. The Chola dynasty (950-1150AD) which conquered Indonesia, Burma, Thailand, is confined to only Tamil Nadu textbooks. Kalinga Empire ( KingKaravela who destroyed Pataliputra and regained Kalinga kingdom) ,Chalukya,Gangas,Pandyas, Cheras and Dogras were not given coverage in the pan India text books.Only some local states covered them.

Even some of the local heroes who deserve national coverage such as VeluNachiyar (who defeated Hyder Ali and took on British army, PritolataWaddedar, the female tiger of Bengal who bravely fought the British, Begum Hazrat Maulali, the unsung heroine of first war of Indian independence were completely overshadowed by text book history. Have you even heard of these names?

Painting a very black or white pictures.

I can give several examples here- I was given to understand from my school text books that Rajputs were either defeated by Afgans or Mughals or they assisted Mughals in their wars and showed their bravery. But between Gazni and Ghori there were 150 years during which invaders could not get an inch of territory in India due to the brave Rajput warrior SuhalDevPasi Who decisively defeated Gazni's nephew General Masudh in 1033 AD. Many Rajput victories if highlighted will portray their winning nature.

MarthandaVerma of Malabhar region decimated the Dutch navy in the Battle of Kolachal in 1776. Had he not done that India would be speaking Dutch language today as the Dutch were the world’s greatest naval force at that time. Instead, MarthandhaVerma has been presented as a king of a small place who encountered a routine small battle.

Following World War II, the returning sailors of Indian navy took control of Bombay city. The British tried to engage gorkha’s to control them which they refused. Following this issue a British officer submitted a report that colonial rule in India is not sustainable any more. These navy officers were not given the recognition of the freedom fighters.

Even if we look at Aryan theory planted on us, Aryans from central Asia invaded and destroyed Harappans, the natives were shifted to Ganges from Indus river belt. As per this theory the JNU geniuses call the demons described in religious scriptures as natives who were driven away by those referred as gods who were invaders! In fact no great war of that time could be establishedwith clear evidences.

Absolving some characters of their barbarian crimes.

KingAshoka was said to convert to Buddhism after seeing the devastation of Kalinga war. But the fact is that he was a Buddhist much before Kalinga war. He continued his massacre even after Kalinga war. He declared he will give one gold coin for every person killed from Jain religion. During younger days he killed all the male clan of Maurya dynasty barring one of his brothers. His cruel deeds were too many, some of them can be inferred from his own inscriptions. Still we paint only the good side of him in the history text books.

During Mughal era, King Hemu was portrayed as a villain who tried to bully 13 year old Akbar. Babar was portrayed as a great king but actual accounts suggest otherwise, given the cruel atrocities committed by him on citizens belonging to other faiths. Why such distortions happen? Well, any conqueror presents a picture and claims that before conquest the region lacked civilization and only the invader brought the civilization.

The biased historians add their shades of grey. For example Greek historians claim that Alexander the great won King Porus. Some Indian historians claim that King Porus won the war and Alexander's wife Roxana tied Rakhi to King Porus and tactically averted the war as a Rakhee brother should not kill his sister's brother. These are biased versions.

When I interacted with some well educated people of Pakistan, they told me that they were taught in their history books that Pakistan won the Bangladesh war of 1971!! Bias of the greatest order!! In India the texts were written with a psuedo-secularist mind set. The Hindu cultural sentimentalism was under played due to this.

Where do we go from here?

Don't give judgments and make it biased with any 'isms'. Only when evidences are crystal clear, we should present one version. Otherwise we have to present all alternative thoughts and versions. Give complete facts and picture. Even if alternate picture exists present them, let the students decide. If particular ideology is shoved down the throat of the kids, they tend to believe it to be true throughout their lives without checking other beliefs.Do not edit out great heroes or present a tainted version of characters.

In short the Indian text book history has to be rewritten to factor the above thoughts. This is a serious issue and I request each one of you to think objectively and not paint a rightist or leftist tag on me. My view is the view of a common man who found a huge gap between what was taught in his school and what he came to learn several years after his school.

In the internet age, information is available online. It would be better that this gap is bridged and textbooks are more representative of actual history.

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