History Writing and our present


Wise men say that history is written by the victors. But I think in reality it should be “history is written by survivors”. Since in general situation the victors survive. Then they go on writing why they fought, their personal convictions which they glorify, they demonize the opposition by asserting their (Victor’s) belief of enemy behavior as the truth and so on.

History written in such fashion tells many things. It oscillates between the fear the victor initially felt and how he overcame it. When we read between the lines, we can also see the survival strategies of the victor. At time before the final victory the victor might had chickens out completely, such a behavior now is termed as “tactical”. But when you study one version of history in light of several versions and scrutinize it based on scientific thinking, many more interesting things get revealed. A curious reader may go through various books on World War II which will testify what I have said.

In context of Indian history writing, which vast, old and controversial, some schools have been completely ignored while some have flourished through government patronage. There are several popular books on India’s history and “Discovery of India” has been on popupalr one, it’s author being India’s first prime minister, a very articulate person Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru.

Let me quote one passage from his book.(Thanks to My Country My Life)

Mahmud was far more a warrior than a man of faith and like many other conquerors he used and exploited the name of religion for his conquests. India was to him just a place from which he could carry off treasure and material to his homeland… Mahmud was anxious to make his own city of Ghazni rival the great cities of central and western Asia and he carried off from India large number of artisans and master builders. Building interested him and he was much impressed by the city of Mathura.. About this he wrote; ‘There are here a thousand edifices as firm as the faith of the faithful; nor is it likely that this city has attained its present condition but at the expense of many millions of dinars, nor could such another be constructed under a period of 200 years.”

The Discovery of India, Javaharlal Nehru, page 235

Gazani, has been described by Nehru here in such ambiguous words, that an uninformed reader gets impression that he was a lover of art, probably like Fa Hian the lover of knowledge, he had come to India in search of beauty. More than about Gazani, I think the the passage speaks about Nehru. I sense a deep ignorance (in him) about the Indian culture here. He rationalized Gazani’s barbarous raids just the way he had rationalised pakistan’s creation probably.
But then what is the truth? I think Sita Ram Goel’s magnum opus on the subject, is an amazing source. More than anything else, I would say this book can stand scientific scrutiny of any level. No other historian, even from the opposite schools of thought have managed to prove wrong even a single claim. Instead the government chose a simpler path. Ban the book! Text is very much available on Internet for curious minds , one has to only search.
There are several people who rationalize the “moderation” of history. It is necessary they claim. If we tell the truth it will hurt the sentiments of muslims of current generation. It will provoke the hindus of current generation. They will struggle to take revenge. Hence the truth must be suppressed and not made public. You can not justify violence they say. While saying so they safely ignore that they are paving a way for intellectual dishonesty. These are the very people who claim to be “Secular” but forget that this very judgement of their is very much against principle of secularism.
Anyone who stated the truth was suppressed through unfair means. Just like Sita Ram Goel. And those who toed the line got big offices. Whatever convolution Nehru tried to get in their, I think it was only amplified by Historians like Romila Thapar. I would have scrutinized her argument here to some length, but I avoid that temptation. Find her article here.
The fact she highlights that Gazani’s motive for raiding temples has nothing to do with the often cited between Islam and Hinduism. In fact what she describes as dichotomy is in fact described by several authors as a cruel attack motivated by his hatred for Idol worship in general and hinduism and Buddhism in particular. She has gone to great length citing from several books that Gazani’s raids were purely motivated by “Economic” factors rather than any fanatic ideology.
This thought however convenient it might sound, because truthful is not what it really resonates at, it has wider implications on our present. One might rationalize such “mellowing” of historical facts might have helped the policy makers to maintain peace in society. That by propounding such versions of history they have managed to make a more homogeneous society. But the reality as we know is very much different.
And the instrument that over government has found is “suppress the symptoms ignore the cause”. Because Nehru failed to see the real reasons behind Gazani’s hatred for Somnath he also completely misread Jinah over partition. By putting a goody-goody history he thought he would make peace between Hindus and Muslims of present times but in fact exactly opposite thing happened. And again to make peace he had to accept another self inflicted tragedy “partition”. Even after partition he did not learn his lessons and Kashmeer happened and then China.
And this Nehru syndrome if I call it has spread into the veins of our current leadership as well, without making any distinction between the parties. The terrorism is being explained in terms of ‘Economic and Social” reasons. Statements such as unemployment leads to terrorism are made and popularized. Not just by Indian policymakers but even by the American intelligentsia. These are not confined only to Islamic terrorism but applied even to the Naxal and similar separatist movements.
And this belief of ours makes us more vulnerable to more attacks. Every single attack is a victory for them, just the way Pakistan has so proudly named their missile as Gazani. By countering every single attack we suppress the symptom and claim a victory but in fact the reality is that we have completely failed in identifying our enemy fully.
We refuse to understand our enemy and while doing so we keep our own self in ignorance. I remember Sun Tsu‘s saying here from his Art of War:
If you know others and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know others but know yourself, you win one and lose one; if you do not know others and do not know yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.

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