Saturday, July 05, 2014

History we are not taught

At the time of Indian independence, the outgoing English government (if we can call them so) was replaced by an Indian government. Very little changed. Instead of white masters, we had brown masters. The bureaucracy continued. The framework continued. The exact system of government that the English instituted to exploit the natives was passed onto the natives themselves who now continued to do the same thing that the English did.And the natives did worse. They moved onto so called socialistic principles which has left the country languishing at the bottom of the pile on almost all developmental parameters. Part of this faux socialism demands that the population be taken care of by a gargantuan and benevolent government that is supposed to know what is best for the populace.

And therein lies history.

We are taught a very doctored version of history in our schools. If I had read only my school history books, and made a movie out of it, this is what it would look like. The movie would have two heroes - Nehru and Gandhi with a few bit actors coming in and going out and most likely clowning around. None of the side actors would add any value to the story and at best, they would provide nuisance value coming in the way of great warriors Nehru and Gandhi. It took me many years until I read India, a history by John Keay and Freedom at Midnight by Dominique Lapierre and then again other books like Tamas by Bhisham Sahni and Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh to read more of the reality and the horrors of English rule. There is surely more and I gathered more tidbits from Amitav Ghosh Opium series and so on. And I am sure I have not got the whole story yet.

The Mughal rule was presented to us as some sort of a benign foreign rule where they levied a teddy bear tax known as jaziya which made the rulers want to hug the locals by leving a friendly tax. Of course, they accidentally demolished some hundreds of temples which were mostly weather beaten. They also took great care of the population beating them up when the weather did not. They accidentally converted a few temples into mosques and a few million people as well. Of course, they were benign rulers and they developed India into a superpower. But a Narasimha Rao book gives a quickish idea of the latter part of their rule in the Hyderabad state. And of course, Mughal court chronicles give a great picture of the rule - which our historians prefer to ignore. And then again, the rise of Shivaji and his own documentation of the brutality of Mughals (and exhibited in how they treated his own family). Also how they treated Guru Gobind Singh are all dismissed as some of sort of footnotes in anotherwise peaceful takever of the Indian subcontintent. The truth is probably the reverse.

And in these big stories - Mughals and the English and their atrocities hides the very little known Portuguese rule in Goa. And the last post refers to a novel set in that era. Till then apart from stray articles on the internet (Thanks rediff - this is a must read), we had no idea that this happened. The Wiki page is here.

Kanchan Gupta writes:

And this silence is not because there exists no evidence: There exist, in full text, orders issued by the Portuguese viceroy and the governor. There exist, in written records and travelogues, penned not by the persecuted but by the persecutors, full details of the horrors perpetrated in the name of Christ. Yet this silence has been maintained -- a silence willed by secular historians and politicians; an illegitimate silence legitimised by the popular belief that missionaries and their patrons were, and remain, a benign lot who could never hurt a fly.

All in all, the story of Indian history in a nutshell, is how two foreign powers and religions committed atrocities on Hindus. Exploited them. Exploited the resources. Looted, plundered and killed. And how the Indian kings fought back. And by the way they also left no stone unturned in spreading their religion through various campaigns of hate, destruction and violence - apart from peaceful means of offering money or forgiveness. Both these intruding civilizations thought that there offering deliverance or civilizing them - this ignorant Hindu population. This, is the big story. There are footnotes of goodness, of secularism, of large hearts and so on, but the big picture is the bad story. This, then is the story - it is not the reverse as it is often painted in our history books in school.

Should we hide behind the layer of falsification or tell the truth to our citizens or have successive governments thought that we are immature to understand the true history of our country?

South Africa created the Truth and Reconciliation commission to bring the truth in front of their population. Can we?

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