On 'Correcting' History and Akbar's Invasion of Kashmir
"HISTORY is the most dangerous product evolved
from the chemistry of the intellect. Its properties are well known. It causes
dreams, it intoxicates whole people, gives them false memories, quickens their
reflexes, keeps their old wounds open, torments them in their repose, leads
them into delusions, either of grandeur or persecution, and makes nations
bitter, arrogant, insufferable and vain," Paul Valery wrote.
The danger is far greater when the state has a hand in
the writing of history. It handpicks its own scribes, like court historians in
royal times, to write in support of the ruling party's ideological version of
India's Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu is a confirmed
Hindutvaite of the ruling BJP. What he said, at Pune on Sept 26, was explicit
about 'correct' history. He said: "There is tremendous potential to reconstruct
and correct Indian history, whose distorted forms have been presented by the
colonial rulers so far. There are many great names like Shivaji Maharaj,
Shankaracharya, Rani Lakshmibai and more, whose contributions are not much
heard of." His heroes were all Hindus.
In the hands of a BJP government, rewriting history is
particularly dangerous for it has a proven record of misfeasance in this field
even when a supposedly moderate Atal Behari Vajpayee was prime minister. The
minister concerned was one Murli Manohar Joshi. Publishers of the series
Towards Freedom came under attack. Each volume on the period preceding
Independence was written by a recognised historian. In BJP-ruled states,
rewriting history textbooks became a norm. In recent weeks, internationally
acclaimed historian Romila Thapar of Jawaharlal Nehru University was asked to
submit her CV for continued recognition as professor emeritus. Predictably, she
attempts to rewrite history are particularly dangerous.
Ideologues (eg, Marxist historians) are free, like
anyone else, to write their own version of history. The problem arises when the
state seeks to promote its version of history by imposing it through textbooks
and state-supported publishing houses.
The BJP and the RSS' entire ideology rest on a poisonous
view of history. Their bible is V.D. Savarkar's essay 'Hindutva' published in
1925. It propounded the two-nation theory and branded Muslims and Christians as
invaders. The land belonged exclusively to Hindus. The two targeted communities
were free to stay provided that they adopted Hindu 'culture' (read: religion).
We must not be blind to the dangers that Paul ValÃ©ry so
eloquently described. History can unite and divide peoples. Within a country,
people of different regions will have their own distinct notions of their past.
A CaliforÂnian's notion of how he became an American will differ from that of a
A passage in the memoirs of B.K. Nehru, Nice Guys Finish
Second, explains the Kashmiri psyche. He was governor in Srinagar during the
1984 elections. "The elections were consequently fought with considerable
bitterness. Indira Gandhi herself made several tours of [Kashmir] and devoted a
great deal of time and effort in support of her candidates. Shoals of Congress
politicians descended on the Valley from outside. They did more harm than good;
first because the Kashmiris resented 'foreign' interference and second because
they were ignorant of Kashmiri sentiments. A favourite theme of their speeches
was praise for Akbar the Great and his secularism. In Kashmir the name Akbar is
hated as that of an arch-imperialist. He was the first outsider who destroyed
in 1586 the independence of Kashmir. Nobody had succeeded in doing so before
then. Indira's efforts produced results in Jammu but hardly any in the Valley
where the Congress got no more than two seats."
A few years ago I asked my friend Tahir Mohiuddin,
editor of the weekly Chattan, "When did Kashmir lose its independence?" He gave
the same reply - under Akbar.
His invasion of Kashmir in June 1586 rankles still
because force was accompanied with sheer deceit. The nobles had stipulated
conditions. The last Kashmiri ruler was Yusuf Shah Chak (1574-1586). Sectarian
strife divided Kashmiris. One faction 'invited' Akbar behind the back of Yusuf
Chak; Akbar deposed and exiled him from Kashmir. He was buried in Bihar.
It is impossible to understand Kashmiris' love of 'azadi' unless the events of 1586 are properly understood. Kashmiris have
suffered since - under Afghans, Sikhs and Dogras to this day.
The English do not accuse the Scots of 'treason' for
demanding independence from the UK. The union of Scotland and England created
the UK by a 1707 treaty in 1707. They may have shared a monarch but had their
own parliaments. The Act of Union united the two forever - unlike J&K's
1947 Instrument of Accession with a proviso for a plebiscite.
It is memories of their history that inspire people,
whether in Quebec or Catalonia. History deserves study. It should not be abused
by politicians in power for their own partisan ends.
The writer is an author and a lawyer based in Mumbai.