Friday, December 14, 2001, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



History is not a ‘pack of tricks’: politicians keep off textbook writing

Mr Hari Jaisingh’s article on history (Dec 7) is highly illuminating. He rightly observes that history is not for politicians to dabble in and the BJP leaders are wasting their time and energy on redoing history textbooks through their set angularities. Dr R.S. Sharma, Dr Romila Thapar and Dr Satish Chandra are historians of impeccable integrity and international eminence. Their books have been in circulation for the last several decades and it is strange that the BJP-led government has suddenly discovered anomalies in them.

The argument of the Union Human Resources Development Minister and the NCERT Chairman that some portions in these books offend the sensibility and pride of some communities is ridiculous, to say the least. The job of a historian is to interpret facts with the help of tools of historical analysis available to him and not feed the false pride of some people. To develop a false pride and distorted ego in the name of race, religion, ethnicity, caste or any such divisive construct is symptomatic of a fascist tendency.

In the medieval times statehood in many cases had roots in pillage and plunder. One fails to understand as to how this affects the pride of the Jat community if the facts reveal that the ancestors of Maharaja Suraj Mal were highway robbers. Documentary evidence (including Rig Veda) shows that Aryans in ancient times ate beef, a common phenomenon in a pastoral society. The historians under attack only state this fact and they nowhere say that Hindus should eat beef now that could be construed as an affront to the Hindu sensibility.


India comprises thousands of castes, religious and ethnic groups and if a historian has to be on tenterhooks all the time as to what impact his writing would have on a particular set of people, no meaningful history writing is possible. If one were to follow the perverse logic of ill-informed BJP ideologies, the age-old victims of the Brahminical order cannot question it because this might injure the pride of the upper castes. The move of the BJP rulers to distort the process of history writing must be opposed by all right thinking people in the country.

D. R. CHAUDHRY, Rohtak

Objectivity: Mr Hari Jaisingh's strong call for objectivity is commendable given that most of the opinion makers are crying only that nothing should be done to what has been written and accepted for decades.

Mr Jaisingh accepts that the Indian history has been written by Marxist historians, who "enjoy high academic credentials and command respect at the world level". And "so long as they maintain their overall objectivity, there should be no hassle". Have they maintained it? Or is it that since they enjoy high credentials, they must be true. This is in conflict with the author's call for objectivity.

Why does the author not want to judge what they have written on the basis of objectivity? All Punjabis know the history of martyrdom of Guru Teg Bahadur. The very foundation of Sikhism was to counter the Muslim forced conversions and oppression. Compare this with what the textbooks try to portray. What is the meaning of objectivity? Surely not selectiveness.

This is the fundamental question in this debate: what is the truth? Is something infallible because it is written by eminent historians or has the sanction of the media or of a political party? The truth can stand for itself, that is, if only we don't use politics and the power of media to suppress it.

That opinion makers in this country have a strong tendency to follow a certain line of thought. If they are really objective about what they write, these problems will disappear.

AMIT GUPTA, Panchkula

Definitions: The article goes a long way in giving impressive definitions of history but as far as the current controversy regarding the prevalence of biased contents and distorted facts in history textbooks and their rectification or deletion is concerned, the author seems to side with the anti-correction lobby as he disparages the Director, NCERT, and Dr Murli Manohar Joshi.

No doubt international repute of Ms Romila Thapar, Dr Satish Chandra, Prof R.S. Sharma and Mr & Mrs Arjun Dev on account of their scholarship and depth of the subject enables us to feel proud of them. But there is no denying the fact that these renowned historians have a conspicuous leaning towards a particular ideology which has percolated to the contents of their textual material at places hurting the objectivity of the subject the very essence of the sum total of the events of the past.


Best teacher: History is the best teacher not only for the present but also for the future. Wrong or distorted history is not only disastrous but catastrophic.

The Taliban from madrassas learnt that their forefathers had conquered almost the whole of world from Spain in Europe to Indonesia in the far East with the grace of Allah, rather than due to superior weapons and professional armies. The result: their citadel fell like a house of cards in Afghanistan.


Distortions: It is not the job of the Director, NCERT, to worship the distortion and his spread by the motivated propagandists loyal to Marxism, Macaulay and Madrassas as gospel truth. He is duty bound to delete canards from the textbooks.

Surely "history is not for politicians to dabble in" as has been the case with the works of the pamphleteers picked up by Nurul Hasan.

Could all the 'secularist' historians put together be any patch on the titan, R.C. Mazumdar?

Imperialists may consider Romila Thapar, Satish Chandra, RS Sharma and co as "genuine historians" but people caring for truth consider them as creators of pot-boilers for whom allegiance to foreign money bags is the primary source of history.


Bias: I do not agree with the author's view that the job of preparing history books for children should be assigned to independent historians. In the modern times, everybody who is somebody is politically biased. There is always a chance for doubt. History that deviates from reality is of no use to posterity.

IQBAL SINGH, Bijhari (Hamirpur)

Hindutava: History protects secularism through books. That is why the situation makes it imperative for public opinion in this country to assert itself and force the government to stem the flow of the "Hindutva" ideology and reverse it.


Abolition of octroi

It is good to abolish octroi, but the manner of doing so is not only deplorable but also discriminatory. The consumers have to pay octroi on electricity and liquor. Why this step-motherly treatment to the consumers? The octroi should have been abolished on these items as well.

For the time being the local bodies have been left to fend for themselves. Without assured income, they would find it difficult to carry out their day-to-day obligations such as cleanliness and removal of garbage which is a health hazard.

The Punjab Government has levied excise duty in lieu of octroi on liquor being supplied in the cantonments as well as to the troops living outside the municipal limits. This is an illegal collection of tax from the armed forces personnel, and this has been going on for more than a decade. The amount so collected is supposed to be refunded to the cantonment boards and the Army. If the tax collected is to be refunded, why is it collected initially?

Lt Col ANGAD SINGH (retd), Mohali



Why this leniency?

I am the Principal of a school in Edminton, Canada. Whenever we talk about terrorism in India, it hurts me because students are afraid of visiting India. I tell them it is in Kashmir only and the rest of the country is safe.

How many more citizens must be killed or leave Kashmir before we retaliate? Or are we incapable? We should bring back the beautiful Kashmir of "Jab Jab Phool Khilley!"


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