The Problem is Far More Serious than Including or Dropping Lessons on the Mughals in History Textbooks
sunny singh

The Problem is Far More Serious than Including or Dropping Lessons on the Mughals in History Textbooks

Commentary on the recent controversy over dropping the chapters on Mughal history from NCERT textbooks

IT IS THE MUDSLINGING SEASON AGAIN. Over history lessons. For a fundamental reason. History was one of the most powerful weapons that the Congress - Left combine had used in order to maintain its hegemony over political power for more than half a century. Shorn of niceties, the Marxist distortions of Indian history had a twofold objective: 

(1) for the Congress, it translated into an endless harvest of Muslim votes. 

(2) for the deluded Marxists, it was an opportunistic ploy to forge a combined alliance with the Islamic and Church lobbies against the majority Hindus, and when the time was ripe, to establish a Communist State in India.

This is a familiar story but it is also unfinished business from the perspective of the Sanatana civilisational renewal. 

The latest fracas over the chapters related to the Mughals in the NCERT history textbooks is also the latest testimony to the durable success of the Marxist mangling of Indian history. The wreckage has been so utter and extensive that every attempt to repair it is bound to fail. Like an embedded virus, it appears as if the Marxists have preprogrammed failure. 

This virus has also birthed an unholy real-life phenomenon.

If the real and true history of India has to be written from the scratch, it requires scholars and writers and historians equipped with the knowledge, skill, talent and discipline that it demands. The Marxists have aborted at least three generations of such historians in the foetus. It is genocide of the most perverse sort. 

If you need to fix something that’s damaged, you need accomplished craftsmen and honest artists who can breathe life and beauty into lifeless tools. The tragedy of our age is the overwhelming abundance of tools — research material, software, quick and inexpensive travel aids etc., — but the appalling paucity of people who can use all these in an integral fashion. 

The blunt reality that emerges from the foregoing: a conspicuous and yawning shortage of first-rate scholarly talent in the field of history-writing on what is variously known as the “Right wing,” “Hindu,” etc., side. While there are numerous and familiar reasons for why this has occurred, a timeless truth remains: history research and writing has to be approached and undertaken in a spirit of Shradda, as a lifelong vow of piety. Its highest ideal demands the historian to dedicate his or her life to it. This intrinsic mien, this inward attitude is the clearest line that separates the pre-Marxist generation of Indian historians. 

Thus, a Jadunath Sarkar could effortlessly churn out a flood of such gems: “In the evolution of our modern literatures, the work of centuries has been crowded into a few decades.” Or an R.C. Majumdar could just as easily detect the ancient Roman policy of Tarquinius Superbus in the sinister manner in which the British morally corrupted our Princely States. Or an A.N. Upadhye who singlehandedly elevated Jain scholarship to Himalayan heights.

The real crux lies here: in a profound quest for knowledge for its own sake as opposed to purposeless controversies over the inclusion or exclusion of individual lessons in textbooks. Our lived experience shows that every such controversy has only bred more controversy culminating in scoring vacuous political goals.

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THE LATEST CONTROVERSY over the lessons about the Mughals only illustrates this point. The decadal outrage against the fact-free Marxist glorification of the Mughals while valid and understandable, only points to the aforementioned note about unfinished business. 

Rectifying these distortions is a long overdue need but it must not be done in a spirit of vengeance. The rectification endeavour must narrate the full and unvarnished truth of the Mughals in as much detail as possible and in their own words and not as how we see it. This is exactly what the Marxists did — twisting these Mughalai truths by boxing it within their ideological coffin. 

Thus, for example, if we need to unmask the barbaric face of Akbar, we have a firsthand account authored by his official, Sayid Abul Qasim. In his Fathnama—I-Chitor, he narrates in graphic detail how Akbar relied upon the Quran in his genocide of the Hindus of Chittorgarh. Such examples from the primary sources are direct evidences to show that Akbar was not all that great and that his phoney tolerance was a cloak that hid his bigotry.

Thomas Roe offers another such example about Jahangir. On the authority of personal experience, he narrates how one of Jahangir’s sons waylaid his caravan and stole valuable goods at the point of the sword.  

Then we have a similar eyewitness record that exposes Shahjahan’s savagery. Here is what Manucci saw in his opulent court: 

[Shah Jahan] kept his eye on his officials, punishing them rigorously… This was the reason that he kept at his court an official with several baskets full of poisonous snakes. He would order that in his presence they should be made to bite any official who had failed to administer justice, leaving the culprit lying in his presence till the breath left him. Thus, as I saw, the Kotwal called Muhammad Sa'id. This man…took bribes. Therefore an order was given that he should be bitten in one hand in (Shah Jahan's) presence by a cobra capello, the most poisonous snake on earth. The official in charge of the snakes was asked how long the man could live. The official replied that he could not live more than an hour. The king remained seated until the Kotwal expired. He then ordered that the body should lie two days in front of his court-house. Others who had deserved death were ordered to be thrown to mad elephants, who tore them to pieces… On another occasion, a favourite slave, who had been instructed not to give away betel to the courtiers, was seen to disobey the order. He was punished by being beaten to death in the emperor's presence. Shahjahan, like his father, took a horrid pleasure in witnessing the shocking punishments inflicted at his caprice.

Visualize a person being beaten repeatedly till he or she dies.

CLEARLY, INCLUDING SUCH PRIMARY SOURCE MATERIAL in textbooks tells the truth in a non-falsifiable fashion: students can draw their own conclusions with no external opinion colouring their minds. Getting dragged into controversies is an avoidable distraction from serious work.   

But these are short-term measures. The long term endeavour should include incubating and nurturing the kind of scholarly talent that the Modern Indian Renaissance had produced. As a first step, this effort involves studying these masters — what ideals inspired them and how they were able to produce the stunning body of splendid work that they did at a time when hardship was the norm. 

When we focus on this one area, superficial issues like including or dropping lessons from textbooks will become history. 

Postscript

R.C. Majumdar’s lament cum warning way back in 1939 is still valid, in fact, it is more urgent today: 

Apart from the history of India, there is hardly any centre of advanced study in the other branches of history either in our universities or outside them. European history no doubt forms a subject of study…and a few universities…have professors in these branches; but it is difficult to name any individual scholar or any school of studies in India that has made any original investigation in, or given any new interpretation of any period or aspect of the history of any country outside India. Whether it is…ancient, medieval, or modern civilisation of the East or the West, the contribution of India towards the study of their history may be regarded as almost nil. On the other hand, there is hardly any progressive country in the modern world that has not made important contributions to the study of Indian history and civilisation… We have paid the penalty for it in the past and may have to pay a greater penalty in future, if we cannot rise above it and put ourselves in touch with the currents of human civilisation that flow around us.” (Italics added) 

|| Satyam Shivam Sundaram || 

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