Tuesday, May 22, 2007

history? what history?

Read this article regarding the release of the movie "Amu", which according to writer-director Shonali Bose is the 'suppressed history of genocide' after the 1984 assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The Indian Censor Board which gave it a 'A' rating had to say this when asked for a reason,
Why should young people know a history that is better buried and forgotten?

Other than the aspect of moral-policing, the statement gives an indication of the role and importance of history in society. In this case, why shouldn't people get to know about the incident? Surely, the sikh roits are painful and bring back sad memories, but the story is important to be told to expose the role played by everyone involved---the state, the goons of the Congress party, the lack of convictions, the extent of illogical hatred. Cannot history teach us how excessive powers with the State can result in such unaccountable tragedies? cannot it teach us what the results of such pogroms can be? and cannot it show how short-sighted humans are, blaming an entire sect for the act of a few? Is history viewed in this context and more generally as learning tool for the present and future from past experiences? or is it just an event and a date, with a narrow view of what the events means and implies.

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As school kids, history was always taught as a subject to learn dates and related events. The bigger context of the events, the reasons behinds these actions, parallels between events of yesterday and today, ideologies of people rather than people taught as idols is hardly taught. History textbooks do not have letters, essays, articles written during the times being studied. Wonder why? and wonder how it would have been studying history in that manner.


Anonymous said...


I hope you will agree with me that, for the same reasons, we should also carefully study the atrocities committed by moghul rulers, the number of temples they razed to ground, the amount of religious sacrilege, the extent of forcible conversions, and religion based taxes imposed on the masses.

It is not just enough to study the religious tolerance of Akhbar and the arhitectural contributions of Shahjahan.

This will put our history into better context despite the fact that it may hurt the sentiments of present-day muslims.


Purushottam said...

curious why you mention just the moghuls.

certainly, all history should be taught as more than a sequence of dates and events.

i dont know what you mean by context, my rather crude understanding of importance of history is to make mappings from past events to current events and also look ath them as test cases. e.g., Bhagat Singh's action against the Brits for India's freedom can teach us to standup to whatever authority (state, corporates) that infringes on our freedom ... but that connection is never made.

Anonymous said...

i made the mention of moghuls because this is another part of our history that is tightly pushed under the carpet. our text books do not talk about the amount of torture and suffering under the moghul rulers, but only praise their "religious tolerance" and architectural contributions!

Anonymous said...

kulk, hello. looong time. arre there is a decent book by mark tully. http://www.amazon.com/Amritsar-Mrs-Gandhis-Last-Battle/dp/0836428269

banned in india. have u read it?

Purushottam said...

swati, nope have not read it, had not heard about it! will keeps my eyes open for it though. Looks like Rupa published it, but is not listed on their website.

have you read it? any highlights?