Sunday, Jul 03, 2022
Cover Story

Burden Of History And The Need To Erase The Past For Political Gains

Historiography under previous governments can, and should, be contested. But history that’s being rewritten under the present government is not merely to eulogise some leaders, but also, and more worryingly, to condemn several chapters of the past.

Speak, your life is still your own: Artwork by Varunika Saraf. Watercolour and glass beads on paper

The first attempt to change an Islamic nomenclature in independent India came soon after Partition. It was not in a UP town, not by the Jana Sangh or Hindu Mahasabha, but in the coun­­try’s capital, at a place considered to be the icon of liberal values, when Modern School, Barakhambha Road, renamed its Akbar House as Subhash House. It was still the India of Gandhi and Nehru, but perhaps only one teacher at the elite school expressed his dissatisfaction.

But that was an aberration. While a Delhi school changed a name, India didn’t reject its past. Akbar was included in the pantheon of the greatest Indian rulers, as over the following decades the most influential section of Indian historiography, supported and funded by successive governments, offered sufficient space to Islamic rulers. Marking a reversal, the BJP now wants to rew­rite history from “Bharat’s perspective” that doe­sn’t gloss over the “atrocities” committed by Muslim rulers.