Politicalization of Indian History

This post was originally posted around 2 years ago. It took me around a month to complete. It was my effort and how can it be censored? Why and how it was removed remains a mystery to me. Is it possible for someone to delete my posts? I don’t know…Any ways re-posting it to check my assumptions.

I am a man who is an absolute sucker for History. Be it Indian History or World History, I have this tendency to poke my nose whenever and wherever something related to History is being discussed or talked about. I may not be as well read as the scholarly historians or even Mr. Jaswant Singh, but I know my history and also as I proclaim, I have multiple opinions about any topic which has the slightest hint of being argued. Hence I could not refrain myself from writing on the hot topic of Mr. Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

In fact, what you will read hereon will be a talk on a much larger perspective of India’s Modern History. How I have been feeling for a long time now, about the portrayal of facts and how the Text Books have been troubling me.

Whenever we start looking at our Independence Struggle, it begins at The Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. Well, calling it ‘A Sepoy Mutiny’ in itself is a misnomer as albeit the start it was a unified revolt of entire India that was under the control of British East India Company. The revolt had several inherent flaws resulting into its failure and bringing about a direct rule of the British Empire for the next 90 years. It was also a sort of laying the foundation of a political party, which has ruled for almost 55 years post Independence.

British learnt their mistakes quite quickly from the revolt. After the formations of just a few (albeit powerless and effect less) political parties like Dadabhai Naoroji’s East India Association in 1867, and Surendranath Banerjee’s Indian National Association in 1876, the British decided to let the vent of Indian people out through a medium which should act more like a safety valve(The well known – Safety Valve theory). Inspired by a suggestion made by A.O. Hume, a retired British civil servant, seventy-three Indian delegates met in Bombay in 1885 and founded the Indian National Congress. They were mostly members of the upwardly mobile and successful western-educated provincial elites, engaged in professions such as law, teaching, and journalism. At its inception, the Congress had no well-defined ideology and commanded few of the resources essential to a political organization. It functioned more as a debating society that met annually to express its loyalty to the British Raj and passed numerous resolutions on less controversial issues such as civil rights or opportunities in government, especially the civil service. These resolutions were presented to the Viceroy’s government and occasionally to the British Parliament. Despite its claim to represent all India, the Congress voiced the interests of urban elites; the number of participants from other economic backgrounds remained negligible.

Now, if the foundation itself was so measly and scrawny how do we expect a strong, fail-safe structure above it? My views here should NOT be interpreted as anti-Congress or anti-anything…I am just expressing my view point on something that has been and cannot be changed now.

So, coming back to the role of congress, we all know of its impinge on the common Indian in the early 20th century. The first spurts of nationalistic sentiment that rose amongst Congress members were when the desire to be represented in the bodies of government, to have a say, a vote in the lawmaking and issues of administration of India. Congressmen saw themselves as loyalists, but wanted an active role in governing their own country, albeit as part of the Empire. This trend was personified by Dadabhai Naoroji, who went as far as contesting, successfully, an election to the British House of Commons, becoming its first Indian member.

Whatever happened thereafter, advent of Mahatma Gandhi, the Satyagrah movement, the appeals, the rejections and eventually the ‘freedom’ at the cost of partition of India and Pakistan is supposedly known to all of us. I specifically use the word ‘supposedly’ because whatever history a common educated man of India knows – knows it through the NCERT or other text books prescribed in the curriculum of their schooling.

This was where the Congress had foresightedness. Feed the forming minds with glory. Show them only the brighter side of everything that actually happened. Present ourselves in white light. Hide everything that could blot the image. Contradict the facts as and when required.

My statements are not baseless. I remember Ms Sarojini Naidu commenting about Mr Jinnah as “ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity‘”. The Muslim League, formed in 1906, was the brainchild and conception of very few beleaguered Muslims under the leadership of Mr. Aga Khan. With their grievances and ‘national interest’ they went up to the then Viceroy of India, Lord Minto, who saw this as a nice opportunity to further decelerate the nationalism brewing in the country that time. I will like to quote Mr Aga Khan himself here, who had this to say about Mr Jinnah: “It was ‘freakishly ironic’ that ‘our doughtiest opponent in 1906′ was Jinnah, who ‘came out in bitter hostility towards all that I and my friends had done… He was the only well-known Muslim to take this attitude. He said that our principle of separate electorates was dividing the nation against itself.”

Well, young man. I will have nothing to do with this pseudo-religious approach to politics. I part company with the Congress and Gandhi. I do not believe in working up mob hysteria.” This was what Jinnah had to say about his parting ways with Congress, to a Journalist Durga Das. The reference is from Durga Das’s classic book, India from Curzon to Nehru and After.

Gandhi and Jinnah in Happier times
Gandhi and Jinnah in Happier times


What actually went wrong between Jinnah and Congress? We may never come to know. However, we all must understand that there was certainly some issue which made this crusader of Congress turn hostile. Thereafter, he has been portrayed as a villain.

Nehru and Jinnah
Nehru and Jinnah

Unfortunately, people do not give the treatment ‘History’ deserves. We could all understand History in a much more elaborate manner if we did not treat it as a heroes-and-villains movie.

Moreover, its not just Mr Jinnah’s story. Cover-ups have happened all through the lexis of Modern History of India. Facts have been suppressed. Events have lost into the manors of obscurity. And again it is not a figment of my imagination. I will again sight an example – The origin of demand for ‘Complete Independence’.

The first Indian political organization to call for complete independence from British rule was the Ghadar (or Gadar) Party, organized in 1913 by Indian immigrants in California. The Ghadar movement was remarkable for many reasons. Although Sikhs from Punjab made up the majority of its founding members, the movement was completely devoid of any trace of regional or religious chauvinism. Its platform was uncompromisingly secular and called for a total rejection of any form of caste discrimination. And unlike the Congress, its membership was primarily drawn from the working class and poor peasantry. Sikhs, Muslims, and Hindus of all castes (including Dalits) were welcomed in the movement without bias or discrimination.

The literature of the Ghadar Party was also the clearest in describing the depth of misery that the common people of India experienced under British rule. They were also amongst the first to anticipate the outbreak of the First World War. Correctly sensing that it was an opportunity for the Indian people to liberate themselves from the yolk of colonial rule, they called for a mass movement for total independence. In their widely distributed poster, “Jang Da Hoka” (Declaration of War) they warned of the danger of Indian soldiers being drawn into the British War effort in the First World War.

The Congress failed to take advantage of this tremendous opportunity and leaders like Gandhi went as far as campaigning for the British War effort, calling upon Indians to enrol in the British Army. This treacherous and sycophantic policy of Gandhi not only drew biting criticism from Ghadar activists, but opposition from other quarters also emerged.

Now, how many of the Indian population have even heard the name of ‘Ghadar Party’? Forget the contributions they made. And why is it so?

Why have people who have such rich History to look at, not even bothered to pop simple questions? Why do they believe everything that is served in a platter to them with garnishing of fallacy so evident? Why can’t we question? Why is it hysteria if text books are tampered a little bit (even though the motive of that tampering was also political)? Why reading about us is ‘boring’? Why knowing facts is ‘Not Cool!’ ? Why History doesn’t interests people? Even simple facts like how our Constitution was formed is not known, the constitution which we all abide by or even just the claims to do so. How can we let a single party play around with our History? Why haven’t we read books like Freedom at Midnight by Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins. And if we have read such text, why don’t we question? Where has the sensibility gone? I am bewildered! I sign off now…

Just leaving you with a pic for your bewilder ness …Enjoy!

Nehru Smoking!
Nehru Smoking!



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4 Responses

  1. Was it removed? I don’t get.

  2. Didn’t know nehru was a smoker

  3. history is written by winners. and if there’s any attempt to restore balance, they say its saffornisation!

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