If V S Naipaul were alive today, he probably would have lauded the decision of the BJP government to remove Mughal history from school textbooks. Perhaps, with a few qualifications. Or perhaps, not.
The decision by NCERT to remove Mughal history from textbooks has sparked an uproar. Historians are livid and a section of society not aligned with the BJP is up in arms.
The central argument is, how can one remove nearly 250 years of history and dump it in the bin? Especially when the Mughal rule had a huge impact on the country.
Naipaul often said and wrote that India is a wounded civilisation. It has been wounded, plundered, ravaged and massacred by countless invasions by foreigners, mostly followers of Islam.
These bloody invasions started around 1000 AD and ended in 1947 when the British finally left India. But by then India had changed into something it was not.
Consider the invasion of Mongul-Turkish warrior Timur in 1398. He invaded India on the pretext that the Delhi Sultan was too lenient toward his Hindu subjects.
By the time he left, nearly a million Hindus were massacred. Without this invasion, Babur might never have thought of coming to India.
These invaders collectively wrote their history in stone. The monuments, mostly marvellous to the present-day onlooker or tourist, bear testimony to the subjugation of a nation for well over 900 years.
Sadly, what we accept as heritage today is the history of invaders written in stone. There is no country in the world that has suffered so much over such a long period. What this subjugation did to the nation has not been entirely studied.
This aspect of history is rarely visited because it is too painful. And also, many would rather forget it than debate it. The result is that India remains wounded.
There is no country in the world that has suffered so much over such a long period. What this subjugation did to the nation has not been entirely studied.
Think about it. As the time for independence approached, the Muslim League steadfastly refused to accept rule by the majority of Hindus and pressed for a separate electorate which would virtually give them equal power. Eventually, the country was partitioned.
Now imagine how Hindus endured Muslim rule for almost 700 years and seriously think how it must have completely decimated their self-confidence, morale, self-respect and belief in themselves. Imagine not being able to write your history for 700 years.
About the Muslim reaction to all this, Naipaul said, “Muslims shouldn't be too sensitive about this. Because in the Islamic world, a similar vandalisation occurred with the Mongols. Muslims all over still grieve about that.”
The NCERT decision is labelled as a resurgence of the Hindu identity which is viewed as anti-Indian by some. Naipaul, on the other hand, had this to say, “…this new kind of self-awareness in India, the Hindu idea is almost a necessary early stage.
It contains the beginnings of larger, new ideas: the idea of history, and the idea of the human family of India. I hope this self-awareness doesn't stay there, and I don't think it will, but it's necessary.”
It is with this background that one has to look at the decision of the BJP government to withdraw or reduce the importance of Mughal rule in India. Actually, it is not just the Mughal rule that hurts, but 700 years of invasions.
The irony of the decision, though, is how can one erase the history of Mughal or Muslim rule when thousands of monuments like the Red Fort, Taj Mahal, Qutub Minar, Fatehpur Sikri, etc and many tombs remain as heritage pieces? Will the BJP do a Bamiyan on all these structures?
The irony of the decision, though, is how can one erase the history of Mughal or Muslim rule when thousands of monuments like the Red Fort, Taj Mahal, Qutub Minar, Fatehpur Sikri, etc and many tombs remain as heritage pieces?
To completely erase 900 years of foreign rule, is simply impossible in today’s modern world.
I just hope the NCERT decision eventually results in the re-reading and re-interpretation of history from the Hindu standpoint and provokes a deeper examination of how a nation was severely wounded by foreign rule.