History will remain painful unless we invest in serious scholarship

Sanjeev Sanyal wrote a good article on the need to rewrite Indian history books which have skipped details and have been biased. However, the question remains who shall wrote these books? And do we have enough talent to not just write today’s works but continue the work in future as well?

Surya Marathe in Swarajya says govt needs to invest serously in generating history scholarship in future:

The trouble with trying to correct history is that it is very hard to justify what is correct. And some people can indeed go too far in giving their imagined history. After all, claims of us having flown airplanes in Vedic times aren’t new. Admittedly, they do not come from the RSS or the BJP, but it is their reputation that gets damaged.

One could argue that it is the sinister media at play in associating every lunatic with RSS without fact-checking or mocking many factually correct claims by some RSS people as saffronization. While there’s truth in this, having understood the constraint of having to work in an environment of hostile media, there needs to be a strategy to counter it intellectually and not capitulate.

Firstly, we must be prepared to accept incidents in history that reflect poorly on some people or groups we admire. There has never been a flawless person ever and there will never be. The reason why I stress on this is because, I think, this is the greatest undoing of the Leftists. There isn’t a single admirable thing about Savarkar according to them.

In the same spirit, Nehru seems to be a modern-day Sri Rama (an anathema himself), perfect from every angle. If we are to present an alternative history that has our heroes as impeccable as Leftists’ creation of Nehru then that version is likely to meet the same fate which the Left version meets today. No sensible person is ever going to take it seriously.

The necessary and sufficient condition for ensuring that a political history gets passed on to generations is intellectual honesty. Studying history entails countless hours of reading, assimilating and analyzing various sources. It is a job that requires perseverance, dedication and discipline. The reason why the Right, with some notable exceptions, has not brought down the Marxist mafia is because most people aren’t prepared to dedicate the requisite efforts towards a serious study of history. And that is understandable. People have to make a living.

It is necessary for those sympathetic to an intellectually honest narrative of history to get a hearing in the academic community. The only way, then, for that to happen is to supply the market with good quality academic historians. This is where the government can and should step in. Directly planting its supporters with questionable academic credentials is appealing in the short run but is fraught with dangers that go beyond simply a fall of reputation. We don’t have to look too far for an example of how perverse consequences of narrow-minded revision of history can be.

The question is how to create good quality academic historians?

Need to target them young:

I believe this can be achieved by incentivizing sharp, analytical students at an early age to take up history as a profession. This can be done by providing fellowships and scholarships for students doing well in their Class XII exams, should they choose to study history in their undergrad and post-grad. For example, providing 5 scholarships of amounts Rs.10,000 per month for history UG and PG students each year amounts to about Rs.30 Lacs (5 students, 5 years (3UG+2PG), 12 months). On top of this, 3 scholarships of amount Rs.30,000 per month for PhD students each year amounts to about Rs.54 Lacs. (3 students, 5 years, 12 months).

For a net investment of about 1 crore a year, an amount that is tiny for the government, we can hope to attract talented students who have other outside options to take up a career in history. If we are to do this though, it has to be ensured, at any cost, that only the meritorious students get the scholarships. The government should, under no circumstances, be obligated to provide scholarships to people who don’t make the cut. In that sense, probably a private entity awarding these scholarships may be a better idea as a number of foundations passionate about history will ensure that they don’t fund students who are taking up history purely because of lack of options.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, this is a cleaner route. If the talented pool that we select does end up having very similar views on history as are prevalent today we should probably introspect on whether the version of history that we think is concocted, really biased after all. My hypothesis is that it is extremely unlikely. If we do end up attracting people who have outside options to take up history through scholarships, we will see major upheaval in how academic history is taught and pursued in India.

If this experiment succeeds, non-practitioners like me will not have to defend India’s contribution in sciences, mathematics, art, culture and medicine. We owe an honest narration of history to our future generations. Let us plant the trees. The rest will take care of itself.


I mean the current govt always makes noise about need to rewrite history and so on. But it does not go anywhere as there is hardly any serious scholarship to verify and continue the ideas.  If history has to be rewritten, we need people to write it.. Otherwise the comments will be laughed off or just ignored..

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