Battles in history and history-writing…

An important cautious piece in Mint. As the current government looks to rewrite Indian history it should be careful. It is fine to think about rescuing Indian history from the Marxian paradigm but one should not fall into another trap:

Winston Churchill once famously quipped that “history will be kind to me, for I intend to write it”. Implicit in his statement was the certitude that those with the privilege of writing history have the first shot at distorting it. And it is often said that the privilege of writing history ends up with the victors. So, who won the 1576 battle of Haldighati between Pratap Singh (better known as Maharana Pratap), ruler of a rump kingdom of Mewar, and the forces of Akbar, the Mughal emperor? The question has gained relevance since three ministers in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government of Rajasthan have backed a proposal to rewrite the history books for university courses. The ministers contend that the textbooks must be changed to reflect that Singh defeated Akbar and not the other way round, as is more widely understood. Not to be left behind, Haryana’s education minister too is keen on making the same changes in his state.


Clearly, some rewriting is required. Equally clearly—for history is a core component of identity for communities and nations alike—rewriting will be a contentious project. BJP leaders replacing the wrongs of Marxist historians with their own would be exactly the wrong way to go about it. Attempts like the one in Rajasthan will discredit the project beyond rescue.



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