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The Expected Approach:

History is the memory of a nation. Just as a person’s attitude and approach in life is determined by his subconscious memories, the collective attitude and approach of a nation is determined primarily by, among other things, the perception of its history.

Hindutva historiography rests on extremely weak foundations. It cannot survive on academic premises, and this agenda that is based on lies and deceit can never gain recognition in serious academic circles. But public memory does not have such high standards; it is not based upon serious academic and sound historical foundations. Often, even folklore and fictional stories succeed in building public memory.

Looking at the large scale on which this concocted version of history is being constructed, how it is being propagated under massive state patronage expending untold resources, and how it is being disseminated using books and publications, films, political speeches and school textbooks, it is feared that it would yield horrifying results. Hence, we need to give some serious attention to this issue. Allow me to recommend some points in this regard:

1. We need to present a discourse of history which is free of sectarian and communal overtones. Hindu communal history cannot be countered with Muslim communal history; that would make matters even worse. Moreover, Muslim communal history and historical exaggerations do not augur well with the character and status of the Muslim Ummah either. This Ummah is the torchbearer of certain principles and values of justice and righteousness. It is imperative to its ideology and expected nature to examine historical records and testimonials, and then judge with the standards of truth and justice, not those of communal prejudices. All those policies which were by the principles of truth and justice deserve our appreciation, regardless of whether those policies were formulated by Muslim rulers

a non-Muslim ruler. What was the actual policy of a particular ruler? What did he do? To ascertain these, we would take the help of recognized tools of verification, with all due diligence that our views and biases are not allowed to influence our results. Rigid adherence to this methodology alone would bring to the fore the salient points of our principles and ideology. Otherwise, just as minority communalism always serves to fan and provoke majoritarian communalism, dishing out a historical narrative presented with minority communal overtones would pave the way for a more aggressive historical narrative with majoritarian overtones. History and historical narratives are important tools in the clash of identities, and such clashes cause maximum damage to historical facts. It is also a fact that in such a scenario, it is the minority history that sustains the most bruises. Hence, we should always try to keep history from being used as a battlefield in the clash of identities. The history we compile should be based on bare, irrefutable facts. If in the future, we succeed in compiling such a history, it would be counted as a new tradition of historiography in this country. In an environment where the science of historiography has been compromised by various political and ideological prejudices, this just and factual historiography would command the attention of the world and display our moral superiority as well.

2. The vast majority of Muslims are composed of the original inhabitants of this country itself. They too belong to the bloodline of ancient India and equally share its heritage. Muslims consider all human beings their brothers; accepting the fine points of the shared cultural heritage of the world is part of their religious teachings. God’s guidance has reached every nation on earth, and God’s prophets and messengers have preached in all nations and communities. It is for this reason that we find some good things in the history of all nations. Hence, there is no reason why Muslims should not appreciate and hold in high esteem the good and worthy aspects of ancient India or view its history with disgust. We too should feel proud of all those things in the history of ancient India which are worth being prided upon. Today, the decimal system of numbers is being used all over the world, and the world calls it Arabic numerals. But Muslims have never hidden the fact that the inventors of this system were Hindus, and it is from Hindus that the Arabs first learnt this system before spreading it to the rest of the world. In his famous book, Ikhbar alUlama bi Akhbar alHukama, Al-Qafti (died: 1248 CE), has conceded and described how this was actually invented by the Hindus [44], which spread out to the world through the writings of Al-Khwarizmi and Al-Kandi. Thus, acknowledging every good thing and giving due credit to its inventor has always been like Muslims. Even today, we need to act as ambassadors of this tradition. We should keep clear of polytheism, paganism and other such evils, but there is no reason why we should keep ourselves away from the worthy and beneficent aspects of this shared heritage too.

However, narrating a baseless and fabricated history for the sole purpose of rousing national pride is a major threat to truth and knowledge. Hence, it is necessary to falsify unfounded and bogus claims on sound academic premises. Along with presenting the truth with clear arguments, we should also try to seriously and earnestly make them understand that a fictional historical narrative that is founded on lies makes our actual historical gems appear dubious too. Hence, such a fraudulent practice defeats the very objective – of presenting the merits of Indian history before the world – that these gentlemen claim to pursue.

3. It is necessary to refute the claim that Aryans were the original inhabitants of India. It is because of this hypothesis that Indian citizens are classified into imaginary categories of native and foreigner. This hypothesis also devalues the distinct importance of Dravidian and Adivasi history and reinforces the concept of superiority of a particular race. (Nazism’s presumed superiority of the Aryan race and Darwinian concepts of Caucasian superiority have already wreaked havoc in the preceding centuries in the form of the Second World War, global colonialism and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, among many other things…)

The fact remains that the entire population of this country owes its lineage to those who had migrated here from elsewhere. The oldest inhabitants of this land are the Adivasis and those who are referred to as AASI (Ancient Ancestral South Indians). There are very few people today who retain the pure bloodline of those tribes; those who do are some Adivasis and some tribes of the Andaman and Nicobar forests. In ancient times, these people intermingled with the hunters who had arrived in the Indus Valley from Iran. Their intermarriage gave rise to a new race, which is referred to as the ASI (Ancestral South Indian) race. In later times, the Aryans who arrived in India from Eurasia intermarried with the AASI people to give rise to the ANI (Ancestral North Indian) race. Today, all the citizens of India belong to the ASI and ANI races. Some clans (the upper caste residents of North India) have a greater ratio of ANI genes, whereas some others have a greater ratio of ASI genes. The ancestors of every Indian citizen have migrated to India from some other foreign land at some point in time; some had come to India in the near past, while others had arrived here in the distant past. But today, we rarely come across the pure lineage of those who had come in the distant past. This is because they intermingled and intermarried with those who arrived later and gave rise to new races. Hence, the family trees of most modern-day Indians boast of immigrants from various periods of history. This is a scientific fact. [45]

There happens to be only one logical narrative of human racial history, and it is none other than:
“O people, We have indeed created you from a single (pair of) man and woman, and then made you into groups and tribes, so that you might recognise each other.”
[Surah al Hujurat, ayat 13]

The concept of discrimination between ‘natives’ and ‘foreigners’ that nationalists had been presenting all over the world has now been rendered obsolete in the wake of modern scientific investigations. At least in India, calling some people natives and others foreigners is an absolutely ridiculous idea.

It is the need of the hour to bring these facts before the public with all the resources available to us and to propagate the theory of ‘unity of human lineage’ before the world.

4. The history of the Middle Ages is intended at targeting Indian Muslims. In recent years, quite a few intense and misleading campaigns have been launched in this regard on all levels. In reply, some naive Muslims tend to defend everything that the Muslim rulers of that period did – whether good or bad. They act as if their community pride is at stake, and resort to narrating a communal history of their own. It should be understood that such a tendency only serves to vindicate false historical narratives. In our opinion, the following facts and principles ought to determine our approach:

a. In the ancient and middle ages, human migration, the desire to conquer new lands and expansionist wars were common and universal tendencies, and quite routine. Muslims were not the only people who did this. Even before the Muslims, Aryans and other tribes entered India from Central Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East as migrants or invaders.
b. It is not appropriate to view the battles fought in the Middle Ages from the myopic lens of religion and identity alone. These battles were fought to gain political supremacy. The number of battles that Hindus have fought against Muslims gets dwarfed significantly in comparison to the number of battles various Hindu kings have fought against each other. Moreover, Muslim invaders did not attack Hindu kingdoms alone; they also targeted Muslim sovereignties.
c. The Muslim rulers of the Middle Ages were not ambassadors of Islam. Many of them led lives which were completely barren of Islamic teachings. These rulers performed many good deeds, which need to be introduced to the masses; but they also performed bad deeds. Those bad deeds cannot be justified, and there is no need to unnecessarily denounce those historical facts which are well-established. We shall openly condemn their mistakes, and clarify how their mistakes went against the known principles of Islam. But it is also true that most rulers of that period committed such mistakes and bad deeds. Their mistakes should not be allowed to obscure their commendable feats and the welfare activities they rendered in the service of the nation; we shall highlight those feats as well.
d. The elite and influential class of the Middle Ages (rulers, poets and artists, scholars and researchers, Sufis and religious leaders and other political and social leaders) has contributed a lot to this country. The contributions of the Middle Ages towards making India what it is today far exceed the contributions made during the ancient and modern ages. During Aurangzeb’s reign, India alone made up 24% of the world’s GDP, which is the highest for any country till date. This was the first and last time in recorded history that India had emerged as the industrial capital of the world.
e. The role of Muslims in India’s freedom struggle, and the contributions and sacrifices made by Muslims in achieving independence form an important chapter of our history, which we all feel proud of. Malicious attempts are being made to obfuscate this chapter. It is very important that we thwart all such attempts. It is necessary to bring forth the real history with all sound supportive evidence. The celebration of 75 years of independence provides us with an excellent opportunity to execute this task. We need a strong campaign to be run on traditional and social media.

Likewise, it is also required to compile the true post-independence history and to make it public. A prime example of how attempts are being made to corrupt this history can be found in the recently released film, Kashmir Files. A large scale exercise is underway to distort history and present a fake version of history on communally sensitive topics like the local situation in Kashmir, Bengal and Kerala, the government schemes related to minorities and the relation between the minorities and the government, communal riots, Urdu language, minority educational institutions and universities, relations between India and Muslim countries and our foreign policy and Babri Masjid. In the coming years, this fake and artificial history would play a major role in determining the collective attitude of Indians. It is therefore necessary to challenge it on all fronts and to bring forth the correct version of history today.

5. In order to dissect and investigate these false historical narratives, we need to acquaint ourselves with reliable and credible sources, and they should be well within our reach. How did the Indian population arise out of the first human being? For a well-referenced but easy to understand research on this topic of ‘Peopling of India’, may I suggest Tony Joseph’s (born in 1963) book, which has been cited in this chapter. For some eye-opening information on ancient India, readers are advised to refer to books authored by Prof. DN Jha (1940-2021) [46] and Romila Thapar (born in 1931) [47]. For authentic history of South India, please refer to KA Nilakanta Sastri (1892-1975). American anthropologist, Rita Wright (born in 1936) has written extensively on the Indus Valley civilization; her books have been cited in this chapter. The works of David Reich (American genealogist, born in 1974), DW Anthony (Archaeologist and anthropologist) and Asko Parpola (expert on India, born in 1941) have also been cited in this chapter.

The credit for publishing the most extensive and most important research on the history of the Middle Ages goes to Irfan Habib (born in 1931) [48]. An American researcher, Audrey Truschke, has written very boldly about the history of India’s Middle Ages [49]. American anthropologist, Richard Eaton has shed light on some very sensitive aspects of the history of the Middle Ages like forced religious conversions, demolition of temples, the relations Muslim rulers had with their Hindu subjects etc. His books on these topics are backed by sound references and make for compulsory reading [50].

Shashi Tharoor’s books are appreciated by his readers for their eloquent language and erudite content. He has used his literary skills to beautifully repudiate false narratives on the Middle Ages that are dished out by Hindutva ‘historians’. [51]

The research work carried out by Darul Musannifeen, Shibli Academy, Azamgarh in the Middle Ages is worth mentioning here. This scholarly research has been carried out in Urdu, and presents the Islamic perspective on this subject. Its 35-book series on the History of India serves as a source of sound research of exceptionally high standards, especially the books authored by Maulana Sabahuddin Abdur Rahman (some 12 books), Allamah Shibli (on Aurangzeb Alamgir) and Maulana Syed Sulaiman Nadvi (on relations between India and Arab countries).

Shashi Tharoor’s books provide important and interesting anecdotes on the history of modern India (British and post-independence period) as well. Although his books have that unmistakable Congress flavour, they are nevertheless quite resourceful [52]. French expert on India, Christophe Jaffrelot (born in 1964) has also contributed immensely to this subject [53]. His books on Hindu communalism and Hindutva have grabbed eyeballs across the world [54]. His treatises on Dalit history [55] and the condition of Muslims [56] deserve our attention.

Books and articles authored by eminent personalities like Ramachandra Guha (born in 1958), Arundhati Roy (born in 1961), Gyan Prakash and Mushirul Hasan (1949-2018) are also quite helpful in understanding the history of modern India.

Syed Ubaidur Rahman (born in 1975) has written concise but well-referenced books on the role of Muslims in India’s freedom struggle. Prof. Ram Puniyani has written some wonderful books on history for children.

I have presented this brief (and certainly not exhaustive) analysis of the academic work that has been carried out on Indian history because we need to read these books and disseminate correct and authentic historical narratives among the masses.

6. The actual agenda of this entire exercise of Hindutva historiography is to segregate Muslims and Christians from the mainstream. They are trying to narrate history in a manner that would convince the masses that Muslims are foreign invaders, and hence alien to Indian culture. Whether or not this narrative would succeed in creating a space in public memory depends entirely on our approach today. Our current approach would either reinforce this narrative or weaken it. The more we segregate ourselves into ghettos, the weaker our communication with fellow Indians, and the more we delve into reactionary and identity politics, the more authentic this forged historical narrative would appear to be. The present politics and political approaches have adopted tinted spectacles to view our past. This destructive agenda of historical negationism cannot be defeated until and unless we adopt some proactive measures to dismantle this conspiracy and make fellow Indians realize how distorted it is.

References

1. Ali bin Yusuf AlQafti (2005) Ikhbar alUlama bi Akhbar alHukama, Darul Kutub alAlmiyah, Manshoorat, Muhammad Ali AlBaizoon, Beirut.

2. Narsimhan VM, Patterson N, Moorjani P, et al. The Formation of Human Populations in South and Central Asia. Science. 2019;365 (6457): eaat7487.doi:10.1126/ science.aat7487

3. The following books are worth reading on this subject: DN Jha (2004) Early India: A Concise History. India: Manohar Publishers and Distributers. DN Jha (2018) Against the Grain: Notes of Identity, Intolerance and History. India: Manohar

4. The following books are highly recommended: Romila Thapar (1993), Interpreting Early India. India: OUP India Romila Thapar (2000), Cultural Pasts: Essays in Early Indian History. India: Oxford University Press Romila Thapar (2004), Early India: From the Origins to AD 1300. United States, University of California Press

5. His 36-volume People’s History of India deserves special mention. It is a very important reference book. Its middle volumes of this series shed ample light on various aspects of the Middle Ages. 6. His book, Aurangzeb: The Life and Legacy of India’s Most Controversial King was met with a protest campaign in the USA.

7. The following books are especially important: Richard Eaton et al (2001), Essays on Islam and Indian History, Oxford University Press, Delhi Richard Eaton (2005), A Social History of the Deccan, 1300-1761: Cambridge University Press, London Richard Eaton, India’s Islamic Traditions 711-1750 (2006), Oxford University Press, New Delhi

8. Shashi Tharoor (2016), An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India, Aleph

9. Shashi Tharoor (2012), India: From Midnight to the Millennium and Beyond. India: Penguin Random House India Private Ltd Shashi Tharoor (2018), Nehru: The Invention of India. India: Penguin Random House India Private Ltd Shashi Tharoor (2021), The Struggle for India’s Soul: Nationalism and the Fate of Democracy. United Kingdom: C Hurst (Publishers) Ltd

10. Cristophe Jaffrelot (2011). India Since 1950: Society, Politics, Economy and Culture, Yatra Books, New Delhi

11. Christophe Jaffrelot (2021), Modi’s India: Hindu Nationalism and the Rise of Ethnic Democracy; Princeton University Press, USA Christophe Jaffrelot (2021), Saffron ‘Modernity’ in India: Narendra Modi and his Experiment with Gujarat; C Hurst (Publishers) Limited, UK Christophe Jaffrelot (2005) The Sangh Parivar: A Reader (2005); Oxford University Press, New Delhi 12. Christophe Jaffrelot (2003), India’s Silent Revolution: The Rise of the Lower Castes in North India; Hurst, UK 13. Christophe Jaffrelot (2012) Muslims in Indian Cities: Trajectories of Marginalisation; Harper Collins Publishers, India

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