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Mon. Dec 5th, 2022
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NEW DELHI: The topic was, “Suppression of Indic view: Real or Imaginary,” and it created an extremely engaging exchange of divergent views at the 2022 Times Now Summit on Thursday.
November 24 was also the 400th birth anniversary of Ahom military general Lachit Barphukan who had defeated Aurgangzeb’s army in the battle of Saraighat in 1671. Not many across the country have heard of Barphukan’s military triumph. Historian Vikram Sampath explained why. “Because we were not told about it,” he said.
He further said that while all know about the battles of Tarain, Panipat, Plassey and the Anglo-Sikh and Anglo-Maratha wars, “the battle of Saraighat was not part of our growing up years.”
Sampath also spoke about the 1741 battle of Colachel where Raja Marthanda Varma defeated the Dutch East Indies and ended its imperialist ambition in India. “In any other country, statues of Marthanda Varma would be put up in every square,” he said.
The historian said that we look at our past from a sense of self-loathing, with a sense of apologia, which has been handed down from our colonial masters and perfected after independence by what is commonly known as Nehruvian consensus.
Sampath said that the narrative which informs history in post-independence India was ideologically tainted. “We have given up this legitimate sense of pride that we need to have in our past,” he said, adding there’s a thin little margin between jingoism and pride.
“At the altar of political correctness and machinations, we have unfortunately made Indian history the scapegoat and generations have grown up deracinated. We don’t take pride in our own achievement. There is a spectacular disconnect with our past and that is almost held up as a trophy. There’s a complete erasure of Indic achievements — medicine, philosophy, sciences, architectures, Mathematics. Why does all this not form part of our growing up years? Why are we so besotted by the western model?,” he asked
Sampath said that the edifice of national unity cannot rest on the shaky foundation of fabricated history. “We haven’t made peace with our past. Tell the truth as it is. Be honest with our past. Stare it in the face and be done with it,” he said.
Senior Supreme Court advocate Salman Khursheed said that the history in post-independence India was written by renowned historians.
“Don’t write them off. These historians did not belong to a particular community. They did not have political ambitions. They were just very good historians who understood certain perspectives and presented them. To say that there was wholesale falsification of the truth is a bit of exaggeration. It may be something that may be happening today,” Khursheed said.
Khursheed, also a Congress politician, said that there‘s a fantastic amount of scholarship on ancient India that we are all proud of. “It doesn’t belong to any political party,” he said .
“There may be certain dimensions of medieval India that people may have specific disputes with. You call something invasion or migration. It has happened around the world. Nothing is static, nothing can be static. Nothing can be returned in time. Much was added to this fantastic country and culture by medieval India. We should celebrate what we have today,” he said.
“If somebody feels that if some movement, idea or concept hasn’t got its share then we must give it,” Khursheed said.
Supreme Court counsel J Sai Deepak said that after Independence, historians presenting an alternative point of view such as RC Majumdar and Jadunath Sarkar were kept outside the pale of the establishment. “All these people who were comfortable presenting uncomfortable truths were relegated to the margins,” he said.
He wondered why after Partition, which caused the death of millions, an attempt was made to “build a mythical unity at the altar of falsified history”. He added that the government has “an obligation” to place historical facts on the table.
“History isn’t about looking back at the past, learning some lessons and moving forward. We must ensure that there is a plurality of voices,” Deepak said.
Deepak suggested, “Perhaps history should be taken away from the realm of government altogether and placed before a body of experts who are in a position to arrive at a consensus regarding what kind of curriculum is to be presented. This happens in other countries. Parents are also invited for their inputs.”
Author Pawan Verma said there were severe setbacks to Indic civilizations throughout history. “We had the Turkic-Islamic invasion. We cannot gloss over the facts of history. It was, as Will Durant said, one of the bloodiest chapters in the history of the world. A great degree of destruction and damage was done, particularly to Hinduism, its temples, artefacts and centres of learning.”
He further said, “There are two great achievements in spite of that attack. Hinduism survived because it is a sanatan religion. It reinvented itself, particularly through the Bhakti movement, when it took religion to the masses in their own language. We also built as an extremely invaluable part of the heritage, Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb, where we included in a syncretic manner the influences which have come in the philosophical, cultural and literary parts of our life”
Verma said that the British conquest was more lethal. “It played an important part in downplaying our Indic legacy. It was not just physical subjugation but also the colonization of our mind. We began to look at ourselves with heenta (inferiority) and a sense of criticism at our own cultural legacy and past…The impact of colonialism on our minds has still not gone,” he said.
He also said that as a consequence of colonialism, some of those who inherited power after 1947, continued to imbibe the colonial bias. “Which is that everything about our past was, to quote Jawaharlal Nehru, for whom I have otherwise the deepest respect, “deadwood.”
The past was just seen as superstition, prejudice and ritual. “The attempt was to define modernity purely in a Western paradigm. A great deal was lost because we did not apply ourselves to resurrecting, recreating, reappropriating aspects of the Indic legacy. And that is where history was also distorted,” he said.
Varma concluded by saying, “You cannot excavate the acrimonies of the past today. We are a modern republic. We have recognized ourselves to be a multi-religious, multi-lingual, multicultural state in accordance with the great Indic legacy.”
Rahul Shivshankar of Times Now anchored the discussion.

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