September 30, 2006

Percolation Through Blogging: Watched Two Approaches to History

Source of Knowledge: The Sun

While reading the comments of Kevin M Levin on the article of Manning, I observed with great amazement that how the topics of history are being debated and researched in America. They are taking the topic of Civil War quite seriously. They are debating and exploring different sources and methods to define and identify the cause of the event which is now popular as Civil War. Civil War is a chapter in American history, which is given great respect by the Americans. They are not ready to accept that it had actually taken place in America. They are debating that why it had actually happened at all. They are debating the issues which concerned the Southern states. They are trying to find out the reasons behind the various stands of Confederates. They are not satisfied with one or two observations. They want to explore all the issues from every possible angle. They are also trying to understand the responses of the Unionist approach to the contentions of the group which was definitely a part of America. They want to reason out for the course of the events as it had taken place.

I have located the blog of Kevin when he blogged on the blogger. Then he shifted to typepad because he did not find blogger quite comfortable or may be it did not live up to the expectations of a blogger who is a "a High School History Teacher and Civil War Historian -- Blogged Daily." It is from his blog that I have come across many other blogs which had taken the civil war as one of their main topic. Earlier, I was confined to Education Forum. Therein, mostly European teachers and research scholars debate on some selective issues. No doubt, many of the topics are concerned with American history. Their debate on assassination of JFK is quite popular. It was there, that I learnt that there were very few sources on Civil War. I was not satisfied with the observation. In their resource section, there were some links to many original sources for the period 1860 onwards. However, later I graduated and explored the web further. I myself started blogging in February 2005. During the course of blogging, I had come across many blogs which discussed the American history. It was through such blogs that I located many sources on American history.

Anyhow, the comments on the article picked by Kevin which he has assured will continue for sometime, has left me with different feelings. I am wondering that why similar type activity is not being taken in India. In India, it seems, that the history of India is settled and it is felt and assumed that there is no need for any such debate. There are many time periods in India which require lot of research and debate. It is in that debate that India can find the real definition of India. During 19th century, there are many such events which require deeper probe. If I try to make a list of such events, then I would like to begin with Anlgo Maratha War, treaty with Baji Rao II, English relations with Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the war activities of English in Burma and Afghanistan, the Sindh Occupation, the proverbial Uprising of 1857, the occupation of Punjab in 1849. I may pick some more events and add to the list. However, the year 1857 definitely stands out as the most important event. Recently, BBC carried out an interview with one William Darlymple. It is about his forthcoming book "The Last Emperor". There are three books by the same title which had already appeared. The interview of Darlymple had been greedily lapped up by the Pakistani bloggers. On the other hand, the Indian bloggers had adopted the same old Indian response of criticizing it. The author of the forthcoming Later Mughal had definitely passed some comments which are not appealing. He had come with the concept of Jihad in 1857. He had based his observation pointing out the number of times the words din and dharama had appeared in the archival material in India. The thesis of Manning is also a result of such discovery. She had studied the soldiers of both sections from the material discovered from archives. The topic and the construct which she had adopted was first mooted somewhere in 1940s as per the web site of the institution where she is working. However, her work is not criticised on the basis of the fixed notions based on the observations of one or two historians. There are strong reactions to what she had earlier told in her research as mentioned by Kevin. However, whatsoever, she is able to explore, it is being studied by the rest of the Americans with a balanced approach. However, such an approach is not undertaken in India.

In India, 1857 is cherished because it is called the first war of independence. The people seem to be satisfied with that much only. They are not ready to study in detail the event of 1857. I know that you can find number of titles in Libararies which are exclusively devoted 1857. I have explored them but none of them had even attracted me. They contain the same material and presented as per the ideology of the writer. The Indians are not ready to learn that what prompted the different sections of the society to participate in the uprising even if it had remained confined to North of Vindhyas. They are not ready to study the various streams of thoughts, push and pressures, constrains and expectations which moved the people to rise against the firangies. A set of historians had decided for them that the idea of nation had grown on 1870s. No body is trying to evaluate that how far it is true. They are not ready to define the idea of nation among the Indians. They are happy that it was there in 1870s and that is enough. But they are ready to accept that 1857 was the first war of Independence which was undertaken by the elite group and 1870s was the period of Middle Class which discovered and then consolidated the idea of Indian nationalism. Was there any chappati and Lotus mystery? You touch the point, you will be just snubbed. You will be told that it was a mere rumour and there were no proofs for that. Well, if Manning had not found the unattended letters of soldiers in archives, then even Americans would have said similar thing for the main motives of the Confederate Soldiers. Bill Wiley, an historian had told in 1843 that there was not enough material for such a type of study. Would the Americans have adopted that type of attitude and taken such a stand? I doubt. They would have found some other source to explore that what actually had happened in 1860. They are not satisfied by merely criticizing Bush and his Iraq policy. They are actually trying to study what they are and they do it by studying their history. However, in India, it is not so.

The Partition of India is also another such event in history of India which requires immediate and piercing attention of historians. It should be rather called the most important event which should be immediately taken up by the Indian historians. There are many constraints on undertaking such an activity because of the rigid or rather unconcerned approach of the government of India itself. The other reason may be the foreign relations with two immediate countries namely Pakistan and Bangladesh. However, the event of 1947 is old enough to qualify for the scrutiny of historic evaluation. There are many problems which have their root in 1947. However, we do not find that zeal and tenacity to deal with the study of 1947 from historic angle. Recently, there was an excerpt from the book of Kuldip Nayyar. Each line of the excerpt was a topic in itself that demands historic evaluation. Well that is not to be. Or shall we wait till the date when some foreign scholar come to our archives and then declare a theory about Indian Partition so that we may start are tirade against him and ultimately by commenting on him produce our own version of history of partition?

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