November 08, 2006

Punjab History finding its place on cyberspace

On October 30 and 31, Prof. R. K. Khanna had posted two articles about the Punjab History. They are "Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s relations with Kangra" and "Lord Hardinge’s Policy towards the Punjab".

I believe that these two articles augur good for the History of Punjab. There is a general complaint that there are no good sources on Indian history available online. There is truth in this contention. One does not find material especially primary sources on Indian history online. There are many articles on Indian history, but there are reservations about the nature of their contents from the historic perspective. However, now there are two more articles on Indian history and regional history of India.

I showed my happiness when Prof. Khanna started posting his articles. Here I stand justified in my stand. I now hope that he will continue to bring similar write ups on regular basis in spite of his physical ailments.

Khanna has not quoted the sources while writing these articles. He had done it earlier but not this time. On the other hand, his article on relation between Lahore Darbar and Hill Kings is more important. It justifies my stand of rewriting the history of India. During the 1800s there were three main powers which could have given a fight to British power. The first one was the Mysore Kingdom. Then it was the Peshwas and the third one was Maharaja Ranjit Singh. However, in the history books, Lahore Darbar had been shown as an upstart. It is an interpretation which had been presented by the British historians. They had already decided a story line and argument sequence from which the latter historians had never tried to break themselves away. I am unable to understand and accept the argument that the British were using Ranjit Singh as a bulwark firstly against Napoleon and latter against Russia. This line of argument has tried to suggest that the British could have easily gulped the Lahore Darbar. But they feared the advance of French and then Russians towards East. Therefore, they found Maharaja Ranjit Singh as a good and enough strong wall against them. On the other hand, for them, he was nothing. Such an argument lacks on many grounds. But this is how this argument is being preserved and nurtured throughout.

In the above mentioned article, Prof. Khanna has rightly studied the relations between the Lahore and Hill rulers on one hand and between Hill rulers and the Nepal on the other. These forces were such that the East India Company could have not beaten them easily had they made even a single confederacy. The company knew it. However, it goes to the credit of the company that they took time to design and decide their strategies before taking over the rule of this area. The history of India as they wrote then, was what they saw and desired to achieve and finally got it done in reality. They had never told that what they feared. They had always what they desired to to do and how they had done. Why explaining that, they talked about the weakness of the Indians only. Similarly, the role of Awadh, Hyderabad and Bengal had never been studied from Indian perspective. Whatsoever had been presented by the British historians, that had been taken as the debating point and then the debate had been given the status of a nationalist version of history. This is the main shortcoming of the history of India. Different scholars and historians had presented this contention in different words but the actual truth is that the history of India is never written as it should have written for India as a country and a nation. The articles similar to these ones, appear only as research papers. Sometime, they get printed as a compilation in form of an edited book. But they have never left their impact on the established narration of history of India as such. If one reads such articles, he develops different perspectives. The readers of such articles undergo the sensation of understanding the India of present. But when such readers read the history of India as such, they feel the shock. They feel that there are many threads which remain untied. There are many gray areas which demand explanation because the present does not vouch for the history as being told about India. The insistence upon presenting a peculiar definition of secularism in India has left a highly mutilated version of India as a whole.

Anyhow, let us hope that Prof. Khanna may continue to bring out on the cyberspace similar type of articles and present a fresh view of the Indian history in the manner in which he had presented in the two articles. Secondly, he may also bring out the sources referred and cited in his article. That would make this exercise more useful. He is already the author of seven books by now. He may later bring his work in the print. Here, he can share his findings and views with the online community which luckily consists of many established historian as well as teachers and also many amateur historian and interested readers of historians like Siddhartha Shome, an engineer.

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