April 27, 2008

An Act of Public History by TATA STEEL in India

Before I begin with the actual contents of this post, I desire to make some points.

The Trend of Centenary Celebrations: What is Missing?

In India, 2007 and 2008 are becoming years of commemoration. I believe that this trend will continue now because every new year is a centenary year of some historic event related to India’s Struggle for Freedom. It is rather an understatement because this thing had been taking place every year. I was a young collegiate when I heard about the centenary year of founding of Indian National Congress. This year, or rather 2007, had been 150 anniversary of 1857 Indian Uprising. It was also a centenary year of Shahid Bhagat Singh which the film industry had already celebrated somewhere in 2000 to 2003 when five movies on Shahid Bhagat Singh had been released. However, as a student of history, I remember 2007 as the 150 anniversary of University Education. There was no celebration as such. I have written about it here and there. I have located very few references to it even in the press. Similarly, 2007 is also historic centenary of corporate and capital market world. No body is celebrating it. However, the inheritors of that legacy have done a commendable work by bringing alive a website celebrating that event. It is called Celebrating 100 Years TATA STEEL 100.

Case for Public History in India:
Before I talk about the website of celebration of 100 years of steel making in India, I seek attention to another dimension which has come into play with this site. The Public History is a full fledged subject now. It has been taught in foreign universities and activities are being undertaken as per the findings and theories of Public History. However, same thing is not happening in India. There had been some movies in India which can been identified as a case in practice as per the craft and theories of Public history. There was Rang De Basanti, Maine Gandhi ko Nahi Mara and Gandhi My Father. Now this site is another chapter which follows the norms and rules of Public History in India. Public History may not be a subject in Indian Universities at present but with such activities going on the side line, I believe that soon there will some papers or specialization in the Public History in India in Indian University academic world.

100 Years in Defining a Nation
Now let me share with you some of the contents of the site of 100 Years of TATA STEEL which for me as a student of history and a teacher, conveys more meaning as a subject of history than a display by the owner of his own story.

There are twenty web sheets on the history of the Tata Steel related story under the link History embed in the title Heritage. Each sheet contains precious capsule of historic information. The second sheet titled “The birth of a pioneer” traces initial years of Jamsetji Nursserwanji Tata and coming of an opportunity of starting an iron industry in India facilitated by the surveys of the British government in India. In the third sheet the story takes you to Charles Page Perin. The fourth page brings to the site where presently the Bhilai Steel plant has come up. The fifth sheet is about the research of P N Bose in Mayurbhanj. The sixth sheet talks of locating of Sakchi. The seventh sheet can be identified for the tribute paid by Jwahar Lal Nehru to Jamsetji N Tata. The eighth sheet talks about the Swadeshi Movement and its relation to the rise of the Tata Iron and Steel Company (TISCO as it was known earlier) - a dimension which should have been a part of the general history but it is not. No doubt, with the rise of the capital market and shift in study of the history of economic and corporate growth in India, this story has become an important chapter therein. The ninth sheet talks about the historic day of February 16, 1912, when the first steel ingot was rolled out the plant. The sheet tenth contains that proverbial statement of Sir Frederick Upcott wherein he vowed to eat every steel that the TISCO plant was supposed to produce and which once the Tata Steel Industries made a part of its advertisement jingle. The eleventh sheet tried to remember the hard times for the company and the commitment of the management to pawn their own assets to keep the dream alive. The twelfth sheet is somewhat out of order because it again takes back to 1910 to record another dimension of expansion of the company when it tried to acquire colliery. Secondly this sheet again have the photograph of Sir Dorabji Tata which also appear on sheet eleven. On the other hand every other sheet displays an exclusive rare picture related to TATA STEEL. The thirteenth sheet moves fast in narrating the contribution of TATA STEEL during the Second World War and to independent India upto founding of new cities and dams. The fourteenth sheet tells about the coming up of a family of steel companies which was using the TATA STEEL. The fifteenth sheet introduces to all encompassing vision of TATA STEEL wherein the company has established training institute for the men of steel. The fifteenth page again elaborates upon the future looking vision of the company responding to shifting paradigm in ever changing technology driven history. The sixteenth page talks about the vision of Jamsetji for making Sakchi a Jamshedpur. The seventeenth page continues with the saga of coming up of Jamshedpur. The eighteenth page talks about the social business policy with its historic significance and relevance. The last page ends with hope of continuing with the same zest based on nationalism, furthering social cause mixed with business.

Apart from a textual and snapshot narration of the saga of TATA STEEL, there is a link which displays the landmarks of this saga in flash display which however has to be operated through mouse. It displays the sage of TATA STEEL up to 2007 when the company has become a global player in the steel industry.

Then there is use of flicker show also where the whole story is again repeated with the photographs.

With three type of display available with Information Technology, the company has given a good display of Public History activity which I, as a teacher of history, find quite impressive and informative. There is need to stress here that in India, even the universities have not yet exploited the idea of Public History.

Exploiting the sources of video display there is a set of small movies which however include some advertisements also. However, I am not able to watch these movies because of small internet connection (browsing only with a 112 kbps channel) which I use to access the net.

In Gallery section, one can virtually go through a picture album which again I am not able to exploit because of the slow speed and large quantity of data available there. Apart from the album, there is history of advertisement used by the company. In people section, three pioneers have been venerated in a befitting manner.

In the vanguards section, one can study the second rung of leadership something similar to the nobles of Delhi Sultanate study which had been a trend in medieval India history in academic field.

Similarly Story of Steel is also a good reading section.

It is a good activity in the field of Public History. It is also a centenary of an activity in the life of a nation apart from the sacrifice of martyrs. Such activities have also made the nation. I believe that it was such activities which had defined the nation.

April 12, 2008

Unexplored Documents, Conspiracy, Lahore and Indian History

It has been reported that the Desh Bhagat Yadgar Committee had requested the Chief Justice of India to request his counterpart in Pakistan for details of contents of 10 cases related to Lahore Conspiracy Case and photographs of 40 convicts who were transported to the ‘Kalapani’ - Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

It is reported that the committee had sought the details of the following cases:
Lahore conspiracy case (September, 1915)
Lahore supplementary conspiracy case (March, 1916)
Lahore second conspiracy case (January 5, 1917)
Lahore third conspiracy case (March 2, 1917)
Lahore fourth conspiracy case (May 26, 1917)
Lahore city conspiracy case (June 11, 1917)
Anarkali murder case Lahore (February 20, 1915)
First Akali conspiracy case (November 8, 1921)
Babbar Akali conspiracy case first supplementary (May 18, 1922)
Babbar Akali conspiracy second (November 8, 1921-22)

Conspiracy as a Term:

In present days, the Conspiracy as a term has acquired a selective meaning. However, many of the historic events during the colonial period of Indian History are identified with the term conspiracy. There is a need to change this term which could only be done in rightly full manner if the research is undertaken after re-interpreting the history. I borrow from another article which appeared in the same newspaper few days back as a right comment on the need of bringing such documents immediately under the scrutiny of the historians. Chaman Lal wrote in his article Stamp of Martyr as follows:
“Bhagat Singh’s correspondence makes for an interesting, unexplored and significant area of research in context of the Indian revolutionary movement.”

I reframe this comment. There are numerous documents that have remained untouched which are required for unexplored and significant research in context of the Indian Revolutionary Movement.

The sources used:

The Tribune, Chandigarh, India
April 10, 2008 and March 22, 2008.

Contact Form


Email *

Message *