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Writing Indo-Pak history on the net

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    Writing Indo-Pak history on the net

    Interesting and very useful project but this may not reach the masses because of lack of accessiblity to internet in both the countries.

    Writing Indo-Pak history on the net
    Lahore, July 5
    (Bharat Bhushan)

    History in Pakistan has become a victim of the ideology of the State. There is an attempt to partition the history of the subcontinent," says a dejected Dr Mubarak Ali, a historian working towards removing communal distortions in history writing in the subcontinent.

    Dr Mubarak Ali is isolated in his task ó universities in Pakistan do not invite him and the Urdu press boycotts his writings. However, he has not given up and edits the only journal of history in Pakistan called Tarikh.

    To bypass the systematic distortion of history on both sides of the border, three projects are being attempted by Dr Mubarak Ali and Mr Isa Daudpota, a physicist by training ó publishing anthologies of the writings of Pakistani and Indian historians for the Ancient, Medieval and Modern periods; trying to write a history of the subcontinent with an Indian counterpart and a project for collectively writing a school text-book of the history of the subcontinent on the net. The last of these is the brainchild of Mr Isa Daudpota (email: [email protected]) a consultant with Hamdard University in Islamabad.

    Before asking him about the internet project, I ask Dr Mubarak Ali about the problems of history writing in Pakistan. "We have no historians. There are only history teachers in Pakistan, no historians," he replies.

    The basic, problem of historiography in Pakistan, Dr Mubarak Ali feels, is one of deciding where to start the history of Pakistan. "Some say that you should start it from 711 AD when the Arabs arrived and disregard the ancient period. Others say that we should start with 1947. Whatever has happened in the past is of course history. You can't ignore Indus Valley or the Gandhara period. Even in archaeology, Pakistan does not give importance to the ancient period. Only the foreigners who come here are interested in that period. There is an ideological framework ó either you write history within that or you don't write history," he says.

    "There is no mention of Akbar in history text-books in Pakistan - because he was enlightened and secular. In Indian historiography Akbar is praised, in Pakistani historiography, he is condemned. Aurangzeb is praised by the communal historians of Pakistan, while their counterparts in India condemn him. So in this way, history is also partitioned," Dr Mubarak Ali said.

    He says that being an ideological state, Pakistan feels an acute need to control the curricula - specially textbooks - so that the minds of the young can be moulded and controlled. He recalls, "When I was young, there wasn't much control over textbooks. I studied ancient and medieval Indian history. But the process of ideologisation and politicisation has changed everything. Now we don't include Ancient India in our curriculum. We teach Medieval India - because you can't partition the Sultanate period and Mughal India. However, it is called the 'History of Pak-o-Hind'. Can you imagine someone trying to change the name of Medieval Indian History?"

    Even in recent modern history, according to Dr Mubarak Ali, the main emphasis is on the two-nation theory. "The portraits of India and Hindus that are presented in our text-books are very negative. This is what the RSS and the BJP are also trying to do in India - present a negative image of the Other. There is a similarity on both sides about projecting history as a conflict between Hindus and Muslims. But we have an additional problem besides being an ideological state. We are not a multi-cultural, multi-religious society and, therefore, the image of the Other - the enemy - is accepted without any verification. Except in Sindh, there are hardly any Hindus here. There is little chance of meeting them or interacting with them. So whatever image the students get in the text books, they believe it," he explains.

    The joint-history writing project, therefore, was thought of as one way of changing the mindset of the youngsters on both sides of the border. Mr Daudpota claims that he got the idea of such a project from an Israeli site on the net where Arab and Jewish school kids interacted with each other. He initially thought of creating a similar site for Indians and Pakistanis to communicate with each other through moderators on both sides: "I realised that this would only become a chat site. And then was already there, though that is a slightly highbrow discussion group."

    Mr Daudpota then came up with the idea of producing an independent history text-book for Middle School level jointly written by Indian and Pakistani historians. "They could interact on the net, agree on a plan for the book, divide the tasks or do them jointly. As a chapter develops, they put it on the net and open it to moderated discussion hoping that independent students and teachers would read and comment on the contents. Here too there would be a need to moderate the comments to mould them in a way that they become valuable inputs to the writers," he explains.

    Popularly known among his friends as "Hazrat Isa" because of his flowing beard and name, Mr Daudpota told me that he expected that Dr Mubarak Ali would be the Pakistani historian on the internet joint history text-book writing project. "This cross-border collaboration will give the history being written a legitimacy. We could also create a resource of FAQs (frequently asked questions) on the net, subverting communal history texts on both sides," he hopes. (To be concluded)

    If a joint Indo-Pak history without prejudice could be tought on both sides, it would work wonders.
    Thankyou Rani for bringing up this topic. is it being done so?


      Sounds like a really neat idea, however I donít have much faith in it Ė every country whether they accept it or not present their history so they look good, not the enemy Ė Pak and India are doing exactly the same. So in that sense every nation control their youngsters minds. This of course doesnít mean that itís ok for us to do that, but agreeing upon history and that too nations like Pak and India can really get ugly, Iíd love too see them writing about one war only and see if they can agree upon win and loss alone.

      As for when our, Pak history begins, we have discussed this topic on Gupshup too, and yes there have been debates about that, I donít know if they still talk about it. The best debate I read was in book form and of Faiz. These ppl could solve it by dividing it into two categories of new and old history of Pak. I think this task is complicated enough if they concentrate on newer history of Indo-Pak.


        Rani I just read your comments on GupShup Politics, I had thought that for once you were being unbiased, anyway your reply to zman was : If you think Pakistan is more open and honest then why do you think it has changed the history of Indian subcontinent or blacked it out. Pakistanis are suffering from identity crisis? (read article 'Histroy on the internet' posted in Pakistan Politics)

        Just like zman I too went in school in Pak, and I really donít remember reading propaganda that youíre countrymen post on this forum, I did however read some novels (usually imagination) about Indo-Pak wars and relations in general, and I donít feel ashamed of admitting that yeah we do have stereotypes against India, unfortunately I see the pattern now. I used to read them coz I like reading war stories, and I was pretty clear in my mind that they are false Ė but Iím not sure anymore, you see one stereotype that I picked from one of Ismael Sagarís books, was itís in their (Indianís) nature to have patience and constant, that way they (you guys) convince ppl about your version of the truth Ė now that has proven to be correct, you can see that on this board and I can even quote Indians saying almost the same thing. We on the other hand play holy way too often, and I for one donít like this habit. So we might be brainwashed, without being aware of it, which makes a pretty good excuse for our behavior, whatís your excuse? You and youíre countrymen are spreading false propaganda with full knowledge. So who has what complex? Waise read the article one more time; itís saying something about India too.

        By the way a common Pakistani doesnít even think about India Ė unless of course we hear or read about Kashmir, so basically we donít even care. Our ppl donít mind talking about Indiaís success in some fields, you see we donít hate you like you are thought to hate us. Our government does not invest in spreading hatred against you, to make stronger bounds between states or ppl, I wonder how many ppl in Pak know the existence of RAW and Iím sure every Indian knows about ISI, talk about paranoia.


          sabah, common indian thinks as much of pak as common pakistani thinks of india. both are busy surviving. with every house having unemployed young men, spiralling prices, good education getting rare and expensive, who has time to think international affairs.

          it is only priviledged few sitting abroad like u and me that are worried of this stuff. average indian cares as much of pakistan as of timbaktu. war times is a different matter.but that happens once in 15 years.


            Exactly ZZ, societies that hardly can fed them selves donít really care much for cross-border hatred even less do they care about Ďbrainwashingí, that is baseless accusation Ė and ppl like you and me should not spread it. Only sick minds take advantage of other misery, I donít wanna be one of them, and I donít want to see Pak doing this. But I will if I canít play with my own rules, Iíll use yours, the main thing is that I wont loose. So the best we can do is to stop spreading propaganda, and talk about things to solve problems and not to find holes that we can use to create more mess.


              How right it is to say that a common man in india and Pakistan cares not for what is happening in the nieghbour country in everydays life, but he does live with that hatred, which is a byproduct of Propaganda, and those feelings come up every now and then, and how, because it is embedded there and some groups, on National and International level, take advantage of that. The irony is, that we donot even want to recognise that. I am a very proud patriot, but know for sure that we have to get over the customary ways of our thinkings if at all we have to achieve the image which was the base of our creation, SHAHEEN.


                All I am saying is, Give Peace a chance.


                  In India, one school is marxist. This is the one which has written history textbooks for NCERT, i.e. central govt. curriculumn. They look at all history as some economic struggle with religion being the means and blah blah. The school which is strongly emerging under BJP patronage is hindu nationalists. This is just antithesis of Islamic school and relies heavily on writings of old muslim historians who often exaggerated the number of kafirs killed by the nabab with whom they worked. The third school, professional one like that of likes of Yadunath Sarkar is still kicking and alive and continues to raise questions which are uncomfortable for marxists and hindutwa guys.



                    Since you seem to have some insight into this subject can you explain why very little (actually non-existant) Sikh histroy was/is (?) taught in North Indian schools. Also, there is very little History lessons from 1st century and 9th century - text books are silent about this period. In my opinion congress tempered with the way history was presented in the text books to meet their psuedo secular agenda.


                    What do you think is the reason for the constant tension and state of war between India and Pakistan (taking Kashmir out of equation) it religion? Why does Pakistan's history starts with the advent of muslims on the Indian subcontinent? In my opinion this an attempt to show Indians and their religion was no good till muslims came an rescued them ...we all know that this is not true.

                    [This message has been edited by Rani (edited July 08, 2000).]


                      In India, secularization started very early. It was a desparate attempt to get Muslims in the mainstream.
                      Not just Sikh history, what we know about Nagas, Mizos, choul and pandya empires in south which extended over ocean, advances in mathematics in medievial kerala and so on. There are so many topics of interest which should be told in curiculum.
                      I believe islamization of pak history started with Ayb. Before that, ancient Indian history was taught. Nehru and Ganhi were not bad guys. How Mughal sultanate got influenced with local culture and got indigenized was mentioned.