India lacks a proper narrative of its history. There are two major sets of narratives of Indian history which Indians encounter today. The first narrative including the Aryan migration theory was the work of Britishers to bring moral justification to their presence in India. The second narrative came from the comrade Nehru. The second narrative blamed everything wrong in modern-day India on Britishers and everything associated, notably, capitalism. Socialist India tried to form a non-aligned block but maintained good relations with the USSR, the leader of the communist second-world.
The textbooks changed accordingly. The textbooks maintain a Delhi-centric view of India with little regard to the fact that many major kingdoms existed outside of it. The textbooks admire Nehru’s Indian National Congress (INC) while deemphasizing non-INC freedom fighters. The textbooks maintain awe for the socialism and the USSR while ignoring the success of capitalist states like Singapore and Taiwan.
And that’s where a
child’s Indian’s interaction with Indian history ends. Museums suffer from the neglect of the government. Any attempt at pointing to any other narrative is met with violence sometimes even state-approved violence and arrests . Few Indians, if ever, learn in detail about the destruction of Nalanda (it just disappeared, right?), the Vijayanagar empire (who cares about south India?), Shivaji’s son-in-law’s betrayal (irking Marathas again?), the role of Indian soldiers in the two World Wars, 1962 battle of Chushul (no bad light on Nehru, please), and the whole history of the north-east (the racial discrimination at its worst).
$500 million (₹ 3600 crores) has been allocated by the BJP-led govt to build the world’s tallest statue devoted to Shivaji. The statue is a symbol. Symbols are powerful, and politicians understand that. The intentions are noble; the goal isn’t. In fact, given the price tag, the statue symbolizes everything that’s wrong with RSS-BJP driven nationalism is, low on intellectual agenda and
high turbo-charged on emotions. The FACT museum of Indian history set up by François Gautier with the current total spending of about $143, 000 (₹ 1 crore) would do a much better job of teaching the missing nationalist narrative. Maybe the BJP government(s) should have taken a cue and improve/set up the museums around the country instead.
- For the sake of completeness, there is another narrative of Indian history, the P.N. Oak‘s version. It circulates, primarily, on social media. And like Pakistani historians uses active imagination instead of facts.
- Some believe that Indian textbooks glorify Muslim rulers at the expense of others, I believe that to some effect is a coincidence of the fact that Indian textbooks take a Delhi-centric view of Indian history and Muslim rulers dominated there in past 1000 years, of course, that is only a partial reason.