Historians hate playing ‘What if?’ games. Counterfactuals, they say gruffly, are parlour games, the equivalent of pointless theological questions that smack of science fiction stories.
But questions like ‘What would India have been after Independence if Nehru had known of Jinnah’s tuberculosis and that he had only a few months to live?’ or ‘What if the Rajiv Gandhi government hadn’t overturned the Supreme Court’s verdict on the Shah Bano case?’ or ‘What if Shah Rukh Khan had stuck on to do many more episodes of Fauji on TV?’ Perhaps, it’s just as well that historians are shy of asking these questions. <b1>
History, if not historiography, is too important a matter to be left to historians. So, without losing caste or creed, we ask the ‘What if?’ questions today, picking 15 important dates from the last 61 years.
The real question is: were these really turning moments in our history? Or would the future — that is where we are today — look pretty much the same ‘either way’?