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Out to make history

Unfortunately, the CPI(M)?s passion in re-presenting history is less to do with pleasing Clio, the muse of history. It?s a pity that it prefers to miss out on Orwell?s irony.

india Updated: Jan 30, 2007 00:09 IST

‘History will be kind to me for I intend to write it,’ wrote Winston Churchill. That Churchillian plan seems to have been taken up with enthusiasm by the CPI(M) as it announced its plans to trace the course of India’s freedom struggle starting from the 1857 Uprising up to Independence. For our comrades with historiographical delivery systems such as the People’s Democracy, this should be a fun exercise in theory turned to praxis.

Any historiographical plotting of the 1857 Uprising — not quite monolithic and controlled enough to merit the tag ‘The First War of Independence’, but who dares to be ‘unpatriotic’ and argue? — will have various sides of the story to tell. If one goes by what is already out there, 1857 history-writing falls into two categories: one, the ‘nationalistic’ version i.e. Indians all rising together against a proto-imperialistic regime; two, the ‘Marxist’ version i.e. the appalling socio-economic coditions of mid-19th century India led to a proletarian mutiny against a capitalistic-imperialistic power. Both versions are partly true, not exclusively so. And things get increasingly tricky as one retraces the steps that lead 1857 to 1947.

Unfortunately, the CPI(M)’s passion in re-presenting history is less to do with pleasing Clio, the muse of history. Our comrades — and their alter-egos, the ultra-nationalists in the Sangh parivar — know that “who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past”. It’s a pity that they prefer to miss out on Orwell’s irony.