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UP: When gossip and dogma replace history

State deputy chief minister’s statement that Muhgal rulers only plundered India’s wealth is drawing flak from various quarters

india Updated: Sep 23, 2017 20:14 IST
Uttar Pradesh deputy chief minister Dinesh Sharma.
Uttar Pradesh deputy chief minister Dinesh Sharma.(HT Photo.)

Declarations by UP’s chief minister Yogi Adityanath and education minister Dinesh Sharma that students will be taught ‘correct’ history have triggered a heated debate in the country’s most populous state.

The state government recently organised a first of its kind quiz in schools where students were mostly asked questions on saffron stalwarts and schemes of the Yogi and Modi governments. The state government has already ordered all universities to stock the entire works of saffron ideologue Deen Dayal Updhyaya.

Does that mean Updhyaya’s life and times will appear on history text books in UP? “They must. He was a great leader whose concept of antyodaya and ekatma manavwad have the potential to energise and transform the entire country,” said BJP leader Chandramohan.

In May, Adityanath had said his government was seeking suggestions to include ‘forgotten personalities’ in textbooks. Raja Suheldev, a Pasi king from Bahraich could be one of them as BJP has repeatedly claimed that he had stopped Muslim invaders like Ghazi Saiyyad Salar Masood, the nephew of Mahmood Ghazni, from carrying out loot and plunder.

Sharma describes the Mughal emperors, who in fact settled in India, as invaders and looters. “Akbar took a few good decisions because of his Hindu minister Birbal. Shahjahan, widely described as a patron of arts and architecture and creator of Taj Mahal, also has a dark side. He was so cruel that he got the hands of those who built the Taj chopped off and this is never talked about,” Sharma told HT.

Medieval India historian Harbans Mukhia has put the hand-chopping story in the realm of bazaar gossip, not historical fact.

Former UP governor Aziz Qureshi makes a different point. “I had gone to Pakistan once and I discovered to my horror that important historical figures like Ashoka, the Marathas and Chandra Gupta Maurya, were missing from their history textbooks. I told my Pakistani friends that they would regret this for students there would develop a narrow, lopsided world view of history. I fear we too are treading the same path,” he says.

Historian Prof Saleem Kidwai counters the view that the Mughal emperors were foreigners or invaders. He said, “Except for Babur, many of the Mughal emperors like Humayun, Akbar, Jahangir, Shahjahan and Aurangzeb married Rajput women, many had Rajput mothers and many were buried here too.”

Kidwai says ‘facts are indisputable and shouldn’t be tampered with’, a line that former UP minister Ammar Rizvi sticks to. “What guarantee is there that the rewritten history won’t be overwritten or restored again once a different political ideology replaces this one? History would be one roller coaster, witnessing mad swings and jerks with change of political power,” says Rizvi.

“History has always remained over and above religion and should stay that way,” PK Ghosh, a retired professor of medieval and modern history told HT.