History Shouldn’t Just Be About What Happened, It Should Also Be About Why

History, they say, should be read so that we can know about our past and more importantly, to learn from it. Unfortunately, most of the history written about India in the past 200 years has been tainted with colonial, political and ideological manipulations and often it is very difficult to come across genuine investigation into what happened, and more importantly, why it happened. For example, why indigenous people of the Indian subcontinent acted the way they did.

Take for example the Jalianwala Baag incident. Although Col. Dyer was responsible for the massacre, it were the Indian policemen who actually fired the gun, or at least were responsible for handling the gun. In which country policemen would perpetrate such an atrocity upon their own fellow countrymen, women and kids, and that too under the command of colonial rulers?

Here you could put an argument that in Africa, most of the slaves were captured by the Africans themselves, but I believe in India social, cultural and intellectual dynamics were different.

At a particular time, it is said, there were merely 11,000 British officials stationed in India; what mental and attitudinal characteristics enabled them to rule over millions of people? And not rule like a ruler, but like a relentless plunderer. For the British, India was a colony, not a country. The British couldn’t subdue the Japanese, and even the Chinese and other Oriental countries didn’t prostate the way we did. What civilizational and cultural faults did we suffer from?

It’s not just about the British. Even when Mughals finally established their rule on almost all over India, Indians could never collectively mount a resistance. Mahmood Ghazni attacked India 17 times and was victorious. Why couldn’t indigenous people, in their own land, living their own ways of life, living in their own climate and environment, couldn’t repel alien invaders? Why were we overrun in most of the cases and why did the invaders succeed in most of the cases, barring a few exceptions.

These things shouldn’t be studied to be used as a beating stick, they should be studied in order to understand how we collectively face existential problems as a civilisation, and whether the shortcomings can be rectified, and if they are inherent and integral to our philosophy, what are the workarounds. In order to be strong, one should always be aware of his or her weaknesses too.

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