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S Gopikrishna

A vision for revision

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Visualise the following:

The year is 712 AD

As the rays of the sun usher in the morning, a band of valiant soldiers sweep across the farmland on horseback. Behold the frenzied look in their eyes, listen to the hooves of the horses. Observe the gleam of the soldiers' swords by the light of the torches used for illumination and setting villages ablaze.

They rob, but are not plunderers...

They kill, but are not murderers....

They destroy, but are not desecrators...

For they are Allah's chosen warriors. What they destroy is ignorance, what they are ushering in is enlightenment...

Thus, in 712 AD, did history begin...

I can see you scratch your head and ask yourself as to how history can suddenly "begin" at a discrete point in time, but trust me! According to the enlightened scholars writing textbooks in Pakistan, history did begin in 712 AD when Muhammad Bin Qasim's hordes swept into Sindh.

While we poor Indians are in the process of weighing evidence to decide whether the Aryans were indigenous or foreign to India, a brilliant and elegant solution has been found to the question in Pakistan.

The question is simply not worth our time. After all, why bother about anything taking place before the advent of Islam? Anything and everything that happened before that is not worth knowing, remembering or discussing.

Talk about simplistic solutions by simpletons...

Pakistani textbooks and Pakistani "scholars" exemplify the phenomenon of logical skills atrophying because of an overdose of religious instruction. Like the genius who wrote to the Dawn, (a leading Pakistani newspaper) about why the government should destroy all vestiges of Harappan civilisation. According to this savant, all existing archaeological evidence should be destroyed and a sign installed in its place: "Behold the fate of idolaters!"

My only reaction was: "Behold idiocy in its pristine beauty!"

In fact, history as we understand it, is no longer taught at the school level in our neighbouring country. It has been long replaced by something called "Mu'ashrati Ulum" (social studies) and "Mutala'a-I-Pakistan" (Pakistan studies), the latter succeeding the former at the middle school to high school transition. Both form an interesting mosaic of geography, history, religious studies, half-truths, quarter truths, and plain fiction woven together in a tapestry as complex as that of an Iranian carpet minus its charm.

This exceedingly complex analytical technique, patented and propagated in Pakistan, converts a lemon into something as unrecognisable as a melon. A perusal of such textbooks enlightens to the following conclusions, which for some mysterious and unfathomable reason have evaded us simple and straight thinking folks in India:

1. The Congress was founded by Hindus in 1885 for ensuring that India would continue to be in anarchy.

Explanation: Everybody knows that Allan Octavian Hume founded the Congress party. The million dollar question is: "How does he become Hindu?"

Well, you see, the Hindus and the British colluded and intrigued with each other to replace the benevolent Mughal emperors (Yeah, Aurangzeb was very benevolent!) with tyrannical British rule. Given the intimate connections that existed between the Hindu back-stabbers and the British usurpers, it can be safely concluded that they constitute two faces of the same coin. Thus, there is nothing wrong in labelling Hume a Hindu.

The reference to anarchy comes from the fact that India plunged from its "exalted status" of a pillar of the Daar-Al-Islaam (such enlightened countries where Islam reigns supreme) to the lowly Daar-Al-Harb (those good for nothing countries where the governments remain ignorant of Islamic principles) when Bahadur Shah Zafar was forced to make way for the Brits in 1857.

Thus, when the Hindus were intriguing to grab power from the British, they were simply looking to replace one kind of anarchy with another. Thus, anarchy reigns supreme in India

2. Adi Sankaracharya, the Hindu philosopher, was influenced by Islam in propounding his theory of Monism (Advaita).

Well, Islam came to India in 712 AD. Sankaracharya, as we all know, lived for some time in Kashmir which was one of the first places to receive Islamic enlightenment. Ergo, how can Sankaracharya not have been influenced by Islam?

If you are still sceptical, just remember that Hinduism lacks the elegance of Islam's monotheistic tenets. Since monotheism is a feature of Sankaracharya's works, it is evident that he copied them from Islam.

3. It was the low caste Hindus who converted to Islam en masse as a result of the atrocities of the higher castes.

Which begs the question: "Er, ahem...How about those who were forced to convert as a result of their inability to pay the jazia?"

Benazir Bhutto herself suggests on Page 26 of her autobiography Daughter of the East that her ancestors were probably Rajput converts who became Muslims in the 18th century. Now, if the profound revelation about low caste conversions were true, we would have to conclude that the Rajputs were a "low caste" who suffered atrocities at the hands of the higher castes.

If people really did convert to Islam in order to escape the curse of caste, why do we find caste being bandied about in Pakistan even now? An examination of the matrimonial section on page L of the 'Advertiser's Section' of the edition of the Dawn dated August 20, 2000, reveals the services of a certain Mrs Asmat (with a Lahore telephone number) who can be contacted for "compatible matches of educated, beautiful boys of all castes and sects." On the same page, we find another Mrs Naqvi (again with a Lahore telephone number) who specialises in "Syed, Sheikh, Arrain, Rajpoot boys and girls."

Er, I thought Pakistan was an enlightened society where caste was a redundant abomination, which was the lot of us Indian ignoramuses... The Pakistani genius for telling tales and self-promotion in the name of history would leave even the most experienced of advertising executives dumb founded.

The art of story telling has become a cherished and hallowed tradition in Pakistan, spreading its tentacles to the top echelons of government. As an example, we have the former prime minister, the (not quite) Honourable Benazir Bhutto. On pages 26-28 of the aforementioned autobiography, she talks about the exploits of her ancestor, a certain Mir Ghulam Murtaza Bhutto, who was so handsome that "all the women in Sindh fell in love with him, including a young British woman. In those days, it was haraam (forbidden) for a brown-skinned man to fall in love with a white woman." It was this transgression that drew the wrath of the local British army officer, Benazir alleges.

"Col Mayhew heard about this forbidden relationship and sent for him," we learn.

"Mayhew screamed, 'How dare you encourage the affections of a British woman! I'm going to teach you a lesson,' and started to whip him when Murtaza `seized the whip and lashed the colonel instead'."

The narration would certainly make one bristle with seething contempt for British racism. Indeed, patriotism, racial pride and the revenge extracted would warm all our breasts. Who wouldn't cheer when this Murtaza, with an agility belying the best of the Bollywood boys, thrashed the racist Mayhew black and blue?

Very impressive, indeed!

Till you read Professor Stanley Wolpert's version of the same episode as narrated in his Zulfi Bhutto of Pakistan: His Life and Times. Stanley Wolpert is an authority on the modern history of the Indian subcontinent and has authored the section on modern Indian history in the Encyclopaedia Britannica. He accords Benazir (and her baba, the late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto) the unique honour of being named and denounced as liars.

According to the venerable professor, the lady who had set Murtaza's heart on fire was a simple desi, not a goree. Worse, the element of racism so prominent in Benazir's version is overshadowed by simple jealousy in Wolpert's narration. You see, this unnamed desi damsel who warmed Murtaza Bhutto's heart had been hired by Mayhew for warming his bed. (Excuse my crude expression.)

Not surprisingly, the act of discovering his mistress and Murtaza Bhutto inflagrante delicto amidst their nocturnal trysts made Mayhew create mayhem. The element of patriotism in all the lashing and thrashing alluded to is as strong as melody in a peacock's call. It was the quintessence of a phenomenon accurately captured by the late Diana, Duchess of Windsor: "In a relationship, there is place only for two. Three people involved in a relationship make things a little crowded."

The whole point is, do the Bhuttos have to come up with such cheap exaggerations in order to increase their supposed sex appeal? Worse, do they have to put a patriotic spin on their sex appeal?

Anything goes as long as it serves the purpose of self-promotion. Mind you, it is only the concerns of the readers' attention and article length that prevent me from going beyond exposing the tip of the iceberg.

Well, you now know how Pakistani history works with respect to all periods, ancient, mediaeval or modern. It is a myth-maker's paradise. Revisionism and exaggeration are so commonplace that is difficult to find a book which desists from indulging in the practice. From the humblest to the highest, Pakistani historians possess a collective vision for revision. Indeed revision, as attempted in Indian history books, looks like a languishing molehill when compared to the mighty Pakistani mountain of tall tales.

Our educators and journalists have ignored the Pakistani forest in the process of identifying Indian trees (or should I say, herbs and shrubs) in their search for historical revision. They scream, rave and rant about the way history is being "engineered and manufactured" by the Government of India. Yet, you hear not a whimper or a whisper about revision in Pakistan, a process that has reached its zenith under the watchful and nurturing glances of a half a dozen regimes, starting from Marshal Ayub Khan onwards.

Will any kind soul explain to me as to why our "spokesmen" complain so much about revision in India while turning a Nelson's Eye to the Pakistanis merrily dedicating themselves to historical revision and carving massive mountains of myths in the process?

S Gopikrishna writes on India and on issues of pertinence to Indians from Toronto.

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