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Rewriting history

Time and again, history has been tampered with. This must stop.

Rewriting history
History is a curious thing. We revel in the glorious past built by kings and queens, warriors, and freedom fighters. But like memories, history, too, can have a troubled past. For example, the systemic killing of millions of native Indians, slavery in America, or atrocities of World War I and II; while highly evocative subjects remain extremely relevant in understanding how nations shaped post-historic events. Holocausts and other genocides while a painful reminder cannot also be forgotten. Current President Donald Trump is also becoming a crucial part of history, and we cannot wish it away. Culture, heritage, language, religions, social practices, eating habits, attire, etc. all have their genesis in history. To understand a nation and its people, their history is key.

But with every new political regime comes an overarching desire to rewrite history. A willingness to ridicule and belittle monuments, structures, and practices that are not part of the ruling government's agenda is unfortunate. Recent disparaging comments regarding the Taj Mahal has exposed this once again. When BJP's Sangeet Som claims that the Taj was built by traitors and is a blot on Indian culture, or when Subramanian Swamy says that the 8th Wonder of the World was built on stolen property, or when Vinay Katiyar says that it was a razed Shiva temple, it is not only an attempt to deride the prominence of the iconic monument but also an attack on India's historic heritage.
The Mughals did invade India, and we cannot change that. Some of them plundered and looted, but many built fabulous structures, infused their religion and social practices into the country, and were able administrators during whose regime arts and culture soared. Many Indians can trace their lineage to invaders like the Mughals or modern conquerors like the British colonialists. To accept the good without acknowledging the bad of any era is as dangerous as wanting to make it disappear altogether. History books are already being expunged of facts, events, and leaders to suit the narrative of the current political regime.
And politicians have always done that with rare alacrity. Renaming a road named after Aurangzeb by the BJP-led Central government or rechristening schemes and structures named after the Nehru-Gandhi family can broadly be viewed through the same prism. Regional leaders such as Mamata Banerjee, while criticising the Central government, has herself renamed metro stations when she took over the reins of Bengal. Recently she started changing the nomenclature of anything that reminds of former Chief Minister Jyoti Basu. This included removal of the foundation stone laid by him at the Salt Lake Stadium that is hosting FIFA Under-17 World Cup.
These are but few instances of a general habit of politicians to delink from the past. The idea is that if you scorn iconic structures built by Mughal emperors, change the names of roads, put your stamp on any government scheme, you will eventually erase history, rewrite it, and claim it as part of your legacy. But the past is a necessary burden that one must bear whether they like it or not. The wily politician's plans to negate the past is erroneous and must stop. But what is the common man to do? The 1700-year old Buddhas of Bamiyan was destroyed by Taliban dynamite in 2001. That too was an example of the expurgation of history. Remember that.
(The writer is a journalist and media entrepreneur. The views expressed are strictly personal.)

Shutapa Paul

Shutapa Paul

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