Rewriting History
February 1, 1999
Rewriting History
History in South Asia

Allah’s Army in Pakistan
Hindutva Brigade in India
Buddhist Lions in Sri Lanka
A prominent South Asia Historians’ meet unravels our shared past to dispel the myth–making and hate –preaching in the name of history teaching in the sub-continent

Drawing national boundaries for the creation of independent states in South Asia — India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh — has resulted in the dissection of history, too, within the limits set by these modern nation states. Over the past fifty years or so, both the learning and teaching of history in these countries has done little to widen the scope of  exploration and inquiry to encompass a wider reality, an area that has experienced common links and trends, over centuries. These links and shared experiences got severed, suddenly but surely, once the state in each of these countries dominated the subject of history learning, especially through deciding the content of syllabi and the writing of text–books.
The Kandyan period in Sri Lankan History between the 17th and 19th centuries fascinatingly reveals how regional bonds, on caste lines, were formed by the ruling castes transcending national boundaries.

There are several examples during this period of the Sinhala nobility, in consultation with the Buddhist clergy, choosing an external ruler from a South Indian dynasty — especially the Nayakkars — and inviting them to govern. This was because caste affiliations were more important in this period — barely three hundred years ago — then ethnic ones.

The first Nayakkar king was promoted to the throne by the chief incumbent of the Navaddha Vihara, a revered figure among the Buddhist monks, the Samakha Sangha Rajja. This particular dynasty, thus invited, remained in power for about four generations and formed close alliances with the Lankan nobility.

More significantly, over the past century, historical construction, history learning and its dissemination has also resulted in the legitimising of certain groups, defined in terms of the “majority”. In the process, “others” have got excluded. The construction of this ‘minority’–‘majority’ discourse has also meant defining people’s identities exclusively in religious terms, ignoring the multifarious facets of identity that are historical and practical realities.
There have also been distinct phases behind this legitimisation and exclusion that are not only crucially linked to the emergence of these nation states but which have had a direct impact on the kind of nation state — its inherent composition and commitment — that got formed, in all three countries within this region.

A three–day South Asia consultation organised by KHOJ, a secular education programme within India, enabled historians, educationists, writers and activists to meet in Mumbai between January 26–28 to discuss this and other aspects of ‘History Learning, Exploration and Teaching within South Asia’. Internationally–acclaimed historian and professor emeritus of Jawaharlal Nehru University, Romila Thapar, prominent historian of modern history, K.N. Panikkar, vice–chancellor of Peredeniya University and leading Sri Lankan historian–anthropologist, Leslie Gunawardana, and prominent dissenting historian from Pakistan, Mubarak Ali, were among the participants.

Only religion counts
Viewed together, people in the South Asian region have had close links with each other, before and after the creation of these nation states. Trade and business links, cultural links and environmental concerns, not just religious allegiances. These appear to have been brutally and artificially severed or, at the very least, severely strained.

Gandhi’s symbolic act in breaking the repressive Salt Law by consuming a pinch of salt on April 6, at Dandi, gave the greatest fillip to the Civil Disobedience Movement against the British? Over 1,00,000, Khudai Khidmatgars (Servants of God) swore an oath to the non-violent path on April 23, 1930, under the leadership of Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, laid down their handmade rifles and faced the worst–ever repression from the British. ‘Frontier Gandhi’ and his strong army representing the whole of the north west frontier province resisted the Partition.

Within a year of it taking place, Mahatma Gandhi had been assassinated by a Hindu fanatic (on Jan 30, 1948) and Frontier Gandhi, Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, had been jailed by Pakistan’s Islamic government for sedition and being ‘pro–Hindu’.
The participants at the workshop were agreed that to even begin examining the plausibility of re–orienting our learning — and teaching — processes within the wider reality of South Asia as a region (and not limiting them to narrower and narrower visions of reality), it is vital today to examine in detail the difficulties that may come in the way of this approach.

The peculiar circumstances behind the vivisection of the sub–continent on religious lines has led to an artificial and in a sense now, real, super–imposition of religious identities over any other in the region. This has had peculiar consequences on the interpretation, reading and teaching of history within the countries in the South Asian region. Emergent exclusivist tendencies that are not religious, but misuse religion and religious symbols have led to the acute communalisation of discourse, the state and the polity in all of South Asia.

Ironically, just as the region is intrinsically inter–linked, so do the various types of communalisms have an irretrievable link. They feed upon and foster each other.

(From L to R: Professor  Leslie Gunawardana (Sri Lanka), Dr. Mubarak Ali (Pakistan) and Dilip Simeon (New Delhi). 

What partition did to people
Partition, 1947, was re–visited during the consultation in the context of the emergent nation states and their dominant ideologies often governed by these majoritarian precepts and biases. What emerged as a fascinating theme from the discussions was the examination of “Partition as Loss (in the Indian context), Partition as Achievement (in the Pakistani context) and Partition as a Symbol to justify the political behaviour of Hindus today (by proponents of a chauvinist Hindu ideology)”.

The teaching of the event of Partition, Panikkar maintained, should be seen as the culmination of a process of communali-sation that took place in both communities. He argued that scant attention has been paid to the activities of organs like the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha and little reference is found to their divisive role pre–Partition. Unless the history teacher and student is given access to all these facets that surround the event, it is inevitable that the country’s break–up will continue to be viewed selectively and raise high emotions.

This session that greatly enthused the school teachers who participated in the workshop also dwelt at length on the various aspects of Partition that could be taught to students of history at the school, college and university levels. How was the border actually drawn? What did it do to the areas through which the dividing line passed? What did Partition do to the armed forces? What did it mean for marginalised sections like women, Dalits, prisoners, persons kept in mental asylums? The human dimensions of the tragic event are hardly explored in history teaching.

What happened to border areas as a consequence of Partition? Are we at all aware of the half–a–million strong ‘Hindu” population living on the Bangladesh–India border, even today? The Chitmahals is the name given to the territory, many of whom have homes encircled by a Bangla village! What about the border peoples of the Sindh and Kutch deserts?

What were the mechanics of division when Partition took place? What were the human dimensions of the event? The army was divided between India and Pakistan on almost entirely communal lines. Prisoners from jails and residents of asylums for mental health were also carted to one side or another on the basis of their religious identity. Even eunuchs were forced to choose! Yet, they still meet once a year in joyous re-union, on this or that side of the border, embarrassing the Indian and Pakistan consulates into granting visas. Hundreds of thousands of children were lost in refugee camps. The province of Sindh passed the Essential Services Maintance Act (ESMA) following partition, forbidding Dalits from crossing to India as the sanitation system of the whole province would collapse!

It was strongly felt that all this would have to be looked at in the context of dealing with a subject that, even today, triggers high emotions and charged personal memories. The teacher who thus deals with the issue will need to stay with the traumas that such a difficult issue may cause within the confines of the class before moving in the many-faceted directions creatively.

Interestingly, the animated discussion was felt to be of relevance even to Sri Lanka that today faces a possible partitioning of the island on communal lines. Participants felt it would be extremely worthwhile to organise workshops for history teachers in different parts of the country and the rest of South Asia around the single theme: “How Partition Can be Taught.”

History in service of the State
Within India, even when ostensibly secular parties were in power, textbooks were laced with scarcely-veiled derogatory references to Islam and Muslims. (See box on text-books). These text–books were authored by state–sponsored writers, post–Partition. This period, Partition and the diverse processes that led up to it, is hardly explored in ‘official’ Indian texts. ‘The Birth of the Muslim League’, ‘Lahore Declaration’, ‘Mohammad Ali Jinnah’ and ‘Direct Action Day’ are the four telling heads under which the entire upheaval is dismissed in just four-five paragraphs each. There is not even an oblique reference to the emergence of Hindu chauvinist (communal) outfits like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) or the Hindu Mahasabha, bodies that contributed significantly to the divisive discourse of the time, finally culminating in the vivisection. The assassination of M.K. Gandhi by Nathuram Godse, a member of both the Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS, also receives scant attention in these books.

Professor Romila Thapar at the Khoj workshop

Worse, parallel Indian texts sponsored by Hindu chauvinist outfits like the Vidya Bharati of the RSS that run parallel schools in most Indian states, emphasise a mono-cultural, mono-religious construct of India, denigrate Pakistan, dubbing it “Paapistan”(the land of the sinner) and constantly question the nationalist character of Indian Muslims. Of late, in BJP run-states there have been attempts, successful in some cases, of elevating Hindu chauvinist leaders to the status of “national heroes.”

The poet–philosopher, social reformer, Kabir, on the other hand, is conveniently relegated by secular India’s texts as the apostle of Hindu–Muslim unity when historical examination reveals him to be a stringent critique of the ritualism and dogma that had then come to epitomise both faiths.

Fifty years of history teaching in Pakistan is a unique example of the impact state ideology can have on the discipline. History, under a theocratic state, has been used as a tool by the Islamic republic of Pakistan to reinforce the ideology of Pakistan and the two-nation theory that is the basis of its formation. Anything that stands in the way of this justification is simply ignored or discarded, no matter what this means to the student of history.

For two decades after Partition, history teaching and text–books within Pakistan were not significantly different from Indian text books in either periodisation or content. But Pakistan’s loss in the 1965 war with India changed all that. Until then, only political heroes figured in the country’s text books but after the humiliating defeat against India, the weakened Pakistan state introduced the study of the army and military heroes within the classroom. What is worse, also since then, ancient history has been blotted out in all school and college-level education in Pakistan. It now exists merely as an option for post–graduate students. (See box interview with Dr. Mubarak Ali).

Myth of the Aryan race
Colonial historians are largely responsible for the mythical construct of people who spoke the Indo–Arya language into a distinct and superior race — the Aryans. This has since been alternately used by Hindu Indian, Sinhala Buddhist and Tamil Sri Lankan chauvinists to “prove” their superiority and more legitimate claim on the “indigenous” soil. This has also fed into the exclusivist discourse adopted by Hindu “nationalists”, conveniently used to describe Islam and Christianity as “alien” faiths and its followers as potential “anti–nationals.”

The contentious theory of Aryan invasion bears close examination even in relation to Dalit–Bahujan ideology that seeks political mobilisation on a theory of Aryan invasion followed by their (Aryan) oppression of the “indigenous’ Dravida race. Ironically, Muslim communalists, both within Pakistan and Sri Lanka, seek to establish their “racial” origins to Arabia. The crudest interpretations within Pakistan blot out any reference to Akbar while glorifying Aurangzeb. But it is difficult for this line of selective historiography to discard the medieval Indian period altogether because that would mean letting go of both the Red Fort and the Taj Mahal!

History as memory
History as memory, even though a more privileged memory as it is a specialised discipline that trains the historian to investigate a variety of sources, their motivations and their interpretations through the centuries, was also an area examined closely during this workshop.

Romila Thapar shared some of the insights arrived at through her work on the historical narratives and re-tellings over the centuries of the raid of the Somnath temple. And how selective examination of these varied interpretations impinge on the present understanding of the event. Mahmud Ghazni’s raid of the temple in 1026 A.D. finds variant interpretations from the main sources to the period, the Turko–Persian chronicles, the Jain texts, the Sanskrit inscriptions of the period, the debate in the House of Commons and the so-called ‘nationalist’ reading of the event.

In the Turko–Persian chronicles, the narration of Mahmud’s invasions and raid of the temple are depicted as a victory for imperialist Islam. Thereafter, for a few centuries the raid finds scant mention, though the temple itself and the loot of pilgrims who make the pilgrimage is a subject matter that is dealt with in Jain texts and the Sanskrit inscriptions. Most ironically, nearly 200 years after the raid on Somnath — an event that in 20th century discourse has become so central to Hindu–Muslim relations — there is evidence, from inscriptions of the time, of land from the estate of the Somnath temple being granted for the construction of a dharmasthan (mosque) to one Nirodin Piroja (Nooruddin Feroze from Hormuz) by the local Panchakula (powerful local administrative committees headed in the this case by Purohit Veerabhadra, the chief priest of Somnath). The language and tone of this legal document, available in both Sanskirt and Arabic is friendly and has no evidence of the rancour with which this temple and the event are viewed with today.

The participants felt that quite apart from text books, syllabus and teaching in the classroom, popular history being disseminated through pamphlets, newspapers and communalist propaganda networks also need to be examined by historians, and techniques of intervention devised that reach people and the populace beyond the classroom.

The first mention of a “Hindu trauma” is during the House of Commons debate in 1843. In this century, it was K.M. Munsihi’s Jai Somnath, published in 1927, that was critical to mobilising communal Hindu sentiments in Gujarat and Maharashtra where it was very popular.

Post–1947, Munshi a Union cabinet minister, exhorted Nehru to re-build the temple with state funds as this was the least that Hindus could reconcile themselves to! Nehru refused to compromise the secular character of the Indian state by conceding a demand that should be carried out by a private trust.

Building language barriers
The role that language and linguistic identities have played in both communal discourse and secular mobilisation in the South Asian context deserves close historical scrutiny. In Sri Lanka, the declaration of Sinhala as the country’s official language acutely sharpened the ethnic, majority–minority divide into a linguistic one as well. Though state policy could make a significant dent in communal discourse and the ethnic divide in Sri Lanka by simply introducing the study of two languages in the educational process, this has not been done.

Gunawardana made reference to a discourse on state and languages, during the run–up to the inception of the Sri Lankan state in the 1930s. C. D’Silva, a communist leader, had then pointed out to fellow Lankans: “If we adopt one language we will have two states in Sri Lanka, but if we adopt two languages, we can have one state!” D’Silva’s warning went unheeded then, but people in Sri Lanka today are forced to rethink, given the heavy toll the communal divide has taken in that country.
The late 19th century history of the Urdu and Hindi languages is crucial to understanding the manner in which ‘inclusion’ and ‘exclusion’ of poets and writers by the respective tongues was determined by what they wrote when, and for whom, rather than the inherent literary merit of their works. The history of these two languages in north India can also be traced to the communal mobilisations of the Indian polity in the pre-Partition period, Urdu being mis–represented as the language of Muslims and Hindi of the Hindus.

Similarly the birth of Bangladesh in 1971 was critically linked to the hegemony of the Urdu and Punjabi-speaking people over persons of Bengali origin from East Pakistan or east Bengal (pre–Partition). In Pakistan, the imposition of Urdu as the state language has created much resentment within the Sindhi, Seraiki and Pushto–speaking peoples. In India, conversely, Urdu was wrongly dubbed as a ‘Muslim’ language after Independence and Hindi imposed by the state, a fact that caused deep resentment in the southern states.

In 1920, Sindhi religious political leaders made it clear to the Jamait–e–Ulema–Hind, an organisation of the Muslim clergy (with leaders like Maulana Ubed Ullah Sindhi, Maulana Abul Kalaam Azad, Maulana Syed Hussain Madni who had opposed the Partition) that they envisaged Sindh as an independent province that had been captured by the British in 1843.

Even today, a significant section of the Sindhi leadership under leaders like Maulana Ubaidullah Bhutto demand a Sindhi state where nationality must be given to all Sindhis regardless of where they are placed.

History on the streets
Quite apart from text–books and classroom teaching, history is today being re–written in popular communalist discourse through the extensive distribution of pamphlets and other forms of literature. Ten years ago, the countrywide mobilisation for the construction of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, orchestrated as a campaign for the destruction of the Babri Mosque that ‘symbolised centuries of subjugation of Hindus at the hands of Muslim invaders’, was spearheaded by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, RSS and Bajrang Dal. The political spoils are today being enjoyed by the BJP.

Today, malicious pamphlets distributed by organs like the VHP and the Hindu Jagran Manch (see CC, October 1998) distort history to spawn hatred against the Christian minority.

There can be no better example of this use and appropriation of history in popular discourse than in ‘secular’ India today where despite the existence, in principle, of a democratic state and its Constitution, bands of rabid communalists periodically lead attacks on the country’s religious minorities, after whipping popular passions through falsified history, whether on the subject of “conversions” or “invasions.”  

The participants felt that quite apart from text books, syllabus and teaching in the classroom, popular history being disseminated through pamphlets, newspapers and communalist propaganda networks also need to be examined by historians, and techniques of intervention devised that reach people and the populace beyond the classroom.  

‘Islam teaches only atrocities’

The following examples of text–books from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka reveal how within the South Asian nations and between peoples, sections of the population are elevated or demonised.


Invasion of Mahmud of Ghazni
The advent of Islam might have been a boon to the Arabs who got united under its banner, and were enthused by it to carry on conquests in Asia, Africa and Europe but it has been a curse for the people outside Arab world because wherever the Islamic hordes went, they not only conquered the countries, but killed millions of people and plundered their homes and places of worship and destroyed their homes, places of worship and above all their artworks.

The general Islamic belief that political power can be claimed by anyone who can wield power goes not only against the legality of inheritance to throne but encourages intrigues, plots, rebellions and assassinations of father by his son, brother by his brother, ruler by his military commander or minister, and above all master by his servant, nay, even by his slave. There might have been some killings of such a type among the people of other religious faiths like the Hindus or Christians, but those were exceptions while in the Islamic people these have occurred as a rule, not as exceptions.The king of the Ghaznavides, Subuktagin, who started raids on India in the last decades of the 10th century A.D. was a slave of Alptagin, who himself was a slave of the Samanid, ruler of Khorasan. So it is the slave of the slave who set in process, the Islamic invasion from 10th century A.D.

The Conquest of Kanauj
Mahmud’s victories in India made him very popular in the Muslim world and attracted the people in Transoxiana, Khorasan and Turkistan to join him as volunteers to fight in his crusades against the infidels in India. With a large force at his command Mahmud decided to invade the so–called imperial capital, Kanauj. He started from Ghazni in 1018 A.D. and crossed all the rivers of the Punjab and captured all the forts on the way up to Baran (modern Bulandshahar) where the local Raja, Hara Datta, not only submitted to him but also embraced Islam with ten thousand men. Mahmud then marched against

Kulchand, the chief of Mahawan on the Jumna, who fought with the invader but was defeated. Blood thirsty Muslims killed 50 thousand Hindus. Proud Kulchand killed himself and his wife. Having acquired a large booty at Mahawan, Mahmud preceded to capture Mathura, sacred  city of the Hindus. Mathura then was a wonderful city, full of beautiful temples, solidly built and exquisite design. Mahmud not only plundered the immense wealth of the temples but ordered to raze the temples to the ground.

‘Why these atrocities? Because Islam teaches only atrocities. Have not Islamic invaders done so wherever they had gone, be that India or Africa or Europe?’

And destruction of such exquisite works of architecture and sculpture has been an enormous loss to humanity. It is also an enormous blot  on the teachings of a faith which Mahmud followed and the cause of which he championed. From Mathura Mahmud proceeded to Brindaban which too he sacked and plundered. Thereafter in 1019, Mahmud marched towards Kanauj. The Parihar Raja of Kanauj, Rajyapala submitted without offering any resistance. Even then Mahmud destroyed ten thousand temples at Kanauj, killed its inhabitants and seized their wealth.

Why these atrocities? Because Islam teaches only atrocities. Have not Islamic invaders done so wherever they had gone, be that India or Africa or Europe? Mahmud returned to Ghazni with a large booty.

Expedition against Somnath
Mahmud’s most important expedition was against Somnath in 1025 A.D. Mahmud had heard that the Somnath temple contained fabulous wealth, which lured him to march against Somnath.
The Rajput princes from far and wide gathered to save the great temple and repelled the assaults of the invaders twice, which dismayed Mahmud, who, it is recorded by Muslim historians, jumped down from his horse and exhorted his soldiers to fight in the name of Allah, and the tide of war turned in his favour. This appears to be fantastic nonsense. The truth of the fact may that the dismayed Mahmud must have restored to some kind of treachery and thereby defeated the gallant and highly moralistic Rajputs.

Another part of the idol of Somnath was laid before the door of the mosque of Ghazni, on which the people rubbed their feet to clean them from dirt and wet. What an uncivilised act of  a fanatic Muslim invader! After destroying Somnath, Mahmud attacked the ruler of Anhilwar for his taking part in the defence of Somnath. The town was encircled, males were massacred and women were seized to be reduced to slavery.
(From History of Medieaval India, by Dr. R.R. Singh, published by Sheth Publishers Pvt. Ltd., a recommended text for the third year bachelor of arts students in Maharashtra).

‘Teaching pluralism to Tamils, chauvinism to Sinhalese’

The most striking fact that emerges from the analysis made in the previous chapters is the divergence in content and purpose between different groups of text-books, in so far as they affect communal relations. This divergence is greatest between the Sinhala and Tamil readers, and this is a very significant phenomenon for our purpose. 

These readers are language-specific, produced for Sinhala–speaking and Tamil–speaking children respectively, while the English language books are produced for children of all ethnic groups and the social studies texts, and some of the texts on religion have a common content in both Sinhala and Tamil. This chapter will, therefore, begin by setting out those general conclusions which are suggested by a comparison between the Sinhala and Tamil readers.

In general the Sinhala and Tamil readers seem to have been planned and written independently of each other, with no correspondence either in the content of particular lessons or in the broad principles guiding the selection of material. There is an exception, however, in the case of the Sinhala Mul Potha and the corresponding Tamil kindergarten reader (pre– primer). It is not necessary to make an elaborate comparison between these two books here because the comparison has already been made in an article published in the Lanka Guardian of 1.5.79. 

As the Lanka Guardian article points out, although both readers have been ‘designed on the same general pattern’ and contain some material in common and even share some illustrations, there is a sharp contrast in the thirtieth page at the end of the two books. Where the Tamil book has a picture of Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim families in ‘attitudes of mutual cordiality’, and a text with the message that we are all ‘people of this country’, and ‘friends’, the corresponding page in the Sinhala reader has a piece telling the Sinhala child that this is his land. As the Lanka Guardian comments: ‘... it is clear from a comparison of the two readers that the Department thinks it important to preach inter–racial and inter–communal amity to Tamil and Muslim children from their first year of school, but inappropriate (or dangerous or demoralising?) to bring the same message to the Sinhala child.’

The point that the Lanka Guardian makes here comes out even more clearly in relation to the later readers. From the analysis of these Sinhala and Tamil readers, it will be evident why no common plan for these later books would have been possible, since their aims are so fundamentally divergent. In the Grade 1 and Grade 2 Tamil readers, no Sinhala characters or aspects of Sinhala life are introduced (and this is a shortcoming), but these books do include themes relevant not only to Hindus but also to the Christian and Muslim minorities, so that the experiences and culture of all groups of Tamil–speaking children reading the books find some reflection in them. In contrast, the Grade 1 and 2 Sinhala readers ignore completely the way of life, festivals and practices of the Christian minority, of whom an appreciable number of children will use these readers in school. Unlike the corresponding Tamil books, Sinhala 1 and Sinhala 2 maintain a solely mono–cultural context — Sinhala Buddhist.

The divergence between Sinhala and Tamil readers is still sharper in Grades 3 to 9. Not only do the Sinhala readers continue to maintain their mono–cultural character in these grades; they also project an image of a Sinhala–Buddhist identity which is defined fundamentally through opposition to and struggle against Tamil invaders in past history, and the existence of a multi–ethnic and multi–religious society in contemporary Sri Lanka is not merely ignored but denied, by representing even the Independence won in 1948 as freedom for the Sinhalese. 

In contrast, the corresponding Tamil readers contain material presenting relations of friendship between Tamil children on the one hand and both Sinhala and Muslim children on the other; they use story material drawn not only from Hindu, but also from non-Hindu, including Buddhist, cultures; they portray festivals of all four major religions of the island; they represent the major secular festival of the country — the indigenous New Year — as the Sinhala and Tamil New Year (while the Sinhala readers keep the  awareness of this shared character of the festival from the consciousness of the Sinhala child); and they depict both Keppetipola and Pandara Vanniyan as national heroes martyred in the cause of freedom.

It is not suggested here that everything in the Tamil readers which has a bearing on communal relations has been effectively handled towards the end of successfully communicating to the child the sense of a broader national identity. It may be questioned, for instance, whether the didactic song in the kindergarten reader, which says that people of different linguistic and religious groups in this country are ‘all friends’, is the best way of communicating such a message to children, particularly at so early an age; children are much more likely to apprehend and respond to such a conception if it is conveyed through a concrete situation — say, through a story involving particular people — rather than through abstract moralising. However, this is a question of the degree of understanding of the child-mind and of skill in writing of the authors of the text books — not a question of the purposes to which the books have been directed.

As far as the Sinhala and Tamil readers are concerned, therefore, the three questions formulated at the beginning of the study have to be answered as follows: the Tamil readers (with whatever degree of success) do seek to create an understanding of and respect for the way of life and culture of non–Tamil and non–Hindu linguistic and religious groups, and do attempt to project the sense of a common national identity, while the Sinhala books not only fail to do this (except in a solitary lesson in the whole series of ten readers) but contain an abundance of material which will strengthen communal attitudes and reinforce communal antagonisms. 

(Excerpted from School Text Books and Communal Relations in Sri Lanka, published by the Council for Communal Harmony Through the Media; authored by Reggie Siriwardena, K. Indrapala, Sunil Bastian & Sepali Kottegoda).
(These excerpts from text–books prescribed in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have been compiled by KHOJ — South Asia studies project).

‘Non–Muslims nursed enmity against Muslims’

The Muslims treated the non–Muslims very well (when they ruled the province). Yet the non–Muslims nursed in their hearts an enmity against the Muslims. When the British invaded the area (ilaqa) the non–Muslims sided with them and against the Muslims. So the British conquered the whole country (mulk).

The Hindus wanted to control the government of India after independence. The British sided with the Hindus. But the Muslims did not accept this decision. Allama Iqbal and Quaid–i–Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah said that a Muslim government should be established in the areas where the Muslims constituted the majority of the population.... The Pakistan Resolution was adopted on 23 March 1940 in a big meeting of the Muslim League held in Lahore. In 1946, before the creation of Pakistan, when the people of NWFP were asked their opinion, all them voted in favour of Pakistan.

To say that “the British sided with the Hindus” is only a half–truth. Iqbal and Jinnah were not the only persons who asked for a Muslim state; nor, in chronological terms, were they the earliest to make the demand. Iqbal argued for separation in 1937 and Jinnah in 1940. Dozens of people had suggested a solution by partition long before this. The Lahore resolution was adopted on 24 March, not by “a big meeting of the Muslim League”. In 1946 all the people of NWFP did not vote for Pakistan. For fuller details on all these points). (Mu’ashrati Ulum, Class 4,  NWFP Text–book Board, Peshawar).

There are 11 pages of history at the opening of the book under 4 headings: Differences in Muslims and Hindu Civilizations, Need for the Creation of an Independent state, The Ideology of Pakistan, and India’s evil Designs against Pakistan. The three quarters of a  page essay on Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan has no dates, but asserts that he declared that “the Muslims should organize themselves as a separate nation”. Iqbal was the first person to present to the nation the idea of Pakistan in 1930, and his suggestion was to create an “independent and free” state made up of “all those  areas where the Muslims are in majority’. The 1971 break–up of the country is dismissed in four atrociously distorted lines: “India engineered riots in East Pakistan through her agents and then invaded it from all four sides. Thus war lasted two weeks. After that East Pakistan seceded and became Bangladesh.”

In the same chapter, wars with India are mentioned in patriotic not historical terms. In 1965, “the Pakistan Army conquered several areas of India, and when India was on the point of being defeated she requested the United Nations to arrange a cease–fire...... After the 1965 war, India, with the help of the Hindus living in East Pakistan, instigated the people living there against the people of West Pakistan, and at last in December 1971 herself invaded East Pakistan. The conspiracy resulted in the separation of East Pakistan from us. All of us should receive military training and be prepared to fight the enemy.”

The last 12 Lessons treat with the same personalities as are included in the NWFP textbook for the same class (see above), with two changes: Aurangzeb is replaced by Ahmad Shah Abdali and Sultan Tipu is omitted. (Mu’ashrati Ulum, NWFP Textbook Board, Peshawar).

(From The Murder of History — A critique of history textbooks used in Pakistan; by K.K. Aziz).
Since the two–nation theory is the basis of Pakistani separatism, there is a constant need to prove that Hindus and Muslims have remained separate from time immemorial’ -- Dr. Mubarak Ali

Since Pakistan is an ideological state, history only serves the ideology of the state. This is not only in case of Pakistan but also in case of other ideological countries. It is a very horrifying experience to live in such a society where there is so much fanaticism. This is not only at the government level but has slowly and gradually also seeped into society. Society is also becoming Islamised, ideologised, fanatical, fundamentalist.

From the very beginning, the problem with Pakistan after partition was how to legitimise its creation. And that’s why it is still very difficult for Pakistani historians who want to honestly explore origins and identities because it’s very difficult to decide
where to start Pakistani history from.

Some people argue that because it’s a new country, 1947 should be the starting point. Some people say that not 1947, but the invasion of Muhammad bin Qasim, who invaded Sind in 1711, so the Muslim period begins from the Arab conquest. There are very few people who like to trace the history from the ancient period. Actually, we do not teach ancient history in Pakistan, neither at the University level, nor at school or college levels, except the Indus valley civilisation.

Interestingly, however, until the 1965 war with India, in which Pakistan faced humiliating defeat, the text-books and syllabi did include a study of ancient India. But after 1965, military heroes and the study of the army entered our text–books and the classroom and ancient history was thrown out.

We have not really developed history as a discipline. Now the attempt is being made to have a separate identity of Pakistan, to de–link Pakistani history from Indian history. We actually have some proposals from ‘eminent’ historians arguing that the history of Pakistan should only encompass what is now Pakistan, the present day geographical boundaries, and we should have nothing to do with India.

But, at the same time it is very difficult for complete exclusion from India because then we are left with the problem of the Sultans, the Mughals. Then of course we are going to lose the Taj Mahal and Red Fort and everything! Since the two–nation theory is the basis of Pakistani separatism, there is a constant need to prove that Hindus and Muslims have remained separate from time immemorial. So, there is a constantly constructed myth of Muslim separatism.

Now in Pakistan they are actually trying to construct the two–nation theory not from 1947, or from the period of the freedom struggle, but since the time of Akbar. Interestingly, on medieval history there is currently a debate within Pakistan on whether it was Akbar or Aurangzeb who was responsible for the Mughal downfall. And a prominent Pakistani historian, I.H. Qureishi, writes that as a matter of  fact, Akbar was responsible for the downfall of the Mughals, not Aurangzeb! But there is no Akbar in Pakistani text–books up to the matriculation level whereas Aurangzeb is very much present.  

So there is this is systematic construction of the two–nation theory and most of the students in schools are taught this version of history. It has become increasingly difficult to counter this version of history, because though in the beginning the ideology of Pakistan was very weak, the failure of democratic governments followed by a series of martial law governments has converted Pakistan ideology into the official jargon. Now, it is used by the ruling classes so justify the chaos.
In 1991, when Nawaz Sharif became Prime Minister for the first time, he passed the Pakistan Ideology Act that renders any person who writes, speaks or acts against the two–nation theory punishable with ten years rigorous imprisonment! Another dangerous trend within Pakistan is that gradually religious parties are becoming very strong in Pakistan. At this moment we have nearly 22 armies of different religious parties, called lashkars.  They belong to different sects, Sunnis or Shias. The most frightening phenomenon is the emergence of a full–fledged army known as the Lashkar–e–Tayyeba. They also send their volunteers to Kashmir to fight over there; not only to Kashmir, but also to Afghanistan and other countries.

The result is that we don’t have a single creative religious scholar in Pakistan. Religious scholars are only political agitators, because they believe they must capture the state with the help of armed forces and then implement the shariah. The unfortunate outcome is that instead of having a progressive and enlightened version of Islam, the Taliban Islam has become a model for Pakistan. In a backward society, of course, the major victims are women, as in Afghanistan. A similar thing is going on in Pakistan against women as a result of religious fanaticism. And of course, we are also writing history on these patterns and we are also producing in our colleges and our universities fanatic people!