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Historians - Spindoctors extraordinnaire

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  • venkateshwar.k.r.
    Hi all, So many popular topics to choose from and I had to select history. But then nobody has ever accused me of making the correct choice J. History
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 29, 2005
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      Hi all,

      So many popular topics to choose from and I had to select history. But then nobody has ever accused me of making the correct choice J.

      History fascinates me. Not only because it conjures up the great civilizations of the past, their culture, their wars, their administration and their failures but also because of its very subjectiveness. History retold by the historians is actually an interpretation of history by the victorious or as seen by different ideologies than an objective, impartial study of the past. And therein lies its charm for me, the ‘spin’ in history as told by its spindoctors belonging to various schools of ideology. And even more fascinating is their desire to sow their version of history on the ‘fertile’ minds of the younger generation. Most unfortunately for them, we continue to neglect the subject and its didactic teachers totally J.

      I dedicate this quiz to two recent newspaper articles. One article quoted a lesson in a recent history book and said that contrary to all that we have read so far, it was Prithviraj Chauhan who was a coward and that it was Jaichand who was the real patriot. And the second article was about a recent book on China and Mao Zedong, which said Mao Zedong’s “Long March” was a much hyped event full of fallacies and lies J. Talk about reorientation.

      I have selected “Modern Indian history” as the basis for this quiz. Ten questions, all in the ‘who am I?’ format. I hope they bring out the theme and provide good ‘infotainment’.

      1] In R.P Dutt, a Marxist historian’s opinion, I was ‘the ascetic defender of property’, ‘the mascot of the bourgeoisie’, and in actual achievement-statistics ‘the Jonah of revolution’, ‘the general of unbroken disasters’ and ‘the best guarantee of the shipwreck of any mass movement which had the blessing of my association’. Nationalist historians and the world at large view me quite differently. I am………..

      2] Various historians have called it differently. Some said it was ‘a religious war against the Christians’, some ‘a racial struggle for supremacy between the Black and the White’, some thought it was a ‘Sepoy Mutiny’, some said it was ‘the first war for Indian Independence’. But all of them agree that I started it all, though again they differ on why I did it J. In 1857, I refused to use the greased cartridge supplied for the Enfield Rifle and fired at the Adjutant. I am………….

      3] British historians have gone to town about “The Black Hole Tragedy”. According to them in 1756, I, the newly crowned Nawab of Bengal was responsible for imprisoning around 146 prisoners including women and children, in a darkly lit, very poorly ventilated room of dimensions 18feet x 14 feet. According to them only 23 survived the next day leading to the Battle of Plassey and my defeat. The Nationalist historians have been kinder. To them, the number of deaths was grossly exaggerated and I was in no way directly responsible as I had no previous knowledge. Oh, well, I will bear the cross J, but name me…………..

      4] Though technically, I was under Emperor Shahu, I usurped all real power and made the position of “Peshwa” hereditary. Here is what historians say about me. “He had calm, comprehensive and commanding intellect, a genius for diplomatic combination and a mastery of finance. He wrung by power of menace and argument from the Mughals a recognition of Maratha sovereignty. He sank into premature death with the consciousness that a Hindu empire had been created over the ruins of Mohammedan Power” [Sir Richard Temple]. “He had no other plans than creating a sphere of influence for the Marathas. He had certainly no scheme for the establishment of an empire on the ruins of the Mughal Empire, by means of conquest. It is a pity that most of the patriotic historians attribute this to him” [H.N. Sinha]. I was …………

      5] Born to a great father, I had the temerity to take on the British, unwilling to submit to them and their offer of Subsidiary Alliance. But ultimately, I died valiantly taking them on in the Fourth Anglo Mysore War. While Nationalist Historians have commented on my boldness and spirit of innovation and have referred to me as the ‘first Indian nationalist’ and ‘a martyr for India’s freedom’, the imperialist writers depicted me as a ‘monster pure and simple’ while one opinion is “In the age in which he lived and ruled there was no sense of nationalism or an awareness among Indians that they were a subject people. It will be therefore too much to say that he waged a war against the English for the sake of India’s freedom. Actually he fought to preserve his own power and independence”. I am………...

      6] I created an empire in the Northwest of India right under the eyes of the British but did not take them on. My empire died as suddenly as it was born, within a decade of my death. Here is what my spindoctors have to say: “He was The beau ideal of a soldier – strong, spare, active, courageous and enduring and was brave as a lion” [Lepel Griffin] “He found the military array of his country brave but ignorant of war as an art and he left it, mustering fifty thousand, disciplined soldiers, fifty thousand well-armed militia. His rule was founded on the feelings of a people but it involved the joint action of the principles of military order” [J.D. Cunningham] “He was a ‘State in person’, his court was composed of diverse elements and conflicting interests. His ministers were mostly favourites and adventurers. Hence his death was certain to bring a rapid paralysis of his kingdom” [G.L. Chopra]. Name me……….

      7] This is the inscription on my Statue at Calcutta composed by a Contemporary historian and colleague. “Who during seven years ruled India with eminent integrity and benevolence, who placed at the head of a great empire never laid aside the simplicity and moderation of a private citizen, who infused into Oriental despotism the spirit of British freedom, who never forgot that the end of the government is the happiness of the governed…….etc”. And another description “He was a man whose success in life has been greater than his talents warrant; for he is not right headed and has committed some great blunder or other in every public situation in which he has been placed” [Greenville]. Oh, by the way, I was also the Governor General of India who abolished Sati……….I am……..

      8] I started off my political career as an advocate of Hindu-Muslim unity but then reviewed my opinion and started preaching that the Hindus and Muslims were not only two nations, but as two warring nations who could never lead a common political life. I started the Aligarh Muslim University, promoted Muslims to adopt English and was criticized by the Wahabis for that. I have been criticized by Hindu Nationalist historians, praised by Muslim secular historians. I am………….

      9] Popularly called “The Father of the Indian Renaissance”, ‘a prophet of humanism’, I founded the Brahmo Samaj. Here is what Rabindranath Tagore had to say about me, “He was the only person in his time to realize completely the significance of the modern age. He knew that the ideal of human civilization does not lie in isolation of independence, but in the brotherhood of inter-dependence of individuals as well as nations.” And here is what another historian has to say, ‘His achievements as a modernizer were both limited and extremely ambivalent.” [Sumit Sarkar]. So where do I stand? I am………

      10] I am in the eye of a recent controversy. My biographer has this to say about me, ‘Few individuals significantly alter the course of history. Fewer still modify the map of the World. Hardly anyone can be credited with creating a nation-state. He did all three’. I am called ‘Quaid-e-Azam’ in my nation while in India I am called quite a few names J. But I am……………..

      Long, I know. Like I said………….I had so many topics to choose from and I chose history J. Will be back with the answers in ten days………till then



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