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I had the great fortune of running into this great and valuable discussion at S A J Shirazi's blog - one that's not seen very much outside the blog forum.

I want to emphasize my support for some of the points raised in this discussion.

1) That both countries are guilty of hiding facts and presented a prejudiced view of their histories. Some folks in here have presented Bhagat Singh as an example of distortion, or the lack of mention, in history as taught in Pakistan. Similarly in India, while the BJP came to power, several NCERT history textbooks were rewritten to reflect a view that our ancestors did not eat beef (to appease the hardcore Hindutva supporters). This attracted hoarse criticism from various sections of our society and by and large, the Indian middle class. Historical distortion, whether it is with respect to denying a hero's status on the basis of his religious identity or denying a people's cultural habits, is distortion regardless. In the end, only truth matters, unless you believe that knowing the truth, you would rather other learn from lies. In which case, what you are promoting is not "education", but your own ego.

2) India's greatest challenge in terms of presenting its history in a factual manner is to remove the vestiges left by its Hindu Nationalist movement and its colonial rulers.

3) Pakistan's greatest challenge in terms of presenting its history in a factual manner is to remove the India-phobic perspectives and focus on rewriting the story of its people. Does this involve some soul-searching? Most probably.

History is best presented as a set of facts and opposing interpretations, so that the final interpretation is left to the reader him/herself. Ultimately, any meaningful interpretation is supported by real life experiences and not by bookish knowledge. If India's history textbooks excluded the section on the Indus Valley civilization, on account of the Indus Valley lying in Pakistan territory, then who is the worse for it? Me, the reader, who else? Because I have just lost a great part of my understanding of the great forces of history that shaped me.

Instead of taking different cultures at face value, real historians examine these similarities and differences in depth and often come up with more comprehensive truths than the xenophobic perspectives that nationalist governments often display. And this drives fear into the hearts of the middle class because there are people who want to live together despite their differences and there are people don't see that desire and want to tear them apart. Look at what's happening in Iraq!

As an Indian, do I care about what's taught in Pakistani history textbooks? At some level I have to. Because the first political conversation I had with a Pakistani friend went something like this:

Friend: Gandhi slept with two girls by his side.
Me: Perhaps, but you gloss over his accomplishments.
Friend: But he was weird.

I have read/heard from enough sources not to reject what my friend said. But, the fact that she found it meaningful in a conversation we were having about Pakistan and India's problems tells me that she's been indoctrinated to believe that just about everything about "Indian" history is bad.

I wonder if she realizes that when Nehru asked Gandhi to reconsider Jinnah's request for the Prime Ministership, it was Gandhi who suggested Jinnah's name for the PM to demonstrate that India was a democratic and secular republic. We have had Muslim presidents and prime ministers since then.

So, here's the next question:

Should Pakistanis be equally concerned about what's taught in Indian textbooks?

Of course. Because I do not want to hold a prejudiced, and ultimately false view of anything. I want to know the truth, the facts, pure and simple. I do not want it sifted for the digestible and the indigestible, for the morally repugnant and righteous or the patriotic and the unpatriotic.



That was an excellent take on whos history is it any way. I have been frequenting some Pakistani political blogs and I find their undersatnding of history is quite different from ours. I had been pondering this question for sometime,even posted on that. you said "Because I have just lost a great part of my understanding of the great forces of history that shaped me." - that is the point man, many of us are missing that.

Again, the link to the other blog was a nice read. Its not easy to balance a post like you do...while sticking on to facts. great !!

11:50 AM

good thought provoking post!

4:52 AM

hmm..yeah true..its sad wen people are fed the wrong info by those who try to mould minds unethically.Ideally people should be given the bare facts and let to decide for themseleves..but who cares for that in these times.. :-/

8:19 AM

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