History never repeats itself but the lessons of history are very important. Those who ignored the lessons of history have paid heavily. For instance, Hitler he who had ignored the immediate cause of the fall of Napoleon Bonaparte, from the annals of history before invading Russia, met the same destiny. At some pointin an inappropriate time and space, which is during winter he opened battle front at Siberia, and invaded Russia. Without any Russian resistance Napoleon’s army withered away. It was the main reason behind the collapse of his ambitious designs. The same blunder was committed by Hitler whose destiny was not differed from that of Napoleon. In the case of India religion and jati/varna (caste) are two vital social institutions. Those medieval rulers/invaders and a few Mughals, who ignored this reality has paid allot. History of all the successful sultans and Mughals justify it; they respected and properly accounted these institutions.
Every nation, not country, has its own exclusive idiosyncrasy and momentum that makes its history identical one. For the analysis of history, the nation is the appropriate unit of study. The study of subnationality without considering the totality of the national unit is quite difficult. For instance, one could not study Roman history exclusively by excluding European history. Both are inseparably one and the same as well as interlinked. Similarly to the study of regional history of India the knowledge of the whole corpus of Indian history is essential. All the regions are inseparable organs of national entity from very ancient. While interpreting any nation’s history; its evolution as a nation and its peculiar nature of understanding of knowledge system is an essential condition.
East India Company until 1813 was very particular to avoid Christian Missionary Enterprises from their Indian domain. Only after the Charter Act of 1813 Christian missionaries were allowed to come to British India and preach their religion. The immediate result was the worst ordeal of 1857. They paid too much for the wounds that inflicted through this Act up on the collective Indian social psyche.
Finally they forced to exit India in 1947. To a certain extent the unbridled missionary activities of British in India cultivated anti British sentiments which accelerated momentum to the national movement of India.
This truth was well attested by Mahatma Gandhi. It turned down as one among several reasons of their exit. East India Company was well aware of the inherent danger of the Christian interference in the socio-religious space of India. In the very beginning of East India Company’s domination, they hired James Mill to scrutinize and reinterpret the historical past of India. They interpreted experience of Sultanates to Dutch. Further for a period of 56 years they were successful in reducing the possibility of the growth of mass anti-British sentiments to a certain extent.
Swami Vivekananda is the first who identified the British attempts to reduce Indians as a society with no sense of its past. He countered this colonial disagreement by identifying Indian way of realizing the knowledge system. He unearthed the fact that every nation has its own faculty of realizing knowledge system. According to Swamiji, to the Indians, the history of civilization is the progressive reading of spirit into matter. Thus the History, to a Hindu, is not a matter of his religious convictions. Even if the historicity of the whole thing is proved to be absolutely false today, it will not in the least be any loss to the Hindu. To the Hindus sustainability of dharma is the main concern. That is why wave after wave of barbarian conquest has rolled over this devoted land and after that the nation still stands practically the same race, ready to face difficulties again and again. He presented a new expression to Hinduism and India as a whole to the Western world. He redefined the Orient undoubtedly as something away from a place full of eccentric mystiques, wild elephants and Snake charmers; he highlighted the intrinsic value of Indian life to the West. Thus it invited much more interest in the West regarding to India and it helped to shape an environment for renaissance along with progress. He insisted for the practice of history with Indo-centric approach through internationalism and universal brotherhood that implied in the Vedanta. Sri Aurobindo is the first man who inducted the bare lessons of history in the historic struggle of national movement of India. His attempt to give a psychological twist to Indian history ratified Gandhian modus operandi. He observed that history as a discipline, which being European, lays much stress on events, a little on Speech, but has never realized the importance of Souls, cannot appreciate men like Danton. Only the eye of the seer can pick them out from the mass and trace to their source those immense vibrations. Hence he proposed: “India had an abundant source material of its past. The only task left with us is the proper interpretation and utilization of it”.
By examining our past he observed that this nation had a bright future. Time had proved it so far. Even though Nehru was the product of Eurocentric notions, he maintained respect and reverence to the antiquity of this nation. He had built up confidence for building up of future nation from our ancient experience. The very foundation of his concept of welfare state is basically evolved from our historical past. His speeches and literary contributions substantiate this truth. Similarly Rabindranath Tagore had seen a non-academic existence of history in the Indian minds from the very beginning of our civilization. In the West it was evolved as a discipline of academic importance and it much indebted to Judeo-Christian Islamic folklores. Hence, why not to the Hindus their ancient texts? He believed that the basic function of history is to cultivate unity in the minds of its people. Indian traditional historiography is sufficient to serve this basic purpose. Tagore, being the spiritual father of India, used the space of poetry to prove his ardent faith and commitment to the national culture. So he identified the uniting function of Indian history from the very beginning. Thus he strongly argues that these all ancient exercises with due weight to the history considerably helped to the development of a transcendental mind with enough potential of assimilation which resulted in the synthesis of the Hindus. All our non-professional historians believed that history is not merely the eulogy to the victorious. But at the same time history should be of the defeated also. German and Japanese surviving leaders were prosecuted for a charge of commitment of crimes against peace and humanity after World War II respectively at Nuremberg and Tokyo.
The Soviet Red Army raped close to three million German women during the end of World War II, while the German Army in the occupied European territory raped nobody in the same War. Is it come under the crimes against peace and humanity? What about the indiscriminate bombings of German and Japanese cities by the Allied forces and the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Are they not come under the said category? It was the victors’ justice. No contemporary professional historians of the day moved their pen in favour of the defeated.
The Eurocentric history since the days of Herodotus is one and the same. In short the role of our non-professional historians is immeasurable. The application of the lessons of this stream (Indocentric) of history is our duty.
(Author is a member of Indian Council of Historical Research)