July- September, 1999 , Volume 1  No. 1

Editorial Perspective

Academic Concerns
India has failed to bring a change in the educational system inherited from Britishers, who left this country almost 52 years ago, in spite of its apparent inadequacies. It prepares people, mostly. for the white collar jobs. The number of such jobs is far too less in our country in comparison to that of the persons coming out of the colleges and the universities. Thus, these institutions bring out a vast army of unemployables and unemployed. The degree-holders find themselves in the most pathetic condition when unemployed. The liberal education fails to liberate them. This is immensely disturbing situation.

The course-content and the examination system need much change. Many disciplines have failed to outgrow and continue to be the colonial disciplines. Factual imprecision and fantasy result into cynicism. Intellectual idleness and inertia worsen the situation further. Academic desertification of a large number of campuses is a reality. Lack of development of critical faculties of the students, impact of colonial and borrowed ideas result into the genesis and growth of mind-sets.

The uncritical mindsets dominate and confuse the Indian intellectuals and through them the educated sections of the society. The intellectuals and writers are divided into camps and suffer from dialoguelessness. Obsessions and biases, subjectivity, uncritical rejection of facts on the dictates of the camp leaders on one band and acceptance of the borrowed complex ideas without proper examination and scrutiny on the other, have resulted into loss of intellect and creativity, mimicry and mediocrity. Blurring of observation generates obsession and intellectual failures. Strong academic focus on the issues of national interest is lacking.

It is unfortunate that the divisive and centrifugal thought processes and forces are having undeserved prominence in the intellectual, social and political sphere of the country. The unifying cultural and historical traditions and factors have become victims of negativism, distortions and colonial misinterpretations. The study of India-centric social, political and cultural continuum to project and document timeless unifying factors, bridging seemingly diverse religious, caste, regional, ethnic and racial factors, is essential. Original and authentic research in respect of issues like traditions, regionalism, parochialism, alienation, terrorism, economic development, etc. needs to be promoted.

It is a well-known fact that the integrity of the nation is under attack from varied forces, some even using the idiom of violence and terror, drowning the voices of sanity, truth and unity. Social and cultural conflicts are being promoted to retain and sustain narrow sectarian goals. Social and cultural distancing has started paying dividends.

Much of our problems are the result of the poverty of ideas or due to the wrong impact of the imposed ideas. The persons, who accept and propagate the ideas of the rich nations, are in great demand in the international conferences and seminars. They become great opinion-makers overnight.

One of the serious problems of the academic nature in India is created due to lack of updating and the subjective and selective use of the data. The academicians often ignore uncomfortable data, or deal with it by patch up kind of work. One may cite the case of Aryan aggression theory or that of the myth of race. These are kept alive in spite of the numerous works which prove them wrong.

The problems mentioned above need to be subjected to academic debate. The dialogue and convergence of opinion is necessary. The journal intends to provide forum for the same.

Confusions of Colonial Historiography

A most prominent Gandhian from Uttarakhand wrote in a 'Letters to the Editor' column in a prominent Hindi daily a few years ago that Uttarakhand is a part of independent India because of its annexation by the Britishers: the area was to be a free country otherwise. Similar logic is often heard in other parts of the country, specially in the North-East region. "The Britishers were the only people who conquered us", "we were never under the Muslim rulers of Delhi", etc. are the statements which are often heard in the North-Eastern region of the country. Such statements, when linked up to secessionist demands. lead to strange conclusion that multiple slavery is the pre-condition of being Indian. We may find the roots of such a confusion in the continuance of irresponsible colonial historiography in post-independence India. There are other factors also which are responsible for the same.

India continued to be a well-defined geographical and political unit from time immemorial. The term 'Bharatavarsha' was used in both wider and narrower sense. In wider sense, as depicted in the Puranas, it meant greater India stretching from the Central Asia through India proper to South-East Asia including the Indian ocean islands. (Cunningham's Ancient Geography of India, ed. S. Majumdar Sastri, Appepdix-1, pp. 751-54). It meant India proper, often called Kurnar dvipa/Kumari dvipa/Bharata, in narrower sense (Varaha Purana, Vamana Purana, XIH.59; Cultural Heritage of India, VI.15). The part of India east of Brahmaputra river, according to Vayu Purana, was called Indradvipa (S.M.Ali, The Geography of the Puranas, 1966, pp.128-30). The foreign travelers were conscious of political India and its geographical spread. Hiuen Tsiang was under no illusion that he was visiting a part of India when he came to Kamarupa on the invitation of Bhaskaravarman. Bbaskaravarman was called the 'ruler of Eastern India' in the contemporary history of China (Nagendra Nath Vasu, The Social History of Kamarupa, Vol.1, p.153., H.K.Barpujari (ed.), TheComprehensive History of Assam, VQJ.I, p. 1 19).

The political power operation was allowed in India at different levels. It operated at the grass-root level also, but did not obliterate the over-all vision of India. This Indian vision is expressed in the Sutra of the Excellent Golden Light (quoted, Encounter, December 1966, p. 40):

"When the eighty four thousand kings of the eighty four thousand states are contented with their territories, they will not attack one another or raise mutual strife. When all these kings think of their mutual welfare and feel mutual affection and joy, contented in their own dominions, India will be prosperous, well fed, pleasant and populous. The earth will be fertile, and the months and seasons and years will all occur at the proper time.... And all living beings will be rich with all manners of riches and corn, very prosperous but not covetous."

There was decentralization of political power; village republics functioned properly, there were eighty four thousand states, but under one India. We had fairly larger kingdoms, and also the empires, during the past thousands of years. 'Re Indian kings and the political thinkers used to have the strong urges to realise the political unity of India and even to extend the area of control beyond its geographical boundaries. Ashwamedh (horse-sacrifice) and Rajasuya yajnas were performed by the kings to satisfy their urges of universal or all-India sovereignty (sarvabhauma, asamudrakshitisha, chakravartin). Mahabharata describes the subjugation of Bbagadatta, the king of Pragjyotishpura by Arjuna during the Rajasuya yajna (Sabha., 26.7-16). Arjuna defeated Vajradatta, the king of Pragjyotishpura during the Ashwamedha yajna of Yudhisthira (Ashwa., 7,6) and had war with the king of Manipur (Ashwa., 79- 81). It needs mention that the kings of Assam also performed Ashwamedh yajna. King Bhutivarman performed Ashwamedh sacrifice. Mahendravarman and Sthiravarman each did it twice. (H.K.Barpujari, pp. 306-7). The kings of Assam ruled over other parts of the country also. Pundravardhana became a part of , the

Kamarupa kingdom in the time of Bhutivarman and his successors, including Vanamala, continued to rule over the same (H.K.Barpujari, Vol.1, p.201). Bhaskarvarman ruled over the provinces of Gauda, Kalinga, Udra and Koshala. It was probably on the occasion of Danasagara ceremony at Prayag that he obtained these provinces from the emperor Harsha as a token of the latter's great regard for him (Vasu, Vol.111, pp.11-12). The Koshala mentioned here must he the Chattisgarh of the present day (earlier known as Dakshina Koshala). The king was also installed on the throne of Karnasuvama (Rarh) later on. Bhuma dynasty (of the Assamese origin) ruled over Orissa from the 81 to the 1311 century (Vasu, Ill, 33). It may be mentioned that Supratishthitavarman and his brother Bbaskaravarman were taken captives and later released by a Gauda king. (Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, The History and Culture of Indian People, The Classical Age, p.92). Later on, Bhaskaryarman became the king of Gauda also.

It is true that Assam, except for sporadic invasions and brief occupations, did not come under the Muslim rule, However, it is .not true that the Assam of the pre-medieval period remained out of India. According to R.C.Majumdar, "The effective hold of the Guptas on this kingdom (Pragjyotisha) is indicated by the currency of the Gupta era in this kingdom for nearly five hundred years" (ibid p.90). He further wrote, "Thus an independent and powerful kingdom of Kamarupa arose out of the ruins of the Gupta empire" (ibid, p.91). Apart from the king of Kamarupa, the king of Dayaka (present day Doboka in the Kapili valley of the Nowgong district of Assam) was also the vassal of the Gupta emperor, Samudra Gupta (Majumdar Raychaudhuri & Datta, An Advanced History of India, p. 140). According to the same source, "Even in later times we find a king whose name ended in Gupta fighting on the Banks of Brahmaputra (ibid, p.144). The Chiefs from the neighbourhood of Brahmaputra did homage to the emperor Yashodharman (ibid, p. 147).

According to R.K.Mukherji (Harsha, p.44) Bhaskaravarman was a vassal of Harsha. Harsha was the superior partner in the Harsha-Bhaskara alliance according to BarPuiari. MMumdar, Raychaudhuru & Datta write about the nature of alliance between Harsha and Bhaskaravarman, thus, "The king of Kamarupa beyond the Brahmaputra was his ally, and the real character of the alliance was well illustrated by an episode recorded by a Chinese writer which shows that the eastern potentate acknowledged the superiority of Harsha's might and did not dare disobey his orders." (pp.150- 51). Devapala ruled Bengal in the early part of 911 century. He attacked Assam and was victorious (ibid, p.157).

It is clear from the proceeding paragraphs that Uttarakhand and Assam (now,' North-East) remained, both geographically and historically, the part of India. Undue focus on so called Muslim and British periods has resulted into fragmented view of our history. Other reasons of the fragmented view of history are not difficult to find. Mention may be made of the irresponsible, irrational and unimaginative historiography in post-independence India. Like scholars of many other disciplines, the historians suffer from negativism and academic consumerism. They have failed to break the colonial tradition of historiography. Substantial section of our historians are a quarrelling lot and suffer from dialoguelessness as stated earlier, they take uncompromising positions on the two ends of the pendulum swing. They recognise only two colours - the black and the white.

Alexander was a fringe phenomenon in Indian history and yet Smith has covered almost one third of his history on his Indian aggression, because he was writing Euro-centric history of India. Mill, the author of History of British India , was the pioneer among the British historiographers of India. The book was considered to be a most mischievous one by Max Muller. He wrote : "The book which 1 consider most mischievous, nay, which 1 hold most responsible for some of the greatest misfortunes that have happened to India, is Mill's History of British India, even with the anti-dote against its poison, which is supplied by Professor Wilson's notes" (Max Muller, India : What can it teach us ? p.28).

The mischievous book was written by a colonialist for colonial purpose and was used by the candidates preparing for the Indian Civil Service examination. It was unfortunate for the Indians but the colonial government gained. Indian historians, with the exception of Tapan Roy Chaudbury and Irfan Habib, did not care to study the history of North-East India as a part of the history of India. Even they have included the history of medieval period of Assam, only in the appendix of The Cambridge History of India, Vol. I (1982). Who gains by such irresponsible history writing?

A perusal of the books of Indian history, covering medieval and early modern periods, make it amply clear that not only the history of North-East India but that of other parts of India not conquered by Delhi Sultanate, Mughals and the British are also not covered in the same. There is either the tangential reference of the kingdoms subjected to plunders, mass murders and destruction of places of worship and learning or the scanty details of the conflicts with powers such as the Marathas and the Sikhs. Ala-ud-din Khilji, Gias-ud-din Tughluq and Muhammad bin Tughluq ruled for 20 years, 5 years and 26 years respectively. All other rulers of Delhi Sultanate, except perhaps Balban, were minor ones. Akbar, and not Babar and Humayun, was the builder of Mughal empire in India. The empire started disintegrating during the last years of the rule of Aurangzeb. The number of minor rulers occupying the throne at Delhi is very large and yet the history of Medieval India is made out to be the history of Delhi Sultanate and that of the Mughals. Every ruler of that period, major or minor, finds fuller space in Indian history, where as other rulers, such as prominent kings of Vijaya Nagar empire or the Ahom kings do not find adequate space in the books of Indian history.

The status of Mahmud of Ghazni in India was that of a plunderer. Muhammad Ghori was also a plunderer, and at best a ruler of the North-Western fringe J.L.Mehta (Advanced Study in the History of Medieval India) and other historians have given full coverage to them. Mehta has written about 'The Homeland of Babar' and the 'Ancestors of Babar'. The same author has bracketed Bahamani and Vijayanagar kingdoms together and covered both in the single chapter. The period between 1030 to 1175 and that between 1175 and 1206 is termed as the First and the Second Holocaust respectively without justification. Delhi of the first decade of the thirteenth 'century was not the Delhi of today. It was a very small town where a satrap of the Chauhans of Ajmer was governing. Ajmer, Kanauj, Devagiri, Varanasi, Dwarasamudra, Madurai, Warrangal, Udantpuri, Navadwipa, Ujjain, Kalanjar, Jaipur (in Orissa), Tripuri (in M.P.), Anhilwar Patan, were far bigger towns at that time. The importance given to the plunderers and Delhi of that time is, obviously, in consonance with the trends of the writings of history of India of the medieval and early modern periods. The history of India of the periods mentioned above is the history of the conquests by Delhi Sultans, Mughals and the Britishers. There is black out of the history of the areas not conquered by them. It is pro-colonial and non-secular history. It gives wrong impression that the history of India is the history of North-India only and not that of North-East and the South.

The obsessions and biases are obvious an transparently seen. It is confusing and it confuses. It generates resentment. If responsible historiography has become too costly for the nation. The history of India, specially of the medieval and British periods, is made out to be the history of the conquered people. Pre-medieval links are ignored. This intensifies the confusion. The strength of the nation is converted into its weakness. The question is fired: "how can we be Indians by being subjugated by only the Britishers" Such questions confirm the adverse impact of the so-called scientific historiography in India.

Post Kargil Situation - A War Within

The war in Kargil is happily over. It has, however, given rise to many questions and at the same time, cleared many doubts.

The aggression in Kargil sector was not merely 'a military misadventure of Pakistan on a distant barren land but an assault on a concept called India. The people of India have demonstrated, once again, that Indianness transcends the diversity of language, religion etc. and binds the country together. This is one of the gains of Kargil.

The war in Kargil was about willful infringement of our border. The war may have ended with the infiltrators having been pushed back, but it will have to be fought again if there is no change in the attitude of Pakistan. There is no sign that Pakistan shall cease to promote low intensity war in Jammu and Kashmir and for that matter elsewhere in the country.

Are we prepared enough for such a scenario? Do we recognise that India is fighting Pakistan on several fronts? To recapitulate, this involves :

(a) fighting militarily on the border,
(b) fighting Pak-sponsored low intensity war within the country,
(c) fighting a diplomatic war in the aftermath of the post-cold war and the post-Pokharan period,
(d) fighting a war within the country against subversion of ideas and values. It is this aspect of the conflict with Pakistan which adds to its complexities.

Some persons are in the habit of raising the question of the cost of Kashmir conflict or that of containing terrorism in North-East India. Such people should know that shrinking borders are no answers to India's problems. India shall have to defend its borders, irrespective of the cost involved, otherwise its very existence would be imperiled. It is also essential to keep in mind that strength is best surety against war. Long term planning and the proactive action with suitable moderation is needed, alongwith keeping pace with the modernisation of defence forces and achieving techno- logical edge.

India also must work to remove the haziness of ideas. The Bofors shells were to cost about Rs. 60001-. We pay now about Rs. 45,000/-. This is the cost nation pays for the encompassing politics in India. The. problem involved was the corruption in the Bofors deal and not the Bofors. Bofors became the victim due to political shortsightedness Kargil has brought many such shortcomings to light. The nation needs qualitative politics, which should not be all encompassing. The concern for the nation and the society should be supreme and not that of the chair.

The behaviour of the masses and that of the politicians and the intellectuals differed during the conflict. The masses exhibited their wholehearted solidarity with the defence forces on the front. The politicians and the intellectuals had uncontrollable urge for debate without considering the appropriateness of the timing. This scene of "war within" was avoidable.

The spirit of Kargil has unified the country as nothing else before in the recent past. This unity, India must preserve and also use to combat the divisive forces within which aim to debilitate and disintegrate the nation. Kargil was fought by the Jawans led by the Generals, the war within must be fought by the masses. The academicians and intellectuals must play a constructive and positive role in this endeavour.

                                                                                                                                                    - B.B. Kumar

Dialogue (A quarterly journal of Astha Bharati)

                                               Astha Bharati