First Independence Struggle!?
sumandro "riju" chattapadhyay
(LSS Ahmedabad 2003, Visva Bharti Santiniketan,
Dr. Manmohan Singh has declared the sipahi
mutiny of 1857 as the first battle of independence (http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/nic/pmiday.htm)...
A case of a swift stroke of interpreting
history to support the cause of nation-building. It always makes me
wonder - can history actually be free of the interest of its author?
Whatever be the author's ideology - nationalist, Marxist, subaltern etc.
How can the argument about interpretation of
a certain past event (like the mutiny of 1857) between the academicians,
can be presented to the laymen? I guess they should know the alternate
views of an event before shaping their own perception. It is a
very big concern for people of a nation like India- this idea of
"India-the Nation" and that the national identity depends much upon the
common perception that the people of this region actually have a common
history. Some recent writings in history, try and prove this common
perception wrong, saying
that people of the eastern part of the country have historically, much
in common with the eastern neighbours of India and the same for the
western parts of the country. The southern parts of India do follow a
substantially distinct historical path than the northern parts, but this
essentially academic protest can have much influence if it enters the
general discourse. The idea of separate history might be appropriated by
various separatist groups for their own benefit. I am not saying
anything against separatists but just stating the fact... so the
'government of India' does have a big stake in the success/failure of
such academic endeavours... and if 'goi' actually discourages such
academic questioning, should we shout that authoritative government is
encroaching upon the domain of intellectual freedom???
Anyway, the main point is "can governments write history to support
their cause?" but if they do not write such history, other
interest groups will... so should not a government provide a competing
Moving away from India, it is a shame that Americans celebrate
'Columbus's day'... the day that initiated mass killings of the native
Americans... but history has been written that way... culture has been
shaped around such history... and not much word get spoken about the
duty of the government of USA to write history from the native
American's point-of-view... why should all the academic anger be
directed to third-world governments?
I am no government-lover, and am pretty angry at our PM's comment about
the mutiny of 1857. Perhaps the idea that that mutiny was the first
battle of independence, had a historical necessity (if such thing
exists)... and perhaps the idea is still needed to pursue the cause of
nation-building... perhaps other historians are too critical of the
ones... it is true that nationalist distorted some truths for certain
ends, but so does every other historian.