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Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Tyranny of Indian History as taught in schools...3

For a land so ancient and with such vast amount of time spaces, there is so much of 'history' in India to learn. The village landscape of Tamilnadu is almost a living museum of sorts, everything has been around for a thousand years and every household and community has a memory that goes back several generations. this is not a history as in dead museum structures, but a living continuity...begging for a non-textual and more living ways of teaching history in this land.

It is said that two thousand five hundred years ago, when Buddha visited the city of Benaras, it was already known as the 'ancient city' as was Kancheepuram when thus described by the early Chinese travellers. The Indian idea of time places the Mahabaratha war at 3000 BC and even the most 'modern' conservative estimate place it at a historic period between 1500 and 800 BC.

When we study a history going back such vast periods, we understand why disturbing the rural (or urban for that matter) landscape with 'development' of roads that chops through historic monuments and community identities is almost destroying a legacy. The people who defend the 'rama sethu' as being sacred and need not be destroyed and want the babri masjid revoked to a rama temple are the same ones responsible for the massive road  laying across the hinterland of this country that destroyed several local histories, their remnant structures, linked community identities and legacies. in the process the pride of the local and inheritance legacies are being replaced with the grand narratives. the grand narratives of today are more centralized whereby the local are reduced to side characters in the main story. many of these are modelled on the western narratives and its heroics.

The movement from the many histories to the single history is the real tyranny of the high school history as it is taught today. the diversity of languages, dialects, dialectic narratives of the epics and literatures and through them those that are eternal and those that are spatial and temporal as well for the locality.

The approach that tried to bring back social justice through rendering of local history through a subaltern narrative really didn't demand that histories of the locale be studied by people of the locality, instead they competed with the colonial narratives (or psuedo-colonial narratives) to find space for themselves in the annals of scholarships. partly this was because the people who were doing them had already been isolated through their education from their locality and instead of bringing back the local identities and legacies into existence, they were demanding a place for the same (and thereby themselves for articulating these) within the centralized forms of history. hence, that which had the power to destroy the centralized system of historical narrative ended up being neutralized by being given a bit of space for itself in the centralized one as well.

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