Union home minister Amit Shah called upon historians to re-write India’s history. He was also all praise for Veer Savarkar for naming the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny as the first war of independence.

He said that history only takes into account those who change the rules and that it is the responsibility of the historians of the country to preserve and re-write history. How long do we curse the Britishers? We should not get into controversy over the past writings and write history with our point of view, he remarked.

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In the last few years, the government has decided to revise history books. The archaeological finds of the past few decades have widened the civilisation of the region. Such moves have been met with criticism, especially by those from the Left who have accused the government of trying to distort history.

As new information trickles in, history books should be re-written. Moreover, is there anything wrong in re-writing history with an Indian point of view? The main reason why history books are written is to instil a sense of national pride. History is taught so that children imbibe both nationalism and patriotism while looking up to the leaders who fought for the nation.

Why it is time to re-write Indian history:

The great Greek historian, Herodotus had said that India lagged in historiography. Today if one looks at it closely, it largely appears as though the Independence Movement began with Mahatma Gandhi.

There are three aspects to Indian history- ancient, medieval and modern history. Medieval history speaks about Mohenjo Daro and the start of the Indian civilisation. The Upanishads, Vedas, age of Ram, Ramayan, Mahabharata all pre-date Mohenjo Daro.

The question is, why is there is no effort to retrace the history of the time of the vedas? Why is Mohenjo Daro the starting point? This starting point was created by Western historians. They were selling the fact that Aryans came from the Western stock.

Why do the Upanishads exist and where have the Vedas come from? All this needs to be told. The issue is that Indians did not believe in writing. It had become a word of mouth history and this is how it went on. All the stories have been woven around this. However, one must remember that one cannot create things from the air. Even fiction is based on some event. Hence there is a need to recreate the times.

Ancient history taught here does not tell you about the contributions of our great minds in the field of geometry, algebra, biology, surgery.  Such things need to be in textbooks. There are books about these persons, but then not everyone reads it. When it makes it to the textbooks it gets etched into the mind.

Moreover, we are only confined to Ashok and Chandragupt. We do not know about the other kings. We need to try and find out about other kings of the east and west. There is nothing on Kashmir history, which was a Hindu state. If our students had known about the actual state of Kashmir, situations would have been very different. There is plenty of old Kashmir literature available and this should be used to retrace history.

The fight and the struggle of our Kings have completely been ignored. There is however a lot about the Muslim kings. There is nothing about the fight the rulers of India put up. There is no trace of that at all.

Not many know that a group of fishermen had fought against the Portuguese. There is no mention of that in the textbooks and hence the students and most of us are unaware of it. Moreover, the history of South India is confined to the Cholas and the Vijayanagar empire. However, it forms half a page in our textbooks.

Modern history:

Modern Indian history fails to speak about the freedom movement as a whole. When a freedom movement is being projected, the struggle of all fighters should be brought out. All the heroes should be remembered and more importantly it must form part of our textbooks at the school level.

You only know a Gandhi or Nehru. Everyone should know what the others did as well. When we say others, it means freedom fighters from across the country.

When we speak of Veer Savarkar, the debate is largely around the apology letter he wrote to the British. It has been interpreted in a manner that he was a coward and had no heart in the freedom movement. However, it could also be interpreted as a clever ploy. Savarkar was definitely more useful outside rather than inside the jail. These are things that must be brought out. You don’t take a definitive view. It is an account of events, not a finality. Let the students know about it and decide.

Most of the history in India is about the British approach in the colonial era. However, in states like Bengal and Kerala, the books have a communism tilt which tend to leave those reading it with a great sense of pride.

Dr David Frawley, recipient of the prestigious Padma Bhushan award, rightly points out that the history books in India tend to ignore the dominant Hindu ethos of the country and its history before the Islamic period. The Mahabharata is hardly given any attention in the schools and the Vedas, Ramayana, Puranas are ignored due to their religious overtones.

If India is addressed as a nation, it is only India of the Independence movement, as if prior to 1947, India really did not exist, he also says. Dr Frawley while writing in Dharma Today also states that Nehru is made important, while old kings from the Rig Vedic Bharatas to Yudishthira of the Mahabharata to the Marathas are hardly mentioned.