Culture war divides intellectuals in India, including historians

Historians in the News
tags: India

It is no scholarship when you try to understand history through the prism of ideology. This approach is highly reductionist as it seeks to depict something as dynamic, as intractable and as vast as the past as merely a progression of singular theoretical principle. It is in a way believing that the theory came first then events and developments shaped up according to it. The straitjacketing of history or looking at its progress as part of a pattern must be counted as the single biggest failure of the human intellect. It is one thing when you are trying to understand whether the past follows a pattern, it's quite another when you make it an article of faith. That's where selectivity comes in; since you have a broad line of thought you have to highlight those events that justify it. Other events, though far more significant in terms of impact, get ignored.

The Leftist historians in India appear in some sort of compulsion to narrate history from the Marxist perspective. That obviously involves amplifying what fit into the theoretical paradigm and excluding what doesn't. Historians of the Right go to the other extreme by glorifying what strains logical-rational thinking. Either way it is scholarship which ends up as the victim. A number of scholars, academicians and archeologists have recently issued a statement criticising both the approaches. They say the Leftist approach is inherently hypocritical and condescending towards any other view of history and the view that everything was bright and golden about India's past is equally flawed.

These scholars have also launched an online petition for those who wish to express their support to the statement. The petition can be accessed here.

And here is the statement in full ...

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