Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Does History Lie?

The past is in the hands of the present – truly spoken by The Stoic.
My post on Gandhi threw up this debate between two very enlightened people in the Blogsphere – Charakan and The Stoic. The issue discussed has been a conundrum to me from childhood. I’ve listened to stories of Tippu, the brutal religious zealot who held up the members of the Hindu priestly class by their Kudumi, and put the question “Will you convert?”. If the answer was
Yes - the kudumi would be cut off
No - the head would be cut off.
Subsequently, as one grows up, and begins to confront history through books, conflicting reports greet you.
We live in times when decisions are taken, fanaticism thrives and policies are made based on History. These comments show what textual history tells and what oral history tells. I am not claiming greater credibility for the latter. Memory too can be conditioned and have an agenda.
My intention in posting these two responses is 1. to emphasise the need to dispel the notion that history never lies 2. to have a healthy debate on this issue 3. to get information about the background of communal picture of Malabar region. First hand reports are most welcome as are those recorded in ‘history’ .

Would be grateful if expletives are kept out.
Thanks. Do send your views.

The Stoic said.....
History is merely the story as written by the winners. We might read Chettur Sankaran Nair’s ‘Gandhi and Anarchy’, to know Gandhi in his own period. To quote a bit,
“His attitude towards the Mopla outrages shows the extent of his surrender. His alliance with the Khilafat movement has led to frightful results in Malabar. The result was, themselves armed and organised, they took the Hindus unawares and committed atrocities too well known, to need recapitulation here — butchered them and inflicted injuries on them far worse than death.
For sheer brutality on women, I do not remember anything in history to match the Malabar rebellion. It broke out about the 20th of August. Even by the 6th of September, the results were dreadful. The Viceroy's speech made on that date deserves careful attention.
....The atrocities committed more particularly on women are so horrible and unmentionable that I do not propose to refer to them in this book. This is what Malabar in particular owes to the Khilafat agitation, to Gandhi and his Hindu friends. The President of the Indian Moslem League, following the AH injunction, justified the Mahomedan atrocities as an act of war against the Hindus and the Government. Gandhi too pleaded for the Mahomedans.”
5:50 PM, October 02, 2009

kochuthresiamma p .j said...
@ stoic
viceroy's speech - there is truth in it - how much, is the question. look back at the first sentence of your comment :-)
history is always a pack of official lies-
have u read about the british reports of the atrocities by the Indians in the rising of 1857?
9:25 PM, October 02, 2009

Charakan said...

A Stoic, The communally minded polititcal leaders and writers along with the British always wanted to increase the divide between Hindus and Muslims.In case of Malabar rebellion also they did the same.But there are enough historical evidence to suggest that the rebellion was a mainly a peasant revolt by Muslim peasants against British rule and the pro British land lords who were mainly Hindus. All Hindu landlords who cooperated with the Moplahs in fighting the British were given protection. Yes, forced conversions and violence against women took place and in later stages it did degenerate into communal violence in some areas.But to dump the Malabar rebellion as a mere communal riot is distorting history
4:22 PM, October 03, 2009
A Stoic said...
Yes, the Past is in the hands of the Present. Your viewpoint is the current accepted version. Current history also says [watch the TV serials] that Tippu was the embodiment of religious tolerance.

Did the Khilafat have anything to do with the Moplah rebellion at all?

Chettur Sankaran Nair was not an RSS guy, I presume. And he lived in those times, unlike us.
8:46 PM, October 03, 2009
Charakan said...
Stoic, my family including my grand parents who were hindus also lived there in Malappuram during that time and I have also some idea of what happened from their stories.
Tipu was an invader King who tolerated anyone who agreed to his rule and was not a religious zealot.Many Forts of Tipu in Kerala have an idol of Hanuman guarding its entrance.The communally minded people on either side wanted to make Tipu an anti-Hindu or an Islamist.He was neither and his palace had many officials who were Hindus.Communalism started in the 20th century only.
11:17 PM, October 03, 2009

Charakan said...
The Tipu Fort in Palakkad has Hanuman idol at the entrance. It is believed to be present when the Fort was built by Hyder Ali. As you may be aware many of the high-ranking officials of Tipu's Palace were Hindus.Tipu did help financially and militarily many temples. At the same time he also have destroyed many temples. Being a Muslim invader he might have been afraid or reluctant to destroy mosques, but may not have any problem in destroying temples. In summary if you zoom out and look with a wide vision we can understand that he was just a brave Sultan, a ruler who fought the British with the help of the French and destroyed anything which he thought will question his authority. There was no Hindu versus Muslim question then. Only loyalty versus disloyalty to the ruler. The ruler will do anything to sustain his rule. Of such rulers Tipu was notable for his bravery and the will to fight till his last breath in contrast to most rulers of Kerala who saved their skin by aligning with the strongest powers of those times.
Read this review of Irfan Habib edited Indian History Congress volume on Hyder and Tipu's rule

12:52 AM, October 04, 2009


  1. History can lie as and when it is convenient for the ones who need the lies today.

    The British are known to have thrived on divide and rule.

    I feel whatever happened then still does not justify the communalism we see propagated by some political groups today. We seem to thrive on victim-hood.

  2. Yeah. I have wondered about this so many times. What if Mumtaz Mahal had written something on Taj Mahal?Will the sttory be any different? What about the voices of the people who were considered untouchables?Will our history be any different??

    U might find Maddy 's blog interesting. and his history blog

    Btw, the comments I post here never appear.:(.

  3. @ursjina
    someone else was also telling me abt the comment not being published. could be the posting isn't complete (copying the letters wrong or something). I publish all comments. the last i received from you is to 'I belong here '. do send the comments again.

    yes,you are right. we hear the voice of only those who are privileged to be heard.

    @ indianhomemaker
    i agree with you. communalism cannot be condoned on any grounds. but these are days when such a remark will immediately get you branded as pseudosecularist

  4. I think the fundamental mistake people often make is that they derive their sense of self from within the narrow confines of religions (or caste, or color, region, language and what not).
    The problem of this then, is that they end up reacting to things of the past (whether true or not) or present, as mere Hindus or Muslims or whatever, not as human beings who cannot bear to see the suffering of other human beings.

  5. Teacher,
    The past is in the hands of the present
    Why else did the mighty Cholas who ruled a third of India and a huge part of SE Asia end up being a 5-10 question while the Mughals were worth 60-70 marks? (in school)

    Had the British not fought Hyder Ali Khan and Tippu,Hyder-Tippu would not have been much eulogized as they are now.

    But for the post 1947 zeal to writehistory and createleaders and warriors,we would not have had a Lion of Kerala,Pazhassi Raja who is immensely over rated.
    Much bias has gone in writing history.

    Examples are merely indicative and from top of mind recall.


  6. KPJ, I am honoured to see some of my comments were featured in this post.If you had warned me I would have written more points in a better way.Thank you.

    Events in history can be used by vested interests for suiting their present needs. Every where in the World it was like that.

    I will come back with few more points on the Tipu debate as I need time for research.

  7. @ charakan
    please do. and history thru word of mouth also most welcome. that's a rare commodity.thanks.

    @ nikhil narayan
    'But for the post 1947 zeal to write history and create leaders and warriors,we would not have had a Lion of Kerala,Pazhassi Raja who is immensely over rated'
    this is the process of decolonisation of knowledge. inevitable in a country whose history had been totally distorted. the point however is history and truth are not best of friends. and truth - who knows what it is?

    @ nithin rajan
    that's the point. we shud realise history is not god's own word. we must have no more than mere academic interest in it and look forward.
    easier said than done, tho!

  8. I thank 'Urs....Jina' for the Links, albeit belatedly.


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