The forces of history were never too strong as they are right now, polarised and conjoined at the same time, especially in India, where a spate of revisionist agenda has taken up the cudgels for establishing a textual reference that can ideologically stimulate young minds to think in a fashion deemed amenable for the powers that be. The role of history has been transformed while its representative character, especially with regards to modern India, has remained lopsided. Daniel Little says that “The concept of history plays a fundamental role in human thought. It raises the possibility of “learning from history.” And it suggests the possibility of better understanding ourselves in the present, by understanding the forces, choices, and circumstances that brought us to our current situation.”. But, for Indians studying NCERT books, there remains a clear vacuum within that scope to read about J&K in particular and its making in general.
Be that as it may, my grouse is that successive governments have turned a blind eye to the modern history of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. Stretching from the plains of Jammu to the hard terrains of Trans Himalayas, this 84000 square miles of territory was the largest princely state of British India, harbouring a tapestry of different religions, languages, and cultures weaved into a single political structure by the Dogras of Jammu. Unfortunately, the geographical extent of Indian history textbooks conclude with Punjab in the north. Our books don’t dare to venture for cruising the bridge of Madhopur and entering J&K and have thus, kept J&K out of the national consciousness, except for its ‘disturbed’ status and brush with terror in the 90s.
The surreptitious deletion of our history has rendered the people of India largely clueless about J&K’s making and its socio-cultural and anthropogenic aspects. Generalizing terms like calling all JKiians ‘Kashmiris’ have engendered a suboptimal understanding of the people, bereft of any logic or social consciousness, signifying a gap in our knowledge system. In 2020, the days leading to the Galwan Clash between the Indian and Chinese Forces and even thereafter, some diametrically polar observations regarding the border issue crept onto the narrative, which invariably reflected the structural anomaly of our historical studies, wherein we failed to let our people know about the great expeditions of General Zorawar Singh and his Dogra Fauj under the command of Maharaja Gulab Singh of Jammu, where they fought at 16000-17000 feet ASL and brought Ladakh and Tibet into the fold of J&K, till the materialization of Treaty of Chushul in 1842, fundamentally established the bedrock of the future LAC. Likewise, on the eastern front as well, the annexation and consolidation of Gilgit-Baltistan and their truculent populations was no less a feat. These watershed victories extended the geographical boundaries of India to limits hitherto untouched.
Ironically, the people whose military feats led India to claim the entire state of J&K post the Pakistani aggression are the ones who’ve been deliberately expunged from our books and the blithe disregard for their marvellous achievements is there for all to see. I’m not saying that the government should write hagiographic accounts of the princes and their prized possessions but a fair outlook towards the past, good or bad, must be explored for fomenting a culture of fact-driven narrative. When the state itself plays a hand in glove with the adversarial forces in pushing and honing that narrative for hazy reasons, then I’m certain that state has tied up a sword of Damocles on its head on its own for rasping its neck.
I must clarify that I’m not for pushing a state-driven conjured-up agenda. What I’m saying is that a coherent policy should be devised by the Ministry of Education and NCERT to re-write history textbooks that have been grievously partial to certain areas of India. The kind of vicious statements that I see hovering in the public discourse regarding the role of the Maharaja during the tribal invasion and the J&K state Forces, makes me fervent in my approach for having a reformed understanding of our historical development. Take, for instance, the case of Maharaja leaving the state capital Srinagar in the dead of night on October 26th on VP Menon’s proposal is dubbed as cowardice today, despite the former having no intentions of leaving the capital. This gets cleared up in Prem Shankar Jha’s book where Gen Sam Manekshaw had narrated to the author that the Maharaja was angry and ready to fight with his troops. In the case of J&K, this becomes even more important where things are usually highly charged and polarised, to an extent, that intrastate tussle and animosity are real and transparent for all to see. Even the accession of J&K is mired with such diabolical, and at times, disturbing charades conjectured by a myriad of forces.
Ergo, there’s a need to revisit this Verstehen that has animated our social and historical discourse and has intuitively poised to nurture some flawed interpretations. It’s important to stir the conscience of people to make them grasp the history hidden from them. It’s high time when Dogra history should be introduced in the NCERTs so that our next generation doesn’t feel untethered and oblivious to the grand achievements of their forefathers.