Sunday, May 26, 2024

Challenging Narratives for a Progressive ‘New India’

Written By Nischal Srinivasan (Grade 12)

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal was a revolutionary experience for the entire United States, though it is debatable whether it really helped to make possible Pax Americana and the global dominance of the USA. This phase saw a fresh paradigm shift, with the world meeting a modern and powerful America with the ‘American dream’ as the widely endorsed slogan. The theory that rejuvenation of nation formation has become a dominant political solution has led political parties in India to champion ‘New India’.

The desire for a ‘New India’ resonates with aspirations for communal harmony, prosperity, and equality. However, concerns arise about the government’s vision for a new India, particularly in light of recent changes to NCERT textbooks. Suspicion lingers regarding the government’s intentions to erase the achievements of certain religious rulers, potentially driven by a political agenda. This raises questions about whether history is being rewritten again to suit political ambitions, like in George Orwell’s ‘1984’.

It’s crucial to recognise that the manipulation of history for political purposes is not a new phenomenon. Past governments and historians have shaped historical narratives to serve their objectives. The current educational approach tends to highlight the noble deeds of freedom fighters while overlooking their flaws and shortcomings. To truly understand the past, it is essential to critically examine historical figures, acknowledging the imperfections inherent in every human being.

Taking Mahatma Gandhi as an example, widely revered for his principles of nonviolence and equality, reveals a nuanced history. Gandhi’s time in South Africa exposes a hidden aspect of his persona, marked by racist views, referring to blacks as ‘Kaffirs’ and deeming them less than human. These revelations, written by Gandhi himself, often go unmentioned in school textbooks, necessitating additional reading to grasp this earlier version of Gandhi.

The prevailing narrative about Gandhi’s activism in South Africa typically focuses on his fight for equal treatment of Indians. However, it fails to highlight his selective approach, championing only the rights of the ‘merchant class Indians’ while overlooking the struggles of indentured Indian labourers in South Africa and other British colonies in Africa. The lack of awareness among the majority of Indians regarding these aspects underscores the need to address distorted historical narratives in education.

Concealing such information from students deprives them of the opportunity to form independent opinions. Embracing the imperfections of historical figures, as aptly stated by Oscar Wilde, acknowledges that every saint has a past and every sinner has a future. This act of selectively hiding crucial historical facts extends beyond Gandhi to other iconic figures like Ashoka the Great and Aurangzeb.

Some argue that omitting certain aspects of history is necessary for communal harmony, but this justification is challenged. Granting godly status to ‘great’ men, despite their human flaws, hinders progress. Acknowledging mistakes and biases in historical figures is imperative for genuine learning and, ultimately, a brighter future for both India and the world.

Featured Image Courtesy – Evolute

Nischal Srinivasan
Nischal Srinivasan
My name is Nischal Srinivasan and I have a great interest in writing poems and articles. I have also published a poem named Resonating Reflections in Amazon Kindle.


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