Lets Read History Anew

It took me quite some time and effort to come to terms with the fact that we’re, sadly, living in a society where mediocrity is promoted with an unprecedented rigor, where ordinariness becomes your asset and where intelligence and ability to question is regarded as your super disqualification.

My increasing criticism of the happenings and our collective thinking has become my trademark of “negativity” for people from seemingly all kinds of ages, backgrounds and classes. An out of proportion emphasis on “positivity” in recent times has become more than delusional in our society. One would find no soul who’s left there able to see the damage all of us are collectively doing to this country by choosing wrong ways of responding to national disasters.

This refusal to reason, inability to analyze things objectively and incapability to question and process raw information has made people of Pakistan succumb irrecoverably to rhetoric. We are now the people who offer most profitable package to exploiters for befooling us. We love to be fooled and to live in fools’ paradise. It’s easy and requires no effort. Someone asks us to be happy we do it. Someone else asks us to be enraged we do it. Isn’t it sweet?

It remained an enigma for me as to how we were able to develop ourselves in such an unimaginative, dim-witted, obtuse and thick skinned heap of people, till I happened to see a social studies text book for grade 5 couple of years back. Since then, studying the level of incompetence promoted by these state prescribed text books has become my favourite pass time. Not only that the kids are subjected to “torture” of having to read these mind-numbing monotonous piles of raw paper, but they are also pushed into oblivion never to surface again.

The trick has been done by either telling the selective truth or by out-rightly distorting it. Not that I don’t understand the dilemma of those who run Pakistan, but still we can do it with half more decency! Yes we do understand how can they tell young generation six decades later that they did an unforgivable blunder? But at least they can let people come to terms with it by asking honest questions.

I can vaguely recall those days when we were strictly prohibited to read history textbooks written by people like Dr Mubarak Ali and K. K. Aziz sahib. It was easier to encage information then. But we somehow managed to get hold on alternative history. Today, when it’s a million times easier to get hold of any information you like, students are strongly conditioned to neither reach out to readings other than prescribed, nor to trust sources other than state-engineered ones.

Whenever someone asserted the need to rationalize the historical narrative, one was invariably called an anti-state element that has to be gotten rid of. One matter of special fragility has been the presentation of facts related to or covering the movement that lead to the partition in 1947 and resultant birth of Pakistan.

Very interestingly, when I see the textbooks for grade five in India, I don’t see such a Pakistan (or Muslim-centric) hate propaganda. Despite the fact that we in Pakistan have got significant Hindu and Sikh population in pockets of Sindh, Punjab and Pakhtunhwah (the North Western Frontier Province as the colonial bosses called it to be followed by us to date), our text-books have left no stone unturned to present these religious groups as not only the enemies of Muslims, but also a sub-human creature who is in humane and too mean to be allowed to exist – yes, I know I’m harsh here.

The difference in conceiving the curriculum and packaging the information therein is way too conspicuous to ignore. A grade five student in India, according to the online curricula available on the website of National Council of Education and Research and Training (NCERT), studies Mathematics, English, Hindi and Environmental Studies. In the land of the pure, a student of the same level becomes a guinea pig of the state and undergoes the injections of Urdu, Islamiat, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies. In private schools, Arts & Crafts, English and computing is added to this. The non-Muslim students are given a choice of Ethics in Islamiat’s stead.

One wonders why such a young mind needs religious education? But such a question should not come out lest you may not be labeled as a lesser Muslim. World saw all hell breaking when there was contemplation on government’s part back in 2004, of removing Islamiat from primary education. It had to be re-introduced from grade three this time after a strong propaganda campaign was led by the media to fuel right wing consumer of curricula against the change.

There were many at that time who would ask what was harm in religious education, which should be a must. When, in response to the latter part of the question, one would argue WHY, the answer invariably was: Because Pakistan was created in the name of Islam! And this answer has been universal. So incessant has been the hammering of this lie that after sixty-two years, no one is able to even imagine challenging this assertion. Who has benefitted from this lie? Who was damaged by this? People of Pakistan and the society.

The wrong notion created since the beginning of country’s birth has won the establishment an unquestionable hegemony on power and resources. That the Muslims are one nation, and all non-Muslims are distinctly different from them, amply gives Muslims a reason to get a different homeland, came to play soon after the partition as one of the biggest challenges to keep diverse sub-nationalities within newly created state.

Differences in language, traditions, culture, social norms were too manifest to give neo-Pakistanis enough adherent to survive as a nation. Religion was the easiest way out. It was forcefully made one adhesive factor for keeping the nation together, which was undergoing labour pains ever since it came into existence. The ethnic differences erupted as soon as Urdu was declared national language of the country. The schism widened when federal government chose to impose governor rule in NWFP, disrupting popularly elected government of Dr. Khan sahib, just because he was from Congress. The Baluchistan’s independent states i.e., Qallat etc. too were not very happy with the way center was trying to consolidate itself at the cost of provinces’ independence. Although Khan of Qallat was convinced by Jinnah to sign instrument of succession, it still demanded a lot to appease the sentiment of exclusion.

In Sindh too, there were tensions between the local Vadera (feudal) politicians and migrated UP elite. Punjab’s Unionist party was also lured into coming in the lap of Pakistan Muslim League. An era of dirtiest politics started, which resulted into first military rule in Pakistan. No insight of politics in those times is available in any of the textbook in Pakistan. On the contrary, the history of Pakistan starts from Mughals (grade 6) and ends on August 14, 1947.

In my next post, I would be examining the way history is distorted and crammed up in young minds to make them belligerent against everybody who looks different in terms of religion.