History is both the past and present and in fact, very much relevant to the future events. The discipline of History deals with past events, but these are the events that affect us on a daily basis. Everything in the world exists and has its meaning, and this is why is history important. For instance, in social sciences, we learn about the governance, our current geographical areas, our cultures, languages, etc. But there is a particular way of learning it and only the relevant information that matters and therefore it is important to know the history of anything that occurs in our minds.
History has its relevance because it helps us decide to shape our cultures and way of thinking. For instance, if a child is introduced to the idea of ‘Reservations’ in Indian education system, he would think why reservations exists and therefore, it would be important for him to understand the history of caste system and why reservations came into play as a remedy to abolish the inequalities that existed in the past.
Therefore, History is important because it helps us become aware of the reasons behind our ongoing lifestyles, policies, cultures, attitudes, etc.
What is the purpose of history
History, is not always the truth but merely just a narration of events that have been recorded. Now these narratives are affected by the perspectives of different people. People can have different perspectives, thought processes and thus that affects their interpretation. For instance, a cricket match is one event, but its interpretations might be different depending on the teams. The winning team will see where they performed well whereas, the losing team will see where they went wrong and how they can improve. Similarly in history, the events that occured have been just events but their interpretations might differ depending on the sources. India is a country of diverse cultures and all the communities view each other differently thus affecting the perspectives. For instance, the recent case of Bhima Koregaon in Maharashtra was trending in 2018 when there were riots taking place between two different castes and communities.
The Bhima Koregaon case involved the Mahar and Maratha communities of Maharashtra. For many days, the debates reflected over which community is at fault or not. Not every perspective is right or wrong but again the perspectives differ. While the Mahars think that they celebrated a 100 year old victory, the Marathas believed that the Mahars were celebrating Marathas’ defeat in a locality dominated by the Marathas themselves. In this case, no community is right or wrong but the perspectives will differ depending on what community one comes from and how they perceive the event.
Importance of History
The perspectives of Historians highly affect what and how they’re communicating. Because what they write will be read by the children and therefore, it can affect how the children think of the history.
For another example, let’s take the case of the Babri Masjid demolition. An important observation is also the fact that history adjusts when people learn new facts. This case has been in the limelight for decades and in fact, historically has its traces from the mid seventeenth century. The debate over whether the Masjid in Ayodhya was actually built after a temple lasted till date. But how is it reported depends on how it is being informed and who is informing it. A Hindu might believe it to be a temple whereas, a Muslim will believe it to be a Mosque. So the event is one but interpretations might differ.
In schools and curriculum, what we study depends on who is reporting it and therefore, it is suggested that the curriculum and policy makers are neutral to issues so as to maintain harmony.
Reflecting on how a perspective can affect the history of events is highly evident in Nandini Sundar’s paper ‘Teaching to Hate’. In her paper, Nandini Sundar has written about how the NCERT textbooks of History and other social sciences became a controversy. She has written that despite History being a subject history that should help us determine current identity, the rights to citizenship and to raise questions of historic reparation and justice, History was deeply political under the influence of BJP and RSS. She has mentioned, “History is not studied in order to know what has been, but one studies history in order to find in it a guide for the future and for the continued preservation of the nation itself”. The leading resources for studying the nature of history are history research papers in college. The History books have poor grammar and even facts, infact, they reflect many ideologies that pertain to RSS in order to prove that the Indian civilisation goes along with Hinduism. This kind of curriculum will enable the children to shape attitudes that favour Hindus over other religions and castes. This is how historians and their perspectives affect the learning of an event in a particular way. As mentioned, the RSS/BJP influenced the curriculum and made sure that they learn the ‘Vedic civilisation’ which in India is portrayed as the foundation of all the great things in the world. On the other hand where all the evils are considered to be foreigners, mainly Islamic invaders and Christian missionaries, they are thought to be low in comparison with the Hindu people in the country.
Many important achievements have also been made through history essay written by students at institutions of learning throughout the United States. Similarly, another classic example of pedagogy and curriculum by Right wing Historians in the textbooks influencing stratification and differentiation is that of the removal of Mughal history from Maharashtra textbooks. In the textbooks of class 7th and 9th, the traces of Mughals have barely been mentioned and the increase in mention of Shivaji is witnessed. Earlier, the children read about both Akbar and Shivaji as great kings of India. This helped them identify both the leaders equally with equal respect despite their religions. But such a move to portray one leader over another or wiping out one’s history only to bring the other leader into the light creates stratification. Earlier the children saw Akbar as a liberal and tolerant administrator but now he is perceived to be a leader who brought India to a central authority. The transition of Shivaji as ‘a great king’ to ‘the ideal ruler’ is witnessed and thus it creates a sense of hatred among the other religion and community. Children belonging to Maharashtra or even Hindus will only favour leaders of their religion. Therefore, what the historians report and how they perceive becomes important.