Tampering with history: a case of Pakistan and India

Every page of the textbooks was the landmines of guilt and false pride. It was us versus them — the infidels

Durdana Najam April 20, 2023


Any alteration in the content of a textbook is a moral crime — a crime committed on the conscience of the citizens who had the right to know the truth. Fabricated facts may look good, but they change the temperament of its target audience. If reality is presented as it is, textbooks act like a floodlight in which all the eras — past, present and future — become visible. One can easily walk through them, sometimes correcting errors and on other buildings on the historical pride. When tempered, history becomes the worst foe. Unfortunately, Pakistan did this and landed with a nation that is neither committed to the true spirit of Islam nor has the recognition of a self-sustaining and self-respecting society.

We grew up learning that all the Mughals were highly religious and that the only purpose of their life was cleaning the Hindu footprints from the sub-continent. We also learned that Pakistan was snatched from the iron fist of Hindus. We were taught that Bangladesh was created because the leaders of East Pakistan joined hands with India to undo Pakistan. We were brainwashed that India attacked Pakistan in 1965, and if the deceased saints had not risen from their graves to rescue us wearing long green cloaks and if the young soldiers had not worn bombs on their arms to blow up Indian tanks, Pakistan would not have survived.

Every page of the textbooks was the landmines of guilt and false pride. It was us versus them — the infidels. In the continuation of this mindset, we gaveled the Ahmadis non-Muslims. We sustained the blasphemy law from the colonial era to fortify our copyright on Islam. Our heroes were the brutal, spendthrift and alcoholic — barring a few — kings of the Mughal era or other dynasties. When we ran out of them, the soldiers from the Pakistan Army filled in the blanks. Mujeebur Rehman was an evil. Ayub Khan was a progressive leader. The turnaround of history, from facts to fallacy, eventually dwarfed us into a life where a common man can lay down his life to get one free bag of flour. Not because he is empty stomach but because he is getting something free of cost. Dubai has stopped giving visas to Pakistanis on the ground that they come to Dubai for begging, yes, begging. That is the allegation against Pakistanis. From the database developed by Dubai’s interior ministry, people from certain districts of Pakistan, such as Chakwal, are entirely barred from getting the visa. According to the embassy, these people are highly susceptible to committing gross financial malpractices because of their penchant for getting a free ride.

India is also rewriting history and has chosen textbooks as the safest and fastest way to achieve its mission. The BJP is making India the fortress of the Hindu religion. The political and religious leaders of the saffron dispensation cannot see anything beyond their ideology. While we portrayed the Mughals as the protectors of Muslim heritage in the subcontinent, the BJP has relieved them of this title and have posed them as mere intruders, polluters and cruel invaders. Unlike Pakistan, India has taken a holistic approach to whitewashing history. Many cities, towns and roads named after Muslim personalities have been renamed. The historic city of Allahabad is now Prayagraj. Aurangabad is Chhatrapati Sambhaji Nagar and Osmanabad is Dharashiv.

India’s textbook revision has not only taken out part of India’s history that did not belong to Hindus, but it has also eliminated events that could reflect on India as a country with a belligerent past. That is why the brutal handling of Dalits and the system of caste and its legacy that had millions of low-caste Hindus languish in misery and poverty has been purged by the textbook revisionists. The killer of Mahatma Gandhi, Nathoram Godse was part of the Hindu supremacist network led by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological branch of BJP; he is introduced as a lone wolf in the new textbooks. Putting on more veneer of falsehood, the 2002 Muslim massacre in Gujarat, when Modi was its chief minister, is completely taken off the books. Similarly, India is painted a traditionally gender-balanced society. Every mention of gender-related discrimination has been plucked out. There is no mention of a water theme park or the drought-hit farmlands in the central region of Vidharbha. Hence, no debate on two Indias — one for the rich and another for the poor.

While Pakistani textbook board revisionists wanted the world to believe it a defender of Islam and Muslim values, the BJP-led revisionists wanted the world to see India as a product of love and non-discrimination. However, the reality is just the opposite. Will India survive hiding behind a false facade? Will the idea of creating a strong state and obedient masses work out? It has not worked for Pakistan, and the chances are it will not for India too. Pakistan is imploding within, culturally. India will also face the same unless history is left on its own to defend itself.


Published in The Express Tribune, April 20th, 2023.

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