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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Distortion factor

 The ruling classes have always feared being depicted in history as corrupt, or of being tyrants or despots. Hence, they have always adopted the policy of controlling history writing so that their misdeeds are either eliminated or misinterpreted to suit them.

Historians are especially employed to write history that highlights the achievements of the rulers, while burying their crime and misdemeanors. In the past, rulers and monarchs appointed court historians who recorded all events of the court, flattered the ruler and painted him as most generous and just.

Timur (1336–1405) would summon his historians in the court every evening and order them to read what they had recorded. It was impossible for them to write anything against the king as he only wanted to listen to praise and admiration of his rule. However, there are instances in history when historians who were not reporting directly to the king were able to truthfully record history of their time.

During the reign of Akbar (1556-1605), Abdul Qadir Badayuni, the author of Muntakhab al-Tawarikh challenged Akbar’s religious views.
The book was circulated in secret and by the time Jahangir (1569–1627) found out about the book, it was too late for eliminating facts. It is a rare document depicting the reign of Akbar, as it was not written by a court historian but a private person instead who recorded events of which there is no official version in history.

Aurangzeb (1618–1707), after 10 years of his rule dismissed court historians as they were not allowed to write about his rule. He was, perhaps, afraid of history.

In Pakistan, the subject of history is treated in a poor and dismal manner. As corruption breeds across the society, historians are not allowed to record crimes, fraud and lies. Official institutions have been established to control history writing in textbooks which are in a way being victimised. The National Curriculum Board decides what historical matter should be used and what should be discarded. Textbooks change with regimes, while history is distorted and falsified to give dictators and usurpers, dignified and exalted images.

Historians who served military dictators in the past glorified their rule and presented them as saviours and deliverers of the nation.
However, as the regime ended, the true picture of their rule was brought to light. Many facts went missing though, as historians had no access to official documents.

Besides dictators, politicians and bureaucrats, army generals are also afraid of history, because they are involved in corruption so massive that it can bewilder the imagination of the common man. The builders’ mafia grabs and sells land illegally at high prices. Sometimes one plot is sold to two or three parties who after the forged deal, wander from court to court seeking justice in vain Adulteration and forgery is rampant at all levels in society. Teachers would rather use their teaching skills in private tuition centers instead of classrooms and mint money. Private educational institutions are busy exploiting parents and students by charging phenomenal fees without imparting a decent standard of education. Physicians and doctors are becoming better known as butchers. Lawyers cheat their clients and students shamelessly cheat in examinations.

Religious parties are busy exploiting religion to achieve their political designs. Religious sects create hatred against each other leading to bloody violence. Intellectuals and media people shamelessly sell their knowledge to their paymasters. Political parties continue to mislead people in order to come into power while leaders treat their parties as private property and their families monopolise and manipulate their leadership.

Being deeply entrenched in corruption, all of them are afraid of history. Sadly, there are no historians who have the courage to bring the truth to light, nor to document the prevailing corruption in the society. Without historical record, there is no way to understand the problems or trends of the society and the crimes go unpunished in history.
By Mubarak Ali: http://dawn.com/2013/03/10/past-present-distortion-factor/
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