The author speaks about ‘decolonising’ history and why we can’t look at the pre-colonial period without acknowledging the prejudices of colonial historians.
Manan Ahmed Asif | December 12, 2020 | Scroll.in
Manan Ahmed Asif’s new book, The Loss of Hindustan; The Invention of India, ends with this cri de coeur:
“Across the subcontinent we now confront a crisis of the past, with an explicit understanding of difference as destiny…
The majoritarian Sunni or Hindutva projects ask that we, as historians, consider them inevitable and immutable. Yet, this cannot stand…
The history I have sketched here is a prompt to imagine ways forward that do not yield to the majoritarian present, that do not inherit the past as certainty, and do not romanticise that which is lost. It is essential that, as historians, artists, activists, and thinkers, we turn to the medieval period and recognise the ways in which it continues to organise how current prejudices are rearticulated…
It is our collective task to re-imagine the past.”
Asif, an associate professor at Columbia University who also founded the blog Chapati Mystery, examines the ways in which colonial histories of the subcontinent, often using a simplistic religious lens, overshadowed and overwhelmed a very different understanding of Hindustan held by medieval scholars.
The book trains its focus on the Tarikh-i-Firishta, a monumental history of the subcontinent written by the 17th-century Deccan historian Firishta, whose work was massively influential in the region but also became the basis – after tremendous reinterpretation – of colonial histories that portrayed the past in Hindu-Muslim terms that continue to impact the political trajectories of South Asia decades after independence.
Originally published in Scroll.in. Read the full article here.