Questions from a Neophyte

Prasenjit Medhi medhi at CSI.COM
Sun Aug 6 15:45:28 EDT 2000


Greets,
       I just stumbled across the Indology list a few hours ago, following a
link from another website. I have an amateur's interest in history. History
affords one the opportunity to learn about one's self, one's (presumed)
ancestors and may provide a useful tool in predicting the future course of
events and the actions of current leaders, or to at least, say with some
degree of authority, that one begins to understand why a person of another
cultural background, nationality, acts in the way he or she does.

As an Indian citizen I am familiar with the urge to strongly react to
statements or actions that one perceives to be biased, Euro-centric, and the
like. I personally view self-centricism or ethno-centricism as quite
explanable in human beings because of the nature of human consciousness
which seperates us from nature's barbarity, and from each other. Naturally,
man must think of himself as a god, or at least one's ethnic group, as
defined by 'race', or religion or language, since we can never truly
comprehend another and thus view him or her as a lesser being :)

In any case, there is a credibility issue in India when it comes to the
history of India as presented by Westerners, and currently by Marxists. One
is seen to be the agent of a Euro-centric urge to explain relative European
'modernity' in the 19th century as a result of some innate European
superiority, and to paint a scenario in which such dominance would be
indefinite, and inevitable. While the proponents of the other are viewed as
being irrational and unobjective in their attempts to peddle a class-warfare
theme.

While it is of course nonsense to contend that a 'Westerner' is incapable of
presenting unbiased, objective historical facts on India, considering that
they will be tempered by his own experiences and impossible-to-do-away with
biases that all of us to some degree share, there is the view in India which
contends that history, along with the social sciences, in its modern avatar,
is mainly a convenient tool used by Europeans to paint, at least with regard
to India, to paint the same in unflattering color and language.

There have been two themes in the 'Indian response'. The dominant theme has
been to paint all Europeans as colonial agents who sought to discredit all
things Indian, and to in turn paint an amazingly Indo-centric picture of
history in which India is the cradle of civilization, the source of all
cosmic truth, and so on.

The other themse has been to calmly address discrepencies or questions
raised about events and epochs in Indian civilizational history, and to
present an objective scientific case for 'revision'.

Unforunately, the Left and the Right in India have politized history, and
any attempt at 'revision' is opposed by the Left, including objective
scientific work. Meanwhile the Right will introduce even more bizarre
historical theories. The truth, as is most often the case, is left by the
right of the wayside.

The danger here is that the proponents of ultra-right wing historical
revision often find willing believers to their view that European colonial
historians have often been guilty of changing the results of their
experiments to match their theories. As the strength of revisionist
sentiment gains ground, there is a danger that revisionists themselves will
be guilty of the crime of ethno-centric bias that they acsuse European
historians of, and moreover, will be as successful, at peddling their
particular version of history.

IMHO, there needs to be an effort to present an as rational and objective,
and persuasive, as possible historical picture of Indian civilization, in
order to bring on board those who would champion indo-centric theories at
the cost of objectivity, and for the sake of objectivity itself. One
question that mainstream(though less numerous from what I have observed)
Indologists have to answer is why the conventional dates and theories on
Indian civilization have met such opposition from Indian historians. Perhaps
some of the latter are bigots and supremacists, but could some be
motivated by a desire to hold to the objective historical facts?

Some questions raised by those who question Lord Macaulay's history of India
 :) :

Is there a case for the Indian origin of Indo-European languages?

Is there a case for the IVC being proto-Vedic?

Is there a case for the Saraswati civilization being either part of, or
concurrent to the IVC? And was the Saraswati civilization a historical
reality or is the conjuration on the part of Indian historians to give
Indian civilization greater anitquity.

Is there a 'race for the oldest' title on? Do we sacrifice objectivity for
it?

Is opposition to claims by Indian historians or Chinese historians that
their civilizations predated or were at least concurrent to civilization in
Mes. and Egypt based on a desire to defend objectivity or something else?

Where does the truth lie, friends? Is there an objective history of the
world? Or is History simply an old boys network and bragging club(s)?

And is it possible to have _real_(TM) history?

Regards,
Prasenjit



More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list