Sunday, July 22, 2012

History and Propaganda - Responsibility of Historians

History and Propaganda - Responsibility of Historians

This is a rare post in English, but I think this needs to be read widely.  I am a subscriber to the Facebook group "Rare Book Society of India."  This is an amazing group that introduces out of print books that contain extremely interesting information, mostly about India, several times in a week.  If you have a Facebook account, I strongly recommend this group for you to join, if you like old books.

While I like their posts just for their books, it is rare that they would choose to publish an entire preface to a book. Today they did.  And it is breathtaking.  The details of the book are as follows:

Digital Rare Book:
The Mughal Empire From Babar To Aurangzeb
By S.M. Jaffar
Published by S. Muhammad Sadiq Khan, Peshawar - 1936

You can read the book Online at:

and you can download pdf Book at:

Let us come to the preface.  As you can see, the book was published in 1936.  Yes, 1936, a full decade before partition of India.  And already enough communal clashes have happened that the author worries about accuracy of history and it potential propaganda value that sets one community against another.  This should be read in the background of what else was happening around the world at that time.  Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin were in power.  Fascism was the dominant ideology of the "civilized" west.  The English and other colonial powers believed in their natural supremacy and even the United States was quite backward with its racist laws and supremacist attitude towards the rest of the world.  The Japanese imperial powers looked down on fellow Asians and India, though under the British rule, was deeply divided along religious and other fault lines.

As history book that outlines the Mughal's rule of India, written by a muslim, then cannot ignore the impact it will create on fellow Indians.  And the author doesn't disappoint.  The preface is brilliant.  It sets the right tone for reading history for its own sake, to understand the past, but not as a tool for righting the historical wrongs or to avenge for the past.  This has particular relevance for Tamil history as well.  This is not an apologist's tract.

Read the preface in its entirety and then the book.  (I have highlighted and italicized the sections that I found interesting).



ONE should not raise one's pen to write history unless one is equipped with a thorough knowledge of the original sources and a clear conscience. In order to obtain correct information, it is absolutely essential to approach history with an unprejudiced mind and without preconceived notions. The evidence thus collected from the huge mass of historical literature that has come down to posterity from the pen of the contemporary chroniclers must be carefully sifted and pieced together in such a way as to present an accurate account of the past.

History must not be used as an instrument of propaganda even in the best of causes ; if used in a wrong cause, it may result in filling streets with human blood. Volumes written on the Muslim Period of Indian history have voluminously added to the volumes of communal hatred and bigotry. Whatever the aims of their authors, the text -books on Indian history, particularly on the Muslim Period, teem with exaggerations, distortions and timid suppression of facts, so much so that they tend to set one community at the throat of the other.

False history has done more than a mere wrong to the cause of national unity and inter-communal amity in India. A retrospective glance at the present state of affairs will not fail to reveal to the reader the fact that the teaching of wrong history, more than anything else, is responsible for the recurring riots among the different communities of India. The sooner, therefore, such books are dispensed with, the better for the peace and prosperity of India.

Born and brought up in communal atmosphere, we, Indians, see everything with communal glasses and therefore get a gloomy view. The obvious result is that the best of Muslim monarchs, statesmen and scholars have been painted in the darkest of colours and condemned as bigots and intolerants, nay, as blood-thirsty tyrants. As things stand at present, communal harmony without correct history is a dream which cannot be realized. The whole of Indian history, therefore, requires to be re-written in the right spirit, 'not so much from the point of view of occurrences at the capitals of various states as in order to delineate the spread of culture and to demonstrate the value of its present composite form, so that our people may not be led away by the false notion that whatever paraphernalia of civilization we posset does not go back to more than a century and a half'.

Some time ago the Punjab Government appointed a Special Committee to see into the subject. The Committee investigated the matter and made some useful recommendations. The same point regarding the re-writing of the whole of Indian history, particularly the Muslim Period, was stressed at Poona at the All-India Historical Conference in 1934 by Dr. (now Sir) Shafaat Ahmad Khan who presided over its deliberations and suggested the appointment of a Mss. Commission for the purpose. How far the objects aimed at have been achieved, I do not know. Some six years ago, while I was a student, I too felt the same necessity after making an independent study of the Muslim Period and set myself to the task in right earnest. Remotely removed as I was from big educational centres, I was consequently deprived of all facilities for research. It was my love for my subject (history) that drove me from place to place in search of books drawn upon for material and the result is The Mughal Empire which I now submit to the judgment of the public.

The Mughals are no more. Posterity may pause and pronounce judgment of their actions and administrations ; but to be fair and free from fallacy, it is necessary to bear five things in mind : viz., (1) the background, (2) the spirit of the age (3) the conditions of the country (4) the tendencies of the times, and (5) the time that has elapsed since the fall of the Mughal Empire. The background in the case of Mughal Emperors was Islam on the one hand and Persian traditions on the other. In the case of Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb, Islam had a great influence on their actions, whereas Persian traditions played a prominent part in determining the acts and administrations of the rest of the Great Mughals. The spirit of the age, the conditions of the country and the tendencies of the times too had a great share in shaping their policies. While taking these four factors into consideration, allowance must also be made for the fifth the time that has scanned the interval between the fall of the Mughal Empire and the establishment of British Dominions in India time that has made marvelous improvements in and additions to the existing knowledge of man and changed his conception of things.

Since the book has been intended chiefly for students in schools and colleges as well as for the general reader, I have constantly kept their needs in view and therefore avoided burdening it with numerous footnotes, though I have fully tapped the sources of my information, both original and secondary, catalogued at the end of the book, and referred to my authorities on controversial topics, such as the alleged apostasy of Akbar and the so-called bigotry of Aurangzeb, topics on which I have differed from modern historians and suggested a new line of thought.

Last, but not the least, my unreserved thanks are due to all those writers, mediaeval and modern, whose monumental works I have consulted for constructing this narrative ; to the Hon'ble Sir Abdul Qadir for writing the Introduction ; to my brother S. M. Raza, B. A., for preparing the Index and to my learned officer, the Judicial Commissioner, N.W.F.P., for permitting me to publish this book.

Peshawar City : S. M. JAFFAR.

1st October, 1936.