Pakistan has an interesting history. From the Mughal era to the British occupation of subcontinent to partition- our history is full of interesting events, stories on both sides of pain, struggle and separation. What our generation knows today about partition is merely the accounts and narratives told by our history books. Therefore, our textbooks have played a significant role in moulding our perception about partition. But have the authors of these books done a fair job in writing history for students? Unfortunately, the answer to this is not exactly in the affirmative. Our textbooks are full of biases and opinions- so much that today one cannot flip through their pages without feeling complete hatred towards one side and complete sympathy towards the other. Our books have misguided us to a great extent and today, the perception of our generation of partition is blurred, fragmented and opinionated one rather than a factual one.
Now you might clench your fist and think, ‘but the Hindus were wrong and evil and unjust towards the Muslims. They were cruel and mischief-makers and its true.” What if I tell you that students in India think exactly the same about Muslims because the authors of their textbooks have done a no better job than ours in providing a fair and unbiased picture of partition? While I do not mean to say that our books are completely false and opinionated, I do firmly believe that they are not devoid of biases, evident hatred and at times lies. To clarify my stance, let me cite a few examples here:
“Since their belief and culture is different from non-Muslims, therefore cooperation with Hindus in any situation is impossible.” –Class 9, Pakistan Ideology, Urdu, 2012-13, pg 42
“Hindu thugs started killing Muslims and burned their properties with the patronage of the government.” –Class 8, Political awareness of Muslims of South Asia, Social Studies 2012-13, pg 80
“The Wardha Scheme: An education scheme based in Gandhi’s views…teaching was to be in Hindi…all students were expected to bow before a picture of Gandhi….” –Nigel Kelly, history and culture of Pakistan, Class 9 and 10, (Peak Publishing, UK), pg 83
Textbooks in India are not free from biases either:
“We are told that during the reign of Iltutmish, a party of Muslim divines approached the Sultan and asked him to enforce the Muslim laws strictly, giving Hindus the option of only Islam or death.” –Medieval History- A history Textbook for class XI, NCERT, 2001, pg 84
It is important to note that for our generation and for the future generations to come, our textbooks are perhaps the most important source of information there is, one that we rely on without questioning anything. They play a powerful role in shaping our mindsets as well as our perceptions. With so much biasness in our textbooks, our perception about partition is greatly fragmented and hatred an enmity between Pakistanis and Indians in inevitable. We must not forget that during partition while many Sikhs were raping Muslim women and chopping off their bodies, there were many of them who were providing Muslims safety inside their homes by risking their own lives. It is also important to remember that many families on both sides of the border were deeply saddened by partition for abandoning their Hindu, Sikh and Muslim friends forever was not easy for them. However, this is another chapter in our history that pleads to be understood and studied thoroughly by all generations to come. To conclude, we should not completely rely on our history books to gain an understanding of partition; we should study the numerous other books that have been written on the subject by authors of Pakistan and India in order to view our history with a crystal clear lens.
Written by: SADIA MAQSOOD (Team PS)