Manan Ahmed Asif’s recent book Loss of Hindustan: The Invention of India* has aroused considerable interest that goes beyond academic readers. Since the book deals with a matter that concerns not just our past but also how we imagine our future, we at Kafila decided to try out a symposium on it – on an experimental basis, since we do not generally carry book reviews as such. We will be serially publishing three reviews/ comments on the book, by DWAIPAYAN SEN, DILIP M. MENON and HILAL AHMED, over the next few days, in the hope of provoking some discussion. We also hope to get the author’s response to these contributions. This first piece is by DWAIPAYAN SEN. The second contribution by Dilip M. Menon can be read here. You can read the final piece by Hilal Ahmed here.
This book is the most recent addition to a growing tradition of precolonial history-writing that depicts India as a land of milk and honey before the coming of the colonial flood. Evidently, a European understanding of India as Hindu replaced an earlier, native understanding of India as Hindustan, rendered a home for all faiths. Such arguments are based on the close reading of Muhammad Qasim Firishta’s Tarikh-i Firishta, and its appropriation by scholar-administrators in the employ of the East India Company.