“Nostalgia is not what it used to be.” – Simone Signoret
To look back these days evokes less anger or longing and more a sense of gazing on ruins. Like the Angel of History, so evocatively described by Benjamin, we are being blown with our backs to an unknown future, gazing at the relentless pile of wreckage that accumulates behind us. The idea of a nation that we once imagined together is buried somewhere in the debris, our residual idealism detects its gleam sometimes. This sense of melancholy propels different shades of politics, one of which does a fine combing through the rough texture of history to recover lost visions. The other seeks to resist the lure of the past and think exigently within the horizon of the present. A hard headed engagement with contemporary times comes rooted in the belief that there is no space of authenticity or of an archive of resistance awaiting us in the past: there is no ‘there’ there. However, the mode of thinking that informs the historical discipline requires us to look back, and see the filiations with the present as much as the future. The fact that we occupy a future past (that is to say, we live in a moment that was once imagined as a future, utopian or otherwise) can be an occasion for cynicism as much as a fillip for renewed action. Continue reading Loss of Hindustan – A Symposium II: Dilip M. Menon→
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.
‘Vicharon ki Be-imani (Dis-honesty of thought) cries the heading of the lead article of Dainik Bhaskar’s editorial page on 1st November 2010. The article is written by Venkateshan Vembu, foreign correspondent of DNA English daily, a newspaper published by the same group of publications. It was originally published on 27th October with the headline reading ‘Arundhati Roy is dangerously wrong on Kashmir’. The writer of the article claims that whatever Arundhati has said is not only dangerously wrong and beyond the tolerance level of any law-abiding citizen but, it also has the potential to arouse feelings of anger and violence among the masses. “Yeh kuch is tarah ki beimani hai, jo janmanas me krodh aur aakrosh ki bhawna upjati hai (This is a kind of dishonesty which generates feelings of anger and violence among the people”). Ironically, this turned out to be a ‘prophetic’ disclosure, as right after four days of publication of the original version in DNA, Arundhati’s house in Delhi was attacked by the writer’s ‘Janmanas’, theBJP’s women wing ‘Mahila Morcha’.