India, Pakistan, and History [en]

A few months back I read this post of Anil’s, in which he suggests reunification as a solution to the India-Pakistan situation. I must say I personally quite like this solution, although I’m not sure it’s really viable (see my ideas on critical mass and big communities). I won’t comment further on the problem and its possible solutions, though, as I totally lack the political and economical insight to do so.

One argument in Anil’s post shocked me, however, and this is what I want to talk about today:

I also feel like the division of 50 years, or one hundred years, or however long it lasts, pales in comparison to the thousands of years of shared history.


It should only take a strong leader to remind Indians, Pakistanis, and Kashmiris of their thousands of years of shared history.

Anil Dash, Jan. 2002

The thousands of years of shared history is unfortunately a reinterpretation of history. The indian subcontinent was more or less unified under the Raj, and also at some point under the Moghul domination, but apart from that its history is definitely not one of unification.

I’m currently in the process of digging out enough indian history to demonstrate this (as I like giving evidence for what I state – sometimes). The “united subcontinent” is another of these “myths” whose origin can certainly be traced to relatively recent times (19th or 20th century, probaly). If anybody is interested, I’ll do a bit of research about it.

Now, let it be clear that I don’t blame Anil a bit for making that statement. We all—me included—repeat things that are “common knowledge” every day, and (unfortunately?) a fair amount of such things “heard and repeated” are false (heard about urban legends?)

The reason I’m telling you about this is because when I read the post, I thought “OK, that’s definitely not correct… but where on earth do I start to explain that it’s wrong? Do I have to go through the entire history of the indian subcontinent?” Actually, it’s possible to give a concise explanation—which I will try to do in a future post. The problem, I have now realized, is that my knowledge of indian history isn’t thorough enough that I am able to do so off the top of my head, even though I remember having seen evidence proving the point. So I’ll sweat a bit for the education of my readers and hunt it down 😉

I run in to this “where do I start?” problem pretty often, especially when the subject matter happens to be in my field of expertise. For example, I have joined buddha-l for my dissertation research. One of the reasons I haven’t participated to discussions there is that a lot of what is said is so far “off the mark” that I just can’t answer to it with my (limited, albeit specialized) student’s knowledge. If I’m pointing at Anil’s post today, it’s simply this afternoon’s indian culture lecture happened to mention Independence and Partition…

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