LAHORE: Speakers from various countries have stressed the need for unbiased, fair and honest historiography of South Asia to keep the record straight, resolve differences and promote harmony. They said that history must be free from the influence of the “establishment.”
Addressing the inaugural session of three-day 24th International Pakistan History Conference entitled “History and Historiography of South Asia” organised by the Punjab University (PU) Department of History, Pakistan Historical Society and PU Department of Political Science at Al-Raazi Hall on Monday.
PU Vice Chancellor Dr Mujahid Kamran, History Department Chairman Prof Dr Iqbal Chawla, the caretaker of the shrine of Hazrat Khawaja Moeenuddin Chishti in Ajmer Sharif, Dr Syed Liaqat, Hussain Moini, Hamdard Foundation Chairperson and Pakistani Historical Society President Saadia Rashid, University of London’s Prof Dr Sarah Ansari, University of Karachi Pakistan Study Centre Director Dr Jaffar Ahmad, Pakistan Historical Society General Secretary Dr Ansar Zahid Khan, delegates from other countries, senior faculty members and a large number of students were present.
Addressing the ceremony, Vice Chancellor Dr Mujahid Kamran said that the subject of history had been under the profound control of world’s financial elite for engineering consent of masses to serve their interest as history influenced behaviour. He said that George Orwell, an English critic, novelist and journalist, had stated that he who controls the past controls of future and he who controls the present controls the past. He said that during World War I, the financial elite tasked several social scientists with molding public opinion in favour of war while the people were against the war. He said that history was always taught in selective way and there was an “establishment” that controlled the subject of history. He said that only six corporations owned by the wealthy elite controlled 95 percent of the US media and they always distorted news and did not present certain facts, which were against their agenda. He said that their media would never report that the cancer incidence rate in Fallujah, Iraq, which was heavily bombed by US forces, was much higher than that of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
He said that researchers now had found that the financial elite had funded the Bolshevik Revolution and Hitler simultaneously. He said that no honest history of the 1947 Partition of subcontinent had been written and that’s why there were feelings of hatred. He requested the media to highlight the importance of the issue and do programs on the subject of history.
In her keynote address, Dr Ansari defined the elements and importance of public history and said that public history was applied in practice among the general public through media, curriculum, internet, museums etc and was designed for mass audience while the academic history was being taught in universities. She said that there were strong reservations on public history as it was under the control of governments, radicals and certain establishments and was used for conscious raising to serve political interests and inform selectively. She said that public history posed challenges to the governments and the people who controlled it. She said that Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s two nation theory was clear and evident, adding that history textbooks were creating controversies. She said that Pakistan’s education authorities revised syllabi to promote specific ideology in General Ziaul Haq’s regime while changes were made to the curricula for defence purposes in Japan also.
While in India, she said, opposition parties changed the curricula when they came into power. She said that authorities want to eliminate uncomfortable references from books. She said that there was selectivity of collective memory while history was an open feel but was being used for specific purposes.
She sought moral commitment of historians for compiling neutral and unbiased history. She said that academic history and public history must be connected and a common man must be provided an opportunity to think independently.
Conference President Saadia Rashid said that although scientific methods were introduced in social sciences during the colonial rule in the subcontinent, they also injected subjectivity. She said that the Pakistan Historical Society was promoting researches on history and reviving conference culture since 2000.
Dr Moini said that history was the subject where one was supposed to be a judge. He said that one should review documents and facts objectively and than pass judgment.
He said that Sufis had provided a vast literature on history but it had not been given due importance. He said that the literature could be used for bring about harmony in the region.
Dr Chawla said that unfortunately, it seemed that subject of history had lost its appeal for the general public as compared to other subjects. He said that readers found history boring and stereotyped and above all, irrelevant to the needs of present time. He said that history was considered the mother of social sciences and today in the age of globalisation, it was important for us to gain knowledge of our shared historical background. He said that main purpose of the conference was to prepare students who would be fully versed in literature, methods and interpretive debates of history.
Dr Ahmad said that our politicians must have a refresher course on history. He said that in the first three decades after the inception of Pakistan, we had the best historians but, afterwards, universities were weakened and were practically turned into colleges and colleges were turned into schools because education was not given a priority.
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