Pandit Sunderlal writes in his book that the British banned, ‘How India lost her Freedom’: “Perhaps, the history of no other country in the world has been so deeply coloured and even distorted as that of India of those days, as presented by contemporary writers. The nature of the relationship between India and England at the time had made it almost impossible for history-writers generally to produce an impartial ‘historical’ record of contemporary events.” A revolutionary freedom fighter who later turned Gandhian and followed Ahimsa (non-violence) Pandit Sunderlal wrote “Bharat mein Angrezi Raj” in Hindi and immediately after it was published in 1929, the British government banned it since “it is most dangerous since it brings out entire truth”.
This very contention was presented by the government advocate Shri Bajpayee before the Allahabad High Court when the ban was challenged by Panditji. Sir Tejbahadur Sapru appeared for him. Mahatma Gandhi read the banned book and wrote articles in ‘Young India’ stating “A praiseworthy attempt to inculcate non-violence”. He even asked the countrymen to offer satyagraha and many people went to jail for defying the ban. Only after the Congress government came to power in various provinces including the Central Province in 1937, the ban was lifted despite initial opposition from the British governors. In 1961, the book was published by the Publication Division, Government of India and the English version was brought out by Popular Prakashan only in 1970 to be followed by Sage in 2018.
Sunderlal describes “how William Napier blackened the character of the people and the Muslim rulers of Sindh of the time by falsely accusing both of unheard of inhumanities”. “The Conquest of Sindh” by Major-General William Napier (the brother of Sir Charles Napier, the ‘conquerer’ of Sindh) was considered to be the most authentic till 1924 even by Panditji! “The atrocious lie has been exposed by Captain Eastwick who had lived in Sindh and had ample opportunities of mixing with the people of Sindh and their rulers for a number of years during the period. He knew the Sindhi language and was well acquainted with the prevailing customs of the Sindhis.” “Those Amirs, who had never in their life touched anything intoxicating, who had religiously avoided even smoking and who took extraordinary precautions for the protection of the honour and chastity of women, have been painted by Napier as drunkards and libertines.”
“There were several writers (amongst them Indians too) of history books in Persian and other languages who were paid by the East India Company, from time to time, for recording fictitious events in their writings. As an instance, we might mention Abbe Dubois. He wrote in French his famous book about the manners and customs of the Hindus of his time. Lord William Bentinck paid Dubois eight thousand rupees for it and got the book published in English under the sponsorship of the East India Company and latter gave a life-pension to Dubois for that service. For writing a life of Hyder Ali in Persian, Mirza Iqbal, its author, was paid by the East India Company. The book, from beginning to end, is full of bias, prejudices and baseless vilification of Hyder Ali’s character.”
Sunderlal concludes: It is true that, then as now, honesty or truth had no place in Western political life. It is also a fact that, to a very large extent, the Western art of history-writing is but a part of and as such is guided and controlled by Western political activities. European scholars like Professor Seeley, Professor Goldwin Smith, and historians like Freeman have admitted it to be so.
Next Column: Sins of East India Company Exposed
(The writer is a Socio-political Historian. E-mail: [email protected] )