Colonial history behind 'idea of Hindustan' discussed.

KARACHI -- Historian Manan Ahmed has said people think that India is the English translation of Hindustan, but it is not. India is its own concept.

Mr Ahmed said this while speaking at an event on 'The Loss of Hindustan' based on his book of the same title at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) on Monday evening.

IBA Executive Director Akbar Zaidi introduced the speaker to the audience.

Mr Ahmed, historian at Columbia University, began his lecture by saying that he wanted to speak about the history of the idea of Hindustan. Some people say it's a civilisation, some associate it with music, some with dance or the Ganga-Jamuna tehzeeb. The Loss of Hindustan is the history of an idea, a concept. Writing the history of any creative construction is predicated on the type of sources one can assemble, but it becomes really difficult if our contemporary nationalisms are based on the idea of forgetting.

He underlined three things for his presentation: the history of space, rendition and amassment, and decolonising history. 'My basic argument is that what we've placed in the 18th century Europe claiming it's after that history writing began in the rest of the world... This is a Eurocentric idea.'

The problem with the philosophy of history is, he mentioned, that it is tied to nation-state. 'In order to solve it, I isolated a particular historian, Muhammad Qasim Firishta, who was writing in the early part of the 17th century. I asked, how did Firishta think about the philosophy of history? How did he think things happened? Who did he think were his people? Who did he think about space? By trying to read someone from the early 17th century I was hoping to figure out the ways in which history writing can be given a genealogy that is not determined solely by Europe.'

Historian Manan Ahmed shares his thoughts on The Loss of Hindustan at IBA

Mr Ahmed said his book ends with the loss of Hindustan, which basically is the period between 1904 and 1908 (the former is to do with Iqbal's Tarana-i-Hindi and the latter with V D Savarkar's tarana that gives the definition of Hindutva).

'It is also the concomitant creation of India. We think that India is the English translation of Hindustan. It is not. India is its own concept. The most articulated concept that I've been able to trace for India is from 1786 by philologist William Jones who had mentioned Nagri (letters), Hindu (religion) and India... This is the colonial construction of India... This is how...

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