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The Historian

Volume 5 January-December 2007 Numbers 1&2

Department of History
GC University, Lahore
The Historian
Volume 5 (January-December 2007) Numbers 1&2

© The Historian is published by the Department of History, GC


University, Katchehry Road, 54000 Lahore, Pakistan.

No potion of this journal may be reproduced by any mechanical,


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recording without written permission from the copyright holders.

ISSN. 2074-5672

Price: 250 PKR


Editor: Tahir Kamran

Associate Editors: Tahir Jamil, Hussain Ahmad Khan, Noor Rehman

Design & Production Incharge: Shifa Ahmad

Editorial Advisory Board

David Gilmartin – Department of History, North Carolina State University, USA


Farhat Mahmud - Department of History, GC University, Lahore, Pakistan
Francis Robinson – Department of History, Royal Holloway, University of London,
UK
Gyanesh Kudaisya – South Asian Studies Programme, National University of
Singapore, Singapore
Ian Talbot- Department of History, University of Southampton, UK
Iftikhar Haider Malik - Department of History, University College of Newton Park,
UK
Kathrine Adeney - Department of Political Science, University of Sheffield, UK
Mohammad Waseem – Department of Social Sciences, Lahore University of
Management Sciences, Lahore, Pakistan
Mridula Mukherjee - Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi, India
Pippa Virdee- Department of Historical and Social Sciences, De Montfort
University, Leicester, UK
Qalb-i-Abid – Department of History, University of the Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan
Sharif-ul-Mujahid – Pakistan Study Centre, University of Karachi, Karachi, Pakistan
Shinder S. Thandi - Department of Economics, Coventry University , UK
Shuan Gregory – Peace Studies, Bradford University, UK
Surrinder Singh - Department of History, Panjab University, Chandigarh, India
Tariq Rahman – National Institute of Pakistan Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University,
Islamabad, Pakistan
Virinder Kalra - Department of Social Sciences, University of Manchester, UK
DETAILED CONTENTS

THE HISTORIAN
JANUARY-JUNE 2007 (VOL. 05, NO. 01)

ARTICLES

1. THE REFUGE OF HISTORIANS: CONCEPTUALIZING HISTORIOGRAPHY


WITHIN POST-MODERNISM….…M. AFZEL KHAN 9

2. HUMAN SUFFERING AND THE SOLDIERS OF THE THIRD REICH:


AN ALTERNATIVE HISTORY IN FORELL’S QUEST….MUHAMMAD
FURQAN TANVIR 31

3. REVISITING APPROACHES TO DISEASE AND MEDICINE IN THE LONG


NINETEENTH CENTURY…NATASHA SARKAR 57

4. CONFIGURING PUNJAB WITHIN HEGELIAN CONCEPTION OF


WORLD HISTORY: COLONIAL EXHIBITIONS AND MUSEUM IN THE
LATER HALF OF NINETEENTH CENTURY…..HUSSAIN AHMAD KHAN 73

BOOK REVIEWS

1. KAMILA SHAMSIE, BROKEN VERSES


(NEW YORK: HARCOURT BOOKS,2007 ) 93

2. TEHMINA DURRANI, MY FEUDAL LORD


(GB: BANTAM PRESS, 1995). 95

3. RAFIQ SANDELVI, GHER MAIN BAITHA SAKHS


(LAHORE: KAGHADHI PAERAHEN AZEEM MANSION ROYAL PARK,2007) 97

4. KARL MARX, DAS CAPITA


(LAHORE: BOOK HOME, 2007) (URDU TRANSLATION). 99
DETAILED CONTENTS

THE HISTORIAN
JULY-DECEMBER 2007 (VOL. 05, NO. 02)

ARTICLES
1. MAJLIS-I-AHRAR-I-ISLAM: URBAN MUSLIM CONCERNS AND PUNJAB
POLITICS IN 1930S…. SAMINA AWAN 105

2. THE GEO-STRATEGIC IMPORTANCE OF THE KHYBER PASS IN


HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE: IS IT STILL THE “MONARCH OF THE
PASSES”?..... JAVED IQBAL 115

3. “HUMAN RIGHTS” THROUGH THE PRISM OF HISTORY….KHALID


MANZOOR BUTT 129

CONCEPT PAPER
CONSTRUCTING BHADRAKALI MANDAR HISTORICALLY….
HAROON KHALID 155

REVIEW ARTICLE
 
IMAGINATION AND REPRESENTATION IN HISTORICAL DISCOURSES
(CARR, EVANS, AND JENKINS). …HUSSAIN AHMAD KHAN 165

BOOK REVIEWS
1. LIA LITOSSELITI, GENDER AND LANGUAGE: THEORY AND PRACTICE
(GB: HODDER EDUCATION, 2006) 175

2. MADHAVI DESAI, (ED.), GENDER AND THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT IN


INDIA (NEW DELHI, 2007) 177

3. JEHANGIR BADER, THE EVOLUTION OF DEMOCRACY


(LAHORE: AIZAZ- UD-DIN TBM PUBLISHER, 2007) 179

NOTES FOR CONTRIBUTORS AND REVIEWERS 182


THE REFUGE OF HISTORIANS: CONCEPTUALIZING
HISTORIOGRAPHY WITHIN POST-MODERNISM
M. AFZEL KHAN
UNIVERSITY OF THE ERFURT, GERMANY

ABSTRACT

The writing of History in the post-Enlightenment


period is strongly influenced by Rankean school of
Empiricism. To Hegel, History is not merely a
narration of facts but it was a dialectical tool through
which he tries to look into the human progress. The
representative intellect imbibes the external
phenomena into internal conceptualization. This
philosophical conception of History systematically
began from Hegel and extends upto the post-modern
philosophy of History represented by Hyden White,
Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida. But they
disagreed with Hegel and termed the phenomenon
more internal than external.

KEY WORDS: Hegel, Rankean school, Hyden White, Michel Foucault,


Kieth Jenkins, Alun Munslow, modernism, empiricism, positivism,
post-modernism, relativism, heterology, narrative closure, tropes.

Robert Young suggests that the Post-modern concern is more with


history writing rather than history itself. If Hegel has set the
philosophical conceptualization of history, the writing of history as a
practice owes much to the Rankean school of Empiricism. Although
Ranke criticized Hegel yet he was influenced by him too. Before
elaborating his philosophy of History, Hegel throws some light on
conventional historiography which appears into two main forms;
Original History and Reflective History. In Original History, historians
“simply [transfer] what was passing in the world around them, to the
realm of representative intellect. An external phenomenon is thus
translated into an internal conception”. 1 In Hegel’s work, the
conversion of an external phenomenon into an internal one is the most
significant observation that is also reflective in the writings of many

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The Historian, vol. 05, no. 01 (Jan-Jun 2007)

post-modernists theorists like Derrida, Foucault, and Hayden White.


However, these post-modernists believe it to be an internal all together.
On the other hand, Reflective History does more than that, as its name
suggests. It is reflective in a sense that it is beyond the confines of time,
and appears in the form of Universal, Pragmatic and Critical Histories.
Hegel believes that it is in the realm of Critical History that the veracity
of historical investigation is put to test. “We might more properly
designate it as History of History; a criticism of historical narratives
and an investigation of their truth and credibility”. Taking its
precedence of higher criticism from contemporary German Philology,
Hegel introduced this concept in the philosophy of history 2 and
excluded “Legends, Ballad-stories, Traditions” 3 from the proper history
owing to their imaginary and unreal character.
These observations lead to a few important questions: How do
Hegelian philosophical underpinnings get reflected in the post-
modernist critique on history; do Hegelian and post-modern
sensibilities view the discipline as a self-reflective and critical activity;
does history retain truth in the presence of such critique? In order to
unpack these questions, the article is structured into five parts: first part
deals with the empiricist shades in Hegelian conception of history by
highlighting the empirical aspects against idealist tendencies; the
second portion discusses the prevalence of twentieth century positivism
emerged out of the early nineteenth century empiricism; the third
portion brings out post-modernist views translating historical text as
historical narrative; the fourth portion addresses the question that if
history is the genre comparable to literary narratives, then what is the
difference between historical and literary narrative; and the last section
suggests some alternate possibilities which could retain the veracity of
historical practices.

HEGEL AND EMPIRICISM

When Hegel deals in history, he clearly understands it as a scientific


activity (although in character it differs from natural science) and terms
it as dialectics. What mathematical reason is for Science, Hegel’s
dialectical reason holds similar ground for History. Like mathematical
reason, which does not deny Science, and its empirical credentials,
Hegel’s dialectical reason also does not negate its empirical grounds. In
the ultimate rationality of this Universe, both these aspects ― a priori
reason and empiricism ― in both Science and History form the two
sides of the same coin. In other words, both Science and History seek

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M. AFZEL KHAN, THE REFUGE OF HISTORIANS

empirical evidence to give conclusive proof to their rational laws. After


elaborating his Philosophy of History, Hegel locates the course of
history in those rational (dialectical) terms.
With these terms of reference, truth and credibility of the
historical evidence became increasingly significant. It were not the
historical facts that belie dialectical laws of History, or its rational
march towards progress; only in their false measuring up, in their mist
and haze, in their obscurity, in their impure dilutedness, that one might
had a danger of loosing this foresight. Standing on a priori grounds,
false memory was its gravest threat. This aspect of Hegel’s philosophy
of history ― for which he is not given any credit and considered to be
against the grain of his thought ― i.e., empiricism, a corollary of sorts,
was later to be developed by Leopold von Ranke. Peter Novick
suggests that empiricism is the “imaginary origin” of modern historical
method and of its “founding myth”. 4 In fact, ostensibly opposing
Hegel, he has followed Hegel. Hegelian to the core, one of his remarks
became the pioneering slogan and the benchmark of objectivity for
historian’s profession: “wie es eigentlich gewesen”. 5 Georg Iggers
translates it as “how, essentially, things happened.” 6 It precisely aligns
him within Hegelian Idealism. Ranke was aware of Hegelian
tendencies in his work, when he wrote to his brother in 1838, “We …
desire to root tradition in our knowledge of actual existence, and in our
insight into its essence”. 7
Ranke’s method consists in the “analysis of the documentary
record, scrupulous ascertaining of the historical facts about any
events.” 8 As Michael Bentley describes, “he used primary sources in
archives with a zest and thoroughness quite new to historical
scholarship.” 9 This emphasis on original sources was in order to
provide the complete and irrefutable evidence. Based on that, the truth
of history might not remain that problematic. In contrast to Hegelian
philosophy, Ranke believed History to be “concerned with the concrete
and particular not the general and abstract.” It is not that history can not
produce generalities, but just to avoid, what Hayden White would term
prefiguration, so evident in Romantic historiography. There on, “from
detailed scrutiny of the facts of particular events the historian should
move towards a ‘universal view’.” 10 That is where Rankean
empiricism, born out of Hegelian concerns for history, took a
positivistic turn and left its own legacy, particularly strong in America
and England, more than in Germany.
Later on, in the nineteenth century this positivism took an
extreme form of empiricism. Ascertaining of facts became the sole
vocation of historian’s profession. As Collingwood describes, the

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The Historian, vol. 05, no. 01 (Jan-Jun 2007)

treatment of facts consisted of two basic rules adopted by historians:

i) - Each fact was to be regarded as a thing


capable of being ascertained by a separate act of
cognition or process of research, and thus the total
field of the historically knowable was cut up into an
infinity of minute facts each to be separately
considered.
ii) - Each fact was to be thought of not only
as independent of all the rest but as independent of
the knower, so that all subjective elements … in the
historian’s point of view had to be eliminated. The
historian must pass no judgment on the facts: he must
only say what they were. 11

From this account of history, more than any theory or narrative,


objectivity of history remained the primary concern of these historians.
However, as mentioned earlier, Ranke would never have subscribed to
this position.

NEGOTIATING WITH POSITIVISM

The overall influence of Positivism remains strong till today in


historical practices, though it was more influential only until the first
half of the 20th century. Be it the Marxist historians, Hegelian Idealists,
the French Annalists, or of other brands of historians, their ultimate
refuge and fight was with the facts of history, as most tried to get the
maximum facts on their side, to attain that necessary objectivity, and
hence positivism being only a methodology remained relevant to all
these approaches.
The quest for objectivity, however, became contentious after
the advent of Structuralism, and even more so with the Post-
modernism. In fact, these two approaches challenged positivism
because of its overarching influence in historical methodology. In the
garb of objectivity, they perceived positivism as an attempt of
universalization of the particular. Both Structuralists and Post-
modernists challenged the notion of objective truth and termed
positivism as a form of hegemony and power.
In the final analysis, history comes to us in the form of a
narrative, and not as some bundle of facts, or as some mathematical
laws. Many post-modernists believe that the text of history is no more
than a mere story or a narrative, as Gallie says, “history is a species of

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M. AFZEL KHAN, THE REFUGE OF HISTORIANS

the genus Story.” 12 However, Foucault regarded it as a form of


discourse but would not deny its narrative character. Once he remarked,
“I have written nothing but fictions”. According to Roland Barthes,
history borrowed techniques from fiction in order to claim to represent
‘wie es eigentlich gewesen’ in the past. Like a novelist, the historian
tends to absent himself from the narrative, so that “history seems to tell
itself.” 13 Barthes terms it the “referential illusion” just to produce a
“reality effect”. In a paradoxical way, as Barthes claims, narrative has
become “both sign and proof of reality.” 14

HISTORY AS NARRATION

Barthes’ claim of history as “both sign and proof of reality” is further


elaborated in Metahistory by Hayden White, a Post-modernist
historian. It is through Hayden White that Post-modernism found its
way in the academic practices of history writing. His influence is of
such a proportion that even Alex Callinicos has to admit:

The differentia specifica of historical writing is now


held to be that it is a species of story-telling; from the
perspective of the kind of exploration of narrative
conventions and the theoretical tropes in which they
are embedded that White has pioneered, attempts to
use the tools of theory to make sense of historical
processes appear hopelessly jejune and dated. 15

This narrativism has effectively replaced theory and factuality as some


outmoded genres of historical discourse. Frank Ankersmit draws an
analogy: “Like a dike covered with icefloes at the end of winter, the
past has been covered by a thick crust of narrative interpretations; and
historical debate is as much a debate about the components of this crust
as about the past hidden beneath it.” 16 This is in line with the Post-
modernist position, that shows in bold the futility of the established
disconnection between the past and the present, and the past, for it,
emerges as nothing more than discursive construct. The Postmodernist
position locates the groundings of past in the present as Derrida says,
‘Il n’y a pas de hors-texte’ ([t]here is no outside-text’).
White questions the scientificity of history by arguing that in
structure and form it comes as a literary creation, a result of a poetic act
on the part of the historian. “[I]n general there has been a reluctance to
consider historical narratives as what they most manifestly are: verbal
fictions, the contents of which are as much invented as found and the

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forms of which have more in common with their counterparts in


literature than they have with those in the sciences”. 17
For White, historical records come to us in three basic forms:
Annals, Chronicle and History. Annals and Chronicles constitute more
than chronologies of dates and events in the form of some sequence, so
they are not a proper history. What they lack is “the narrative closure”:
“that summing up of the ‘meaning’ of the chain of events with which it
deals that we normally expect from the well-made story”. 18 It is the
narrative form that gives history its proper sense, with all the elements
of a well-made story with proper closure. There are no stories in the
past itself, past does not come in the form of a ready-made story, as
Louis Mink suggests, “stories are not lived but told”. 19 This is precisely
what White argues, “there are no stories in the past for the history to
reconstruct and interpret; the past does not come pre-packaged in
narrative form”, as Mink suggested. “It is the historian who imposes a
narrative order on the past and in this sense ‘makes history’.” 20
How in the making of history, this imposition of narrative
order is wrought? White uses a special terminology of “emplotment” to
describe this process. It is the historian, who ‘emplots’ the events, by
weaving stories around them, thus giving history its narrative form.
Emplotment is put into effect by basically four types of archetypal
forms of story: Romance, Comedy, Tragedy, and Satire. It is not strictly
of this order, sometimes these forms overlap as well, but are not
arbitrary in any sense of the term. According to White, they are deeply
embedded cultural archetypes, and determine ‘the “meaning” of a story
by identifying the kind of story that has been told’. 21
What one makes of these archetypes? As Simon Gunn
summarizes them, for White:

Romance represents a drama of redemption and


transcendence, the triumph of good over evil. Satire
is its obverse, a tale of limits based on the recognition
that fate or the world will always win out over human
endeavor. …Comedy is a drama of reconciliation in
which the forces and protagonists at play are
ultimately brought into some form of accommodation
with each other. Tragedy, on the other hand, stresses
resignation in the face of fate and the inevitability of
ultimate fall of the protagonists, yet brings an
advance in emotional understanding for those who
are witness to it. 22

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M. AFZEL KHAN, THE REFUGE OF HISTORIANS

While combinations of emplotments are possible; certain combinations


are completely ruled out like romantic satire. The significant point here
is that once a certain type of emplotment is employed, henceforth, it
determines the choice of content and facts of evidence linked with it.
“Narrative, far from being merely a form of discourse that can be filled
with different contents, real or imaginary as the case may be, already
possesses a content prior to any actualization of it in speech or
writing”. 23 The mode of emplotment involves “ontological and
epistemic choices with distinct ideological and even specifically
political implications”. 24 For instance, White provides the examples of
how the French Revolution was interpreted in different ways by Jules
Michelet and Alexis de Tocqueville. Michelet depicted it as a romantic
drama, where people triumphed, on the other hand, Tocqueville saw it
as an ironic tragedy. There was nothing in the French Revolution itself
which suggested something like that, it was just that “they sought out
different kinds of facts because they had different kinds of story to
tell”. 25 White further elaborates:

… ‘history’, as a plenum of documents that attest to


the occurrence of events, can be put together in a
number of different and equally plausible narrative
accounts of ‘what happened in the past’, accounts
from which the reader, or the historian himself, may
draw different conclusions about ‘what must be done’
in the present. 26

Besides, White also identifies four tropes of figurative


language that historians use in any “prefigurative act” which, as a
process of representation, help to determine “a possible object of
knowledge the whole set of events reported in the documents.” 27 Simon
Gunn also explains them as:

Metaphor, in which an object or action is compared


to something else with which it is imaginatively but
not literally applicable (‘the rise of the middle class’);
Metonymy, when the name of an attribute is
substituted for the thing designated (‘crown’ for
monarch); Synecdoche, when a part is made to stand
for the whole (‘reign of terror’ for French
Revolution); and Irony, in which characters or events
are treated in such a way as to show inconsistencies
between appearance and reality (‘friendly fire’). 28

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These tropes are the defining feature of the type of


emplotment they result in. In this way, they are more important than
emplotment and argumentation. Thus, the act of prefiguration is the
first act of any historical interpretation, by selecting the ‘dominant
tropological mode’ to cast a story. Apart from the story itself, which is
determined by its narrative closure, these tropes determine the language
structured around that story, to describe its events, their relationship,
and their overall significance. More than the story itself, it is this
figurative language in the form of tropes that highlights the inner
tension within the historical process. “The implication is that historians
constitute their subjects as possible objects of narrative representation
by the very language they use to describe them”. 29
Writing history in a narrative form sheds light on a few other
aspects like contestation of emplotments and figurations, and closure of
narrative. First, History “is always written as part of a contest between
contending poetic figurations of what the past might consist of”. Like a
poet or novelist, historian also makes familiar “what originally appears
to be problematical and mysterious with the aspect of a recognizable …
form.” 30 Second aspect related to the writing of history in a narrative
form is the quality of its closure:

The historical narrative … reveals to us a world that


is putatively ‘finished’, done with, over, and yet not
dissolved, not falling apart. In this World, reality
wears the mask of a meaning, the completeness and
fullness of which we can only imagine, never
experience. In so far as historical stories can be
completed can be given narrative closure, can be
shown to have had a plot all along, they give to
reality the odour of the ideal. 31

Thus the conception of history takes on a social function of


contributing to “the production of the ‘law abiding’ citizen” 32 , and
comes as a form of ideology. However, there are exceptions to it as
well. For instance, White acknowledges, Tocqueville, Burckhardt,
Huizinga, and Braudel using “non-narrative, even anti-narrative modes
of representation”. 33 These writings do not follow a straight forward
narrative form however these involve some modes of emplotment. For
example, Tocqueville and Burckhardt were using Tragedy and Satire,
respectively, as modes of emplotment. White argues that even in the
non-ideological historiography emplotment is required. For instance,
Tocqueville claims his account as objective (or non-narrative if we use

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M. AFZEL KHAN, THE REFUGE OF HISTORIANS

Hyden White’s term) but at the same time prefers Irony and Satire as a
corresponding emplotment, over other modes. As irony brings out
“absurdity of the beliefs”, in this sense it (irony) may be termed as a
non-ideological trope providing space to non-narrative historiography,
however it remains a narration:

Irony is in one sense meta-tropological, for it is


deployed in the self-conscious awareness of the
possible misuse of figurative language … Irony thus
represents a stage of consciousness in which the
problematical nature of language has been
recognized. It points to the potential foolishness of all
linguistic characterizations of reality as much as to
the absurdity of the beliefs it parodies. 34

Like other Post-modernists, White argues that the relativity of


knowledge is a direct critique of Rankean realism which is implicit in
conventional histories. In this sense, White sees in Ironic
historiography a critique on conventional histories by unpacking its
language structure in “a mode of thought which is radically self
critical”. 35 Perhaps, Hegel had conceptualized this kind of history as a
Critical History or the History of History, while White suggests that it
can only be in the form of an Irony. It does not seek truth or credibility
of sources but attempts to deconstruct and highlight the forms of
emplotments. This particular aspect precisely aligns historical practices
with the philosophical activities.
Putting his historical relativism aside, White acknowledges the
limits of a representation determined by events in certain cases.
Holocaust is a case in point. The representation of the Holocaust as a
Comedy is not plausible, but in case, if “(1) it were presented as a
literal (rather than a figurative) representation of the events, and (2) the
plot-type used to transform the facts into a specific kind of story were
presented as inherent in (rather than imposed upon) the facts”. The first
case is not offensive while the second case can hardly be substantiated.
How to situate the Holocaust in European history without
undermining the factual nature of it is an enigma. White tends to
resolve it by calling the event as “modernist” which can be understood
in an overall modernism inherent in it. Events like these represent “the
totalitarian form that Western society assumed in the twentieth
century”. 36 Here, White’s relativism seems wearing thin, and his
position falls in between Derrida’s textualism and conventional realism
of history.

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CRITIQUE ON HISTORY AS NARRATION

Hyden White’s interrogation of the discourse of history with the tools


of literary criticism is quite pithy and profound but it raises some
questions of critical significance: If history is a narrative like the genres
of literary narratives, then what is the difference between historical
narrative and literary narrative like novel, drama, epic, etc., ― Hegel’s
first mark of distinction between history and literature? Secondly, if
one considers history as a narrative in the form of novel or other
literary genres, then what is left, of the history, for the history itself?
Answers to these questions are not easy. No wonder White’s
Metahistory got a hostile reception on its arrival in history departments,
many even didn’t bother to look at it. One way or the other, it generated
a debate centering on the questions mentioned above. White does not
see a great deal of difference between literary fiction and history.
History has contributed as much to the literary genres as they have
contributed to history. In modern times lines are blurring already, with
White mentioning Marcel Proust, Virginia Woolf, and Primo Levi as
prime examples of history’s and literature’s conflation. In White’s
opinion, “acknowledging its links with fiction will not diminish
history’s status as knowledge; novels, for example, have much to tell us
about reality, our world and our relations with others.” 37
Many conventional historians contested White’s assertion
regarding history to be done with the instruments of literary criticism.
As Roger Chartier raises the following critical, but at the same time
standard empiricist objection: “How indeed can history be thought of
without ever (or hardly ever) referring to the operations proper to the
discipline ― the construction and treatment of data, the production of
hypothesis, the critical verification of results, the validation of the
coherence and the plausibility of interpretation?” 38
Alun Munslow and Keith Jenkins address these questions in
their respective works. As Munslow claims, this is completely to miss
the point of White’s critique of historical reasoning, “the issue is the
nature of representation, not the empirical research process as such”. 39
He explains it somewhere else as “History and the past cannot
coincide”, therefore:

… there cannot be a direct correspondence between


what happened and the truth of what it means. …
there are no original centers of meaning to be found
outside the narrative-linguistic universe we call
History. History is, in and of itself, a representation

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M. AFZEL KHAN, THE REFUGE OF HISTORIANS

of something. It is not the thing itself and it cannot by


the magic of empiricism be transported as it actually
was onto the page or the film. 40

Like White, Alun Munslow also proposes a new idea and a new task
for history:

Instead of beginning with the past we should start


with its representation, because it is only by doing
this that we can challenge the belief that there is a
discoverable and accurately representable
truthfulness in the reality of the past. 41

Before elaborating new history, Munslow gives many reasons for his
rejection of empiricism. For him, the belief that there is “a knowable
historical reality independent of the mind of the historian” and that
“subject and object are separated just as mind and knowledge are
presumed to be” 42 does not hold. Munslow maintains that all
knowledge is a mediated knowledge embedded in a culture, reflected
through the choice of linguistic forms. He stresses it further that “
‘facts’ are never innocent because only when used by the historian is
factual evidence invested with meaning as it is … placed within a
context”, and this ‘contextualizing’ makes it “impossible to divorce the
historian from the constitution of meaning through the creation of
context, even though this is seemingly and innocently derived from the
facts”. 43 By taking such stance that a historian constructs a context,
Munslow slightly diverges from the overall post-modernist position
which announces the death of an author. White does not assign the
same role to the historian. Munslow engages with history at
methodological level ― whereas White deals with History as a text.
Munslow finds it quite problematic; among the historians,
there is “a deep-seated desire to reconstruct the past as it really was ―
to ‘tell the truth about history’”. But they are unaware of the fact that
representation cannot be a truth. 44 For Munslow, it is more important to
know how representation of history came about; through what
techniques, motives, and what purposes it is going to serve. He
believes, “the real poverty of empiricism resides in its strenuous refusal
to acknowledge the power of figuration in the narrativisation of the
past…”, 45 hence, “empiricism necessarily sells history short”. 46
Traditional historians perceive post-modern conception of
history as a death knell. However, the post-modernists defend their
position by advancing few reasons: First, the conventional historians do

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not understand the “essence” of post-modernist critique; Second,


conventional historians also fail to understand the problematics of
empiricism. While, analyzing meta-critically and meta-historically, the
post-modernists espouse a broader perspective which entails the
empiricist perspective. The empiricists are sticking to their privileged
ground where they claim to have better perspective. The post-
modernists do appreciate the empiricist position as one of the
possibilities of understanding history, however, empiricists are yet to
appreciate the multi-perspectivism in re-constructing past.

TOWARDS THE ALTERNATE POSSIBILITIES

In view of the above critique, what remains in history or what should


be the subject of history? Munslow provides answer to this question in
his alternate concept of ‘history’. He argues that history is “no more
depend[ent] on undisputed notions of truth, objectivity and factualism”
and now it “can speak to new and even more challenging questions
about how we gain knowledge of the past”. 47 Attributes like self-
reflexivity, inter-textuality, and deconstructiveness distinguish this
alternate concept of history from the conventional histories. Munslow
explains these attributes as: First, “good history… is that which is self-
reflexive enough to acknowledge its limits, especially aware that the
writing of history is far more precarious and speculative than
empiricists usually admit”. 48 Second, “we may grasp more of the
richness of historical analysis by incorporating into the study of the past
the intertextual nature of history as a discourse”. 49 Third, “the
deconstructionist consciousness accepts history as what it might have
been rather than what it actually was”. 50
It means the historian must be aware of the limits of history,
its speculative nature, and its dependence upon sources like literature,
language, art and crafts, and its oral heritage. Sources like literature,
language, and art are not seriously considered historical in conventional
historical practices. This approach suggests that post-modernist
approach explores the possibilities of past without denying its
existence 51 rather than investigating the actual past (‘wie es eigentlich
gewesen’). Thus, post-modernists approach to history is non-referential.
Munslow elaborates it further, “the past construed as history is an
endless process of interpretation by the historian as an art of
imagination, and our categories of analysis, assumptions, models and
figurative style all themselves become a part of the history we are
trying to unravel”. 52

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M. AFZEL KHAN, THE REFUGE OF HISTORIANS

Known as Experimentalism, Munslow’s approach has created


new spaces for experiments in contemporary history writing. This
experimentalism is to “challenge this primal modernist principle that
equates content with its given story form”. It also implies that the form
of story is inherent in the events and things-themselves rather than an
imposition as post-modernists believe it to be ― “it is never neutral but
always partial (usually ideological) with open meanings”. So, the
fundamental principle of experimental history “is to hunt out and
confront the myth of the given”. 53 Munslow has not exactly defined the
course of Experimentalism but gives few hints for various possibilities
and intentions. As an alternative to the myth of the given, he draws on
Foucauldian thought:

Instead of pursuing the knowability of the past and


the grand narrative of givenness (which we can still
do if that is over preferred epistemological choice),
we have been launched into a state of engagement
with the sublime nature of the past. Learning to live,
in other words, with its unknowability in terms of
what it means and how, as a result, we can explore its
multiple meanings through experiments with form. In
other words, explore its own nature as a form of
representation. 54

The above quote does not rule out empiricism or any other –ism. But
here the point of emphasis is on the pastness of the past as a form of
representation which is to be explored. It leads Munslow to raise the
question of human subjectivity and problematic equations of
“factualism with actualism, writability with knowability, content with
form, the emplotment of stories with true meaning …, author with
authority, and above all, history with past”, and in the same vein, in the
hierarchies of “objectivity over subjectivity, history over the
philosophy of history,… fact over fiction…. the empirical-analytical
over the narrative-linguistic”. 55 Munslow argues that by exploring the
problematics of self and human subjectivity, these ‘equations’ and
hierarchies should be challenged. Conventional or modern history
cannot do this, as it stands on the same grounds which experimentalist
wants to demolish. Experimentalists intend to explore those
possibilities of the past which are repressed in conventional histories
and it is only possible by adopting different methodologies and
theoretical framework: “The vertigo of experimentalism lies in its
intention to defamiliarize the reader, to disrupt the routine perception of

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the past as history with only one road and one destination ― to travel
hopefully rather than to arrive at the story?” 56
Experimental history has an aesthetic dimension as its
narrative is constructed artistically:

Since what we think about the past can only be


understood as we write it, then experiments with
narrative become decisive. As dancers choreograph
their performance, historians historiograph theirs.
History is as much about the ‘historian’s
performance’ ― the way he or she constructs or
stages his or her narrative and invites a responsive
understanding from the audience ― as it is about the
past itself. 57

Munslow locates his conception of history “in the fissures between


what once was and what it can mean now”, 58 however, it is not “the
refuge of poor historians”. 59
Keith Jenkins is more radical than Munslow. Like Munslow
and other post-modernists, he views history as “anti-essentialist, anti-
teleological, anti-foundationalist, anti-representationalist [with] anti-
realist implications”. 60 Largely his thinking is on the same lines as
White and Munslow but few points merit mention here. Jenkins
deconstructs the concept that history should be written for its own sake.
He makes a distinction between ‘upper-case History’ with capital H,
and ‘lower-case’ history with small h. 61 The ‘upper-case History’ is
akin to speculative philosophy of history of the form of Hegel’s,
Marx’s or liberal utopia, that which Lyotard termed as grand or meta-
narrative. These types of histories remained dominant and in vogue in
the nineteenth century. But, it was in the same century that, as Geoffrey
Elton pointed out, “the bulk of previous mystical, religious, and
metaphysical approaches sloughed-off, allowing proper history to
emerge.” Jenkins quotes Elton in his own words to describe this proper
history, “the principles of respectable historiography [can] be reduced
to one main percept: to study history for its own sake”. 62 Jenkins calls
it as the ‘lower-case’ history. He explains this transition from upper-
case History to lower-case history in terms of bourgeoisie ascendancy
in society and their conservative approach towards history. It then came
to dominate the universities as ‘almost natural’ history, with its
purported objectivity. However, Jenkins exposes it to be “just as
ideological as any upper case history ever was,” for the idea of “own-
sakism” is “just the mystifying way in which a bourgeoisie

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M. AFZEL KHAN, THE REFUGE OF HISTORIANS

conveniently articulates its own interests as if they belonged to the past


itself”. 63 For Jenkins, this ‘Rankean-type … lower case’ account of
history is equally ‘Whiggish’, and even ‘Hegelian’ and fails ‘to see
lower case history in “real” historical terms (i.e., in terms to do with
power, with class and ethnic and gender location, with material
exigencies and ideological positions and so on)’. 64
It is interesting here to note the placing of real in inverted
commas by Jenkins. M.C. Lemon terms it either an embarrassment or
an example of ‘ironic self-reflexivity’ 65 on the part of Jenkins. Another
example of Freudian slip, perhaps, is the paradoxical nature of post-
modernism where it has come full circle where it has confronted itself
in the process. While problematizing truth as hegemonic, a construct of
power and knowledge nexus, ultimately it has to fall back on the truth
itself. However, truth in its post-modernist form speaks from its own
position, for its own-self, from its own perspective, in a given frame
work, and not for everyone from the position of neutrality and objective
space. Jenkins’ own position is to discard it all together ― an extreme
position more than what White and Munslow have suggested ― to
acknowledge its partiality and openness. This is evident from his
assertion, “history is … a narrative prose discourse of which … the
content is as much invented as found”, and for that matter, “understood
… as a rhetorical, metaphorical, textual practice, … the cogency of
historical work can be admitted without the past per se ever entering
into it ― except rhetorically”. 66 By following Richard Rorty, he offers
alternative to historical truth: ‘truth is “the name of whatever proves
itself to be good in the way of belief, and good, too, for definite,
assignable reasons”.’ 67
Jinkens’ extreme radicalism intermingled with pragmatics of
truth, leads him to question the narrative mode of history. He considers
it as “a general ideological instrument of anti-utopian closure”. Instead,
he suggests historians to move forward ‘by refusing to attempt a
narrativist mode for the representation of … “truth”.’ That other mode
may be on Foucauldian lines; by recognizing ruptures and
discontinuities of the past, and accommodating the viewpoints of
“subordinate, emergent, or resisting social groups” 68 .
Jenkins defines post-modern alternative history as “a study of
the past that fully recognizes the openness and uncontrollable nature of
it in order to encourage an open and different emancipatory future”. 69
Jenkins agrees with Hyden White’s creation of this space which
highlights the openness and meaninglessness of the past. This history
begs the questions like “whose history gets told? In whose name? For
what purpose? Post-modernism is about histories not told, retold,

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untold. History as it never was. Histories forgotten, hidden, invisible,


considered unimportant, changed, eradicated”….. 70
The foremost beneficiaries of post-modernist version of
history are Feminist and Post-colonial studies. It is the ‘deconstructive’
analytics of unraveling rhetorical strategies ― of narrative
emplotments, prefiguration, through which identities were constructed
on the plane of truth and objectivity ― that have resulted in vast
plethora of literature in these areas. In order to rediscover their past,
which never was, the Feminist and Post-colonialist historians found
themselves engaged in same sort of historical excavations that Foucault
once performed in his archaeologies and genealogies. Derridian trace of
différance and its strategic foil ‘deconstruction’ are elemental in these
endeavors. Hélène Cixous, Luce Iragary, Julia Kristiva, Judith Butler,
to name a few, are prominent in Feminist theory, who have benefited
from post-modernist philosophers’ insights and incorporated them in
their own undertakings to a great advantage. Same is the case with
post-colonialists like Edward Said, Homi Bhabha, and Gayatri Spivak.
However, it is not confined to these only as their works have further
contributed to the expansion of these areas of study. History has now
started exploring the scholarly avenues hitherto unthought-of.
One may object that the figures mentioned do not properly
belong to history and their works have hardly anything to do with
history. Partially right, but even otherwise these are very well informed
by historical insights, particularly those embedded in post-modernist
paradigm. Besides, their importance stems from the intertextual nature
of these works ― the kind of intertextuality which post-modernism
especially encourages at the cost of strict demarcation of disciplines. Its
further extension is interdisciplinarity, but even otherwise in
disciplinary concerns it should not be overlooked. The post-modernist
paradigm is more useful in exploring unidentified areas of history
rather than the history proper. Intertextual writings ― be they come in
the form of histories, or philosophies of it ― as a piece of literature, it
is being observed, have a greater impact than history as such in its so-
called ‘proper sense’.
Michel de Certeau understands history in terms of its practice,
“a set of specific operations or procedures which mark it out from other
types of intellectual endeavour”. 71 Always a narrative, it is neither
fiction nor can claim for itself ‘reality’. Instead , history’s basic
endeavor is to tread the path between these two ― between the
historical ‘real’ and the literary ‘gaze’ ― that moves it along the
direction of what Certeau terms, ‘textual historicity’. 72 In that sense, he
does not agree with Hayden White’s assertion that history is a kind of

24
M. AFZEL KHAN, THE REFUGE OF HISTORIANS

literary creation. The element of historical ‘real’ brings in some


scientificity into it, as Certeau believes it to be a mixture of science and
fiction. In this sense, according to Certeau, it is a ‘heterology’,
combining different knowledges. 73
Apart from these ontological parameters of history,
epistemologically speaking it is a set of practices as well. Certeau calls
this ensemble of practices by which the past is turned into history, the
‘historiographical operation’. It basically consists of “envisaging
history as an operation between a place (a recruitment, a milieu, a
profession or business, etc.), analytical procedures (a discipline) and
the construction of a text (a literature)”. 74 What comes out of these in
the form of history is further put to test by the judgement of peers at
institutional level. It is not public at large where it is immediately
addressed, which comes later after going through these rigors and
further siftings. That is how, Certeau believes, history is constructed,
and these procedures are crucial in its production. The analytical
procedures put it at the level of some scientificity.
Certeau dilates above stated point further arguing that history
is transformed in the continuity of the past itself. History creates past
by severing itself from it: “History is played along the margins which
join a society with its past and with the very act of separating itself
from that past”. And ironically so, Certeau tells: “Founded on the
rupture between a past that is its object, and a present that is the place
of its practice, history endlessly finds the present in its object and the
past in its practice”. 75 This is the paradox of historiography, and here
Certeau is as philosophical as Derrida, Deleuze or Foucault could ever
be.
Like Foucault and other post-modernists too, Certeau proposes
the role of an historian to investigate “all these zones of silence” that
are gradually coming into the fold of history. 76 He sees historian, in
this new role, like a ‘prowler’ (rôdeur) working in the margins. An
accomplice in the alterity of the past, but never its creator! It is not
surprising, therefore, that Paul Ricoeur has termed Ceteau’s account as
providing a “negative ontology of the past”, an “apology for
difference.” 77 However, ontology whether positive or negative, the
basic practice of history remains the same, only the goal posts change;
and that is an important message that Certeau wants to convey.

TOWARDS END

By problematizing the notion of historical truth, one has to undergo


some change of practice as well, if not the complete change. Ultimately

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The Historian, vol. 05, no. 01 (Jan-Jun 2007)

it boils down to the historian’s performance, as Munslow has


mentioned, how he historiographs it? However, by reminding historians
the limits of history, post-modernism is also providing them with a
greater liberty to perform within these limits; by opening up areas of
study hitherto considered non-history, by lifting from history claims
towards truth, though tall and grand, deprive it of its other possibilities,
hence its freedom.
The greatest charm of philosophy lies in its grappling with the
ideas of great minds. Its pleasure is not in what it conveys overall, but
the sheer detail of it, how it forms its subject matter. Once the masters
have set the tone, it can not imagine escaping it. The ‘other’ of
philosophy consists in what is unsaid of them. So, one has to return to
‘said’ to find the ‘unsaid’. With the post-modern turn similar prognosis
is made for history. It is being conceived as consisting of what has
already been written in the annals of history and what is being omitted.
But, only written can allude to what is being missed in its writing.
Without being unduly demise for history, Post-modernism in that sense
is a return to history ― instead of writing more, it is time to look back!

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M. AFZEL KHAN, THE REFUGE OF HISTORIANS

END NOTES

1
Georg Wilhelm Friedri Hegel, Philosophy of History (NY: Kessinger
Publishing, 2004), p.01.
2
Ibid., p.07.
3
Ibid., p.02.
4
Peter Novick, That Noble Dream (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1988), p. 3.
5
R. G. Collingwood, The Idea of History (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
1956), p. 130.
6
See Georg Iggers, “Introduction” in Leopold von Ranke, The Theory and
Practice of History, ed. G. Iggers and K. von Moltke (Indianapolis, 1973), pp.
xli-xlii.
7
Ranke to Ferdinand von Ranke, 9 Aug. 1838, quoted in L. Krieger, Ranke:
The Meaning of History (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1977), p. 37.
8
Simon Gunn, History and Cultural Theory (Harlow: Pearson Longman,
2006), p.06.
9
Michael Bentley, Modern Historiography (London: Routledge, 1999), p. 41.
10
Gunn, History and Cultural Theory, p.06.
11
Collingwood, The Idea of History, p. 131.
12
W. B. Gallie, Philosophy and the Historical Understanding (Michigan:
University of Michigan Press, 1964), p. 66.
13
Roland Barthes, “The Discourse of History” in The Rustle of Language
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), p. 131.
14
Ibid., pp. 139-140.
15
Alex Callinicos, Theories and Narratives (Durham: Durham University
Press, 1995), p. 2.
16
F. R. Ankersmit, “The Dilemma of Contemporary Anglo-Saxon Philosophy
of History”, History and Theory, 25, (1986), p. 26.
17
Hayden White, Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-
Century Europe (Baltimore: JHU Press, 1975), p. 82.
18
Hayden White, Tropics of Discourse: Essays in Cultural Criticism
(Baltimore: JHU Press, 1990), p. 16.
19
Louis Mink, “History and Fiction as modes of comprehension”, New Literary
History, vol.1, (1970), pp. 514-558.
20
Gunn, History and Cultural Theory, p. 30.
21
White, Metahistory, p.07.
22
Gunn, History and Cultural Theory , p. 30.
23
Hayden White, The Content of the Form: Narrative Discourse and Historical
Representation (Baltimore: JHU Press, 1987), p. ix.
24
Ibid., p. ix.
25
White, Metahistory, p. 85.
26
Ibid., p. 283.
27
Ibid., p. 30.
28
Gunn, History and Cultural Theory, p. 32.
29
White, Metahistory, p.95.

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30
White, Tropics of Discourse, p.98.
31
White, The Content of the Form, p. 21.
32
Ibid., p. 87.
33
Ibid., p. 2.
34
White, Metahistory, p. 37.
35
Ibid., p. 234.
36
White, “Historical Emplotment and the Problem of Truth” in The History
and Narrative Reader, ed. Geoffrey Roberts (NY: Routledge, 2001), p. 50.
37
Gunn, History and Cultural Theory , p. 33.
38
Roger Chartier, On the Edge of the Cliff: History, Language, and Practices
(Baltimore: JHU Press, 1997), p. 35.
39
Alun Munslow, Deconstructing History (London: Routledge, 1997), p. 178.
40
Alun Munslow, “Introduction: Theory and Practice” in Experiments in
Rethinking History, eds., Alun Munslow and R. A. Rosenstone, (NY:
Routledge, 2004), p.07.
41
Munslow, Deconstructing History, p.03.
42
Ibid., p. 165.
43
Ibid., pp. 06-7.
44
Munslow, “Introduction: Theory and Practice”, p.08.
45
Munslow, Deconstructing History, p. 162.
46
Ibid., p. 176.
47
Ibid., p. 18.
48
Ibid., p. 70.
49
Ibid., p. 74.
50
Ibid., p. 117.
51
Ibid.
52
Ibid., p. 121.
53
Munslow, “Introduction: Theory and Practice”, p. 9.
54
Ibid., p. 10.
55
Ibid.
56
Ibid., p. 11.
57
Ibid.
58
Ibid.
59
Ibid., p. 10.
60
Keith Jenkins, On 'What is History?': From Carr and Elton to Rorty and
White (London: Routledge, 1995), p. 63.
61
Ibid., p.08.
62
Ibid., p. 69.
63
Ibid., p.09.
64
Ibid., pp. 69-70.
65
M.C. Lemon, Philosophy of History: A Guide for Students (London:
Routledge, 2003), p. 380.
66
Jenkins, On 'What is History?,pp. 178-179.
67
Ibid., p. 125.

28
M. AFZEL KHAN, THE REFUGE OF HISTORIANS

68
Ibid., pp. 142-143.
69
Ibid., p. 138.
70
Ibid., p. 38.
71
Gunn, History and Cultural Theory, p. 43.
72
See Jeremy Ahearne, Michel de Certeau: Interpretation and its Other
(Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995), p. 121.
73
See Michel de Certeau, Heterologies: Discourse on the Other (Minnesota:
University of Minnesota Press, 1986), p. 215.
74
Michel de Certeau, The Writing of History (NY: Columbia University Press,
1988), p. 57.
75
Ibid., pp. 36-37.
76
Ibid., p. 79.
77
Paul Ricoeur, Kathleen Blamey, Kathleen McLaughlin, David Pellauer, Time
and Narrative, vol. 3, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988), pp. 147-
51.

29
HUMAN SUFFERING AND THE SOLDIERS OF THE
THIRD REICH: AN ALTERNATIVE HISTORY IN
FORELL’S QUEST
MUHAMMAD FURQAN TANVIR
UNIVERSITY OF THE PUNJAB, LAHORE,
PAKISTAN

ABSTRACT

This paper argues that nationalistic interpretation


always entails a process of over-simplification as it
celebrates the grouping together of thousands of
people regardless the diversity individual experiences
which might segregate them otherwise. Many
historians positively respond to generalizations about
fanaticism, tyranny, exploitation, etc. associated with
a nation than to appreciate the variations within the
constructed identity. Many western historians have
also viewed Nazi soldiers as tyrant and fanatic. They
overlooked their (soldiers’) courage and
perseverance. This article argues that, although
many German soldiers were tyrant and exploiters yet
many of them were also brave who faced great
hardship. Their bravery has been a repressive part of
major historical works on Nazi Germany. This article
highlights such suppressed part of historical
discourses by studying the adventures of a German
soldier who had been captured by the Russians and
after the end of the War had been sentenced to
twenty-five years imprisonment in a Siberian
concentration camp. He escaped into the snowy
wilderness and it took him three years to complete
the journey to his country. During this period he
suffered immensely, bringing out the common
vulnerability of human beings against tyranny and
physical abuse. Forell symbolizes the other side of
the story of the Third Reich that is generally
overshadowed by propagandist media myths that
have become an integral part of modern European

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History. In other words, he depicts a generic freedom


fighter who distinguishes himself by virtue of his
courage, perseverance and utter loneliness.

KEY WORDS: Nazi, Germany, Forell, Europe, Third Reich, Hitler,


Russia, Jews, Holocaust, postcolonialism.

“For ignorance is the first requisite”, wrote Lytton Strachey about his
theory of historiography, “of the historian—ignorance, which simplifies
and clarifies, which selects and omits, with a placid perfection
unattainable by the highest art”. 1 Until about a century ago, a
traditional historian was likely to be skeptical of viewing and recording
the past as a multi-faceted since this approach renders it difficult to
reach any conclusions. Generalizations made history tangible for them.
However, it may overlook the full scope of human sufferings in the
historical process. Particularly, with the rise of Postcolonialism,
historians began to highlight the sufferings of humanity which were
either ignored or partially addressed in the conventional historical
discourses. Martin Gilbert’s introduction to his book Atlas of the
Holocaust, subscribes to this approach:

Although this Atlas is one of Jewish suffering, no


book or atlas on any aspect of the Second World War
can fail to record that in addition to the six million
Jewish men, women and children who were
murdered at least an equal number of non-Jews was
also killed, not in the heat of battle, not by military
siege, aerial bombardment or the harsh conditions of
modern war, but by deliberate, planned murder. 2

The stereotyped image of a Nazi soldier is of an inhuman


robot bereft of feelings and emotions, endlessly killing the Jews. This
image forestalls the full appreciation of the horrifying tortures and
ordeals faced by innumerable German soldiers during and after the
Second World War. An historian is by nature better placed to note
different perspectives because he has the advantage of being distanced
from actual events and thus able to look into things with hindsight. This
is the point made by Charles Hamilton Sorley in his poem To Germany:

You only saw your future bigly planned,


And we the tapering paths of our own mind,

32
MUHAMMAD FURQAN TANVIR, HUMAN SUFFERING

And in each other’s dearest ways we stand,


And hiss and hate. And the blind fight the blind.
When it is peace, then we may view again
With new-won eyes each other’s truer form
And wonder. 3

To offer an insight into this neglected realm of discerning the


enemy’s truer form, an invaluable and regretfully little known book is
As Far As My Feet Will Carry Me, written by J. M. Bauer, an
interesting record of a German paratrooper’s escape from a Siberian
prison camp after the Second World War. 4 After the War, he was
sentenced to twenty-five years penal labour in Siberia but he was able
to escape after serving a term of about three years. After this, he spent
three years in trying to cross the Russian border and finding his way
back to Germany. At the time the book was first published, the escaper
officer had reason to be afraid of “being compromised” by the German
authorities or bringing harm to the Russians who had lent him a lot of
help during his escape and was therefore inclined to be reticent. To
counter these problems, the author gave him the fictitious name of
Clemens Forell in the book along with a clever editing of certain facts.
The agony that the escaper often had to pass through could possibly be
summed up in the expression that he was frequently “too tired to feel
oppressed by the forlorn immensities of earth and sky”. 5 As far as the
magnitude of suffering, endurance and perseverance is concerned, this
narrative is easily comparable to Papillon, the world famous
autobiography of Henri Charriere. To avoid the danger of slipping into
making the alternative view inviting enough to install it as a new
standard viewpoint, this paper is divided into two parts: the first one
devoted to a careful compilation of references and quotations calculated
to warn against the archetypal interpretation of so explosive a
phenomenon as Nazism and the second one offering a brief analysis of
Bauer’s aforementioned book.

(I)

Very few people in world history have acquired the notoriety for
cruelty, suppression and disorder imputed to Adolf Hitler, the man who
is responsible to a considerable extent for shaping the contemporary
world into what it is today. Miranda Twiss in her book The Most Evil
Men and Women in History includes his name in the select list along
with such infamous personages as Nero, Torquemada, etc., and with
good reason labels him as “the monstrous dictator”. 6 Nor were the war

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crimes of the Nazis restricted to the traditional patriarchal model of a


world of brutal men. Joyce Robins in a compilation of the most
infamous murderesses of the western world in recent history says in his
introduction about the women he is tackling with that “few of them are
sadistic killers”. 7 Among the exceptions, however, he includes “the
Women of Nazi death camps” i.e., Irma Grese and Ilse Koch, whose
sadistic excesses create a sensation even today when the conservative
idea of seeing a woman as fundamentally unable to commit atrocities
has largely subsided. The name of Ilse Koch has also therefore been
included deservedly in Twiss’ book. Another entry, the one
immediately preceding that of Hitler in the book, is of the formidable
Russian tyrant Josef Stalin. This inclusion provides the groundwork for
the stance taken in this paper. While no attempt would be made to
lessen the impact of Hitler’s cruelties, it would be shown that the
tragedy of a man like Forell is that he was caught in the political
ambitions of two notorious leaders who both had little regard for the
fundamental rights of human beings. 8 An anonymous individual
conquered by the overwhelming tide of nationalistic propaganda and
mass hysteria could not be fairly judged on moral grounds unless his
acts are properly contextualized by his surroundings.
An important factor that makes it difficult to write about
Nazism in a totally analytical manner to set both sides of the picture
before the reader is that the Nazi authorities, following their common
propagandist techniques, themselves would never have admitted the
possibility of a two-dimensional picture. Indeed, they were exceptional
in their frankness about being hostile to tolerance or humanitarianism
even long before the Second World War. The regulations for the camp
set up by Himmler at Dachau in Bavaria in 1933, on which the later
concentration camps were modelled, clearly made the following
statement: “Tolerance means weakness. Punishment will be mercilessly
handed out whenever the interests of the fatherland warrant it”. 9 Hitler
himself poured out his fanatical views about a nation and race in Mein
Kampf: “The man who misjudges and disregards the racial laws
actually forfeits the happiness that seems destined to be his. He thwarts
the triumphal march of the best race and hence also the precondition for
all human progress, and remains, in consequence, burdened with all the
sensibility of man, in the animal realm of helpless misery”. 10
Notwithstanding Hitler’s invocation to naturally designed
happiness, there were a number of Germans during the Second World
War who looked upon Hitler as a tyrant and were led by patriotism, the
very emotion that was grotesquely manipulated by him, to look forward
to his destruction. The nature of the argument makes it feasible to

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MUHAMMAD FURQAN TANVIR, HUMAN SUFFERING

illustrate the point by referring to observations made in this regard by


German historians. The culmination of this situation appears in
Hildebrand’s exposition of the paradoxical sentiment of the German
conservatives who were hampered in their plotting against Hitler by the
latter’s military victories during the early years of the War and eagerly
awaited his failures in order to continue with their plans: “In order that
their country might be saved, the German conspirators had to hope that
it would first be grievously defeated”. 11 A diametrically opposed stance
is presented under these circumstances by two German ideological
groups that were both eager to assert their patriotism. After the War,
there was no longer any need for a German historian to conceal the
disastrous effects of Hitler’s faith in racial laws. Rudolf Walter
Leonhardt in his sociological history of Germany after the War, while
analysing whether or not it is possible to group together all the
Germans as a single community, begins by saying “After all we have
experienced, no one likes to revive the subject of blood ties . . .”. 12
Conversely, a far more unexpected and sensational revelation
of the pitfalls of ideology in its simplifying processes of merging
people indiscriminately into groups comes from Dr Alina Brewda, a
Jewish survivor of Auschwitz, whose story has been told by RJ Minney
in a book entitled I Shall Fear No Evil. Auschwitz, like all the other
German concentration camps, had an underground resistance
movement. Its members, however, belonged to different countries and
adhered to different political ideologies with the result that the
resistance was divided into a number of sub-groups, some of them
working independently and even with hostility against one another:

Though the ultimate aim of all these groups was the


same, co-operation between them was not always
possible. Often, as in the case of anti-Semitism, there
was deep-rooted conflict. Trust was not always
possible and treachery was a risk one had constantly
to guard against. One never knew which associates,
or even friends, could be relied on. Poles betrayed
Poles and Jews betrayed Jews in the camp merely to
obtain some advantage for themselves. 13

It was sheer brutal treatment meted out to them, says Dr Brewda, that
was responsible for revealing “the crude, even the savage, animal that
lies underneath [the veneer of civilisation] in every one of us . . .” 14 On
the other hand, while the book describes the sterilisation experiments
conducted by Nazi doctors at the camp in all their gruesome details,

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there are occasional glimpses of humane feelings even among those


doctors. Referring to a young S. S. doctor named Dr Munch, Dr Alina
Brewda makes the following comment: “He was quite a kind man and
in fact was one of the few S. S. doctors to survive the criminal war
trials after the war”. 15
It seems pertinent to collect the minor pieces of evidence
supporting this alternative view in other true and famous escape
adventures of prisoners under the Nazi regime. These fleeting
impressions of solitary figures separated from the larger body of the
representatives of Nazism, though insignificant in themselves, provide
important links in the dangers of superimposing a stereotypical image
on a people. Usually, such impressions, as it shall be seen presently,
follow a regular pattern involving discrimination between the upright
German soldiers and the sadistic officers of such organizations as the
Gestapo whose sole purpose of recruitment was to torture and execute
their captives. The first one in this regard is Paul Brickhill’s celebrated
book The Great Escape. The leader of the monumental escape attempt
in the camp was an officer named Roger Bushell who had been tortured
by the Gestapo for months before being rescued from that ordeal by a
relatively kind-hearted German Von Masse, the chief censor officer at
Stalag Luft III. When Bushell gave vent to his fury about the way the
gestapo had treated him before Von Masse, the latter said by way of
apology, “Don’t blame us, please, for what the Gestapo do . . . They’re
not the real Germany.” 16 However, Bushell’s mind had undergone a
permanent change owing to his harrowing experiences:

In Berlin he’d seen the Gestapo torturing people, and


he did not tolerate Germans any more. By now he’d
been behind the wire nearly three years and his
frustrated energy was focusing on the people
responsible. He cursed all Germans indiscriminately
(except Von Masse), but inside it was a clear, cool-
headed hatred and it found sublimation in outwitting
them. 17

Between two dogmatic groups, a judgment about the various claims of


right and wrong is bound to be ambiguous and so it cannot easily be
determined who constituted what Von Masse called “the real
Germany”. What is certain is, once again, the danger of grouping
together all the German soldiers. At the same time, there is undisguised
irony in the way Brickhill mentions that Bushell cursed all the Germans
except the one who had helped him since this one exception itself

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MUHAMMAD FURQAN TANVIR, HUMAN SUFFERING

negates the argument that the Germans could be regarded


indiscriminately.
The second book, The White Rabbit, authored by Bruce
Marshall, offers a sensational account of the adventures of Wing
Commander FFE Yeo-Thomas who was a member of Special
Operations Executive with the Resistance Movement in France. The
influence he yielded in the British aid to the Resistance Movement in
France could be judged from the fact that Yeo-Thomas was able to
secure a highly fruitful interview with Churchill to persuade the prime-
minister to provide larger supplies of weapons and equipment. Having
been caught, he was terribly tortured by the Gestapo before being
condemned to live in the notorious concentration camp of Buchenwald.
After one of particularly brutal sessions of torture, he was taken to an
interrogation officer whose attitude was markedly different from that of
his colleagues. Going out of his way to serve the prisoner with food and
loosening his handcuffs, he warned Yeo-Thomas to keep silent about
this mild kindness, “And you must not say I have done this, because I
am not supposed to be humane”. 18
This is a typical way in which an officer, as part of a ruthless
administration, often has to stifle his humanity. A very similar
experience has also been recorded in Forell’s story, showing that
prisoners do not always feel obliged to appreciate such a secretive show
of humane feelings. While making a trip across a wilderness to collect
some provisions from a distant depot in the company of a single
Russian guard, Forell found the latter behaving in quite a friendly
manner. When they reached the depot, however, the guard became cold
and distant to maintain the image he was supposed to uphold, as
ordained by his authorities. When he tried to resume a tone of
friendliness on the return journey, Forell became indignant and gave
vent to his anger in the following words: “I will tell you. We are not
your dogs. Not dogs! No! It’s no good you behaving like this. It’s just a
silly game, that’s all. Everything is fine now, isn’t it, because we are
alone? But as soon as there’s a fourth man, a witness, you’re scared to
be caught acting like a human being”. 19
To return to the story of Yeo-Thomas, later, in his prison cell
at the famous prison called Fresnes, there occurred the following
remarkable conversation with a German NCO named Korrel, offering a
rare expression of a somewhat friendly interaction between the prisoner
and his captor:

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Korrel told him that he came from Mainz and had


learned French when he had been a prisoner during
the 1914—1918 war.
“But the French were beasts to us,” he said, “I’d
much rather have been taken by the British.”
“The French couldn’t very well have been worse to
you than the Gestapo have been to me.”
“Those fellows aren’t soldiers,” Korrel said.
“That’s quite obvious. Soldiers like you and me
would never behave like that.”
Korrel was delighted at the compliment.
“It’s easy to see you’re an officer,” he said as he went
out. “Well, I’ll be seeing you.” 20

Yeo-Thomas was also a witness to the fact that, as at Auschwitz,


Buchenwald held a potent danger for the prisoners from the hostility of
the different groups among themselves. “Among the prisoners . . . there
were all sorts of dissensions and intrigues, the adherents to one faction
asking for nothing better than an opportunity to betray to their German
masters the adherents to another”. 21
The third example in this regard comes from a book that has
specially been noted for containing none of the usual features of
atrocities endured by a prisoner at the hands of his Nazi captors. It is
entitled Escaper’s Progress, an autobiographical account of the escape
of a naval officer named David Guthrie-James from a German prisoner
of war camp during the Second World War. Eric Williams, in his
introduction to the book, says that “in this book you will find nothing
of the Gestapo, nothing of torture or the threat of execution. Hardship
and privation are here for they are the price the escaper is prepared to
pay for his freedom, and how cheerfully David Guthrie-James puts
down his money”. 22
Before being captured, David Guthrie-James and his
companions were in a critical situation where death by drowning was
imminent unless immediate help was extended to them. Against the
warning of a subordinate, he decided to hail a passing German ship,
and the subsequent rescue of the mortally endangered party proclaimed
the validity of his following conviction:

Unlike land fighting or bombing, where passions are


aroused, there is still a strong link between men of
the sea. Each other they may have to fight in the
course of war, but there is a common enemy—the

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MUHAMMAD FURQAN TANVIR, HUMAN SUFFERING

elements. To all seamen worthy of the name a man in


the water is a fellow-being in danger, and the colour
of his skin doesn’t matter. There is a further
consideration. Owing to the very nature of their
calling, seamen are more tolerant than other men, for
it only needs travel to realize that, underlying rival
political ideologies, there are good and bad in every
country. 23

The idea of the common enemy and the good and bad in every country
would be later explored with reference to the story of Clemens Forell.
As the Germans turned from oppressors to victims under the
Stalinist regime, an interesting but inverted parallel is to be found in the
story of the French patriotic officers who became famous for their
heroism, perseverance and sufferings when involved in the French
Resistance Movement during the German occupation of France. Many
historians of the War continue to laud the exploits of the patriotic
French people, a typical instance being the following sentimental
observation: “Operating in small bands or singly, some had carried on
the fight for four years, dedicating their lives to the struggle against the
Germans. Their valour will always be an inspiration to freedom-loving
peoples”. 24 But scarcely a decade later these freedom-lovers
themselves became notorious oppressors as colonizers in Algeria
responsible for “the appalling experiences of the Algerian War of
Independence – the widespread torture of men, women, and children;
the million and a half Algerians killed by the French in their desperate
attempt to retain their own privileges . . . ” 25 Right after the Nazi
occupation came into effect, General de Gaulle, the French Under-
Secretary of War, reached Britain from where he extended an invitation
to his countrymen to continue to fight in the following words, “Today
we are crushed by the mechanized forces hurled against us but we can
still look to a future in which even greater mechanized forces will bring
us victory”. 26 Later, in spite of de Gaulle’s steps towards a policy of
reconciliation with the Muslim Nationalists of Algeria, 27 the irony of
his statement became evident in the wake of the typical colonial
oppression described in Young’s words — i.e., the greater mechanized
forces foreseen by him were fated to be nationalist freedom-fighters.
In the world of fiction, out of the countless novels that
vigorously propagated anti-Nazi feelings and still continue to do so, a
remarkable exception is the famous thriller The Eagle has Landed by
Jack Higgins. It is tempting to shed light on some features of the novel
at the expense of overriding the strictly historical paradigm of the

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present paper. What makes the book quite relevant to the ideological
crisis invoked by Forell’s story is the insightful study Higgins makes of
German soldiers who continue to serve the interests of the Nazi regime
only because they are themselves threatened with the most ruthless
persecution in case of disobedience. However, the author has managed
to keep their humane nature and moral uprightness intact throughout
the book. Near the end of the story, Kurt Steiner, the flamboyant
protagonist who is a German paratrooper, expresses the helplessness of
an anonymous individual like himself in such circumstances while
addressing a friend who is an IRA gunman, in the following words:

This game you play. Trumpets on the wind, the


tricolour fluttering bravely in the grey morning. Up
the Republic. Remember Easter nineteen-sixteen. But
tell me this, my friend. In the end, do you control the
game, or does the game possess you? Can you stop, if
you want, or must it always be the same?
Trenchcoats and Thompson guns, my life for Ireland
until the day you lie in the gutter with a bullet in your
back? 28

Particularly significant in this pessimistic analysis of the situation is


that the parallel of futility and unfulfilment has been drawn between
two fighters belonging to very different camps brought together only by
the coincidence of sharing a common enemy. For the speaker is the
unwilling instrument of a Fascist regime and the addressee is an Irish
nationalist led by an apparently noble aim of liberating his motherland.
Common between them is the universality of suffering resulting from
political ideologies. In the last chapter of the book, an English
clergyman Father Philip Vereker, in giving his reason for installing a
tombstone to honour dead enemy soldiers, sums up his impressions of
Steiner and his men in the following generous tone: “Wartime
propaganda was a pernicious thing then, however necessary. Every war
picture we saw at the cinema, every book we read, every newspaper,
portrayed the average German soldier as a ruthless and savage
barbarian, but these men were not like that”. 29
Another important aspect of the novel is that it gives a
shocking account of the torture to which even the high-ranking officials
of the regime were liable to be subjected if they questioned the orders
or the policy of those at the helm. The protagonist’s father, a General
Steiner, is shown to be literally tortured to death. 30 This may at first
seem fanciful but after the War as the Allies brought to light some well

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MUHAMMAD FURQAN TANVIR, HUMAN SUFFERING

guarded secrets of the Third Reich, several such incidents were


unearthed. The sinister end of General Erwin Rommel, whom Hitler
himself made a field-marshal and whom the British called “the ablest
general of the war”, 31 bears witness to such facts. After Rommel had
made his name a household word, he was treacherously murdered on
the direct orders of Hitler and then hypocritically afforded the charade
of a state funeral. The following words of Countess Waldeck indicate
the extreme vulnerability of even a great German officer:

In all the annals of the Third Reich no scene exposes


more flagrantly the psychological climate on which
Hitler thrived. Here was no poor Jew helpless in the
hands of the Gestapo. Here was a German Field-
Marshal, complete with baton, the glory of his army,
a legend over all the world for his courage and his
cunning. Yet this man meekly let himself be taken
away to his death. 32

(II)

It is evident that the neglect of such books as As Far as My Feet Will


Carry Me, describing what a German soldier might have to suffer
during or after the War, has a direct association with the political
agenda of the victorious Allies to render the terms ‘Nazism’ and
‘Oppression’ as synonymous. The key to the understanding of the logic
of Forell’s narrative involves shifting the paradigm of the German
soldier from the symbolic power and grandeur of Berlin to the remote
and unknown Siberian prison camp. Once that is done, Clemens Forell
becomes a human being rather than a German officer, what he suffers
pertains to the vulnerability of humanity at large. In proving the
contention of this paper, ‘vulnerability’ is a keyword. This vulnerability
of the Germans manifested itself even during the heyday of the Nazis
just before the War. They had reason to resent, for instance, the
persecution of the Jews following the assassination of Ernst Eduard von
Rath in November 1938 at the hands of a young Jew. About the
German reaction, Martin Kitchen makes the following comment: “Most
Germans felt it went too far—not so much out of sympathy for Jews,
but rather for fear that the SA’s flagrant disregard for private property
might soon affect them”. 33 Revelations of this kind bring out the
superficial nature of ideologically stimulating political propaganda and

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at the same time help in understanding the essential human feeling of


insecurity that lies underneath it.
An analysis of this book should begin with its powerful
narrative techniques that are skillfully employed by the writer to bring
out the element of high drama in Forell’s story. Facts are enumerated at
times in an unadorned manner to bring out the rawness of cruelty and at
other times with the elaborate accompaniment of typical literary
implements to lend a certain poetic beauty to the lonely man’s heroic
struggle. In other words, as far as the tone of the narrative is concerned,
the factual and the literary modes of discourse constantly overlap to
create a lasting impression on the reader. An example of the first kind
of discourse occurs in the following extracts from the first chapter
entitled Forell Talks About Himself as he describes in the first person
the circumstances of his capture:

I was wounded on the last day of the Crete operation:


a bullet in my knee. I have had a silver knee-cap in
my left leg ever since . . .
After that . . . I was picked up by these Russians and
taken to a partisan hospital. I had got a head-wound
in that affair—a shot through the mouth. The bullet is
still in my cerebellum somewhere and gives me
attacks of giddiness even today. My eyes play me up,
too, in all kinds of ways and I get bad pains in the
head. The bullet has been encapsuled now, and I am
partially colour blind, but that comes chiefly from
working in the lead mine. Lead poisoning. 34

In this passage the strength of the narrative lies in rushing through a


number of sensational details told in the briefest manner. A bullet in the
knee, a shot through the mouth, inability to see clearly, bad pains in the
head, colour blindness and lead poisoning all come together in a maze
of cause and effect that creates a final image of chilly horror. At other
times, the narrative artfully becomes pensive and there is time offered
for meditation over his deprivation. Consider, for instance, the
following comments on his accidentally coming across a forced labour
camp for women during his march for freedom:

. . . for hours Forell watched and listened from the


cover of some undergrowth, fascinated, yet hardly
knowing why. Once, a comic incident occurred
provoking peals of feminine laughter. What did it

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MUHAMMAD FURQAN TANVIR, HUMAN SUFFERING

matter whose voices they were? To Forell they


opened the door to a whole world of grace and
enchantment, a world that he had lost, but still hoped
to regain.
. . . Then he made off into the night and, weak as he
was, kept marching until it was light enough to select
a place for his bivouac, a hollow, sheltered and
secure, where sleep would cover his loneliness. 35

The poetic yearning and metaphorical language of the passage is a far


cry from the hard factual statements of the one quoted earlier and yet
the narrative as a whole benefits equally from the two kinds of
discourse to make its point convincingly.
Whereas the story is unfailingly concerned with the theme of
misery and suffering, the mood is at rare intervals lightened by snatches
of grim humour. Consider as an example the episode in which the
prisoners felt the need to take a bath in order to diminish to some extent
the effects of lead poisoning. One day they were given a few squares of
a clay-coloured substance that passed for soap and they were eager to
wash the filth off their ragged bodies, “Leibrecht set to vigorously on
the nearest man’s back, ignoring protests and entreaties until he had
produced a lather of a sort—a pink lather. ‘That’s funny. It’s pink’.”
The victim howled. “You silly fool! It’s not funny at all. You’ve drawn
blood. That’s what you’ve done!” 36
At times the story is told very dramatically, embodying
incidents that might appear hardly credible to some readers. Foremost
among such incidents is the one in which Forell, half dead with
exhaustion and wounds sustained from a vicious fall, tried desperately
to escape a pack of hungry wolves that dashed towards him. The only
possible escape was offered by a weak tree which he hastily climbed
but as it could not sustain his weight for long, it fell down bringing
Forell to land right in the middle of growling wolves. At that very
moment two hunters, who had been led in that direction for a long time
by the stench of wolves, emerged and “wrought fearful carnage among
the wolves. All round the tree the snow was littered with bloody
remains, those animals that were injured being attacked and torn to
pieces by the others before they, too, succumbed. By the time Forell
dropped from the tree, the wolves had already turned on each other and
were too absorbed in their own battle to pay much attention to him”. 37
These facts could be explained if considered sympathetically. In a
number of true escape adventures there is always an uncanny hint of a
miracle at work — the pages of, say, Henri Charriere’s autobiography

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Papillon abound in such episodes — and examples are simply too


numerous to be dismissed with skepticism. 38 A recent article on
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn published in Time magazine makes the
following comment on his memoir Invisible Allies, “It reads like a spy
novel—coded messages, boxes with false bottoms—yet the danger was
real”. 39 To consider an example that is particularly relevant to the
history of Nazism, in many of the books written on the life and
achievements of Hitler, historians continue to marvel at the mysterious
escapades he had from the plans made by conspirators against him.
“Hitler was to have been arrested”, says Hildebrand while writing about
one of them, “while visiting one of the army headquarters, but the visit
was cancelled at the last moment. This was one of several occasions
between 1939 and 1944 when Hitler eluded the conspirators’ plans as if
by a miracle”. 40
The general atmosphere of the prison camp where Forell was
kept was very similar to the one amply described by Alexander
Solzhenitsyn in his celebrated novel One Day in the Life of Ivan
Denisovich: the prisoners in the Soviet penal system had to contend
against three-fold misery i.e., the harsh and unrelenting working
conditions, inadequate provision of food and the freezing cold. 41 The
last posed lesser danger to Forell and his companions only because they
were housed in underground caves, and worked all the day long in lead
mines, at the expense of being cut off from light and fresh air. Even the
best Prisoner of War Camps have been noted for their exceedingly drab
and depressing everyday life 42 but in this case the prisoners were
almost driven to death by the grinding labour at the lead mines.
As the years passed, the frightening conditions of deprivation
and the endless boredom of routine life began to tell on Forell’s nerves
and after three years at the mine his body had not been as much
impaired as his mind, “His mind toyed merely with thoughts, left them
uncompleted, felt tired after exchanging a few meaningless banalities
with his fellow prisoners”. 43 As Camus says, “Intelligence in chains
loses in lucidity what it gains in intensity”, 44 so Forell’s mental
deterioration had the effect of sharpening his resolve to escape even
though to countless others even the mere contemplation of such an idea
would have seemed sheer lunacy. All around him was a frozen and
uninhabited world and, later, a number of times the people he met
during his journey simply laughed at his idea of going home. But a
superhuman energy of will and determination kept him going. There
were times when, in order to counter his ordeals, courage would not
suffice and he had to fall back on reserves of patience and
perseverance. For example, the parting advice of the Siberian chieftain

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MUHAMMAD FURQAN TANVIR, HUMAN SUFFERING

of a tribe called the Yakutes to Forell was that when he came to rivers
or streams that were too wide to cross with the weight of his rucksack,
he would just have to wait until they were passable. Forell protested
that it might take months and obtained the following reply: “You’ll
have to be patient. A man in a hurry never gets far. To hurry isn’t
normal; it arouses suspicion”. 45
An important aspect of the story is Forell’s loneliness. Again
and again he had to depend on the kindness and compassion not only of
people he knew but also of strangers. Yet he remains a loner. The
people who sheltered him or traveled with him formed only a transitory
companionship. Even a dog, gifted to him by a Siberian tribesman, who
remained his faithful companion for a long time during his journey was
killed by a hail of bullets from a machine-gun as he tried
unsuccessfully to cross the border into Mongolia. This made him sad as
he reflected on his perpetual loneliness, “He would miss his dog, as he
missed those other friends whom Fate had snatched from him, one by
one, year after year, as though it were decreed that this man should
fight and suffer alone, to the end of his days”. 46 This loneliness could
be regarded in two different ways: firstly, it adds a dimension of pathos
to his sufferings and secondly, it makes his character formidable. A
man’s heroism shines out conspicuously when he undertakes such a
disastrous journey all alone.
The loneliness of Forell is one of the several dimensions that
betray a gradual disintegration and dissolution of the Nazi ideology in
the book. The hold of the Nazis prospered a great deal by propagating
the dictum that the individual mattered nothing and the only significant
human unit is the nation. Before the War, a popular Nazi slogan was
“Gemeinnutz von Eigennutz!” meaning “The Common Interest before
Self”. 47 When Hitler came to know that his general Field-Marshal
Paulus had surrendered before the Russians at Stalingrad instead of
dying while fighting, he was furious and exclaimed, “What is life? Life
is the Nation. The individual must die anyway. Beyond the life of the
individual is the Nation”. 48 It is a totally different matter that Hitler
himself was obsessed with the pride he felt in being alone, to the extent
that he wrote in Mein Kampf, “Success is only achieved by the
individual conqueror”. 49 This, however, was an elitist privilege he
reserved only for himself. As for Forell, he had to make a difficult
choice when he decided to escape. From a first abortive escape attempt
he had come to know that all the other prisoners would have to pay
heavily for his freedom, as the Russians would cut short their food
rations in reprisal. If he chose to abide by the formula of the Nazi
slogan, he would never have made a second escape attempt. Thus, on

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ideological grounds he deliberately severed his links with Nazism at the


same time that he was destined to turn from a dictator’s instrument into
a weak, vulnerable human being. In a two-layered irony, however, by
doing so he also became one with Hitler, achieving success as an
individual conqueror.
Moreover, during his arduous journey, he also had to defend
himself from the menace of the collectivism enforced by the
Communist regime as it constantly posed a danger to his hard-won
liberty. On coming across a small flock of shepherds driving their flock
of reindeer across the wilderness, he was not sure whether or not to
depend on their apparent friendliness when they suddenly revealed to
him that they were heading towards a kolchoz, i.e., a village.

For the first time, the German had heard a word that
frightened him. Somewhere, then, there was a
collective farm, even for wandering shepherds like
these. But, in that case, they were not independent,
but a part of the System, outposts, almost, of the
Communist Regime, and for an escaped prisoner-of-
war who had come in contact with them the
consequences might be highly unpleasant. 50

The sinister world that Forell lived in during the three years he
spent in making his escape good was perpetually marked by an urgent
and threatening sense of uncertainty. An analysis of this uncertainty
seems imperative owing to the ideological issues it raises. It could be
categorized as having four dimensions: the uncertainty of the physical
world, the uncertainty about whether or not he would eventually
succeed, the uncertainty of the meaning of freedom and the uncertainty
of the response he would get from people whom he met.
The first of these manifested itself soon after his escape as the
rough map he had been provided by a cartographer did not promise any
accuracy from the start. Forell’s greatest helper, without whom he
would not have obtained the necessary equipment, was Dr Stauffer and
he clearly warned him about this uncertainty with the following
revelation: “And I can tell you this: not even the Russians here know
what the country is like to the west. Some of it is unexplored. In other
parts, you’ll find more people than you’ll want to see. Make for the
unexplored areas, to start with, at any rate—the blanks on the map, but
remember, they may not be blanks on the ground.” 51 This uncertainty
reached its very climax when marching westwards, the direction he had
to take in a haphazard manner, he was stupified to find his way

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MUHAMMAD FURQAN TANVIR, HUMAN SUFFERING

blocked, all of a sudden, by a sea when the rough map that directed him
showed no signs of its existence. The discovery was an immense blow
to his morale and for quite some time he did not even doubt that he had
marched hundreds of miles in vain, “ . . . he stood aghast, horrified by
the sight which met his eyes—a smooth, limitless expanse of frozen
sea. At one blow, all his hopes and calculations and sense of
achievement were shattered”. 52 Later, however, he came to know from
the native herdsmen that it was a river and they could hardly believe
that anybody could be such a fool as to mistake one for the other. While
the general direction he was to follow was west, in the frozen and
deserted wilderness he often had to cover long distances in other
directions for that offered the only possibility of making any progress at
all.
The second uncertainty that characterized the journey was
whether or not he would ever reach his ultimate destination i.e.,
Germany. In the beginning it was only a fantastic dream but later the
exertions of constant endeavours to save himself from perishing began
to tell on his nerves to an extent that he could no longer clearly see
what he was striving for. Therefore, he told the herdsmen, “And I’ll tell
you where I’m going—I don’t care where it is, but I’m going
somewhere where a man can live! I’m fed up with existence on this
moon!” 53 After staying with them for several months, he became
increasingly skeptical about “regaining a life lost long ago and now
hardly even desired”. 54 During the last of the three years of his journey,
the condition had worsened to an extent that he often spent long
stretches of time moving from one place to another only to be on the
move.
Thirdly, the first hand experience of life under the Communist
regime and the tyranny of Stalin had also told him that for an ordinary
man there was no great difference between slavery and freedom, one
was literally as bad as the other. During his journey, Forell had to join
the company of three bandits who had escaped from a prison camp,
where they had been working in a gold mine, only to enjoy freedom by
continuing to observe the strict schedule of prison life in order to stay
alive. As they worked ceaselessly washing gold from a stream, Forell
was disappointed with the realization “that the men were voluntarily
imposing on themselves the same discipline that they had been forced
to undergo as convicts in the gold mine”. 55 At other times he met
people all of whose belongings had been confiscated by the state and
heard of others who had been forced into labour camps only because
they were fit to work. In a land where the meaning of freedom had
itself become so uncertain as to be indistinguishable from its opposite,

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the quest undertaken by Forell was mocked at by the conditions of the


so-called free men.
These three kinds of uncertainty seem to provide a symbolic
background to the more crucial fourth kind, namely whom Forell could
trust and for how long. One of the finest examples of this is once again
to be found in his encounter with the herdsmen whom he met while
they drove their flock of reindeer to their village. Forell was at first
determined to disappear from the scene for fear of being reported but
later reconciled himself to the relative ease their company promised.
The reindeer men were particularly generous to Forell owing to the
extremely harsh weather conditions that threatened life without
discriminating between Siberians and Germans, i.e., here was the
common enemy to fight against, pointed out earlier in the words of
David Guthrie-James. However, as long as Forell stayed with them, the
fear of being handed back to the Russians never fully left him and when
his foremost friend, a young man named Laatmai, at last took him to
certain people who would guide him on his way, he was certain that he
had been betrayed. At the last moment, however, it dawned on him that
Laatmai was readily sacrificing a considerable store of provisions to
persuade others to help Forell. Later, as noted earlier, he was forced to
accompany three unscrupulous bandits and throughout his long stay
with them he had to be continuously watchful about their intentions.
When staying with another Siberian tribe that was very friendly and
generous, his greatest fear was of being betrayed not owing to the
tribesmen’s treachery but because they were so simple-hearted that they
might speak to Russians about his presence without understanding the
danger into which they would put him, “They would not know the
difference between boast and betrayal. Guileless and unsuspecting, they
would talk as long as the Russians would listen . . .”. 56
Once again, at a far later stage, Forell found himself trapped
into a situation where a stern Timber Control Officer gruffly asked him
for his identity papers and appeared quite unwilling to help him. The
next day his response showed a dramatic change: “Next day, the man of
iron condescended to relax and become more human. Beneath his
forbidding exterior, beat a heart of warm and generous impulse, a heart
that loved”. 57 Of the many similar incidents, two seem particularly
worthy of note. After his failure to cross the Mongolian frontier, he met
a ranger who recognized his German accent and accurately guessed that
he was an escaped prisoner of war but instead of having him arrested
told him that his own father had been born in Wiener-Neustadt and had
a lot in common with Forell. He advised Forell to go and meet his
father who lived hundreds of miles away. When Forell did reach him,

48
MUHAMMAD FURQAN TANVIR, HUMAN SUFFERING

the old man told him that he had been taken prisoner by the Russians in
1914 and had for a long time tried in vain to get back to Germany but
had now realized the futility of the plan and had settled in Russia for
good. He laughed at Forell’s scheme of trying to get back to Germany,
refused to listen to his future plans for fear of becoming an accomplice
in the manoeuvres of a person from the wrong side of the law and
would even not allow him to stay in his house for a single night. Such a
show of meanness was the last thing Forell would have expected from a
person who had himself once shared a part of his experiences. The final
incident of this kind, the one that provides the crowning irony to
undercut the archetypal evaluation of a people came near the end of the
story when one day Forell was approached in the bazaar by a Jew who
recognized that he was a German and insisted on helping him. Forell
was obviously quite baffled by the offer and was at first afraid of
committing himself to his nameless benefactor while the first thought
that struck his mind was, “A Jew offering help to a German? It seemed
unlikely.” 58 As for that, Forell was not only a German but one of
Hitler’s soldiers. Later he found that the Jew was a member of a
mysterious organization that could guarantee him the only possible
channel to cross the Russian border into Iran. After a long time, Forell
decided to throw himself into the hands of the organization and that
was eventually how he got out of Russia. So the dream of escape would
never have been realized without the assistance of a Jewish
organization and this provides an illustration to David Guthrie-James’
theory quoted earlier that one only needs travel to know that there are
good and bad in every country.
Uptill now, Forell’s character is studied as that of a freedom-
fighter and a great level of nobility and uprightness is traditionally
associated with the idea of a man fighting for his freedom and thus
defying oppression and tyranny. This is an underlying idea in all great
true stories of escape. However, this idea is not without its
accompanying complications and it is questionable whether a person
driven to such extremes as Forell could always retain the image of
nobility. As Forell trudged on westwards year by year and there were
still no signs of the approaching end of his journey, the force of
humane principles in him gradually began to crumble and the animal
instinct of survival substituted his soldierly pride. For instance, during
the first year of his travels, when he found himself forced into the
company of three escaped convicts, he regarded them with unconcealed
disdain, but during the third year he had himself been reduced to the
vocation of a common thief. “So of necessity Forell was a vagabond,
what people blessed with a propusk would call a shameless beggar, an

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incorrigible thief”. 59 Forell himself was acutely aware of this


degradation and not completely satisfied about the inclusion of such
material in the book. In the author’s introduction, it is mentioned that
during the third year Forell “had developed a greater resourcefulness
which helped him on his way”. 60 And with this, Bauer makes no secret
of the fact that a certain level of censorship on his part was essential to
cover Forell’s unauthorized acts: “The change which had taken place in
him . . . seems to me sufficiently implicit in the text to explain why I
decided not to cover a further hundred pages with a mass of extra
detail”. 61 Before passing a moral judgment on a man like Forell, it is
extremely important to keep in mind the context of the Russian political
system that denied him the necessary means of subsistence in any other
manner. Running for his life for years had, moreover, embittered him to
such an extent that it gave him a sense of satisfaction to rob others. He
felt that if he had been in any other country except Russia, “he might by
now have taken half a dozen different jobs and settled down to enjoy
three square meals a day . . . But in Russia, a man was as good as his
papers, and if he had no papers, he was good for nothing except jail”. 62
While a moral judgment should be withheld about his turning
into a thief, this evidence of a corroded personality nevertheless clears
the way for further investigating why Forell could not be regarded as a
hero in the ideal sense. Sticking to the dictum that history is multi-
dimensional, it is important to deconstruct the language of the book in
order to find what traces of an alternative reading—i.e., leading to an
anti-heroic interpretation of Forell’s character—are offered by the book
itself. Within the text, such references are understandably sketchy and
elusive and could only be substantiated through recourse to other
authentic history books. The text contains certain hints that what Forell
suffered was an act of retribution rather than plain and unambiguous
victimization. Portraying the sheer embitterment of Forell over his
hellish experiences, the author notes in the opening paragraph of his
preface, “He would lose his temper, count up his wounds, curse Soviet
justice, and become explosive with fury at all that had happened to him,
complaining that he was a useless cripple, unfit for life or regular
employment”. 63 What makes the historian’s paradigm unstable in this
sentence and provides a hinge for balancing atrocities committed
against and by Germans is the phrase “Russian justice,” significantly
used in preference to an expression like, say, “Russian cruelty” or
“Russian atrocities”. This is a reminder that Forell was himself a part,
even though a mere cog, in an inhuman machinery.
Similarly, in the brief chapter entitled Forell Talks About
Himself, in which the protagonist speaks in the first person, as

50
MUHAMMAD FURQAN TANVIR, HUMAN SUFFERING

mentioned earlier, many shocking facts are rushed through in the most
plain and briefest possible manner and among them are the following:
“Marching back from the Urals towards the front, we blew up quite a
number of bridges, depots and so on, some of them just damaged and
some of them blown sky-high”. 64 The implications of these attacks,
spoken of here in, as it were, a hushed tone but inescapable to any
student of twentieth century history, contain numberless crimes against
humanity committed by Germans in Russia. While “Hitler showed not
the slightest comprehension of the sufferings of his soldiers”, 65 about
the treatment of Russian prisoners, using the plea that the Soviet Union
had not signed the Geneva Convention, “Hitler had insisted that all the
conventional rules of war must be abandoned”. 66 Accordingly, in
hundreds of cages:

the prisoners soon died of starvation or froze to


death. When, as frequently happened, epidemics ran
riot among them, flamethrowers were used to burn
the living and the dead . . . Recorded deaths of
Russian prisoners of war in camps and cages amount
to 1,981,000. Under the heading “Exterminations, not
accounted for, deaths and disappearances in transit”
there were 1,308,000 more. Hitler liked to say he was
not waging a parlour war. 67

It is noteworthy that throughout the present book Hitler is not


mentioned even once, the only suggestion that Forell belonged to his
set up is made in the very beginning with the words “Starting in 1935, I
was really no more than a boy then, with nothing but foolishness in my
head”. 68 In these words is a muffled admission that he was a victim of
the much talked about mass hysteria that enveloped all the sections of
the German population but in particular affected the youth. The cult of
Hitler as the ultimate saviour and leader of Germany owed its
popularity among the youth to a great extent to the propagandist tactics
that aimed at smothering intellect and replacing it with nationalistic
zeal. Thus, “Although . . . the growing regimentation and militarism of
the youth organisations isolated some young Germans, the Sopade
reports of the 1930s tend to concede that the opportunities for
participation, the comradeship and enthusiasm, together with the HJ’s
(Hitler Jugend’s) anti-intellectualism, generally attracted the support of
young people”. 69 The fact that Forell recognized his nationalistic zeal
as foolishness had a concrete ground: the callous way in which Hitler
had decided to abandon his armies in Russia during the War for the

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supposed glory of the Fatherland was enough for any of the doomed
soldiers to shake his faith in the German high command.
There was a time when, just before the fateful battle of
Stalingrad, Hitler’s own Chief of the Army General Staff, General
Zeitzler, begged him permission for the army’s retreat from the city
where it would soon be surrounded and devastated by the Russians but
Hitler could not bear the thought of this disgraceful exit and issued the
death sentence of two hundred thousand men instead by urging them to
die heroically for the sake of Germany. Zeitzler himself made the
following statement in this connection:

Hitler would not give way. In vain I described to him


conditions inside the so-called fortress: the despair of
the starving soldiers, their loss of confidence in the
Supreme Command, the wounded expiring for lack
of proper attention while thousands froze to death. He
remained as impervious to arguments of this sort as
to those others which I had advanced. 70

Later, the Russians went out of their way to offer honourable terms of
surrender to the besieged army that was otherwise clearly in the jaws of
death but Hitler would still not budge. At the end of the inevitable
massacre, out of 285,000 German soldiers only 91,000 were alive to be
taken prisoner. Out of that number, only 5000 were destined ever to see
the Fatherland again. 71 These details show the extent to which Hitler,
rather than Stalin, was responsible for the misery of countless people
like Forell. To conclude, it can be said that Clemens Forell, as a
symbolic figure, represents the universality of human suffering by
bringing into focus the aspects of history that are likely to be neglected
owing to flaws in political ideologies and the power of propaganda.

52
MUHAMMAD FURQAN TANVIR, HUMAN SUFFERING

END NOTES

1
Lytton Strachey, Eminent Victorians (San Diego: Harcourt Brace &
Company, reprint 1969), p.vii.
2
Martin Gilbert, Atlas of the Holocaust, 2nd ed. (London: Routledge, 2002),
p.11.
3
This poem has been anthologized in E. F. Kingston (ed.), Poems to Remember
(Toronto: J. M. Dent & Sons Limited, 1966), p.137.
4
The book was originally published in 1957 but the version referred to
throughout this paper is an English translation of the same by Lawrence
Wilson, published from Britain in 1966: Josef Martin Bauer, As Far As My
Feet Will Carry Me (Great Britain: A Mayflower-Dell Paperback, reprint
1966).
5
Ibid., p.172.
6
Miranda Twiss, The Most Evil Men and Women in History (New York:
Barnes & Noble Books, 2002), p.143.
7
Joyce Robins, Lady Killers (Great Britain: Chancellor Press, 1993), p.1.
8
An excellent reinforcement of this viewpoint comes from Albert Speer,
Hitler’s Armaments Minister, who made a number of sensational revelations in
his autobiography about the central administration of the Third Reich. About
Hitler’s admiration for Stalin he wrote, “He spoke admiringly of Stalin,
particularly stressing the parallels to his own endurance . . . In a brief access of
confidence, he might remark with a jesting tone of voice that it would be best,
after victory over Russia, to entrust the administration of the country to Stalin,
under German hegemony, of course, since he was the best imaginable man to
handle the Russians. In general he regarded Stalin as a kind of colleague.”
Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich (London: Sphere Books Limited, 1971),
p.418.
9
These words are quoted in Finlay McKichan, Germany 1815-1939: The Rise
of Nationalism (Essex: Oliver & Boyd, 1994), p.179.
10
I could not locate Hitler’s celebrated Autobiography and had to rely for the
given quotation on an extract of the book that figures as an essay entitled
“Nation and Race” in the following anthology: Terence Ball and Richard
Dagger (eds.), Ideals and Ideologies: A Reader, 3rd ed. (New York: Longman,
1999), pp.339-355.
11
K. Hildebrand, The Third Reich, trans. P. S. Falla (London: Routledge,
1999), p.87.
12
Rudolf Walter Leonhardt, This Germany: The Story Since the Third Reich,
trans. Catherine Hutter (Great Britain: Penguin, 1966), p.27.
13
R. J. Minney, I Shall Fear No Evil (London: Corgi Books, 1968), p.144.
14
Ibid., p.144.
15
Ibid., p.116.
16
Paul Brickhill, The Great Escape (Great Britain: The Sheridan Book
Company, reprint 1995), p.24.
17
Ibid., p.25.

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18
Bruce Marshall, The White Rabbit (London: Pan Books, reprint 1973), p.139.
19
Bauer, As Far As My Feet Will Carry Me, p.35.
20
Marshall, The White Rabbit, p.148.
21
Ibid., p.195.
22
David Guthrie-James, Escaper’s Progress (Norwich: Jarrold and Sons Ltd.,
reprint 1986), p.9.
23
Ibid., p.13.
24
Blake Clark, “The Battle of D-Day Minus One;” the article has been
anthologized in condensed form in a book entitled Secrets and Stories of the
War, Vol. 2 (London: The Reader’s Digest Association Limited, 1963), p.469.
25
Robert J. C. Young, Postcolonialism: A Very Short Introduction (Karachi:
Oxford University Press, 2005), p.69.
26
Quoted in Martin Gilbert, History of the Twentieth Century (Great Britain:
HarperCollins, 2002), p.270.
27
For further details see Ibid., pp.405-406, 418.
28
Jack Higgins, The Eagle Has Landed (London: Pan Books, 1976), p.328.
29
Ibid., p.344. These words, by naturally distancing Higgins’ text from
propagandist manoeuvres and projecting an alternative picture of the enemy,
provide an apology for the inclusion of a reference to a fictional work in a
historical reading of the whole debate.
30
Ibid., p.232.
31
Countess Waldeck, “What Really Happened to Rommel”, Secrets and Stories
of the War, Vol.2 (The Reader’s Digest Association Limited, 1963), p.582.
32
Ibid., p.587.
33
Martin Kitchen, The Cambridge Illustrated History of Germany (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1997), p.273.
34
Bauer, As Far As My Feet Will Carry Me, pp.9-10.
35
Ibid., p.202.
36
Ibid., p.53. This kind of humour adds a certain poignancy to the harrowing
experiences within which it is incorporated, in a manner typical of the
Existentialists.
37
Ibid., p.160.
38
See, for instance, the aftermath of an episode in Papillon’s adventures in
which, to make an escape attempt, he used a sleeping-draught in a cup of coffee
offered to a prison guard. Henri Charriere, Papillon, trans. Patrick O’Brian (St.
Albans: Panther Books Ltd., reprint 1975), pp.225-229. However, let it be said
that to come to a final word about such stories is a problematic issue and faith
in them must eventually remain a matter of opinion.
39
Radhika Jones, “Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn”, Time, 18 Aug. 2008, p.14.
40
K. Hildebrand, The Third Reich, trans. P. S. Falla (London: Routledge,
1999), p.86.
41
See Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, trans.
Max Hayward and Ronald Hingley (New York: Bantam Books, 1973).

54
MUHAMMAD FURQAN TANVIR, HUMAN SUFFERING

42
This aspect of POW Camps has been highlighted in Tim Healey, Great
Escapes (Hemel Hempstead: Simon & Schuster International Group, 1989),
p.52.
43
Bauer, As Far As My Feet Will Carry Me, p.62.
44
Albert Camus, The Rebel, trans. Anthony Bower (Great Britain: Penguin
Books, 1962), p.32.
45
Bauer, As Far As My Feet Will Carry Me, p.169.
46
Ibid., p.199.
47
For more details, see William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
(London: Pan Books, reprint 1964), p.289.
48
Ibid., p.1113.
49
Quoted in Robert Payne’s famous biography of Hitler, the edition that I had
access to being another condensation published by Reader’s Digest in book
form: Robert Payne, “The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler”, Today’s Nonfiction
Best Sellers: ’74 / ’75 Edition (London: The Reader’s Digest Association
Limited, 1974), p.137.
50
Bauer, As Far As My Feet Will Carry Me, pp.95-96.
51
Ibid., p.67.
52
Ibid., p.90.
53
Ibid., p.93.
54
Ibid., p.104.
55
Ibid., p.121.
56
Ibid., p.168.
57
Ibid., p.182.
58
Ibid., p.212.
59
Ibid., p.208.
60
Ibid., p.8.
61
Ibid., p.8.
62
Ibid., p.208.
63
Ibid., p.7.
64
Ibid., p.10.
65
Robert Payne, “The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler”, Today’s Nonfiction Best
Sellers: ’74 / ’75 Edition (London: The Reader’s Digest Association Limited,
1974), p.262.
66
Ibid., p.262.
67
Ibid., p.264.
68
Bauer, As Far As My Feet Will Carry Me, p.9.
69
David Welch, The Third Reich: Politics and Propaganda (London:
Routledge, 1995), p.63.
70
Quoted in William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (London:
Pan Books, reprint 1964), p.1107.
71
For more details, see Ibid., pp.1109-1112.

55
REVISITING APPROACHES TO DISEASE AND
MEDICINE IN THE LONG NINETEENTH CENTURY
NATASHA SARKAR
NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF SINGAPORE,
SINGAPORE
ABSTRACT

A range of perspectives of historians and human


experiences have resulted in the creation of several sub-
fields in history, of which, disease and medicine deserves
attention. A concern for health has been significant to all
historical processes, and more so, in a process like
colonization which involved aggression, intrusion and
imposition of one’s will upon another. This paper views the
medical discourse in general and nineteenth century India
in particular, through varied perceptions. It explores how
disease has been represented, discussed and imagined in
the context of colonial India. An enquiry as to whether the
term ‘tropical’ disease was indicative of “otherisation” or
“inferiorisation” is attempted through an analysis of the
idea of India’s “tropicality”. In the ‘settler’ colonies, the
medical discourse took the language of practical public
health and professional advancement. But this was not to
be so in classic colonies like India, where it worked as an
appendage of the army and spoke the idiom of political and
cultural superiority. So the prevalent Indian medical
practices received more opprobrium than it deserved.
Surveillance medicine moved the attention of medicine
from pathological bodies to each and every member of the
population. Health education developed as an important
aspect of the public health care system and as a component
of surveillance medicine. Many health education practices
involved the imposition of ‘truths’ about health, in which
the patient lost control of his or her own body. Foucault’s
concept of bio-power has been used to provide a critique of
health education. A reflection upon the institutional sites
from which the medical discourse emerges and derives its
legitimate source and point of application is necessary.
These sites include the hospitals, medical services and
medical research institutions. One wonders whether
colonial medicine failed to make the transition from state
medicine to public health. As such, an analysis of the
debate surrounding perceptions of “Western” medicine vis-
à-vis “Indigenous” systems of medicine is provided.

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Disease and medicine have indeed occupied a place within


an expansive colonizing process. The works of historians in
this emerging field have shown promise and their
approaches merit a revisit.

KEY WORDS: Medicine, Colonial India, Michel Foucault, Disease,


otherisation, tropicality.

The days of world history as a single, all-encompassing field of global


synthesis are gone. The range of methods and perspectives of historians and the
range of human experiences combine to create many sorts of world history
rather than just one. I have chosen to identify a history of disease and medicine
as a sub-field of study within the field of world history. After all, a concern for
health has been an important feature of all historical processes, and more so, in
a process like colonization which involved aggression, intrusion and imposition
of one’s will upon another. I find myself increasingly drawn to the possibilities
of understanding how a variety of approaches have helped in understanding the
progression of disease and medicine. This paper shall, therefore, attempt to take
a look at medical discourse through an understanding of various perceptions of
disease and medicine in general, and nineteenth century India in particular.

EVOLVING CONCEPTIONS OF DISEASE

Discourse theories or analyses explore intellectual conversations. Such


discourse involves ways of approaching an event, the terminology, the way it’s
structured, the ways in which people have talked about it, the ways of
presenting it, etc. Foucault says, “we must be ready to receive every moment of
discourse in its sudden irruption; in that punctuality in which it appears, and in
that temporal dispersion that enables it to be repeated, known, forgotten,
transformed, utterly erased, and hidden…Discourse must not be referred to the
distant presence of the origin, but treated as and when it occurs”. 1 One might
want to apply Foucault’s understanding of a discourse to evolving conceptions
of “disease”. In other words, how has disease been represented, discussed and
imagined in the context of colonial India?
In western scholarship, epidemic diseases such as malaria, smallpox,
cholera and plague have been attributed exclusively to the tropics. They have
been referred to as “Indian” epidemics, thriving on her enervating climate,
untidiness and obscurantism. Many have dismissed these constructs as
empirically untenable. Most of these diseases were of global occurrence and
have been worldwide in their distribution. Plague ravaged Europe since the fall
of the Roman Empire. It was common in Elizabethan England and found place
in such expressions as “Plague on both the Houses”. Malaria was rampant in
Greece, Italy, Spain and Latin America. Similarly, cholera and smallpox held
reign over the United States and the Continent. While influenza was endemic in
cold countries, syphilis and leprosy were to be found in many parts of the
Western world. Many of these diseases have been attributed to the warmer and

58
NATASHA SARKAR, REVISITING APPROACHES

poorer parts of the world due to the success of hygiene and preventive
measures in the more developed parts of the world. One cannot help but
wonder whether the term ‘tropical’ disease is indicative of “otherisation” or
“inferiorisation”. Was it a Western way of defining something culturally and
politically alien, as well as environmentally distinctive, from Europe and other
parts of the temperate zone?2
Alternatively, the judgment about what constitutes disease is
probably conceived, in most societies, as a departure from the usual state of
health. Thus, a morbid condition which is common may not be perceived to be
abnormal and to need a remedy. For instance, some Chinese communities do
not recognize trachoma as a disease because it is mild and common. In yet
another example, Chinese mothers in Hong Kong recognized measles to be
dangerous, but they did not consider it a disease. They conceived of it as a
developmental stage in which the child’s body was freed of a hot maternal
poison. Thus measles was treated as an essential rite de passage rather than as a
medical problem.3

THE IDEA OF INDIA’S “TROPICALITY”

The idea of India’s “tropicality” was externally imposed by means of trying to


define, compare, and conceptualize India, to render it more accessible to the
European imagination and ultimately to its colonizing processes. As such, the
term “tropicality” has come to signify the conceptualization and representation
of the tropics in European imagination and experience.4 Tropical climate was
considered to be the prime cause of European ill health. India was conceived as
a land of dirt, disease and sudden death. Though not perhaps quite a ‘White
Man’s Grave’ like the coast of West Africa, India was regarded as a place
where the Englishman was not likely to enjoy a healthy life. Philip Curtin, in
his work ‘Death by Migration’ describes India as a home of all dreaded
diseases and epidemics where the ruling class migrated only to face death. He
demonstrates that mortality rates for Europeans were far higher in India than in
Britain.5 The binary contrast between the west and the east has also been
highlighted before him by Daniel Headrick, and the writings of colonial
medical officers and imperial politicians.6 The east was ‘dark’, while the west
was ‘enlightened’, ‘modern’ and ‘civilised’. Imperialism was not only the
conquest of territory and people but also a “civilising mission”. The conquest
of diseases in Asia and Africa was a part of this civilising process.7
It was not only the representation of “tropical” climate and disease
that helped fashion India’s emergent tropicality. Botany too was influential, and
since many of India’s botanists were also company surgeons, one disciplinary
perspective tended to reinforce the other. As botany moved toward the more
systematic identification and classification of plants, so travel narratives and
literary works exploited expanding plant knowledge to reinforce the wider
representation and characterization of the tropics. 8 Interestingly, David Arnold
opines that “tropical medicine” as a relatively distinct body of medical
knowledge had been in existence since atleast the mid-eighteenth century. After

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1898, professional journals began to appear, fostering a sense of identity among


practitioners of tropical medicine. In 1898 and 1899, in Liverpool and London,
the first specialist research and teaching institutions were established, and the
first chairs in tropical medicine created.9
Absolute supremacy of the one and total subjugation of the other
characterised the Victorian imperialism for which the colonial medical men
worked, and that is the reason their work can best be understood in terms of
“colonial medicine”. Preservation of European health in new and ‘hostile’ lands
was colonial medicine’s first responsibility. Gradually the colonial doctors
developed into a cultural force. They began defining and redefining what they
saw in the colonies in terms of their own training and perceptions.10
During the eighteenth century, colonial medicine was wrapped in
legendary adventures and medical geography in some scientific sense, but in
the Victorian era it graduated into an organised colonial effort. Though the
name given to it was tropical medicine, there was hardly anything tropical
about it, apart from the fact that it operated in a tropical environment. As
mentioned earlier, cholera, plague and smallpox, Europe had known for
centuries. What distinguished them in a tropical climate was their intensity and
ferocity.

MEDICAL DISCOURSE IN THE ‘SETTLER’ COLONIES VIS-À-VIS THE ‘CLASSIC’


COLONIES

In the ‘settler’ colonies where the Europeans had found a permanent home,
medical discourse took the language of practical public health and professional
advancement. But this was not to be so in classic colonies like India, Nigeria,
or Congo where it worked as an appendage of the army and spoke the idiom of
political and cultural superiority. Settler colonies were the extension of the
European culture itself. In other places, both physical and cultural encounters
took place in which the prevailing system had to be defeated and subordinated.
So the prevalent Indian medical practices received more opprobrium than it
deserved. Condemnation was easier but finding the cause of and solution to the
prevalent diseases was something different and difficult. So the blame was put
on the climate; heat and humidity became the major obsessions of the tropical
‘miasmatic’ medicine.11
The climatic determinism of the later eighteenth century gave way,
during the first half of the nineteenth, to an explanation of disease which
focused on human agency: on personal cleanliness and the mismanagement of
the urban and rural environments. These new concerns did not wholly replace
the older climatic paradigm but were incorporated within it.12
With the establishment of the ‘germ’ theory, one might have thought
that the miasmatic theory would lose its importance. However, the tropics
continued to be blamed for the epidemics. The heat of the tropical sun and
humidity of swampy lands were still held responsible for the diseases. The
mosquitoes, lice, rats were condemned as vectors. The P&O lines carried loads

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of lice, rats and cockroaches along with passengers from Europe to Asia and
Australia.13
Prior to 1800, the dominant conception of the human body was that it
was malleable and capable of adapting to new circumstances and new
environments. This view gave rise in the later eighteenth century (as Britain
began to expand territorially in India) to optimism about the prospects for
permanent European settlement, and such views continued to be expressed until
well into the nineteenth century. In was only in the late 1820s that the
possibility of large-scale European colonization was rejected by the vast
majority of European administrators, soldiers, and medical men.14 How might
we explain this growing pessimism about settlement and acclimatization?
Historians have tended to attribute resistance to the colonization of India to
political factors: to fears that an Indian colony would go the way of its
American predecessors and to fears that a large influx of European settlers
would cause unrest among the Indian population. 15 However, Mark Harrison
draws our attention to deep-seated biological anxieties of fears concerning the
loss of racial identity and the prospect of moral and physical decline rather than
political ones.16 The debate over colonization in India thus reflected the
growing dominance of a racial conception of human difference over an
environmental and constitutional one.

OF PUBLIC HEALTH AND PRIORITIES

Even if upto the middle of the nineteenth century, many epidemics were global
in nature, both tropical and temperate, it is a colossal investment in public
health in both sanitary reform and research for prophylactics which made the
world of difference between the so-called tropical and temperate zones, an
investment generated by colonial extraction but denied to the colonies. They
got the disease but not the remedy. It was indeed a case of colonizing the body.
Cholera is a case in point. Cholera was rampant in France, England, Russia and
USA in the second half of the nineteenth century, and not just in India on the
banks of the Ganga. Whereas sanitary reform, especially water treatment for
this water-borne disease eradicated it in the West, nothing similar was carried
out in India. Only Punjab derived some such measure after considerable foot-
dragging by the bureaucracy.17

SURVEILLANCE MEDICINE IN THE LIGHT OF FOUCAULDIAN BIO-POWER

Besides such constructs concerning disease and medicine in colonial India, the
concept and pattern of medical care also seems to have undergone a shift in
India in the twentieth century. In the nineteenth century, the predominant
model for public health was hospital medicine, concentrating on symptoms and
signs that together configured a pathology. Gradually, in the twentieth century,
a new paradigm, ‘surveillance’ medicine developed. Surveillance medicine
moved the attention of medicine from pathological bodies to each and every
member of the population. Health education developed as an important aspect

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of the public health care system and as a component of surveillance medicine.


Increasing imperial rivalries and anxieties about the future health condition of
the children of the army, to some extent, prompted certain measures aimed at
improving the health of mothers and children.18
It must be remembered that health education was developed as part of
the machinery of surveillance medicine, and that many health education
practices involved the imposition of ‘truths’ about health, in which the patient
lost control of his or her own body. Instead of choice, the patient experienced
government control over her or his body or family from the outside. Therefore,
health education certainly contributed to the management of social and
individual bodies. Traditionally, health education has been considered as an
asset within health care, because it provides information and suggests
alternatives to individuals, families or groups, to prevent disease and promote
health. From this perspective, health education seems to be a healthy practice
and a weapon for the empowerment of patients.19 Many historians have
challenged this assumption and provided a critique of health education which
employs the concept of bio-power as developed by Michel Foucault.
Bio-power refers to the mechanisms employed to manage the
population and discipline individuals. According to Foucault, biological life is
essentially a political event. Population, reproduction and disease are central to
economic processes and are therefore subjected to political control. The work
of professional health visitors undoubtedly represented a movement of western
medical care and the state into Indian homes. The propaganda efforts of
maternal and child welfare centres meant that the health system was turning
from repressive approaches to constructive approaches aimed at participation of
clients, which would at the same time lead to better and more professional
control of the population.20

SCIENCE, MEDICINE AND EMPIRE

Historians usually assign the techno-scientific factors a very low priority


among the causes of imperialism. But in recent years, scholars have evinced a
greater interest in the role of science and technology in the history of imperial
expansion. During the 1980s, several works appeared in the context of locating
the science and medicine component in colonial expansion. One of the earliest
was Daniel Headrick’s The Tools of Empire which showed how penetration
into Africa was not possible without conquering the several diseases.21 Mastery
in the local topography and the local environment was a sine qua non for any
imperial expansion. The works of P.D.Curtin are of special interest in this
context.22 Michael Worboys has discussed the medical efforts in relation to
Africa and other colonies in his unpublished Ph.D. thesis and several articles.23
He has studied the emergence of tropical medicine as a new discipline and has
made a valuable contribution to an understanding of its nature and context.

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INSTITUTIONAL SITES OF THE COLONIAL DISCOURSE

One must reflect upon the institutional sites from which discourse emerges and
derives its legitimate source and point of application. In the case of nineteenth-
century medicine, these sites include the hospitals, medical services or even
medical research institutions.

I. HOSPITALS: The earliest reference we find of the establishment of any


hospital meant for treating the sick native civilians was that of the General
Native Hospital founded in 1792 in Calcutta.24 Prior to this, all references to the
existence of hospitals occur only in association to the British army constituted
of European as well as native sepoys. Public health policy in that very sense,
emerged as an offshoot of military health policy of the British. It acquired
added impetus by the mid-nineteenth century as the rulers increasingly realised
that if their surroundings remained diseased and uncared for, it was difficult to
fully protect themselves even at their secluded and spacious hill stations and
civil lines.25
Various kinds of hospitals, thus, came into existence by the mid-
nineteenth century which can be placed under four broad categories. First and
foremost, the ‘military hospitals’ meant for the treatment and rehabilitation of
the soldiers and sailors of the Company. The military hospitals were of two
types, temporary and regular. Temporary or camp hospitals were an immediate
and urgent arrangement in some old and ruined buildings for medical aid to the
soldiers near the battlefields. Once the war was over, such hospitals were either
abolished or shifted to newer war zones. Regular military hospitals were
established within the confines of the cantonments or stable military stations,
and were well-staffed and well-regulated. The second category comprised all
such hospitals either at the metropolis or the district headquarters which
exclusively attended on the European civilians. The third category comprised
the general hospitals meant for all, including the natives. In the fourth and last
category came the charitable hospitals and dispensaries which were mostly the
outcome of native efforts and were maintained by public subscriptions.
However, few of the prominent charitable hospitals received government aid as
well. The first three categories of hospitals were mainly financed and
maintained by the government. Another set of hospitals to meet the
requirements of chronic and contagious diseases like leprosy, tuberculosis, and
different kinds of fevers came up from time to time in the form of leper
asylums, TB sanatoriums, and fever hospitals respectively. Also, to check and
mitigate the ravages of epidemic or killer diseases like smallpox, malaria,
cholera and plague, temporary hospitals were set up. They were abolished once
the diseases subsided. However, in the endemic areas, they were granted a
longer existence.26
As the imperial authority of the British rested on the British soldier,
and more dependently after the Mutiny of 1857, the government accorded top
priority to their needs and desires. The government gradually evolved a policy
of providing Indian women to satiate the sexual lust of the soldiers, who were

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naively described as ‘our young soldiers’ or as ‘our boy soldiers’. For their
‘young boys’, the military authorities regulated prostitution on a systematic
basis. Regimental brothels or lal bazaars, and lock-hospitals consequently,
came to be maintained to serve the twin purposes of facilitating mercenary sex
and protecting the soldiers from the infections of venereal diseases. Ballhatchet
states that an important feature of the medical policy regarding the lock-
hospitals, frequently resorted to from 1805 to 1897,was that when the ratio of
prevalence of venereal disease among the soldiers did not decline for a
considerable period, some of the hospitals were abolished considering them a
wasteful expenditure. But again, even after the closure, as the ratio of venereal
diseases kept on increasing, more lock-hospitals were opened. Moreover, every
closure, almost immediately aroused protests in military circles.27
In the government-run lock-hospitals, the diseased prostitutes were
subjected to crude and obnoxious medical examinations by the male military
surgeons and were kept under filthy and degrading conditions corresponding to
the worst maintained jails of the time. To improve the hospital conditions, a
proposal was mooted in Madras in 1868 to introduce trained female nurses into
the hospitals of Madras including the ‘Lock hospital in Black Town’. The
Government of India came down heavily on the Madras proposal, rejecting it in
toto.28
The issue of hospital funding was never fully resolved. It was argued
that in the absence of any tradition of philanthropy among the Indians, taxation
was the only means of raising revenue for such institutions. 29

II. MEDICAL SERVICES: The colonial medical services in India took a


discernible organizational shape by the end of the nineteenth century. Three
distinct services, namely, covenanted, uncovenanted, and subordinate medical
services, came to constitute the British medical organization. They were linked
and ordered into a hierarchy, adroitly maintained and managed by well-
formulated rules and regulations concerning qualifications, pay and privileges
(like promotion, leave, allowances on special duties, and pension).Racial vanity
ran through the nerve streams of the medical organization as the covenanted
service was meant for the Europeans, the uncovenanted for the Eurasians and
Anglo-Indians, the higher posts of subordinate military departments like those
of apothecaries and stewards for the local classes of Anglo-Indians and native
Christians, and finally the lower rungs of subordinate departments (both
military and civil) for the Indians. The Indian medical graduates and licentiates
had to suffer and withstand highly calculated racial discrimination. No amount
of efficiency and experience could earn them approbation and elevation into the
higher ranks of services.
It was not until the introduction of a competitive examination in 1855
that admission was thrown open to Indians. However, by 1905 only 5% of the
IMS men were Indians. Several factors were responsible for this. Since the
entrance exam was held in London, majority of the Indian graduates lacked
financial resources. Next, travel outside India was considered by many Hindus
as polluting, entailing the loss of caste. Even till the 1880s, Indian newspapers

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such as the Hindu Patriot continued to discourage travel abroad. Racial


discrimination was the other most important deterrent to the Indian aspirants.
The prospect of attendance on European ladies by the Indian doctors was
looked upon as too degrading and humiliating. To crown it all, even insane
Europeans hated to be attended on by the native physicians however highly
qualified. The question at stake was not that of professionalism but that of
racialism.30 Lord Rosebury’s dictum, ‘What is Empire but the Predominance of
Race’31 determined the official and social behavioural patterns of the British.
Godard commented appropriately, ‘Here we find in active operation the
principle of ascendancy, with its correlative principle of subordination; here we
get “predominance of race”, here we have Imperialism in action’.32
The institutional evolution of the inter-dependent aspects of colonial
medicine, namely, a network of hospitals and dispensaries and hierarchical
medical services was flaunted incessantly by the British throughout the colonial
rule as evidences of the ‘superiority of race’ and as ‘sites’ of easing the ‘white
man’s burden’. Bringing the much advanced, rational, modern, cosmopolitan
medicine to the land of the sick and fallen, was interpreted as divine
deliverance.33 To claim legitimacy for the empire they drew an image of
benign, benevolent, and humanitarian state as colonial medicine supposedly
cured diseases and reduced pain and suffering in India. A close look at the
nineteenth century medical history of India, however, gives a contrary picture.

NO TRANSITION FROM STATE MEDICINE TO PUBLIC HEALTH

Colonial medicine did not mean altruism, it meant uncanny imperialism par
excellence. In a brilliant piece of study in imperial perceptions, The Raj
Syndrome, Suhash Chakravarty confirms that although imperialism and
humanism were historical realities, they were not parallel phenomena. He
remarks that while imperialism had been a continuous process in British India,
humanism was just an occasional intruder.34
Western medical institutions could achieve very little for the sake of
the teeming millions of India. They merely served the military and civil
populace of the empire, a tiny class of collaborators, and the few Indian urban
elite. The dreams of well-meaning Britons like Mountstuart Elphinstone and
Lord Napier of providing country doctors to the villages on the pattern of
feldshers in Russia and barefoot doctors in China, could never be translated
into reality.35
The overwhelming majority of the Indian masses still depended on
the practitioners of ‘folk medicine’ and on the hybrid quacks of both the
indigenous as well as alien medical systems. Arnold warns us that the
circumstantial and perchance advantage drawn by the poor and destitutes from
the hospitals and dispensaries established in the cities cannot be generalised as
‘subaltern-oriented’ health policy as the vast rural masses of India still
remained uncharted and left to worry about themselves. Colonial medicine
singularly failed to make the transition from state medicine to public health.36

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THE ENCOUNTER BETWEEN WESTERN AND INDIGENOUS MEDICINE

In this context, a study of the nature of ‘colonial’ medicine and imperialism and
concerns whether western medicine remained too closely identified with the
requirements of the colonial state and hence was perhaps remote from the needs
of the people would be useful. An analysis of the whole debate surrounding
perceptions of “Western” medicine vis-à-vis “Indigenous” systems of medicine
is as follows:
The arrival of the British saw the introduction of the fast developing
modern medical system of the west. This resulted in the encounter between
western medicine and indigenous medicine — a cultural encounter between
India’s traditional society and the west. Mark Harrison in his ‘Medicine and
Orientalism: Perspectives on Europe’s encounter with Indian Medical Systems’
has vividly described the relationship between western and Indian systems of
medicine. He demonstrates both collaboration and contradiction as it passed
through several stages ever since the seventeenth century. He mentions that the
Europeans’ attitude towards Indian systems of medicine underwent a change
after 1820. European medical men borrowed extensively from indigenous
medicine. They made extensive use of indigenous medical knowledge, using
local medicinal plants and consulting Indian medical texts and practitioners of
Indian systems of medicine. The dominance of western medicine was however,
enshrined in the institutions of the colonial state with the abolition of the Native
Medical Institution in 1835, established to teach both western and indigenous
medicine in vernacular languages. After 1820, European medical practitioners
came to believe that recent advances in medicine had created a gulf between
western and Indian systems of medicine. With the consolidation of British rule
and the achievements in medicine at home, western medicine received official
patronage and Indian medicine came to be marginalized. Medical paternalism
came to an end. Western medicine was marked as “scientific” based on reason
and observation and superior to Indian systems which followed tradition
intermingled with superstition. Indigenous medical systems were not
incorporated into colonial medicine. In a way, there was a process of
subordination and marginalization by which western medicine marked its
conquest over indigenous medicine. Western medicine assumed a position of
clear authority over Indian medicine and Indian bodies. Its attitude was
monopolistic, not pluralistic.37

INTERVENTIONS OF AND RESPONSE TO WESTERN MEDICINE

Many scholars of “colonial medicine” have discussed the shock and


displacement that European approaches to health and healing brought to
indigenous societies. The classical study in this vein is David Arnold’s
‘Colonizing the Body’, in which he highlights the “corporal” aspects of British
colonialism as British administrators counted, quarantined, vaccinated, and
inspected Indian bodies. Particularly during outbreaks of epidemic disease such
as bubonic plague, Western medicine and western methods of disease

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prevention appear as an “assault on the body,” a violent and coercive corporal


colonization carried out in the name of modern health and hygiene. 38 Other
scholars such as Megan Vaughan and Warwick Anderson, have similarly
emphasized colonial medicine’s violent interventions in Africa and Southeast
Asia, as British missionaries or American troops scrutinized the blood and
faecal matter of indigenous populations. Here the focus has been on the
development of Western discourses that turned indigenous peoples into
diseased and chaotic medical objects.39 Arnold also sees the Indian body as a
site of “contestation and not just colonial appropriation,” as indigenous people
protested and resisted the interventions of colonial medicine.
Other scholars chose to emphasize instead the ability of indigenous
populations to appropriate and refashion the concepts of health and disease
brought by colonizers. Indigenous elites “contested colonial hegemony” and
turned colonial medicine into “contested knowledge” by producing hybrid
forms of medicine, or by finding within their own traditions the basis to launch
critiques of Western medical systems. These contestations and combinations
often took place through the process of translation. In an insightful study,
Chinese physicians translated information about bacteria and the germ theory
of disease within a Chinese framework, linguistically conceptualizing germs
akin to other pathogens already prevalent in popular concepts of disease
etiology.40 Gyan Prakash explains how Indian elites, through the process of
translation, questioned whether western science had a monopoly on the truth. 41
Ashis Nandy has highlighted how Gandhi and others accomplished a deep
critique of western medicine by turning to Indian philosophies of health. 42
In all these cases, indigenous actors shaped and questioned Western
knowledge from a position grounded in strong indigenous practices of health,
healing, and hygiene.Both of these trends of “colonizing the body” and
“contesting colonial hegemony” are present in the Chinese experience of
western approaches to health and body in the nineteenth and twentieth
centuries. Rogaski provides an interesting explanation to why so many Chinese
intellectuals seemed to embrace modernity, in contrast with India. The
incomplete nature of foreign administration afforded Chinese intellectuals more
varied ideological, political and cultural positions than in formal colonies.
Foreign powers in China not only lacked systematic institutional infrastructure
but also did not impose a colonial epistemology by force.43

MEDICINE AS A TOOL OF EMPIRE

Arnold edited an interdisciplinary volume 44 devoted to imperial medicine and


its impact on indigenous societies. Yet the confrontation between indigenous
and Western medical systems is an area which calls for more attention. Around
the same time, Roy MacLeod and Lewis Milton edited a volume 45 which
makes a comparative study of European medicine and colonial practices spread
over the continents of Africa, Asia and Australia. Both these volumes show
how medicine served as instruments of the Empire.

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Different colonial societies react in different ways. More recent


works of Mark Harrison 46 and Warwick Anderson 47 show the explicit and
subtle differences in the approaches of different colonial powers. Taken
together, they all tend to explain the phenomenon from a metropolitan
perspective. A more perceptive analysis would require an understanding of
local responses as evidenced in local sources and this is yet to be done. A
recent work by Poonam Bala is a welcome attempt in this regard.48 She
describes the professionalization of imperial medicine. There are useful charts
on the ethnic profile of the medical students in Calcutta but questions relating
to cultural interaction are ignored. The state of knowledge about the latter
aspect hovers around those contained in Charles Leslie’s comparative volume
in Asian medical systems.49
Leslie’s pioneering study supplemented by that of David Arnold
provides valuable insights into the whole gamut of the relationship between
modern and traditional medicine. Yet, there remains a need to shift the focus
from a metropolis-oriented discourse to that of the receiver’s perspective. To
some extent this has been done by Deepak Kumar in his Science and the Raj.50
The inherent structural limitations of the recipient society, the caste
structure so unique to India and its own strong traditions, with similar
presumptions of them/us, inferior/superior, lower/upper, which predicated
nineteenth century European thought, need greater attention. Anil Kumar does
make an attempt in this direction.51
Medicine has been but one example of a colonizing process. Its
equivalents are to be found across a whole range of interlocking colonial
discourses, sites and practices: from penology to anthropology, from the army
to the plantation and the factory.52 Thus, medicine did not stand alone but
occupied a place within a more expansive ideological order and a wider
empirical domain. Of course, a study of disease and medicine deserves a closer
look at different approaches and interpretations which further research will
attempt.
The results of historians’ work in new fields such as disease and
medicine are promising. It is probably the history of disease that has done most
to demonstrate that historians must take more than politics, economics and
religion into consideration while explaining the past. Accounts of the Black
Plague and the Columbian Exchange are sufficient to make this point. Study in
this area alerts the historian to a mix of long-term and short-term dynamics and
encourages them to recognize the differing levels and types of human agency
that are to be found in the past.
History will be more complex for the inclusion of issues in disease
and medicine, but the attempt to encompass the interaction of a wider range of
factors, if carried out with sufficient care, can make history a more satisfying
field of study. After revisiting significant approaches, a reimagining of the
world as history is under way.

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END NOTES
_______________________
1.
Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge (New York: Pantheon
Books, 1972), p.5.
2.
Chittabrata Palit, Epidemics and Empire: A Critique of Public Health Policy
in Colonial India”, in History of Medicine in India: The Medical Encounter: ed.
Chittabrata Palit and Achintya Kumar Dutta, (Delhi: Gyan Books, 2005), p.12.
3.
Ivan Polunin, “Disease,Morbidity, and Mortality in China, India, and the
Arab World,” in Asian Medical Systems: A Comparative Study: ed., Charles
Leslie (Delhi: Gyan Books Uniersity of California Press,1998), p.121.
4. David Arnold, The Tropics and the Travelling Gaze: India, Landscape and
Science1800- 1856,(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), p.110.
5. P.D. Curtin, Death by Migration: Europe’s Encounter with the Tropical
World in the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1989), p.44.
6. D.R. Headrick, The Tools of Empire: Technology and European Imperialism
in the Nineteenth Century (New York: Oxford University Press,1988), p.20.
7. Palit, History of Medicine in India, p.14.
8. Arnold, The Tropics and the Travelling Gaze, p.142.
9. David Arnold, Colonizing the Body: State Medicine and Epidemic Diseases
in Nineteenth-Century India (Berkeley: University of California,1993), p.150.
10. Anil Kumar, “Emergence of Western Medical Institutions in India”, in
History of Medicine in India: The Medical Encounter, ed. Chittabrata Palit and
Achintya Kumar Dutta, (Delhi: Gyan Books, 2005), p.160.
11. Ibid., p.161.
12. Mark Harrison, Climates and Constitutions: Health, Race, Environment
and British Imperialism in India,1600-1850 ( New Delhi: Oxford University
Press, 2002), p.204.
13. Palit, History of Medicine in India, p.37.
14. Harrison, Climates and Constitutions, p.216.
15. P.J.Marshall, ‘British Immigration into India in the Nineteenth Century’, in
European Expansion and Migration: Essays on the Intercontinental Migration
from Africa, Asia and Europe, (eds), P.C.Emmer and M.Morner, (Oxford:
Oxford University Press,1992), pp.179-196; David Arnold, ‘White
Colonization and Labour in Nineteenth-Century India’, Journal of Imperial and
Commonwealth History,11(1983), pp.133-158.
16. Harrison, Climates and Constitutions, p.216.
17. Ibid., p.38.
18. Sujata Mukherjee, “Disciplining the Body? Health Care for Women and
Children in early twentieth-century Bengal”, in Disease and Medicine in India:
A Historical Overview, ed. Deepak Kumar (Delhi: Indian History Congress,
2001), p.204.
20. Ibid.,p.209
21. Ibid.,p.211.
22. D.R.Headrick, The Tools of Empire: Technology and European
Imperialism in the Nineteenth Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press,1988).

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23. P.D., Curtin, Death by Migration: Europe’s Encounter with the Tropical
World in the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press,1989).
24. M. Worboys, ‘Science and British Colonial Imperialism, 1895-1940’,
unpublished Ph.D. thesis, (Sussex: University of Sussex, Sussex, 1979).
25. Anil Kumar, Medicine and the Raj: British Medical Policy in India, 1835-
1911 (New Delhi: Sage Publication, 1998), p.88.
26.Indian Epidemics and Mofussil Sanitary Reform, Calcutta Review,
Vol.15,1851,p.202.
27. Ballhatchet, Race, Sex and Class under the Raj, London, 1980,pp.10-11.
28. Ibid.,p.13.
29. Kumar, Medicine and the Raj, p.109.
30. Harrison, Climates and Constitutions, p.175.
31. Kumar, Medicine and the Raj, p.130.
32. Inaugural Address of Lord Rosebury as Lord Rector of Glasgow
University, 16 November 1900, quoted in John George Godard, Racial
Supremacy: Being Studies in Imperialism ( Edinburgh, 1905),p.8.
33. Ibid., p.8
34. Kumar, History of Medicine in India, p.172.
35 S. Chakravarty, The Raj Syndrome ( New Delhi: PURA and CO, 1991),
p.202.
36. Kumar, Medicine and the Raj, p.219.
37. Arnold, Colonizing the Body: State Medicine and Epidemic Disease in
Nineteenth Century India, p.3.
38. Palit, History of Medicine in India, p.15.
39. David Arnold, Colonizing the Body, 1993.
40. Ruth Rogaski, Hygienic Modernity: Meaning of Health and Disease in
Treaty-Port China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004), p.7.
41. Ibid., p.8
42. Gyan Prakash, Another Reason: Science and the Imagination of Modern
India ( Princeton: NJ Princeton University Press, 1999).
43. Ashis Nandy, “Modern Medicine and its Non-modern Critics,” in The
Savage Freud and Other Essays on Possible and Retrievable Selves (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1995).
44. Ruth Rogaski, Hygienic Modernity, p.12
45. Arnold, Colonizing the Body: State Medicine and Epidemic Disease in
Nineteenth Century India, 1993.
46. MacLeod R. and Milton L.,eds, Disease, Medicine and Empire:
Perspectives of Western Medicine and the Experience of European Expansion
(London: Routledge,1988).
47. Harrison, M., ‘Tropical Medicine in Nineteenth Century India’, British
Journal of History of Science, Vol.25, 1992, pp.299-318. Also see his Public
Health in British India: Anglo-Indian Preventive Medicine, 1859-1914
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994).
48. Anderson Warwick,“Where every prospect pleases and only man is vile”:
Laboratory medicine as colonial discourse’, Critical Inquiry, Vol.18, 1992.

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49. Bala Poonam, Imperialism and Medicine in Bengal: A Socio-Historical


Perspective (New Delhi: Sage Publication, 1991).
50. C., Leslie, ed., Asian Medical Systems: A Comparative Study (California:
University of California Press, 1977).
51. Kumar, Science and the Raj, 1857-1905.
52. Kumar, Medicine and the Raj.
53. Arnold, Colonizing the Body, p.8.

71
 

CONFIGURING PUNJAB WITHIN HEGELIAN


CONCEPTION OF WORLD HISTORY: COLONIAL
EXHIBITIONS AND LAHORE MUSEUM IN THE
LATER HALF OF NINETEENTH CENTURY
HUSSAIN AHMAD KHAN
NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF SINGAPORE,
SINGAPORE

ABSTRACT

This study intends to see the configuration of Punjab


in the Hegelian concept of world/global view in the
later half of the nineteenth century colonial
exhibitions and the Lahore museum. Most of the
British art administrators like J L Kipling (1837-
1911), Percy Brown (Principal, Mayo School of Arts,
Lahore, 1899-1909), and Baden Powell (1841-1901)
argued that India shared with Europe all the Aryan
institutions, beliefs, customs, and laws. However, in
India, such institutionalization was arrested from the
very beginning, while Europe excelled and continued
to develop. Such conceptualization of global view
became more prominent in the colonial exhibitions
and museums of the Punjab. Old relics, pictures,
sculptures, cloths, ivory and wood-work were
selected, arranged and interpreted to substantiate
such Eurocentric global perspective of history.
Hegelian concepts of progress, development, science
and reasoning were deployed to locate the peoples of
Punjab in the global perspective. The rise of science
can be viewed with the rise of colonialism. By
focusing on the Punjab Exhibition of 1881-82,
Calcutta International Exhibition of 1882-83, and the
Lahore Museum, this article contends that a
relationship may be drawn between the concepts of
progress, development, rationality and colonialism in
visual spectacles of the nineteenth century Punjab. It
also analyses the binary oppositions, like scientific-

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The Historian, vol. 05, no. 01 (Jan-Jun 2007)

unscientific, rational-irrational, and modern-


traditional, generated by the emergence of this new
visual culture.

KEY WORDS: Hegel, JL Kipling, Percy Brown, Punjab, colonialism,


Mayo School of Arts, colonial exhibitions and museums, Lahore, world
history, Eurocentric.

Recent scholarship on history has turned its attention towards macro-


narratives or world history 1 by adopting various approaches. Each
approach, in its own way, contributed to a new and different
understanding and comprehension of world history. Some historians
like Andre Gunder Frank and Wallerstein discussed structural and
systematic approaches (for instance, world systems, modernization and
dependency theories). While others like Adas extracted strength from
Annales school to plead the case of history from below as it would
rectify “the traditional pre-occupation with elites and great men”. 2
Parallel to these new strains in historiographical tradition is the
development of anti-scientific and anti-holistic, deconstructionist
approach. Theorists in this category took refuge of postmodernist
‘linguistic turn’ to present a non-westernised local perspective of world
view. Most of these scholars gave examples from Eurocentric world
view, especially they criticized German idealists like GWF Hegel
(1770-1831) and Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803). By using the
metaphors like scientific development, progress, the scholars argued
that these world histories pleaded the superiority of western scientific
civilization by declaring “some areas advanced and others backward,
some peoples modern and others traditional; and they assigned some
regions to the core and others to the periphery”. 3 The present article
also addresses this issue of Eurocentric conception of world history in
the later half of nineteenth century, but with
interdisciplinary/intersubjective approach.
This article attempts to study the manifestation of Eurocentric
discourses of world history in the constructed four walls of colonial
exhibition and museum in the later half of 19th century Punjab 4 ---- one
of the important provinces of British India. In other words, the research
explores the relationship of museums and exhibition with the
nineteenth century conception of world history. The contribution of this
article lies not in its critique on Hegelian conception of world history as
many world historians have severely criticized his usage of metaphors
imbued with ideological discourses. For instance, McNeill did a soft
critique on Toynbee and Spengler with some appreciation that they also

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HUSSAIN AHMAD KHAN, CONFIGURING PUNJAB  

give some place to the non-European regions in their conception of


world history. However, few other historians like Martin W Lewis and
Karen E Wigen in The Myth of Continents: A Critique of
Metageography, 5 and Philip Pomper in “Introduction: The Theory and
Practice of World History” 6 come out with more vigorous critique on
Eurocentric/ideological construction of world history. Martin W Lewis
and Karen E Wigen focus more on geographical construction and
Philip Pomper criticise Eurocentric Hegelian dialectic in a passing
reference. No attempt is made to study the relationship of “periphery”
with the “capital” within the four walls of museums and exhibitions.
The present study also contributes on the scholarship of exhibitions and
museums in a sense that no research has so far been done on the
representation of the nineteenth century Punjab in the colonial visual
landscape.
This article is divided into three parts: first portion outlines the
major postulates of Hegelian conception of world history, and its
Eurocentric strains; Second part explores the relationship of Lahore
museum and exhibitions inspired by Eurocentric historical discourses;
Third portion analyses the representation of Punjab (1849-1900) in
exhibitions (1881-82, 1882-83) and museum (Lahore Museum) within
Hegelian conception of world history. This article is not intended to
describe each exhibition and museum in detail, in fact, representation
of different artefacts is analysed thematically.

(I)

Ronald Inden in his article, “Orientalist Construction of India”,


contends that Herder, Friedrich Schlegel (1772-1829) and Hegel were
among those first Europeans who characterized and distinguished
various regions of the Asian continent. Near or Middle East was
distinguished from Far East and then each of these ‘constructed
regions’ were further distinguished on the basis of certain features.
Hegel in his The Philosophy of History claimed that the Indian thought
lacks rationalization:
Now it is the interest of Spirit that external conditions should become
internal ones; that the natural and spiritual world should be recognized
in the subjective aspect belonging to intelligence; by which process the
unity of subjectivity and (positive) Being generally--- or the Idealism of
Existence --- is established. This idealism, then, is found in India, but
only as idealism of imagination, without distinct conceptions; --- one
which does indeed free from Beginning and Matter (liberates it from
temporal limitations and gross materiality), but changes everything into

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merely Imaginative; for although the latter appears interwoven with


definite conceptions and Thought presents itself as an occasional
concomitant, this happens only through accidental combination. Since,
however, it is the abstract and absolute thought itself that enters into
these dreams as their material, we may say that Absolute Being is
presented here as in the ecstatic state of a dreaming condition. 7
Scholarship on World History, colonial and postcolonial
studies have fundamentally criticised George Wilhelm Friedrich
Hegel’s concept of global/world history. He “transposed the dialectic to
history and described progress as a progress of development in which
later stages sublated earlier ones”. 8 He believes that the world history is
the history of spirit which strives for freedom. It is not important to
understand events, but the reason/philosophy behind the events is
important. He traces the reason as an urge of spirit to attain freedom.
Hegel also believes that things can be understood on the basis of their
essence rather than form. It is here that Hegelian philosophy becomes
Eurocentric in nature. He terms Indian civilization as based on
meditation, imagination, fantasy, irrationality, unscientific, etc.
However, western civilization to him is based on scientific rationality,
and observation of real/physical world. He terms Experimental Science
as “the science of the world” which can also be used for devising laws
for a society. 9 Hegel uses conscious and unconscious symbols to reflect
eastern and western civilization in his conception of world history.
For Hegel, the world history presents a logical and rational
development which can be understood by comprehending the
fundamental principles, and categories based on logic and rationality.
He “insists that human history represents a rational process, which
exhibits empirically, and in distinct stages, the working out of the
implications of a certain Idea, the ‘Idea of Freedom’.” 10 For him, two
opposite ideas combine to give a synthesis which moves the human
history forward. Such synthesis is based on necessity and rationality,
and only those ideas can prevail which are more scientific and rational.
Every human civilization can progress through this dialectical process.
That’s where his conception of history becomes related to
Enlightenment. He contends that the European civilization is much
ahead of Indian/Oriental civilization. Therefore, it is the fate of the
Indian to be the part of European colonies. “There is scarcely any great
nation of the East, nor of the Modern European West, that has not
gained for itself a smaller or larger portion of it...The English, or rather
the East India Company, are the lords of the land; for it is necessary
fate of Asiatic Empires to be subjected to Europeans; and China will,
some day or other, be obliged to submit to this fate”. 11 In a wider

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context, Hegel “viewed world history as a process of natural selection


in which conflict weakened and ultimately eliminated ‘political
organisms’ that failed to adapt to the changing international
environment” which prompt the states to establish various institution
“necessary for survival”. 12
In short, Hegelian conception of world history is based on
scientific progress. Categories of rationality and irrationality are
constructed to understand the various geographical regions of the
world. One region is preferred over the other on the basis of science,
technology and political institutions. Hence Indian civilization in
Hegelian conception of history becomes irrational, uncivilized, and
imaginative, which requires European guidance for progress. Hegel
also emphasizes upon the natural selection, or rule of greater idea/world
historical individual. To him, only powerful can survive in this world,
therefore, Europeans are destined to rule the oriental world. Hegel
cannot be credited for constructing these binaries. In fact, Hegelian
thought is the classic example of Enlightenment philosophy (from
Descartes to Voltaire). The scientific revolution had provided rationale
to such distinction. Hegel has very systematically configured various
regions of the world in a concrete concept of universal/global history.
He has inspired generations of social scientists (Ranke, Karl Marx,
Max Weber to name a few), who used his distinctions, categories and
analytical tools to differentiate, rationalize and establish what is good
and what is bad.
Although Hegelian conception of world history is more
Germanic in nature (because of his appreciation of Germans for their
love of freedom), and he criticizes English because of elitism 13 yet
Hegelian conception of world history becomes the voice of European
colonial powers. Succeeding literature either upholds or rejects the
Hegelian philosophy. Darwin’s theory of evolution may be located
within this context which is full of the pervasive ideology about the
role of binary oppositions in stereotypical categories of race and
gender, “as he put white European males at the top, followed by
women and children and then the primitive races”. 14
With the rise of western rationality, Hegelianism, and
Darwinism, museums began to be established in various parts of the
European continent. Hence, it is not surprising that one could see the
manifestation of Eurocentric ideas in these visually enriched four walls
(of colonial exhibitions and museums). Hegel’s concepts of science,
progress, development, rationality, modernity, institutions, tradition,
fantasy, imagination, etc. became tools to analyse the orient even in the
domain of visual culture. In order to celebrate their identity, progress,

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and their achievements in the world, Victorian artists and critics used
the medium of visual arts, encompassing the projection of contrastive
figures (white/black, modern/traditional, civilized/uncivilized) etc.

(II)

In June 1872, the British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, argued the
British nation to become either ‘comfortable England, modeled and
moulded upon continental principles’ or ‘a great country--- an Imperial
country’. 15 It was the time when the British government was searching
for solution to avoid any uprising like that of 1857 in India. Disraeli’s
intention was to shift attention towards Eastern Empire, and to present
colonies as a source of national pride. Not only this, but also to build an
empire by developing the association of local elites in colonies with the
British empire. That’s why Royal Titles Bill was introduced in the
British parliament by virtue of which Queen Victoria was given the title
of ‘Empress of India’. Now the complete title of the Queen was
‘Empress of Great Britain, Ireland, and India’. 16
This sensibility or ideology of incorporating local elements
within the structure of colonial empire gave rise to the idea of
constructing Indo-Saracenic architecture which, according to Thomas
Metcalf, 17 became somewhat official style of making imperial
buildings. It was an attempt to develop a sense of association of local
elites and general public with the British empire. Such style of
architecture significantly changed the material landscape of the urban
centres of colonial Punjab. The construction of Lahore Museum, Chief
Court, Aitchison College, and so many other buildings in Lahore, then
the capital of British Punjab, may be located within this context. 18
The present building of Lahore Museum was designed to
commemorate the Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Prince Albert Victor laid
its foundation stone in 1890, near Anarkali garden and General Post
Office at the central location on the Mall. In the front portion of the
museum, the famous Zamzama Gun was placed which the Sikh call,
“Bhungiyan Wali toop”. The building was designed by Bhai Ram
Singh, Vice Principal of Mayo School of Arts, Lahore, under the
supervision of J L Kipling, who was then the Principal of the same
school.
The Lahore Museum was, in fact, a part of British strategy to
construct the memory of nation’s pride and to generate a particular
discourse which locates each nationality within the paradigm of
Eurocentric conception of world history. From the last decade of
eighteenth century the museums began sprouting in various parts of the

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HUSSAIN AHMAD KHAN, CONFIGURING PUNJAB  

European continent like in France (Louvre: 1793), Spain (Prado


Museum:1820), Britain (the National Gallery:1824 and British
Museum: 1852), and in Berlin (the Atlas Museum:1830). Few scholars
like Didier Maleirre 19 and Pieter Van Wesemael 20 believe that the
Louve Museum (1793) in France was the first attempt to legitimize the
nation-ness of a nation. Art was taken over from aristocracy, clergy and
royal palaces and became “the official property of the nation”. 21 The
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries museums were used as a political
symbol of nation’s pride and a technology to project a particular
nationalist discourse “promoting the myth of a nation’s innate ‘genius’
as well as the image of a grand historical destiny”. 22
Like European museums, the Lahore museum was inherently
historical in nature, as it identified, protected, preserved and displayed--
----what the colonial state’s representatives thought of aesthetically or
historically significant. However, the simulation of disinterestedness,
neutrality and objectivity was necessary in order to gain authenticity
and legitimacy. It was out-rightly achieved by adopting Indo-Saracenic
architecture. Red bricks were used as like in Christian temples,
elements and style of its domes were inspired from Hindu mander and
Muslim mosque, entrance was decorated with pinjra work of white
marble which was taken from the Mughal architecture. On the entrance
of the west-gallery, peacock and details in stucco were inspired from
the Sikh Gurdwara. 23 The museum’s building was like other buildings
because of its components however, it was different in its
completeness. This architecture of Lahore Museum, in a way construed
an image of an empire, of which Disraeli argued in his address to the
English people. The spectators and visitors were engaged in a particular
Eurocentric historical discourse generated by specific composition of
bricks. Maleuvre has rightly asserted that “museums manufacture
history; they engage its image and concept. They claim as historical
that which survives history”. 24
The architecture of Lahore Museum became more important
in establishing a particular discourse of world history as it separated its
visitors from their actual and original context. This separation re-
directed the imagination of spectator towards a new space for thinking.
Due to solid and concrete four walls, and selected items and displays,
the museum became a place of confinement and exclusion. It was a
kind of discursive system whose function was to give verdicts and
judgements about the life, history, art, culture and traditions of the
people. The spectators not only saw their ‘own’ past, but of the ‘others’
as well, and people negotiated and (de)constructed their identities. The
artefacts placed in the museum provoked and inspired the visitors to

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visualize their past and relate these exhibits in the grand narrative of
history. The arrangement of objects insisted on the singularity of this
story denying the representation of other perspectives.
Like 18th and 19th centuries historians, curators (JL Kipling
and Percy Brown) of Lahore museum claimed that it was a space of
discovering truth about “past” on the basis of science, rationality, order,
civilization etc, and to locate Indians in human history. Percy Brown,
who was the curator of Lahore Museum in 1899, claimed that the
museum “speaks of everything appertaining to the manners and
customs of its (India’s) domestic and religious life...The entire history
of the nation is displayed”. 25

(III)

As discussed above, Hegelian conception of world history was based


on continuous process of dialectic (amalgamation of two opposite
ideas). It was a linear movement of history, in which previous events
did not repeat themselves, and present was assumed better than the past
and so on. Hegel associated this conception of progress with scientific
invention, rationality, and great works of historical individuals (like
Napoleon Bonaparte). Art administrators and curators of colonial
exhibitions and Lahore museum in the later half of the nineteenth
century also searched for this element of progress in the Punjab. For
instance, in 1864, first Punjab Exhibition was organized by a British
civil servant, Baden Powell in Lahore, the capital of British Punjab. It
primarily comprised both raw and manufactured products. The only
objective was to get “insight into the Punjab districts generally, and see
what it was that both nature and art could produce”. 26 After twenty
years in 1881-82, second Punjab Exhibition was organized, again in the
same city. This time, John Lockwood Kipling was the curator. It was
intended to display industrial and manufacture products only. Two
prime objectives were set-forth for the event: “To test the
progress...made in the quality and technical excellence of manufactures
in the last seventeen years;” and “to encourage and reward the
production of genuine native work, designed and carried out in
indigenous styles of construction and ornamentation” in wood-carving,
weaving, embroidery, jewellery, etc. 27 The organizers believed that the
“native art” had the ability to adapt “to the modern requirements [like]
European furniture, etc”. 28
Similarly, Percy Brown, while advising his visitors as how to
look at the exhibits in the Lahore Museum, wrote that for a thoughtful
student, “the entire history of the nation is displayed for his benefit, and

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HUSSAIN AHMAD KHAN, CONFIGURING PUNJAB  

he [the visitor] has only to follow it out, example by example, to see


what a wonderful story it is”. 29 By following the footsteps of Hegelian
dialectic, Percy Brown also claimed that the innovation in Indian art
was a product of the interaction of opposite/different ideas. Brown
began this story from the mythical age of mighty old Aryan heroes. He
then discussed the Buddhist religion and its influence, then the
intervention of “Enlightened” races from Bactria, followed by
“Hellenic forcefulness in Northern India” and then “Mohammadan
invasion and introduction of Islamic art” in India. 30 Percy Brown in his
analysis of Indian art termed Brahamin period as dark age.
Apart from dominant Hegelian influences, events in 1850s
largely formulated the opinions of educated English which remained
dominant till the twentieth century. While delivering a lecture at the
South Kensington Museum in 1858, when the atmosphere was still
charged with bloody War of 1857, famous art critic of that time, John
Ruskin admired the delicacy of Indian ornamental art but termed “same
hand that created the exquisitely fancied involutions of the Kashmir in
one instance, was capable of cruelty stretched to its fiercest... and
corruption stretched to its loathsomest, in another”. 31 He criticized
Indian art because it:

....never represents a natural fact. It either forms its


compositions out of meaningless fragments of colour
and flowings of line, or if it represents any living
creature, it represents that creature under some
distorted and monstrous form. To all the facts and
forms of nature it wilfully and resolutely opposes
itself. 32

In colonial exhibitions, various types of exhibits were classified, e.g.,


paintings, house hold items, textile products, etc. One of the major
critiques on colonialism is that it presented India as a unified entity by
overlooking its variegated languages, cultures, etc. Similarly, identities
of regions and provinces were also imagined in a unified form through
display in colonial exhibitions. For instance, in 1864 and 1881 Punjab
exhibitions, Calcutta International Exhibition, and Lahore Museum, the
exhibits were presented not as an individual product of a place rather as
a part of larger region called Punjab which was also linked with other
parts of India. The products of cotton textile, carpets, metal work, wood
work, paintings and drawings were grouped and displayed separately.
This classification not only made unified impression of collected
products of one category but also established link with the imagined

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identity of Punjab. Thus, these objects were identified as cotton textiles


of Punjab, carpets of Punjab, metal work of Punjab, wood work in
Punjab, etc.
However, more interesting was the European understanding of
India as a religious entity. They believed that the subcontinent, like
Europe, needed a protestant revolution in order to progress (in terms of
establishing liberal and secular institutions). Such discourse also
reflected in art landscape when various colonial art administrators
essentialized different artefacts with a particular religion. For instance,
while commenting on the metal work displayed in the Punjab
exhibition of 1881-82, Kipling comments:

There are distinct differences between


Muhammadans and Hindu articles of household use,
the predominance of Muhammadan taste seems to
have improved on Punjab work a plainer and more
sever idea of form then is observable in Central India
and other parts where Hindu taste prevails. The broad
rule is that Muhammadan uses articles of tinned
copper, while the Hindu employees brass alone.
Names and forms vary from each great division. Thus
a water vessel is called by the former aftaba, a
Persian name, and is elegant in form, and by the latter
it is described as a “ganga sagar”, and is quaint in
shape and occasionally ornamented with
grotesques. 33

JL Kipling observed that the European “brass founders had excelled as


compared with the Indians”. According to him “Muhammadan
influence prevented the development of figure-work of any kind”. 34 By
giving the examples of silver-articles from Kapurthalla, and exhibits
from the Tosha-khana of Darbar Sahib at Amritsar, Kipling judged that
“Sikhs had adopted an ornamental treatment of metal, based, like all
their decorative work, on the details of late Mughal architecture”. 35
About the idols of Amritsar, Kipling opined that these were “primitive
and poor in design”, due to “Muslim yoke”. About the art of ivory
carving he wrote, “Ivory-carving, is not an art which flourishes in the
Punjab. At Amritsar great quantities of combs, paper-cutters, and card
cases are ornamented with geometrical open work pattern of some
delicacy of execution, but no great interest in design. Figure work, as
before remarked is but seldom wrought in this province, owing to the
predominance of Musulman notions”. 36

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HUSSAIN AHMAD KHAN, CONFIGURING PUNJAB  

One of the important aspects of this politics of display was to


trace and relate Punjab in a wider context of the world as Hegel
discussed Oriental in his world history. In Lahore museum spectacle,
relics from other countries were also displayed. One of the objectives
of such setting was to make spectators to think or imagine complexities
in simplified manners. He could think or was nearly thinking on the
same lines which the curator had designed while classifying and
presenting the objects. For instance, in Lahore museum, simple British
beer-bottles were displayed along with the local pottery to enable the
visitor to compare both categories constructed and selected by the
curator. Similarly, a few Russians articles were placed in the museum.
It was a period when the British were struggling to consolidate their
rule in the northern borders of India near to Afghanistan. They were
also apprehensive of Russian’s design for acquiring land-routes to hot
waters. According to Kipling, Russian cotton products were crude
imitation of Indian crafts. It is not difficult to figure out Russia’s
position below the Indian civilization in British colonial mentalities.
J L Kipling, who was then principal of the Mayo School of
Arts, was appointed as the first curator of Lahore museum. His
description of objects displayed in the museum provides inside of the
dominant discourses deployed to interpret the local culture. In his
discourses content was seen as a form and a form was visualized as a
content. In his book, Lahore as it is, Kipling termed objects displayed
in the museum as a crude form of Greek civilization which came to this
part of the world by Macedonian invasion. Interestingly, he liked
‘invasion’ and war with the growth and development of civilization.
That is what Hegel had argued in his philosophy of world history.
Kipling sensed the orientalization of Greeks, but was happy to note that
the great struggle of Macedonians left European imprints on sculptures,
coins, and in few other traditions of Yusuf-Zai valley (in present
northern areas of Pakistan). By tracing the Greek influence on local
traditions, Kipling exemplified Bhuddha’s sculptures which were found
in unprecedented varieties quite rare in other parts of the world. Such
varieties were impossible without foreign invasions. 37
About relief work in the museum, Kipling seconded Russian
Professor Minayeff’s views that these works symbolized wandering
spirits and ghosts, and related small relief work to St Simeon of the
Gospel:

The seated figure holding the child on his knee


represents the personage who answers to the St
Simeon of the Gospel who had waited for the coming

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of the Lord, and that, instead of closing his cars


against the doctrines of the infant Buddh as suggested
by General Cunningham, he was rather weeping for
joy. 38

Kipling interpreted two delicate pieces of green stones displayed in the


Lahore Museum as celtic (related to Irish, English races). Paintings of
Punjab’s chiefs, Rajas, and Maharajas were also displayed in the
museum. It was a common perception among the British officers and
intelligentsia that in the subcontinent not a single painter of high calibre
existed. For instance, Monier Williams in the 1880s claimed that one
cannot found a single example of good painting. The official version of
the Victoria and Albert Mueum’s administration was not much
different. In their official handbook for visitors, Indian paintings and
sculptures were termed monstrous and below the category of fine art. 39
That’s why in the Punjab exhibition of 1881-82, while commenting on
the pictures of Pandit Tota Ram, Naqash of Kashmiri origin, Baden
Powell termed his “figure work ordinary and not at all good
mythological subjects”. While Kipling admitted that “Europeans are
perhaps scarcely the best judges of representations of Hindu
mythology, for the purely abstract and conventional treatment of
strange and fantastic subjects allows no hint of nature, while fancy and
imagination are rigidly bound by tradition”. 40 Tribe, another art
critique, termed colouring of paintings as crude, and Kipling thought
that this criticism might be applied to most of the Hindu illuminations.
The pictures presenting modern life and character were highly
appreciated by the British critics because these were not timid
character, “though akin to illumination”. 41 It was because for many
European art critics, the higher art was, what a human mind could
comprehend rationally. Like Kipling and Percy Brown, we also find
Hegel’s criticism on the paintings of gods and goddesses arguing that a
man should create an art on the basis of rationale principles. 42
Like Hegel, the British art administrators believed that the
people in India were in transitory stage they needed artistic and
scientific guidance from the Europeans. For instance, Kipling
compared Sheffield work with Indian cutlery and found “a want of
quality and temper in the metal and of finish in the work”. About the
collection of “Kashmir copper-chased ware and silver ware were
judged highly priced and not distinguished by artistic or technical
superiority”. 43 Similarly, woodwork and ivory work of Hushiarpur
were termed as influenced by ancient Persia and Italian Certosina work,

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and that of Saharenpur and Simla were crude imitation of European


art. 44
In Lahore Museum, many musical instruments were also
displayed. Kipling appreciated their elegant decoration more than their
sounds. For instance, design and shape of Taus was like a bird. While
interpreting these musical instruments, Kipling took refuge of
Eurocentric world-view. Eastern tamura was seen as older form of
European guitar, and alike forms were present in other parts of the
subcontinent. 45 Kipling termed all musical instruments of the Punjab
“old, unvaried, traditional forms, except a few that are peculiar to the
frontier”. 46 He observed that most popular of all instruments was the
sitar, similar to lute. It had five sometimes six strings of steel and brass
and its numbers were not fixed. Kipling actually meant that no rules are
followed in making the most popular instruments of the Punjab.
According to Kipling wind instruments for variety of tones hardly
existed, except ‘bin’ and rude ‘sarnas’ or bagpipe and several small
flutes. Several other instruments were used at various places but “all of
these give only one or two notes, and are harsh and discordant, and not
to be accounted as musical instruments”. To Kipling, the only system
of music known was of Hindus, which had a seven-note scale,
approximating equal to the European guitar. 47
Instruments for metal-ware were also compared with the
European workmanship and the latter were found superior. Tools in
Punjab were simple, consisting chiefly of differently shaped anvils or
strakes, which were frequently supported in the crook of a Y- shaped
wooden frame, athwart which the workman sat at work. Some of this
hammer work was flat plates without a joint. The brass-founder,
bhartya, used processes which were not fundamentally different from
those of Europe. Examples of castings fresh from the mould, and half
finished were shown from Amritsar. A mut, or brass water-jar, from
that place was one of the largest pieces shown. The engraver, or chaser,
is called chatera. The Punjabi workman exclusively used hammer,
chisel, and punch and did not use the graver or burin like Europeans. 48
The curators of Lahore Museum judged the objects selected
and arranged within the four walls on the basis of Hegelian conception
of world history. They may not be aware of the Hegelian philosophy
but their discourses show the tendencies emphasized in Hegel’s
conception of world history. Both Kipling and Brown saw the passing
of time as a march towards progress accompanied by synthesis of thesis
and anti-thesis. Brown writes in his guide to Lahore Museum: “The
Muhammadan conqueror came and the art of the Hindu was
supplemented after some years by the requirements of Islam. A similar

85
The Historian, vol. 05, no. 01 (Jan-Jun 2007)

state of affairs is gradually forming under British rule. The craftsman


now is beginning to forsake his traditional designs and methods, and to
assimilate those brought into the country from the West”. 49
European art critics saw their past in Indian present, however,
they had multiple opinions on whether they should preserve European
past in the form of Indian present, or to guide Indians towards
modernization and industrialization. In most of the cases, they adopted
reformist agenda. By aligning themselves with the Hegelian conception
of history, British curators in the colonial Punjab emphasized that the
province had to pass through the same stages which Europe had gone
through earlier. In order to legitimize their discourse of locating Punjab
below the European civilization, the British curators used Hegelian
tools of scientific progress and rationality.
By extracting strength from Hegelian analyses of religious and
imaginative India, British art critics in most of the cases, labelled local
artefacts as traditional, unscientific, out-dated and ‘calling for
improvement’. Not only this, but in an attempt to trace the influence of
religion, British curators essentialized architecture, pottery, dresses,
furniture, and metal-work with particular religious communities
(Buddhism, Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh) by overlooking the dominant
influence of local cultural fibre. Like Hegel, they also argued that the
Orient was destined to be ruled by Europeans because latter exist far
above than others in the model of human civilization. They believed
that the Punjab needed a Protestant revolution which Hegel eulogized
in his analysis of European continent. British acted to provide guidance
to the Orient what Hegel envisioned in his Philosophy of History. 50
That’s why J L Kipling termed the establishment of the Mayo School
of Arts as a “long cherished desire on the part of the Government to do
something towards preserving and extending the existing branches of
art and introducing others rendered necessary by an advancing state of
civilization”. 51 Similarly, Percy Brown argued the local Indian
craftsmen to prepare themselves according to foreign requirements.
Like Hegel, both British curators (Kipling and Brown) in colonial
Punjab also thought war as an essential component in the development
of human civilization. On the basis of above observations, we can
conclude that the visual landscape of colonial Punjab was not intended
to map the local culture, but in fact, it was an attempt to configure the
Punjab among the nations of the world, and to construct its history
more or less within the Hegelian conception of world history.

86
HUSSAIN AHMAD KHAN, CONFIGURING PUNJAB  

END NOTES
                                                            
1
The terms world history and global history are used interchangeably. Few
historians like McNeill and Janet Lippman, Abu-Lughod, Bruce Mazlish and
others did try to distinguish between global and world history. See for brief
comments and various perspectives, Philip Pomper, Richard H. Elphick, and
Richard T. Vann (eds.), World History: Ideologies, Structure, and Identities
(Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1998), pp.03-4.
2
Ibid., p.02.
3
Ibid., p.04.
4
While describing the British Punjab of 1901, The Imperial Gazetteer of India
Punjab Vol.1, states: “..of the total area, 36,532 sq miles belong to Native
States under the political control of the Punjab Government, and the rest is
British territory. The population in 1901 was 24,754,737 (of whom 4,424,398
were in the Native States), or 8.4 per cent of the whole population of the Indian
Empire... Punjab includes the strip of riverain which forms the Isa Khel tehsil
of Mianwali District, west of that river. Its south-western extremity also lies
west of Indus and forms the large District of Dera Ghazi Khan, thereby
extending its frontier to the Sulaiman range; which divides it from Baluchistan.
On the extreme south-west the province adjoins Sind, and the Rajputana desert
forms its southern border. On the east, the Jumna and its tributary the Tons
divide it from the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, its frontier north of the
sources of the latter river being contiguous with Chinese Tibet..”. The Imperial
Gazetteer of India Punjab, vol.1 (Lahore: Aziz Publishers, 1976), pp.01-2.
5
Martin W Lewis and Karen E Wigen, The Myth of Continents: A Critique of
Metageography (California: University of California Press, 1997).
6
See for details, Philip Pomper “Introduction: The Theory and Practice of
World History” in Pomper, et.al., (eds.), World History, pp.04-9.
7
GWE Hegel, The Philosophy of History, p.139. Quoted from Ronald Inden,
“Orientalist Constructions of India”, Modern Asian Studies, 20(3) (1986),
p.401.
8
Pomper, et.al. (eds.), World History, p.4.
9
GWF Hegel, The Philosophy of History (New York: Prometheus Books,
1991), p.440.
10
Patrick Gardiner (ed.), Theories of History (NY: The Free Press, 1959), p.59.
11
Hegel, The Philosophy of History, pp. 142-143.
12
Zbigniew Pelczynski, “Hegel and International History” in Reason and
History: or only a History of Reason, (ed) Philip Winderson, (Leicester and
London: Leicester University press, 1990), p.36.
13
See Hegel, The Philosophy of History, p. 454 (for his critique on English
constitution) and pp.455 (for his view about Germany).
14
Joseph Black, et.al. (eds.), The Broadview Anthology of British Literature,
vol. 05 (Toronto: Broadview Press, 2006), p.LXI.
15
Thomas R Metcalf, Ideologies of the Raj (New Delhi: Foundation Books,
1995), p. 59.

87
The Historian, vol. 05, no. 01 (Jan-Jun 2007)

                                                                   
16
Ibid., p. 60.
17
Thomas R Metcalf, An Imperial Vision: Indian Architecture and Britain’s
Raj (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989).
18
William J Glover, Making Lahore Modern: Constructing and Imagining a
Colonial City (Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 2008), pp. 72-79.
19
Didier Maleuvre, Museum Memories: History, Technology, Art (Stanford:
Stanford University Press, 1999), p.09.
20
Pieter van Wesemael, Architecture of Instruction and Delight: A Socio-
historical Analysis of World Exhibitions as a Didactic Phenomenon (1789-
1851-1970) (Amsterdam: Rotterdam, 2001), pp. 19-58.
21
Maleuvre, Museum Memories, p.10.
22
Didier Maleirre argues that “essentially historical, historiographic through
and through museums thereby beg the question of their historical appearance,
of the role they fulfil toward history, in history.”Ibid. For empire’s vision in
exhibition, also see Paul Greenhalgh, Ephemeral Vistas: The Expositions
Universelles, Great Exhibitions and World’s Fairs, 1851-1939 (Manchester:
Manchester University Press, 1988).
23
See for descriptive account of Lahore museum’s architecture, Pervaiz Vandal
and Sajida Vandal, The Raj, Lahore & Bhai Ram Singh (Lahore: Research and
Publication Centre, National College of Arts, 2006), pp. 184-187.
24
Maleuvre, Museum Memories, pp.12-13. For debates on the relationship of
museums with history see Bettina Messias Carbonell (ed.), Museum Studies: An
Anthology of Contexts (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2004).
25
Percy Brown, Lahore Museum Punjab: A Descriptive Guide to the
Department of Industrial Arts (Calcutta, Messrs Thacker Spink & Co., 1909),
p.v.
26
Memorandum on the Exhibition of Industrial Art and Manufactures, 1881, by
BH Baden Powell, Esquire, Officiating Commissioner and Superintendent,
Umballa Division. Selection from the Records of the Government of the Punjab
and its Dependencies, Report on the Punjab Exhibition, 1881-82. New Series-
XXII (Lahore: Punjab Government Secretariat Press, 1883), p. 4.
27
Ibid., p. 4.
28
Ibid., p. 5.
29
Brown, Lahore Museum Punjab, p.v.
30
Ibid., pp.v-vii.
31
Mahrukh Keki Tarapor, Art and Design: The Discovery of India in Art and
Literature, 1851-1947 (unpublished PhD dissertation, Harvard University,
Cambridge, 1977), p.2.
32
Ibid., p. 3. Also see Mahrukh Tarapor, “John Lockwood Kipling and British
Art Education in India”, Victorian Studies, 24 (1), 1980.
33
Selection from the Records of the Government of the Punjab and its
Dependencies, Report on the Punjab Exhibition, 1881-82, p.41.
34
Ibid., p. 68.
35
Ibid., p.69.

88
HUSSAIN AHMAD KHAN, CONFIGURING PUNJAB  

                                                                   
36
JL Kipling, “Report of Punjab Court, Calcutta International Exhibition 1883”,
in Samina Choonara (ed.), “Official” Chronicle of Mayo School of Art:
Formative Years Under JL Kipling (1874-94) (Lahore: National College of
Arts, 2003), p.123. For commentary on Calcutta International Exhibition 1883,
see Peter H Hoffenberg, “Photography and Architecture at the Calcutta
International Exhibition” in Maria Antonella Pelizzari (ed.), Traces of India:
Photography, Architecture, and the Politics of Representation, 1850-1900
(New Heaven: Yale University Press, 2003), pp.174-195.
37
J L Kipling and T H Thornton, Lahore as it was, Travelogue (Lahore:
National College of Arts, 2002), pp.79-80.
38
Ibid., pp.75-76.
39
Ibid., p.78.
40
Selection from the Records of the Government of the Punjab and its
Dependencies, Report on the Punjab Exhibition, 1881-82, p.26.
41
Ibid., p.26.
42
GWF Hegel, “Lectures on Aesthetics” in Charles Harrison, et.al., Art in
Theory, 1815-1900 (Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2003), pp. 58-77.
43
Selection from the Records of the Government of the Punjab and its
Dependencies, Report on the Punjab Exhibition, 1881-82., p.26.
44
Kipling and Thornton, Lahore as it was, p.81.
45
Ibid., p.81.
46
JL Kipling, “Report of Punjab Court, Calcutta International Exhibition
1883”, in Samina Choonara (ed.), “Official” Chronicle of Mayo School of Art:
Formative Years Under JL Kipling (1874-94), p.111.
47
Ibid.
48
Ibid., p.117.
49
Brown, Lahore Museum Punjab, pp. vi-vii.
50
“…the English have undertaken the weighty responsibility of being the
missionaries of civilization to the world; for their commercial spirit urges them
to traverse every sea and land, to form connections with barbarous peoples….to
establish among them the conditions necessary to commerce, viz. the
relinquishment of a life of lawless violence, respect for property, and civility to
strangers”. Hegel, Philosophy of History, p. 455.
51
Kipling and Thornton, Lahore as it was, p. 58.

89
BOOK REVIEWS
KAMILA SHAMSIE, BROKEN VERSE
(NEW YORK: HARCOURT BOOKS, 2007)

Kamila Shamsie’s Broken Verses is a story which mingles mystery


with romance, trying at the same time to depict the power of words.
Aasmani Inqilaab has suffered her activist mother, Samina Akram’s
disappearance for fourteen years following the brutal murder, two years
earlier, of Pakistan’s greatest poet, simply known as The Poet, who also
happened to be Samina’s lover. Since, in the previous years, Samina
had always left Aasmani with her father and step mother to follow the
Poet into exile, the discarded daughter is right in believing that her
mother has abandoned her one final time, yearning for her to come
back ever since… Now working at a TV station, Aasmani comes across
her mother’s friend Shehnaz Saeed, first time in years, who hands her a
letter written – recently - in the secret code that only she, Samina and
the Poet had once shared. As more letters arrive, freshly written by the
Poet, it becomes evident that he is still alive and his murder was just an
act to mislead his followers- he was not killed but kept locked away all
these years at some place no one knew about. The letters give way to a
hope that she would be able to bring the Poet back, and as it has always
been, her mother would follow suit.
Kamila Shamsie’s Poet protested against the tyranny of the
dictators in Pakistan through his words, and managed to make his
followers anticipate a revolution in the political realm of the country.
Samina, the socio-political activist protested physically against the
government, especially in favour of women’s rights. Although
Samina’s fame and efforts were no less than those of her lover’s, the
brutal murder of the Poet - evidently by some government minions,
followed by the burning of his most recent works protesting against the
government- makes it crystal clear that the power of pen is greater than
any other power, and that one person protesting verbally can cause a
greater threat to the tyrant than thousands of people protesting
physically.
The novel talks of the dictatorial rule of the seventies and
eighties, when the Poet was forced into exile several times, Samina
following him, or the times when he was put in jail in different parts of
the country, his lover always relocating herself to be able to live near
him, both protesting against the political conditions of the country in
one way or another. However, this is a tale of modern Pakistan, where
Samina Akram is having an extra-marital relationship in public with the
Poet, facing condemnation from a small part of the country, but warmly

93
welcome in the hearts of all others, especially women for whose rights
she had been fighting almost all her life. Similarly, when her daughter
Aasmani decides that she will not marry, her father, Samina’s ex-
husband has no objections about it. This is undoubtedly a westernized
version of the early Pakistan, which is still struggling for the rule of
democracy- the rule of law- instead of dictatorship.
Aasmani finds herself unable to believe that her mother is
dead and will never come back to her no matter what, and is incapable
of forgiving her for being the unconventional mother she has been, for
giving more importance to her cause than to her only child. In her
thirties, Aasmani is still holding on to her past, powerless to let it go,
blaming her mother for all those times they could be together but they
were not.
The novel also tries to make a point that the children of
celebrities have to pay a price and to bear heavy burdens, be it having
to live under the shadow of their parents’ image, like Shehnaz Saeed’s
son, Ed; or managing to live without parents, just believing in the
greatness of their cause, just like Aasmani. The story can therefore also
be seen as a struggle of two young people striving to establish their
own identities.
With all its little details of life in Karachi, the illustration of
the power of words and the emotions of a girl towards a mother who
left her several times in a lifetime and towards a father figure who was
found cruelly murdered because he raised his voice against despotism;
Broken Verses is a beautiful novel that binds its reader to itself from the
beginning.
It is difficult to say whether the novel is the story of the
romantic life of Samina and the Poet, or of the struggle that they both
put in together for their country, or that of a deprived daughter that
keeps hoping that her mother would finally come back to her. Kamila
Shamsie has merged romance, socio-political struggle, mother-daughter
relationship and suspense in one. Broken Verses is worth reading, apart
from everything else, more so because the political situation painted by
Kamila Shamsie is little different from Pakistan’s present scenario…

SHAH BUKHT SOHAIL


LAHORE UNIVERSITY OF MANAGEMENT
SCIENCES, LAHORE

94
TEHMINA DURRANI, MY FEUDAL LORD
(GB: BANTAM PRESS, 1995)

My Feudal Lord is one of the extraordinary autobiographies that can


ever be written. Durrani uses it as a means of exposing the hypocrisy
of ruling elites in Pakistan generally and the cruel nature of her
husband specifically. She started writing this book just after the few
months of divorce. In this book she talks about social ethos of
Pakistani marital life by citing her own marriage as an example.
The book revolves around Tehmina, who belongs to ultra-
mod, westernized and well-off family of Pakistan and Mustafa Khar-
the most prominent politician in Bhutto’s regime, who belongs to
conservative, traditional and typical feudal background. These two
opposite figures come close to each other but Tehmina’s dream soon
turns into nightmare when Mustafa’s decency turns into brutality.
She divided this devastating account into three parts: Lion of the
Punjab, Law of the Jungle and Lioness.
Lion of the Punjab deals with Mustafa who roars and
destroys the lives of simple and innocent women without any
hesitation---the typical trait of a lion. Tehmina is also married but she
leaves her husband “an innocent, simple guy” and marries Mustafa.
But soon she realizes the hollowness and barrenness of this
relationship, “I had no power, no rights, and no will of my own”.
“Law of the Jungle” starts with Tehmina and Mustafa’s
immigration to London. There his affair with her youngest sister
makes her mad and panic. She endures all her husband’s physical
assaults and sexual brutality as a part of her destiny. But then she
decides to rebel the king, “I am not your sister or your mother. I am
your wife”. This is how Tehmina challenges the patriarchal structure
denying all the roles of women as futile and abstract. But Mustafa
can never allow her to leave him because he thinks that she is the
only skylark that can amuse him while he is tired.
In ‘Lioness’ Tehmina campaigns for Mustafa and he wins
the elections. But a Lion is a Lion at every cost...his violence
becomes more intense. Finally, she decides to burst out all her pains
in the form of book and an act of writing for woman is to break the
silence that patriarchal society has culturally imposed upon her.
Durrani has shown in an undaunted way that every woman
has her identity and individuality. Her so-called roles are nothing but
cultural constructs and a woman has the power to challenge the
whole patriarchy even at the cost of her closest relations. The book

95
gives good food for thought to its readers that how will they behave
in similar circumstances?
Throughout the novel Tehmina has highlighted herself as an
oppressed woman. This is true and so she is. But another aspect
cannot be ignored i.e. why did she leave her first husband who was
loving and caring? And if she left him for Khar then why after
leaving Mustafa she has married another eminent politician Shehbaz
Sharif? Perhaps they are all chips of the same block.
When the book first appeared in 1995, it became the best
selling book as it stirred a violent storm in the whole country. Now
after 14 years of its publication, as the political and social scenario of
Pakistan has not changed, the book is still relevant, at least as a major
feminist literary effort.

RABIA MAHMOOD
BAHAUDDIN ZAKARIYA UNIVERSITY,
MULTAN

96
RAFIQ SANDELVI, GHAAR MEIN BAITHA SHAKHS (LAHORE:
KAGHADHI PAERAHEN, 2007)

The detractors of Ghazal opine that it is reminiscent of a feudal era. It


was promoted by the powerful elite for the sake of their own pleasure.
Now the times have changed; so there is no need to nurture this
obsolete genre. They may be right in their assessment. But it is a fact
that Ghazal is well entrenched in our culture and it will not be wiped
out completely. It is that fault of the petty poets who have made this
genre a butt of all taunts. Every second man claims to be a poet these
days. As a result, the quality of verse has really declined beyond words.
Pick up any literary magazine and you will notice plenty of pages
devoted to the Ghazals. They are harping on the same themes. Nazm is
a foreign genre as it evolved in the western societies. But few of our
poets like Rashid, Majeed Amjad, Meera Jee showed complete mastery
over this genre. Their Nazms can be termed of highest quality. Since it
is difficult to write quality Nazm, few people followed this path.
Majority of the people saw their future in the genre of Ghazal. Rafiq
Sandelvi is among those few people who selected Nazm to express
their creativity. The book under review 'Ghaar Mein Betha Sakhs'
consists of poems of Sandelvi which he wrote in the period 1987-2006.
He selected his best poems and that’s how this book was born.
Rafiq Sandelvi has been writing Nazms for a quite a while
now. He is no new face to the world of literati. As a critic, he has also
gained some fame. As Dr Wazir Agha says: Rafiq Sandelvi is a master
and he has an impressive Urdu diction at his fingertips. Satya Pal
Anand, himself a poet of some standing, has written a lengthy
introduction to the background of this book. He terms it a trend setter.
He is all praises for the genius of Rafiq Sandelvi. As for the poems, one
can say that Sandelvi knows the art of weaving highly ornate words to
dazzle every one. To start with the first Nazm 'Ghaar Mein Betha
Sakhs' , he goes back in time and recreates the whole ambience with the
deftly selection of words. He loves to keep his poems adorned. But let
me state here that they can be read without any fuss. The heavily
adorned words can not deter you from reading again and again.
Sandelvi seems to be a complete romantic who loves to be in the
company of alien surroundings. The ancient times attract him a lot. He
likes to live in the company of nature where nature is at its best. But he
is not out and out escapist. He knows the cost one has to pay in order to
live in this world. 'Tandoor Wala' is a simple poem to say the least. But
it has layers if you are able to judge. It is an absurd comment on our
system where the son of a labourer is bound to be labourer. There
seems to be no escape from the vicious circle for the oppressed classes.
Same can be said about his poem 'Qabar Jaisee Khaat Mein' where he
97
paints the abject conditions of an ordinary worker. The fear of poverty
makes him worse than a dog. So he is always on his toes to ward off
hunger. But 'Sawari Oont Kee Hai' is a poem that can make you sad. It
is the return of the lover to her beloved after much water had flowed
down the bridge. Like a deft painter, Sandelvi paints the whole picture
with powerful images.
Rafiq Sandelvi is romantic. He is the weaver of the poems that
come to life the flora and fauna with all their colours and smells. He is
a keen observer of even the minutest details of life. He wants to live his
time in the old classical age. His poetry is not mouthpiece of any sort of
political ideology. He is fully immersed in his own world showing
quite a disregard to the world around him. The locale of ancient world
haunts him and he keeps going back to those olden times.
Rafiq Sandelvi has done well by sharing with us his best poems. He
must be thanked by the lovers of Urdu literature.

ALTAF HUSSAIN ASAD


DAILY DAWN, LAHORE

98
KARL MARX, DAS KAPITAL (LAHORE: BOOK HOME, 2007)
(URDU TRANSLATION)
Revolution is the harbinger of change. Its forms and manifestations
vary in different spheres. On socio-economic level, the process of
revolutionary change is motivated through the force of ideas. The rise
of socialism is a glaring example of this fact. Years of consistent
ideological development paved the way for its practical fulfillment. But
this particular system of thought got its finest culmination at the hands
of Karl Marx. His monumental work in the form of Das Kapital became
a paradigmatic text for the development of alternative discourse against
exploitation and injustice. The book in fact revolutionized all areas of
socio-economic life and became a Bible of millions of revolutionaries.
Marx floated his theories of socio-economic justice at such a time in
history when a large majority of suppressed working class was heavily
bearing the effects of industrial revolution. Technological advancement
was meant to provide relief to the general lot of mankind but
unfortunately it sought to strengthen the hands of the capitalists. This
was unacceptable to Marx. He wrote a powerful critique of the newly
emerging capitalist system. While he was penning this book he was
often hungry and his son had to sleep without getting milk. But his
passion for the general lot of mankind was great.
The first volume of the book was published in 1867 in Marx’s
life. He couldn’t complete the remaining two volumes in his life due to
his bad health. The second volume of the book was published by
Fredrick Engles in 1885 from the notes left behind by Marx. The third
volume was published in 1894. Das Kapital was first translated in
English in 1886 under the supervision of Engles. Three chapters of the
first volume were firstly translated in Urdu in 1961 by Anjuman-e-
Taraqee Urdu. Under the Anjuman’s tutelage the book was further
translated till chapter eleven. The translation was made by Syed
Mohammad Taqi. It is the only available translation of the book in
Urdu language. The distinguishing quality of the translation is that
there are explanatory notes in it to make the understanding easier for
the reader. Syed Muhammad Taqi was ably assisted in this important
task by Maulvi Abdul Haq and two of his illustrious brothers Raees
Amrohvi and Jaun Elia. The distinguishing quality of this translation is
that the translator has attempted to simplify certain difficult passages
through his explanatory notes.
The publication of Das Kapital heralded a new era in the
history of mankind.The ideas of surplus value of labour and dialectical
materialism revolutionized the entire socio-economic system. Marx

99
vehemently denounced all the forces of repression and exploitation. He
exposed the vicious circle of capital formulation which seeks to crush
the fundamental rights of human beings. Marx analyzed the market
economy system in Das Kapital. He borrowed the classical categories
from the economists like Smith and Ricardo and develops them in his
own way. He introduced new concepts in economic relations in society.
The mode of production determines the economic system in society. It
is important to analyze that whether the gain on capital favors a few or
the sources get equitable distribution. Marx’s socialism questions the
claim of private property. This is one overwhelming proposition.
Practically private property is a source of trouble in any socio-
economic dispensation. It in fact deprives millions and favors a few.
Value of a commodity is determined through its exchange
value. Marx poses the question how this value is determined. He is of
the view that the amount of labor and time spent on the production of a
commodity determines its value. In this way the system of economic
interdependence defines different activities in the society. Marx
differentiates between money and capital. Money is what you get in
exchange of a commodity. This economic arrangement continues and
money is used for determining the worth of a commodity. Capitalism
works differently. Capitalists seek money not for its use in the purchase
of commodity but for its own sake. Capitalism is in fact accumulation
and amassing of money. It is used to obtain more money. This is a
basic difference in affecting the economic relations in society.
Capitalism consequently brings the money to a few and deprives all
others from the accumulated affect of capital. Marx projects the
concept of surplus value here. The value created by the labor in excess
of the price of the commodity is called the surplus value of labor. It is
an outcome of the labor invested in the making of a commodity. But
ironically labor is given a very little of it. The rest is taken away by the
capitalist. Marx is of the view that the economic disparities in the
system can only be eliminated if this surplus value of labor is given to
the labor. Money should not be retained by capitalist. Resources should
not be utilized by only a few people. Instead a system of economic
justice called socialism should be introduced.
These ideas of Karl Marx came at a very appropriate time in
history. Industrial revolution had brought a great change in the socio-
economic lives of the individuals. It had strengthened the hands of
capitalists and made the lives of workers miserable. Marx made the
labor class aware of their rights. He called workers of the world to
unite. It was a great slogan. The ideas of Marx spread like fire in the
rest of the world. It not only made people aware of their rights but also

100
provided them a substantiated knowledge system to develop further
critiques against exploitation. The work on Marx’s ideas continued and
within fifty years of its publication it was able to successfully bring a
revolution in Russia. All spheres of human life benefited immensely
from Marx. Historically speaking, apart from the impact of organized
religions, no other book in the history of mankind parallels Das Capita
in terms of its significance and lasting impact.

TARIQ AZIZ SINDHU


CIVIL SERVICES ACADEMY, LAHORE

101
DETAILED CONTENTS

THE HISTORIAN
JULY-DECEMBER 2007 (VOL. 05, NO. 02)

ARTICLES
1. MAJLIS-I-AHRAR-I-ISLAM: URBAN MUSLIM CONCERNS AND PUNJAB
POLITICS IN 1930S…. SAMINA AWAN 105

2. THE GEO-STRATEGIC IMPORTANCE OF THE KHYBER PASS IN


HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE: IS IT STILL THE “MONARCH OF THE
PASSES”?..... JAVED IQBAL 115

3. “HUMAN RIGHTS” THROUGH THE PRISM OF HISTORY….KHALID


MANZOOR BUTT 129

CONCEPT PAPER
CONSTRUCTING BHADRAKALI MANDAR HISTORICALLY….
HAROON KHALID 155

REVIEW ARTICLE
 
IMAGINATION AND REPRESENTATION IN HISTORICAL DISCOURSES
(CARR, EVANS, AND JENKINS). …HUSSAIN AHMAD KHAN 165

BOOK REVIEWS
1. LIA LITOSSELITI, GENDER AND LANGUAGE: THEORY AND PRACTICE
(GB: HODDER EDUCATION, 2006) 175

2. MADHAVI DESAI, (ED.), GENDER AND THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT IN


INDIA (NEW DELHI, 2007) 177

3. JEHANGIR BADER, THE EVOLUTION OF DEMOCRACY


(LAHORE: AIZAZ- UD-DIN TBM PUBLISHER, 2007) 179

NOTES FOR CONTRIBUTORS AND REVIEWERS 182


MAJLIS-I-AHRAR-I-ISLAM: URBAN MUSLIM
CONCERNS AND PUNJAB POLITICS IN 1930S
SAMINA AWAN
ALLAMA IQBAL OPEN UNIVERSITY, ISLAMABAD,
PAKISTAN

ABSTRACT

Majlis-e-Ahrar-i-Islam (MAI) is regarded as a


political cum religious denomination of the Muslims
of the subcontinent drawing its legitimacy from the
middle class and urban Muslim professionals. After
the debacle of the 1857 Muslim’s predicament
revolved around the issue that how to save their
identity. Muslim polity was in search of the means
through which they would be able to save their
culture and identity primarily enmeshed in their
religious ethos and also to tread on the future
honourably. The Khilafat movement gave vent to
their aspirations and consequently they associated
themselves with pan-Islamic ideology. MAI was the
compromise between these aspirations that came
forward to save the Muslim’s identity using the
modern political means and instruments.

KEY WORDS: Ahrar, Red Shirts, South Asia, British India, Khilafat
Movement, Muslim League, Nadwa, Unionist, Jamiat-ulama-e-Hind
(JUH), Punjab, Indian National Congress(INC). Sufism.

The MAI was a brainchild of the middle class, urban Muslim


professionals, who espoused complete independence for India, and
sought the empowerment of underprivileged groups both in the princely
states and British India. Its appeal was based on traditional modes such
as oratory, mosque-based activism and voluntary support obtained in
the name of Islam. It tried to make its mark on several fronts, and that
too in the most crucial two decades preceding independence. Inspired
by political Islam and a liberationist ideology, it was neither a totally
religious organisation such as the Tabligh, nor was it a solely mundane
set-up such as the All Indian Muslim League (AIML) or the INC. It

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resembled the JUH, the Red Shirts and the RSSS, and had a shared
emphasis on parades and uniforms, besides promising a utopian future.
Its immediate constituents were essentially Muslims of north-western
regions of India, and especially of Punjab. The MAI was unique in
several areas, as it tried to blend together the opposite forces of
territorial nationalism and Islam, and tried to expand its own remit and
following in three princely states. It began as a party during the years
when the former Khilafatists were seeking a new political role and
national parties were still a long way off from offering their respective
nationalist programmes. The MAI reached its optimum point during the
1930s, but given its programmic, financial and other logistical
constraints soon forced its slow decline at a time when Muslims in
Punjab and elsewhere, began to yearn for a more enduring resolution to
the Indian political impasse. 1 However, the ingredients and patterns,
which catapulted the MAI, have often reverberated in the subsequent
decades in the South Asian states.
The MAI embodied the quest for identity among the traditional and
new elite groups of Indian Muslims. Given the apparent invincibility of
the colonial state following the uprising of 1857, this quest for
revitalised identities was to reshape the political and cultural definition
across the communities. These two broad categories were further
crisscrossed by sectarian, denominational, regional and class-based
affinities, and were not monolithic at all. Traditionalists, in one breath,
talked of going back to a pristine destiny and a glorious past, but
differed among themselves on the strategies and modus operandi,
which varied from literalism to syncretism. On the contrary, modernists
saw no qualms in absorbing several Western mores and norms. The
colonial state was not the sole architect of this ideological discourse. It
had caused a political transformation of India by displacing the old
guard and, in the process, had unleashed several newer and formidable
cultural and economic forces, which impacted on society. Muslim
articulation, at one level, varied from a total acceptance of colonial
design without denigrating their own roots, as was the case with Sir
Syed Ahmed Khan, Syed Amir Ali and other reformers. 2 Contrasted
with that, the ulama from seminaries such as the Deoband and
subsequently from other institutions, including the Nadwa, used
modernist means to regroup within a strong purist paradigm. The
Barelwi ulama, basing their case on syncretic traditions, sought to
reinvigorate spiritual bonds through the available intermediaries. At
another level, the regionalist and land-based pressure group felt at ease
with the Raj, such as the Unionists, and preferred to work under its
tutelage. The reformers and regionalists, in their own distinct ways,

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SAMINA AWAN , MAJLIS-I-AHRAR-I-ISLAM

were closer to the colonial state, and often benefited from its largesse,
without losing their own autonomy in intent and actions.
The canalisation and settlements in newer areas allowed fresh
opportunities to the emerging middle classes that were still in their
infancy. They felt energised by the opportunities that the colonial
hierarchy offered, yet were equally unsure of themselves. Their
aspirations and apprehensions led to early city-based cultural efforts,
which, in the twentieth century, assumed full-fledged political
postulations. In the case of Muslim, tanzims and anjumans were the
forerunners of the future Unionist Party, the Muslim League, the Indian
National Congress, the MAI and the Khaksars. All these parties used
symbols such as nationalism and built their respective cases by
promising sovereignty and economic empowerment; except for the
Unionists and the Congress, they mostly used Islamic imagery. 3 The
MAI and Khaksars were Muslim organisations, yet espoused India-
wide nationalism, and combined it with their post-Khilafat Pan-Islamic
sentiments. They remained wary of pro-Raj regionalists, such as the
Unionists, as well as Muslim modernists, such as the Muslim League.
The MAI’s advocacy of Islam and a composite India-wide nationalism,
like that of the JUH, was an untenable stance given the rural-urban
schisms, and the powerful India-wide programmes on offer by the
Congress and the League. In the end, even the otherwise formidable
regional parties such as the Unionist Party, could not withstand
transregional pulls, and both the MAI and the Khaksars were outshone
by the demand for a bigger, consolidated and separate Muslim state.
How far Pakistan resolved that historic quest of the Indian Muslims, is
still an ongoing academic and general moot point. The way an India-
wide nationalist espousal was found insufficient in assuaging the
multiple fears held by minorities such as Muslims, Untouchables and
Sikhs; while the very concept of Muslim separatism had its own
limitations. It is curious to note that none of the Indian, and even
British, leaders talked of any possible voluntary and forced population
transfers, and it was assumed that the transfer of power will itself be
enough to forestall any communal turmoil. 4 The issues of Indianness,
as well as Muslimness, besides those of ethno-religious minorities left
on both sides of the divide, are still far from having been resolved. The
emergence of parties such as the Unionist, AIML and the MAI, added
to fissures, which already existed due to the rural-urban divide and
emergence of a new petite bourgeoisie asserting their cultural and
political presence.
Punjabi identity, despite its Sufi, caste-based and
predominantly rural ethos, was not cohesive, and being Punjabi meant

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different things to different sections. The Unionist Party used it to


cement its class-based, supra-communal solidarity. The MAI used India
and Islam in the same breath, but its leadership, cadres and locale was
mainly Punjab based. The party would never flag provincial and
regionalist symbols, and felt quite comfortable being led by the INC. 5
The MAI would have ideally liked to see Punjab as an integral part of a
united, free India, but that would not rule out the majority-minority
tensions, which had now assumed communal proportions. Talking of
Islam and India in a historical context was understandable, but India
had been undergoing modernisation, where all these identities had
adopted newer nuances, collation and collision both featured in this
India. 6 Punjab might have had a slower pace of politicisation, yet the
decade of the 1920s had already unleashed a wave of communalism,
where by Ghadr and Khilafat appeared more like distant memories.
The MAI could be characterised as a movement, an
organisation rooted in the fragmentary politics of the 1920s, but like
many other contemporary trajectories, it was certainly not a party in the
modern sense. It revolved around some articulate and like-minded
personalities who were imbued with Pan-Islamic and liberationist
enthusiasm. They hated colonialism as much as they abhorred the
feudals and urban upper classes, and thus found listeners among the
lower classes in mohallas, mofussil townships and villages. They used
Urdu, which had already been adopted by Muslims all over India, as a
binding force, and allowed them to win over thousands of volunteers
for a number of causes. The MAI was basically a Muslim movement,
which promised independence as well as Islamisation, and these two
postulations went quite well as far as Muslims and other Punjabis were
concerned. They were practising a type of politics, which was patterned
on the style of the JUH and INC, and thus was not at all alien to British
India. The MAI, like the Khaksars and the JUH, avoided involvement
in communal activities, though it used sectarianism. Akin to the JUH,
Khaksars, Shia Political Conference, Momin Conference and the Red
Shirts, it was also aligned with the Congress and remained critical of
the Muslim League. 7 Its anti-Ahmadi campaign was not successful
initially, but twenty years later left decisive imprints on the history of
Pakistan. However, it avoided clashing with the Sikhs over the
Shahidganj issue, nor did it involve itself in the Sunni-Shia feuds. Thus,
while looking at the career of the MAI, we find its devotion to
transregional forces of Pan-Islamism and a composite Indian
nationhood, over and above ethno-sectarian plurality. Yet,
concurrently, its full-blown campaign against the Ahmadis also
reflected its own denominational preferences and peculiarities. More

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SAMINA AWAN , MAJLIS-I-AHRAR-I-ISLAM

like the present-day movements amongst the Sunnis, Shias, Ismailis


and Ahmadis, the MAI embodied an early version of the same binary
politicking.
Political Islam is both an old and a new force in this Muslim
redefinition. In its classical tradition, Islam created its own polity under
the Prophet(PBUH), whereas the subsequent caliphates, sultanates and
the nation-states have routinely used Islam, its symbolism and clerical
groups seeking legitimacy for themselves. Historically, political Islam
has been an important part of official hierarchies; has often justified
dissent against authority; and has been absorbing immense energies of
the intelligentsia in constructing discourse on an ideal polity. Political
Islam, to the latter groups, was meant a combination of secular and
sacred within the backdrop of an idealisation of the early Prophetic and
Caliphal era. 8 It was both a political vehicle as well as a programmic
ideology. In modern times, political Islam at the clerical, mystical and
middle class levels would mean decolonisation and the establishment of
a just socio-political order. 9 West-led modernity unleashed all kinds of
responses among the colonised Muslim opinion groups. Suspicion as
well as adulation characterised all these responses until we enter the
post-colonial era where independence, in most cases, is being seen as
chimerical with the socio-political morass still prevailing over the
Muslim horizons. Here, in a contemporary sense, political Islam would
promise empowerment and reassertion, though its proponents would
use varying forms of strategies, including bullet and ballot. 10
The MAI was not the architect of a decolonising form of
political Islam, yet tried to harness it to reach a wider Muslim audience.
The leaders such as Afzal Haq, Ataullah Shah Bokhari, Mazhar Ali
Azhar, Habib-ur-Rahman, Shorish Kashmiri or Janbaaz Mirza all came
from an emerging Muslim middle class, who sought sustenance from
Islamic traditions, yet also benefited from modernity in the form of
socialism and nationalism. They used print media, loudspeakers, trains
and other means of mobility to create a wider following, and thus
combined tradition and modernity within their symbolism and
programmes. They certainly reached the subalterns in the Muslim
community, who were mostly artisans, vendors, clerics, Urdu writers
and some professionals such as lawyers. These Muslim subalterns were
themselves divided in their affiliations, as some of them supported the
Khaksars, while others gradually began to shift towards the Muslim
League. 11 The landless peasants, disaffected Muslim Kashmiris, and
the marooned residents of states such as Kapurthala and Alwar
provided foot soldiers; while similar other oppressed groups across

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British Punjab catapulted MAI into a harbinger of economic and


political empowerment.
The study of Punjab in reference to the MAI does not debar a
scholarly perspective in the realm of intellectual history, an area which
still remains under-developed in South Asia. The philosophical and
pedagogical issues touching on region, language, faith, class, literature,
elite leadership, ideas, institutions and interaction with the wider forces
across the multiple boundaries occur in this disciplinary category. Here
urbanisation, educational systems, literary debates and an entire realm
of oral and printed literature underwrite the complex and often
contested issues of collective identity where history, politics and
sociology join together to unearth the role of culture, creed and context.
The MAI’s literature, despite its emotional and often polemical nature,
is certainly a useful terrain to seek out Muslim positions in a rapidly
changing world. The MAI banked on the devoted, inspiring and
charismatic leaders, who exhibited a closer affinity with their followers
and volunteers, yet they also articulated ideas which found a receptive
audience. Their travails on colonialism, exploitation and a dislocating
modernity, provide a whole vista of untapped energy, where impatience
with the status quo resonates in speeches and writings. Eagerness to
stay connected with the past, the debunking of the present, while
promising a utopian and pluralist future, remain the major cornerstones
of this terrain. The MAI caravan premised itself on symbolism, which
was rooted in the past, yet generously borrowed from modernity as
well. The socialist colour of the red found no conflict with the Islamist
crescent and star, while hatchet was synonymous with the Communist
hammer and even with the fascist fist—all signifying a forceful
defiance of exploitation. The khaki and the parades symbolised
contemporary fascist paraphernalia and imprints prevailing both in
Europe and Asia, and like the RSSS and Khaksars. This powerful
instrument of European modernity did not threaten religion. 12 The
MAI, in a sense, proved that the ends can justify panoply of various
means, and thus a politics of inclusion was still better than pursuing
singular campaigns. However, Punjab, Bengal and Assam underwent
this caesarean partition amidst a bloodbath. It will not be out of place
here to seek an overview of Partition itself and its postscript, that
finally sealed the career of the MAI.
Muslim Punjabi leadership of the MAI came from the Punjab
Khilafat Committee and the INC, and distrusted the Unionists. The
Ahrar had broken with the INC on the issues of the Nehru Report,
Mahatma Gandhi’s decision of participation in the Round Table
Conference and the representation of Punjabi leadership in the All-

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India Congress Committee in 1931. Afzal Haq, Attaullah Shah Bukhari


and Zafar Ali Khan were the early founding fathers of the MAI in
December 1929, but they could not implement their decision of
organising it at all-India level, because of their involvement in the civil
disobedience movement launched by the INC in the1930s. 13 They
revived their party in July 1931, when they held its first public meeting
in Lahore and debated its objectives and strategies. They
simultaneously adopted the Kashmiri Muslim cause and the ongoing
Maclagan College issue. The college fracas brought them local
recognition, which encouraged the leadership to work on its Kashmir
campaign more vigorously. This was followed by similar ventures on
the human rights situation in other princely states such as Alwar and
Kapurthala. Until 1934, the MAI enjoyed its unprecedented popular
image as an eminent Muslim party in Punjab, which was soon engaged
in a vigorous anti-Ahmadi campaign in Punjab. The Ahrar political
conference in Qadian in 1934, opened a new chapter of sectarianism in
the sub-continent, which helped the MAI to establish its credentials as
the mainstream Muslim body. Their exclusionary approach on the issue
of the finality of the Prophethood, attracted several members and
sympathisers from among other Muslim political parties. This included
the Unionist Party, a potential rival within the province.
After gaining appreciation from various Muslim quarters, the
MAI tried to cash in on their popularity in the legislatures. They
participated in the provincial and central legislative elections during
1933 (Bye-election), 1934, 1937 and 1945-6. Their smaller
representation proved their inability to work more effectively within the
legislative domains of British India, and they began to prefer agitational
politics. Muslims regarded the issue of Shahidganj Mosque/Gurdwara,
as the litmus test for the MAI. However, the party leadership avoided
launching an instant campaign, which disappointed the Muslim
community. Their opponents, in order to damage their popularity,
amongst the Muslims as a result of their support of the Kashmiris and
Meos, exploited their reluctance to participate in the Shahidganj
campaign. Although they subsequently launched a campaign for the
restoration of the Shahidganj Mosque, but were never able to regain
their erstwhile popularity. They participated in the relief efforts for the
victims of the Quetta earthquake and Bengal famine, which helped
them sustain their humane image. Their leaders, in their personal
capacity, tried to work for the social causes affecting the Muslim
community, but owing to financial constraints and weaker
organisational structure, they could not accomplish much. The party
believed in, and actively participated in agitational politics and found

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another opportunity to show their strength during the recruitment


campaign launched by the Chief Minister of Punjab, Sir Sikandar
Hayat, on the eve of the Second World War. The MAI decided to
oppose it by launching an anti-recruitment movement within Punjab
and, as a consequence, the party leadership courted arrest, while
pursuing civil disobedience in protest againt the Defence of Army
Bill. 14 Almost 11,000 volunteers were arrested in the party’s last-ditch
effort to destablise the British Government. That was the first time that
the party had extended its campaign into the remotest areas of the
Punjab. By early 1940, most of the Ahrar leaders were in jail, and the
party was in disarray. The death of Afzal Haq also weakened it. When
the Ahrars were released in 1943, the MAI launched Hukumat-i-Ilahiya
scheme as an alternative to the demand for Pakistan, which did not
attract many supporters. The Ahrar leader’s espousal of unitary
nationalism as the only solution of the Indian constitutional problem
resulted in their progressive isolation. 15 Although they participated in
the elections of 1945-6, but got only one seat; the AIML swept the
polls to the central and provincial Assemblies. The party was divided
on the eve of Partition, one for India and the other for Pakistan. It
showed some activism in the anti-Ahmadi campaign of the 1950s, but
could not gain its pre-Partition strength. 16
The autobiographical and fictional works on Partition or
Independence are mostly literary in nature, and well known to Urdu
readers. 17 Studies like those of Urvashi Buttalia, based on women’s
memories of Partition, or the research by Gyanandra Panday are
important contributions and offer some interesting insights to South
Asian historians. 18 As discussed in the present research, the studies by
Ian Talbot, David Gilmartin, Sarah Ansari, Barrington Moore, Taj
Hashmi and other historians, have established a strong tradition of
regional histories that may be further expanded in terms of themes and
focus. This study of the MAI is in the realm of regional studies, and
points toward similar trajectories in other regions and communities
across South Asia. The MAI might have been a short chapter in Muslim
South Asian history, yet its replication remains a persistent reality.

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END NOTES

1
See David Page, Prelude to Partition: The Indian Muslims and the Imperial
System of Control 1920-1932 (Karachi, OUP, 1987); also see David Page, The
Partition Omnibus (New Delhi: OUP, 2002). See Anita Inder Singh, The
Origins of the Partition of India: 1936-1947 (New Delhi: OUP, 1987).
2
See Hafiz Malik, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and Muslim Modernization in India
and Pakistan (New York: Columbia University Press, 1980).
3
See Ian Talbot and Gurharpal Singh (eds.), Region and Partition, Bengal,
Punjab and the Partition of the Subcontinent (Oxford: OUP, 1999).
4
See Sarah F. D. Ansari, Life after Partition: Migration, Community and Strife
in Sindh, 1947-1962 (Karachi: OUP, 2005).
5
For a contemporary critique of the Pakistan scheme by an eminent Ahrar
leader, see Syed Attaullah Shah Bukhari, Pakistan mein Kia ho ga (Lahore:
MMAP, n.d).
6
See Yunus Samad, A Nation in Turmoil: Nationalism and Ethnicity in
Pakistan 1937-1958 (New Delhi: Sage, 1995).
7
‘Mazhar Ali Azhar’s letter to Jinnah’, 4 September 1946 Also see an
interview of Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan in the daily Ausaaf, (Rawalpindi), 5
October 2003. See
www.experts.about.com/e/n/na/Nawabzada_Nasrullah_Khan.htm
8
Fazlur Rahman, Islam and Modernity: Transformation of an Intellectual
Tradition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982).
9
Other than the JUH and such groups in recent times, Syed Abul Ala Maudoodi
and leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood like Sayyid Qutb have been the
proponents of political Islam. For detail, see Sayyid Qutb, Milestones (New
Delhi: Markazi Maktaba Islami, 1991); and Abul Ala Maudoodi, Islamic Way
of Life (New Delhi: Markazi Maktaba Islami, 1995).
10
See Khalid Bin Sayeed, Western Dominance and Political Islam; Challenge
and Response (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995).
11
W. C. Smith, Modern Islam in India: A Social Analysis (London: Victor
Gollancz, 1946).
12
For more on the RSSS, see John Zavos, The Emergence of Hindu Nationalism
in India (New Delhi: OUP, 2000).
13
‘See the Marquess of Linlithgow to Leopold Amery, 7 March 1942’, in TOP
1942-47, vol. 1 (London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1970), p. 362.
14
Shorish Kashmiri, Pas-i-Dewar-i-Zindan (Urdu) (Lahore: Chattan, 1971).
15
Aziz Ahmad, Studies in Islamic Culture in the Indian Environment (Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 1964).
16
For detail, see Report of the Court of Inquiry constituted under Punjab Act of
1954 to inquire into the Punjab Disturbances of 1953 (Lahore: NAP, 1954).
17
Urdu novels include works by Qurat-ul-Ain Hyder, Abdullah Husain, Khadija
Mastoor and Intizar Husain. In addition, there are biographical works by
authors like Saadat Hasan Manto, Josh Malihabadi, Qudratullah Shahab and
Mumtaz Mufti.

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18
Urvashi Butalia, The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India
(London: Hurst, 2000).

114
THE GEO-STRATEGIC IMPORTANCE OF THE
KHYBER PASS IN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE:
IS IT STILL THE “MONARCH OF THE PASSES”?
JAVED IQBAL
UNIVERSITY OF PESHAWAR, PESHAWAR,
PAKISTAN

ABSTRACT

The world famous Khyber Pass has, throughout


the history, served as a corridor connecting the
Indo-Pak Subcontinent with Afghanistan and
Central Asia. The strategic importance and
location of this Pass has given the people of
Khyber and their land worldwide fame and
recognition. It has remained the focus of
attention of historians, writers, strategic analysts
and tourists interested in this part of the world.
Through this Pass traveled trade caravans
carrying trade between the Indian Sub-continent
and Central Asia, as well as the invading armies
of world famous conquerors from Darius to
Ahmad Shah Abdali.

KEY WORDS: Khyber Pass, Peshawar, Mughals, Afghanistan,


British, Central Asia, Sub-Continent, Federally Administered
Tribal Areas (FATA).

The geo-strategic importance of the Khyber Pass never diminished


throughout the Muslim Rule in the subcontinent from the early
days of Muslim Conquest of Northern India to the majestic Mughal
rule. Khyber also remained the focal point of the British policy
regarding Central Asia during the days of the Great Game because
of its important geo-strategic position. The emerging rivalry
between Imperialist England and Czarist Russia in Central Asia
and Afghanistan increased the importance of Khyber in the defense
and foreign policy of the British Indian Empire.
After Pakistan’s independence from British rule in 1947,
the Pass seemingly lost some of its strategic importance for a while

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but during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, Khyber Pass


regained its military importance. Khyber remained the center of
attention and importance due to its geo-strategic position and
millions of Afghan refugees also poured into the Pakistani territory
through the Khyber Pass. At present, it has more importance as a
trade outlet for the Central Asian States than a military gateway of
conquest.

THE WESTERN FRONTIER OF PAKISTAN

Before discussing the geo-strategic importance of the Khyber Pass,


it would be desirable to highlight the geo-strategic importance of
the whole Western Frontier of Pakistan, of which the Khyber Pass
is an important part. According to Lord Curzon, “Frontiers are
indeed the razor’s edge on which hang suspended the modern
issues of war and peace, of life and death to nations.” 1 The
Western Frontier of Pakistan, in view of its location, is indeed a
‘razor’s edge’ on which hangs the future of South Asia. The
overall significance of this region is exclusively vital to keep the
Indo-Pakistan subcontinent free from invasion or infiltration from
the north. The physical features, economic resources, ethnic
considerations, historical background and the present political
developments all add to the importance of the Western Frontier of
Pakistan in the planning of an effective defense for the entire Indo-
Pakistan subcontinent. 2
The geo-political and geo-strategic imperatives of the area
included in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan
are of considerable value for the whole of South Asia. This area is
still the passage or gateway to the South Asian subcontinent, with
all its alluring resources. The Aryans, Achaemenians, Greeks,
Kushans, Sassanids and Huns all came through the low North
Western passes into India. The Muslims followed suit during
medieval times and the Soviet thrust into Afghanistan 1979s was
the latest in the series imyrial intrusions. The Russians, some
believe, had been planning to reach the ‘warm waters’ for quite a
some time. It’s a porous border having, according to American
satellite mapping, about 340 border passes opening into Pakistan. 3
Of the entire length of the Western Frontier, the middle
section from the Kabul River to the Bolan Pass, some six hundred
miles in length, has great importance due to its economic
resources. North of this section, the Hindu Kush Range and its
branches form a fairly formidable barrier to communications,

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JAVED IQBAL , THE GEO-STRATEGIC

rendering all the passes in the section useless and inaccessible. The
Southern Section from the Bolan Pass to the Arabian Sea traverses
a region of lower relief but the scarcity of water, lack of good
means of communication, bareness of the land, inhospitability of
the climate, all render this section impracticable for mass
communication. 4
Thus, the Middle Section of the Frontier is the keynote of
the defense of the Western Frontier. In this section are located the
important passes of the Khyber, the Kurram, the Tochi and the
Bolan. Almost all the important invasions of the Indo-Pakistan
subcontinent were conducted through these passes in the Middle
Section of the Western Frontier because the high mountains of the
Northern section and the aridity of the Southern have always been
hazardous for invaders from those directions. Thus the passes in
the Middle Section are protected today with the same intensity as
they were in the British period, through the establishment of
cantonments and military posts and the strategic lines of
communication leading to these from the interior. 5
The poor communications in Afghanistan, the dilapidated
condition of roads and non-existence of railway tracks combined
with the rugged and mountainous terrain of the country posed a
barrier and provides a certain amount of security to the Western
Frontier of Pakistan against any adventurism from Central Asia but
the military strength and resources of great powers lying in the
region could surpass these obstacles. In case Afghanistan is not
strong as well as cordial towards Pakistan, then the only option left
for Pakistan is to maximize its efforts make the defense of the
passes on the Durand Line impregnable, which are connected by
rail and in some cases by roads to the rest of the country. 6
As mentioned earlier, the most vulnerable section of the
Western Frontier is the Middle Section. However, the terrain of the
area has made its defense a little easier. The mountains are so
located along the frontier that they can be effectively utilized by
the armed forces to their advantage and that too with the great
economy of force. The physical nature of the surface is likely to
render the enemy’s logistics into a problematic nightmare. “In such
a region”, says Dr. Azmat Hayat Khan, “the military success of
fighting forces does not depend upon the size of the army but upon
the adaptability of the troops and strategy to the terrain. The force
of an enemy attack on the frontier is likely to be diminished
through the employment of surprises, which, in view of the

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difficult terrain, can be successfully achieved through the


concealment of troops and material.” 7
The Khyber Pass is not the only pass along the western
frontier of Pakistan but of all the routes from Central Asia and
Afghanistan to the Sub Continent, none rivals the Khyber Pass. 8
That is why it has been praised as ‘the most historic of all the
passes of the world’ by James W. Spain 9 and ‘Monarch of the
Passes’ by Major General A. C. Robertson. 10 According to
Professor Ahmad Hassan Dani, “Khyber is the most wonderful
Pass that has seen and made history for centuries. From Central
Asia to Indo-Pak subcontinent the Pass has held the key to open
the route for many an invader who ventured to reap the fortune of
the extensive agricultural land across the Khyber and beyond the
Indus. All these invaders have left behind their marks and symbols
on the pass. It is as awesome and wonderful as has been the history
itself.” 11
Described as ‘the most historic of all the passes of the
world’ by James W. Spain, the Khyber Pass is not, however, the
most difficult to access. It has a quite unimpressive statistics as far
as its height is concerned; 3,373 12 feet high at its summit, 1,670
feet at its eastern entrance, and 1,404 feet at its western entrance.
Because of its eminent accessibility, the Khyber has always been
the high road to India from Central Asia. It remains as important
today in all commerce and communication between Pakistan and
Afghanistan as it had been in the past. 13 It was one of the prime
passes on the ancient Silk Route, connecting South and Central
Asia (the old world) with Europe; and presently connecting the
newly independent Central Asian Republics with Pakistan and
onward with India via Afghanistan. 14

IMPORTANCE FROM MILITARY AND DEFENSE POINT OF VIEW

The Khyber Pass historically was the route of various tribes and
rulers from Kabul to Delhi and its significant strategic position. 15
But it also proved to be “a death trap in the past to countless
thousands of traders and warriors who braved its perils” and it
remained the scene of some of the fiercest clashes of arms in
history. 16 Through the Khyber Pass have passed the invading
forces of the Persians, the Greeks, the Mughals, the Afghans and
the British, for whom it was the key strategic point to control
Afghan border. 17 The Scythians, the White Huns, the Seljukids,
the Tartars, the Mongols and the Turks have also been among

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those who utilized this historic gateway during their Indian


invasions. Conquerors like Cyrus, Alexander, Changez Khan,
Mehmud Ghaznavi, Mohammad Ghori, Timur, Babur, Nadir Shah
and Ahmad Shah Durrani all had to make use of this way. It was
also through this Pass that the British feared a Russian invasion of
the subcontinent in the 19th century. 18
The Pass is the swiftest and the shortest way to enter the
Indo-Pakistan subcontinent from the western side and its history
has turned it into the most fabled mountain gateway in the world. It
remains, to this day, a prized gateway to India. Its strategic
importance can be judged from a number of forts built along this
narrow defile during the Sikh and the British period. Important
among these forts are the Jamrud Fort at the beginning, the
Shahgai Fort, the Ali Masjid Fort and the last one, the Landi Kotal
Fort, which was the ‘forward’ position of the British Empire along
the route to Afghanistan. 19
After Zahiruddin Mohammad Babur established the
Mughal Empire in India, his son Humayun nearly lost it to Sher
Shah Suri only after ten years of the death of his father. After
spending five years at Persia in exile, he came back to India
through the same old Khyber Pass. He then built a fort at Peshawar
in commemoration of his victory and named it Bala Hisar Fort
(The High Walled Fort). Another fort of the same name stands at
Kabul and both these forts were the two pillars of Mughal Imperial
strength. But both were connected and secured by the Khyber Pass.
The Mughals made the Khyber Pass a lifeline between Peshawar
and Kabul. The northern routes, north of the Kabul River, lost their
significance and they were practically given up by all the
succeeding invaders. 20
The routes north of River Kabul were actually closed to
the Mughals and were hazardous to negotiate due to the presence
of the Yousafzais who had been displaced by the Timurids (the
Mughals) from Kandahar to Kabul and Kabul to Bajaur, Swat and
Mardan districts. Therefore, the Khyber Pass became increasingly
important as a connecting link between the Indian parts of their
Empire and Kabul, which was the capital of their ancestor and
founder of the Mughal dynasty, Zahiruddin Mohammad Babur. 21
Therefore, the Mughals tried their best to keep it open and trouble
free.
When the Mughals lost Afghanistan to Persia and later on
Ahmad Shah Durrani founded the independent Kingdom of
Afghanistan in 1747, the Khyber Pass remained under the

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suzerainty of the Durrani Kings in theory, if not in practice. The


rights and privileges of the tribes in the Khyber hills were duly
recognized and respected. The Khyber Pass became the frequent
passage of the Afghan army but it was used only after making toll
payments to the Afridis and other Khyber tribes. At one time,
Peshawar was the winter capital of the Durrani rulers of
Afghanistan. Therefore, the Durranis had to maintain the Khyber
Pass to secure communication between their possessions to both
the eastern and western sides of the Pass. 22
In the Sikh period, the strategic needs and requirements
changed and the position was reversed. While the Mughals and the
Durranis tried their best to keep the pass open for military and
commercial traffic, the Sikhs thought it necessary to close the
Khyber Pass, at least for military purposes. They had no
possessions to the west of the Pass and wanted to secure their
possessions on the eastern side of the Pass from the Afghans who
claimed the ownership of a large part of the Sikh Kingdom. They
therefore, constructed the most prominent fort at Jamrud and in
order to back it up with a reserve force, they erected Burj Hari
Singh at a little distance and strengthened the Bala Hisar Fort at
Peshawar. 23
The Khyber Pass always remained an important part of
the British strategy. During the Anglo-Afghan wars, it was the only
strategic pass that was constantly used both for the forward and
backward movements of the invading and retreating British Indian
armies. The British during the days of the ‘Great Game’ attached
great importance to the Khyber Pass and other trans-Indus passes
due to an imminent possibility of a Russian invasion of India
through Afghanistan. In the words of Charles Miller, “For this
reason alone, the Khyber and other trans-Indus passes shared equal
strategic importance with Gibraltar and Suez Canal.” 24
When the British succeeded the Sikhs, they continued to
follow for some time the defensive policy laid down by the Sikhs
but they had already interfered in the Afghan affairs earlier in the
view of the Russian advance into Central Asia. The Great Game in
Central Asia forced the British to adopt the ‘Forward Policy’
towards the frontier, which once again revived the role of Khyber
Pass in the international war diplomacy. Due to the fear of losing
Afghanistan to the Russians, the British fought three wars with
Afghanistan and at the end of the Second Anglo-Afghan War, the
Treaty of Gandamak was signed between the Afghans and the
British, which gave the British the possession of the Khyber Pass.

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However, the tribes in the Pass area created regular disturbances


and finally the British had to sign a treaty with the Afridi tribes in
1881, under which the Afridis promised to keep the road through
the Pass open and secure in return for the payment of subsidies and
tribal allowances by the British. 25
Just as the control of the Khyber Pass was important for a
firm hold on the areas surrounding the Pass, the control of
Peshawar was equally important for the effective use and utility of
the Khyber Pass. As Prof. Ahmad Hassan Dani says, “It was not
possible for an invader to force his way through the Khyber Pass
unless Peshawar offered friendly welcome. If one had military
camp in Peshawar, as it was in the times of the Sikhs and the
British, it was possible to contain the tribes (Khyber) in their hill
resorts.” 26
The importance of Peshawar cannot be ignored in the
British dealing with the Khyberi tribes. The location of the Khyber
tribes was their strength and their weakness at the same time. The
natural positions they held among the spurs and defiles of the
Safed Koh and the bare, rugged and inhospitable mountains of the
Khyber were extremely strong and strategically well placed. The
passes, which the British had to force open, were difficult of
approach and the clans were unanimous and united to defend their
land at the signal of a common danger. But at the same time, the
people of the Khyber Pass and of the hilly land around it were so
much dependent on the plains that their own strong position
became their weakest point. The British could easily shut them up
in their own hills. Peshawar, which used to be the great field for
their plundering operations, was also the market for their produce
and a source of supply for their daily use household necessities.
Exclusion from Peshawar was to many clans a severe form of
punishment and an effectual blockade that would cut them off from
the outer-world would probably bring them to terms sooner than an
expedition. 27
The most valid proof of the strategic importance of the
Khyber Pass can be found in the words of Munshi Gopaldas, who
was associated with the British administration of Peshawar and
wrote the book about the history of Peshawar. He writes in his
book, Tareekh-e-Peshawar:

The western boundary of the Punjab, which is


also the western boundary of the British Empire
in India, is located at a very advantageous

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strategic position. In case of any aggression from


the western side, the enemy will reach our border
after a long and arduous journey through the
difficult mountains and our forces will have no
difficulty to deal with them. It will be difficult
for the enemy to get regular supplies and
reinforcements in time. 28

Another example of how much importance the British attached to


the Khyber Pass is the construction of a very expensive railway
line through the Pass. It was the strategic importance of the Pass,
which made the British undertake this overwhelmingly difficult
task of constructing the railway through the rugged mountains at
such a high cost.
In the post independence period, the Pass still retains its
importance both militarily and commercially. The age of ballistic
missiles and nuclear weapons has considerably changed the
concept of warfare and strategy but this new dimension of warfare
is applicable only to major wars. But in low intensity conflicts and
limited wars, the control of the passes along the Western Frontier
will still be a great advantage to Pakistan. 29
Air power can, no doubt, play an important part in the
frontier combat, but the value of air action should not be
overestimated in these areas because it is handicapped by the
nature of the terrain. Flying has to be carried out at great altitudes
because of hills and air pockets. Consequently, accuracy of aim is
hard to obtain. Paratroops landing are possible on a small scale but
in case of such landings, the adaptability of the force to the terrain,
rather than its size, becomes more important. Apart from the
defending forces, the tribes living in the hills are natural guerrilla
fighters who have jealously guarded their hills over the centuries
against any hostile incursions. The success of any defense plan of
the future in this area will, therefore, rest to a large extent on the
loyalty of the tribesmen towards Pakistan. 30
For Pakistan, it is extremely important that there should
be peace, stability and friendly ruling authority in Afghanistan. In
case Afghanistan does not happen to be strong and friendly
towards Pakistan, the only alternative left for Pakistan will be to
direct her maximum effort towards the defense of the passes on the
Durand Line 31 , including the Khyber Pass. However, the shift of
forces to the Western Frontier will expose Pakistan to a threat from

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the eastern side, which always seems to be more imminent than the
danger from the western side.
A safe journey through the Pass was difficult in old days
and it still depends on the goodwill of those who guard it.
Unwelcomed entrants have suffered severe losses when trying to
force their way through the Pass and one can still notice the
reminders of battles once fought in this dangerous winding pass.
The Europeans and other foreign writers and travelers who visited
the Pass have painted a very dreadful picture of the passage in
words that gives a hint of its strategic importance and history, full
of wars and bloodshed. One Mike Edwards describes it as “the
meanest stretch of country I have ever seen. The Pass bristles with
reminders of violence: forts, picket posts atop every dominating
crag, even concrete dragon’s teeth, planted to stop German tanks
when Britain feared a strike into India during World War II.” 32
This legendary narrow defile is speckled with innumerable plaques
commemorating the otherwise forgotten deeds of heroism of those
who fought to take and hold the Pass.

IMPORTANCE FROM TRADE AND COMMERCE POINT OF VIEW

The Pass has been as important a highway of conquest as it has


been as an ancient trade route between Afghanistan, Central Asia
and Indo-Pakistan subcontinent. Because of its eminent
accessibility, the Pass has always been the high road to India and
Southern Asia from Central Asia. It remains vitally important
today in all commerce and communications between Pakistan and
Afghanistan. 33 Although on the route from Kandahar to Kabul,
Pakistan is accessible through a number of passes, such as the
Bolan, the Tochi, and the Kurram, but the most convenient route to
Pakistan runs from Kabul to the Khyber Pass via Jalalabad, with
the shortest possible distance of only 190 miles. 34 It has always
been the favorite route for the traders from where they could have
an easy access to the seaports of Pakistan, moving onward from
Khyber to Karachi via Peshawar. In the more recent past, transit
trade agreements between Afghanistan and Pakistan allowed
Russian goods to roll unimpeded down to the Indian Ocean. 35
For centuries, trade caravans moved to and from Trans-
Oxiana (Mawara-an-nahr in Arabic) in Central Asia to the plains
of the Indus and the Ganges. Accompanying these caravans were
merchants and missionaries, preachers and propagandists of
different philosophies and also artists and architects, starting from

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Bukhara, passing through Amir Timur’s Shahr-e-Sabz, across the


Iron Gate that divided the Sogdian Kingdom from the Kushan
Bactria, over to Tirmiz, the divine place of Oxus crossing, and then
the mountain cities of old Bagrama (near Charikar) and Kabul, the
caravans finally knocked at the Khyber Pass that opened its gates
and welcomed the tired travelers to rest in the caravan serais of
Peshawar – ‘the first coming city’ (Pesh-awardan). 36
This trade traffic between Central Asia and the valleys
around the River Indus and Ganges dates back to the pre-Islamic
era. Along these trade convoys, caravans of human civilizations
also traveled from Central Asia to India through the Khyber Pass
and settled there in the fertile valleys of Indus and Ganges. 37
When the Kushans established their empire with its
capital at Peshawar in the first century AD, the Khyber Pass had by
then become a regular trade route. 38 The Pass gained more
importance and vitality as a domestic and international trade route
in the 16th century when a proper road was first built through it. 39
In the British period, the sight of the passing by caravans
through the Khyber Pass is so well portrayed by Rudyard Kipling
in the poem The Ballad of King’s Jest:

‘When Spring-time flushes the desert grass,


Our kafilas wind through the Khyber Pass.
Lean are the camels but heavy the frails,
Light are the purses but heavy the bales,
When the snowbound trade of the north comes down,
To the Market-square of Peshawar town.’ 40

The old slow and sluggish trade through the Khyber Pass by
caravans of camels and other pack animals has now been replaced
by convoys of speedy vehicles with huge capacity to load the trade
items. The nature of the trade has also changed from local and
regional to international imports and exports of commodities of
Japan, China, Korea, Germany, England, and France and more
recently cheap goods from Russia. Local tribesmen now fly to
Hong Kong and Singapore to open their warehouses there and then
manage to transport their goods across Pakistan to Afghanistan via
Khyber Pass, in the name of Afghan Transit Trade but mostly
smuggled back into Pakistan. With the changing nature of the trade
through the Khyber Pass, it is no longer limited to the linkage
between South Asia and Central Asia. It has now turned into a hub
of free world market. This land locked and hill-girt passage that

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once gave opening to world conquerors and indomitable


migrations has now become a network of fast growing exchange of
trading goods from all over the world. 41
The legendary Khyber Pass has an important role to play
in the years to come in view of the recent political changes in
Central Asia, which have created a major stir in the political,
industrial and commercial circles of Pakistan. These developments
across the border in Afghanistan and Central Asia are likely to
have far more important imprints on the future of Pakistan and the
whole region. The breakup of the Soviet Empire has given birth to
new states in Central Asia, whose economic independence and
even survival will depend upon the finding of new outlets and
routes for their trade and global links. Both Odessa in southern
Ukraine and Vladivostok in south-east Russia are too far, so their
shortest, nearest and most viable overland outlets as of necessity
are towards the south, passing through Pakistan’s Tribal Areas and
Baluchistan southward to the deep-sea ports of Karachi and
Gwadar. 42
With these new prospects of international trade with
Central Asian Republics, ‘the old caravans may return in the new
garb. The old camels may not be seen any more 43 but the new
trucks and vans may roll down the Khyber road and bring together
men and their goods from distant corners and re-establish the old
historical links that were broken during the 70 years of Communist
regime in the former Soviet Union. 44
The Geo-strategic importance of Khyber Pass fluctuated
in different periods. It was not so frequented a route in the remote
past but when the Kushanas established their empire on both sides
of the Khyber Pass, it gained tremendous importance. For the
Mughals, it was the most important, shortest and direct route to
connect their possessions on both sides of the Pass. The Afghan
rulers needed the Pass to ensure their hold over Peshawar and their
possessions in the Punjab. The Sikhs kept the Pass open for trade
purposes but they were fearful of Afghan invasions through the
Pass and, therefore, constructed the Jamrud Fort to make sure that
the Passage of Afghan invading armies through the Pass could be
blocked at its eastern mouth. In the British period, the Pass was of
vital importance during the Great Game for the movement of their
troops to Afghanistan if and when Afghanistan’s position as a
buffer between British India and Russia was threatened.
In the post 1947 period, the Pass temporarily lost some of
its strategic importance as there was no prominent threat of a

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military invasion through the Pass. Despite of disputes regarding


the Durand Line, the Afghans were never too strong to be
considered a threat for Pakistan. However, the Soviet occupation
of Afghanistan renewed the importance of Khyber Pass as a
military route.
The demise of the former Soviet Union once again
reduced the military importance of the Pass. There was a
worldwide geo-strategic shift in the post cold war era. Militarism
and warfare were replaced by trade and struggle for economic
supremacy. In this new global scenario, Khyber Pass as the
shortest and most viable trade outlet for the landlocked Central
Asian Republics, has again put the crown back on the head of the
Khyber Pass, retaining its reputation as the “Monarch of the
Passes.”

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JAVED IQBAL , THE GEO-STRATEGIC

END NOTES

1
An extract from Lord Nathaniel Curzon’s Lecture, “Frontier: The
Romance”, delivered in the Sheldonian Theater, Oxford, on November 12,
1907 and published by the Clarendon Press, Oxford in the same year,
quoted by Azmat Hayat in the Introduction of his book, Durand Line, p.
xvi.
2
Ibid., pp. xvi-xvii.
3
S. Iftikhar Hussain, Some Major Pukhtoon Tribes Along the Pak-Afghan
Border, ed. M. Y. Effendi (Peshawar: Area Study Center, University of
Peshawar, 2000), p.164.
4
Azmat Hayat Khan, The Durand Line: Its Geostrategic Importance, ed.
M. Y. Effendi (Peshawar: Area Study Centre, University of Peshawar &
Hanns Seidal Foundation, 2000), p.12.
5
Ibid., pp. 12-13.
6
Ibid., pp. 16-17.
7
Ibid , p.14.
8
Lal Baha, NWFP Administration under British Rule 1901-1919
(Islamabad: National Commission on Historical and Cultural Research,
1978), p. 51.
9
James W. Spain, The Pathan Borderland (Karachi: Indus Publications,
1985), p. 25.
10
Charles Gray Robertson, Kurram, Kabul & Kandahar: A Brief Record
of Expression in three Campaigns under General Roberts (Lahore: Sang-
e-Meel Publications, 1979), p.171.
11
Ahmad Hassan Dani, Romance of the Khyber Pass (Lahore: Sang-e-
Meel Publications, 1997), p. 7.
12
The figure is different in different sources. Two other variants of this
figure are 3,518 and 3,867.
13
Spain, The Pathan Borderland, p.25.
14
Teepu Mahabat Khan, The Land of Khyber, ed., Qabil Khan (Peshawar:
Uzbek Publishers, 2001), p. 32.
15
A. Z. Hilali, “Geo-Political Importance of Afghanistan”, in Central
Asia, Journal of Area Study Center for Russia, China and Central Asia,
University of Peshawar, No. 33, Winter 1993, p. 82.
16
Syed Abdul Quddus, The Pathans (Lahore: Ferozsons Pvt. Ltd., 1987),
p.118.
17
Encyclopaedia Britanica, 11th edition, Vol. 6, S. V. “Khyber Pass”, by
William Benton Publishers.
18
Quddus, The Pathan, pp. 115-116.
19
Victoria Schofield, North-West Frontier And Afghanistan (New Delhi:
DK Agencies Pvt. Ltd., 1984), p.49.
20
Dani, Romance of the Khyber Pass, p. 43.
21
Ibid, p. 43.
22
Ibid, p. 46.
23
Ibid, p. 46

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24
Teepu, The Land of Khyber, p. 36.
25
Dani, Romance of the Khyber, pp. 48-49.
26
Ibid, p. 41.
27
H. C. Wylly, The Borderland: The Country of the Pathans (Karachi:
Indus Publications, 1998), p.265.
28
Rai Bahadur Munshi Gopaldas, Tareekh-e-Peshawar (Lahore: Globe
Publishers, n.d), p.142.
29
Hayat, The Durand Line, p.14.
30
Ibid, p. 17.
31
Danni, Romance of the Khyber, p. 190.
32
Schofield. , North-West Frontier And Afghanistan, p. 49.
33
Hilali, “Geo-Political Importance of Afghanistan”, p. 82.
34
Hayat, The Durand Line, p. 16.
35
John C. Griffiths, Afghanistan: Key to a Continent (Colorado: Westview
Press Inc., 1981), p. 152.
36
Dani, Romance of the Khyber, pp. 9-11.
37
Mohammad Shafi Sabir, Tareekh-e-Suba-e-Sarhad (Peshawar:
University Book Agency, 1986), p. 50.
38
Mumtaz Ali, Political and Administrative Development of Tribal Areas:
A Focus on Khyber and Kurram, (Peshawar: Area Study Center for
Russia, China and Central Asia, University of Peshawar, Ph. D. thesis) p.
44.
39
Hussain, Some Major Pukhtoon Tribes, p. 31.
40
George Macmunn, The Romance of the Indian Frontiers (Quetta: Nisa
Traders, 1978), p. 24. The complete text of the poem and other poems of
Rudyard Kipling can be seen at “A Complete Collection of Poems by
Rudyard Kipling”, Poetry lovers’ page (Online), July 20, 2006,
http://www.poetryloverspage.com/poets/kipling/kipling_ind.html
41
Dani, Romance of the Khyber, pp. 63-64.
42
Hussain, Some Major Pukhtoon Tribes, p. 164.
43
Although most of the foreign electronic goods and other valuable trade
items are still smuggled through different hilly passages laden on camels
and ponies.
44
Dani, Romance of the Khyber, p. 85.

128
“HUMAN RIGHTS” THROUGH THE PRISM OF
HISTORY

KHALID MANZOOR BUTT


GC UNIVERSITY, LAHORE,
PAKISTAN
ABSTRACT

The current concept of Human Rights is a product of


modern age. Stated precisely, it is the outcome of the
World War II and emergence of the United Nations in
the mid 20th Century. As far as present perception of
Human Rights is concerned, it has evolved over many
centuries. Sometimes historical incidents and
sometimes revolutions unfolded a new dimension in
the concept of Human Rights. It goes without saying
that the concept of Human Rights had an
evolutionary process. On certain occasion people at
the helm of affairs and conflicts between the nations,
were instrumental in growth of the idea of Human
Rights, but sometimes the idea was treated with
contempt. However, contribution of different cultures
and civilizations in the evolution of Human Rights
cannot be ruled out. History testifies to the fact that
people had been striving since times immemorial to
secure liberties, deploying different strategies against
usurpers and tyrants.

KEY WORDS: Human Rights, Europe, Slavery, League of Nations, UN,


American Revolution, French Revolution, Imperialism.

The conceptual underpinnings on which the discourse of Human Rights


hinges on, are the right to life, right of belief, liberty, dignity, property,
and justice. During the ancient and the middle-ages, people by and
large wanted to have four basic rights, i.e., Right to life, Right of belief,
Right of property and Right of justice. If the history of Human Rights is
to be traced, one starts with King Hammurabi of Mesopotamia around
2000 BC. In this regard Micheline R. Ishay writes:

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The Historian, vol. 05, no. 02 (July-Dec. 2007)

The rules contained in Hammurabi’s code have a


far-reaching influence in this respect. Aiming at
ensuring the integrity of the judiciary, they called
for removal of corrupt judges. There were also
laws against calumny: if a person were wrongly
accused, the accuser would suffer the punishment
that would have been inflicted on the accused. Yet
the most important contribution of Hammurabi’s
laws resides in the notion of progressive justice,
illustrated by the talion principle “eye for eye,
tooth for tooth. 1

Generally speaking, right from the dawn of history the marginalized


segments of the society like the women, the poor, the slaves and the
religious minorities had been maltreated, abused, exploited and
remained victims of injustice. During the rule of Babylonian King,
Hammurabi (b.1795-d.1750 BC), these segments were granted certain
rights and those rights were generally respected by the society and the
government. In this regard, B.V. Rao sheds light on the conditions of
the slaves and women during the period:

Slaves were better off in Babylonia because they


enjoyed certain rights such as owning of property,
marrying with freemen, and right to buy their
freedom with their saving… . During the age of
Hammurabi women enjoyed rights such as owning
and disposing of property and freedom to pursue the
profession of their choice. They were given right to
divorce. 2

Hammurabi’s period is well-known in the early recorded history for its


humane touch. Making of laws on different social and moral matters
reflects that the ruler was interested to ensure peace and safety of life to
his people. “Hammurabi’s letters to the governors and princes confirm
that the King took pains to preserve the interests of the weak and the
helpless”. 3
The ‘Cyrus Cylinder’ is considered a valid document showing
some important principles of Human Rights. According to the
Cylinder, citizens of the empire were allowed to practice their religion
or faith without any restriction. It put on hold the centuries old
institution of slavery and introduced system of paid-workers to
construct different palaces and forts for the king. So, the exploitation of

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KHALID MANZOOR BUTT , “HUMAN RIGHTS”

slaves was minimized quite substantially thus giving them a sense of


relief. It is pertinent to mention here that the Cylinder also contained
the protection of the rights to liberty, security, freedom of movement,
the right of property and the protection of economic and social rights.
In the Empire, citizens of all religions and ethnic groups had been
granted equal rights without any discrimination. Hence, the way Cyrus
ruled his people, it is quite evident that he treated people in a humane
manner and gave them respect and dignity. Cyrus deservedly stands out
as the protector of Human Rights in the history of humanity.
Indian king Ashoka (304–232 BC) is another epitome of
tolerance and human rights. He gave rights to the people to practice any
religion or faith of their choice. India came to be known as a kingdom
of peace and prosperity because policies were framed to serve people
and not to rule them. O.P. Chauhan writes about Ashoka: “After his
brutal conquest of Kalinga in 265 BC … he adopted Buddhism …
during his reign, he pursued an official policy of non-violence
(AHIMSA) and protection of Human Rights, as his chief concern was
happiness of his subjects. 4 In the 3rd century BC, he had set some
unique principles of Human Rights in the Maurya Empire of ancient
India. Ashoka treated his subjects as equals regardless of their caste,
creed and religion, and tried his best to ameliorate their lot.
Most religions had given certain rights to the people and none
of them encouraged killing, cheating, stealing and mistreating others.
The main objective of almost every religion is to protect life, honour
and belongings of people and to provide them a peaceful life. An
emphasis has been placed on mounting mutual trust in the society
where people could help and care for each other. Inter-religions and
intra-religion intolerance remained a bone of contention among people
and nations which undermined Human Rights. The Crusades were the
prime example in this regard. These wars broke out between the
Christians and the Muslims in the name of religion from 1095 AD to
the 13th century with short and long breaks. This religious intolerance
could not wipe out any of the two religions and established that they
had to live side by side. It is a fact that intolerance had swallowed
millions of believers in the name of belief. Conflicts and wars between
followers of religions were the hallmark of the medieval period.
Magna Carta had tremendous political significance in the
medieval age as far as Human Rights were concerned. The document
signed by King John Lackland of England in 1215 granted certain
rights to barons relating to property, taxation and imprisonment. The
Magna Carta provided some relief to the barons of England and

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provided them protection from the limitless powers of the king. J. A.


Rickard explains the Magna Carta:

It contains sixty-three sections that limit the powers


of the king and protected the church, the barons, and
all other classes of England people from his arbitrary
acts…. Section thirty nine provided that no freeman
should be detained or punished “unless by the lawful
judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.”
Other provisions limited the amount of fines to be
collected, regulated the seizure of private property for
public use, and prohibited long imprisonments before
trials. 5

The Magna Carta was the first step towards curtailing the powers of the
King of England and putting a check on some arbitrary laws. It
provided some security and freedom to barons which subsequently
were termed as Human Rights. The important among them were the
right of the church to act independently from the state authority, the
right of all free citizens to inherit and own property and be saved from
excessive taxes. It also gave right to widows who owned property to
choose not to remarry. Although Magna Carta provided some rights,
not available earlier, yet condition of the commoners, the women and
the slaves remained as miserable as ever. So, it had brought reforms
only for well-off class of barons but the underprivileged people who
were in majority did not benefit at all.”The transition of Europe from
the Medieval to the Modern Age was characterized mainly by three
features: Firstly, a great intellectual movement known as the
Renaissance, secondly, the Age of Discoveries which followed by and
third, the Reformation.” 6
Machiavelli (1469-1527) is regarded as the first political
thinker who espoused the ideas of secularism and nationalism. He
stressed the need to separate religion from politics. According to Ernst
Cassirer, “It has been said that Machiavelli developed a new political
science, just as Galileo had founded a new science of nature.” 7 M. Judd
Harmon’s opinion about Machiavelli is: “Machiavelli’s approach is
purely temporal. Religion and Church are considered, but only insofar
as they relate to the matter of the secular unity. Machiavelli rejects all
those theological foundations for government that had been part and
parcel of medieval thought.” 8
His ideas were considered “modern” because Machiavelli took
politics out of the realm of religion. It not only curtailed the political

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clout of clergy but also promoted the idea of the nation state. It should
be stated that secularism laid the foundation on which the whole
structure of Human Rights discourse had been built. Many scholars
have argued that religions had caused numerous national and
international conflicts in history and increased human miseries.
Martin Luther, another exponent of secular ideas, struggled all
his life to separate church or religion from the state. Instead of seeking
pleasure in life hereafter, he advocated to find happiness in this life.
Ishay states about Luther:

Martin Luther (1483-1546), the first to formulate


Protestant principles, called for the centrality of the
Bible as primary authority on issue of faith; the return
to simple liturgies; separation between Church and
state; and individual responsibility in matters of
salvation and in finding happiness on each. 9

Francisco de Vitoria, a Spanish theologian and teacher


deserves a special place in history as he used his influence and
managed the native people in Spanish Dominicans of America to
practice religions of their choice. This step by a Christian Catholic
King set a new example of tolerance which was a much awaited right
of the people. The beginning of the modern period witnessed wars
between different Christian sects in Europe. It disrupted the social,
political and economic life of the people. Thus, it forced the people
who were at the helm of affairs to reassess the ongoing conflicts.

The Dominican friar Francisco de Vitoria (1485 –


1546) joined the critical chorus, condemning in the
sixteenth century the conquests and colonial policies
of the Spanish empire and defending the rights of
non-Christians and American native, thereby
becoming the founder of the Spanish school of
international law. 10

Peace of Augsburg was a treaty between Charles V and the forces of


the Schmalkaldic League, an alliance of Lutheran Princess to ensure
tolerance between different sects of Christianity. On the basis of ‘cuius
regio, eius religio’, in the Prince’s land, the Prince’s religion’, it gave
freedom to German Princes to select either Lutheranism or Catholicism
for their people. This peace treaty stopped confrontation to some extent
between the two sects. Ferdinand Schevill explains: “the Peace of

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Augsburg of 1555 must undoubtedly be construed as a victory of


German Protestantism. But it was also, since it took the control of
religion out of the hands of the central authority, the emperor, and gave
it to the princes, a victory for the principle of decentralization.” 11
After the Magna Carta, the Peace of Augsburg was an
important political milestone in shaping the concept of Human Rights.
However, these political developments could not stop religious wars
between and among the states having different faiths, and people
continued to suffer in the name of religion. Consequently, in the 17th
century, a prolonged war, which continued for thirty years, took place
in Europe between states having different sects of Christianity. As the
warring states drained their resources, they were forced to sign a treaty
in Westphalia, Germany in 1648. It actually promoted a sense of
religious tolerance among the confronting states for peaceful co-
existence. At the same time it reinforced the ruler’s right to choose
religion for his people. However, an individual was debarred from
choosing religion of his own choice. “It was only after the Thirty
Years’ War (1618-1648), by the Peace of Westphalia, that some sort of
a religious truce was established and Lutheranism and Calvinism were
accepted on par with Catholicism.” 12
The Treaty of Westphalia has been regarded as a turning point
for the modern concept of sovereignty of state. It reduced the role of
religion in politics. Religion could no longer be used as a tool to
interfere in the affairs of other states, which had caused numerous
conflicts in history. It was noted that religious intolerance had
generated vicious effects on the people.
In fact, religious freedom has three corresponding freedoms,
i.e., freedom to assemble, freedom of expression and freedom of
association. For that matter, the Treaty of Westphalia enjoys unique
importance because it ushered in a new era of religious tolerance and
co-existence, and somehow halted the religious wars between the states
in Europe.
John Milton (1608 – 1674), a renowned English poet and
journalist took one step forward from his predecessor reformists. He
was a great supporter of freedom of press because this freedom
generated freedom of expression as well as freedom to criticize the
government. He tried to wean away the English Society from dogmas.
“Milton proclaimed that importance of freedom of opinion: [G]ive me
the liberty to know, to utter, to argue freely, above all liberties…. If
truth is let free, it will overcome and win over all possible errors.” 13 He
was of the opinion that people should be allowed to form their own
opinions on any matter and they should not be compelled to follow a

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particular opinion or a way of thinking. They should be given complete


independence to have access to information and knowledge. Selective
information and knowledge do not equip people to make decisions on
the basis of reason on any matter. He argued that it was the peoples’
fundamental right to have access to information and knowledge. He
was the leading critic who raised his voice against pre-publication
censorship in England. Eventually Milton’s version about the press
freedom was accepted and the British government was forced to
abandon the prepublication censorship in 1695. It was an important
achievement as for as press freedom was concerned. Thus, Milton’s
ideas created awareness among the people as regard their rights. “The
Habeas Corpus Act of 1679 was promulgated in England … . In the
spirit of the Magna Carta, granted in 1215 by King John to his barons,
the Habeas Corpus established appropriate process for checking the
illegal imprisonment of people by inferior courts.” 14 The Act provided
the people, at least, just trial and shielded them from unfair
confinement of their peers who had been exploiting them by this old
custom. This Act later became instrumental in declaring slavery illegal
in England. So, it gave the people right of free movement.

Glorious Revolution of 1688 had a great significance


in the political history of Britain. It shifted balance of
power from king to the parliament, therefore,
representative of people known as commoners
ascended at the helm of affairs without shedding a
drop of blood. That’s why it is know as Glorious
Revolution in which the Parliament not only ousted
King James II and appointed William and Mary new
rulers of Britain. Then Parliament offered them the
Declaration of Rights as “true, ancient and
indubitable rights of the people of this kingdom. 15

The Bill of Rights (1689) ushered in a new era in which peoples’


representative assumed power. The supremacy of parliament brought
freedom of speech; taxes were levied and army was maintained.

Bill of Rights is a formal constitutional declaration or


legislative assertion by which a government both (1)
defines fundamental rights and liberties of its citizens
and (2) establishes their protection against arbitrary
or capricious interference or infringement by the
government. 16

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It is interesting to note that the Glorious Revolution coincided with the


publication of John Locke’s (1632–1704) ‘Second Treatise of
Government’ which entails the first developed theory of ‘Natural
Rights’. He tried to change the premise of the Treaty of Westphalia
which gave the right to the ruler to choose the religion for his state and
people. Locke was of the opinion that the right should be given to the
individuals to choose and practice any religion. Unlike Plato, Aristotle
and Machiavelli, he thought that individual was the centre of the
political system and the state was bound to protect and fulfil the
aspirations of the individual. Actually, he changed the premise of the
earlier political thought. Locke stressed upon the freedom to practice
any religion because it belonged to the soul of a person. He was of the
opinion that religion should be separated from politics and wanted that
both should work within their respective spheres. According to Locke,
“Government exists to protect life, liberty and property. Civil society
has civil function; it does not exist to compel men to believe particular
religious doctrine or to join religious group.” 17 Jack Donnelly
compliments Locke and states, “Locke is the seminal figure in the stand
of liberalism that grounds the commitment to equal liberty on natural,
or what we today call human Rights”. 18 Despite the liberal theory of
the time in which Locke advocated certain rights (which he called
“Natural Rights”) to people, he did not seem much interested in giving
the same rights to women, slaves and even wage labourers. It meant
that Locke was reluctant to give equal rights to majority of the
population which raised eyebrows of critics.
Voltaire (1694-1778), one of the prominent French
philosophers of the ‘Age of Enlightenment’, was also a supporter of the
religious tolerance and followed the course of Locke and Bayle. He
was also a staunch supporter of the freedom of expression and a famous
phrase is generally attributed to Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you
say, but I will defend till death your right to say it”. 19
Milton and Voltaire were prominent thinkers of the modern
age who not only realized the importance of freedom of expression but
also contributed towards it. They ushered in a new era and their
writings paved the way to win the right of expression for the common
people. Although they supported the right of the people in general, yet
they did not say anything significant to improve the conditions of
women which reflected that they were not in favour of giving equal
rights to almost half population.
In fact these thinkers of the Age of Enlightenment held a
common approach towards detaching the people of Europe from old

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dogmas and religious prejudices and gave them a rational and


pragmatic way of thinking. They inspired people to analyse matters on
the basis of reason. Earlier it was common to analyse things in spiritual,
romantic and traditional ways. Such analysis was designed by the
clergy, feudal and the privileged classes. Most of the socio-religious
traditions were made for strengthening these classes to keep a hold on
the masses. It has been observed that these traditions were mostly
against the interests and rights of the people. So, these thinkers opened
new vistas to thought for people as they started thinking with reason.
This enabled them to demand their rights from these privileged classes
who were at the helm of affairs.
The concept of Human Rights took roots in Europe because it
was far ahead of other regions in advancement of knowledge and
science. Needless to say that knowledge was the driving force to shape
the concept of Human Rights. Consequently in the 18th century, Europe
and America produced some popular movements for the liberty of
people.

The birth of secular universalism took the form of


assault on the intellectual and political edifice of
Roman Catholicism. That structure, seemingly
impregnable during the Middle Ages, now collapsed
under the blows struck by the Renaissance and the
Protestant Reformation, opening up room for the
emergence of humanist thought. Christian ethics thus
shifted from a docile dependence on revealed
knowledge toward an embrace of religious freedom
and freedom of opinion in general. Simultaneously,
feudal authoritarianism grounded on divine
inspiration, yielded to the modern concept of the
nation-state, justified by its protection of natural and
individual rights. The monopolistic feudal economy
gave away to mercantilism and later to free market
based on the individual’s rights to private property.
Finally, a religious tradition that had often sanctioned
merciless and arbitrary killings was now confronted
with laws premised on the individual’s rights to life,
and with an insistence that even warfare must
conform to universal standards of justice. 20

The emergence of Secularism in Europe showed a new


dimension of Human Rights, i.e., religion was a private matter of an

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individual and the state had no authority to interfere in his belief. It was
meant to show tolerance toward faith of others and popularized the idea
of co-existence. The concept of Secularism is misunderstood in various
societies even in the current age and taken anti religious. Actually,
secularism is neither against religion nor in favour of religion. It
emphasis that government has to redress problems of the people with
pragmatic and rational approach and refrain from meddling in the
religious matters. It treats people on equal grounds and considers them
alike human beings without any socio-religious prejudice. A secular
government observes rule of law and provides equal opportunities to all
its citizens. So, secularism led an era in which humanitarianism was
pronounced and people were treated equally, as human beings
irrespective of their religion, cast, race, colour, status and gender.
However, most of the earlier thinkers did not give importance to the
gender equality and considered women inferior to man which was not
acceptable to the modern standards of Human Rights. Secularism was
one of the important ingredients of American and French revolutions
which have been considered a turning point for shaping the concept of
Human Rights.
Although Europe was the centre of Renaissance, liberal
movements and modern philosophies, yet revolution for independence
from imperialism took place in America in the last quarter of the 18th
century. It was the first revolution of its kind in the modern age which
pushed away imperialism. It set the foundation for the rule of the
people and their liberty. Thus the Americans became pioneers in
wining liberty from imperialist powers.
Ishay quotes Jefferson, one of the Founding Fathers and
President of the United States: “Religion”, Jefferson asserted, “is a
matter which lies solely between man and his God”, and therefore it
was necessary that “a wall of separation [be] erected between the
Church and the State.” 21 Likewise, Zafar Ullah Khan describes
American independence in these words:

Thomas Jefferson proclaimed that his countrymen


were ‘free people claiming their rights as derived
from the laws of nature and not as the gift of their
Chief Magistrate’. The poetic Declaration of
Independence proclaimed by the 13 American
colonies on July 4, 1776 said: ‘We hold these truths
to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that
they are endowed by their creator with certain

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inalienable Rights, that among these are life, liberty,


and the pursuit of Happiness’. 22

It is pertinent to note that in the constitution of USA, emphasis was laid


on words ‘ it proclaims that the sovereignty of the people. In this
political system, people would be no more subjects and they would
have equal opportunities to get happiness, safety, justice and welfare. In
1791, with an amendment, a list of fundamental rights of the people
was included in the American Constitution. Indeed, it was a new
beginning as far as rights of the people were concerned and thus
became a role-model for other nations. The American Revolution and
the Constitution affected the people of Europe as well as the subject-
people of the colonies of different regions of the world.
The French Revolution was one of the most important political
events of history. It not only changed the socio-political setting of
France but also had immense impacts on Europe and other parts of the
world. It stressed on the recognition and respect of Human Rights of
the people. The American Revolution was against an imperialist power
and its success culminated in the form of declaration of liberty for the
people. But the French revolution had a different premise and. it was
against the indigenous political system consisting of the monarchy, the
feudal class and the clergy who had subjected and exploited the people
of France for centuries. The French showed a way to the world in
which, instead of the king or the elite classes, the people were made
sovereign to rule themselves. They introduced a new social contract
where people were equal and independent and, thus, free from the
suppression of the traditional ruling classes. “With it, Jacobians and the
defenders of the French patrie proclaimed a new world in which,
‘liberty, equality, and fraternity’ would become, they hoped, universal
norms.” 23 Schevill interprets the American Declaration of Rights in
these words:

The Declaration affirmed that “men are born and


remain free and equal in rights” and that among these
rights are religious toleration, freedom of speech, and
freedom of press. In the sharp reaction to the divine
right theory of the old monarchy, the Declaration
vested sovereignty in people, to whom officials of
every level of authority were held to be responsible. 24

Americana interpreted the French Revolution, “The rationale for the


period is found in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen,

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which affirms the liberty of individual, the separation of powers, the


sovereignty of the people, and civil equality.” 25 Indeed, the French
Revolution was a significant event in real terms which weakened the
class system in Europe. It pro claimed that all men were equal
irrespective of their social, economic and religious background. Indeed,
the teachings of Voltaire, Montesquieu and Rousseau had an impact on
the Revolution. David Thomson writes:

The “Declaration of Rights of Man” – a statement


intended to have universal application and which
certainly had very far-reaching implications. It was
drawn up not for France alone, but for the benefit of
men everywhere who wanted to be free and to rid
themselves of comparable burdens of absolute
monarchy and feudal privilege. 26

The French Revolution became a great source of inspiration


for the down-trodden people who were in majority but remained
subjects under the thumb of the ruling class. It paved the way for
democracy and rule of the people, and it proved to be a great stimulant
for the people of the colonies to free themselves of the foreign rulers.
No doubt, the French Revolution occurred at a place which was known
as a political, cultural and educational centre of Europe. Perceptions
and approaches of the age of Enlightenment were quite pronounced in
the French Revolution one way or the other. It was the beginning of a
change in the social and political setting of Europe. It was regarded as
an important milestone towards Human Rights which had been
significantly shaped during that period. Thus equality, liberty of
individuals, peoples’ participation in governments, freedom of
expression and press, weakening of class system and diminishing
monarchies were important factors in recognizing and securing Human
Rights.
Although the French Revolution and its Declaration had
brought some significant changes for the rights of the people yet it
failed to uproot well entrenched conservative practices from the
political system of France. Nevertheless, judging by 18th century
standards of Human Rights, it was a quantum leap. However, if it is
evaluated by current standards of Human Rights, certain elements were
objectionable, i.e., ineligibility for women, slaves, non tax-payers and
house servants in voting and holding of public offices. Such aspects
reflect that equality among all human beings especially between men

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and women, citizens and slaves was conspicuously missing. Certain


and biases could not be uprooted from the French society.
Industrial Revolution was another important development
which contributed a lot to evoke respect for Human Rights. “The period
between 1770 and 1830 is usually designated as the pioneering stage of
Industrial Revolution and was, in the main, limited to Great Britain”. 27
The Industrial Revolution introduced a new system of remuneration
and then the workers started getting money for their labour. In the
traditional agricultural economy, the ‘barter system’ was in vogue
which meant that a person would get commodities as reward for his
labour. It did not grant purchasing power to the people. Thus, in the
Industrial Revolution, work was rewarded in shape of money which
attracted people to work in industries. Moreover, money could enable
them to improve their lives which had been static for centuries.
Industrialization also generated rural-urban migration and mitigated the
influence of feudalism. Industrial towns and cities became centres of
economic and commercial activities and consequently middle class
occupied an important place in the social, economic and political order.
At the same time, revolutions in France and America also inspired
these bourgeoisie who were liberal, conscious and aware about their
rights. “The Industrial Revolution brought infinite possibilities for the
elevation of the standard of living and the promotion of the welfare of
men.” 28 Meena Anand aptly describes “Historically, the demand for
individual rights was made by the rising commercial middle class
which was the product of the Industrial Revolution. It was already the
accepted ideology of the American and French Revolution”. 29 The rise
of middle class was a direct outcome of the Industrial Revolution. The
middle class was a ardent supporter of Human Rights and liberal
democracy in which they could also have their say. Changes in social
and economic order gave voice and power to the middle class to
envisage a new political system based on a constitution which would
reflect their aspirations. Thus the centuries old political and economic
system of Europe made a retreat.

A leading consequence of the modern politico-social


development had been to give an increasing
importance to the middle classes and that, up to the
time of the French Revolution, it was the middle
classes of Holland and England which had reaped the
greatest benefits from an altered world … it is
therefore not surprising that it was in the main, under
pressure from the English middle classes that the

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stiff-necked monarchy of the Stuarts had been


replaced by the parliamentary regime. 30

Ishay is of the view that: “The nineteenth-century Industrial Revolution


and the growth of the labour movement opened the gates of freedom to
previously marginalized individuals who challenged the classical
liberal economic conception of social justice.” 31 The most important
aspect of the Industrial Revolution was that it had not only urbanized
the people but also shifted the economic and political centre from the
rural feudal to the people of the urban areas. As the centre of politics
shifted to cities and towns, political parties and pressure groups became
active and important. By the end of the 19th century popular democracy
got firm roots in Europe and America which certainly enhanced
importance of the political parties and pressure groups. In order to
expand their political base, the political parties started consulting the
middle class in policy and decision making. As a result, many
individuals from the middle class got important offices in political
parties and compelled their respective governments to give rights to the
people.
The ‘expansion of Industrialization’ and the ‘constriction of
Slavery’ were two important features of the 19th century, particularly in
Europe and the USA. Slavery had a strong link with feudal culture and,
when it got weakened due to industrialization, it put corresponding
effects on institution of slavery. In the circumstances when
industrialization was spreading, secular and liberal movements were in
vogue, the institution of slavery no longer remained compatible. R.
Coupland describes:

Slavery may be defined as the ownership and use of


human property. The master inherits, buys, sells or
bequeaths his slave as he does his pick or his spade.
His treatment of him or her may be controlled, like
the usage of the other possessions, by the custom or
law of the society to which he belongs; but in general
the slave’s life and labour are as much at the master’s
disposal as those of his horse or his ass. …he may be
treated, underfed, overworked, done to death. … The
slave’s soul is almost as much in bondage as his
body. …He cannot lead his own life. He can do little
to make or mar his fate: it lies in another man’s
hands. 32

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The League of Nations defined the phenomenon in these worlds:


“Slavery is the status or condition of a person over whom any or all of
the powers attaching to the rights of ownership are exercised”. 33 No
doubt, slavery was a stigma on the face of humanity and considered a
degradation and humiliation of a human being. According to the
Concise Columbia Encyclopaedia, “Slavery, institution whereby one
person owns another and can extract from that person labour or other
services, found among both primitive and advanced people.” 34 There
was no end to indignities and exploitations to which people had
subjected their fellow beings. Slavery with its numerous
dehumanizing ways and methods was prevalent in almost every
civilization of the world. Slavery was a known practice which was
used in the world to degrade human beings to the level of commodity
and animals.
The institution of slavery was so strong and practiced so
widely by almost every society from the ancient time to the Middle
Ages that none of the civilizations and religions could abolish it
completely. Although, Hammurabi of Mesopotamia and the religion
Islam, had compassionate considerations for the slaves yet they could
not wipe out this heinous practice from their respective societies.

Organized religion and every type of society accepted


slavery as a … part of human activity until the late
18th century, when European philosophers such as
Montesquieu began to speak and write against the
institution. Therefore, opposition to slavery arose and
gained momentum. 35

It is pertinent to mention that, in the middle age and even afterward, the
business of slave trade was at rampage. Traders of the European
countries had brought numerous ships full of slaves from the African
colonies. They used to sell those slaves in the European and American
markets like animals and commodities. The social, cultural and legal
systems were supportive of this degradation of human beings. This
practice was being undertaken in Europe, the cultural, educational,
economic and political hub of the globe. It is astonishing that in the
land of Newton, Voltaire, Locke, Shakespeare, Kant, Bentham and
Michelangelo the human trafficking was going on unchecked.
In the modern age, England took a lead in abolishing the
centuries old institution of slavery. “In 1772, Lord Mansfield, the
English Chief Justice, declared that slavery was illegal in England.
Antislavery societies were founded in England in 1787 and in France in

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1788.” 36 In a case (R.V. Knowles, ex parte Somerset) of slave ‘James


Somerset’, under habeas corpus, the Chief Justice observed and held
slavery unlawful on the basis of restricting the free movement of a man
against his will in Britain, whatever the law may be in any other
country that he is from. This decision of the Court gave a new impetus
to end slavery which was a big hurdle in the way of Human Rights. As
in the presence of slavery, it was difficult to conceive the discourse of
Human Rights. In 1811, it was declared illegal for British ships to
indulge in the slave trade. Eventually, in 1834, slavery was abolished
throughout the British Empire. It played a great role in changing the
perception of the people and provided encouragement to anti-slavery
movement elsewhere.
On the other side of the Atlantic, however, in the USA, the
Supreme Court gave an ignominous decision in the case of Dred Scott
VS. Sandford (slave). Chief Justice Taney with other associate judges
gave verdict in favour of the master in 1857 and put the issue of
elimination of slavery for the time being on back burner in America.

The opinion of the court decided against Scott’s


claim for freedom on three grounds: (1) as a Black he
could not be a citizen of the United States, and
therefore had no right to sue in a federal court; (2) as
a resident of Missouri the laws of Illinois had no
longer any effect on his status; (3) as a resident of the
territory north of 36' 30' he had not been emancipated
because congress had no right to deprive citizens of
their property without due process of law. 37

The decision of the Supreme Court showed that by the middle of the
19th century the racial and social bias was still there even at the top
level. This court was not even ready to accept blacks entitled to have
rights as the citizens of America. At the same time, the slaves were
regarded as property of masters. Thus, this decision of the Supreme
Court reflected the approach and thinking prevailing in America where
all people were not treated equally and the racial and social
discrimination was quite pronounced. It would go without saying that
the champions of liberty and democracy could not stop slavery though
the import of slaves had been banned in America in 1808. This practice
continued and remained part and parcel of their social and economic
order till President Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation of 1863 to abolish
slavery at the eve of the civil war of America. Then, two years after the

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proclamation, the 13th amendment was incorporated in the Constitution


to give a final solution to end slavery in America.
The American constitutional amendment to abolish slavery
also strengthened the ongoing movements against slavery in other
countries of the world. Indeed, it was the second important incident
after England’s ban on slavery. It had great effect on other countries
which followed the same course and slavery started diminishing from
the world. It is worth mentioning that at international level, the slave-
trade could not be abolished, and in many regions slavery was very
much part of the socio-economic system till the dawn of the 20th
century. With the emergence of the League of Nations in 1920, the
issue of slavery came under focus at international level. Then the
League of Nations successfully managed to constitute a Slavery
Convention in 1926 for complete suppression of slavery in all forms
and to ban the slave trade by land and sea.
In the modern age, efforts to abolish slavery started with a
decision of the English Court on the basis of the Habeas Corpus in
1772, however, it was alleviated at international level with the approval
of ‘Supplementary Convention’ of the United Nations in 1956. Indeed
this socio-economic stigma was a great hindrance in the realization of
the ideals of Human Rights. No doubt, with the presence of slavery the
dream to have equality and fraternity could not be realized.
Karl Marx (1818-1883) had deeply observed the fallout of
industrialization and wrote Das Kapital on the subject, which has been
rated as one of the most influential books of all times. He was a staunch
critic of the capitalist economy and depicted it as a tool to exploit the
masses. He also regarded it as the main cause of poverty in the world.
He was of the view that most political systems have been designed in
the interest of the rich class.

Unemployment, low wages, and bad working


conditions increase the misery of the workers, but at
the same time their class consciousness is increased.
A series of crises sweep the capitalist system, each
crisis bringing it closer to the point of collapse. 38

Marx brought a philosophical revolution which became


popular among workers and commoners. Subsequently, many political
parties and pressure groups occupied the centre-stage in politics in the
name of the workers. The popularity of the philosophy of Marx had not
been confined only to the industrialist nations but it had also spread to
the colonies and even non-industrial and backward countries. These

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developments had compelled the capitalists to undertake some


measures to check this tide. Then many reforms were introduced to
redress the problems and grievances of the workers.

The regulation of hours, wages, and working


conditions, the prohibition of child labour, the
establishment of unemployment insurance and
workmen’s compensation, and many more
developments have resulted from legislative
enactments and have created an entirely different
situation for working people. 39

The Philosophy of Marx gave a new hope to the poor and the
working classes regarding their rights. Consequently they organized
themselves and stood up for their rights in many countries. In this
regard, an important incident took place in America in the decade in
which Marx died. The decade of 1880’s has been remembered for a
series of strikes and lockouts of workers for their demands in the USA.
The Haymarket Square Riots in Chicago on May 1, 1886 grew out of a
strike against a factory. In the protest rally of the workers, a bomb
exploded and caused death of many people. This incident has been
marked for the labourers’ rights and every year May 01, is observed as
‘May Day’ or ‘Labour Day’ in most of the countries. Since this
incident, the labour movement got strengthened and became more
active and it united the workers for their rights.
The labour movement had been growing since the 19th century
and, as a result, demands were made for social justice and better living
standards for the labourers. The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 in
Russia also gave tremendous support to the working class. It was
symbolically and politically significant for the downtrodden people to
occupy the center stage. It was the beginning of Marx’s perception of
the ‘Dictatorship of the Proletariats’. Harold J. Laski describes:

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels put emphasis on the


alliance of workers to get their rights which had been
usurped by the upper classes. In Communist
Manifesto they wrote: “Let the ruling classes tremble
at a communist revolution. The proletarians have
nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to
win. Working men of all countries unite:” 40

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KHALID MANZOOR BUTT , “HUMAN RIGHTS”

The Bolshevik Revolution was psychologically a great boost


for the labour movements because this class, for the first time entered
the corridor of powers. Moreover, this Revolution eventually
transformed Russia into a great political and military power.
Subsequently the same ideology enabled them to lead a block of the
socialist countries. Indeed, this revolution strengthened the movement
of the labour class and compelled capitalist countries to redress their
problems and respect their rights. Consequently the governments of
many capitalist countries introduced reforms, and gave rights to the
working classes which actually enhanced the working class politically.
The formation of the International Labour Organization (ILO) in 1919
was another forum which redressed the problems of the labourers of the
world.

Indeed, during the devastating war and its aftermath,


two opposed efforts to institutionalize human rights
emerged: the triumph of Bolshevism in Russia,
initially premised on international socialism, and the
nearly simultaneous establishment of the League of
Nations and the International Labour Organization,
predicated upon progressive liberal notions of human
rights. 41

Most of the cultures, civilizations and religions did not give


rights to women according to the current international standards. Islam
was the first major religion which emphasized to improve social status
of women. Although the Glorious Revolution, Bill of Rights, the
American Revolution and French Revolution were important and big
events of modern age as regard their contribution towards Human
Rights, yet none of them could bring any tangible change for females
which were almost half of the world’s population. They remained
subordinate human beings dependent upon males. By the dawn of the
20th century, in most countries, they were not even allowed to possess
property, sign a contract with somebody, have equal wages, right of
vote and could not even hold a public office. The movement for the
rights of women began in the middle of the 19th century.

1848, The first women’s rights convention in the


United States is held in Seneca Falls, New York …
That outlines the main issues and goals for the
emerging women’s movement. Thereafter, women’s
rights meeting are held on a regular basis. 42

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1878, The first International Women’s Rights


Congress is held in Paris, France … 1912 Theodore
Roosevelt’s Progressive (Bull Moose/Republican)
Party becomes the first national political party to
adopt a women suffrage plank … .1920. The 19th
Amendment, which granted women the right to vote,
is ratified. The league of Women Voters is
established. 43

England, the front-runners of Human Rights and democratic


values, gave right of vote to women over 21 year of age in 1928.
Before that, women over 30 having property had this right since 1918.
Turkey was another European country which granted this right to
women in 1920’s. By the first quarter of the 20th century, in most
countries, the women still had been denied this political right.
The League of Nations remained silent on the issue of Human
Rights. However, its successor the United Nations (UN) took up this
issue with its emergence in 1945. Its preamble proclaimed that women
have equal rights with men and thus tried to change the centuries-old
status of women. It was a commendable effort on the part of the UN to
recognise the rights of women. Three years after the formation of the
UN, its General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights. It explicitly declared equal rights for women and men and set
an international standard to be followed.

Where as the people of the United Nations have


reaffirmed their faith in fundamental rights; in the
dignity and worth of the human person and in the
equal rights of men and women and have determined
to promote social progress and better standards of life
in larger freedom. 44

The UN held a convention in 1952 to give political rights to women


without any discrimination because still in many countries women were
without those rights.

Recognizing that everyone has right to take part in


the government of his country directly or indirectly
through freely chosen representatives, and has the
right to equal access to public service in his country,
and desiring to equalize the status of men and women
in the enjoyment and exercise of political rights. 45

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KHALID MANZOOR BUTT , “HUMAN RIGHTS”

In the same Convention, women’s rights to have vote, contest election


and hold public office had been accepted which gave a social,
economic and political strength to women. Then gradually countries
began to give political rights to women which empowered them and
enhanced their position. The Convention paved the way for women to
get their rights and be treated equally. Thus, they became entitled to
have Human Rights without any discrimination. .
With the rise of mercantilism and spread of industrialisation
across Europe, European imperialism reached its climax. During this
period, many European powers had established political and economic
control over countries and territories in Africa, Asia and in the New
World.

Though the term colonialism and imperialism are


sometimes used interchangeably, yet scholars usually
distinguish between the two, reserving colonialism
for instances where one country assumes political
control over another and using imperialism more
broadly to refer to political or economic control
exercised either formally or informally. 46

A competition ensued among strong European states to colonise


different parts of the world and it embittered their relationships leading
to wars and conflicts. Colonization refers to a powerful state, usually
through military force establishing political control over a weak nation
or people and assuming control. Obviously, this kind of political
control involved the violation of the rights of the colonized. Dozens of
African, Asian and American countries and territories had been
colonized in the 20th century by a few European nations who kept on
exploiting them. With the rise of powers, like Italy and Germany, the
competition to make colonies was further intensified. “Colonization
was one of the major causes of the World War I, which has been one of
the most devastating events in the history of mankind in which more
than 10 million people were killed and more than 20 million
wounded.” 47 There is no second opinion that wars have always brought
massive violations of Human Rights of the people. The WW II was not
different from them because it caused unprecedented losses of human
life and collateral damages.

The human cost is estimated at 55 million dead – 25


million in the military and 30 million civilians. The

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amount of money spent has been estimated at more


than $ 1 trillion, which makes World War II more
expensive than all other wars combined. 48

The massive destruction caused by these conflicts had forced the world
leadership to take measures to stop wars and develop a mechanism of
collective security. It is interesting to note that the some European
imperialist nations were fighting WW II against the ‘Axis powers’ in
the name of democracy and condemned the governments of the
confronting countries as dictatorial or totalitarian regimes. The victors
of the WW II, who were also the forerunners of democracy, had a
moral obligation to review their rule over colonies which was directly
against the very spirit of democratic values and Human Rights. This
wave was not only confined to Europe but also began to spread in other
parts of the world. After the WW II the USA had emerged as hegemon
of the World and started playing her new role for the promotion of
democratic values. Then President Roosevelt of the USA criticized
imperialist powers and urged them to free colonies under their control.

[I]f we are to achieve a stable peace it must involve


the development of backward countries…. I can’t
believe that we can fight a war against fascist slavery,
and at the same time not work to free people all over
the world from a backward colonial policy. 49

This statement of Roosevelt was quite significant for


weakening the moral and political position of the Imperialist Powers of
Europe over their colonies. So, after the WW II, a process of
decolonization began which empowered indigenous people to rule their
own countries. The leaders of the world, as a result, became serious to
draw a mechanism to check conflicts between and among the states and
solve their disputes through peaceful means and negotiations. In 1945,
after a devastating WW II, the UN was formed with the support of
great powers of the world. It was organized to stabilize international
relations, secure peace and stop wars.
The UN Charter provided foundation for peace, security and
equality, and discouraged discriminations on the basis of sex, language,
race, colour and religion. It also encouraged right of self determination
for the people. It was an international revolution which treated all
people of all countries equally and respectfully.

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KHALID MANZOOR BUTT , “HUMAN RIGHTS”

To achieve international cooperation in solving


international problems of an economic, social,
cultural, or humanitarian charter, and in promoting
and encouraging respect for human rights and for
fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to
race, sex, language or religion. 50

The UN has had multiple achievements in health, poverty alleviation,


medicine, economic development, family planning, disaster relief,
education and environment protection. Likewise, its Universal
Declaration of Human Rights has been rated as one of its most
commendable achievements. It had not only evolved consensus of
different nations on the issue but also set international standard for
Human Rights. The year 1948 will be remembered as a great
achievement in the history of Human Rights. Meena Anand gives
compliments to the UN Declaration:

It has been used by the United Nations, by other


international organization and conferences, and by
governments, as a yardstick to measure the compliance
by governments with the obligations deriving form the
Charter in matters of the human rights. It has penetrated
into international conventions, national constitutions and
legislation, and even in isolated cases, into court
proceedings. 51

Although the concept of Human Rights began with King Hammurabi of


Mesopotamia thousands of years ago, yet it got a comprehensive
definition and framework in 1948 with the adoption of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights by the UN General Assembly. Earlier,
the concept had different connotations for different people belonging to
different religions and cultures. However, the UN Declaration has
combined most of regions, cultures, religions and political ideologies in
one broad definition of Human Rights. It is pertinent to mention that an
overwhelming majority of the members of the UN supported and voted
for the Declaration and, later on, ratified it. Thus it became an
acceptable and sacred document. It provided a uniform standard of
Human Rights to all nations and regions, irrespective of their
backgrounds, cultures, religions and ideologies.

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END NOTES

1
Micheline R. Ishay, The History of Human Rights From Ancient Times to The
Globalization Era (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2004), p.28.
2
B. V. Rao, World History (New Delhi: Sterling Publishers Pvt., Ltd., 1984),
p. 38.
3
Ishay, The History of Human Rights, p.36.
4
O. P. Chauhan, Human Rights: Promotion and Protection (New Delhi: Anmol
Publication Pvt., Ltd., 2004), pp.29-30.
5
J. A. Rickard, An Outline of the History of England (New York: Barnes &
nobles, Inc., 1946), p.38.
6
Raghubir Dayal, Modern European History (New Delhi: CBS Publishers and
Distributors, 2007), p.01.
7
Ernest Cassirer, The Myth of the State (New York: Doubleday and Company,
Inc.,1955), p.163.
8
M. Judd Harmon, Political Thought From Plato To The Present (New York:
McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1964, Reprinted by Nizami Press, Lahore,
1988), p.159.
9
Ishay, The History of Human Rights, p.76.
10
Ibid.,p. 99.
11
Ferdinand Schevill, A History of Europe From the Reformation to the
Present Day (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1951), p.215.
12
Dayal, Modern European History, p.04.
13
Ishay, The History of Human Rights, p.79.
14
Ibid., p.85.
15
Lynda S. Bell, et. al., (eds.), Negotiating Culture and Human Rights (New
York: Columbia University Press, 2001), p.25.
16
The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1988. Vol. 3, p.208.
17
Harmon, Political Thought From Plato To The Present, p.256.
18
Jack Donnelly, Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice (London:
Cornell University Press, 2003), p.47.
19
http://www.classroomtools.com/voltaire.htm (Accessed February 2, 2008)
20
Ishay, The History of Human Rights, p.64.
21
Ibid., p.80.
22
Zafar Ullah Khan, Human Rights (Karachi: Pakistan Law House, 2001), p.4.
23
Ishay, The History of Human Rights, p.74.
24
Schevill, History of Europe From the Reformation, pp. 402-403.
25
The Encyclopedia Americana, 1987, Vol. 12, p.68.
26
David Thomson, Europe Since Napoleon (London: Longmans, Green and
Co. Ltd., 1962), p.11.
27
Schevill, History of Europe From the Reformation, p.508.
28
UNESCO (ed.), Human Rights Comments and Interpretations (London,
Allan Wingate, 1948), p.25.
29
Meena Anand, Struggle for Human Rights: Nelson Mandela (Delhi: Kalpaz
Publications, 2004), p.32.
30
Schevill, History of Europe From the Reformation, p.504.

152
KHALID MANZOOR BUTT , “HUMAN RIGHTS”

31
Ishay, The History of Human Rights, p.9.
32
R. Coupland, The British Anti-Slavery Movement (London: Thornton
Butterworth, Limited, 1993), pp.7-8.
33
Khan, Human Rights, p.167.
34
The Concise Columbia Encyclopeadia (New York: Columbia University
Press, 1983), p.779.
35
The Encyclopedia Americana, Vol. 25, p.19.
36
Ibid., p.23.
37
Samuel Eliot Morison, The Oxford History of the American People
Prehistory to 1789, (New York: Meridian, Penguin Books Inc., Oxford
University Press), Vol. 2, 363.
38
Harmon, Political Thought From Plato To The Present, p.400.
39
Ibid., 406.
40
Harold J. Laski, Communist Manifesto Socialist Landmark (London: George
Allen and Unwin LTD., 1961), p.160.
41
Ishay, The History of Human Rights, p.177.
42
http://www.ywca.org/site/pp/asp?c=djISI6PIKPG&b=295706(Accessed May
5, 2008)
43
http://www.ywea.org/site/pp/asp?c=djISI6pIKPG&b=295706 (Accessed
May 5, 2008)
44
United Nation, General Assembly, Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
Preamble, 1948.
45
UN Convention on the Political Rights of Women, 1952.
46
“Colonization”, Microsoft Encarta Encyclopaedia Standard, 2005.
47
“World War 1”, Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia Standard, 2005.
48
Earl F. Ziemke, “World War II”, Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia Standard,
2005.
49
Ishay, The History of Human Rights, p. 180.
50
The United Nations Charter, 1945, Article 1.
51
Meena, Struggle for Human Rights, p.38.

153
CONCEPT PAPER

CONSTRUCTING BHADRAKALI MANDAR


HISTORICALLY

HAROON KHALID
LAHORE UNIVERSITY OF MANAGEMENT SCIENCES,
PAKISTAN

ABSTRACT

Two Bhadrakali temples (mandars) are located in


Lahore, the provincial capital of Pakistani Punjab.
One temple is at the precincts of Thoker Niaz Beg,
while the other is situated at the mohalla phalla
lakhpat rai, inside the walled city. Historians and
archeologists know very little about the construction,
the cults, and the deities of these sites. By taking cue
from the artistic and the architectural remnants of
the temple, this paper explores the historical
possibilities of the construction of temple at Niaz Beg
by locating it into a larger context of Hindu
architectural and aesthetic values. The temple hosts a
principal Hindu festival of the city every year. People
from all parts of the city come to pay their reverence
to the village goddess. A similar festival is also held
at the temple in the walled city for those who cannot
visit Niaz Beg which also explains the significance of
this place for local Hindu community.

KEY WORDS: Bhadrakali Mandar, Punjab, Lahore, Thoker Niaz Beg,


Hindu festival, Hindu art, Hindu temple.

It was the twentieth century Lahore. Every year in the month of Jeth
(between the middle of May and the middle of June), 1 when most of
the people were reluctant to go outside especially in the evenings, the
Hindu community gathered at a temple located at Thoker Niaz Beg 2 in
the outskirt of the city. People from the neighboring cities also used to
take the trip in large numbers taking carts, horses, and other means of

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transportation to reach there. On the way, they placed earthen pots


filled with cold water for the travelers as the thoroughfare was un-
shaded and dusty. Every year, they celebrated the festival for one day
and one night. Not all of them stayed at night, those who did stay also
brought tents with them to avoid heat. Drama, music, art, and rides
were the source of entertainment while Bhang, Sharab along with
sweetmeats were in profusion. The celebration was an amusing break
from the hardships of life. Many Sikhs from Amritsar also took part in
the festival. 3 This historical temple, Bhadrakali Mandar is still located
at Niaz Beg. The Bhadrakali Mandar is the designation given to the
dwellings of the Bhadrakali. Bhadrakali is the placid form of the Kali
Mata, who appears as a ferocious deity, when she kills the demon by
sucking out all the blood out of the body. Kali Mata emerged at the
periphery of the Indian society but over time as her recognition grew,
she found a place in the accepted Hindu pantheon. She is frequently
described as, ‘terrible and frightening, with black or dark skin usually
no clothes, and long-disheveled hair. She is adorned with severed arms,
which act as her girdle; wears freshly cut heads as necklaces; children’s
corpses as earrings, serpents as bracelets. She has long-sharp fangs, she
is usually depicted to have long nails on claw-like hands, and blood is
smeared on her lips.’ 4 The adulation of the Kali Mata is not confined to
any particular geographical region. In Bengal, however, she finds her
most zealous supporters willing to give blood sacrifices for the patron-
goddess. Kanhiya Lal is the late 19th century researcher who surveyed a
variety of monuments in Lahore and penned their portrayal in his book,
Tarikh-i-Lahore. He saw no icon of the deity but found a calf placed in
a smaller dome inside the sanctuary. The detached body parts are
compounded with the Kali Mata because they emblemize the
repudiation of worldly pleasures. Besides the chief patron goddess,
there may have also been other minor goddesses which were paid
deference to by the pilgrims. These deities were worshipped on the first
and the second floor. It is believed that the deity reveals an awesome,
disruptive, and violent aspect during the annual festival as she
confronts the demon disrupting the life at the village. 5
The nature of festivals held at this temple highlights the very
significance of this place among the Hindus of Lahore. This article
attempts to explore the temple from three aspects: one part deals with
the spiritual significance of the temple; second part discusses the
genesis of the temple by inferring from primary sources; and the third
portion highlights the architectural and aesthetic aspects of the temple.

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HAROON KHALID, CONSTRUCTING BHADRAKALI MANDAR HISTORICALLY

(I)

Large Hindu temples are usually not just one building but have a
number of adjacent monuments, symbolically attached to the worship
of the deity. Some of these structures are pool, Samadhis, wells, and
Banyan tree. The Bhadrakali Mandar had all of these. The construction
of Hindu temples in medieval period was a complex process which
involved charms, spells, and astronomy based predictions. After the
selection of place for the priests, the Sadhus, necessary rites were
performed before the construction.
Like almost every temple, large pool of water is also present at
the temple. Water is deemed to be one of the basic elements out of
which all has been made giving it a symbolic-metaphysical rendition.
In Hinduism, water is considered to be a spiritual force that purges
physical and numinous blemishes. The pool was also a blessing for the
pilgrims during the severe summers of the subcontinent. The depth of
the pool at the Bhadrakali is around 25 feet. 6 There were stairs flanking
the pond on all the sides. There was a detached covered arrangement
for women too. 7 Water came in from the wells found in large quantities
at the nearby region. This water was then collected in the white
buildings standing on each corner from where it entered the bath. 8
There were 12 wells and 5 Baolis in the surrounding. 9 A Baoli
is a large well with a staircase that led all the way to the base of the
well. During summers families used to assemble near the foundation to
get respite from the heat. 10 The only Baoli that was not integrated into
the residential quarters has been enclosed with debris. Water was
extracted from the wells by the Persian wheel.
Some of the ashes from the cremated corpse of an essential
Sadhu is secured, and placed in a container. It is then buried and a
Samadhi is constructed over it to identify the spot. Samadhi more often
than not, becomes a mini-temple where generally, an idol of the
deceased is placed and then worshipped. Five Samadhis exist at this
vicinity.
Sadhus are male-ascetics who repudiate family and worldly
associations for the life of religion. They usually shave their heads and
let a tuft of hair on the crown of the head grow. 11 They are non-
Brahmin twice born who take up the sacred thread for the rest of their
existence as part of their initiation. Their activities vary from teaching,
touring villages, preaching, and study. 12 They are also responsible for
taking care of the image and performing the daily rituals. 13
The Sadhus who’s Samadhis we find at the Bhadrakali
Mandar must have been the people who would have been responsible

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for the day to day functioning of the temple. They must have been the
supervisors of the large agricultural land that belonged to the deity.
They also would have been responsible for making the necessary
arrangements for the annual festival. People from Niaz Beg would have
played an important role too in the daily functioning of the temple by
giving donations to the Sadhus. The Sadhus would have each day
woken, bathed, and fed the deity, besides which, they would have
worshipped it daily. Over the years there must have been a number of
Sadhus who would have stayed at the Bhadrakali Mandar however
these five Sadhus who’s Samadhis we find present here right now must
have done something important to be bestowed with this honor of being
granted a Samadhi.
A Banyan tree may also be found at the site. The shade of the
Banyan tree is relished in the hot country life of the subcontinent and
for that reason; one notices its significance in the Indian religious
philosophy. Bhagavad-Gita, one of the holiest books in Hinduism says
about this tree: “Of all trees I am the banyan tree, and of the sages
among the demigods I am Narada.” 14 The Banyan tree is one of the
largest trees in the world which covers vast areas under its fall. Some of
these trees are thousands of years old and have sizes that may be
multiplied into acres. These trees also escort large temples. The one
adjacent to this temple has been recently incised and only its shaft still
exists. In the Hindu philosophy, it is considered improper to cut a
Banyan tree and such a tradition is also present in many parts of the
rural Punjab in Pakistan. Where the tree encroaches upon the houses of
the people, they prefer to shift to a new place, instead of cutting the
tree, therefore, such callous treatment meted out to this particular
Banyan tree clearly depicts how aloof these inhabitants are from the
Punjabi cultural sentiments.

(II)

Nothing is written on the structure and we find no detail in historical


document which could unearth the history of this temple. In the late
19th century, Kanahiya Lal refers to this temple as being “old”, but that
is not suffice for our research. 15 ‘Old’ in the context could connote the
early British days and also ancient times which leaves a large period of
time to probe. Kanahiya Lal mentions about the origin of an alternate-
Bhadrakali Mandar which was summoned by Ranjit Singh. There is a
rationale to accept this assertion that this temple is a latter assembly
compared to the original building as it is referred to as the ‘new temple’
in Tarikh-i-Lahore. 16 If the original monument was previously being

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HAROON KHALID, CONSTRUCTING BHADRAKALI MANDAR HISTORICALLY

used and this was a new construction intended to replace that Mandar
then one can contest the assertion that the original temple was
constructed during the occupancy of Ranjit Singh. Had Ranjit Singh
ordered the erection of the ‘original’ edifice then he would not have
summoned the assembly of a new architectural monument. Moreover,
if it was this case then Kanahiya Lal could mention it. Due to this very
reason, the origin of this ‘archetypical’ structure lies prior to the tenure
of Ranjit Singh.
Before Ranjit Singh’s rule, Lahore was politically unstable
because different parts of the city were controlled by three Sikh
Sardars. The triumvirate rulers were too busy in consolidating their
control that they altogether ignored the patronage of culture and art;
still one cannot overlook other prospects which could lead to the
construction of this temple in the later half of the eighteenth century.
The construction of mauza Niaz Beg began in 1717. 17 A
reasonable assertion may be that the place of worship was erected soon
after the inauguration of the town. When Ranjit Singh captured Lahore
in 1799, Subha Singh, one of the rulers of Lahore fled to Niaz Beg,
then a small town and declared it as the capital of his lost kingdom. 18 It
can be assumed that the locality received considerable patronization
during this brief period of six months. The construction of temple may
possibly be traced during this period as the structure is well outside the
walled town. It is a likelihood that as the people began to move outside
the walled city because of the increase in population, the building was
raised during this period.
Often in the history of the subcontinent, whenever a new ruler
emerged, he legitimized his rule by down-playing previous monuments
and by raising new ones. Ranjit Singh’s case is in point who
constructed a new grander temple to replace the existing one.
Moreover, if Subah Singh had constructed the monument Kanahiya Lal
could have mentioned it. He rather chooses the word “old” which raises
the possibility that the structure was constructed even before the Sikh
rule. Another evidence which may subscribe to this assertion is the
pattern of architecture of the building. Still this understanding is
problematic. It is a possibility that the original building, which is
termed as “old” by Kanahiya Lal, was razed and a new structure was
constructed over it or a supplementary structure was erected. It would
not be easy to glean various influences, either Mughal or Sikh
elements. Nonetheless, such approach cannot be substantiated without
further investigation.

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(III)
Like many monuments in the city, Bhadrakali Mandar reflects Sikh
derivation. 19 It is of 20-25 feet standing on the plinth of about six feet.
The building was originally white in color which became black over a
period of time, perhaps due to increasing pollution. Like Sikh
philosophy, the fundamental feature of the Sikh architecture is also
hybrid in nature which derives inspiration from Muslim and Hindu
styles. 20
The Baradari with the temple is made of small bricks which
were used in the late Mughal architecture. 21 The floral motifs on the
wall may not be termed as a particular Sikh style, however, the vases
and floras on the splinters reflect the influence of Sikh architecture. 22
Depictions of living beings are the typical examples of Sikh art. 23 One
may not detect any such portrayal but a closer assessment reveals the
red tail of Hanuman on one of the walls of the baradari. The rest of the
depiction is obscured by the construction of a wall across the mural.
Primarily green, orange, and red colours are used in the frescoes.
In front of the remnants of the Baoli is a niche in the wall,
composed of little bricks. It is difficult to identify whether these bricks
are small than the ones found at the baradari as they are bonded
together more compactly. 24 It is more likely that it was a later
construction. 25 The entrance towards the northern side has two simple
arches parallel to one another. The fresco-floral patterns on the walls of
baradari are similar to other monuments in the city. The color of the
arches is yellowish whereas red bricks are used elsewhere. The arches
appear much older than their surroundings and the size of bricks is
much smaller as well. The bonding of the bricks on the arches is
stronger than anywhere else. 26 Such observations lead us to a number
of interpretations: First, either the frescoes were added subsequent to
the alternate-Bhadrakali Mandar, or the motifs were re-created at the
baradari. Second, the arches do not portray Sikh tendencies to
embellish the margins with art and architectural works but are left
unornamented portraying late Mughal architectural elements. 27 It may
be inferred that the arches are older than the rest of the monument.
The discrepancy between the ‘archetypical’ and the
‘supplementary’ construction is obvious in the framework of the second
entrance. It is different from the architecture of ground floor and the
second floor. 28 Piers, which are sustaining the upper building, end
where the wall of the entrance commences. Generally when a two-
storey building is constructed, the architectural motifs are
homogeneous for the ground and the first floor. Here we see a margin
where the wall ends, and then the second building commences making

160
HAROON KHALID, CONSTRUCTING BHADRAKALI MANDAR HISTORICALLY

it highly plausible that the first floor was constructed during the Sikh
rule and the ground floor before it. 29
The Sikh motifs on Samadhis reflect the architectural
development after late Mughal era. 30 The arches are decorated as
shallow cusp shaped. 31 The floral and the vase patterns in the frescoes
are typical Sikh architectural style. 32 The construction of the dome is
similar to the one at the alternate-Bhadrakali Mandar. However,
Samadhis were possibly constructed before Ranjit Singh.
The main building of Bhadrakali Mandar is white and had
three floors. More than half of the building is damaged, and the other
half is being used as a residential quarter. The front elevation is in a
terrible state. Fresh walls have been built to partition the temple
between families resulting in major alteration in the building. On the
first floor, two shallow cusp arches are visible whereas the third larger
arch with a façade is from the Mughal repertoire. 33 Once again there is
a difference between the ground and the first floor. The former is made
up of closely laid small bricks with no clear design patterns and the first
floor is beautifully decorated with arches and piers. The motifs end at
the first floor. 34
Decorative arches are a fundamental feature of Sikh
architecture. 35 Opposite to the pool, the arches on the ground floor are
without any pattern or fresco paintings suggesting its pre-Sikh origin. 36
The western side is comparatively in a good condition, and the style is
similar to the first floor. Inside the building are remnants of luster
frescoes. 37

CONCLUSION

The purpose of this concept paper is to trace the origin of the temple. It
is too difficult to ascertain the exact date of its construction, however
various elements in the building may lead us to conjecture. The
deliberation that yet need to be settled is that whether it was
constructed during the tenure of six months under the direct supervision
of Subha Singh when he declared Thokar Niaz Beg as his capital. The
enormity of the project itseld refutes the possibility of the monument
being constructed in such a short period of time. It is a question and a
research problem that needs to be resolved by the archeologists and
historians.
Some of the architectural and artistic elements ensconced in
the monument are inspired from Mughal style. There is nonetheless an
option that it was constructed before the creation of Niaz Beg. There is
enough proof of the fact that it would be the only settlement on the

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The Historian, vol. 05, no. 02 (July-Dec. 2007)

bank of Ravi encircled by Jungle close to this proximity This might be


a possibility, because first of all there is a rampart that protects the
temple from the environs, and secondly in India, there has historically
been the practice of constructing Hindu temples deep in the forest away
from the civilization. Could Bhadrakali Mandar have been such sort of
a temple? One limitation of studying the architectural relics is that if
the original temple, which Kanahiya Lal coins as ‘old’ was razed
before a ‘modern’ building was constructed over it, then it would be
impossible to discuss the origins of the temple without any excavations.
Given the at hand architectural and the historical evidence there are
strong reasons to believe that the temple was established somewhere in
between the beginning and the middle of the 18th century, when the
adjunct town of Niaz Beg was also under its way.

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HAROON KHALID, CONSTRUCTING BHADRAKALI MANDAR HISTORICALLY

END NOTES

1
A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Bhagavad-Gita As It Is (Los
Angeles: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International, 1989), p. 538.
2
Niaz Beg used to be a small town, in the outer-skirts of Lahore. Its distance
from the walled city is around 6 kos. In 1877, the number of houses, and the
people at the town were counted to be 1076 and 2806 respectively. Now the
state of affairs is different. Niaz Beg has been assimilated as a small industrial
hub by the incessantly expanding metropolis of Lahore. The town, which was
once 2 km from the Multan road now strands on it. The most current survey of
Niaz Beg accounted for 28,682 houses, and 215,302 people. The town is named
after Niaz Beg Mughal, a landlord of the early 18th century, who laid its
foundations.
3
Gazetteer of the Lahore District (Lahore: Sang-E-Meel Publications, 1989),
p. 84.
4
David Kinsley, Hindu Goddess: Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu
Tradition (New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1987), p. 116.
5
Ibid., pp. 204-5,
6
Iqbal Qaiser Personal Interview with, June-July 2008.
7
John C Oman, Cults, Customs and Superstitions of India. (London: T. Fisher
Unwin, 1908), 206.
8
Ibid.
9
Iqbal Qaiser Personal Interview with, June-July 2008.
10
Ibid.
11
Raymond B Williams, A New Face of Hinduism: the Swaminarayan
Religion, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), p. 94.
12
Ibid., pp. 92-3.
13
Ibid., p.98.
14
A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Bhagavad-Gita As It Is, (Los
Angeles: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International, 1989), p. 538.
15
The word used is Kadeemi, which is translated as old. P201-2, Hindi
16
Ibid.
17
Mufti G Sarwar, Tarikh-i-Maqhzan-e-Punjab (Lahore: Dost Associates), p.
232.
18
Mohammad Tufail, ed. Naqoosh Lahore issue (Lahore: Adara Faroqh-e-
Urdu, 1962), p. 111.
19
Rizwan Azeem, Personal interview, July-Aug. 2008.
20
Iqbal Qaiser, Personal Interview, June-July 2008.
21
Rizwan Azeem, Personal interview, July-Aug. 2008.
22
Ustad Saif, Personal interview, July-Aug. 2008.
23
Ibid.
24
Rizwan Azeem, Personal interview, July-Aug. 2008.
25
Ibid.
26
Ibid. .
27
Ustad Saif, Personal interview, July-Aug. 2008.
28
Rizwan Azeem, Personal interview, July-Aug. 2008.

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The Historian, vol. 05, no. 02 (July-Dec. 2007)

29
Ibid.
30
Ustad Saif, Personal interview, July-Aug. 2008.
31
Rizwan Azeem, Personal interview, July-Aug. 2008.
32
Ustad Saif, Personal interview, July-Aug. 2008.
33
Rizwan Azeem, Personal interview, July-Aug. 2008.
34
Ibid.
35
Ustad Saif, Personal interview, July-Aug. 2008.
36
Ibid.
37
Ibid.

164
REVIEW ARTICLE

IMAGINATION AND REPRESENTATION IN


HISTORICAL DISCOURSES
(CARR, EVANS, AND JENKINS)

HUSSAIN AHMAD KHAN


NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF SINGAPORE,
SINGAPORE

BOOKS REVIEWED:

EH CARR, WHAT IS HISTORY, LONDON: PENGUIN, 1987. ISBN-13


9780141037738.

RICHARD J EVANS, IN DEFENCE OF HISTORY, LONDON: GRANTA


BOOKS, 1997. ISBN-10: 0393319598.

KEITH JENKINS (ED.), THE POSTMODERN HISTORY READER, LONDON


& NY: ROUTLEDGE, 1997. ISBN-10: 0415139031.

No composition, no decomposition, no analysis


into identities and differences can now justify the
connection of representations from one to
another; order the table in which it is specialized,
the adjacencies it defines, the succession it
authorizes as so many possible routes between
the points on its surface--- none of these is any
longer in a position to link representation or the
elements of particular representation together.
The condition of these links resides henceforth
outside representation, beyond its immediate
visibility, in a sort of behind-the-scenes world
even deeper and more dense than representation
itself. 1

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The Historian, vol. 05, no. 02 (July-Dec. 2007)

Michel Foucault’s above quote underlines the representational


or memory crisis in the postmodern world which is largely
shaped by conflicting ideologies/agendas, strategies of control
and homogenization, and the processes of globalization and
decolonization. These developments challenged the ‘accepted
truths’ and prompted intelligentsia to re-think the very basis
of historical understanding. Emerging discourses re-define the
role of imagination in historical narratives and critically
viewed the utility or (ab) use of, what is supposedly, an
historical representation. This review essay intends to
examine the questions of imagination and representation as
addressed by post-empiricist, reconstructionist and
referentialist approach deployed by Edward Hallet Carr and
Richard Evans, and post-modernist, deconstructionist, and
anti-representational approach adopted by Jenkins and
Lyotard.

(I)

Self designated radical historian, Edward Hallet Carr believes


in the sanctity of facts, objective representation of past, and
construction of narrative as a definitive mode of knowing
past. At the same time, he relates this ‘objectivity’ with
historian’s imagination, giving it a twist of historical
relativism. Facts do not mean “anything until the historian has
got to work on it and deciphered it..... (the process may be
termed as) processing process...because no document can tell
us more than what the author of the document thought.....”. 2
Therefore, historian needs “imaginative understanding for the
minds of the people with whom he is dealing...”. 3 In order to
make his text intelligible, historian uses current connotations
(like revolution, war, freedom, empire). 4 Carr goes on to
explain that “the function of the historian is ..... to master and
understand it (past) as the key to the understanding of the
present”. 5 Thus, history is “a continuous process of
interaction between the historian and his facts, an unending
dialogue between the present and the past”. 6 Here Carr relates
objective representation with historian’s imagination, use of
contemporary language structure and circumstances. One
wonders, what kind of past-exactness is this!
By extracting strength from Hegelian
essentialization, Carr terms both society and individual as

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HUSSAIN AHMAD KHAN, IMAGINATION AND REPRESENTATION

inseparable entities. 7 To him, self-knowable truth is possible


which can be used for understanding the society as well as
individual: “.......the study of differences between American,
Russian, and Indian society as a whole may well turn out to
be the best way of studying differences between individual
Americans, Russians, and Indians”. 8 Historian should focus
on important personalities and events because in a particular
situation “...nameless millions were individuals acting more
or less unconsciously, together, and constituting a social
force. The historian will not in ordinary circumstances need to
take cognizance of a single discontented peasant or
discontented village”. 9 Carr severely criticizes the distinction
between society and individual. 10
Carr equates historical representation with scientific
observations because both share the same features like
prediction, 11 objectivity, and generality. 12 Keeping in view
the spirit of Enlightenment, he argues the use of historical
representation in service of present and future. He strongly
believes in progress, and to him, history is a tool to know
about that sense of progress: “a society which has lost belief
in its capacity to progress in the future will quickly cease to
concern itself with its progress in the past”. 13
To conclude E H Carr’s point of view, historian’s
imagination in interpreting facts (a processing process), is a
kind of referentiality within a particular context, and he
assigns and infers intrinsic meaning in the historical
discourses, i.e., to know about present and to envision future.
Carr’s failure to appreciate the impossibilities of
referentialism and representationalism primarily because of
the inability of memory to recollect past as it was, makes him
a typical post-empiricist and rationalist historian who draws
strength from redundant colonial discourses.

(II)

Despite conceding the subjectivities in historical discourses


and unresistible attacks of postmodernism, Richard J Evans
claims the possibilities of reconstructionism. 14 Historian has a
limited choice of words as he is imprisoned by the available
text/evidence, 15 however, readers assign their own meanings
to the text. 16 In other words, historian is compelled by his
sources to interpret past within a limited space, but readers

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have no such constraints. Evans ignores that historian is also a


reader at one stage when he reads a text for constructing past.
In historical imagination and its representation,
historian cannot take liberty of generalization and
essentialization. One of the serious drawbacks of
generalization is the negation of an individual “in favour of
anonymous groups and trends”. 17 Similarly, history cannot be
reduced to a text, in doing so we would be able to capture
“only a small part of its reality”. 18 Evans rejects the
Saussuarian tradition and claims that the language and
grammar can reflect the reality of the past because both
(language and grammar) “have evolved through contact with
the real world in an attempt to name real things”. 19
By giving the example of Abraham affair, 20 Evans
contends that historical evidence cannot be moulded
according to historian’s wishes, and the legitimacy of an
interpretation lies in its acceptability to a wider audience. By
stating so, Evans concedes that contemporary power
structures define our understanding of the past. And past is
used to serve our present in ideological, moral and political
domains. 21 Despite acknowledging limits of objectivity and
crisis of representation in historical discourses, Evans insists
that “...we really can, if we were very scrupulous and careful
and self-critical, find out how it (distortion in history)
happened and reach some tenable though always less than
final conclusions about what it all meant”. 22

(III)

“History is theoretical all the way down”, claims Keith


Jenkins, and we should “consider the question of the nature of
history/historiography in its various ontological,
epistemological, methodological and ideological/discursive
manifestations, (and we)..... should be especially aware of that
theorizing which currently lives under the rubric of
postmodernism”. 23 Like Lyotard, he believes that the
circumstances of postmodernity are given and a logical
consequences of the failure of modernity. 24 Two variants of
Eurocentric discourses; bourgeois and proletariat cults have
been radically reassessed by the contemporary academia.
Attempts for identifying the “real foundations” of social
processes have lost vigour leading to the “postists

168
HUSSAIN AHMAD KHAN, IMAGINATION AND REPRESENTATION

formulations (poststructuralism, postcolonialism,


postfeminism, postmarxism.....)”. 25 Like upper case history,
Jenkins finds similar problems in lower case histories which
is read for its “own-sakism....(and is a) mystifying way in
which a bourgeoisie articulates its own interests as if they
belonged to the past itself”. 26 Thus, lower case histories are
“as ideological as those of the upper case”. 27 Both are
“metahistorical constructions, (and) are like all constructions,
ultimately arbitrary ways of carving up what comes to
constitute their fields....(such understanding is thus) a sort of
end of history”. 28 New sensibility of postmodernism has
exposed the problems in empiricism as well: “for empiricism
as a method, just cannot account for the significance it gives
to the selection, distribution and weighting of ‘the facts’ in
finished narratives”. 29
Similarly, Lyotard in Postmodern Condition argues
that the ideological grand narratives are deployed to
essentialize the “order” which is centred upon white-male,
rationality, democracy and European. To legitimize “order”,
“disorder” is created which centred around women,
irrationality, dictatorship and non-European. Construction of
such binaries and ideological grand narratives form the very
basis of historical imagination and representation. Thus,
knowledge (including historical imagination and
representation) as a whole is channelized by the postmodern
states to achieve their own objectives, and to produce able-
bodied, docile minds.
From the above discussion one may discern different
views about the nature and utility of historical imagination
and its representation in the form of narrative. To some
extent, ‘perspectivism’ may align these theorists in one
category (some may dispute over Jenkins inclusion). They
recognize the role of imagination in historical discourses, and
associate subsequent variations in thought to the time and
space (which involve ideologies, cultural and social
constructs, etc.). However, the basic point of contention is to
what degree this construction is comparable to the reality?
Jenkins claims that it is far beyond the reality, while the other
two theorists maintain the possibilities of reconstruction of
past as it was. However, both (Carr and Evans) make a case
of utilizing the past to understand present and to draw lessons
for the future. This is the point where history becomes a tool

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The Historian, vol. 05, no. 02 (July-Dec. 2007)

or technology of control, as investigated and well-argued in


postcolonial literature. As experienced by the postcolonial
societies, local knowledge was displaced, communities and
castes were re-configured and defined, binaries were
constructed in the name of science, truth, democracy, freedom
and progress. Such utility of past invokes postmodernists to
visualize the existence of various and usually conflicting
ideologies within historical text serving their specific agendas,
objectives, or missions by taking refuge of truth and progress.
Keeping in view the increasing influence of postmodernism in
social sciences and humanities, Jenkins’ assertion is
somewhat plausible that the people are now smart enough to
look ahead without taking guidance from the constructed and
imagined past. 30

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HUSSAIN AHMAD KHAN, IMAGINATION AND REPRESENTATION

END NOTES

1
Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archeology of the Human
Sciences (London: Routledge, 2005), pp. 238-239.
2
EH Carr, What is History (London: Penguin, 1987), p. 16.
3
Ibid., p. 24.
4
Ibid., pp.24-25.
5
Ibid., p. 26.
6
Ibid., p. 30.
7
Ibid., p. 32.
8
Ibid., p. 33.
9
Ibid., p. 50.
10
Ibid., p. 52.
11
Ibid., p. 62.
12
Ibid., p. 63.
13
Ibid., p. 132.
14
Richard J Evans, In Defence of History (London: Granta Books, 1997),
p. 253.
15
Ibid., p. 106.
16
Ibid., p. 107.
17
Ibid., p. 188.
18
Ibid., p. 110.
19
Ibid., p. 112.
20
Ibid., pp. 116-128.
21
Ibid., p. 195.
22
Ibid., p. 253.
23
Keith Jenkins (ed.), The Postmodern History Reader (London & NY:
Routledge, 1997), pp. 1-2.
24
Ibid., p.04.
25
Ibid., p.04.
26
Ibid., p.06.
27
Ibid., p.07.
28
Ibid., p.08.
29
Ibid., p.10.
30
“we now have enough intellectual power to begin to work for an
individual and social emancipatory future without it (History).” Keith
Jenkins, Refiguring History: New Thoughts on an Old Discipline (London
& New York: Routledge, 2003), pp.1-2.

171
LIA LITOSSELITI, GENDER AND LANGUAGE: THEORY AND
PRACTICE (GB: HODDER EDUCATION, 2006)

The issue of gender and language is a diverse and rapidly developing


field of study, which has both academic and popular appeal.
Litosseliti’s this book provides a broad overview of key issues and
questions related to the gender and language, and it aims to do so in
both theoretical and practical ways. It introduces key theoretical
concepts and frameworks and illustrates and exemplifies the
relationship between gender and language use, by looking at specific
texts (spoken and written), situated in different contexts. Moreover,
each chapter contains questions and suggestions for further reading, to
allow those new to the field to locate the issues discussed in that
particular chapter critically and in context.
The book has been craftily structured in three parts. Part I
consists of three chapters and concentrates on the point that past
theorizations of gender and language revolved mainly around how
language has been used by women and men differently while more
recent approaches are concerned with how women and men are
constructed through language. As far as the chapters in this part are
concerned, chapter I describes early feminist and non-feminist
approaches to the study of gender and language. It focuses on key
elements of early study in this area, such as sexist language, and the
language change and intervention Chapter 2 concentrates on past
approaches related to the differences between male and female speech,
and with the varying interpretations of such differences.
Chapter 3 examines more recent theorization of gender and
language. Instead of reliance on binary and generalized distinctions
between male and female language use, the focus is on gendered
discourses and identities (femininities and masculinities) and on gender
as a contextualized and shifting practice rather than a relatively fixed
social category. In addition, like a learned and skilled writer, Litosseliti
has given different definitions of discourses in chapter 3. She says that
our gendered identities are not simply about being male or female, but
about doing or performing one’s gender at any one time.
Part II is based on the assumption how gender is discursively
constructed in education (chapter 4), in the media (chapter 5) and in the
workplace (chapter 6). The issues and theories discussed in Part I are
further exemplified in Part II. Sexist language, gendered discourses,
power relations and ideologies pertaining to these texts are also
analyzed in this part.

175
Part III consists of only one chapter which provides the broad
introduction to some of the principles, approaches and decisions
involved in conducting research on gender and language. This chapter
is very helpful for new researchers in the area and a good resource for
both the teachers and students. By introducing the key principles of
feminist linguistic research and providing different samples of
activities, study questions, and resources, the writer has made this
chapter so much interesting and informative.
It is an interesting book for gender and language studies. Each chapter
is provided with a summary. Further readings at the end of each chapter
are also given to explore comprehensively different issues discussed in
that particular chapter. It is useful in offering a new reader an informed
account of past, current, diverse and controversial voices in the field
and a thought provoking examination of some of the ways in which
theory permeated practice. .

FATIMA ZAFAR BAIG


BAHAUDDIN ZAKARIYA UNIVERSITY,
MULTAN

176
MADHAVI DESAI (ED.), GENDER AND THE BUILT
ENVIRONMENT IN INDIA (NEW DELHI, 2007)

Women’s movements across the world have been one of the


characteristic features of the last century. These movements have
significantly been successful in the sense that they have generated
changes in social patterns, roles and the life styles, even transforming
the identities of the people. Similarly the relationship between gender
and the built environment has become part of the conceptual
framework of the related professions in Europe and the USA. But this
is not the case in countries like India, Pakistan, Srilanka, Nepal and
Bangladesh. There must have been very few regions in the world where
architects have such varied challenges as we have in South Asia.
Madhavi Desai, an adjunct faculty at the School of
Architecture, CEPT, Ahmadabad and an architectural practitioner did
her Masters in Architecture from the University of Texas, Austin, USA
(1978). Besides two books, she has published several articles and has
presented papers at seminars in India and abroad.
In “Gender and the Built Environment in India” Desai has dealt with
two broad and crucial issues; one woman as designers and the other as
users of the built environment. She has tried to bring the feminist
consciousness to the built environment in South Asia with special focus
on India. The book is a collection of articles dealing with gender and
the built environment in terms of public places, institutions, homes, and
the transport. It also highlights the works of women as designers and
women as construction workers. The articles included in this book
mainly resulted from the papers presented at the symposium on
‘Gender and the Built Environment’ organized by Women Architect
Forum, Ahmadabad, India.
At all levels of life, the ideals and reality of the relationship
between men and women is expressed in built form. Traditional and
Cultural rules govern the use of space and codes regulate behaviour
between genders. The space for women in the built environment is a
matter of great concern. They are the neglected group of the society
with almost no claim to the house, being dependent entirely on the
patriarchal social structure. Following the general trend in society, a
woman’s place (so they say) is in the home, yet a design of a home
rarely includes a space that the woman can call her own. Similar is the
case with the public transport which is primarily used by women and
children. The book also mentions the appropriation of spaces by men

177
through urinating in the public spaces, thus constraining women’s
freedom in many ways.
Historically, decision making, architecture planning and urban
policy have been male dominated. This social construct has changed
over the last decade or so and today women are better represented in
urban planning as well as in housing policy. The kitchen is coming
closer to the living room instead of being the farthest place in the
house. Findings from a study in Nepal show that houses with less
gender disparity had more comfortable spaces in their homes. Yet much
more is required to be done in this regard. Perhaps men should leave
the decision making in architecture entirely to the women.
Although the book lacks a concluding chapter to tie up the
diverse strands of thoughts presented in different articles, the balance is
created with a nice introduction by the editor. In one of the articles a
similar paragraph is printed twice, which seems to be a composing
error but it better should not have been there in a book of international
standard. On the whole, it is an excellent piece of work which attracts
the attention of the planners, architects and designers who can benefit
from this book to make the private and public places more comfortable
for all members of the society.

RANA FAQIR MUHAMMAD ASLAM


BAHAUDDIN ZAKARIYA UNIVERSITY,
MULTAN

178
JEHANGIR BADER, THE EVOLUTION OF DEMOCRACY
(LAHORE: AIZAZ-UD-DIN TBM PUBLISHER, 2007)

Democracy is the modern way of life. Today it is not merely a political


system. All spheres of human life are influenced by it. In view of the
overwhelming importance of democracy in everyday life it is difficult
to imagine a world without it. But there was a time when we had a
world without it. It was the society where tyranny and autocracy
reigned supreme and provided hardly any space to individual liberty.
Mankind was facing the brutalities and suppression of worst kind. It
was from this stage of social life that human beings struggled to make
the future of their generations. Millions of people sacrificed their lives
for the sake of democracy. History stands witness to this fact that the
ideals of democracy were given life by revolutions, rebellions and
movements. Modern historian A.J.P.Taylor is of the view that systems
and organization don’t come out of nowhere. They have a cause and a
history. The ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity didn’t get
materialized after the French Revolution. They had to wait for more
than hundred years to get materialized. After the First World War
democracy, socialism and liberalism came in the West. But soon
democracy crumbled and gave way to dictatorship. The dream finally
came true after the Second World War. This is how things evolve
through different phases of history.
The book is a classic description of the evolutionary history of
democracy. There is no denying the fact that the modern form of
democracy had to evolve through many phases in history. It is a matter
of great pleasure that this entire perspective has been detailed and
analyzed by a seasoned politician like Jehangir Bader whose personal
struggle for democracy is itself a great contribution to the cause of
democracy. Mr. Bader needs no introduction. But the words of Shaheed
Benazir Bhutto written in the foreword of the book are worth
mentioning. ‘Bader Sahib is not a weak person. Bader Sahib has
courage, bravery and a deep sense of honor and every political worker
and leader should have these characteristics: courage, bravery and
sense of honor. His courage was tested in 1977 when he was given the
sentence of lashes. Today people are not being lashed yet.’ As the
author has struggled for democracy in Pakistan, he gives a thorough
analysis of the state of democracy in Pakistan. The book also provides
the author’s understanding of Islam and its compatibility with modern
democracy. In this way the book comes out to be an analytical
discourse on the history and the relevance of democracy in the modern
world.
It is important for the adherents of democracy to see how the
first seed of this noble cause was sown, how attempts were made to

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organize the society and what stages of evolution democracy had to
undergo. The author starts with the code of Hammurabi as the first
formal document meant for organizing the society. The text of the code
is certainly an eye opener. Hammurabi was the fourth ruler of first
Babylonian Dynasty. He was a great conqueror and a big monarch. But
the cause of his eternal fame resides in the code he introduced to run
his kingdom. There is no law in the code having anything to do with
religion. ‘An eye for an eye’ is the basis of criminal law. The code
provides protection to all classes of society. Next important document
in line is the Ten Commandments. It is primarily a moral and social
code. The provisions are very explicit and call for an ideal social order.
These Commandments went a long way in providing better living
conditions to mankind. The author enlists the law of Manu-Smtri as the
next most important document aiming for better social order. Basically
the purpose of referring to this ancient law is to analyze that how
thoroughly it contributed in Hindu civilization. The law defines a social
order peculiar to Hinduism.
After drawing a thorough perspective and deeply analyzing
the ancient laws the author comes to Islamic code. He opines ‘if
influence, extensiveness, comprehensiveness and longevity be made the
touchstone and all codes of history are to be judged by it, no worldly
law will be able to pass all the stages of this scrutiny. But Islamic code
is the only one capable of standing every test.’ Mr. Bader gives an
incisive analysis of Islamic code and its impact on society. After
presenting a detailed perspective of some important laws in human
history, the author comes to the history of democracy. The chapter
‘Democracy in Ancient Times’ provides a great deal of information.
Contributions of philosophers and thinkers are well appreciated. Three
important historical events stand supreme in their grand contribution
towards the cause of democracy. Who can contest the significance of
Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence by United States of
America and the French Revolution. Three separate chapters are given
for a detailed account of these events and their contribution for the
cause of democracy. After this the author studies three examples of the
rule of people. The history of the development of democracy in United
Kingdom, United States of America and South Africa is discussed at
length.
It is important to note that democracy didn’t have a fruitful
experience in most of the Muslim societies. The question arises as to
whether Islamic law is essentially democratic? Mr. Bader contests this
misperception. He examines aspects of political system in Islam and
evaluates their compatibility with modern democracy. The author is of
view that since Islam is the religion of peace and better social order it
provides best form of life to its adherent. It is primarily progressive in

180
nature and encourages the process of change. Therefore the best and the
most relevant side of the religion should be used in the larger interest of
the ummah. The interesting and absorbing part of the book is the
author’s analysis of the experience of democracy in Pakistan. This
account covers all the essential political details till the signing of the
charter of democracy.
The book provides all the essential details regarding the
evolution of democracy. There is no denying the fact that people have
sacrificed a lot for this noble cause. Their interest may not be directly
safeguarded by this political system but they know that the welfare of
the society is deeply attached with it. Today the dream has not fully
materialized for a great number of people living in different parts of the
world. Third world countries are a worst example of autocracy and
oppression. Political parties and leaders are struggling for liberation
from the clutches of authoritative elements. But it is not as simple to
fight out these forces. This book serves as a handbook to
revolutionaries. They can very well know that how ideals are achieved.
Jehangir Bader has given very comprehensive details of all the relevant
informations for a reader’s purpose. It would contribute largely for the
spread of awareness.

TARIQ AZIZ SINDHU


CIVIL SERVICES ACADEMY,
LAHORE

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Notes for Authors

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