24 July, 2021

Chaining 1,200 Years

Our PM’s recalculation of how long Indians have been ‘slaves’

Chaining 1,200 Years

Good lawyers and good historians have one thing in common: both are quick to spot the crucial small print that ordinary folk miss the significance of. So, as politicians and the media were concentrating on the big picture of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s maiden Lok Sabha speech, historians were struck by his reference to “1,200 years of slavery”, which, he said, had left Indians with a slavish mentality. “This slave mentality of 1,200 years is troubling us,” he said. “Often, when we meet a person of high stature, we fail to muster courage to speak up.”

What is troubling historians, though, is his view of India’s colonial history, which, according to him, spans 1,200 years. The conventional view is that it lasted 200 years—those of British raj. So where did the remaining 1,000 years come from? Clearly, Modi was propounding what Mridula Mukherjee, former professor of modern Indian history at JNU, described as the “standard Hindu communal view of history”, which regards the period of Muslim rule also as a...

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