Prof. Chitralekha Zutshi was interviewed by India Today on the occasion of her book launch in Delhi earlier this month.
Chitralekha Zutshi, one of India's premier scholars, believes the politicisation of history is not new. "History has always been political. Every state uses the past for ideological reasons," says the William and Mary College professor of history, who has authored two books on Kashmir, edited another last year titled Kashmir: History, Politics, Representation and is currently working on the biography of Sheikh Abdullah.
What do you think of the rewriting of the historical narrative in contemporary India?
As an historian I tend to take a longer perspective and can tell you that history has always been written and rewritten to suit particular political agendas. The contemporary rewriting of the Indian historical narrative is the latest in a long series of appropriations of the past to serve the needs of the present moment. Syncretism, for instance, was part of the secular nationalist narrative, with Kashmiriyat as an extension of that idea, created to make the presence of a Muslim majority region in India more palatable, by asserting that somehow the Islam practised by Kashmiri Muslims was inflected with Hinduism. It was and remains a way of appropriating Kashmiri Muslims, and I think we need to jettison both Kashmiriyat and Islamisation as terms when we study Kashmir because they distract from the political issues that are at the heart of the situation there. My new edited volume, Kashmir: History, Politics, Representation, moves beyond these terms into exploring the complexities of Kashmir from multiple perspectives.
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