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Words at war

Amaresh Mishra’s book “War of Civilisations” was launched in New Delhi recently

photo: S. SUBRAMANIUM

History and his story The Vice President (centre) releases the book as Salman Khurshid, Natwar Singh, Amaresh Mishra and Kapish Mehra look on

When eminent figures like Vice President Hamid Ansari, former Cabinet Minister Natwar Singh and former Minister of State for External Affairs Salman Khurshid gather on a single platform to speak about a book and its author, ripples are bound to be created. And so it happened, when author Amaresh Mishra’s book “War of Civilisations”, published by Rupa, was formally launched at the Vice President’s residence in New Delhi recently.

The two-volume work has already interested academic and political circles for it presents the East-West conflict in the light of what is known as India’s First War of Independence through some painstaking research that has never come to light before.

“Born out of anger on the history of 1857”, the book, Amaresh said, takes into account various Muslim schools, such as Deoband, and their great contribution to 1857 Uprising.

“How can you write the history of 1857 without mentioning their contributions? Most Anglo-Indian writers have been anti-Deoband. They had a political agenda while writing this book. The war killed one crore people, virtually 7 per cent of India’s population then! In Moradabad, 500 ulema (Islamic scholars) and madrasas were wiped out, 10 lakh Sanatan Dharmis were murdered. For all that we demand an apology from Great Britain,” asserted the author.

Added the Vice President, “What interested me most about the book are its sources. The author has used authentic British standard records and the rare one, the Imperial Gazetteer of India.” He added in a lighter vein that he wanted to purchase the book in 1980, when its cost was Rs.6000 against his salary of Rs1500.

“Amaresh has done a great service to the collective consciousness of India. I would call the book revolutionary,” said the Vice President, pointing out that while the perceived insult to Harbhajan Singh in Australia during the recent tour by the Indian cricket team had become a national issue and an apology called for, an apology had not been demanded for a tragedy like Jalianwala Bagh.

“Calling it the “first such comprehensive book” Natwar Singh agreed, “The British Government should say sorry.” On whether politicians claiming to be saviours of Muslims may use it for political benefits, Singh quipped, “Even if they do it, they won’t be benefited by it. The issue is beyond sectarianism. If BJP and RSS are truly national, it is time for them to take a stand.”

Candid stand

Praising the book for its “candidness and honesty that would stand as a signpost in libraries and reading forums,” Salman Khurshid said, “It is good to say that we want an apology but first, let’s ask for apology from each other for what happened in Gujarat, Mumbai, Meerut, Jabalpur, Moradabad. Apology spoken as a dialogue is much better than the apology announced from the dais.”

RANA SIDDIQUI

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