The study of history is the study of time and place as unified within a single event. The truth of the written word is undeniable all the more so as it eventually becomes a part of an archive of human communication and life on the planet.
The South Asian region has witnessed upheavals, changes, wars, and flux in boundaries. The creation of new boundaries and new states created the need to recoin relationships across these boundaries. Relationships between these nations have witnessed turns and shifts witnessed in the changing pattern of reporting of history by the respective historians of the region.
As new nations sprouted up on the world map, a separate rigid and Neolithic mentality was born which required in its wake a similar rendition in the way history of the South Asian region was to be written. History recorded over the past five to six decades is a case in point. Historic events of the area being the same, they were presented from various angles.
Dr Mubarak Ali, a historian from Pakistan, suggests, “historical aberrations” found in the history of India and Pakistan should be done away with so that hatred and misunderstandings between these two nations can come to an end.
It goes without saying that curriculum developers are central to the entire debate because naturally their preference is always to present the point of view of their culture, values, religion, politics and relations with friends and neighbours.
This misplaced focus has led to a number of deviations in the accounts of history told within the South East Asian region. The separation of R.C. Majumdar from the writing of the freedom struggle of India by the editorial committee formulated by the government of India is a case in point where disagreement between Majumdar and Maluana Abul Kalam Azad over the historical events of the Indian sepoy mutiny/War of Independence led the former to leave and write his own account separately with a Bengali context to the account.
What we learn from history is that truth is the ultimate casualty which in our perspective means a disregard for the principle of live and let live, much less having friendly ties. Thus a European union may be viable and possible but a South Asian union in any terms seems totally unacceptable as a concept.
A case in point for inclusiveness in historical accounts of a balanced holistic approach can be gleaned from the countries in East Asia, which have developed some regional collaborations. Looking at the work being undertaken by Benjamin Elman (Princeton University) and other scholars on rethinking the context of how history has been recorded and can provide a framework of the new approach towards records of history and its interpretation. The governments of this region need to jointly focus and bring this up as part of a serious agenda within various dialogue platforms for rethinking and realigning historical data, records and contexts of interpretation. The strength of the region lies in understanding this inclusiveness.
For the barriers in the way of trust to be broken, the errors of history need to be rectified. South Asian nations ought to adopt a holistic approach towards how they narrate their past. The curriculum in all the south Asian states can be provided from one platform, one perspective and one unified vision. For this purpose the already existing regional organizations such as SAARC, has already been talking about a center of excellence in a South Asian university since 2004. These platforms need to materialize and can provide helpful platforms to initiate the discussion, dialogue and bringing about change in curriculum and direction in thought and action needed to transform.
The effective outcome and resultant alignment of perspectives would drive a new generation of students, who would view the region from a new angle. The setting up of a research institute where regional histories are reviewed, where perspectives are aligned towards a balance which to date, states have not been able to lend to their accounts of history is an essential step. The regional involvement in the development of primary and secondary curriculum for schools would be a step in the direction of regional harmony, synergy and a stepping stone for future collaborations.
The written word and its power can be channelized in a direction which would provide the region with an alternative to the political strife, the economic downturn, the social disintegration and the cultural degradation of the region.

 The writer is a freelance columnist.

Email: aliazafar@gmail.com