Meraj Hamayun Khan
“History should not be written backwards.” Beginning his historical novel, The Anarchy, with this loaded statement, William Dalrymple moves on to build a picture of India during the 17th century when a small group of fiercely courageous, adventurous and avaricious individuals from the relatively impoverished agriculture England successfully toppled one of the mightiest empires and took control of India, the world’s industrial powerhouse and leader in manufactured textiles ruled by the richest monarch in the world.
The gripping tale narrated in the richest and the most elegant language is an eye opener for all those of us who have been fed on superficial and extremely biased history of the region. It divested one of all the myths created to glorify some and demean other conquerors.
The Dalrymple’s well researched history presents a balanced picture of both, the situation and the actors who defined it’s contours and controlled its destiny. The graphic details of the massacres carried out after each battle and the looting and plunder of Clive, Wellesley, Siraj-ud-Daulah, Mir Jafar, Nader Shah and the Rohillas, makes the massacres of the Afghan war insignificant. The horrific death due to famine of Bengal in 1770 after the merciless plunder and looting by Clive gave me goosebumps.
While there is a very great deal of rich information and learning in this book and one fact that stands out clearly is that everything, even the norms and values of religion, failed to curb the human greed for power, authority and control.
I used to think that the foundations of Pakistan were filled with blood shed of Partition but after reading The Anarchy, I have come to the conclusion that the soil of the whole sub-continent is bleeding till this day from the massacre started by Timurid Tatars who used brute force to conquer in the 12th century, through the wiley and devious piratical enthusiasm of British barbarities in the 17th century and current ruthless extremism on the rampage in both Pakistan and India. The viciousness of the period infected the historically placid and introvert Hindus who stand badly radicalized lately.
To conclude the discussion, the East India Company is no more but the culture and thinking of corporate influence “with its fatal blend of power, money and accountability” that it spawned remains “potent and dangerous” till this day.
The writer is a social and education activist and a former Member of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly. Presently, she is the Chief Executive of Peshawar-based welfare and development organization ‘De Laas Gul Welfare Program’. She can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.