I ordered a couple of books titled 'Modern Indian History' a few weeks ago: I was looking to read about recent developments in India. So, I was surprised and disappointed when I found out that the books dealt with events starting with late Mughal period, the most recent event discussed being the Indian Independence. I went back online, and after some searching, found a book titled 'India After Gandhi': so figuring that I could not go wrong here, given its title, ordered it. Interestingly, the prologue of the book reflects on this very same problem: the seeming end of Indian history with Independence. The author quotes Krishna Kumar who wrote that 'for Indian children history itself comes to an end with Partition and Independence. As a constituent of social studies, and later on as a subject in its own right, history runs right out of content in 1947... All that has happened during the last 55 years may filter through the measly civics syllabus, popular cinema and television; history as formally constituted knowledge of the past does not cover it.'
Yes, our history books in school dealt with the struggle for Independence at great length, but that was where it ended. I find myself lacking anything more than a vague idea of most events after Independence (those that I didn't live through myself, that is), even major ones. Only recently did I look into and find out, say, as to how Goa or Nagaland came to be a part of India or why Indira Gandhi was assassinated. And I find that very odd, primarily when contrasted with the economics or civics syllabus, which deal with events after Independence. The civics texts talk about Indian involvement with the UN and its international policy, and the economics texts talk about India's five year plans and the opening up of its markets in the 90s. So, does the school board think that these nuggets of information gleaned from disparate sources make up for a holistic view of recent Indian history?
But of course, Guha (the author) argues that the problem is not the school boards as such, that in fact there is very little work being done on recent Indian history, and that most of the texts published pertain to India before Independence. Compare this to the US or Europe where new books come out after every major event. Incredibly, most Indian states, some larger than any European country, haven't even had their histories written.
So, does this have to do with Indians being stuck with the idea of the day of independence as the start of the present? Or maybe it has to do with Indians being bad historians in general: we do have a rather notorious reputation for not writing things down, and being lazy about facts - given that Indians have such a long history, we only find accounts of ancient India in foreign texts (of course, we do find accounts in mythological poetry and prose, but that is not exactly factual history, is it?)