Arts Council of Pakistan Karachi

آرٹس کونسل آف پاکستان کراچی‎

Celebrating Dr Mubarak Ali — the people’s historian

“History is not free since the times it is being written or got written; this is the time to change it, secularise it as it is the most efficient way to explore the truth and tell the truth,” Dr Ali said while speaking at a session on the concluding day of the two-day programme held at the Arts Council to celebrate his life and works.

Arts Council Karachi in collaboration with The Institute of Historical and Social Research organised the event “Celebrating Dr Mubarak Ali — the people’s historian”.

(Complete Report) 👇

“History is not free since the times it is being written or got written; this is the time to change it, secularise it as it is the most efficient way to explore the truth and tell the truth,” Dr Ali said while speaking at a session on the concluding day of the two-day programme held at the Arts Council to celebrate his life and works.

The Institute of Historical and Social Research and Arts Council organised the event “Celebrating Dr Mubarak Ali — the people’s historian”.

Dr Mubarak Ali, who has written scores of books and essays in Urdu and English on the alternative history of people and not kings, spoke threadbare over the various forms of writing history, which could not be called complete if it was not about the common man of a period in discussion.

He said the state narrative had been dominant, which the state actors had always instilled in the ruled masses through coercive measures. “There is a state narrative; and there is an alternative narrative. We should all strive to make the alternative narrative strong; we should always be on the side of our people,” said Dr Ali.

Two-day moot held to pay tribute to ‘people’s historian’ concludes

He said that instead of leaving the serious subject of history on the mercy of newspaper columnists, novelists and poets, history should be in the hands of professional historians.

“What is needed is that there should be independent history institutes to produce professional historians — fee from the influence of the state. These young historians should write history by using the available scientific tools and resources irrespective of what the state desires to propagate.”

He said the archival material was very important and though it too had been in the possession of the state and preserved in a way in the liking of state, it had enough content for independent historians to explore and write the truth.

Dr Ali said history should be written by adopting bottom-up approach instead of the dominant top-down method. “History should be written from the below, i.e. the history of common people, nomads, villagers, artisans and even the robbers and dacoits since these are the people who have already been deprived of their due place in the written history,” said the revered scholar.

Besides, he said, historians should write the history of villages and small towns where immense talent of people had always been ignored despite the fact that they had contributed a great zeal in the development of the mankind for the millennia gone by.

In another speech during the concluding session, Dr Mubarak Ali said history always remembered the truth despite all the tricks and devices used by the dominant forces to hide the events in which oppressed people and nations had been exploited and even annihilated.

He cited various events and references from the past, including destruction of the Maya people and Red Indians by the dominant Europeans, British authority on the Indian subcontinent who used religion to perpetuate their rule and subjugation of Dalits in India by the people belonging to upper caste Hindus and other faiths.

Human rights activist, I.A. Rehman, who presided over the concluding session, said the two-day conference on Dr Mubarak Ali was a huge success in terms of the quality of papers read in its sessions and response from the participants.

“In a country where wisdom and acumen are on discount, holding such a successful event is heartening,” he said in a lighter tone.

Mr Rehman said that from Alauddin Khilji to Mughal emperors, none of them allowed for the measures that could discriminate India’s Hindu and Muslim populations; yet, it was the British emperor that exploited the religious card to perpetuate its rule. “Those were British rulers who made differentiation on the lines of religion as a permanent bar and used it successfully to rule the British India for so long.”

He called Dr Mubarak Ali an activist historian since the latter did not satisfy only by writing his essays and books but in his initial years as a writer he distributed his writings among people.

British academic Prof Khizar Ansari read his essay on “March of History: Reflecting on the changing landscapes of belief and disbelief”. British historian Sarah Ansari presented her paper on “The world turned upside down (Why doing people’s history matters?)”.

Dr Syed Jaffer Ahmed moderated the proceedings.

Earlier, professors from various universities of the country gathered to discuss on research in Pakistan and problems they confront in teaching history. Besides, sessions on ideological aspects of history writing in Pakistan, and need of people’s history in Pakistan were also held.

Dr Ghafir Shahzad, Dr Manan Ahmed, Dr Muhammad Azeem, Dr Huma Ghaffar, Prof Tauseef Ahmed Khan, Amar Sindhu, Dr Arfana Mallah, Mehmood Sham, Hamsafar Gadahi, Dr Khadim Hussain, Dr Shah Mohammad Marri, Prof Aijaz Qureshi, Ahmed Saleem, Zubeida Mustafa, Dr Tahira Khan, Dr Ali Usman Qasmi, Dr Ali Raza, Dr Shuja Mahesar and Dr Khadim Hussain spoke in various sessions.

In the inaugural day session, speakers praised Dr Mubarak Ali for writing history of people and not of elitist kings and heroes.

The conference began with the recitation of poetry of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai by Basharat Ali.

The inauguration session was presided over by Dr Syed Haroon Ahmed and attended by Senator Hasil Bizenjo, Tasneem Siddiqui, Dr Tariq Sohail and Aslam Gordaspuri.

Dr Jaffer Ahmed, who organised the programme, said 21 papers were to be presented by academics, researchers and literary activists to discuss the works of Dr Mubarak Ali in two days. He said the conference was a humble effort by the organisers to eulogise a public intellectual who preferred to go against the tide and change the established mode of history writing by taking it to the masses from the haunting palaces.

Dr Nazir Mehmood, Dr Ghafir Shahzad, Dr Tahira Khan and Dr Afiya Zia presented their papers in the inaugural session.

Published in Dawn, December 28th, 2019