Historian Manan Ahmed Asif’s illuminating book The Loss of Hindustan: The Invention of India explains how the subcontinent was robbed of its political identity as the home of all religions and appeared as India—the land of the Hindus.
This book is about the writing of history in medieval India and it looks at the transitional period from the 9th to the 19th century of the Indian subcontinent. This is also a historiographical reassessment of how concepts of India’s history were constructed and changed during the one thousand years mentioned above as the British colonised and reshaped the historical narrative of this vast land.
Asif presents his readers with a lens that analyses and critiques the European gaze that altered not only the linguistic terms of a collective harmony but also instilled hatred in the narrative, which divided the religious entities that lived in harmony before its colonial rule.
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Before the British colonial rule, Hindustan was a political and spatial entity that was mentioned in many early historians’ writings. Interestingly, one third of this book is an analysis of writings by medieval historians, especially a Deccan historian named Firishta. Asif even describes Firishta as the most important historian of Hindustan. According to Asif, “Firishta’s history is the first history of Hindustan as a concept, an idea and a place that contains multitudes of faiths and polities.”
With formidable research, Asif shows how Hindustan, a vast geographic entity of people from different faiths and cultures who lived in harmony lost their identities during British colonial rule which destroyed the cultural and social fabric and created the new hegemonic norms that encourage hatred and divide people along religious lines.
The Loss of Hindustan: The Invention of India
Manan Ahmed Asif
Published by Harvard University Press (November 24, 2020)