Bloomsbury India has landed itself in a whole lot of trouble after caving into the bullying tactics of the left-wing outrage mob and censoring a book on the Delhi Riots in February. In the thick of it is ‘Historian’ William Dalrymple, who is being credited as the luminary responsible for convincing the publication house to dump its commitment to freedom of expression.
Given his articles and interviews in public over the years, one would have expected Bloomsbury India to realise that the opinions of William Dalrymple could never be trusted while making an important decision on any matter under the Sun. William Dalrymple has demonstrated on more than one occasion that his perception of reality may not be entirely sound.
Some of his words give one the impression that he is always teetering on the brink of sanity and thus, if anyone were to rely on his counsel to make up his mind on a matter of a significant import, the chances of that decision turning out to be utterly disastrous is extremely high. Unfortunately for Bloomsbury India, they were one of those unfortunate entities. But one could hope that others would learn from their misfortune.
There is good reason for us to reach such conclusions. In an interview in September 2008, William Dalrymple said emphatically on the relationship between India and Pakistan, “These boundaries will cease to matter and people will visit each other across the border which is what Jinnah originally expected and hoped. He was not aiming at a kind of Berlin Wall between the two countries. He thought he was going to keep his house on Malabar Hill and spend weekends in Bombay, you know. So I’m optimistic. The middle class is growing in Pakistan. They want to do business; they don’t want to fight wars.”
We are not entirely sure whether the ’eminent author’ is trying to fool himself or his audience. He makes Jinnah seem like Winnie the Pooh. Going by his portrayal of Jinnah, the man who gave the call for ‘Direct Action Day’, we would be led to believe that the architect of the Islamic State of Pakistan was actually just an overly enthusiastic Scooby Doo who really, really wanted a separate state for his people but did not harbour any hatred in his heart for any other community.
Two months after that interview was published, Pakistani backed terrorists attacked Mumbai and murdered a great many people and injured hundreds of others. In another article for the Tehelka Magazine, presumably published around the same time, William Dalrymple says that he had covered Pakistan for 20 years, and yet, he was this wrong about the country and its people. “I’m optimistic,” he said. The more accurate word is delusional.
The author’s losing grip on reality is further confirmed by certain statements he has made in his book. For instance, in his book, ‘The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East India Company’, William Dalrymple says about the Islamic aristocracy that “homosexual relations were fairly acceptable between superiors and inferiors at this time”. In reality, it was not merely homosexual relations that was prevalent between the Islamic aristocracy but relations between adults and minors. Thus, he is effectively whitewashing pederasty here.
About the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, whom he finds ‘absolutely fascinating, William Dalrymple claims that “by the end of it he does becomes a monster of myths, but his final letters are full of regret and awareness about how much he destroyed of what he had inherited. What is little spoken is that he was an extremely generous donor to various ashrams and maths. Just the sheer data that can be gathered about his donations to Hindu monasteries is extraordinary.”
Thus, the infamous iconoclasm of Aurangzeb and the spree of Temple demolition he engaged in is entirely whitewashed by sermonising about his apparent generosity. It is an obvious denial of reality that we are witnessing here. Of course, devotion towards Aurangzeb is the ultimately litmus test for secularism in India. And the ‘historian’ passes that test brilliantly.
In addition, there are also factual errors inm his book, as pointed out by author Aneesh Gokhale. He has mixed up Narayanrao Peshwa with Madhavrao Peshwa and false claimed that the Marathas suffered a defeat in Bengal.
Mixes up Narayanrao Peshwa who was assassinated with Madhavrao Peshwa who died of Tuberculosis.— Aneesh Gokhale (@authorAneesh) August 23, 2020
Declares the Marathas defeated in Bengal when infact they annexed Odisha and took 12 lakh chauth.
Top historian and best Publishing House at work😁
William Dalrymple was also criticle of the legendary V.S. Naipaul. Following a meet between the icon and leaders of the BJP in 2004, the ‘historian’ wrote, “There was some surprise when Sir Vidia and Lady Naipaul turned up at the BJP office last week and gave what many in the press took to be a pre-election endorsement not just of the party but the entire Sangh Parivar programme.” Obviously, he was exaggerating wildly and it was only widely known that Naipaul was sympathetic towards the Hindu Civilisation.
British writer Farrukh Dhondy wrote criticising him, “V.S. Naipaul made no endorsement of the BJP, or of any article of, leave aside ‘the entire’, programme of the Sangh Parivar. To say so is either nasty conjecture, bad second-hand reportage or a mischievous lie.”
He continued, “The exclusion of the press must account for Dalrymple’s conjectures about what was said. Hence the lack of a single accurate quotation and the reliance on ‘few’s, ‘many’s and ‘allegedly’s. The article goes on to state Dalrymple’s own historical points which need to be addressed but it begins with the presumption the meeting was a ‘pre-election endorsement’. For the record Naipaul did say to reporters outside the meeting that he would accept any invitation from the Congress party to exchange views if he was invited. He was there as a curious writer.”
William Dalrymple has also spouted inanities about the Vijayanagara Empire. He has written in the past, “For the Muslim invasions of India tended to be seen by historians of the Raj as a long, brutal sequence of rapine and pillage, in stark contrast—so 19th century British historians liked to believe—to the law and order selflessly brought by their own ‘Civilising Mission’. In this context, the Fall of Vijayanagara was written up in elegiac terms by Robert Sewell, whose 1900 book Vijayanagar: A Forgotten Empire first characterised the kingdom as “a Hindu bulwark against Muhammadan conquests”, a single brave but doomed attempt at resistance to Islamic aggression.”
The ‘historian’ continued, “This idea was eagerly elaborated by Hindu nationalists who wrote of Vijayanagara as a Hindu state dedicated to the preservation of the traditional, peaceful and ‘pure’ Hindu culture of southern India. It is a simple and seductive vision, and one that at first sight looks plausible. The problem is that such ideas rest on a set of ignorant and Islamophobic assumptions which recent scholarship has done much to undermine.”
Needless to say, his opinions are again inconsistent with perceived realities. Over the years, it has become evident that William Dalrymple perceives the promotion of the misguided notions of ‘Ganga Jamuni tehzeeb’ as the primary objective of his life. And he pursues this goal with missionary zeal. Towards that end, facts are merrily sacrificed at the altar of propaganda and the many crimes of genocidal maniacs are whitewashed.
William Dalrymple was aghast at the book on the Delhi Riots because it would shatter the myth of ‘Ganga Jamuni tehzeeb’ and he decided in his infinite wisdom that such transgressions could not be allowed to slide. And hence, he used his clout to bully Bloomsbury India into withdrawing the book. Burying truth in tombs has been the professional expertise of charlatans such as Dalrymple all these years. However, truth has a way of coming out. Thus it happened, that the book ‘Delhi Riots 2020: The Untold Story’ has found a new home and it will now be published by Garuda Prakashan.