Against Communalising History**
I am extremely grateful to the organisers of the Punjab History Conference (founded by the late lamented Sardar Ganda Singh whose affection I was fortunate enough to get in the initial phase of my teaching career) for electing me General President of its thirty-first session, even though my own researches do not specifically relate to the history of the Punjab. I treat this honour as an encouragement to one who is interested in the broader issues of Indian history and is concerned with the problem of integrating regional histories into the history of India. I, threfore, propose to draw your attention to some of the issues which have considerable bearing on efforts to reconstruct the past of the Pubjab as a cultural region and not of the Punjab which was the product of the Radcliff' s award. In doing so I would like to. argue that the north western part of the subcontinent generally and the Punjab region particularly have been the meeting ground of many faiths and have played a crucial role in promoting religious syncretism, and communal harmony which is the greatest need of our times.
Regional historiography cannot overlook the achievements of the region. Therefore, when one talks of the Pubjab one naturally speaks of its ancient glory. Its association with the first urban civilisation and subsequently with the early Vedic Aryans gives us an idea of its antiquity. Panini, believed to have been born at Salatura near Lahore and later described as bhagavan by his commentator Patanjali1, tends to strengthen Punjab' s claim to have produced one of the most respected intellectual luminaries - a claim further supported by the prolonged efflorescence of Taksashila (Taxila) as one of the most prestigious centres of learning in the ancient world and by the strong possibility of Alberuni meeting erudite scholars in the Pubjab beyond which probably he did not go
* Professor of History, Delhi University, Delhi.
** General President' s address to the 31st session of Punjab History Conference, Patiala.
Social Scientist, Vol. 27, Nos. 9 - 10, Sept. - Oct. 1998