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A Slave's Quest for Selfhood in Eighteenth-century Hindustan_Indrani Chatterjee

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    http://ier.sagepub.com/  ReviewIndian Economic & Social History  http://ier.sagepub.com/content/37/1/53.citation The online version of this article can be found at:  DOI: 10.1177/001946460003700103 2000 37: 53 Indian Economic Social History Review  Indrani Chatterjee A slave's quest for selfhood in eighteenth-century Hindustan  Published by:  http://www.sagepublications.com  can be found at: Indian Economic & Social History Review  Additional services and information for http://ier.sagepub.com/cgi/alerts Email Alerts:  http://ier.sagepub.com/subscriptions Subscriptions:  http://www.sagepub.com/journalsReprints.nav Reprints:  http://www.sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav Permissions: What is This? - Mar 1, 2000Version of Record >>  at SUB Goettingen on March 13, 2014ier.sagepub.comDownloaded from at SUB Goettingen on March 13, 2014ier.sagepub.comDownloaded from    A slave’s quest for selfhood in eighteenth-century Hindustan Indrani Chatterjee Maulana  Abul Kalam  Azad Institute of  Asian Studies, Calcutta  Acknowledgements: I wish to thank my colleague, Mr Sabir Hasan, who collaborated with me in reading and translating the Persian manuscripts. My interpretation of the slave’s narrative owes as much to him, as it does to the discussions with Shamsur Rehman Faruqi and Saiyid  Akhtar Hussain Kazmi, and with Professors Muzaffar  Alam,  Anisuzzaman, Barun De, Gautam Bhadra, Sunil Kumar, Sumit Guha and Joseph Miller. I also gratefully acknowledge the help of Professors Ujjvala Rajyadhaksha, Sunil Kumar and Paul Lovejoy in procuring certain unpublished essays as well as those from journals published overseas. Historians of the late eighteenth century or of the Mughal Panjab have often con- sulted the manuscript/transcript of Kitab-i-Qissa-i Tahmas Miskin,’ written by an ex-slave, for its author’s ’participant witness’ description of the political af- fairs of the time and region.’ In this manuscript, the needs of Turko-Persian 1  All unattributed folio references in my text belong to manuscript no. 174, in the Jadunath Sarkar Collection, National Library, Calcutta. This is a copy of the British Museum Mss. no. 1918, which was gifted to Jadunath Sarkar by the Habibganj Library in 1932.  Another manuscript copy, under the name of Tahm ā sn ā ma in the ’Abdus Salam Collection at  Aligarh University, Mss. no. 135, has re- mained outside this survey due to unforeseen circumstances.  An edited version which collates both the  Aligarh and London manuscripts is Muhammad  Asiam, ed., Tahm ā s N ā m ā h by Tahm ā s Beg Kh ā n, Lahore, University of Punjab, 1986.  All unattributed page numbers in my work are to the English translation: P. Setu Madhava Rao, abridged and tr., Tahmas Nama: The  Autobiography of aSlave, Delhi, 1967, which, while editing out key passages delineating the author’s purpose and inner world, is closer to the srcinal than Sarkar’s translation.  A Bengali translation by Lutfunnesa Habibullah, Ek Moghol Kritod ā ser Ā tmak ā hin ī , Dhaka, 1982, has followed Pagdi’s abridged English translation. Wherever previous translations have been inadequate for my purpose, I have used those done jointly by Sabir Hasan and myself, and have provided the folio numbers of the manuscript. 2 See Hari Ram Gupta,  Adina Beg Khan: The Last Mughal Viceroy of the Panjab, Lahore, 1943, pp. 19-23 and passim; idem, Studies in Later Mughal History of the Panjab, 1707-1793, Lahore, 1944, pp. 109-56; Ganda Singh,  Ahmad Shah Durrani: Father of Modern  Afghanistan, Bombay, 1959, pp. 93-142 and passim; J.S. Grewal, The Sikhs of the Punjab: The New Cambridge History of India, Vol. II(3), Cambridge, 1994, pp. 87-91.    at SUB Goettingen on March 13, 2014ier.sagepub.comDownloaded from   54 aesthetics3-allusions and quotes from Sa’di, Rumi and Hafiz and literary forms like metaphor and pun-as well as the remembering of the self as the protagonist of the tale are resolved, first by adopting a takhallus (a device common to poets) and by simultaneously speaking of the narrator-self as a humble and lowly third person (Miskin). This then aligns the text simultaneously with the Turko-Persian literary tradition, as well as with a historiographical one.&dquo; There is a narrative of events, of wars and skirmishes between the Mughal forces and the Sikhs, the  Afghans, the Marathas and the Jats, on a grand landscape lined with poetry. Yet, as far as I am aware, the threads of this grand fabric have never been unpicked for a historical study of slave-consciousness in northern India, nor has the text itself been incorporated into literary studies of the autobiographical self. How should we explain this oversight?  As a mere accident? For the time being let us leave alone the interconnected complex of issues such as the histories of Persian and English literature in the subcontinent, the different and changing con- ventions of historical and literary selfhood, as well as the later exclusion of the ’self’ as the object of history writing in India.’ In addition to the demands made 3 For a summary of such canons, see E.G. Browne,  A Literary History of Persia, first edition, 1924; reprint New Delhi, 1997, Vols I-IV, esp. Vol. II, pp. 19-83; and Shafi’i Kadkani, ’Persian Literature ( Belles Lettres ) from the Time of Jami to the Present Day’, in George Morrison, ed., His- tory of Persian Literature from the Beginning of the Islamic Period to the Present Day, Leiden-Koln, 1981, pp. 135-206. For a study of such canons in the development of early Mughal writing, see Stephen F. Dale, ’The Poetry and  Autobiography of the Babur-nama’, Journal of Asian Studies (hereafter JAS ), Vol. 55(3), 1996, pp. 635-64; and for the opposite argument of the ’de-naturing’ of both Ottoman-Turkish speech and Indo-Persian literature by such canons, see Victor Kieman, ’Per- sian Poetry and Its Cosmopolitan  Audience’, in Christopher Shackle, ed., Urdu and Muslim South  Asia: Studies in Honour of Ralph Russell, Delhi, 1991, pp. 9-18. For a comparative development in Turkish literature, see Cemal Kafadar, ’Self and Others: The Diary of a Dervish in Seventeenth Century Istanbul and First-Person Narratives in Ottoman Literature’, Studia Islamica, Vol. 69, 1989, pp. 121-50. For a later period, see David Lelyveld, ’Eloquence and  Authority in Urdu: Poetry, Ora- tory, and Film’, in Katherine P. Ewing, ed., Shari’ at and  Ambiguity in South  Asian Islam, Delhi, 1988, pp. 98-113. 4 In addition to footnote 3, for the outlines of the historiographical tradition, see Peter Hardy, Historians of Medieval India: Studies in Indo-Muslim Historical Writing, London, 1960; Zahiruddin Malik, ’Persian Historiography in India During the 18th Century’, and Jagadish Narayan Sarkar ’Personal History of Some Medieval Historians and their Writings’, in Mohibbul Hasan, ed., Histori- ans of Medieval India, Meerut, 1968, pp. 142-55, 166-97 respectively; also Kumkum Chatterjee,’History as Self-Representation: The Recasting of a Political Tradition in Late Eighteenth-Century Eastern India’, Modern  Asian Studies (hereafter MAS ), Vol. 32(4), 1998, pp. 913-48; and Sudipta Sen, ’Imperial Orders of the Past: The Semantics of History and Time in the Medieval Indo-Persianate Culture of North India’ in Daud  Ali, ed., Invoking the Past: The Uses of History in South  Asia, New Delhi, 1999, pp. 231-57. 5 This refers to the historiographical discussion around the individual in Persian and  Arabic litera- ture. One group represented by G.E. von Grunebaum, argues that Islam prohibits self-adulation and vanity and thus retards the articulation of individual personality in literature, while another group of scholars, represented by Marshall Hodgson, Rosenthal and others, argues that Muslim preoccupation with personalities is evidenced by the flourishing of biographies and attests to an effort to understand    at SUB Goettingen on March 13, 2014ier.sagepub.comDownloaded from   55 upon the student by the literary depth and forms of a language, the shrinking of a Persian-reading intelligentsia in post-colonial India has proved to be fairly criti- cal. For entirely historical reasons, generations bom after Independence have been rendered dependent upon English and vernacular translations done by an earlier generation of scholars. Hence many of those bom after Independence have inherited, along with the translations, the mimetic and nationalistic readings of that earlier generation of scholar-translators. The analysis of intellectual trends that Subrahmanyam and  Alam have recommended recently for the construction of ’Mughal history’ must surely now extend to a history and politics of such readings and translations.6 Hence I propose, in the first section of this essay, to analyse some of the more influential translations of the Kitab-i-Qissa-i Tahrnas Miskin. In the subsequent sections, I propose to retrieve the ’self-in-history’ outlined by an ex-slave in the eighteenth century. Translators and HistoriansJadunath Sarkar, the first translator of the manuscript, began his translation with folio 44-right in the middle of  Ahmad Shah Durrani’s early attacks upon the Mughal forces in Panjab, and the assumption of the subahdari of Lahore by a particular governor.’ This sets the tone for the passages that were to be translated and ’used’ as eyewitness evidence for Sarkar’s history of the decline of the Mughal Empire. From the opening paragraph of the translation, it is clear that Sarkar had a specific agenda for this manuscript. This was to provide empirical information on the various battles between Mughals and  Afghans and between Mughals and Sikhs, as well as on alliances between Marathas and Mughals, and on various kinds of military technologies and the formation of armies. Clearly setting great store by Miskin’ ’eyewitness’ account, Sarkar once demanded from another historian of the Marathas: the real power in human accomplishments. For a survey, see R. Sandler, ’The Changing Concept of the Individual’, in R.M. Savory, ed., Introduction to Islamic Civilisation, Cambridge, 1987, pp. 137-45; and Julie S. Meisami, Medieval Persian Court Poetry, Princeton, 1987, pp. 131-79. For Persian literature in eighteenth-century India, it is noteworthy that the voluminous growth of biography ( ta z kira) has been represented in the famous autobiography of Muhammad Shaikh ’Ali Hazin, Ta z kir ā t-al  Ahw ā l, Sarfaraz Khattak, ed., Lahore, 1944 and M.C. Master, tr., T ā r ī kh-i  A h hw ā l, Bombay, 1911, but to a much lesser extent in Mir’s, for which see C.M. Naim, ed., tr. and annotated, Zikr-i Mir: The  Autobiography of the Eighieenth Century Mughal Poet: Mir Muhammad Taqi Mir (1723-1810), New Delhi, 1999. 6 Muzaffar  Alam and Sanjay Subrahmanyam, eds, The Mughal State 1526-1750, New Delhi, 1998, introduction. 7 Sir Jadunath Sarkar, tr. and abridged, Memoirs of Tahmasp Khan by Miskin, Sitamau, 1937. I thank the librarian, M.K. Kulkarni, of Deccan College, Pune, for helping me procure a copy of this extremely rare work.    at SUB Goettingen on March 13, 2014ier.sagepub.comDownloaded from 
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