The general effect of Dharampal's work among the public at large has been intensely liberating. However,
conventional Indian historians, particularly the class that has passed out of Oxbridge, have seen his
work as a clear threat to doctrines blindly and mechanically propagated and taught by them for decades.
Dharampal never trained to be a historian. If he had, he would have, like them, missed the wood for the
trees. Despite having worked in the area now for more than four decades, he remains the quintessential
layman, always tentative about his findings, rarely writing with any flourish. Certainly, he does not
manifest the kind of certainty that is readily available to individuals who have drunk unquestioningly
at the feet of English historians, gulping down not only their 'facts' but their assumptions as well.
But to him goes the formidable achievement of asking well entrenched historians probing questions they
are hard put to answer, like how come they arrived so readily, with so little evidence, at the conclusion
that Indians were technologically primitive or, more generally, how were they unable to discover the
historical documents that he, without similar training, had stumbled on so easily.
An encounter, which affected Dharampal greatly in this context, is best recounted here in his own words:
Around 1960, I was travelling from Gwalior to Delhi by a day train, a 6 or 7 hour journey in a 3rd class
compartment when I met a group of people and I think in a way that meeting gave me a view of India, the
larger India. The train was crowded. Some people however made a place for me. And there was this group
of people, about twelve of them, some three or four women and seven or eight men. I asked them where
they were coming from. They said that they had been on a pilgrimage, three months long, up to Rameshwaram,
among other places. They came from two different villages north of Lucknow. They had various bundles
of things and some earthen pots with them.
I asked, what did they have in those pots. They said that they had taken their own food from home. They
had taken all the necessities for their food-atta, ghee, sugar - with them, and some amounts of these
were still left over. The women didn't seem to mind much people trampling over them in the crowded compartment,
but they did feel unhappy if someone touched their bundles and pots of food with their feet. And then
I said they must all be from one jati, from a single caste group. They said, 'No, no! We are not from
one jati, we are from several jatis.' I said, how could that be? They said that there was no jati on
a yatra-not on a pilgrimage. I didn't know that. I was around 38 years old, and like many others in this
country who know little about the ways of the ordinary Indian-the peasants, artisans and other village
folks. And then I said, 'Did you go to Madras? Did you go to Bombay?' 'Yes! We passed through those places,'
'Did you see anything there?' 'No, we did not have any time!' It went on like that. I mentioned various
important places of modern India. They had passed through most, but had not cared to visit any.
Then I said, 'You are going to Delhi now?' 'Yes!' 'You will stop in Delhi?' 'No, we only have to change
trains there. We're going to Haridwar!' I said, 'This is the capital of free India. Won't you see it?'
I meant it. I was not joking. They said, 'No! We don't have time. May be some other day. Not now. We
have to go to Haridwar. And then we have to get back home.'
We talked perhaps 5 or 6 hours. At the end of it I began to wonder, who is going to look after this
India? , India are we talking about? This India, the glorious] of the modem age, built by Jawaharlal
Nehru and c people, these modem temples, universities, places of scholarship! For whom are we building
them? Those people their pilgrimage were not interested in any of this. And were representative of India.
More representative of II than Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru ever was. Or I and most us could ever be.
The encounter shook Dharampal then, as much as memory of it bothers him even today. This particular
experience more than any other, drove him to look for the causes of the profound alienation of India's
new leaders from the preoccupations of the common people and to investigate whether this had always been
Introduction to Dharampal Works