Though, I heard the stories of partition vaguely, I began understanding the pain of partition suffered by our brethren as I grew up and understood the depth of their pain. Though, the government of the time tried to push all this under the carpet by banishing such references from history books. But, since I was from a Punjabi family, there was no way I could be shielded from these stories.
I heard and read about sacrifices of revolutionaries for independence inspite of assiduous efforts of the education system that wished us to believe that independence was the gift of only Congress, Gandhi and Nehru etc.
Over years this yarn was spun more vigorously with removal of even short stories and references about Chaphekar brothers, Savarkar, Madanlal Dhingra, Lal Lajpatrai, Bhagat Singh and Azad, Bismil etc. ; and the narrative of independence movement also removed reference to other Congress leaders like Subhashchandra Bose, Patel or turned them into footnotes of history.
Thus, while our generation of 50+ does have some inkling of price our forefathers have paid for independent but truncated India, the new generation has no inkling of this at all because of the way history is presented now. A generation that doesn’t understand the cost of independence, naturally, does not value the independence the way the earlier generations did.
They have been indoctrinated with history that shows us as a backward, weak, defeated race, wallowing in poverty, seeped in casteism with no self respect and pride in this ancient country and civilization.
It took me years before I could lay my hands on books written by scholars like Dharampal, who painstakingly built the case for our hugely successful economy and education system before Britishers plundered it; our achievements in science and technology hundreds of years before the western renaissance and industrial revolutions, success of which was laid over the ruins of colonies these imperialists built in so called third world living in dark ages. We are hardly aware that plague and famines were gifts of British to India.
We neutered our education system by removal of any material that could teach moral values, ethics and patriotism to the younger generation with some wrongly understood ideas of modernity. The feeling of rootlessness of youth is best illustrated by a scene in famous movie ‘Rang De Basanti’ where a group of youth is shown driving around India Gate, a centre revered for the sacrifice of our armed forces, and in a way, all the martyrs who laid their lives for the country and virtually mocking at it. My eyes welled up with tears as it showed the true state of the nation.
Are the youth to be blamed? No, it is we, our leadership of the time that is to be blamed for this deterioration. The way the same youth came out on streets to fight against corruption tells us that they are ready to come out for society if they see a good cause and if they see focused leadership. I was amazed at sheer number of youth who paid Rs. 5/- to hear Narendra Modi and waited for him for hours. They, perhaps, saw hope in these times of utter cynicism.
I am working on a biography of the fourth chief of RSS, Prof Rajendra Singh. I am surprised at the genteel relationship between people of different ideologies and open dialogue with their opponents in the fifties till the time so called conservatives had some voice in Congress and left oriented people inducted Nehru and later by Indira Gandhi had not taken control of thought process. Apart from Pandit Nehru, I did not see this pathological hatred for political opponents of different ideologies among other leaders of Congress and Socialist movement of that period.
This untouchability and sense of animosity has crept in only in recent years due to vote bank politics and eagerness to create small fiefdoms of vote banks based on religion and caste, all in the name of secularism. Thus, we see such bitterness among political opponents and ideologues of different schools that you feel they are talking from opposite sides of the fence with enemies. The politics has plumbed the depths of animosity.
For the present, I would park the issue of political and financial corruption. Since independence day invokes a strong sense of nationalism and pride, I raise a question why our governments and leaders are such wimps when dealing with the world? Lack of intellectual courage and honesty is reflected in all round deterioration in our polity and the manner in which we deal with other countries in the world, or rather how others in global community treat us.
Why do we have no value for the lives of our defence personnel of army and police force? How can the Prime Minister keep ‘mum’ or his colleauges like Iyer speak callously about our martyrs? How can they belittle the sacrifice of jawans just as statistical numbers? I am embarrassed when I see my PM not uttering a word on daylight murder of our jawans in Kashmir. I am hurt when our defence minister evades blaming the Pakistani army for the carnage and then does a U-turn because of hue and cry of media and opposition!
I am ashamed when my PM agrees to a clause in Sharm-al Sheikh adding reference to Indian interference in Multan, an issue never raised over last six decades. There is a whole chain of events, like Chinese incursions and our totally indefensible response to them. Latest incidents are just addition to this long list of ill thought responses to from a leadership lacking in self pride and vision. We have refused to learn from Kautilya while we are ready to lap up sermons of Western philosophers, leaders, IMF and such other tools of western hegemony.
Though there are many reason resulting in an inferiority complex in our leaders; I dare say that it is mainly due to the history our leaders have learnt at the laps of erstwhile British masters and have never tried to look back with pride at the great heritage of knowledge and global brotherhood this culture carries in its bosom. For decades it has refused to recognize the strong cultural bonds that exist between the entire South East Asia, China etc. due to willingly accepted and non-violent spread of Hindu-Buddhist culture providing strong bedrock of friendship; but sees all of them through imperialist eyes thus generating resentment for us.
It is said that history is written by the victors. Therefore, the first thing that an independent nation does is rewrite the history that would instill a sense of pride in its citizens, and dump the colonial history written by its erstwhile rulers. You can’t blame those rulers because they had their own agenda. But, if we refuse to learn from history, then we are to blame.
I am reminded of daring assertion by eminent scholar, Claude Alvares while referring to the path breaking elaborately researched books on Indian Economy of 18 and 19th Century and Education system of those times by a veteran Gandhian, Shri Dharampal -
“All histories are elaborate efforts at myth-making. Therefore, when we submit to histories about us written by others, we submit to their myths about us as well. Myth-making, like naming, is a token of having power. Submitting to others’ myths about us is a sign that we are without power. After the historical work of Dharampal, the scope for myth-making about the past of Indian society is now considerably reduced.
If we must continue to live by myths, however, it is far better we choose to live by those of our own making rather than by those invented by others for their own purposes, whether English or Japanese. That much at least we owe ourselves as an independent society and nation”.
Till we have leaders who have genuine pride in our nation, who have self-confidence, pride and patriotism of the highest order, we shall keep getting such embarrassingly wimpish response from weak leaders ruling this great country, who feel they are doing us a favour by leading us to nowhere.