Thursday, 22 October 2015

Independence : Why The Shameful Controversy?

Today is Dussehra : The day we commemorate the victory of good over bad, of good over evil; in keeping with the spirit of this Holy Day, let me revisit that period when we Indians won over the Evil Raj; our own modern Victory of Good over Evil. Let me try once again to deal with the rising anti-Gandhi diatribe on social media, and place before my readers a record of why The Mahatma has primacy over most others; at the same time, let me acknowledge that it is not my contention that The Mahatma is the only reason, as will be evident from my article below.


It  is sad to see such questions; this is more a reflection of the abysmal state of history education in our schools than a comment on the people at large. While But this is one question that requires a proper, informed and relatively unbiased answer, based not on internet  articles or opinion, but on solid verifiable historical evidence taken from standard and pedigreed books. This article  is basis some 28+ books on Indian History that I have studied as a hobby, some of which  have not been reviewed - like Sengupta's Bengal Divided, as they are on my t0-review list; some will not see a review, for the reasons of content being religious in nature; and some others, like Jinnah, or India's Struggle for Independence or The Discovery of India are frankly hard to review properly, so vast is their scope.




THE BACKDROP :

Read this post : The Massacres of 1857...

This is what I call The Genocide of Indians in 1857 - 59 : This took place in 2 waves - and was planned at the topmost levels of the British Hierarchy. Village after village were targeted in a cold-blooded manner, and emptied of its citizens through murder - planned, brutal and cold-blooded murder. This was not an impassioned outrage {albeit fanned by vested interests}, nor was it done as a result of a conquerers victory in war.

What makes it mind-numbingly shocking and stunning is the simple fact that this was planned, and perpetrated as a vicious punishment, as a war strategy to take the war to civilian non-combatants with an intention of defeating the enemy - against a people who were fighting for independence, in their own country - and it was done by a people who had no business being here in the first place


For a fuller understanding, I recommend a full reading of the entire history from 1757 right till the formation of the Indian National Congress in 1885, a saga of unremitting bloodshed on a scale that stands as one of the most brutal in World History. This bloodshed is exceedingly well documented in a series of authentic books replete with period evidence




Why is this important? Because it helps us in understanding the world as it existed in the days of The Mahatma, the days when his views were being formed, as well the views of other Indians. It is easy to comment in hindsight; the most vital thing is to ask - what decisions and steps were doable in the environment as it then existed?

What fears, forces and realities were to confronted? For this reason, one has no option but to understand the world as it then existed. One cannot and should not comment in light of the modern world; the world of the 1800s and early 1900s was a very different place




It is in this light we need to examine two divergent but unimportant and yet rising tendencies : firstly, the concept of India; and secondly, the role of the more strident freedom fighters, like The Lokmanya, or Amar Shaheed. My reference to these legends by title rather than by name is proof of the high regard I have for them; but the rising tendency to downplay The Mahatma and push up the role of the others is sad, to say the least.




THE PATH TO TAKE
Fact of the matter is that Freedom required all players; and the aggressive methods of these players were an important and integral part of the Freedom Struggle; the fact is also plain and clear that independence was virtually impossible by their violent methods. Their role lay more is kindling the light of Freedom in the mind and hearts of an enslaved population; their sacrifice was essential so that those among us who cooperated with the Raj or who couldnt care less, and be brought into the stream. Not everyone is moved by the same message; and that is why every method adopted has it own importance.




But we need to meet this rising tide of support for violent measures, and ask ourselves was independence possible by their methods? Was it possible to mount a large enough uprising to uproot the British? Was it possible for everyone to take such a decision? The answer to all of these is an unequivocal no. The reasons are underlined hereon :




First, 1857 was a fresh memory in the late 1890s and the first half of the 1900s. 1857 was never a mutiny, as period evidence and records prove beyond a shade of doubt; it was a massive popular armed uprising. And it was crushed with complete and remorseless brutality, with a genocide that is in all probability unmatched in World History. The details are enough to make you cry, so horrifying was the brutality. These would be in public memory. 1919 was also too recent, when even a mistaken hint of an uprising on a local scale led to wanton murder in Jallianwallah Bagh, wherein a peaceful gathering was butchered. Chances are that armed uprisings were certain to be crushed.



And do not forget that Indians were also helping the Raj; and that is a fact! Study detailed history.




This was to be proven in 1942 yet again, when Quit India was crushed in hours, and even before it started. Read this : Was The Quit India Movement A Failure?. There was an all-India underground leadership - Sucheta Kripalani, Aruna Asaf Ali, Ram Manohar Lohia. Biju Patnaik, RP Goenka, JP Narayan etc. There was a vast and coordinated attack cycle by the people. The movement got support from a vast variety of people; it was a national uprising. Students, teachers, labourers, business people, villagers, government officials, policemen, ladies - all took part in it.  And it failed. Reason? First, it did not account for British Brutality; and Second - Treason. Documented fact. Indians were helping The Raj. Rather than blame The Mahatma, I choose to look in a mirror; not with pride, but with abject shame.





Thus, there was no alternative to the path adopted by The Mahatma.










As I observed earlier, Their role lay more is kindling the light of Freedom in the mind and hearts of an enslaved population; their sacrifice was essential so that those among us who cooperated with the Raj or who couldnt care less, and be brought into the stream.. And for that, all India should be grateful to these - The Lokmanya and Amar Shaheed. But my point is different; why these alone? The full list of people who were murdered by the British in their quest to quell the rising tide of freedom is massive. Why do we moan over just these two or three names, why do we moan over just The Mahatma and The Sardar? Read this post : Do We Really Care? 


""
Well done, India.  This is how you value your freedom fighters, Keep it up. You cannot even spare a few minutes to visit such monuments {I have written another such memoir about a monument in Juhu Beach, Mumbai about a police officer}, even when you pass by it. How long does it take to stroll through such a building? These are the people who gave their lives, and their freedom so that we can have ours. And they lie forgotten.


Take a look at these photographs, at least... spare that much time for your saviours, people who gave their all for you!


{View snaps on the blog}
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On one side, we pine for The Lokmanya, and Amar Shaheed, and The Sardar and more- and on the other, our monuments to them lie unvisited, in a shambles, forgotten and buried. {I tried to hunt for the residence of The Lokmanya in Pune on a visit, but couldnt find it. Took me a while to do so! Me, I would much rather pay homage at such holy sites as above than go to the beach or the mall of whatever - or argue on relative importance of each sacrifice} We dont even walk in when it would take us less than 2 minutes - like in Mahal, Nagpur - I saw this with my own eyes, not just there, but in many other places.


How would the names you value, whichever side of the debate you are on -The Mahatma, or The Lokmanya / The Sardar - feel if they could see such callousness? How would they feel if they could see us like this? You can logically say that visiting a monument is no stamp of approval; and you would be right. But does that mean that such monuments be forgotten? That local heroes and names be ignored? That such monuments which give a peek into history never be visited, especially since we can devote hours on other pointless pursuits?  I for one, believe that our forefathers and freedom fighters wouldn’t care whether or not we visited their monuments and places, and would rather we be good honest citizens, but that is another story...




CONCLUSION

This was what the Indian Freedom Struggle created; a feat that remains unparalleled in World History. No one has till date crafted a political union from a cultural union encompassing so many different sub-cultures, and so many divergent viewpoints. Bringing them together is a feat not matched in the History Of Planet Earth: high time we Indians learnt to accept the enormity of what our forefathers have achieved. Every single international commenter predicted that Pakistan would stay but India, with its divisions, would collapse. We have proved all of them wrong... a matter of considerable pride! And for that, The Mahatma was the driving force { The Concept Of India} ; although Independence required everyone from Lal Bal Pal to Gokhale, From Lokmanya to The Sardar, and from the unnamed to the Amar Shaheed. Everyone is to be thanked;


And it is for us to feel the shame of treason that Indians consistently have done during the Raj. Rather than argue on the relative contributions of each Freedom Fighter, I would rather look back with shame at how Indians cooperated willingly with The Raj, I would rather thank each freedom fighter, and not get embroiled in needless controversy; I would rather visit the haloed and holy shrines made in their names than wonder just what percent contribution is made by whom. A sacrifice is a sacrifice, and I would much rather pay homage to the sacrifices of all our Freedom Fighters... they gave their today for my today. Thank you, all of you...



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