Celebrating 75 years of independence can therefore be transformed into a historic event by taking more such measures in order to establish the right national and historical narrative on our civilizational journey, bearing in mind that the recovery of the heritage history is now our central national programme.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement on January 9, 2022 on the occasion of the 10th birthday of the Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji regarding the observance of ‘Veer Bal Divas’ on December 26 every year is a huge announcement in a historical perspective. This date is recognized in connection with the martyrdom of Guru Ji’s two younger sons (Sahibzada Zorawar Singh and Sahibzada Fateh Singh) who were sealed alive in a wall by Mughal barbarian rulers in Sirhind, Punjab in 1704.
The two great martyrs were asked to convert to Islam and save their lives by Subedar Wazir Khan, which they categorically refused and agreed to be bricked alive into the wall. The Prime Minister’s announcement is a fair and faithful interpretation of historic issues and events that have deep significance given our broad national interests. It is the most appropriate and courageous move by the Indian government as the nation celebrates 75 years of absence from the British. However, the exact nomenclature of the day is a matter of further discourse and debate at an appropriate level.
Our freedom was in fact usurped when about a thousand years ago foreign barbarian invaders came to India to plunder and rule it. It was definitely our collective weakness as a nation that allowed this to happen. Although we have fought all the battles with these invaders all the time and struggled to free ourselves from them, we have not been able to withstand their tyranny as a collective rock solid. The Arabs, Turks, dynasty of slaves, Timurs who destroyed Indian towns and villages, temples and libraries, cultural symbols and valuable architecture, ruled us first; and were followed by Mughals, Afghans, Portuguese, French and British.
Since we obtained freedom in 1947, a number of national problems have remained unresolved for a long time. The leaders and policymakers of the post-independence era had very little understanding, love and respect for the nation’s civilization, culture, tradition and rich ethos. For them, India was “a nation in the making” or “a confederation of nations” or “a hodgepodge of conflicting cultures, religions and languages”. They did not recognize the spirit of India as a living soul having a perpetual life of thousands of years. Nor was India to them anything more than a piece of land with a population with diverse lifestyles. It was their most inappropriate view of India keeping India’s longevity, influence, impact and contribution in perspective. In short, these leaders and policy makers were motivated and guided by an inferiority complex about India, its long history and its culture, and for them their idea of India was limited to the concept of the model nation-state western.
India had a rich heritage of celebrating its history on a daily basis and also on special occasions as a festival. It was a great heritage of Indian civilization which had its moorings intact and alive in the millennial culture and tradition of India. We recite history in the form of poems, ‘slokas’, daily ‘kathas’, musical and dance performances, drama programs and also folklore. These usages would ensure that even illiterate people are educated about the history, culture and tradition of the nation as a whole. All of the nation’s historical figures would be revered as heroes and gods, regardless of creed, region, language, and class to which they belonged. From north to south and from east to west, there would be a common national feeling to guide the national, social, cultural and spiritual life of the people. Unfortunately, the thousand-year-old ideal soul life has been sought by the new policy makers and practical life leaders of the post-independence era without any understanding of its implications.
Portraying the life of Raja Harishchandra through theatrical performances all over the country, organizing Ramlila programs on the occasion of large-scale Navratras in every nook and corner of India or performances like Shakuntala-natyam were/are great teachings of history and moral values in the most successful traditional way. It can also be called the celebration of history. Such a celebration of history should have been part of regular teaching in schools and colleges as a matter of policy. But this did not happen since the former rulers and their henchmen responsible for formulating the political orientations were inspired by different ideological motivations and not by the Indian ethos. However, some good people, institutions and thinkers kept their focus on real and substantial issues throughout and their efforts paid off, slowly and steadily.
The Prime Minister’s statement on December 26 is the culmination of serious reflection on the subject and of efforts made in this direction for a long time. Any sort of disconnect with historical facts is a severe punishment for surviving generations and generations to come. Whether it is the question of the construction of the great temple of Sri Ram at Ayodhya, the rejuvenation of the ancient sanctuary of Kashi-Varanasi or the liberation of the birthplace of Sri Krishna at Mathura, all are the main sensitive issues of historical and cultural significance to the Indian nation. They can also be religious questions, but they are more important than questions relating to civilizational and cultural concerns which have a great historical significance.
Secularism and democracy for India is not a new subject. They were part of our cultural ethos from time immemorial. It is because of this ground reality that our founding ancestors of the Indian constitution did not include them in the original preamble of the constitution. It was only during the emergency period in 1975-77 that these two terms were added to the preamble only to intimidate the then opposition. Under the guise of secularism, much of our medieval past has been forcibly hidden or misinterpreted in history and general information books. Media institutions, Bollywood, some pseudo-intellectuals and people responsible for constructing political narratives have done great damage to the civilizational heritage of the country, especially after independence in 1947. Unfortunately, they have not drawn any lesson of the reasons and the catastrophic events of the division of India in 1947.
It must be stressed that since India was and is a living historical and cultural entity for more than ten thousand years, the invasions of the Arabs, Turks, Mongols, Mughals and Afghans and their despotic and barbaric domination were a force and unwanted intervention in the civilizational flow of India. India has paid a very high price for this unjustified and forced intervention in the form of religious conversions, the demolition of its symbols of pride and faith, the division of India and the emergence of Pakistan and Bangladesh on its right and left flanks. It is undoubtedly a huge retribution for any conscious society or nation, and it is unprecedented in the history of the world.
The life, deeds, laws, rules and administration of these foreign invaders in India are not part of our dominant historical life. In fact, the resistance, struggle and success of our national heroes and their paraphernalia against these invaders is an indivisible and integrated part of our proud historical life from the national point of view. The contributions made by them and their stuff are our historical assets that should be placed appropriately in the documented civilizational heritage.
It is in this context that we must consider the great contributions made by Sikh Gurus, their Saibzadas, leaders, followers and other supporters to the struggle for national and humanitarian values. During the period of struggle against these foreign barbarian rulers, there are great examples of national valor, courage and moral ethics. The people who have made supreme sacrifices to defend their faith, their social cohesion, their brotherhood, their humanitarian values and their national ethos are not only our heroes, but are like our “devas” and our gods.
They really need national recognition at all important levels, therefore, the initiative taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not only welcome but also deserves follow-up in other such cases. As a nation, we may be behind in our initiative, but better late than never. Celebrating 75 years of independence can therefore be transformed into a historic event by taking more such measures in order to establish the right national and historical narrative on our civilizational journey, bearing in mind that the recovery of the heritage history is now our central national programme.
Support ethical journalism. Support the dispatch
The Dispatch is a sincere effort of ethical journalism. Truth, accuracy, independence, fairness, impartiality, humanity and responsibility are key elements of our editorial policy. But we are still not able to generate great stories because we don’t have adequate resources. As more media fall under corporate and political control, informed citizens around the world are funding independent journalism initiatives. Here’s your chance to support your local media startup and help independent journalism survive. Click on the link below to make a payment of your choice and be an actor of citizen journalism