History matters. It educates and assesses, hails heroes, counts its dead and most importantly warns repeatedly that “peace comes only with a flash of steel.” Many of her murals come with a biting tongue, fearsome magnificence and bristle with a deterrent policy – love peace but keep your powder dry. Our Government is supposed to know all this, yet they continue to make peace with thuggish regimes and cave in to unhindered belligerence. The elitist media is not far behind. They seek to appease rather than lead. And the all-wise swamijis are busy merging with the infinite. As always, there is no institution that promotes national interests.
Rudderless India is seeking one, and the answers once again come from the forgotten pages of history, “Where there is none, create one.” But before that, the right version of history must be reclaimed from a sleep walking nation of pseudo secular politicians and incompetent leaders looking for historic gold in the bigoted reigns of Khilji, Ghazni and Aurangazeb. It must cease the humble, toe-touching suppression of India’s true history and build a powerful historical narrative, which can function as an institution for creating a muscular and cohesive India. And when that happens, the forgotten tides of history will bring to its shores heroes such as Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Subhash Chandra Bose, Bhagat Singh, Aurobindo Ghosh, Veer Savarkar, Lala Lajpat Rai, Khudiram Bose, Subramanium Bharati, and many others who have been discarded by a “secular” regime deluded by getting a great-power status on the cheap, by riding on America’s coattails.
For a nation riddled with amnesia, only the spurs of inspiring history can shake its lethargy and bring its soul back to life. Other societies have realized this. Churchill opined - “The farther back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.” History became a weapon in the hands of Churchill and fired him with the will to fight the powerful German army during World War 2. “We shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills, we shall never surrender,” he thundered. When the whole of Europe reeled and surrendered to the Germans, England under Churchill held firm and did not flinch during the relentless bombing of London.
Another stalwart of history, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, a Harvard Ph.D., initiated February as Black History month and sowed the seeds of historical pride and cultural awareness. Since then lights from African history have spawned a prolific catharsis of stories, ideas, legends, folklore, theatre, music, movements, social-connectivity and lay the ground work that gave America the conviction and courage to elect Barack Obama. American labor movement also has its slogan from history. “Remember Ludlow” has been its battle cry echoing the anguished rebellion of the despised and downtrodden miners of 1914 West Virginia. The vivid images of the massacred miners and their women and children inspired unions to stand tall, no matter what, and claim their rights.
Even the Taliban raised a formidable fighting machine using historical narratives, iconic portraits, fiery prose and poetry to generate heroism and convince the Afghans regarding the Taliban world view. In battle, their spirits soar with the inspiring tale of Malaila, an Afghan Jeanne D’ Arc and daughter of a shepherd, who sounded a bugle call in the second Anglo-afghan war of 1880, and rallied an almost defeated Afghan army to fight. She began her defiant poetry with, “Young love! If you do not fall in the battle of Maiwand, by God, someone is saving you as a symbol of shame,” which caused a thousand swords to be raised so fiercely that the British were routed completely and forced to retreat.
A leaf that did not know it was part of a tree cannot function as a leaf. History is the process of connecting to our DNA, our reality. Since history is written by victors, the conquered have to scratch and claw for a space for the victim’s version of history. Indian culture’s derisive attitude towards historians has not helped either, letting the India story to be hijacked by outsiders, hostile outliers and our very own puffed up intellectuals. Indian history has to be reclaimed from a colonial proxy or a “secular” version whose origins stem from Macaulay’s contempt with anything Indian, as typified by his blatant boast “A single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia.”
Our survival depends on the version of history that fuels cultural pride and politics of justice. An African proverb says it all, “Until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt will always glorify the hunters.” Let us then retrieve from the past, the fire of Shivaji and Ranjit Singh and not the ashes of famine and defeat. Resolute political action cannot come from a politically correct version where rapacious, brutal Islamic regimes are depicted as the golden age of India and Hindus are portrayed as degenerates, cowards, or superstitious heathens. Such distortions of history have led the lion-like country to become a nation of sheep ruled by wolves.
“We did not know that we were brothers, now we know. Out of that brotherhood, let power grow. We did not know that we were strong. Now we see in union lies our strength,” sang the celebrated poet of the Harlem renaissance, Langston Hughes. Shared history consolidates and makes brothers out of strangers. The powerful tool that speaks of the past can become a weapon if used correctly, and can dispatch the coalition of pacifists and their stupid policy of appeasement down the dustbin of history where it truly belongs.