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Forgotten ‘Crackpots’ of History!
|by Dr. Rajinder Puri|
They demanded full independence for the Indian nation from the British. They sought to oppose foreign rule not by killing foreign rulers but through active protest that remained essentially non-violent. Their main weapon against their colonial masters was to launch a peaceful non-cooperation movement boycotting all government services, British opened educational institutions, British law courts, all foreign manufactured goods. In order to further their movement their followers were instructed to disobey and resist all legal orders that violated their conscience. The British did not take kindly to this demand for freedom. Sometimes things got out of hand and there was untold government repression. On one such occasion there was a massacre. The freedom fighters were tied to the mouths of canons and blown to bits. Many readers would dispute this and state that Mahatma Gandhi’s followers were cane-charged and perhaps sometimes shot, but never blown to bits by canons.
Readers would be right. But the above narrative is not about Mahatma Gandhi’s struggle. It is about the Kooka Revolt by Namdhari Guru Ram Singh more than fifty years before Gandhi borrowed all his ideas for India’s freedom struggle. Ram Singh went far beyond Gandhi. He set up his own postal system, established diplomatic relations with neighbouring countries such as Nepal, Afganistan and Russia, and even established in 1869 a regiment named the "Kooka Platoon" in Kashmir state! In fact he almost anticipated a South Asian Union! The Guru was imprisoned and his movement was crushed.
How many historians acknowledge the role of Guru Ram Singh?
The other day I once again saw the movie classic, Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi. With its spectacular star cast including Ben Kingsley, Roshan Seth, Saeed Jaffrey, John Gielgud, Trevor Howard, John Mills, Martin Sheen, Edward Fox and others the movie undoubtedly will create a lasting impression on the public mind about Gandhi. Not surprisingly the narrative is sanitized to show Gandhi in the best possible light. Many events such as the rejection of the Cabinet Mission Plan and the post Independence holocaust are omitted. Although the Noakhali violence and Gandhi’s Calcutta fast are of course prominently featured. But the most glaring omission was no mention at all of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. This should not surprise. History after all is the victor’s version of events.
Take the case of Maulana Hasrat Mohani. In the early 1920s he got the fiercely debated proposal of full Independence passed in the General Body meeting of the Congress party. Mahatma Gandhi was strongly opposed to the proposal but remained helpless before the overwhelming demand of youth members present. Mohani was a poet and inspired the public against British Rule with his verses. In the struggle for Indian Independence he was jailed for many years. After Veer Sawarkar he too became a leader to demand 'Complete Independence' in 1921. A fierce secularist he bitterly opposed the Partition and refused to migrate to Pakistan after Independence . He died in 1951. How many historians recall him for advocating Independence in the Congress long before Gandhi?
A wise politician once told me:
Now that the world has entered the Information Revolution should not historians and researchers use new technology to ferret out all the crackpots of history and their non-achievements for the world to better assess the so-called achievements of the historical icons it worships? The pursuit of truth demands nothing less.
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