From the days of our early schooling, we come across innumerable references to our glorious time of the ancient past; we are subsequently exposed to the Arab and Mughal conquests, and thence to the independence period during the course of our schooling. As we grow into our teens and the early twenties, various external sources also fashion our understanding of our past, which we eventually come to accept as the absolute truth, without questioning anything. Rarely do we question anything; rather, we accept it at face value as more often than not, it comes from sources that we consider above reproach: namely, western sources, school books and Media – international as well as Indian.
Take a look at a few instances of modern distortions that are materially impacting us in some ways – both small and large:
1. Most people in the West consider our distance from them largely due to our pro-Russian tilt, and defend their pro-Pakistan posture due to this. However, the correct historical record shows the exact reverse: India approached the West first, but was spurned – and spurned royally, as my previous posts have shown. It is a matter of documented record that Pakistan was on the western radar since at least 1945, due to their imagined Russian fears. Then the security deal with Pakistan, denial of steel and other technology to India all predate our Russian tilt…
2. Indians still blame solely Nehruji for the entire Kashmir imbroglio, when an impartial reading of the account throws up an entirely different story… the double game played by the UK, Mountbatten’s statement to Pakistan, India’s intentions, the international scenario wherein the western powers were clearly and unabashedly pro-Pakistan are all ignored by the historical record; the fact that Kashmir was singularly calm during the terrible riots, and that fact that the chances of Pakistan winning a referendum being remote, is never mentioned.
The combination of these 2 tends to give a slightly defensive posture to the normal Indian citizen even in the modern day. Take Kashmir; instead of blaming the West and Pakistan, more often than not we curse Nehruji, who was at best peripherally involved, and can be counted as one of the victims of the entire game – a game which he was powerless the control! This is brought out clearly by the MOMs between the Chief of both armies – who in 1947-48 were both Britishers, and clearly discussed their plans with each other, when their soldiers were fighting a war! The result: we, as a people, heap ridicule on Panditji, and grow angry and defensive – when there is no need to be defensive whatsoever!
Similarly, in the case of US relationship, instead of putting a strong face forward, we are apologetic for our so-called leftist tilt! This despite the fact that our leftist tilt was because of the prevalent international scenario, wherein we had no choice but to go to Russia for help and technology – technology the great west was refusing to provide; and for our existential security concerns, as is manifest from the US’ reprehensible behavior by sending a submarine to pressurize India despite having clear knowledge of a genocide in Bangladesh. We have no reason to be defensive; we are the victims, for God’s sake! This translates to a collective defensive posture; which does massive harm to our national self-image and ego – essential factors in any nation.
Most of us would consider it a waste of time, or at the most an indulgence to feed our national ego or self-image; most of us would not give a second thought to the political aspect of writing history. Even the most cursory glance will show how politics has gotten intertwined with accepted history, and how vested interests of various hues vociferously defend the status quo, without exhibiting any sign of inquiry towards the alternative viewpoint. The result is that the national image suffers at the cost of feeding a few egos and reputations…
The fact of the matter is that a positive, aggressive and confident self-image and national ego is a powerful driver of a people. It has a very material impact on how we conduct ourselves, and how we project ourselves to the world. Pride is a known driver and motivator; it has a positive impact when taken in the right amounts. As a corollary, defeatism is a poison and a cancer that eats into our own competitiveness and fighting abilities. A positive national image binds a nation together; and drives it to further great deeds. Defeatism breeds discontent, resulting a outflux of talent – which can be seen in India, albeit in small amounts.
What it does is it changes the attitude and behavior of a people, who come to believe that they are what they are purely due to their own faults; this tends to suppress talent – resulting in the more talented wanting to break out and reach for greener pastures. The national attitude changes from a positive outlook to a negative and defensive outlook. This seemingly esoteric factor is in reality a very pertinent driver of growth – personal as well as national. For example, a people with pride in their past, will not back down from active promotion of their indigenous arts and culture. The vibrant outlook naturally translates into a positive image in communication, marketing etc other activities. And the driving factor ceases to be ‘protection of the indigenous crafts’ and moves onto the far more positive ‘marketing of art and culture; the positive outlook creates an internal market as well – as the people are far more amenable to what they perceive as class in their consumptive choices.
That is why a correct knowledge and understanding of History is so important. There is a lot in our history that has been ignored; as it was largely compiled in its present form by westerners. As we shall see in the coming book review of Operation Red Lotus, this was at times deliberate. In point of fact, we have no reason to be defensive about anything in our history; except perhaps that dark period of the license raj from the late 60s. We further have no reason to be in derision about the more seemingly unexplained claims made by some historians – for example, the First War of Independence, or even casteism, or sati, or our ancient past… none of which have been adequately covered in the popular discourse. A confident and aware people will be more at ease with their own selves; lessening to a large degree the fawning of the west that is so apparent in India.
And please remember: all successful nations in the Modern World have made it by being themselves; not by wanting to be someone else. That is a hard truth… one we as a people cannot afford to ignore!