Shivaji Statue

Is this the only way to teach the Indian narrative?

 

Background

India lacks a proper narrative of its history. There are two major sets of narratives of Indian history which Indians encounter today. The first narrative including the Aryan migration theory was the work of Britishers to bring moral justification to their presence in India. The second narrative came from the comrade Nehru. The second narrative blamed everything wrong in modern-day India on Britishers and everything associated, notably, capitalism. Socialist India tried to form a non-aligned block but maintained good relations with the USSR,  the leader of the communist second-world.

The textbooks changed accordingly.  The textbooks maintain a Delhi-centric view of India with little regard to the fact that many major kingdoms existed outside of it. The textbooks admire Nehru’s Indian National Congress (INC) while deemphasizing non-INC freedom fighters. The textbooks maintain awe for the socialism and the USSR while ignoring the success of capitalist states like Singapore and Taiwan.

And that’s where a child’s Indian’s interaction with Indian history ends. Museums suffer from the neglect of the government. Any attempt at pointing to any other narrative is met with violence sometimes even state-approved violence and arrests . Few Indians, if ever, learn in detail about the destruction of Nalanda (it just disappeared, right?), the Vijayanagar empire (who cares about south India?), Shivaji’s son-in-law’s betrayal (irking Marathas again?),  the role of Indian soldiers in the two World Wars, 1962 battle of Chushul (no bad light on Nehru, please), and the whole history of the north-east (the racial discrimination at its worst).

 

Shivaji Statue

$500 million (₹ 3600 crores) has been allocated by the BJP-led govt to build the world’s tallest statue devoted to Shivaji. The statue is a symbol. Symbols are powerful, and politicians understand that. The intentions are noble; the goal isn’t. In fact, given the price tag, the statue symbolizes everything that’s wrong with RSS-BJP driven nationalism is, low on intellectual agenda and high  turbo-charged on emotions. The FACT museum of Indian history set up by François Gautier with the current total spending of about $143, 000 (₹ 1 crore) would do a much better job of teaching the missing nationalist narrative. Maybe the BJP government(s) should have taken a cue and improve/set up the museums around the country instead.

Note:

  1. For the sake of completeness, there is another narrative of Indian history, the P.N. Oak‘s version. It circulates, primarily, on social media. And like Pakistani historians uses active imagination instead of facts.
  2. Some believe that Indian textbooks glorify Muslim rulers at the expense of others, I believe that to some effect is a coincidence of the fact that Indian textbooks take a Delhi-centric view of Indian history and Muslim rulers dominated there in past 1000 years, of course, that is only a partial reason.

Cruelty to animals

What’s not cruel

  1. Burning bee hives (homes) of billions of bees for extracting the honey they spent their life gathering
  2. Raising hens, in millions, solely for their eggs & meat
  3. Slitting throats of millions of animals and let them bleed to death (halal)
  4. Skinning millions of cows for their leather
  5. Impregnating millions of cows repeatedly for milk
  6. Selective breeding of millions of Turkeys, so that, they provide more meat but are too heavy to survive
  7. Neutering thousands of dogs and cats, so that, they can be used as pets
  8. Boiling shrimps alive for food
  9. Killing deer and bears in the name of population control during the hunting season

What’s cruel

  1. Whatever happened at the Tiger Temple

Rohtak Riots

Background

Rohtak is a small district 50 miles (80 km) west of the Indian capital of New Delhi. The city is also known as the Jat heartland for its dominant Jat population. The second biggest community in the district is [Hindu] Punjabis who migrated to Haryana after the Islamic state of Pakistan was carved out of India in 1947.  The Punjabis are primarily businessmen and live in the urban areas. They, notably, run the largest wholesale cloth market of Asia known as Shori market. The Jats primarily constitute the agrarian society and dominate the public institutions.  The traumatic memories of 1947 have kept Punjabis suspicious of Indian National Congress (“Congress”) and hence, their love for nationalist BJP is well known. The Congress is the Grand Old Party of India and hence, is deeply entrenched in the Jat social institutional bodies, namely, the Khap Panchayats and educational institutions. The Jats’ love for the nation and hence, joining the Indian army is well-known. The nationalist spirit is implicit in the culture of the city district. So much so that while Congress leaders outside Haryana support anti-India rallies while the Congress leaders in Haryana fight court battles for the right to display Indian flags.

The permanent undercurrent

There has always been a tense relationship between the Jat and the Punjabi communities. From labeling Punjabis as outsiders, Jhangis,  and at worst, Pakistanis, a “small” conservative section of Jat community has always found the idea of maintaining cordial relations with Punjabi community unpalatable. To the silent majority [of Jats], living with Punjabis is inconsequential – they have more important things to worry about in life. They have admiration for the Punjabi community in terms of the affluence they have built up after losing everything in 1947. While the undercurrent does lead to animosity from time to time but overall, the effect of it has been negligible. As someone who was born and grew up as a Punjabi in Rohtak, I had a lot of Jat friends. Only a few of them ever held any animosity against Punjabis. The vice-versa is true as well. The undercurrent, I believed and felt, was a dying one.

The elections of 2014

Compared to most states in the country, Haryana is a sleepy state as far as politics go. Political news from the neighboring states would dominate the news section. The ban on student unions could be a major cause of this. 2015 elections were a landmark because this was the first time the BJP came to power on its own. The idea of having a Punjabi Chief Minister whose parents came here empty-handed in 1947 did not bode well with the small albeit influential conservative section of the Jat community. No surprises that the Jat reservation leader Hawa Singh Sangwan referred to him as a Pakistani.

Riots of 2016

While Congress did lose the elections, its deep penetration within Jats is well-known. Using that penetration to create a ruckus in a BJP-led government is a deliberate one. An inexperienced Chief Minister, who is a first-time MLA and the 2017 UP elections where the BJP does not want to lose the Jat votes for has led to a sacrifice of Punjabi community of Rohtak in the process. At the risk of repeating myself, Rohtak is not Srinagar or Nagaland where anti-nationalists run amok – both the dominant communities are deeply nationalist. But now the city is under curfew, probably for the first time since my birth in 1987. The city is being ruled by rioters with non-Jat, primarily, Punjabi and other non-Jat owned businesses being deliberately targeted. The burning of Captain Abhimanyu’s house, Finance minister of Haryana, who is a Jat himself, is a symbolic one, the community has effectively disowned its most prominent leader in the ruling BJP government.

 

Violence exploded in Rohtak as Jat protesters demanding reservation in jobs and education. Also set fire to a minister's home, damaged property and burnt police vehicles. Mobs blocked highways and rail tracks. EXPRESS PHOTO BY GAJENDRA YADAV 19 02 2016.

The long-term effects

The dividing line between Jats and Punjabis were supposed to diminish over time. The communities have too much in common, from the same religion to similar food habits. These riots would leave deep scars and suspicion in the Punjabi community which after being questioned for its identity and threatened with riots was once forced to leave their paternal land in 1947. Two generations later, in the hindsight of Jat reservation, the uncomfortable question targeting their identity is being asked again.

Wealth destruction is worse than taxes

An economic activity has one more of the following impacts

  1. Wealth creation – for example, processes like extraction of oil, capturing solar energy and even repairing a broken device.
  2. Wealth transfer – for example, processes like selling a good, taxes and bribery/theft, though the last one is usually illegal.
  3. Wealth destruction – for example, processes like hurricanes, wars and riots.

Most developing/underdeveloped countries usually lack sufficient wealth creation, but it does not stop there. They suffer a lot from man-made wealth destruction as well. Sometimes, they are obvious, as in the case of wars and riots. Sometimes, they are more subtle. For example, India loses 24% of electricity to transmission and distribution, as oppose to 6% in the USA. Or, for example, 30% of fruits and vegetable harvest is lost in India due to lack of proper storage. Tax, in principle, is a transfer of money to the government. Even if the government uses money inefficiently, it is still being used. While in the case of wealth destruction, the resources are simply lost leaving an overall poorer society.

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