Skip to main content
Sabrang
Sabrang
India

Dire lessons from history

What does the External Affairs minister mean when he says decisions and policies are aimed at correcting historical wrongs?

Dr Hiren Gohain 02 Aug 2021

historical wrongsImage Courtesy:countercurrents.org

Five hundred years ago, Francis Bacon wrote in his pithy way, "Revenge is a kind of wild justice.'' Surely it gets wilder if you stretch your vendetta to a thousand years past. This is what we can conclude from what our External Affairs Minister said in a colloquium to a fairly bland remark of Anthony Blinken, US secretary of state.

S Jaishankar, who had been a veteran at the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) before formally joining the BJP, and then getting appointment as the Minister of that department, seems to be using an argument that has become common enough in the West today. Teresa May, who had served as the British Prime Minister before Boris Johnson, had apologised for the massacre of Jallianwala Bagh, Australian parliament made an elaborate show of respect for aboriginal culture recently. These did not cost much. But following the change of attitude of official America to native Americans (the 'savages' of once highly popular film genre 'Westerns'), various indigenous tribes of America have successfully sued the federal and state governments for cash compensation and restoration of some territory for wrongs inflicted on them in the past. Mass graves of indigenous children snatched away from their families have now been revealed provoking widespread outrage. There is similar tendering of apologies for slavery to descendants of slaves.

Jaishankar had in the same vein replied to Blinken's mild hint about offences against human rights with a sombre pledge to "correct historical wrongs".

What kind of wrongs are implied here? Not to beat about the bush, these seem to be the plethora of allegations by the militant Hindu right against Muslim rulers, like destroying temples, butchering of holy cattle for beef, invading and occupying Hindu kingdoms, forced conversion of people to Islam, molesting and raping Hindu women, imposing the Jizya tax on Hindus and so on. Rulers apart, even ordinary Muslims are said to have been complicit.

This is like saying that Norman invaders or their descendants must now pay for the injuries and oppression they had inflicted on Anglo-Saxons. Or that people of Greek origin in Turkey today must receive compensation today for conversion to Isla.m Unlike the descendants of African slaves in America, or native Americans, the Saxons and the Normans are now part of the British people. Indian Muslims do not quite fit into the scheme, but they are at least strikingly different from other Muslim nations of the world and a lot closer to Hindus in language, culture and manners by and large. So, attempts to correct 'historical wrongs' or impose restitutions on Indian Muslims make no sense. (The quest of Pakistan to seek a pristine Muslim nationhood has foundered on this rock, and barely subsists on Islamic fanaticism.)

There are thousands of Hindu temples, some with undiminished grandeur, that stand tall and erect after the alleged 'thousand years of bondage'. Hindus vastly outnumber Muslims in India. Most importantly, the Indian Muslims are in general in the bottom rungs of poverty and various deprivations. Those in government employment account for well below 10 p.c. of the total number. What kind of compensation can be extorted from them, and what kind of penance be imposed on them for their supposed crimes centuries ago? Generally, compensation and repentance are expected of races or nations who have gained from such historical wrongs. Indian Muslims do not appear to have gained much, if at all.

Rationally speaking those sections of Indians who do seem to have suffered from centuries of social oppression and cruel discriminations are the untouchables and certain scheduled castes. Atrocities on Dalits get reported by the media from time to time even today. Aspiring meritorious Dalits like Rohith Vemula and Payal Tadvi have been driven to suicide. So, if historical wrongs need urgent correction today, it is those of hoary vintage inflicted on Dalits. Very little is being done about it. The few measures of affirmative action directed by the Constitution have come under a process of deliberate evisceration.

A major project is that of reconstructing history to salve the alleged Hindu wounds. Already Akbar the Great has been given the boot from the Indian History syllabus, leaving a huge gap in the text and making subsequent periods less comprehensible. What’s more, throughout the Mughal rule staunchly Hindu Rajput kings like Rajah Man Singh, Rajah Jai Singh and Raja Jaswant Singh had no compunction in serving them as ranking generals in their armies. Rana Pratap and Shivaji on the other hand, had Muslim generals of Pathan descent in their armies. Hence delivering justice via rewriting history turns out to be so messy as to reduce it to babble.

What the project will do however is to forever divide the nation against itself and kindle criminal offences petty and big to keep things forever on the boil so as to render social peace untenable and pursuit of happiness a delusion. (During typing these articles on my android mobile I can often hear the telltale humming sound that indicates digital recording by the usual suspects. They actually need not bother as these are meant for circulation and publication.)

*The author is a highly respected Assamese intellectual, a literary critic and social-scientist from Assam. Views expressed are the author's own. 


Other pieces by Dr. Hiren Gohain: 

Mumbo-Jumbo will Voodoo you! 

The Spectre of Opposition Unity 

The UAPA noose 

The riddle of ‘Elected Autocracy’ 

Riddle of Assam elections 

 

Dire lessons from history

What does the External Affairs minister mean when he says decisions and policies are aimed at correcting historical wrongs?

historical wrongsImage Courtesy:countercurrents.org

Five hundred years ago, Francis Bacon wrote in his pithy way, "Revenge is a kind of wild justice.'' Surely it gets wilder if you stretch your vendetta to a thousand years past. This is what we can conclude from what our External Affairs Minister said in a colloquium to a fairly bland remark of Anthony Blinken, US secretary of state.

S Jaishankar, who had been a veteran at the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) before formally joining the BJP, and then getting appointment as the Minister of that department, seems to be using an argument that has become common enough in the West today. Teresa May, who had served as the British Prime Minister before Boris Johnson, had apologised for the massacre of Jallianwala Bagh, Australian parliament made an elaborate show of respect for aboriginal culture recently. These did not cost much. But following the change of attitude of official America to native Americans (the 'savages' of once highly popular film genre 'Westerns'), various indigenous tribes of America have successfully sued the federal and state governments for cash compensation and restoration of some territory for wrongs inflicted on them in the past. Mass graves of indigenous children snatched away from their families have now been revealed provoking widespread outrage. There is similar tendering of apologies for slavery to descendants of slaves.

Jaishankar had in the same vein replied to Blinken's mild hint about offences against human rights with a sombre pledge to "correct historical wrongs".

What kind of wrongs are implied here? Not to beat about the bush, these seem to be the plethora of allegations by the militant Hindu right against Muslim rulers, like destroying temples, butchering of holy cattle for beef, invading and occupying Hindu kingdoms, forced conversion of people to Islam, molesting and raping Hindu women, imposing the Jizya tax on Hindus and so on. Rulers apart, even ordinary Muslims are said to have been complicit.

This is like saying that Norman invaders or their descendants must now pay for the injuries and oppression they had inflicted on Anglo-Saxons. Or that people of Greek origin in Turkey today must receive compensation today for conversion to Isla.m Unlike the descendants of African slaves in America, or native Americans, the Saxons and the Normans are now part of the British people. Indian Muslims do not quite fit into the scheme, but they are at least strikingly different from other Muslim nations of the world and a lot closer to Hindus in language, culture and manners by and large. So, attempts to correct 'historical wrongs' or impose restitutions on Indian Muslims make no sense. (The quest of Pakistan to seek a pristine Muslim nationhood has foundered on this rock, and barely subsists on Islamic fanaticism.)

There are thousands of Hindu temples, some with undiminished grandeur, that stand tall and erect after the alleged 'thousand years of bondage'. Hindus vastly outnumber Muslims in India. Most importantly, the Indian Muslims are in general in the bottom rungs of poverty and various deprivations. Those in government employment account for well below 10 p.c. of the total number. What kind of compensation can be extorted from them, and what kind of penance be imposed on them for their supposed crimes centuries ago? Generally, compensation and repentance are expected of races or nations who have gained from such historical wrongs. Indian Muslims do not appear to have gained much, if at all.

Rationally speaking those sections of Indians who do seem to have suffered from centuries of social oppression and cruel discriminations are the untouchables and certain scheduled castes. Atrocities on Dalits get reported by the media from time to time even today. Aspiring meritorious Dalits like Rohith Vemula and Payal Tadvi have been driven to suicide. So, if historical wrongs need urgent correction today, it is those of hoary vintage inflicted on Dalits. Very little is being done about it. The few measures of affirmative action directed by the Constitution have come under a process of deliberate evisceration.

A major project is that of reconstructing history to salve the alleged Hindu wounds. Already Akbar the Great has been given the boot from the Indian History syllabus, leaving a huge gap in the text and making subsequent periods less comprehensible. What’s more, throughout the Mughal rule staunchly Hindu Rajput kings like Rajah Man Singh, Rajah Jai Singh and Raja Jaswant Singh had no compunction in serving them as ranking generals in their armies. Rana Pratap and Shivaji on the other hand, had Muslim generals of Pathan descent in their armies. Hence delivering justice via rewriting history turns out to be so messy as to reduce it to babble.

What the project will do however is to forever divide the nation against itself and kindle criminal offences petty and big to keep things forever on the boil so as to render social peace untenable and pursuit of happiness a delusion. (During typing these articles on my android mobile I can often hear the telltale humming sound that indicates digital recording by the usual suspects. They actually need not bother as these are meant for circulation and publication.)

*The author is a highly respected Assamese intellectual, a literary critic and social-scientist from Assam. Views expressed are the author's own. 


Other pieces by Dr. Hiren Gohain: 

Mumbo-Jumbo will Voodoo you! 

The Spectre of Opposition Unity 

The UAPA noose 

The riddle of ‘Elected Autocracy’ 

Riddle of Assam elections 

 

Related Articles

Assam Police Firing: Support for victims grows

12-hour Bandh in Assam, and protest by the Congress party even as nearly 3,000 police and paramilitary personnel are deployed to “maintain peace”

Assam Police Firing: Support for victims grows

12-hour Bandh in Assam, and protest by the Congress party even as nearly 3,000 police and paramilitary personnel are deployed to “maintain peace”


Sunday

03

Jan

Pan-India

Saturday

05

Dec

05 pm onwards

Rise in Rage!

North Gate, JNU campus

Thursday

26

Nov

10 am onwards

Delhi Chalo

Pan India

Theme

Taliban 2021

Taliban in Afghanistan: A look back

Communalism Combat had taken a deep dive into the lives of people of Afghanistan under the Taliban regime. Here we reproduce some of our archives documenting the plight of hapless Afghanis, especially women, who suffered the most under the hardline regime.
2020

Milestones 2020

In the year devastated by the Covid 19 Pandemic, India witnessed apathy against some of its most marginalised people and vilification of dissenters by powerful state and non state actors. As 2020 draws to a close, and hundreds of thousands of Indian farmers continue their protest in the bitter North Indian cold. Read how Indians resisted all attempts to snatch away fundamental and constitutional freedoms.
Migrant Diaries

Migrant Diaries

The 2020 COVID pandemic brought to fore the dismal lives that our migrant workers lead. Read these heartbreaking stories of how they lived before the pandemic, how the lockdown changed their lives and what they’re doing now.
Delhi HC

Hate Speech and Delhi Pogrom 2020

A spate of provocative speeches, that amount to hate speech in law and should be prosecuted allowed blood letting to spill on the streets of north east Delhi in February-March 2020

Campaigns

Sunday

03

Jan

Pan-India

Saturday

05

Dec

05 pm onwards

Rise in Rage!

North Gate, JNU campus

Thursday

26

Nov

10 am onwards

Delhi Chalo

Pan India

IN FACT

Analysis

Taliban 2021

Taliban in Afghanistan: A look back

Communalism Combat had taken a deep dive into the lives of people of Afghanistan under the Taliban regime. Here we reproduce some of our archives documenting the plight of hapless Afghanis, especially women, who suffered the most under the hardline regime.
2020

Milestones 2020

In the year devastated by the Covid 19 Pandemic, India witnessed apathy against some of its most marginalised people and vilification of dissenters by powerful state and non state actors. As 2020 draws to a close, and hundreds of thousands of Indian farmers continue their protest in the bitter North Indian cold. Read how Indians resisted all attempts to snatch away fundamental and constitutional freedoms.
Migrant Diaries

Migrant Diaries

The 2020 COVID pandemic brought to fore the dismal lives that our migrant workers lead. Read these heartbreaking stories of how they lived before the pandemic, how the lockdown changed their lives and what they’re doing now.
Delhi HC

Hate Speech and Delhi Pogrom 2020

A spate of provocative speeches, that amount to hate speech in law and should be prosecuted allowed blood letting to spill on the streets of north east Delhi in February-March 2020

Archives