History, Its Importance and Vulnerability
When opportunistic politicians exploit history and corrupt it to suit its selfish agenda, it creates a mess initially, which eventually ends in a grave tragedy.
'History is really a record of every interruption of the even working of the force of love or of the soul.'
- M. K. Gandhi. Hind Swaraj: P. 45.
Whenever the natural flow of our lives has been interrupted, historic events occur and are recorded. This is what we call history. But the study of history often makes us forget the fact that what we read about is only a record of an interruption in the vastness of eternal time, just a brief instance. But that recorded interruption becomes dominant and exhorts frequently disproportionate influence.
Palestinians don't need to be reminded how history is manipulated to suit the objectives of a few, and what tragic consequences it ends up creating for many others. The notion of the Promised Land was used to justify depriving and displacing Palestinians from their motherland and to establish the occupier “state of Israel”. History was exploited to justify and foster antisemitism in Christian Europe for centuries, blaming Jews for crucifying Jesus, and demonizing them was practiced ever since Christianity has become the dominant religion. It was a classic example of utilizing an interruption and turning it into a dominating justification for anti-Semitism and the persecution of Jews in Europe. When some christians started feeling ashamed of its inherent Anti-Semitism it thought of another interruption, the concept of the Promised Land to get rid of Jews from Europe. They wanted to get rid of the Jews and were not concerned about the rights of the Palestinians and their homeland sovereignty, it was a win-win situation for Europeans, and so history was exploited, and new harm was committed. Human beings have this affinity to erase mistakes by committing others, history is replete with such examples.
My country has been plunged into an orgy of hate by exploiting 'crimes' committed in ancient times. We have become a land of revenge seekers. Seeking revenge for acts from our history. Because before the British invaded and enslaved us, we had been invaded and large empires carved out on Indian territories by Muslim rulers, some of whom were despots, and in their quest to win and establish empires, they committed atrocities; today we seek revenge for those from present-day Muslim Indians.
There have been events in our history where conquerors destroyed temples and built new ones. Mosques were built where temples stood, churches over temples, and in many instances, temples were built over older temples. Since we have so many principals and secondary gods and goddesses in Hinduism, there are many instances where temples to one god have been demolished or a temple to another god has been built over an existing one according to the belief practiced by the powerful and the rich, the dominant elite of that time.
In India we witnessed the politicization of history, it has been used to gain political advantage and power. When opportunistic politicians exploit history and corrupt it to suit its selfish agenda, it creates a mess initially, which eventually ends in a grave tragedy. And human beings end up having to pay an exorbitant and tragic price. India today is reaching that stage. Hate has taken a centre stage in what was till recently known as Gandhi's land. Today India has no longer the same profile.
There was a news item in newspapers a few days ago, about Hindu fanatics installing a bust of Gandhi's murderer in a town in Gujarat. Since it was published, there are many comments on social media about it, being so blasphemous that in Gandhi's Gujarat a statue of his murderer, Godse is installed and venerated. Gujarat ceased to be Gandhi's Gujarat after the communal riots in 1992 and particularly since the 2002 massacre of Muslims there. Today, the whole of India has reached that stage. We export statues of Gandhi to be installed in cities, all over the world. Our current Prime Minister loves to get his photographs taken with these statues in cities all over the world, on his visits. But once back home, the people and followers of the ideological organization, he and his party would install and worship the statues of Gandhi's murderer: Their true idol.
But the government has even more sinister designs on the history of India, especially our modern history, the history of our freedom movement. Since the father organization of the current ruling, political dispensation in India, RSS, did not take part in our freedom movement. They actually collaborated with the British to subvert and sabotage the freedom movement. The present government feels very uncomfortable about the record of their role as British collaborators, recorded in contemporary history. Now that they have power, they want to change it, to rewrite history. But to rewrite history, one has to first subvert the existing history. They have been doing this for decades. By attacking, abusing, and condemning historians, sowing seeds of doubts in the minds of people, seeding the notion in the minds of the impressionable populace, the present history is falsified and biased, by injecting lies into the narratives and by popularising them. Now that they have almost absolute power, they have gone into overdrive.
The next step in the strategy is to sabotage memorials and monuments. Jallianwala Bagh is a place of great historic significance for India. In a gruesome incident, many Indians were massacred here by the British rulers. The ground, soaked in the blood of Indians, children, women, and men has become holy. It became a place for pilgrimage from even before independence. After independence, it was intentionally kept the way it was on the day of the massacre so that Indians visiting the memorial to our freedom struggle got to witness the steep price in human lives that India had to pay for freedom. The place was kept stark, to the extent of looking shabby, but it showed the gruesomeness of the event that took place there. Recently the government beautified it, now the dusty ground is covered in lush green lawns, fancy and glitzy light shows take place there, beautiful murals adorn the walls around showing a festive spirit, and in all the glamour and glitz, the brutality of the tragedy that took place there, during a very cruel and tragic interruption in time, has very systematically been erased, obliterated.
They will not stop here, next in their crosshairs is Ba and Bapu's abode the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. The same state where they are busy now installing statues of Bapu's murderer.
When Ba and Bapu returned from South Africa, in 1915. They selected Ahmedabad to settle down. Bapu founded his first Ashram here. He rented a house in the Kochrab locality of the city and along with twenty-five others and started a commune, Ashram, there. All was well initially, but then Bapu invited a family from the caste which was considered 'untouchables' in Hinduism, trouble broke out. The neighbors boycotted them, they were not allowed access to the common well for water. Even some inmates of the Ashram revolted. Bapu told them to leave but refused to back down. But he realized that if he wanted to experiment with creating an equal society, he had to live outside the city limits, beyond the influence and interference of society, so he bought a plot of land across the river from the city and established his ashram there. This is how the Sabarmati Ashram came into existence more than a hundred years ago. It has witnessed many historic events of our freedom movement taking place there. It was the residence of Kasturba and Bapu and the Ashram community for more than thirteen years. Bapu perfected his practice of Satyagraha, passive resistance, here. Khadi the craft of handspun and handwoven cloth was revived and modernized here. Khadi became the fabric of freedom here at the Sabarmati Ashram, so did the spinning wheel a symbol of freedom.
On 12th March 1930, when Bapu began the historic Salt March for India's freedom and marched out of Sabarmati Ashram, he pledged not to return without winning freedom for his nation, and he lived up to the pledge. On a few occasions, he did return to Ahmedabad, but he never stayed at Sabarmati Ashram. Now, the Government has declared that they will take over the Ashram and make it a fancy tourist spot. They have declared a huge budget, over 150 million dollars. They will add lots of glitz and glamour to a very simple place and what they will achieve is a complete obliteration of Bapu's legacy, which is their real objective.
They must be stopped. They are welcome to install and worship the statues of Bapu's murderer, as many as they wish, but they are not welcome to obliterate the legacy Bapu bequeathed to humankind. This alteration of history must be prevented. Bapu said 'I want world sympathy in this battle of right over might.' Today Sabarmati Ashram is the symbol of Bapu's legacy who cries out for sympathy from humanity.