Itihaas
Date, 1998
Akhilesh Mithal

Rekindle the Spark of Idealism

 

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The vapid and inane politics of the present day India (and it is not better anywhere else in the world) are enough to give even ex-idealists a heart attack from stress. In such times, wisdom lies in looking for a spark of Hope. Howsoever faint it may still light up a square millimetre or two and give some excuse for continuing to live.

For Hindi-speaking Indians there is no distinction in the term used for yesterday and tomorrow. Both are called Kull. In any case the Indian mind works in circles (we pompously call it cyclic as against the linear favoured by the dominant or white Anglo-Saxon culture).

So and therefore for us Indians all Time is ever present. Today is both what yesterday was and tomorrow will be. Itihaas can therefore cover the 21st century as well as 2,500 BC. Let us transport ourselves to January 1, 1999.

Less than 100 days remain. Another 365 for 1999. Thus as we read and write the Itihaas column before us, we are less than 500 days away from the year 2000 AD. What is special about this new century which is nearly upon us?

Since the end of the 15th Century (when the Christian Spaniards drove out all the Muslim and Jewish Spaniards from the Iberian Peninsula of Europe) the self-proclaimed ‘White’ nations of the world have been conquering, plundering, brutalising and exterminating whoever they have identified and stigmatised as the ‘Other’.

From the Incas of the Americas to the Uzbegs of Samarqand the older civilisations have had their people exterminated and their cities torched, sacked and plundered to accommodate what the whites called ‘European’ civilisation (sic). The 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries were lost to humanity and the fine arts because of European barbarism.The 21st will be the first century to dawn without the whites running the world as if it was their exclusive patrimony.

Older readers will recall that the white South Africans who made Apartheid into a legally enforced discrimination interpreted the Old Testament for obtaining scriptured religious sanction. They said that they, the whites, were the offspring of the free woman Sarah from the patriarch or Prophet Abraham. The blacks were descended from the slave woman Hagar. This was enough to justify Apartheid.

The most powerful man in the world of today is the sex-scandal-stained Bill Clinton. In Islamic law he would have been stoned to death. In the dispensation of Kautilya he would have been mutilated. In any decent society his daughter Chelsea would be given into the care of foster parents who would set a better example for her to emulate.

In the USA of today he sits playing with buttons which he cannot distinguish from his own and launches missiles into Sudan and Afghanistan, the poorest countries of the world. The only motivation he has is racial, the same as has brought Botha of South Africa to the dock.

The oppressed, brutalised, diminished and mutilated-by-colonialism world of Asia Africa and South America should plan a meet for 2001 AD when they can honour those who were martyred for the cause of freedom. India should offer to play host as being the birthplace of Buddha, the Tirthankaras, Ashoka, Akbar and Gandhi.

The meet can be dedicated to the founders of the Non-Aligned movement and Nehru, Nasser and Tito duly honoured.Jawaharlal Nehru (1947-1964) was the first idealist to rule India after Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar (1556-1605).

Akbar abolished Jaziya when he was only 22 years old. Nehru led the Constitutional Reforms which made equality spring into existence like Pallas Athene who darted out of the brow of Zeus fully armed.

The Hindus who are born unequal, live unequal and die unequal and who practise the extermination of the girl, both child and woman, from embryo to widowhood were most offended by this abrogation of all upper caste privileges of the male Hindu of the upper castes.

No wonder the RSS, the Akalis have always opposed even the memory of Nehru while the Muslim League send grateful thanks to Allah that India is a secular country which does not ram uniformity down all throats.

Jawaharlal’s very idealism led to his downfall. He genuinely believed that all of humanity hitherto oppressed by others could make common cause. Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai was real for him. In 1962, the totalitarian and fascist Chinese stabbed him in the back.

Indian jawans went to fight in the eternal snows of the Himalayas wearing canvas shoes issued for PT or physical training. All who remember Jawaharlal in his last days mourn not only for his broken heart but also for a cause, the cause of the oppressed being lost sight of for the time being.

Raghupati Sahay ‘Firaq’ captured the feelings of Jawaharlal and the nation in his ghazal (lyric) called Buree udaas hei raat or It is a sad, sad night / It is a sad night weighed down with pain. We shall on another occasion reproduce the ghazal and hopefully an adequate translation.

For the moment we should concentrate on the meet of hitherto oppressed-over-the-centuries nations to kick off the 21st Century. The obvious invitees would be Fidel Castro, Nyerere and Nelson Mandela. The Irish were also the victims of British Imperialism. They claim that the eagles went to other countries and that the vultures came to Ireland.

They have a special bond with India because of the dauntless courage of their patriots while imprisoned by the brutal British. As September 13 marks the anniversary of the death of Jatin Das on the 69th day of his hunger strike in 1929 the meet can start or peak on that date in 2000 AD.

Perhaps some details of his martyrdom will make readers not only buy the idea of the meet but impel them to write to the PM, their Chief Ministers and their MPs and MLAs to support it and push it forward. The extracts we quote are culled from The Roll of Honour by the freedom fighter Kali Charan Ghosh.

On June 23, it leaked out from the maximum security Lahore Central Jail that Butukeshwar Dutt had refused all food for the last nine days despite most inhuman torture inflicted upon him in order to break his spirit. On July 9, Bhagat Singh was taken from Mianwali Jail to Lahore Central Jail in handcuffs and bar fetters. It was the 25th day of his hunger strike.

Jatin Das had been brought to Lahore Central Jail on June 16. It is said that when hunger strike as a weapon for more humane treatment of political prisoners was agreed upon by Jatin, he bid farewell to his fellow prisoners and he knew he was entering a oneway street.“After waiting for 10 days the jail authorities decided to apply force."

Five convict ‘guards’ visited each cell. The prisoner was thrown on the ground and all his extremities and his head held in a vice like grip to prevent the slightest movement. A tube was then inserted into his nostril all the way to the stomach and milk poured down it.

The prisoners clenched their teeth to block the tube and were kicked and punched to relax the jaw muscles. Fingers were inserted into the anus and the scrotum squeezed to achieve the same effect. The prisoners responded by vomiting the contents of their stomachs after the guards let go off their limbs.

On July 13, prisoners were offered special diet on ‘health’ grounds. They refused as their demand was for the concession on the ground of their being political prisoners. On July 26, Jatin developed pneumonia from the milk he had inhaled during the torture inflicted on him to make him swallow.

After passing a restless night on August 23, Jatin started losing his vision. Next day it was noticed that his brain was getting anaemic and his leg losing movement. Medicine was forced into him and hiccups started. The government succumbed when it was too late for Jatin. On September 1, Jatin’s left side was paralysed down to the waist. He was unable to open his eyelids and his voice started failing.

The hunger strike was given up by the other prisoners on September 2 in deference to the wishes of the Jail Enquiry Committee set up to enquire into rules affecting prisoner. On September 10, the prisoner completed the 60th day of the fast.

His brain became anaemic, his limbs lost all power of locomotion and he was now more dead than alive. On September 11, the Home Member declared in the Assembly that his condition was critical. The fateful day for which he had striven came at 1.05 pm on September 13, 1929. Jatin became free of British slavery by giving up his life.

Mary, the spouse of Terence McSwiney Lord Mayor of Cork who had sacrificed his life in Ireland in similar circumstances wired “Family of Terence McSwiney unites with patriotic Indian in grief and pride in the death of Jatin Nath Das. Freedom will come.”Let us fulfill the “tryst with destiny” and the promise made in the patriotic song of the 1930s.

Shaheedoan kay muzaaroan our lugetngay hurr burrus maylay.

There will be annual fairs held to honour martyrs. Let us hope that the site where the Lahore Central Jail stood in 1929 will have a lamp or two lit on September 13 of every year from now on and that the 2000 meet will visit the site.

Unless an effort is made the dead and dying embers of idealism cannot be rekindled into the flames which will cleanse the dross which has entered public life. It is hoped that the UN will take heed and support the meet instead of going on wasting effort on Atom Bomb Non-Proliferation Treaties.

 

Akhilesh Mithal, 1991-1999. All rights reserved.
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