The Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s declaration on 9th January 2022 on the occasion of the birthday of the 10th Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji regarding the observance of “Veer Bal Divas” on 26th December every year is a huge announcement in a historical perspective. This date is recognised in connection with the martyrdom of the two younger sons of Guru Ji (Sahibzada Zorawar Singh and Sahibzada Fateh Singh) who were sealed alive in a wall by the barbaric Mughal rulers in Sirhind, Punjab in 1704.
Both the great martyrs were asked to convert to Islam and save their life by Subedar Wazir Khan, which they flatly refused and accepted to be bricked alive in the wall. The announcement by the PM is an apt and true interpretation of the historical issues and events which have a deep meaning in view of our broad national interests. It is the most appropriate and courageous decision by the government of India when the nation is celebrating its 75 years of freedom from the Britishers. However, the exact nomenclature of the day is a matter of further discourse and debate at an appropriate level.
Our freedom was infact usurped when around one thousand years ago some foreign barbaric invaders came to India to loot it and rule it. It was definitely our collective weakness as a nation that we allowed it to happen. Though we fought all battles with these invaders all the time and struggled for freedom from them, but were not able to withstand against their tyranny as a collective solid rock. The Arabs, Turks, Slave dynasty, Timurs that destroyed Indian cities and villages, temples and libraries, cultural symbols and architecture of value, ruled us initially; and were followed by Mughals, Afghans, Portuguese, French and Britishers.
Ever since we got freedom in 1947, a number of national issues remained unresolved and unattended for a long time. The rulers and policy makers of the post independence era had very meagre understanding, love and regard for the ancient civilization, culture, tradition and rich ethos of the nation. For them, India was ‘a nation in making’ or ‘a confederation of nations’ or ‘a hotchpotch of conflicting cultures, religions and languages’. They didn’t recognise the spirit of India as a living soul having a perpetual life of thousands of years. Neither for them was India anything beyond a piece of land having a population with diverse ways of life. It was their most inappropriate view of India keeping in perspective the longevity, influence, impact and contribution of India. In short, these rulers and policy makers were driven and guided by an inferiority complex about India and its long history and culture, and for them, their idea of India was limited to the concept of the western model of a nation-state.
India had a rich heritage of celebrating its history on daily basis and also on special occasions as a festival. This was a great legacy of the Indian civilization that had its moorings intact and alive in the thousands of years old culture and tradition of India. We would recite history in the form of poems, ‘slokas’, daily ‘kathas’, musical and dance performances, drama programmes and also as folklore. These usages would make even illiterate people get educated about history, culture and tradition of the nation as a whole. All historical figures of the nation would be worshipped as heroes and gods irrespective of the creed, region, language and class they belonged to. From north to south and east to west, there would be a common national sentiment to guide the national, social, cultural and spiritual life of the people. Unfortunately, the thousands years old ideal soulful life was sought to be detached by the new policy makers and rulers from the practical life in the post-independence era without any understanding of its implications.
Enactment of the Raja Harishchandra’s life through drama performances throughout the country, organising Ramlila programmes on the occasion of Navratras on a large scale in every nook and corner of India or performances like Shakuntala-natyam were/are great teachings of history and moral values in the most successful traditional manner. It can also be called the celebration of history. Such celebration of history needed to have been made a part of the regular education through schools and colleges as a matter of policy. But it didn’t happen since the earlier rulers and their henchmen incharge of formulating the policy guidelines were inspired by different ideological motivations and not by the Indian ethos. However, some good people, institutions and thinkers kept their focus on the real and substantial issues throughout and their efforts yielded results, slowly and steadily.
Prime Minister’s declaration regarding 26th December is the outcome of a serious thinking on the subject and the efforts made in this direction for a long time. Any sort of disconnect with the historical facts is a severe punishment to the surviving generations and the generations to come. Whether it is the issue of building of Sri Ram’s grand temple in Ayodhya, rejuvenation of Kashi-Varanasi ancient shrine or liberation of Sri Krishna’s birthplace in Mathura, all are the core sensitive issues of historical and cultural importance for the Indian nation. They might be the religious issues as well, but they have more significance as the issues pertaining to the civilizational and cultural concerns that have a great historical bearing.
Secularism and democracy for India aren’t a new subject. They used to be a part of our cultural ethos from times immemorial. It is because of this ground reality that our founding forefathers of the Indian constitution didn’t include them in the original preamble of the constitution. It was only during the period of emergency in 1975-77, that these two terms were added to the preamble only to bully the then opposition. In the garb of secularism, many things of our medieval past were forcibly hidden or misinterpreted in the books of history and general information. Media institutions, Bollywood, some pseudo-intellectuals and people responsible for building political narratives did a great damage to the civilizational legacy of the country particularly after the independence in 1947. Unfortunately, they didn’t learn any lessons from the reasons and catastrophic happenings of the division of India in 1947.
It needs to be emphasized that since India was and is a living historical and cultural entity for the last more than ten thousand years, the invasions of the Arabs, Turks, Mongols, Mughals and Afghans and their despotic and barbaric rule were a forcible and unwanted intervention in the civilizational flow of India. India paid a very high price of this unwarranted and forcible intervention in the shape of religious conversions, demolitions of its symbols of pride and faith, division of India and emergence of Pakistan and Bangladesh on its right and left planks. It is undoubtedly a huge retribution for any conscious society or a nation, and is unparalleled in world history.
The life, doings, laws, rules and the administration of these foreign invaders in India aren’t a part of our mainstream historical life. In fact the resistance, struggle and success of our national heroes and their paraphernalia against these invaders are an indivisible and integrated part of our proud historical life from national point of view. Contributions made by them and their stuff are our historical assets that need appropriate placement in the documented civilizational heritage.
It is in this context that we need to view the great contributions made by the Sikh Gurus, their Saibzadas, their chieftains, disciples and other followers to the struggle of national and humanitarian values. During the period of struggle against these foreign barbaric rulers, there are great instances of national valour, courage and moral ethics. People who made supreme sacrifices to uphold their faith, social cohesion, brotherhood, humanitarian values and national ethos aren’t only our heroes but are like our ‘devas’ and gods.
They verily need national recognition at all important levels, therefore, the initiative taken by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not only welcomed but also deserving of follow-up in more such cases. As a nation, we might be late in our initiative, but better late than never. Celebrating 75 years of independence can thus be turned into a historical event by taking more such strides in order to establish the right national and historical narrative about our civilizational course keeping in view that reclaiming historical legacy is now our core national agenda.