Onward march

In life, there are things to be learnt and forgotten – learnt because the same mistakes should not happen again, forgotten because when they stay in you, they can traumatise you, inhibit you, create hatred in you and even colour your vision.

In any conflict there are two communities involved. One will be the victim, the other the culprit. When victims dwell on their atrocities, they become more miserable. There is self pity and hatred. This is not good for them or for oneself. You have to bring the culprit to justice but you cannot do it if you are hateful.

In the name of bringing people to justice, hatred is often rationalised. If a culprit is made to feel guilty again and again, he becomes hardened and either justifies his mistake or denies it. You should not make someone stew in guilt if you want them to reform. Making someone feel guilty all the time only widens the gap, breaks communication. It is only through love and understanding that a culprit can be brought to his senses and can be made to regret and reform.

What are the things to be learnt and forgotten?

Upper Caste Hindu atrocity on Dalits should be learnt and forgotten. Otherwise, if you are a Dalit you will hold the grudge and hatred against the caste Hindus and you will dismiss anything that comes from upper caste Hindus even if it is good – it is like throwing the baby with the bathwater. If Hindus hold on to the past, first they will feel guilty, and when you feel guilty, your whole identity is shaken. Guilt does not make one comfortable; it ferments and becomes hatred and then aggression. Instead of denying, if you acknowledge, you will do more affirmative action for the Dalits.

Similarly, Mughal atrocities on the Hindus: Mughals destroyed many Hindu temples and also imposed zias. This should be learnt and forgotten. It should not be held against the present generation Muslims. It’s not fair – even if you have committed a mistake, you don’t feel comfortable feeling guilty. And how can you make a community feel guilty for the atrocities of a few religious or political leaders way back in history? Nobody wants to feel guilty; such guilt will not bring people together.

On the contrary, what is totally unjustified is an effort by some intellectuals to deny facts and rewrite history projecting Aurangzeb and other rulers as pious rulers (as done in the text books of Karnataka), calling Aurungzeb as a devout Muslim who banned music; some historians even went to the extent of justifying Mohammad Ghazni’s invasion of the Somnath temple.

Sikhs, though a small minority, have contributed significantly to the country and in no way should one demean the sacrifices of Sikh Gurus. Projecting Muslim rulers as pious will only demean the sacrifice of Sikh Gurus. It should be acknowledged and forgotten.

Atrocities caused by the Catholic church on scientists, physicians, scholars, mystics and healers which has come to be known as the Spanish Inquisition, where thousands of scientists and women were tortured and killed, should teach one to not fall into the same pit, being dogmatic about one’s religion. Branding of non-Abraham religions as satanic, calling them pagans and polytheists, causing fear in the minds of people should not continue in this 21st century.

Such theories are even today professed in the North Eastern states in India, where people are so scared to even accept anything from any other religious traditions. Every religion has a place and should be respected. Very few know about the atrocities on the Native Americans where ten million native Americans were killed by the Europeans and about ten million killed by the Spanish in Central and South America. There is a total lack of sympathy for the victims.

The bitterness among the blacks about Apartheid still lingers on; many are unable to get over it even though it is only history now. That hatred has contributed to the rising crime still witnessed in the African cities. It is unjust for people in India to hold a grudge against the British, even after 57 years of independence, just as the suffering of Jews cannot be held against Germans forever.

The atrocities by Mongols and Turks, the Exodus of Asians from Uganda, the massacre of millions of people who did not subscribe to Stalin’s ideologies, the Celtic massacre in Ireland, the extermination of 750,000 Kashmiri pandits from the Kashmir valley, the riots in Gujarat, Mumbai, Marad (Kerala), Bhagalpur, Bihar, Meerut, Mumbai and the atrocities against the Sikhs should all teach humanity the lesson of tolerance and not allow such atrocities to recur in future.

If you deny this, you are doing injustice to history. But if you hold it against the people and chew it in your mind, you are perpetuating a heinous crime in a reverse way. How would someone feel if you go on pointing the wrong that his community did centuries ago? Keeping these atrocities in one’s memory will not allow you to have a warm and friendly relation with those communities.

Perhaps in this connection some historians feel we should change history and hide the atrocities and project only the positive things. Hiding facts is not the way. We need to educate people, as it was done in Germany – the holocaust was known to everybody. Education about previous aggression and the suffering it has caused will check future atrocities.

When an atrocity committed by one’s own community comes to light, people will have compassion towards the victim: when Britishers know how much third world countries suffered under British rule they will take more affirmative action, like the sympathy that poured on Gujarat after the earthquake from all over the world. How Srinathji’s idol was brought from Mathura to Rajasthan in a cart of vegetables and the untold suffering of millions of people of Mathura when Srinathji’s idol was damaged – these things are not to be hidden, but learnt from and forgotten.

Just because a ruler belongs to our community, we cannot hide his wrong doings and just because a ruler belongs to another community, we cannot blame him. Instead of pointing fingers at other religions, each religious leader should take responsibility for one’s own religion – Hindus should take care of untouchability, Christians of Satan and Muslims should take care of terrorism and fanaticism.

There is a tendency to deny. When you deny, you are not learning. And when you rake up the issue repeatedly, it only creates self pity or guilt – both rob the health of a society. Man should learn to come to the present moment with an impartial attitude and celebrate life; have a sense of belongingness to people of all communities, caste, race and nationalities.

Until one learns to do this, justice cannot prevail, cultures cannot flourish and civilization will not be safe. Learning from a mistake and not getting into either the guilt or the hate trap is a skill, otherwise violence will perpetuate to the extinction of all that is beautiful, of all that is diverse in this universe.