Friday, March 22, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Rational commitment to nationalism and cultural synthesis

I would like to join issue with Mr Hari Jaisingh in his views expressed in “Rational commitment to nationalism” (March 15). No doubt it is the leadership that has taken the nation to its present state. No blame game should be played because it is not the individuals who are solely responsible but it is the failure of the system of our mainstream politics. T.S. Eliot said, “Half of the harm that is done in the world is due to people who want to feel important.” But I would say that most of the harm that is done in India is due to the people who want to feel important. Every political leader who matters wants to create a position for himself that if he is not able to gain power directly then he should at least be in an arm-twisting position. He is ready to exploit regional, language, caste, religious or any other sentiments for creating a constituency or vote bank for himself. He is not bothered what damage he is doing to the nation in the process.

This process of destructive game started 54 years back when the colonialists left a fragmented India. Every leadership that emerged in subsequent times contributed its bit to the divide because every one had a sense of insecurity. Indira Gandhi inherited the division based on castes and further divided society between the rich and the poor. V.P. Singh completely fragmented society by playing the Mandal card for his political survival and many products of this game today are people like Mulayam Singh Yadav, Laloo Yadav and Mayawati.

Some contributed on the basis of region like Uttaranchal, Jharkhand, others on language like Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Gujarati etc. Some divided the people on the rural-urban, and farmer-non-farmer basis like Charan Singh, Devi Lal and Mr Badal. Mr L.K. Advani created a communal frenzy which created a Hindu backlash, the fruit of which is being enjoyed by Mr Vajpayee.


Mr Hari Jaisingh is right when he asserts that the main failure in the polity has been of leadership. Now the question is who should take the real challenge of picking up threads from Godhra, Ahmedabad and Ayodhya. Though people have the responsibility of mending ways of politicians but their power of ballet stands exposed today. People can only defeat the guilty at the hustings but they have no alternative except to bring another set of similar players to the helm.

Dr TIRATH GARG, Ferozepur

OPPOSITION ROLE: Mr Hari Jaisingh has rightly underlined lack of rational commitment to nationalism in case of the Indian nation vis-a-vis the USA. We are still a nation where vote-bank politics of caste and community takes precedence to the national interest. That is why when terrorists strike at the WTC, the Americans rise together to face the tragedy and when there is a similar attack on Indian Parliament, our leadership, both political and intellectual, retaliates more against the government than the traders of terror.

Similar was the case of Godhra and post-Godhra Gujarat. Instead of helping the government and thereby the people of the state and the nation to cope with the situation, the otherwise divided Opposition unites to speak in a language that hurts the feelings of the majority community. And this politically-motivated stance of the Opposition ultimately aggravates the communal divide in Gujarat.

Had they taken a nationalistic view of the developments and joined hands with the government in tackling the calamity of riots, the Narendra Modi government could have been kept under severe moral and political pressure.


THE BIGGEST FAILURE: Unless we identify our failures, we will not be able to overcome them. During the Republic Day parade we bring out our achievements year after year. But I think we should also depict our failures which will provide us an opportunity for introspection.

Beginning should be made, if I may suggest, by depicting the rule of the present-day politician who, to my mind, is our biggest failure in the past 54 years of our freedom. From selfless greatmen in the early days of our Independence to the self-seeking worthies of today, the decline is unbelievable.

Highlighting his failures on the Republic Day may stir his conscience and thus help halt his further downslide.

Wg Cdr C. L. SEHGAL (retd), Jalandhar

PERSONAL INTEREST: It is painful to read that our nation, after more than 50 years of Independence, has got no direction and it knows nowhere to go. From the very beginning of learning of the child, lessons of commitment to nationalism are missing. Whether in family, at school or in playground the lesson is to watch the personal interests. Now whatever this grown-up child does and wherever he goes, his first motive is to watch personal interest, the difference being only in the level. He may drive an autorickshaw on kerosene without bothering about the troubles he is generating for others just to drive home the advantage. If he is Finance Minister, he may keep on increasing the tax burden only on the most vulnerable community for the sake of easy mop-up of tax collections. If he is a leader in a communal state like UP he may prejudice national interest for the sake of his personal votebank. The pursuit of personal interest is not condemnable at any level but it must not be in contravention of larger democratic and national issues.

America today leads the world sheer on the strength of character of its nationals. For a better India of tomorrow we too have to make the character of our children strong, sense of nationalism has to be cultivated. For it the education system needs re-orientation, entertainment channels need some revamping, they have to look beyond the Saas Bahu and extra-marital affairs.


FAILURE OF LEADERSHIP: There is no doubt that our political leadership and fundamentalism have failed us miserably. The spirit of nationalism, which marked out freedom struggle and won us freedom, seems to have considerably weakened during the last 55 years of freedom. Competitive politics degenerated into vote-bank politics and it dealt a severe body blow to secularism and nationalism which are so essential for our survival as a nation. The lack of rational commitment to nationalism & secularism has resulted in the likes of senseless & horrendous eruptions of Godhra & Gujarat which is a national shame.

The communal divide which is the bane of our polity & nationhood has severely pricked our national conscience. Well-meaning people from all walks of life, the upright leaders of national stature representing the wide spectrum of our national life will have to come out of their cocoons and self-imposed aloofness to cry halt to this dangerous downhill drift and frenzy. The situation demands that such enlightened leaders address themselves to the stupendous task of ridding our nation of the ills it is inflicted with.

M. R.GUPTA, Lehragaga (Sangrur)


Udham Singh’s pistol

This is with regard to the news item "Shaheed Udham Singh’s pistol". A common mistake is to mix up the names of Sir Michael O’Dwyer and Brigadier General Reginald Dyer, the two leading players in the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. The person shot to death on March 13, 1940 in Caxton Hall by Udham Singh was indeed Sir Michael O’Dwyer, not this General O’Dyer. There was no person with this name involved in this ghastly crime.

Shaheed Udham Singh did not use a pistol, as given in the news item, but a revolver (Smith & Wesson .455 Mark 2 Hand Ejector, Serial No. 16586). I had an opportunity a few years ago to see this handgun in the Black Museum at the New Scotland Yard. It showed no surface rust or any other kind of degradation. It seemed to have been rather well kept by the museum staff. Of course it is an old handgun manufactured in 1915. This exhibition also includes a knife taken from Udham Singh’s pocket at the time of his arrest, his diary and a bullet recovered from Sir Michael’s body, which is of a slightly smaller caliber .44. Perhaps this was the reason that he had to discharge the weapon from such a close range to be effective.

Another mistake is regarding the date of Sardar Sham Singh Attariwallah’s death. He did not die in 1848 but in the afternoon of February 10, 1846 at Sabraon blunting the charge of the 3rd Light Dragoons while leading the left flank of the Khalsa.



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