Overcoming The Panipat Syndrome
In this special issue of the magazine, we have tried to reflect the theme of India’s nationalistic culture, or say, lack of it. One of the reasons for this treatment is, of course, the celebration of 64th Independence Day. But, equally important reason is the fact of relative underplaying in our mainstream media of some serious developments confronting the nation: deepening crisis caused by the fundamentalist and secessionist movement in Kashmir; elusive peace in the North-East; mounting Maoist insurgency in central India, now openly supported by some ruling coalition members ; rise of Islamic fundamentalism in even southern India, particularly in Kerala; an attitude of surrender on the part of majority of our intellectual, judicial and political elites before the essentially foreign-funded and guided human rights activists who have no love for and commitments to a strong, united and prosperous India; and increasing legitimisation of the religion and caste as the determining factors in Indian politics. Some parties like the BJP, the principal opposition party, may talk otherwise, but the fact remains that it is an equal partner with the ruling Congress in promoting the highly destabilising “vote-bank politics”.
I am getting increasingly convinced that it is due to our Hindu legacy that we tend to not only underplay our troubles but also rationalise and accept them. Of course, as a Hindu, I am proud of certain aspects of my religion. A true Hindu can never be communal and hate other religions. It is my religion that teaches me that all religions are equal; they are different paths to reach a goal which is common to all. I am also proud of Hinduism because it does not force me to be orthodox and does not dictate me do some daily rituals. It advises that I will be pleasing the God if I only manage to be sincere to my work and duties.
But, at the same time, we must admit that in course of time some undesirable elements have crept into Hinduism. I must confess that I am no scholar or expert on Hinduism, but I find the point made in our cover story very convincing that over years and due to various factors, Hindus have become very docile. Contrary to what our Vedas, Upanishads and Epics narrate, Hindus now seem to be reconciled with a theory that considers life a mystery, largely unknowable and not entirely under man’s control. In this view, fate, intuition, tradition, and emotions play important roles. Man’s control over his life has become thus limited in Hindu eyes, so much so that he or she cannot forecast or plan with any confidence.
The point is that we have become extremely passive and fatalistic, prepared to accept anything in life. We give too much importance to life after death and the cycle there of. As a result, we think, and that is because of the strong Buddhist influence, it is better to accept what one has, rather than developing any ambition to rise higher. So, if the invaders came from outside, we did not think too much of defending ourselves. We welcomed them and rationalised everything under “assimilation”. The Hindu kings served under the Mogul emperors. Much has been talked about the matrimonial alliances between them, but the fact remains that mostly such alliances were one-way phenomena: the Moguls were marrying the daughters and sisters of the Hindu kings but hardly any Hindu king married a Mogul princess. Such was the nature of secularism!
However, we considered all this to be our strength. We have been taught that this unique culture, which is essentially defensive, has “reinforced” India’s unity through diversity and accommodation to existing realities. But the reality has been different. The non-Hindus, particularly those belonging to religions that originated outside the subcontinent, have never shared the similar outlook. They always have had a sense of superiority over us. And when the circumstances so allowed, they have got their desired results. Just imagine how Pakistan, or for that matter Bangladesh, comprises areas where in pre-partition days, the Hindus did not constitute the majority. The same thing is also happening today. Kashmir, or for that matter Nagaland, is affected by secessionist insurgency, because the Hindus are not in a majority there.
We have not perhaps given much importance to the fact that if before the British Raj, the entire Indian subcontinent ever witnessed a unified rule it was under the Hindu king Chandragupta Maurya. His National Security Adviser—the term would have been different then—was the famous Kautilya, also known as Chanakya. From economy to military and intelligence, as well as neighbourhood, Chanakya had very precise and concrete ideas which are relevant even today. But things became different under Ashoka, Chandragupta’s grandson. Ashoka, adopted a policy of peace and non-violence, converted to Buddhism, and that weakened the Indian state militarily and Indian, that is Hindu, mind irreparably. Nowonwards, India’s application of strategy for furthering its national interests became a sad tale of lost opportunities, reverses in wars and other strategic spheres. This possibly happened because the Muslim invaders ruled India for 750 years from the 11th century and Indians met them in battle at Panipat and not Khyber. That is why the term ‘Panipat Syndrome’ has emerged.
From 1700, the British charted India’s national strategic interest from the White Hall in London. Indians had no say and India’s wealth was used to make England rich and safer. For sure, Indians lost the strain of strategic thinking in their DNA, having not exercised strategic thought for 800 years; ancient writings were just forgotten. No wonder why we declared Ashoka to be India’s greatest king ever. And rationalising how our culture was superior, we have been continuing to accommodate to seemingly powerful forces that are far more purposeful in the exercise of their power.
This Panipat syndrome is not only reflected in how we deal with the foreign powers but also in our internal administration. Jhoolawallahs so-called human rights activists and their myriad sympathisers in urban India coax the governments to stop developmental projects in the country. A minority of fundamentalist secessionists in Kashmir has made the Government of India impotent. A few thousands of armed terrorists, under the grab of the so-called Maoism, are literally blackmailing governments, both at the centre in the states, despite the fact that these have been elected by crores of Indians. The central government and the principal opposition party of India are so scared of just three Yadav, one Kurmi and one Dalit leaders that they are helpless in preventing the country from coming under the evil grab of casteism, which is thousand times more dangerous than communalism.
When will we Hindus come out of this syndrome? When will we learn the importance of reciprocity— the principle that those demanding rights and justice must believe in them and accord, when in power and influence, the same to others, not belonging to their group or sect or creed? Until and unless we do so, India can never become a great power in the 21st century and we will continue to be haunted with the prospect of not one but a series of further partitions of the country in the years to come.
By Prakash Nanda