Hindu Military Value System Past and Present
Of the recorded Hindu history of around 2300 years, Bharat was under jackboots of slavery for about 1300 years in two phases: First Phase: 500 years—200 BC to 300 AD. Second Phase: 800 years—1200 AD to 1947 AD + 50 years
The 1st and 2nd Battles of Tarrain (near Kamal) in 1191 and 1192 AD respectively, both between Muhammad Ghauri and Prirthviraj Chauhan were directly responsible for 800 years of Hindu slavery of the second phase. Prithviraj was the victor in the first battle; Ghauri was wounded and on the run. The most elementary military strategy required that Ghauri was pursued to his lair in Ghazni, and the Muslim power smashed at its very base; that was within the power of Prithviraj. But Prithviraj, rather than follow that route, took to premature celebrations. Ghauri returned within the year and smashed the Rajput and Hindu Power for all times to come, in the second battle of Tarrain. History does not excuse those who dither at a crucial moment in history. We are reminded of an Urdu couplet: Lamhon ne khata ki thi, saddiyon ne saza payi (Lapse was momentary; resultant punishment was for centuries).
Something similar happened 750 years later. Pak irregulars (tribals) had invaded Kashmir in 1948 AD. The Indian army beat them back and the irregulars were on the run. Again, at a very crucial moment of history, Jawaharlal Nehru stopped the onward march of the victorious Indian army. We are still paying for that elementary mistake. Therefore, we may not be amiss in concluding that the mindsets of 12th century AD continued till the 20th century.
We have traced the long bouts of Hindu slavery and their miseries to chinks in the Hindu Military Value System; we have termed that as ‘Hindu mindset’. We have relied on the following factors/facts to reach that conclusion:
Bharat was a huge country with humongous resources, including almost limitless manpower. Even then, Hindu forces never ventured out of their land borders to attack and capture foreign lands. Hindus considered (& still do) those ‘non-invasions’ as a high point of their civilization, though that was against all canons of military strategy; victory normally comes to armies which are on the offensive.
Hindus in general and their sentinels Rajputs in particular, fought only when they were attacked; they displayed a singular lack of ‘Offensive’ spirit. There were innumerable occasions during the 600 years of Muslim rule when there were prolonged periods of power vacuum in Delhi and anarchy prevailed. But the next door Rajput rulers would not unsheathe their sword, mount their horse and march on Delhi. They would rather wait for the Muslim ruler of Delhi to gather muscle, and then come after them.
Hindus suffer from bouts of phony morality and bogus sense of self-righteousness. They have been wedded to body and soul destroying concepts of ahimsa (non-violence), sbanti (peace) and satya (truth). Hindus also like to flaunt their (presumed) attributes of daya, karuna and kshama (compassion and forgiveness). All these are un-military like attributes, which must be shunned.
It is astonishing to see the ease with which the great Hindu civilization went under. After the second battle of Tarrain (1192 AD), the whole of North India lay prostrate. Even the rulers of South India did not consider it prudent to challenge the intruders; they could see neither the actual nor potential threat; (Though we do hear of some Southern rulers having mounted expeditions to South East Asia).
It is equally baffling to see the ease with which Hindus accepted their slavery. They adjusted to it with remarkable alacrity, almost as a duck takes to water. There was no great national upsurge, no fight back, even no major signs of resentment. Slavery appears to have been accepted as an inevitability to have happened naturally; it was not considered a affliction which had to be fought all the way.
The over-all effort of the Hindus has been to convey the impression that the ‘Hindu slavery’ was-really not their fault; someone else must have been responsible for that. They might have even reasoned that concepts like mastery and slavery were all in the mind only. These were not worth shedding blood; it is all maya (illusion). It is difficult to see any set of people other than Hindus, so comfortable with slavery.
The above state of affairs arose due to a false interpretation of Hindu scriptures. In early centuries of the Christian era, Buddhism started making major inroads in Hinduism; over time, it became difficult to distinguish between the two religions. Hindu scriptures got over-coated with Buddhist thought. Vedic dharma is as different from Buddhism as cheese from chalk. We repeat below a somewhat controversial statement: ‘Whatever is joyous and active (even aggressive) is from the Vedic dharma; whatever is pessimistic and passive is from Buddhism.’
We elucidate the above theory of ours by some examples:
Rig Veda is the very first religious book of Hindus. It believes in joyous living, enjoying the bounties of nature. Animal sacrifice was a daily ritual. Rig is full of aggressive exploits of the great God Indra. He is shown repeatedly attacking demons and recording victories. One Rig shloka recommends even world conquest.
Bhagwad Gita is the most holy book of Hindus. It says that not engaging in (righteous) war attracts sin. ‘Kill, or be killed’ has to be the motto on the battlefield. Holy book of no other religion glorifies war in this way.
In Manusmriti (5.39, 44), Manu says as follows: “Killing in a sacrifice is not killing. …himsa (violence, to those that move and those that do not move which is sanctioned by the Veda-that is known as ahimsa (non-violence).”
The soul of Hindus lies in the two great epics, Ramayana and Mahabhata, which are essentially tales of war, and glorify it.
In Mahabharta, at one time Yudhishtra expressed his desire to renounce the world. Arjuna dissuaded him from doing that by informing him as follows:
‘People honor most the gods who are killers. Rudra (Shiva) is a killer, and so are Skanda, Indra, Agni, Varuna, and Yama. I do not see anyone living in this world with ahimsa (non-violence); even great renunciats cannot stay alive without killing.’ MB2.15.16, 20, 21, 24
After hearing the above, Yudhistra gave up his plans.
The great lord Vishnu took avatar as Parshuram. He carried out mass slaughter of the whole clans of Kshatriyas 21 times. Shiva gave his parshu (axe) to Parshuram for the purpose. Thus, both the great gods were involved in that wanton exercise of bloodshed on an unprecedented scale.
Hindu philosophy resolves around ‘matsya-nyaya’ (Law of the fish) i.e, the bigger fish gobbles up the smaller fish. In other words, the bigger state must take over the small or weak state. Chanakya’s Arthshastra recommends it unashamedly. Chanakya goes on to say that a snake even without poison, must behave as if it has poison.
The ancient Hindu military theory rested on the concept of ‘Circle’ i.e., the country on your border is your enemy, and your enemy’s neighbor is your ally. Such a theory was nothing but an invitation for relentless aggression; kings were always on the prowl for a ‘kill’. In ancient times, the name for the Hindu king was ‘vijigishu’ meaning, the one who wishes to conquer.
Manusmriti 5.29 states as follows: “Those that do not move are food for those that move; and those that have no fangs are food for those that have fangs. Those that have no hands are food for those that have hands; and cowards are food for the brave.”
In the above, words ‘fang’ and ‘hands’ are not to be taken literally; these words represent ‘power’; in other words, the powerful rules, should rule and has to rule. Ancient Hindus had the necessary amount of poison in their fang; however, at some stage, they decided to put that in wraps, and pretend that they have neither fang, nor poison. Over time, Hindus even came to project that as a high point of their civilization.
In an overall analysis, there is no doubt that Hindus of the yore were a set of proud people, who believed in living life to the full. They had an offensive mindset, and believed in fighting all forms of injustices; that is the central message of their holy book, the Bhagwad Gita. Hindus of those days knew how to defend their freedom, and enjoy its fruits. There is neither cause nor justification to push such vibrant set of people in the bhul-bhuliyan (dark alleys) of ahimsa (non-violence), shanti (peace) and satya (truth); but they did get pushed. People without power and those who are cowards, have no place in the Hindu scheme of things. It is indeed a great irony that Hindus who have their texts rooted around ‘power’ and ‘militarism’, shy away from these very concepts. The train of Hindu religion got derailed by hitting the Buddhist boulder lying on the track. That is what led to the deluded sense of Hindu dharma that presently prevails in Bharat. That is what constitutes the ‘Hindu mindset’, which resulted in prolonged bouts of slavery and misery for the Hindus.
Position in Present-Day Bharat
The million dollar question is whether traces of ‘Hindu mindset’ continue to prevail in independent India. The obvious and simple answer is, “No, No way. We are a vibrant secular democracy. So, where is the scope for Hindu thinking to prevail? The very question is irrelevant.” But many a time, things are not what they appear to be on the surface. Let us examine the issue in some depth.
Without any shadow of doubt, India is not a Hindu country. But, it cannot be denied that it is a Hindu-majority state; about 85 % are Hindus. However, the more crucial factor is that since 1947, more than 95 % of all important decision-making posts have always been occupied by Hindus We can have a look at the Central Cabinets since independence, starting with that of the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Important Cabinet posts of PM, Home, defence, Finance and External Affairs have been always with Hindus (an odd Christian/Parsi once in a while does not make much of a difference). Persons of the dominant minority i.e. Muslims were and are entrusted with mostly innocuous portfolios like Education, Minority Affairs, Non-Conventional Energy, etc. Position is no different for top bureaucratic and military posts; most of these have been with Hindus. Since 1947, we have had some 60 Chiefs of Staff; only one has been a Muslim—an Air Chief. Yes, we have had three Muslim Presidents; but that is largely a ceremonial post with hardly any effective power.
In the present day ‘secular’ Bharat even official functions are normally started with ‘Ganesh puja’; many other Hindu rituals like Saraswati puja, ‘diya’ lighting are also undertaken. Even the most committed secularists do not realize that those rituals are anathema to the dominant minority—the Muslims. The State has a Hindu shloka ‘Satya Mev Jayate’ as its national motto. Another one ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ (with its negative implications as discussed in chapter 14.3) has been lately adopted. In TV debates, even official spokesmen often quote Hindu shlokas (e.g. sarv dharma sambhav) to prove their point.
From the totality of circumstances, it is difficult to avoid reaching the conclusion that the present-day Indian thinking is based predominantly on ‘Hindu thinking’, or at least is derived from that. Without anybody realizing it, a cold layer of Hindu mindset prevails at the sub-conscious level. Its direct effect has been on the military value system. The net effect was that Hindus cannot appreciate:
Centrality of ‘War’ in affairs of nations
Centrality of Armed Forces in affairs of war
The crucial role of Generals in recording ‘victory’, which is the only aim of war.
Slide in the Indian military affairs started from the early period of Indian Independence, from the days of the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, a most prescient man of his time. India had inherited a very fine set of armed forces from the British. With that excellent base, India could have gone on to become a predominant, if not dominant, military power. But, that was not to be; there were several reasons for the same.
Nehru was the high priest of secularism. But in an irony of fate, this de-hard secularist locked on to typical Hindu concepts of ahimsa (non-Violence), shanti (peace) and satya (truth). It is another matter that we have argued earlier that these concepts cropped up due to miss- reading and miss-interpretation of Hindu scriptures i.e. these emerged out of a deluded sense of dharma. Ahimsa was the flavor of the season in 1947, pushed relentlessly by Mahatma Gandhi; it was mandatory for all politicians of those days to have deep faith in ahimsa. Nehru also locked on the concept of shanti; so much so that he started lecturing the world about it, with some very unwelcome results. Ahimsa and shanti became Nehru’s obsession. A typical Hindu shloka ‘Satya Mev Jayate’ was adopted as the State motto.
Nehru selected (Emperor) Ashoka as the icon of free India. Ashoka was responsible for pushing Bharat of the closing centuries BC, into slavery. In his later years, Ashoka almost outlawed war; he left written instructions to his heirs to do likewise. The passive mindset advocated by Ashoka was constructively responsible even for the second phase of Hindu slavery, starting 1200 AD. It was Ashoka’s grandfather Chandragupta Maurya who had set up the great Mauryan Empire, from scratch. He is the only Hindu general who defeated a foreign general i.e, Selecus (Greek), and extracted territory from him. Chandragupta has all the credentials to be free India’s icon; but that was not to be. Military exploits of Ashoka, if any, compared to Chandragupta were quite modest, in fact insignificant; yet, Ashoka occupies the prime place and Chandragupta is nowhere. This is an example of the topsy-turvy view of the military value system that prevails in this woeful land.
Military value system does not come easily to people who are wedded to (rather wallow in) types of concepts and attributes listed in the preceding paragraphs. Such concepts are not conducive to nurturing the tender sapling of the military value system; that requires a different type of mindset. The slide in the fortune and culture of the armed forces was inevitable; and that was what happened.
On India gaining independence, the political class showed a marked degree of disinterest in military affairs; for the politician, military was an avoidable distraction. Armed forces came to be considered a type of unavoidable non-necessity. Bureaucrats moved in to fill the vacuum, as the generals were slow in taking stock of the situation. The new defence management structure concentrated all powers in the hands of bureaucrats in the Ministry of Defence. Generals were effectively marginalized; an impenetrable wall came to be built between the politicians and generals. The concept of ‘Civil control over military’ was distorted out of shape. Over time, Chiefs of Staff were pushed down the Protocol List. A policy decision was taken not to allow any General near the Pay Commissions that are periodically set-up. That facilitated gradual down-grading of the military ranks and military value system.
The overall effect of various acts of commission and omission was that the armed forces were gradually eased out of the centre of national consciousness, and pushed to the sidelines. This is well illustrated by the puny little size of the ‘Tomb of the unknown Soldier’ built for soldiers of independent India; it is grandly called Amar Jawan Jyoti. It is in the form of a tiny, insignificant, almost unnoticeable chabutra (platform) under the very shadow of gigantic structure (India Gate) made by the British for the ‘slave soldiers’ of Indian origin, who fought for the British Empire in the First World War. No soldier, dead or alive, can be proud of that chabutra like structure; question of drawing any inspiration from the same does not only arise. Stark contrast between the British and Indian (read Hindu) attitudes towards military issues is well illustrated by the comparative sizes of the two structures.
We give another small example. It is Customary to hear nationalistic songs blaring out of colleges, schools and TV channels on days of national importance e.g. Republic Day. These songs are meant to inspire the youth and arouse nationalistic feelings in them. One of those songs has the following line: Duniya ke zulum sehna, aur munh se kuchh na kehna. Loosely translated, the couplet means ‘It is a great tradition of ours to bear all type and manner of atrocities, without ever complaining.’
Now what future can a nation have which sends the above type of message to its youth? It even goes against the central message of the Bhagwad Gita, wherein the great Lord exhorts Arjuna to fight against every form of injustice (zulum), even at the cost of one’s life.
The general and overall neglect of the ‘Military Value System’ and resultant Hindu slavery leads us to the following conclusions:
The most prized attribute of humankind is civilization, which requires a delicate balance of liberty and order, militarism and culture. Civilization will be overthrown by invaders from abroad unless it is jealously guarded by people from Within. Eternal vigilance is the price of civilization and liberty, to be paid in human blood.
Nations may love peace; but they must keep their powder dry. Nations wanting to live with honor must have steel in their soul.
When the chips are down and balloon is up (Army speak for war), it is only a General or two of caliber who will save the izzat (honor) of the nation. Such Generals have to be groomed over the long term i.e. over decades; they cannot be produced on the eve of war.
Effect of general all-round benign neglect of the armed forces was reflected on the battle-field. As true nationalists, we all like to hope and believe that our armed forces would always perform gallantly on the battle-field, and bring glory to the nation. But, in our enthusiasm, we should not over-look the actual ground reality. In the four major military engagements of free India; the over-all performance of the Indian armed forces falls in the ‘Highly Deficient’ category. That should have been very worrisome; but no one cares.
That was not the end of the story. In August 2009, the incumbent Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee (highest ranking defence Official) made a public statement that India was no (military) match for China, and that the gap was unbridgeable. Such a grave statement should have caused all-round turmoil; but not a leaf stirred. There was no response from the government; it tried to give the impression that things were as these should be, and there was nothing to worry. The government appeared to be saying, “Our plate is already full of a number of serious problems like terrorism, Maoists, Telangana, price rise, etc. Why are some people trying to push a low-level issue like defence to the fore?
Inshah-Allah (God willing) we will attend to defence as soon as we find some breathing space.” That, in a nutshell reflects Hindu attitude to issues of war.
The whole defence culture in India is in the wrong lane; the defence issues in this woeful land are at the bottom of the heap. Presently, we are spending some 70 to 80 % of our waking hours on terrorism; ‘defence’ gets, if at all, less than 5 % of political attention. No doubt, terrorism is an important issue; but it is still a short term one. Sooner or later (say in 10 years), terrorism will sort itself out, as it did in Punjab. But the defence issues are here to stay for the long term (for decades and centuries), and affect the very life-blood of the nation, the very concept of mastery and slavery. The defence culture in this land needs some fundamental changes. The process can only start if and when the Indian politician starts taking genuine interest in defence issues.
The question of Hindu military mindset and resultant prolonged bouts of slavery are of basic nature. We have raised the issue, but may not have been able to provide all the answers due to the extremely complex nature of the problem. The issues involved occupy the subconscious space, which is not easy to reach, leave alone analyze; highly prescient minds are required to do that. We hope that at some stage in the future the military issues will come to occupy their rightful place in the minds of people inhabiting this ancient and holy land. But, we are not sanguine that that will actually happen. So, we can do no better than rest our case with the words: Que Sera Sera – Whatever will be, will be.
Excerpts from Hinduism & Its Military Ethos, (Lancer Publishers, 2010)
By Air Marshal (Retd) RK Nehra