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HVK Archives: Battered for centuries

Battered for centuries - The Pioneer

Abhijit Bhattacharyya ()
June 11, 1998

Title: Battered for centuries
Author: Abhijit Bhattacharyya
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: June 11, 1998

Today some of the major powers are angry because India has
blasted five nuclear devices at Pokhran last week. The criticism
is mounting and India faces the wrath and fury in the form of
economic sanctions. A pity indeed, that 970 million people of one
of the few democratic countries on the earth face such an action.
One is not here to justify or defend the nuclear blasts but one
needs to clarify as to what could possibly be the psychological
background for a nuclear test by an acknowledged peaceful and
peace-loving country. To do so, should one not peep into the past
and turn the pages of history?

It all began several thousand years ago. The Indian Sub-continent
experienced the dawn of civilisation alongwith the riverine
civilisation of the Nile, Euphrates, Tigris and the valleys of
the Hwang Ho and Yang Sikiang of China. But the Indian
civilisation also attracted hostility from the people belonging
to other areas where both water and food were scarce commodities.

Hordes of horsemen and motivated soldiers from comparatively
sterile terrain found it convenient to pour through the porous
passes of North-west India, the most famous of which are Makran,
Bolan, Gomal, Khyber, Zojila and Karakorum. The tragedy (of
invasion) for India became recurring phenomena. Invasion,
defence, defeat, subjugation and loot continued to be the order
for almost a thousand years. notwithstanding some semblance of
occasional justice, peace and prosperous eras.

The original inhabitants were at the receiving and owing to both
internal diversion and external aggression. Why could the Indians
not unite and repel the aggressors? There is no simplistic answer
to this. The fact of the matter is that normally the invaders
came from an area where water and agriculture were a luxury while
the Indian Subcontinent had both water and food in plenty. It was
a clash of the water civilisation of India and the desperately
mobile and tribal people form and zones trying to establish their
moorings in the valleys and plains of the Ganga-Yamuna.

History shows that migration as well as invasion have a natural
propensity to advance towards prosperous areas and the barometer
of prosperity in the bygone era stood on the twin pillars of
agriculture (food) and water. Traditionally, the agriculturists
provided both peasance and soldiers, the former primary source of
revenue and the latter primary cause of expenditure.

The story did not end here when the Turks founded the mighty
Mughal empire in the heat of the Ganga-Yamuna basin in the, early
16th century. Its first emperor Babur did not like the heat and
dust of India. Yet, Babur did not leave, India. Indian life might
have been hot and humid but the stomach of his soldiers (as well
as the king) could be filled with case than growing food in the
desert and mountains to which he belonged. One can now understand
as to whit lured the invaders to India and why India failed
repeatedly to repel them down the years.

A persistently interesting aspect of the Indian history, however,
is that Indians were seldom treated at par vis-a-vis the victors.
That is natural, as the pedestal of the vanquished can never be
at the victor's level. With the arrival of the, Europeans too,
the, situation remained unchanged' at times deteriorated. The
battering of the Indians for centuries at the hands of those who
did not belong to the Sub-continent, to this day constitutes a
sore point at the back of most Indians' mind.

An unprecedented occurrence took place with the independence of
India. it was an Independence and Partition, unavoidable
migration and avoidable mass murder, physical loot and mental
agony, all in one. it created a permanent scar and despite stiff
opposition from sizeable Indians, India ceased to be a united
country. Thus, the people who agreed for Partition of India in
1947 were accused of acquiescing to unethical means, and the
people who had opposed the Partition nurtured the ambition of
reversing the role of India in the bar of history. One may or may
not accept or reject, appreciate or ridicule it, but the fact
remains that an acute sense of suppressed agony and pain burst
out and manifested in the detonation of five nuclear devices at
Pokhran on May 11 and 13, 1998.

You can now see, that both the US and India are proud to possess
a deeply entrenched democracy in their body political,
notwithstanding the difference in their historical, perspective
and economic development. Thus, whereas the US is 200-plus-year-
old, the Indian history dates back to several thousand millennium
BC. The US has never seen any external aggression (except that
civil war of the mid-19th century) whereas the words oreign
aggression and term ndian history are virtually synonymous.
One may or may not like or accept it, but older the civilisation
or history of a nation, more the variety, which in turn
encompasses good and bad times as well as the good, the bad and
the ugly situation.

Ultimately, it is the tide of the times where human folly and
failing tend to overshadow the fruitful deeds and history of the
mankind. Pokhran temporarily appears to have overshadowed the
inherent goodness of the Indians who have down the ages paid
heavily for their tolerance and avoidance of irst strike
intention, despite occasional capability. The wounded psyche runs
deeply embedded. Can India be faltered or faulted? Will it be
correct to do so?

(The writer is an alumnus of the National Defence College of

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