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The tendency to use history as a weapon is rising

That democracy has endured in India testifies to the virtue of our great forefathers (Hindustan Times)Premium
That democracy has endured in India testifies to the virtue of our great forefathers (Hindustan Times)

What was Rahul Gandhi trying to prove by sparking a “Savarkar Controversy” in the midst of the “Bharat Jodo Yatra”? Was it a conscious decision to build an ideological foundation for the party and for his own image? In Maharashtra, where he made this statement, a sizeable portion of the population holds Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in high regard

What was Rahul Gandhi trying to prove by sparking a “Savarkar Controversy" in the midst of the “Bharat Jodo Yatra"? Was it a conscious decision to build an ideological foundation for the party and for his own image?

In Maharashtra, where he made this statement, a sizeable portion of the population holds Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in high regard. Sanjay Raut, a close associate of Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray, objected to Rahul’s statement right away. Since then, the state unit of Congress has had to take several precautions to save the Maha Vikas Aghadi. Rahul Gandhi’s supporters can argue that his comment has bolstered the Congress’ image. It may connect well with the rest of India because Savarkar has no significant political influence outside Maharashtra. But what benefit will the debates around his name bring?

It undoubtedly provides politicians from different parties with an opportunity to engage in combative behaviour. For instance, Himanta Biswa Sarma, the chief minister of Assam, compared Rahul to Saddam Hussain, prompting Alka Lamba of the Congress to recall “dogs" in response. Jairam Ramesh, the national media in-charge for the Congress, later attempted to downplay this controversy, but to no avail.

Rahul could have avoided this situation had he wanted. During his yatra, which is approaching the hundredth day, Rahul has been perceived as optimistic and restrained. His restrained remarks during the Morbi incident are an example of this. “I don’t want to politicize this incident," he said, “People have lost lives, and it would be disrespectful for them to do it. I don’t want to do politics on it." How did Rahul’s patience suddenly wear thin at this point? Instead of flipping the pages of history, he could have spoken about the current hot issues. Many such issues exist.

He currently has a treasure trove of new experiences. He has traversed a huge portion of south, west, and central India. During this time, he has directly communicated with thousands of people from hundreds of villages. He could see their problems up close, something he had previously only heard or read about. Why not share his roadmap to deal with these problems with his followers? The common man will gain from a clear statement of his beliefs, and his party will benefit, too.

I don’t want to limit myself to Rahul or the Congress. For the last few years, our whole political class has developed the tendency to use the pages of history as its weapons. This game of “half reality, half fiction" has shaken India’s political discourse. Instead of sliding into the black abyss of history, why don’t Indian leaders try to take some light from the mornings of 14 and 15 August 1947?

They forget that just a few days after its creation, Pakistan became a victim of communalism, sectarianism, and hate. India, on the other hand, has always maintained its unity on crucial subjects despite its contradictions. Although B.R. Ambedkar, a member of Jawaharlal Nehru’s first cabinet, was opposed to him, their fundamental differences about the uplift of Dalits and the exploited were far more limited than their political ties. Although Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and Nehru are viewed differently today, there are numerous historical instances that demonstrate how complementary they were. Nehru used to avoid ignoring Patel’s remarks, arguments, and reasoning, while Patel used to refer to Nehru publicly as his leader. Both held the same opinions on the integrity and unity of the nation.

The fact that democracy has endured to this day in India while Pakistan is in complete disarray is testament to the virtue of our great forefathers. The whole social, economic and political system in Pakistan is ruled by its army. Pakistan now poses a threat to the entire world due to its nuclear capability.

The attitude of the army there has also been impacted. A lawsuit has been filed against General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s daughter-in-law and other family members for accumulating significant wealth while Bajwa was in office. General Bajwa served as Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff till last week. What can you expect from a nation where the prime minister until a few years ago is a convicted fugitive and the top soldier is corrupt?

India has been spared this situation thus far because our politicians have consistently refrained from acting inappropriately and desisted from breaking decorum. Hopefully, political party leaders from all sides will take note of this fact.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan. Views are personal

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