This is not a disquisition on history,for I am no historian,not by a long shot.But it is an essay nudged by an interest in education.And in these times for all I can see resistance to a misguided and systematic destruction of our entire modern state and culture has been carried on by bands of academics,some journalists,many former judges and practicing lawyers,some public intellectuals,former civil servants and a handful of retired high-ranking veterans.The common masses have from time to time erupted into fierce blind rage but with the exception of the great farmers’ revolt to no creative purpose.Which in fact doubly underscores the need for organization and discipline and mature leadership.On the political level most of the parties in opposition are still driven by short-sighted electoral calculations,oblivious of the gathering storm in all corners of their surrounding environment, Regional parties are suspicious of pan-Indian parties and pan-Indian parties also seem to be losing their way in the scramble for survival.I look at the Congress in Assam and find some of its MPs from Assam still invisible in their own constituencies as unprecedented floods obliterates lush fields of crops, embabkments schools and houses.But what Congress workers are doing at the moment with zeal is holding demonstrations against the Agnipath scheme, which is not a burning issue in Assam and at any rate not as devastating and shattering as the flood ravages.Given that 2024 elections are drawing so close and challenging ,this kind of programme here can follow only from misplaced priorities.A rather pathetic example may be cited about the cluelessness of state leadership is the implementation of the direction of the High Command to revive mass contact.Within a few days from the receipt of the order the state president rushed to some district headquarters,called up district level leaders and workers,had earnest conversation with them and came back content.Mass contact had apparently been restored.
Such being the kind of practical preparation for resistance among professional politicians,we seem destined to depend much more on the kind of resistance mounted by assorted partisan groups of the intelligentsia and the ranks of decent retired bureaucrats and some journalists.It can be broadly labelled as civil society activism.It has had some impact on students,youths and the silent majority and stirred the conscience of civil society in countries around the world.This must have nettled the destructive power mentioned at the outset and must be the reason for its fielding rival groups of assorted academics,bureaucrats and retired judges etc.to mount an opposite campaign by submitting statements,petitions to courts and so on.And that is why we have got to engage at different fronts with different challenges,and one of these is the field of education.Here already drastic revisions and omissions of thoroughly researched reliable knowledge are in process.Concessions are made to communities or creeds outraged by the revisions and omissions,but seldom to the reasoned demands of leading scholars.
The role of courts is vital here as has emerged out of recent volleys fired in debates on the constitution.Some people are affirming combatively that the time has now come for junking the constitution derived from imitation of the West and disaffiliated to the ‘civilisational values’ of immemorial India.The Second Republic is dawning!We live today in a society that, like it or not,is already moving away from the moorings of an organic,hierarchical order rather similar in many ways to European feudal society.Here for example Habeas Corpus is sacred right and privacy is upheld as central to one’s life by the Supreme Court.These war-cries are therefore not the need of the hour but dangerous calls for regression and retreat.Debates on content of education are therefore related to attempts to turn the courts into megaphones of executive fiats.Education is intended by such quarters to benumb the mind and deprive it of dynamic powers of reasoning,criticism and creative resources.
And history is a potent instrument to shape the mind,as it looks at the premises of the enquiring,critical reasoning.Do we,that is, go by tradition and hallowed legend,or by the light of independent reasoning in dialogue with other minds?
History today is no longer a stirring story of the valour of clashing swords and the heat of burning fires of patriotism as it seemed to fiery souls like Savarkar and Dr Munje.It strives to be a careful and illuminating account of how things in society and politics have come to acquire their present character and shape.How in the crucible of chance laws of nature and society have operated to bring about chemical changes that inexorably created them.Hence it is actually not for us to arbitrarily pick or junk elements of the present as heritage worth studying,leaving the rest in rubble-heaps.Mughal history therefore has been a period that through tumultuous changes introduced many elements in our life,now mediated though two more centuries of colonial rule.We may deplore or hail them if our enthusiasms are strong,though modern historians call for sobriety.But we have no business to sweep them out of our eyesight.Let us for example consider the land revenue system,methods of collecting and apportioning them,the classification and surveys of land and so on.In many ways we are continuing powerful remnants of the old system.Or say,classical Indian music.Or for that matter the way Indian languages have developed.
There are many other such domains,and it will be foolish if not perilous to try to rubbish them out of piety to something older.Indeed that something old may well have come to us mediated through the cultural churning of this period.None of us can take a position out of the roller-coaster of time.
Hiren Gohain is a political commentator