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India & the legacy of Bahadur Shah

By Himanshu Shekhar | Last Updated: Wednesday, December 17, 2008 - 00:09
Himanshu Shekhar
The Compulsive Pilgrim

History repeats itself, they say and watching the incidents of past couple of weeks I can only say that whosever said it, was definitely a man of tremendous foresight.

Karkare, Unnikrishnan, and all those who laid down their lives in Mumbai on November 26 carried the spirit of Indians, who think and dream of a united India, in their brave hearts. An India which is secure at all costs, an India where one can hold his head high. A nation that Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi once dreamt of.

It was a legacy which these martyrs inherited from the past. History has stood testimony to the fact that our country had no dearth of gallant heroes. Be it Chandrasekhar Azad, Khudiram Bose, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose or for that matter squadron leader Ajay Ahuja who died fighting in Kargil. The names of the martyrs scripted on India Gate in New Delhi are none the lesser.

It is the spirit of India that has stood ground against some barbaric aggressions in world history, starting from Taimur and Chengez Khan. It has also seen aggressors-turned-rulers who finally became Indians. It has seen the greatest Muslim ruler of modern times, Akbar-the great, who propagated a symbiosis of two cultures and went on to launch and propagate the Din - i- Ilahi. World history had never seen more secular ruler than Akbar before.

But, there’s more to history.

Since time immemorial, rulers of this land of unlimited resources and boundless opportunities let it down repeatedly. It was in Bahadur Shah Zafar’s inefficiency that East India Company saw its opportunity. The internal feud among India’s princely states and sheer lack of foresight and wisdom in Zafar saw British Major Hodson capturing Delhi and with it, India’s pride.

Zafar undoubtedly was a fantastic poet and a man who loved nature and beauty and peace. Let me just quote one of his famous poems written in Urdu ‘Lagta Nahi Hai Jee Mera’:

“My heart is not happy in this despoiled land

Who has ever felt fulfilled in this transient world

The nightingale laments neither to the gardener nor to the hunter

Imprisonment was written in fate in the season of spring

Tell these emotions to go dwell elsewhere

Where is there space for them in this besmirched (bloodied) heart? I had requested for a
long life a life of four days

Two passed by in pining, and two in waiting.

The days of life are over, its evening of death

Now I can sleep without any stress forever in my tomb

How unlucky is Zafar!

A brilliant poet but, as it was proved, good poets are not often good leaders.

Come November 30, 2008 and history repeated itself. Another man was relieved of his responsibilities. Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil was addressing the press conference in which he announced, “I accept the moral responsibility of Mumbai attacks and resign from my post. I feel a lot relieved now.”

Patil in many a-sense carried the legacy of Bahadur Shah Zafar. For his sheer incompetence in failing to take action as a series of terror attacks bruised India in different cities and under different names- he paid the price, arguably too late. Or else how will you explain the fact that the file of Mohan Chandra Sharma – who died while fighting terrorists- was gathering dust in Home Ministry.

There have been stark revelations that intelligence agencies had forewarned of such attacks on numerous occasions but there was no urgency to act. Singling out just Shivraj would be like treating some one for fever when the patient has Cancer.

There are many who took to streets against such attacks in Mumbai and all across the nation. But let’s not get bogged down by the leadership, or the lack of it. History suggests whenever it is felt that there is no way out of gloom, there comes a man who shows the way- which Guru Gobind Singh and Mahatma Gandhi showed.

The BIG question is- Are we ready to find the Mahatma within?

First Published: Wednesday, December 17, 2008 - 00:09

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