It is also important to understand how one has reached where one is, and this cannot be done without understanding history
May 27, 2023, was a landmark day in the history of India. The inauguration of the Parliament building upscaled the facilities of the Parliament, which has seen historic and tumultuous changes of an unprecedented variety. The changes were not just historical, technological, and in the nature of representation. It was a conceptual breakthrough. Just one event was unprecedented and memorable enough to be forever remembered. The event was the midnight of August 14 and 15, 1947, when India, as a union, evoked its right to self-rule in an unprecedented manner. The sub-continent of India had been larger and unified many times in history before August 15, 1947.
Since time immemorial, if nothing else, from the land of Gandhara (present-day Afghanistan) to the deep woods of the northwestern region depicting what is present-day Myanmar, one had seen political unity in various tranches of time. It was not just from west to east but also from north to south. What is today known as Kashmir is clearly traceable to the efforts of the legendary ascetic better known as Rishi Kashyapa in an era where the present concepts of documentation of time on the calendar did not have the crux of a reference to BC (Before Christ) or AD (Anno Domini the “Year of Christ” in Latin). The chronology of time was in a different order because the documentation of time was different from the present fashions of history. It cannot be assumed that those times did not exist. That may be another story. It is popularly believed that the northern region of what it is today, Jammu and Kashmir, was reclaimed by Kashyapa Rishi from the lakes and subsequently named Kashmir.
In the limitations of space of this writing, it is not possible to trace the historical sequence from those times to the present, but there are narratives available through various centuries. The area acquired strategic significance because the European empires who had occupied the Indian sub-continent and more, needed a buffer from the Russian and Chinese empires.
The efforts of the Dogra King, Gulab Singh, enabled the emergence of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, with Ladakh as a useful territory on the eastern front. That too is another story. The British went along with this interpretation in the mid-19th century because it suited their political purpose. Those were not the days when boundaries were marked by ‘fences’. The alignments on the frontier of what is now known as Aksai Chin, in the east, had clear linkages with Tibet. Tibet then had its clear identity.
From Kashmir in the north to Kanyakumari in the south, cultural unity was very often manifested through the borders of empires in the South Asian sub-continent. This landmass represented a cultural idiom that was best represented by the travels of Shankaracharya. He travelled on foot from Kerala to Kashmir and from Gujarat to Orissa. This is symbolised by the ‘Four Dhams’ in the name of Shankaracharya. The unison of the sub-continent in that process could, obviously, only be intrinsic. Heritage was common. Political boundaries kept shifting with various efforts of unification, given the various millennia that they spanned. The British Empire, which lasted for less than 100 years, was a blip on the screen. To attribute Indian unity to the British can be a fanciful notion whose origins are in the School of African and Asian Studies at London University. It was a ‘school’ that would not bear the scrutiny of historical analysis.
The significance of 1947 was represented by the Parliament, where for the first time in history, a people got together to decide upon their fate through elected representatives. The event was of millennial significance. It was a much ‘smaller’ India because of partition and more. However, the soul of India was still intact. The body was held together by the four pillars of the four Peethas which Shankaracharya had set up.
The events in the days following May 27, 2023, have been significant.
As one goes to print in mid-June, for the first time in history, there is agitation among some of the most outstanding performers in the field of athletes and sports, that this country has produced. There has been a rail accident in eastern India with various theories about what led to it. Among the more disturbing is the suggestion of sabotage of electronic systems. Something happened which distributed the automatic switch for the train movement and the signal system. The truth takes time to emerge, but ultimately it does.
Somewhere, there is a reference to the technological system under which so much of the safety of life, is being increasingly brought under. Talk of digitalization is merely the front end of the penetrating system of the onward march of technology. Like much else in this write-up, definitive conclusions would be difficult to compile. However, a few areas of concern are clear. One of them is that it takes time, and involves an approach to understand the parameters and constituents of history. Periodically, history has to be rewritten because the previous facts factored in are found to be incomplete.
It is also important to understand how one has got to, where one is, and this cannot be done without understanding history. History all over the world is periodically rewritten, and that is the essence of historiography. Similarly, no intervention or experience is an unmitigated blessing. Not even technology. Like everything else, it has to be holistically understood and selectively screened to get operative insights. The efforts have to continue.
(The writer is an internationally acclaimed management consultant. The views expressed are personal)