History operates in a narrow alley, she often tends not to flow beyond her mandate lest she get lost in the maze. History is also encumbered by the limitations of intellectual propensity of her times. India’s Freedom Movement is perhaps a perfect example of history’s limitation to narrate the trials and tribulations of ordinary men and women beyond the Gandhis, the Nehrus or even the Bhagat Singhs.
To discover the extent of antipathy towards the British rule and the consequent violent rebellions beyond Bhagat Singh, one must visit the villages of Punjab. Here even after a hundred years, folk songs render the air with voices of ground support that the Gadar Movement must have enjoyed in its heydays.
Dinay raaj firangi da,
Rattin raaj Malangi da.
(If the (unjust) British rule us at dawn, the (Just) Malangi rule begins at dusk)
This is a famous folk song that rejoices the bandit duo of Malangi and Harnam Singh who had picked up the gun against the unjust British rule and for a brief period of time had the extra-judicial control of surrounding regions, before they were both killed in a police encounter. Their contemporary and perhaps the best-known dacoit of the times was, Jagga, who even till date is revered as the ‘Robinhood of Punjab’ in both Lahore as well as Amritsar.
Jagga vaddeya bohrh di chhanve naun man ret bhij gayi purna,
Naiyaan ne vadd chhaddeya Jagga Soorma!
(Jagga’s life as an outlaw lasted only three months, but people of that area breathed a sigh of relief during that short period of time)
What could a bandit or a dacoit possibly do in such a short period of time that their legacy remains intact to this day? Despite history having largely forgotten these legends, how have they still managed to remain in the hearts of the people? Despite the bloodshed of partition and all the associated communal connotations, how have these simple rebels managed to be reverential figures for Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus (Malanagi had a Muslim background and Jagga was a Sikh) transcending the borders of India and Pakistan?
The answers to these questions open a window into the nucleus of the ruling class and their capacity to exercise power. It is a well-known fact that the British rule in India was cemented by the internal squabbles of petty Indian rulers and their short-term greed. What is perhaps less known is that the British-controlled India for many centuries because of the feudal structures in an overwhelmingly rural India. The British exercised power through an inherently corrupt and the then crony-capitalist system of Sahukaars and Baniyas. The rebellion of the bandits of Punjab was essentially against these people who had overwhelming control over the rural purse strings. Jagga dakoo, thus has come to symbolise the act of deliverance from an inherently flawed system.
The elite of the pre-Independent India, including the political structures of the Congress were not only suspicious but also biased against these rebellions, so much so that they even tended to make truce with the British in order to quell such movements. Perhaps, this is one of the Mahatma’s biggest failures, for in later years useless socialism of Congress replaced the feudal systems without giving any chance for real participatory democracy or Janbhagidaari. Thus, left to Congress, the India story would have been an abysmal tale of debauchery had another natural phenomenon not interfered organically – ‘the rapid urbanisation of India’.
News media and Dilli elite are the new sahukaars
In a large urbanised India of today, it is not just the rural purse strings (through MNREGA-like schemes) but also the information dissemination strings that control the road to power. The News narrative in India is largely controlled by a new set of crony-capitalists sitting in Dilli. Our new rulers exercise power by manipulating these new sahukaars who willingly peddle ‘news’ as per the demands of the ruling class.
This ‘news peddling’ disease in India does not spare even humungous tragedies like the one we witnessed in Uttarakhand last month. In the September 11 terror attack on the US, at least 2,996 people lost their lives, whereas in the hurricane Sandy that hit the US last year, the casualty stood at around 1,833. Each life was lost in those two incidents has been accounted for. It is now more than a fortnight since the Uttarakhand tragedy unfolded and we are still none the wiser about the number of people who are lost. In tragedies of such as these, it is reasonable to expect some discrepancies in the number of deaths that might have occurred.
But to have a discrepancy of not a few hundreds but a few thousands is criminal on the part of the Government and the media reporting. Does our news media ever introspect about this? Will we ever know how many people actually lost their lives in Uttarakhand? It is very unlikely going by the past record.
Some eight and half years ago, there was a tsunami in the Indian Ocean and till today, we really don’t know how many people actually lost their lives! Government numbers suggest confirmed deaths at about 12,000 and rough estimates of missing people at 24,000, whereas unofficial estimates put that total to about 90,000!
Let us go further back in time to some two decades ago, when there was a massive earthquake in Maharashtra in 2003. Till date, nobody in India knows how many people lost their lives in the Latur earthquake. The Government has a rough estimate of 20,000 dead and 30,000 injured. It is indeed shameful that neither the Government nor the media gives two hoots about the lives of the ordinary Indians!
What the new sahukaars care about are the Government ad expenditure and the ability of the rulers to grant largesse, rest is all just their own version of hearsays and untruths. Take the case of Ishrat Jahan alleged encounter: Media insinuations are so outlandish that it has created an unnecessary victimhood among the Muslim community. There have been scathing editorials in the Urdu media which argue that “Muslims will never get justice in a land that hangs Afzal Guru, but saves a young innocent Muslim girl’s killers”.
In its blind subservience to the political masters, the media and the intellectual class have totally forgotten that the dangerous ‘secular games’ they are playing could potentially hurt the unity of India for a long time to come. Recently, while waiting at Delhi Railway station’s executive lounge, I was approached by a young (Muslim) college girl who remarked, “Why do you have a killer’s photograph on your laptop (Modi as the screensaver)… He killed a young girl (Ishrat)!” It took me a good part of an hour to try and reason with her that “he did not kill anybody”, but I am not sure if she was convinced. This is how biased media reporting percolates down to the uninitiated and less politically inclined.
New age bandit-rebels are labelled as trolls
What happens when somebody points out to news mediawallahs about their discrepancies, like say in the Ishrat narrative? The high and mighty of Dilli news studios invoke their favourite five-letter word — troll! Every inconvenient truth is a creation of the trolls in the Dilli-media-intellectual universe. The reason for such a branding is not far to seek, Dilli’s monopoly over ‘truth’ has never been challenged with such determination and by people in such large numbers.
The trolls in the cyberspace are the new Jaggas and Malangis who are hitting the sahukaars where it hurts. The system has been shaken violently and is at a complete loss on how to recapture the narrative. Every move that the rulers and their cohorts make has met with failure. It is in this backdrop that the alternate narrative of India has moved out of the two-dimensional textual framework and has acquired a third dimension of voice.
NWRLive! is the new rebel in town and she will give voice to common Indians in their battle against the sahukaars and their bosses.
One hundred years after the Gadar saazish, Kartar Singh Sarabha’s dreams have acquired new wings. Now we can only fly from here towards the liberation of India from the sahukaars and secularism’s thekedaars.