2010-06-29 19:05:22 UTC
By Adv.Radharao F.Gracias
It was sometime at the beginning of the nineteenth century
that a soldier in Napoleon's army when asked to justify the
incessant wars that France launched against its neighbours
gave the classic reply which immortalized him. The reply: "My
country, therefore right". The soldier: Nicholas Chauvin. He
gave us an entire new concept: Chauvinism.
We, as a people, seem to have the highest regard
for Chauvin and have mastered the art of
chauvinism. If chauvinism were to be declared as a
sport, India would sweep all medals at the
Olympics. A symptom of our chauvinism is apparent
in the oft repeated slogan "Mera Bharat Mahan" (My
India is great). The question that arises, is it
There has been no greatness about our country, not in the
last two thousand years or so. Our history is nothing but a
record of invasions, conquests, subjugations and enslavement.
History shows that perhaps no other country has been the
victim of invasions and conquests as much as India has been.
The Huns, Scythians, Parthians, Greeks, Mongols or whosoever
have simply marched into the country pillaged and ransacked.
As a consequence of our cowardice and failure to defend
ourselves, invaders who marched in at will, marched out with
booty and tens of thousands of Indians as slaves. The poor
underfed vegetarians from the plains were driven ruthlessly
over the mountains of Afghanistan, where they died "like
flies", as history records. The mountains themselves came to
be known as Hindu Kush Mountains. Hindu Kush does not mean
Hindu happy; it means Hindu killer, in the local language.
Geographically, the country was by far the most defensible
against battle technology available in those days. The
Himalayas form a huge bulwark towards the north. No invader,
has crossed the Himalayas into India until the Chinese 1962.
The eastern borders with Burma are rugged hills. No invader
had come, from the East, until the Japanese advanced over
7,000 kms from their island home to reach Kohima during the
Second World War. The South has a vast ocean around it. No
invader entered from the sea till Afonso de Albuquerque
conquered Goa in the sixteenth century.
All previous invasions into the country were
overland from the West. And there were just two
routes of entry into the country; the Bolan Pass
and the Khyber pass. Most of the invaders poured in
through the Khyber pass which is about thirty four
kilometers long and in places only three metres
wide. There was no other entry point into the
country. However it never occurred to our
countrymen to fortify the passes and permanently
block access to invaders.
In this context, I am reminded of the designer advertisements
being released by the Indian army inviting fellow Indians to
join the army. The advertisements are couched in a language
which practically seem to suggest that the Indian army is a
five star hotel with all sorts of facilities for those who
join it. Despite such enticing advertisements, the shortage
of manpower in the army has mounted to fourteen thousand
If we have to join the army there is only one reason to do
so; and that is because the country needs the soldiers to
defend it. It is here that patriotism comes in. No other
reason is required. One point two billion people and we are
running short of fourteen thousand officers. Can you beat
I have seen how when the Government of Goa announces
vacancies for police sub inspectors, thousands of Goans apply
and are known to have paid "bribe price" of up to
Rs.15,00,000 to be selected. I understand that shortly
another batch of sub inspectors is to be recruited. The
"bribe price" has reportedly touched Rs.25,00,000.
Mark my words, there would be thousands, seeking to pull
strings and willing to pay the "bribe price" to be selected.
None of these applicants for PSIs would go anywhere near an
army selection camp where one would be gladly and freely
selected. Who wants to be at risk of being killed in the
battlefront when it is much easier to make a "killing" in the
police force? That's our patriotism.
I often wonder about the Sangh Parivar which today seems to
hold a monopoly on patriotism. The RSS itself claims a
membership of over twenty five million cadres who dressed in
khaki are frequently seen marching in military formation. The
Bajrang Dal, Ram Sene and the VHP have their tough-looking
volunteers who have unleashed their 'patriotism' in Gujarat,
Karnataka and not very long ago at Fontainhas in Panaji too.
So presumably, the Sangh Parivar is full of young energetic
country men willing to defendant the country's honour.
That being so, why does the RSS and its sister
organizations not hold camps of its patriotic
sevaks and call upon the army, to select from its
cadre? The army should be easily able to enroll
fourteen thousand officers from among the twenty
five million 'pathetic' swayam sevaks. Will the RSS
at least now prove its patriotism and provides its
cadres for recruitment into the army? It is time
that the Sangh Parivar cadres display their
patriotism on the Indo-Pak border! That is where
the threat lies.
Our self-belief in our greatness is unfounded and the cause
of our downfall. We do not become great through self
proclamation. The rest of the world has to acknowledge our
greatness. No one does so. There is not a single field of
human endeavour where we are anywhere near the top. There is
not a single field of human endeavour where we are not near
Our self-glorification is not a new phenomenon. Alberuni
traveling through India in the eleventh century writes about
According to their belief, there is no other
country on earth but theirs, no other race of man
but theirs, and no created beings besides them have
any knowledge or science whatsoever. Their
haughtiness is such that, if you tell them of any
science or scholar in Kurasan and Persis, they will
think you to be both an ignoramus and a liar. If
they traveled and mixed with other nations, they
would soon change their mind, for their ancestors
were not as narrow-minded as the present generation
is. One of their scholars, Varahamihira, in a
passage where he calls on the people to honour the
Brahmans, says: "The Greeks, though impure, must be
honoured, since they were trained in sciences, and
therein excelled others."
Nothing seems to have changed over the last millennium.
We were not alone in proclaiming our greatness. Until the
middle of the nineteenth century the Japanese were as insular
as us and had their own version of Hindutva. The Japanese
closed their ports to foreign trade. Western nations demanded
the right to trade. The Japanese refused to concede. French,
American, Dutch and British forces bombarded Japanese ports
and within a few days the Japanese navy was routed. Japan
conceded all the demands and opened its ports. Unlike us, the
Japanese did not take the defeat lying down. The Japanese
accepted that the West was far more advanced.
The Japanese people were unnerved by the unexpected defeat.
The Japanese shogun united behind the emperor Mejid Matsuhito
and handed over all powers to him so that Japan could advance
"and be able to rank equally with other Nations of the
World". The year was 1867.
Douglas Collier writing on what happened thereafter records :
Soon, great numbers of Japanese, delegations from
every craft, every city in the land, were touring
London, Paris, New York and other world centres,
behaving with the impeccable good manners so little
in evidence in foreigners who had visited Japan.
And now Japanese industrial revolution began to
speed, during this second half of the Emperor
Meiji's long reign. Factories sprang up like
mushrooms, and the ships which had so shocked and
impressed the Japanese in 1853 and which they
subsequently ordered, one by one, from the Western
world, began to be made, even faster, in Japanese
yards. The foreign monopoly of the crowded and
important steamship trade between Japan and China
was broken by a thrusting, new,
government-sponsored "Japan Mail Line". A
Western-style army and navy began to grow.
Japan was at last established as the equal of any
nation; but there was no resting on laurels. The
visits of beaming, polite, little men all over
Europe and the United States, absorbing silently
and with absolute accuracy everything they saw and
heard, went on, encouraged as before by the
emperor. Meiji journeyed widely himself, setting a
novel precedent and coming back regularly to his
domains with plans for still more improvement,
expansion in education, science, industry."
The Japanese have since emerged as the second largest economy
on earth. The Japanese have also improved physically. The
average height of a twenty one year old Japanese has
increased by twenty centimeters post Second World War. This
additional height is jokingly referred to as "hamburger
height" since it is attributed to the Japanese change to
American food habits.
Turkey, on the western frontiers of Asia had dominated the
world for nearly seven centuries. However, as the West
advanced, Turkey stagnated and came to be called the sick man
of Europe. At this time the Turks had a great fortune to see
the emergence of Kemal Attaturk who understood the cause for
the backwardness of Turkey. He united Turkey and was
determined to modernize the Nation on western lines.
Lawrence Wilson writes:
"To make Turkey a strong, independent, modernized country was
now the goal. Through the National Assembly he bulldozed a
unanimous vote abolishing the Sultanate. Religion he saw as
the great enemy to progress, and as long as there was a
caliph he himself was not supreme and could not free the
people from superstition. In March, 1924, Abdul Meji was sent
packing and the State was secularized.
"There was great and growing opposition. But Kemal was utterly
ruthless. Gradually he established himself as absolute
dictator. With paternal rigour he then gave his people what
he though they needed. The fez, the symbol of the Ottoman
past, was abolished and its wearing made a crime. Monasteries
were closed, their inmates turned out to work or starve.
"Commercial, penal and civil codes were imported from abroad
and antiquated Moslem laws were swept. The metric system was
introduced and the Gregorian calendar. Polygamy was abolished
and women were given equal rights with men. Down to the
smallest detail of social life, time honoured habits were
hacked away and in the clearing made the Turk was set on his
feet and told to behave like a modern man.
"But only two or three per cent of the people were literate
and this was partly due to the inadequacy of Arabic
characters for writing Turkish. In 1928 Kemal, substituted
the Latin alphabet and toured the country teaching the new
The tragedy of our country is that we are yet to
find our emperor Meji or Kemal Attaturk.
Superstition wrapped in ritual continues to hold
sway. As custom. As tradition. As religion. No
leader or political party has the courage to
We are still lost in the back woods since we refuse to
acknowledge our own weaknesses and correct them as the
Japanese or Turks have done. We have to admit that we are a
cesspool of superstitions and corruptions, dishonesty and
deceit. We have stagnated and failed to evolve and advance.
Our contribution to civilization, (and it cannot be disputed)
is "zero". No pun intended. We have become the coelacanth, of
civilization. We are not great. We have to strive to be great.
[The author is a South Goa lawyer, and former member of the
Goa legislative assembly, known for his forthright, if
sometimes controversial, views. Feedback can be sent to him
via carlosnoronha at yahoo.com ]