By M.S.N. Menon
These are days of confessions and regrets-regrets for past crimes committed against humanity. The latest to confess is the Japanese Prime Minister, Junichiro Moizumi.
It was Ashoka who set the noble example. He was so overwhelmed with remorse for what he did to the people of Kalinga during his war against them that he not only took to Buddhism and ahimsa (non-violence), but also expressed his remorse in a rock edict so that it would remain a reminder to his people till eternity. The rock edict says: ?It (the conquest) is a matter of profound sorrow and regret for his sacred majesty.?
I am not aware of another person in history who has expressed such remorse for the crimes he had committed. Not even Mohammed, the warrior Prophet of Islam, who is said to be the ?the mercy of the world?. After the battle of Badr against the Meccans, he did not forgive his enemies. He meted out exemplary punishment. He never regretted it.
Why? Because the ethical development of mankind has been taking place at a very slow pace. Indeed, only the Jews had some sense of ethics in the western hemisphere, not even the Greeks and the Romans. As for the Arabs, they had no sense of ethics before Mohammed. India was ahead of most others by about 3,000 years in its moral perceptions.
Thus, while Jesus calls upon God to forgive the Jews and Romans for what they did to him, Mohammed, even after six centuries, saw no need to forgive the Meccans who rejected him. He chose to chastise them.
Which is why the history of men is replete with horrendous stories of man'sinhumanity to man. Obviously, they were not shocked by the cruelty and barbarity they committed.
But why should we remind ourselves of crimes of the past? For three good reasons: because man is still close to animal life and can revert to it (remember the Nazis killed three million Jews in the gas chambers); because every generation must know what their ancestors had done; and because men should not repeat the crimes of their ancestors. (Let us not forget that the Bamiyan Buddhas were destroyed not long ago.) Which is why there should be no prettification of Indian history to present the Muslim period in a better light. The warts and all must come out in history. It is only the truth that can wash the stained and scared minds clean.
Shri Bashiruddin, former Vice Chancellor of Dr Ambedkar Open University, writes: ?Though the present generation of Muslims is not responsible for what has been done centuries ago, and awareness of such a legacy can sensitise the opinion leaders of Muslims?.? Precisely. Instead, we try to draw a veil over our past to appease the Muslims!
These are not the only reasons why we should know more on these past crimes of peoples. There is another-a very important one. To make a judgement on peoples, we should know their past.
To illustrate, today the Roman Catholic Church has under it more than a billion Catholics. Can the humanity trust the papacy to adhere to the message of Christ? It cannot. Why? Because of its past performance. We know the record of the Christian Church-how it suppressed dissent for a thousand years, how it played a major role in the Crusades and in promoting the slave trade of Africans, the genocide of the Red Indians, the Inquisition, apartheid, imperialism and colonialism, the Jewish holocaust and so on. With this kind of background, can the destiny of mankind be entrusted to the Church? No. Not a wise thing to do.
Similarly, without a good knowledge of the history of Islam during the eight centuries it was the dominant power in the world, from Spain to Indonesia, we cannot make a judgement on how it will behave in the future. Today Islam is again in a state of frenzy. It is threatening to revive Jehad. It is already engaged in terrorism. Do we know why they do this? Most of us have no idea. Why? Because most of the political parties in this country are in favour of drawing a veil over Muslim history if only to win Muslim votes. But in doing so, they are being traitors to this nation.
Now think of it: Do not the Shias still remember how the line of Ali was eliminated? Does not China remember the Opium Trade thrust on it? Does not Japan remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki? And the Russians have been religiously marking the victory over Hitler and the Nazis.
It is a pity that our academics are no match to the political poltroons who dominate over our country today.