A book on the military history of Hindus! The book’s timing could not have been better. At a time when the bogey of ‘Hindu terror’ is being raised by the vested political circles, Air marshal (retd) R K Nehra has written a book Hinduism & its Military Ethos. Completely brushing aside the long-held theories that Hindus are a tolerant and timid lot, the ex-defence man has argued vociferously, with facts and logic that Hinduism neither preaches tolerance to aggression, nor does it promote cowardice in the face of threats.
“The projected tolerance of Hindus, born out of bogus spirituality, is a myth. It is an artificial web woven round the Hindus by people with base instincts and baser intentions. .. in Vedic literature, there are no specific instructions requiring Hindus to be tolerant” says author Nehra. He points out that the central message of Bhagwat Gita is to resort to righteous war to fight injustice or assault on your value. In fact he quotes Al-Beruni, the official record keeper of Mahmud of Ghazni who calls the Hindus fanatics, who directed their “fanaticism against all foreigners” calling them mllechha.
The book takes a quick tour of Indian (read Hindu) history right from the Vedic period to the present, strictly in relation to the military and fighting spirit of the people of various ages. The author pauses now and then to make his point on how the past shows Hindus as valorous and courageous, not tolerating any interference, while after the advent of Buddhism and Jainism, the mindset changes, reaching lethargy of sorts with the advent of the Mughal raiders. He sharply points out how great warriors like Prithvi Raj Chauhan and Rana Pratap failed to fulfill their role of finishing the enemy, when they had the chance. They both allowed the enemy, who was down, to escape instead of chasing him and finishing him. If Chauhan only had chased and killed Ghouri, the history of Bharat would have been different, he says.
According to Nehra, one of the fundamental faults with the Hindus is that they confuse between applicability of spiritual norms at individual level and state level. Though the Christians preach brotherhood, they do not hesitate to enslave, torture and kill (Christian) slaves, say in Africa. Similarly, the Muslims, though saying that their God Allah preaches love and empathy, kill everyone in their path. The Hindus on the other hand do not distinguish between state and individual, personal levels of scriptural utterances like Ahinsa parmo Dharma, athithi devo bhava, Om Shanti, Shanti. With the result that they do suffer aggression, treat enemy as a guest and swallow peace. “In the distant past, Hindu rishis came up with the shanti sloka, for peace of the individual and his soul; it was for chanting strictly within the confines of the household. However, at some stage, the shanti word got spilled onto the street and got woven in the Hindu psyche.”
The author is also critical of the defence system, as prevailing in India after independence. He feels that India’s defence structure is in the tight grip of the bureaucrats. He says the Indian politicians do not have even a ‘distant’ link with the military. When we got independence, the military personnel, especially the seniors were totally trained under the British and lived and spoke like them. The politicians were on the other hand, mass leaders. “The meetings between the politicians and military officers were short and crisp, with each trying to avoid an eye contact with the other. Sometimes, they met at parties; but for a nod or two, there was not much material for conversation.” The politicians, then turned to the civil, i.e. the bureaucrats to control the military.
Nehra views the Ayodhya movement as an assertion of the Hindu. But the gains of the movement were frittered away by the leaders. Instead of disowning responsibility for the demolition, the leaders could have “walked to the nearest magistrate and claimed exclusive and full responsibility for the demolition… they might have been sent to jail for a week, a month, a year. The whole country would have been electrified…When you dither at a crucial moment of history, you get consigned to the dustbin. History is not in the habit of giving a second chance.”
The author also demolishes the caste theory, which classifies kshatriyas as fighters and others as non-fighters. He delves into history and comes up with this interesting observation that the greatest of warriors and fighters have been non-kshatriyas. Dronacharya, Kripacharya, Parashuram, the Sisunga rulers were all Brahmins. Chanakya who wrote on war was a Brahmin. Ashoka, Mahapadmananda, Chandragupt Maurya, the Gupta dynasty rulers, the Cholas, the Pandyas and Shivaji were all from the so-called non-fighting castes, he says.
The reason for the defeat of the Hindu kings were because of the mindset. This mindset was influenced by two major causes – religious influence and the caste factor. And thirdly, since India was a contended country, protected geographically by the Himalayas and the oceans, a sense of complacency crept in over the centuries. The caste combination of the society was such that 20 per cent of the ‘kshatriyas’ were left to take care of the 80 per cent of the rest of the population.
The book discusses several inherent hypocrisy and contradictions in the stands that Hindus take vis-à-vis history. He says we excessively blame the local collaborators (like Jaichand) and the unspeakable cruelties inflicted by the invaders. Whereas the truth is that we were diffident fighters though there were great warriors amongst us. In the name of false sense of pride and generosity the victor pardoned the vanquished only to be killed in the next possible occasion.
The attempt of the Air Marshal (retd) R K Nehra in writing this thought-provoking book needs to be appreciated. It is written in a reader-friendly style, with complete clarity. Though he has taken up a large canvas to work on, his pointed objective of proving that Hindus were not the timid and weak people they are being portrayed now, has been conveyed very well. The book is immensely readable and leaves one deep in thought – thoughts that one must mull over and find answers for oneself.
(Lancer, 2/42(B) Sarvpriya Vihar, New Delhi-110 016)