Intro: Forget and Forgive is a principle commonly held by weak people, societies, and nations, as they simply do not have the guts to fight the national emergency out.
I have been hearing ‘Forget and Forgive’ advice ever since I broadly started understanding ethics and morality during my teen years. However, it takes much longer to discern them at the individual and collective levels.
An email received prompted me to dig into it. At an age of 75, this saying opened a Pandora’s box of thoughts both in terms of its length and breadth – however, none of them whatsoever had been aroused in my mind before. A fundamental question in this saying is:
Can one really forget an unusual incident; say, when individual A is wronged by individual B?
Yes, it only happens during childhood –in the ages from 8 to12 years, when faculty of memory is not fully developed. An amasing play and ploy of memory is that in aged years, a person often recalls bits of events that go back in the dusty lanes of time. However, these very people cannot carry on a conversation due to memory lapses. This phenomenon is like a typical cellular signal that does not connect inside concrete buildings and out of urban limits.
Forgetting is natural, but forgiving is a cultivated trait.
It is so evident in the animal world. During adolescence, if A cannot forget B’s untoward action towards A, then A cannot forgive B period. Exceptions are, if for some accidental or medical reasons A’s memory is erased, then the question of forgiving B does not arise.
At times, two intransigent adults take a pragmatic approach when the ‘offender’ does not repeat the same offensive action. If that goes on for a long enough time, then it maybe taken as a scenario of ‘forget and forgive’ by the grieved party. It is a two-way channel. However, is there anything like ‘Forgive and Forget’? Say, a person, P, unilaterally forgives Q for the wrongdone by Q to P, and then it is likely to be suicidal for P. Q has to show first some remorse, repentance, and specific non-recurring misbehaviour.
‘Forget and Forgive’ is a principle commonly held by weak persons, societies, and nations, as they simply do not have the guts to fight it out. This is what happened to the Hindus collectively—starting from Prithviraj Chauhan
(1149-1192), Emperor of Delhi and Ajmer regions. He ‘forgot and forgave’ Mohammed Ghori of Afghanistan several times for attacking India. Prithviraj had forgotten the Chanakya’s doctrine of annihilating the enemy completely. Finally, Mohammed Ghori defeated Prithviraj Chauhan; he captured him, tortured him, and brutally murdered him in Ghazani. Subsequently, it changed the landscape of Hindustan, the land of the Hindus, forever!
In recent times, the Sikhs do not forget their historic holocausts—including the 1984 backlash suffered mainly in Delhi. It was sparked off by the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her two Sikh bodyguards who had emptied out their bullet magazines into her body. It has been 30 years, but the Sikhs remember it, as it is reminded in the gurdwaras, political rallies and museums.
Corresponding to ‘Forget and Forgive’, there is a doctrine of ‘Remember and Repent/Reparation’. It is practiced by the strong or weak-turned-strong. Since1984, every Central Government has reached over to the Sikh community to placate them, and has compensated the riot victims. Modi Government recently declared that a task force would investigate the 1984 riots. No matter what the recommendations are, this saga will remain on a burner for a long time. Now, it has gone to both extremes – from witch hunting of prominent Hindus to the 1984 government.
Three years ago, the supreme Sikh clergy served a hukamnama (religious injunction) to Amitabh Bachchan, a popular Bollywood actor for instigating riots against the Sikhs. This is like practicing Islamic Sharia. Amitabh was so scared that instead of going to a court against this ‘threat’, he sought a resolution and ‘forgiveness’! Now, a Los Angeles Court has summoned him. Essentially, it amounts to saying that a US citizen can file a case in a US court of law when wronged by anyone anywhere in the world! This is bullying by the US courts, as the converse does not hold. Americans often flaunt the laws of other nations, and getaway due to the pressure of the US government on tiny nations. There is no ‘forget and forgive’ on the part of the mighty!
In reprisal to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, for twenty years, Punjab remained a communal tinder box, where thousands of Hindus were singled out and publicly executed. Police also committed fake encounters with the terrorists. During my visit to India, I experienced this reign of terror – no life after dark. In the villages, for survival, the Hindus embraced Sikhism. In the cities, Hindu professionals and businesses paid protection monies. However, many Hindus left Punjab. There being never a single militant Hindu organisation, the question of compensating the Hindus, for the loss of their lives and businesses in Punjab, has never been even raised.
‘Forget and Forgive’ is thrown to the winds as soon as an oppressed community is energised in a time capsule. For example, under both violent and non-violent leaderships, the stature of Afro-Americans has risen from that of erstwhile slaves until 1865 to the unified militant ones, as they are today. They have been compensated for the fruits that the White slave owners reaped on the backs of the slaves. Also, the weakling Jews—six millions of them meekly marching to their deaths in the German concentration camps, have become militant enough to force compensation from Germany and through the world courts.
For the last two days, an attack on a Dutch mosque has been making headlines in the US and world media, but no one remembers the demolition and disappearance two months ago of the last surviving Hindu temple in Lahore, Pakistan. It is again an extreme exercise in forgive and forget on the part of the Hindu diaspora. Nevertheless, the Muslim diaspora has never forgotten the 1992 demolition in India of a derelict disputed structure, which was planted on ancient Hindu temple. There is no Forget and Forgive doctrine in Islam when it comes to the non-believers.
It is time to round up this ‘Forget and Forgive’ dictum. Life is too short in mending irreparable fences with a few persons who wrong you. On a similar train of thought, every visitor remembers the August 2011 attack on a Wisconsin Gurudwara (6 killed) since a plaque has been placed on one of the several bullet holes in a wall. At the other extreme, during my 2004 visit to India, when I inquired from a custodian of Akshardham (Indestructible Temple) in Gandhi Nagar, as to how in September 2002, the two Muslim terrorists entered the Temple and killed 30 plus and wounded 80 plus Hindu devotees, he really acted as if this incident had never happened in the premises!
It is time to round up this ‘Forget and Forgive’ dictum. Life is too short in mending irreparable fences with a few persons who wrong you. The world is full of incredible number of nice people, which I discover through my writings. Or, call it a bane of Forgive and Forget approach towards life. That is enough!
Satish C Bhatnagar (The writer is a Professor of Mathematical Sciences, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, US)