Tuesday, April 25, 2006


A hero for our times: Eachara Warrier

April 24, 2006

Vishu has just come and gone. As always, Baisakhi is the day before Vishu; and I remember the massacre at Jallianwallah Bagh: almost a hundred years ago, on April 13, 1919. A walled garden with a single entrance and an unarmed crowd celebrating the arrival of Spring. 1,650 bullets expended, 1,579 casualties. The day on which imperialism bared its fangs for all to see.
Remember Jallianwallah Bagh

And then there were the nationalists whose resolve was strengthened by Jallianwallah Bagh: the trio of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru, hanged by the British for sedition exactly 75 years ago, on March 23, 1921. The Gadar Party of San Francisco, and young UC, Berkeley students Kartar Singh Sarabha and Vishnu Ganesh Pingale, hanged by the British for sedition. The naïve innocents of the Komagata Maru, who returned from Canada and the US to help liberate India, and who were massacred at the ports.
Every nation needs its heroes; and the heroes are a reflection of what the nation is all about. I am disappointed, as I am with so much in modern India, with the quality of the heroes everyone looks up to. Ask any young Indian: chances are their heroes are mere movie stars and overpaid, underperforming cricketers. And perhaps some politicians. All of whom are creatures of propaganda and an easily-bought, pliant media. India has an abhorrent culture of hero-worship and a futile messiah syndrome.
But true heroes are ignored. For instance, this year, on the 75th anniversary of the hanging of Bhagat Singh and friends, practically no attention was paid to their memory. And where are the memorials? I was shocked to go to Colachel in Kanyakumari district, to the site of an emphatic victory by Marthanda Varma of Travancore over an invading Dutch fleet in 1741. There is nothing to mark the spot but a stinking, broken stone, overgrown with weeds and covered with cow patties.
The Battle of Colachel: In remembrance of things past There are real heroes amongst us, but their tales are never told and they are not glamorous. They do not necessarily look good on television, and they may not be 'people like us', either. I refer to people like Major Shaitan Singh of the C Company, 13th Kumaon: they who died to the last man in the snows of Ladakh repulsing Chinese hordes. RAJEEV

Comment: A very well written article. I wonder where are our true heroes today: in the films, in politics or amongst the religious mafia. Hope one day India will wake up once again and not only recognize our thousands of heroes, who made great sacrifices for the country and for valid causes and of which our history is full, and will honour them. But it would appear that those heroes have conveniently been forgotten by our present crop of intellectuals, crorepatis and the powers that be.


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