In the late afternoon of 10th May 1857, Mangal Pandey, known as Amir Khan amongst the younger generation of my India, was the man who rose first against the invaders. And it marked the beginning of a seemingly endless struggle. It was nice to see the 150 year commemoration ceremony in the Lok Sabha, with the members in full attendance; a rare event. Gulzar Sahib read a beautiful poem on the free yet held India: held in religion, hatred and obstreperous politics. The Lok Sabha television also showed a 10 min documentary on the revolt. It was well scripted and cinematographed: background narration by the Lal Quila itself.
I had two qualms after the whole 2 hour program. First one is more serious. There was no originality, vigor, passion and respect in our parliamentarians. Somnath Chatterjee, the hon’ble speaker(please allow me to say) gave a rotten speech. It seemed that whosoever writes his speech hasn’t been paid from long, and he also discovered it amidst the words. The members of the house yawned, laughed, chatted with the neighbors, and did everything, but listening to Chatterjee felt like a dog bite to them. He took 15 minutes to relieve the crowd. Next was our Vice President, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat. His poor health didn’t allow him to speak much, and he leveraged the fact pretty smartly. I can’t, even in my dreams, imagine on this earth that how somebody can be so dotingly lost while talking about the 1857 Revolt! They were 85 who initially revolted, and this was a house full of over 800 people. Sitting in the House of India, wallowing in all luxuries of life, were the sons and daughters of the Mother paying homage to their brethren of 150 years ago. Dr. Singh, Dr. Manmohan Singh I should say, failed to moh anybody’s mann. I am finding it hard to say anything for a man of that intellect, but it hurts to realize that he ordered his speech with a class 8th history text book to the writer. With almost no content of substance, he finished by saying something like: I call my countrymen to align their vision towards the development of Our India. Independence Day and Republic Day also hear the same line every time, just that its position changes in the speech. Now comes the Son of this land, the person who should actually be called punjab da puttar (and not Dr. Singh), His Excellency,Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. This man is a bombshell. Azad, truly. He is. His words can really ignite something under you. Only 10 words spoken, and everybody woke up to a thunderous applaud. He addressed initially in Hindi, struggling a bit. When he came to form, he switched to English and Oh my! I was all stoned. My dear friends, especially my younger friends, there lies a responsibility in front of us, more so in front of you, to realize the dream of my father, Rabindranath Tagore, who said: I dream of an India where the mind is without fear, and the head is held high. Note that he addressed Shri Dr. Tagore as his father. With the longest speech from amongst the multitude sitting on the elevated stage, with a jack under their butts, he finished in an emphatic voice with his face red, smiling and shining with pride.
Secondly, I was thinking after the speech, that the first revolt of Indian freedom was rooted at religion. The beef oil cartridges and the pork sheath kindled the fire. In terms of Sabhayata and culture, religion seems to have some pros on what India today is. But, the cons outweigh the pros by tonnes of ignorance, darkness and feuds. Though the voices of the man made sects known as Hindus and Muslims were in unison at that time, but why is this so important to say that Hindus and Muslims revolted together? Why not, every son of this land revolted for his Mitti? It appears that it is hard for us to jettison communal inspiration. If every kid of India grows up as a Hindu/Muslim/Sikh/Isai, it would be the ill-fate of nobody else, but the Mother and Her children.