India, being one of the youngest developing independent countries, still in her 70s, continues to engage in the most talked of debate of its history: what brought India its Independence? Was it Gandhi’s Ahimsa (Non-Violence) or Bose’s war?
To understand India as a land, and its culture of peace and war, we need to go back a few eras in history.
When this land was neither India nor Bharat, some parts were referred to as Aryavarta, or the land of the Aryans, as some ancient texts refer to it. Though later theories reject the Aryan invasion on India, the name still stands.
The first significant empire of this ancient land was the Mauryas. Its greatest king, Asoka, was once a ruthless cruel man. Stories of his cruelty found a place in history. He waged the war that is said to have caused the maximum damage to life and property in the history of India.
Then, after a sudden change of mind, which some people call his way to salvation, and others a political move, he turned to Buddhism. Through Buddhism, he achieved the non-imaginable feat of ruling over vast parts of South-East Asia. Did he use peace as a tool to expand his kingdom? Many historians believe so.
Let’s step ahead in time, when India prospered in terms of flora fauna, minerals. and agriculture. Everyone, from the Huns to the Sultanate, and European powers, wanted to own this land. In a country that is so full of prosperity and constantly under enemy threat the people had learned to be protectors. They had always fought for what was rightfully theirs. Thus medieval India witnessed the strongest of resistance, as well as some of the richest of empires.
Coming to the present day scenario of debates and peaceful protest it can be said that Ahimsa is effective to fight internal battles. Violence can cause chaos and divert one from their main motive of protest. But such non-violent movements are only possible if both sides can reach a middle ground through debate and discussion. But, I think Ahimsa is definitely not a solution to everything.
Today, independent India has the strongest of armed forces. It remembers the cost of its independence was the lives of many named and unnamed who fought for the motherland directly or indirectly. They understand the independence cost many their lives and property, as a united nation was successfully divided based on religion. Common people suffered. The world stood witness.
The irony lies elsewhere. We, the youth today, who have not witnessed Gandhi’s marches or the INA trial, cannot decide what brought independence. The fact is we have it today. But, Ahimsa costed the great Mahatma his life. Violence was his last resort yet he died because of it.
Truth be said, no country in this world, bound in the duty to protect its people and boundaries, can ever be preaching absolute non-violence. Every country thus needs an army to protect it from external enemies and a police force for internal law and order.
History is proof that in no way is India ever or was ever a state preaching peace because our land had been under constant internal and external threats questioning the unity in diversity of our rich culture. Our land, often referred to as the “sone ki chiriya” or ‘golden bird’ for her resources needs better tools than non-violence for self-protection.