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Reclaiming Indian Military History

Sandeep Jain Writes: Unless we target the next generation, we will not be able to change our national culture. The first place to change is therefore our textbooks where events such as WW1 etc should find a greater mention. There is also a need to harness the print and the electronic media to increase awareness.

Akin to a perceived absence of strategic culture, the Indian society also probably suffers from lack of a historical perspective. By and large we do not tend to record our events and archive them for posterity. We therefore are quite often ignorant of the events which shaped our past. It is well known that historical events condition our thoughts and our actions. Thus if we are aware of our past we can understand our present and foretell our future much better.

Military history is no exception. Most Indians may not be fully aware of the Indian contribution to the World wars as also other military campaigns where Indian soldiers laid down their lives. Many may not even be aware of facts such as that the India Gate is actually a memorial for the fallen soldiers of WW1. Some effort has now commenced in this direction with the MoD and the three services commemorating the centenary of WW1 and later the golden jubilee of the 1965 war. Massive efforts were made by the concerned agencies in gathering data, human experiences and in trying to reconstruct the sequence of events. The exhibitions and other events conducted to mark these events were great successes. However, they could not garner the mass outreach required to imprint the events in national consciousness.

Unless we target the next generation, we will not be able to change our national culture. The first place to change is therefore our textbooks where events such as WW1 etc should find a greater mention. There is also a need to harness the print and the electronic media to increase awareness. If we again take the example of WW1, there is a need to commission academia to come out with books and articles to chronicle the Indian contribution. Similarly television series funded by the government to bring out human interest stories of the Great War could be started. Noted filmmakers could be tasked to bring out movies again with human interest themes. The social media and the cyber space can again be effectively utilised to make available existing records to all those who may be interested. Teams of veterans can be employed to lecture across the country in schools and colleges. Speaking of personal experience they could motivate the youth of the country.

A very good beginning for reclaiming history has been made with the above two events. However, we need to build upon it to take the process further and build it into national consciousness. We would do well to learn from nations like UK, Australia and many others where historical culture has contributed towards nation building.

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