Shingara Singh, the last known survivor of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, passed away this Monday. He was 113 years old.
On April 13th 1919, a crowd of almost 1500, had gathered at the Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar, to protest the harsh measures the then British Govt were taking against the local people. General Dyer, an officer of the British Indian Army, ordered his men in to the compound and blockaded the only entry/exit. He then ordered his men to fire on the protesters and, in the indiscriminate firing, 379 people were killed and over a 1100 were wounded. Many of those who lost their lives were women and children. Many were crushed in the stampede that ensued in the Bagh when the firing began. Many jumped to their deaths in to a large well that was in the compound as it was their only defense against the guns.
When I first read about the incident I was a very small child. Nevertheless it made by blood boil. The incident is a big part of the award winning movie- Gandhi. It was an inspiration to many of our freedom fighters including the likes of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Chandrashekar Azad.
Till date, the British Govt has not apologized for the massacre. General Dyer received no punishment. Don't be surprised as there is nothing unusual about this. The Brits are known for their snobbishness and arrogance. Next time these people make a hue and cry about human rights and other issues, remember that these snobs have very different rules for themselves and for the others.
In many ways the passing away of Mr Shingara Singh is the passing away of an era- the era in which India won its independence.
There was a small article in the Hindu about Mr Singh. It saddened me to read that he felt he'd been ignored by the Govt. To quote the article- "he rued government apathy towards him and his family". He'd been honoured by President Kalam on a visit to pay homage at the Bagh. But clearly this was not enough for Mr Singh.
God Bless the man's soul, but I wish he'd looked at things a little differently. I wish he'd not cribbed about the Govt apathy towards him, coz well, that's what we are going to remember him for. I'm not saying what the Govt did was right. No, I don't intend to defend the Govt.
What I'm trying to say here is this... that we've got to stop blaming the Govt for everything. This problem is so endemic that many of us take it with us to our graves. Business is bad- blame the Govt, rains are bad- blame the govt, India doesn't win enough medals in the Olympics- blame the Govt, law & order- blame the Govt, caste and religion- blame the Govt, bad roads- blame the Govt, dirty cities- blame the Govt.
Where does it end? It doesn't. You see the problem with a democracy is that it depends very much on the people's initiative if something has to be done. Take any one of the problems I mentioned in the previous para and the fault for them lies with us as much as anyone else. The Govt does play an important part in formulating and implementing policy. But we play a bigger part in choosing which policy the Govt is going to follow. We also play a big role in forming/shaping national attitude. This is where the dejection that comes naturally to most people in this country hurts us most. This negative attitude permeates everywhere and everything.
I'd like to quote John.F.Kennedy here. He said-"ask not what your country does for you, ask what you can do for your country".
Right now most of my country men are fighting over who takes more of the pie. Everyone wants reservations for their communities, everyone wants subsidies, everyone wants and wants and wants. But no one is ready to give for their country!
Maybe the Govt was bad to us, maybe things didn't work out the way we wanted them to. But that doesn't mean we crib about things. We can't sit and complain as that demotivates others. We have a duty to try and be positive all the time, to try to make things better, to keep ourselves motivated. To keep hope. This is our duty.
My fellow readers and country men, I will conclude saying this. That when it is your time, please don't complain about your country. It might have done you wrong, but forgive it. Believe in your country and it's destiny. Let hope, not dejection, be the last message you leave on earth.