By Arun Pratap Singh
Dehradun, 21 Nov: A very interesting discussion was held, on a very unique topic, on the second day of the Valley of Words Literature & Arts Festival. The session was hosted at the Savoy Sub Post Office. It was moderated by Ratna Manucha and the speakers were Chairman of Welham Boys’ School Darshan Singh, ex Commandant of RIMC Dehradun Col Vivek Sharma and Principal of Welham Girls’ School, Padmini Sambasivam.
As the first speaker, Darshan Singh, himself a son of an army officer and a well known name in the corporate world, felt that knowledge of military history was crucial for the young mind and observed that in the countries like France or Germany, students were taught about their respective military history which made them confident, sovereign and secure and inculcated a sense of self prestige amongst them. He lamented the fact that Indian students perhaps knew more about Napoleon than about the Indian forces. He said that CBSE ought to introduce the subject of military history in Indian schools too. Indian youth needed to be made aware of their afmed forces which would give them confidence factor, feeling of brotherhood and oneness with the armed forces personnel. He cited a recent incident where he came across uniformed soldiers at Delhi airport preparing to go to Ladakh amid recent border tensions with China in Ladakh. All the people present at the airport clapped in appreciation. He added that it was only now that Indians were realising the significance of armed forces. He also recollected that he had organised seminar on this subject in cooperation with RIMC and where Welham Girls’ School and Hopetown Girls’ School students also participated along with Welham Boys’ School. He observed that while there was some level of general awareness in respect of 1962 war and Kargil war, there was very little awareness in respect of 1965 war which would have inculcated some confidence and courage among the students. It was unpardonable this subject of great importance had been completely neglected in India. He further felt that post-partition India was witness to many dictatorial regimes in parts of world and the countries included Pakistan. Perhaps there was some fear among the politicians of that time that military coup could happen in India too. This fear, Singh added was completely unfounded as the Indian armed forces were very mature and there was no possibility of any military coup here in India. He however emphasised that India was learning its lessons now and some course correction was underway. This was evident from how well the armed forces dealt with the recent border scuffle at Galvan valley in Ladakh. He added that the scenario was changing for the better in the country. There was a 180 degree change in the attitude and the current lot of the politicians in India were realising the significance of India’s armed forces and were willing to fulfil their needs. That was reflected in cases such as recent purchase of 50,000 winter gear for soldiers to enable them to stay well at Galvan heights during winters. While conceding that CBSE had around 120 odd subjects to offer currently of which several like English, Hindi, Science, etc., were mandatory, at least military history could be introduced as an optional subject if not mandatory. This apart, people like him too had some leeway as administrators at school, to impart some knowledge of India’s military history and its military strength etc. This would inculcate team spirit and raise their awareness of armed forces not merely as individuals but as units and regiments. He said that dynamics of war and field were changing rapidly. Unlike in the past where infantry played a major role, now attacks could be launched even from a long distance away without coming face to face with enemy. Electromagnetic war equipment, satellites, missiles and even cyber warfare had become the present time tools in a war. Greater awareness among children about the military history would help them groom and plan for the lives ahead of them even if they might not choose a military career.
Padmini Sambasivam felt that not only the military history be made a mandatory subject at the school level, but children ought to be compulsorily be associated for six to eight months with the armed forces in some manner or the other. She further noted that students be taught to respect and know even about the life of an ordinary soldier not just defence awardees or officers. They needed to know what the armed forces had to endure in their lives on a daily basis. This would imbibe in them a sense of binding with the armed forces. To a question by Ratna Manucha, the moderator, she agreed that history as taught in Indian schools had gaps and not much was taught about post-independence contemporary history of India and about the conflicts it had to face. This would teach them not just about their rights and liberties but also their responsibilities towards the country. She further agreed that students were now more interested in shorter and graphical forms of teaching and therefore the idea of war comics in respect of India’s wars was welcome and she felt nostalgic about how a large section of people were made aware of Indian mythology through Amar Chitra Katha. She noted that in modern times, even girls showed lot of interest in serving in the forces and were eager to die for the country and felt happy that their assimilation into Indian armed forces was finally happening.
Col Vivek Sharma while adding that at RIMC and in the regiments, the students and the cadets were given exposure to military history through photographs of respective war heroes of their regiments and units, admitted that this was somewhat cosmetic in nature. He also agreed to the need of introducing military history as a subject not only in the schools but also at the NDA and the IMA. He lamented the fact that military history in India had not been thoroughly documented. Some accounts of awardee war heroes were available in depth but stories of other brave soldiers were lost due to lack of enough research. All the participants further wondered why there was a major gap in the history books as taught in the schools for the past 70 years and there was a big blank after the Mughal period of history.