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Advancing Narrative

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Jammu & Kashmir, as well as Ladakh, formally became Union Territories on 31 October, a follow through on the abrogation, earlier, of Article 370 by the Modi Government. Significantly, the day was the birth anniversary of Sardar Patel, now celebrated as ‘National Unity Day’. He is seen as the unifier of India, having organised the accession of princely states in a determined and orderly manner at the time of Independence. There are conflicting claims about his approach towards J&K becoming a part of India, but going by the consistency of his actions, it is clear that he would have preferred the state to be exactly like any other of the Union, without any exclusionary conditions.
Going by its nationalist political philosophy, the BJP admires the job he did in unifying India. It is happy to promote this aspect of his personality as worthy of emulation by all Indians, particularly the politicians. Although this does not imply any direct criticism of Pandit Nehru, such ‘alternative’ icons threaten the Congress narrative, which has tended to attribute all the ‘great’ achievements after independence almost exclusively to him. Particularly troubled by BJP’s ‘appropriation’ of Patel, the Congress bigwigs have taken pains to distinguish between his ideology and that of the ‘RSS’. Unfortunately, the country has been witness to how the Congress has been reduced to a family proprietorship, entirely undermining the representative character it had during the freedom struggle.
The people today are happy that correctives are being applied to the historical narrative, providing every community and region a stake in the making of India. This does not just include Patel but also involves restoration of contentious figures such as Vir Savarkar to the pantheon of freedom fighters. There is no doubt that even the Congress of yore held him in high esteem, but the emergence of a certain concept of history inspired by a narrow-minded Marxist approach led to reverse engineering of facts. Now, this has been challenged vigorously by those in power, leading to the demolition of several ‘givens’, such as veneration of Tipu Sultan as a freedom fighter.
It is good that this churning is taking place in Indian society and the newspapers as well as TV news channels are full of arguments and counter-arguments on every one of these subjects. If done properly and by informed experts, it will definitely give Indians a better idea of themselves and their past. It will help further refine the psyche of the nation so that it is better able to establish future goals and make the necessary political, economic and social choices.