Oaths and Promises “Meant” to be Broken: Lessons of History


What is the utility of repeating now the 70 years old accounts – eye witness accounts – that had happened when India was partitioned into Islamic Pakistan and Secular India? What is its use? It is desirable that in India there should be maintained communal harmony among its diverse people. It is better to let the bygone be bygone. It is better to let the old hatch remain buried. It is better that the old painful events are not repeated. It is always better that peace and goodwill among different communities are established, and once established are allowed to continue. It is better this way. There should not be any doubt about it.

But it is still better than the above desirable things that one should not be cheated; that one should know the truth and be watchful; that one should learn from the history and not repeat the mistakes that were once committed in the past; that one should be found well-prepared to meet the bad eventuality and not found off the guard if – and when – that bad eventuality comes once again face to face. It is still better. And, there should not any doubt about it that one should not be found wanting in this respect once again. To commit the mistake for the first time is quite normal – though the wise minimize its occurrence; but to commit mistake again is stupidity; and, to commit mistake again and again is to commit suicide. It applies equally to individuals and nations both.

It is but natural in this world that people and communities may quarrel and fight, and may make compromises and reconciliation to make peace. It is but natural that these warring communities and their leaders to establish peace and understanding among the antagonists may offer proposals, may make promises, may bound themselves under solemn oaths. It is natural and good thing to be sincere and man of conscience.

Oaths and promises are sacred things. But they are sacred things under a commonsense only. What would you do when for some people binding themselves with solemn oaths and promises becomes a well-calculated strategy meant to be broken at the opportune time and to extricate them out of the difficult situation? What would you do to tackle this strategy? What would you do to foil the plan of the antagonist to cheat and lull its rival?

This is where the utility of history lies. This is where it become desirable to narrate old painful events. It is where it is still better to be on the guard and not to be caught off the guard. It is where the mistakes of the past must not be allowed to happen.

recent example of this strategy of cheating by knowingly telling lies practiced by a nation through its leader is found in the case of General Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan. After the attack on United States’ World Trade Center by terrorists having link to Pakistan, the U. S. President Bush threatened Pakistan: “In our war against terrorism, either you are with us or you are against us!” The choice before Pakistan was very difficult: To be honest they should have been either with the U.S. with their heart in its war against terrorism or, alternatively, they should have openly sided with the terrorism with all the justifications that they might have had. But they chose neither of these honest alternatives. They resorted to the third way, the way of cheating! While addressing the Pakistani public, the classical statement of intentional lies and plain cheating was made by Pervez Musharraf that we should pretend to be with America, because a similar strategy was adopted even in ancient times in the war of Badr in Medina. This behaviour fairly represents the mindset of all those persons – whether they live in Pakistan or in India – who think that their religion is above any law – whether that law be the national law binding all its citizens or that law be the national constitution (of India) superceding their and others religion or that law be an international obligation to observe peaceful, orderly and humane behaviour. Such a mindset should have no place in India, where rule of law prevails over all religions.

The immediate utility of reading the history and learning from it lies in the current issue of Ram Janambhumi dispute pending for a decision in the Supreme Court of India. It is stated on solemn oath by both the rival parties – Hindus and Muslims both – that they will honor the judgment of the apex court of India and abide by it. It is solemn promise.

Will this promise be kept? Will this promise be broken? Will this oath be honored? Let us hope that the promise will be kept and the judgment will be honored.

But history teaches us that the State should be well prepared for an otherwise eventuality also. It is better to learn; it is better to be on the guard; it is better not to be caught off the guard. And, it is better to be overwhelmingly prepared, to be prepared beyond reasonable proportions, to deal with the bad eventuality – if and when it happens. An example should be made by the Indian State of why one should not dare to challenge the state – whosoever he might be.

What is Indian State? It is one institution – not many, as some people living in a faciful world of make-belive rights propagate. Indian State is one – an organic one – institution, and it has to survive as one against challenges posed to it or it has to fail and collapse as one. In reality, the distinction into police, military, judiciary, parliament or any other ones is an artificial one when a challange to its power is thrown against it. All these organs are not distict entities but organs making one cohesive body of the Indian State.

Before a judgment on the sensitive Ram Janambhumi issue is delivered by the apex court, all organs of the Indian State must connect with each other as one body and get prepared to deal with any eventuality as one body to guarantee the rule of law. The rule of law survives only when the survival of the State as an unchallanged sovereign force is guaranteed. In any case of the challange to State, the police – even the army – has to take action, judiciary has to decide cases and all other organs have to work in tendam. The only thing that is required at the moment is to sit together, think together and act together – in whatever way possible in a democracy founded on the principle of ‘checks and balances’. In an emerging grave eventuality like the present one no organ of the State should be caught unaware. This is the minimum requirement of prudence.

What is that element of force in modern times that protects the sovereignty of any State against a unified mob challange thrown against it? It is not the exclusive brute force of its police or army – not at all. It is the power of technology that protects it, that saves it. Never forget it; never disregard technology’s this power. Use the best available technology to identify, monitor and neutralize the criminal before he commits the crime; modernize the antiquated policing. Drastically overhaul the Indian policing – train its personnel not to wait till the crime is committed but to infiltrate the gangs of criminals when they are busy in preparing and strike them when they least expect it. The governing principle of Indian policing should be: Deploy the best available technology to prevent the crime; deploy the best available technology to neutralize the criminal; remain one step ahead of the enemy of the nation. This is the way of modern policing. Modern challenge of terrorism demands modern solutions, which brooks no delay or neglect.

Here is a piece of history. It reveals the working of the mind of criminal – whether that criminal is an individual or a mob of the multitude of those indviduals or a nation constituted of such people. It is taken from a book authored by Sardar Gurbachan Singh Talib titled ,”Muslim League attack on Sikhs and Hindus in the Punjab 1947”. He was a professor at Lahore in 1947 and he has chronicled in his book eye witness accounts of how promises were made and broken; how oaths were sworn by putting hands on the sacred book and were pleasurably broken, when human conscience demanded that they be kept and honored against the victims. However, there were a few honorable exceptions also to this general phenomenon. This book was first published in 1950. The links to Appendix 1 to 50 of this book chronicling the eye witness accounts are given below:

  1. Appendix I – X: Licensed guns and rifles, and knives kept for the self-protection were taken away by the escorting (Pak) police and military from Hindus and Sikhs on the solemn promise that they will be protected by the escorting force and their weapons will be returned later on. When the marauding mob of fanatics attacked them, this solemn promise was broken by the escorting party and by cheating those weapon-less people were massacred by the mob and. the escorting party.
  2. Appendix XI – XX:
  3. Appendix XXI – XXX:
  4. Appendix XXXI – XXXX
  5. Appendix XXXXI – XXXXX:
  6. Link to the complete book

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