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Lesson from 1857: don't forget your past

By Mani Shankar Aiyar
May 07, 2007 17:56 IST
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When I see the youngsters who have come to march from Meerut to New Delhi from all over India, my heart is filled with joy.
I want to tell all those old people who feel that young Indians don't care much for our martyrs and freedom-fighters, look at these youngsters. They are our future and hope.
There is so much enthusiasm in them and they have a never-say-die spirit.
They are ready to brave the heat and walk from Meerut to Delhi just the way our soldiers of the First War of Independence revolted against the British on May 10, 1857, and reached New Delhi on May 11, thus capturing it from the Britishers.
My message to all these youngsters regarding the First War of Indian Independence would be, don't forget your past and history.
If you forget your history your future will be in the dark.
The significance of 1857 for today's youth is that it makes you realise that we all are one people in spite of our diversity.
The freedom-fighters who revolted against the British in 1857 were mostly Hindus in Meerut. After disobeying their British superiors they went straight to the Mughal king, Bahadur Shah Zafar, and made him their king.
They had no ill-feeling for the Mughal king though he was a Muslim. This is the kind of secular bonding these soldiers had in them.
Our young generation must remember that united we stand, and though we are a diverse people we have to maintain our unity. That is what the message of 1857 was to all Indians.
Bahadur Shah Zafar too knew it. After the revolt when these freedom-fighters captured Delhi and the Eid festival began Bahadur Shah told all Muslims that they will not kill any cow and respect the sentiments of their fellow brothers who were Hindus.
An order was passed and not a single cow was slaughtered in Delhi during Eid.
This is another message that Bahadur Shah Zafar and the freedom-fighters of 1857 wanted to pass on to the future generations. No matter what your religion and region be, respect all religion and maintain harmony.
The Mughal king also appointed 10 people under him to rule the city, and he elected six Muslims and four Hindus to do the job. He believed in democracy and panchayti raj and therefore he had proper representation for every section in his council of ministers. There are communal problems in our country but it is all dirty politics and we should not get into it.
We have to remember the fact that India has the second largest Muslim population in the world. We have more Muslims than in Pakistan and Bangladesh but we Indians live together peacefully and I am proud to say all Muslims are my brothers.
Everyone in our country has a right to practice his faith and do what he wants. We respect every religion. Be it Hindus, Muslims, Parsis, Sikhs and Jews. We respect everyone's religion and also people like me who is an atheist.
We all are equal.
Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports Mani Shankar Aiyar, who flagged off the youth rally from Meerut on May 6 to kick off the 150th anniversary celebrations of the Indian Mutiny, spoke to Chief Correspondent Syed Firdaus Ashraf
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Mani Shankar Aiyar