December 17, 2007

On forgetting and development

Trying to get the Citizens for Peace blog moving, I have a post up there titled On forgetting and development.


Anonymous said...

When does an incident qualify as forgettable?

Is it the time span since it happened, the intensity, repercussions of bringing it in spotlight again or its occurrence after our birth?

I agree we should not forget any genocides and crimes against humanity.

Does the genocides/mass conversions done by the moughals qualify to be forgettable, according to you?

If not, what do we do about them (similar to the efforts we are taking to not forget recent crimes)?

Just wanted to know your viewpoint.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Anon above, you raise some pertinent questions.

Some incidents are never forgotten, nor should they be forgotten. I have a friend whose father was shot dead a few years ago: I cannot imagine that this friend will ever forget, nor would I advise it. If that's at an individual level, I would similarly suggest that we should never forget great crimes too: the Holocaust, Rwanda 1994, Bombay 1992-93, etc.

To me, this applies even to terrible things from further back in history, like your example of things done by the Mughals. There is a sort of civilisational memory, if you like, of such events; and I think there's a value to that.

But there's a difference between holding that civilisational memory and holding people responsible today for those events. I think it makes no sense to blame today's descendants of the Mughals for those crimes, to try to wreak vengeance today for those crimes. Because they are not responsible for those crimes.

On the other hand, when people ask you to forget about some recent crimes -- like Gujarat '02 -- and vote for the very people who, by either commission or omission, bear responsibility for those crimes ... that's perverse.

If I kill somebody today, then stand for election a few years from now, and one of my supporters urges the voters to forget my crime and vote for me, I hope the voters will soundly reject such an appeal.

On the other hand, if one of my descendants stands for election a few hundred years from now and someone urges voters not to vote for her because of my crime, I hope those voters will also soundly reject such an appeal.

Anonymous said...

1. I'd say timespan. If the perpetrator of a crime is alive, there should be effort to bring him/her to justice. But even his/her kid - direct descendant is not responsible so where is the question of spanning 100s of years.

2. I respect Dilip's stand here but disagree. Its very difficult to nourish civilizational memories of old wounds without at least guilt-tripping today's descendants of the perpetrators. Without assigning direct responsibility to them, it would still be OK per this scheme to vacate a shrine that is proven destroyed by their forefathers. Think of the implications. What level of undo can be supported?

Better to judge the actions of those times by the values of those times. What was par in the 1200s?

3. (slight OT) Another differentiator for Mughal/ Muslim ruler tyranny vs. caste scenario:

Nearly every SC/ST/OBC today is descended necessarily from that same category centuries ago. Nearly every upper-caste person is descended from similar upper-caste ancestry, with very little mixing across "higher-lower" boundaries. Privilege or the lack of it was successfully transmitted.

Very few Muslims of today are descended from Mughal/ ruler classes of old and havent received any possible "benefits" from any transgressions that may have helped those rulers.


Anonymous said...

Also (more OT perhaps),

4. I think civilisational memories are natural. For e.g. we all know about Ashoka's wartime slaughter in Kalinga, and his deep repentance afterwards. You can't erase that. But you can spread the idea that these things are history and you cannot use them to assign guilt to modern-day citizens.

That should apply to forgetting. Some more reading is required I know.

Enough from me on this. Sorry for taking up so much comment space.