"This war is not a war. It is a world-destroying battle. All that has gone before this war in this world until now has been only boys throwing coloured powder at each other."
Jowahir alludes to images of children playing Holi as the level of violence and destruction of all of history's wars in comparison to this one. This war full of "gun[s] that shook mountains" and the destruction of whole cities was something wholly different.
A short work, the new introduction by Charles Allen gives us insight into the creation of the "letters" and the context surrounding Kipling at the time. It's fascinating to think of Kipling reading through piles of soldiers' letters and the insights they must have given. The book gives us a taste of a much bigger story - what compelled these men to serve their imperial masters? And how does it fit into the larger story of the Raj and its subjects?
THIS IS AN EXCERPT FROM A FULL ARTICLE ON SIKH RESISTANCE THAT I HAD THE PLEASURE OF CONTRIBUTING TO WITH SUKHRAJ SINGH. IT WILL BE OUT IN MARCH IN CONSENTED MAGAZINE.
How free was the choice to enlist in the British colonial army? How authentic was the pledge of allegiance to fight for British freedom?
The implications of the vastness of this legacy are important. There is yet so much to be seen and ostensibly to be preserved and studied. Not only is there much to learn from the architectural legacy but also of the Sikh communities that still exist there today.
The Sindhi’s are a particularly fascinating community. Nanakpanthi Sikhs, they venerate Bhai Ghaneya - a Sikh famous for his giving of water to both Sikh and Mughal wounded on a battlefield in the time of Guru Gobind Singh. Seeing his helping the enemy by his fellow Sikhs, he was threatened and brought before the Guru.
Singh uses a massive array of sources to uncover the machinations of the Indian State behind the mass murder of its own people and its subsequent effort to cover it up. The lie of the “anti-Sikh riot” narrative has been used to mask what was ultimately an act of state sponsored terrorism in the form of ethnic cleansing and mass rape. The attacks had been planned for months—Gandhi’s assassination simply moved their execution up a few days from November 8th, the birthday of Guru Nanak, founder of the Sikh faith.
Many an old Sikh did I see with his long, white beard, betokening in his soldierly bearing and carriage the pride won in the days of Runjeet, lay his sword on the heap with as much tenderness as a mother would lay her child in its cradle, and then stepping back with tearful eyes bow his head in reverence, and pay it a last farewell. It was a sight which those who saw will never forget.
He does not come across more or less bloodthirsty than his contemporaries, but the needle of his moral compass was likely a gold-filigreed scimitar. Wealth and survival were his imperatives and sometimes the securing of one led to the jeopardy of the other.