“For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.” – Rudyard Kipling

In the ‘Second Jungle Book’, written by Mr.Kipling, the British author sums up the nature of the wolf pack succinctly as above, while describing the laws of the jungles he travelled while he was in India. Although written for children, it is generally accepted that he alludes to the many survival skills in the jungle as essential to his fellow British countrymen to dominate the world and be responsible for physical, mental and spiritual ‘growth’ of the others that they subjugate.

Alas, if India could learn from the same wolves in the jungle! Despite tremendous achievements in every facet of human endeavor, spanning over 5 millennia, we come up short in grasping the above simple truth and making individual sacrifices for the common good.

Sure, There was at least one instance where the above jungle law clearly worked and I quote historical sources: “ On January 26, 1565, the Deccan Sultanates of Ahmednagar, Bidar, Bijapur and Golconda, who had formed a grand alliance, met the Vijayanagaram army at Tallikota, Bijapur taluk between two villages called Rakkasa and Tangadi, on the alluvial banks of the Krishna River, in present day Karnataka state The sultanates were also aided by some minor Hindu kingdoms who held grudges against the Vijayanagara Empire. The battle ended in a complete victory for the sultanates, with the raja being beheaded and put on display as a trophy. What followed were pillage and the plunder of Vijayanagara”.

“It was one of the few times in medieval Indian history that a joint strategy was employed!” Unfortunately it was the descendants of the foreign rulers who understood the significance of unity among themselves and disunity among the enemies and reaped benefits.

Do not get me wrong, it has not been one continuous saga of disunity throughout the ages, however. Visionaries arose and turned the tide around. Chanakya was one such figure. Perhaps, he knew how the Persian Achaemenid Empire under Cyrus the Great, expanded into the Northwest (present day Afghanistan) two centuries earlier (590 BCE – 529 BCE) and how Alexander the Great and his Greeks were repeating the plunder under his own eyes. Magadha and other kingdoms were attacking each other and kings were plotting against each other behind their backs (besides Ambhi, Dhananand and even Purushottama after his defeat, were conspiring against fellow kings to the detriment of the nation). As everyone knows, Chanakya quickly gained power through Chandragupta Maurya and united all kingdoms into Greater India and sent the Greeks packing within a short time.

Such instances, however, have been few and far in between.

Two more instances come to my mind when serious infighting led to foreign invasions with relative ease: Mohammad Ghori took advantage of rift between Rajput kings. Prithviraj was a great warrior himself and even though he won the first battle, he lost the second one and paid dearly for the disunity of various fellow kings (according to some historical sources, even his father-in-law Raja Jaichand, did not support him. I guess he could not get over the fact his daughter Samyuktha married Prithviraj against his wishes.

The other instance was the 1857 Mutiny against the British. The uprising was more or less restricted to the Hindi speaking regions of North and Central India. Punjabis (Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims), Sindhis, Gujaratis, Gorkhas, South Indians etc remained more or less neutral. The reason noted for Punjab’s silence was the same Hindi speaking belt had earlier helped the British against the Sikh kingdom in Punjab and led to its fall. If only everyone came together, we would have had independence a century earlier!

“United we stand, divided we fall.” – Aesops Fables

I remember reading Aesops Fables – ‘A Lion and the Four Oxen’ in Telugu when I was a kid. It went something like this: “A lion used to prowl about a field in which four oxen used to dwell. Many a time he tried to attack them; but whenever he came near they turned their tails to one another, so that whichever way he approached them he was met by the horns of one of them. At last, however, they fell a-quarrelling among themselves, and each went off to pasture alone in a separate corner of the field. Then the Lion attacked them one by one and soon made an end of all four.”

Winning independence from the British, and the way we won it, will be a shining example for all humanity for generations to come. Mahatma Gandhi did an amazing job bringing the country together. In one respect, though, it was bittersweet. In- fighting, favoritism and inability to allay fears of all communities, led eventually to partition ultimately leading to two great nuclear powers of Asia permanently suspicious of each other and ready to pull the nuclear trigger at any given instant. Imagine the wealth that would have been better spent on pulling out the really downtrodden from the bottomless pits of their existence! Many believe, if Jinnah were handled more carefully and not made to feel alienated from the core group, we would have had undivided India (imagine visiting our heritage sites – Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa without any restrictions!). Many feel, if we had integrated Pakistan, it would not be in the dire situation as it is in today.

Is it water under the bridge? May be, only if we feel sad and resentful.

An American philosopher and poet George Santayana said: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” We have to keep Santayana on our minds and just forge ahead.

Today, the divisive forces in India are just as strong and growing stronger. To counter the threats, we must have inclusive policies and reduce social injustice and of course contain corruption (do not believe it can be completely eradicated).

May be, it is time for Chanakya, the visionary, to rise from the grave? Or do we need someone far smarter to deal with current situations that appear to be infinitely more complex? Is he/she going to wait till some modern day Greek/Turk/Persian/English/Portuguese/French plunderers come and help themselves and THEN plunge into action?

I am waiting and hoping that in our lifetime, a visionary will arise and restore India back to her old glory, uniting all peoples of South Asia.

On second thought, I would just settle for peace among various peoples of South Asia, every community preserving its heritage and culture, without getting wiped out by the dominant one – where a Santhal is as proud of her music as the Chennai vocalist singing Thyagaraja kirthana in Kalyani Ragam.