"SANAWAR: Keeping the century old bonding with the past of Indian armed forces, Lawrence School Sanawar on Monday unveiled, in its premises, the bust of Major William Stephen Rakes Hodson who has the distinction of raising Indian Army's prestigious 'Hodson horse'".
It was this innocuous story, buried in the inside pages of The Times of India which made me put down my cup of tea this morning and take note. Apart from the fact that the reporter has faithfully reproduced the press note issued by the school/Army down to the last sycophantic word, the fact that a murderer has once again been glorified disturbed me.
I have written previously in this blog on how many persons, of considerable eminence, have considered it wrong for Major Hodson to find a place of prominence in the the name of one of the most illustrious armoured regiments of the Indian Army. In fact, I had widely quoted Lt Gen SK Sinha, former Vice Chief of Army Staff, who had written in his memoirs of his attempts to convince 4 Horse to get rid of the name of Maj Hodson from their regimental crest, but to no avail.
Several vitriolic replies were received on the subject and most of them have been printed. That however does not deter me from expressing my views again on the preposterous bust-unveiling which has taken place in Sanawar by a Lt General who is GOC 9 Corps. I am more outraged by the fact that the only other bust in the school is that of the young martyr of the 1971 war, 2/Lt Arun Khetarpal, PVC and that the murderer Hodson now gets a place of pride next to him.
What could be more dichotomous than having two busts which are absolutely at cross-purposes with each other. One that of a national hero who laid down his life defending the country 40 years ago and another of a colonial master who repressed the First War of Independence with as much force as he could.
Hodson may indeed have played a role in establishing the school at Sanawar but what purpose does it serve to display his bust in the school? Does the school tell its students about the dubious role played by him while putting down the first Indian War of Independence in 1857 when he murdered the two sons of Bahadur Shah Zafar? Do they inform the students of the dubious nature of his character as stated by Lt Gen SK Sinha in his book? Why should he be glorified at all. His association with the school, as with the regiment, should be a footnote in history of both and need not be highlighted beyond that point. His association with both is a fact of history and must be acknowledged as such but to glorify him is sickening.
But the inherent flaws in our thinking and how we revere anything British when it comes to traditions in our schools and regimental institutions have led to the unveiling of this bust. It is time which acts come under scrutiny and are derided for whatever they are worth. These should not go uncommented or unnoticed. It is nothing but a misplaced sense of regimental honour when the name of a murderer is not removed from the regimental crest and when the officers of the regiment go about establishing the bust of the same murderer in schools.
They will not be allowed to manipulate history. Villains can never be heroes. Even if they have armoured regiments named after them.