Khongjom Battle Debate
Controversy over Khongjom battle has resurfaced with the coming of the month of April. The contestation is on the date of the battle. April 23 or April 25? Some historians as well as independent researchers, including a few social activists have contended that April 25 is the correct date. This debate has been doing the rounds over the last few years. But what we have witnessed is fading away of the debate from public space too fast and too soon. A few minutes of television studio discussions on the subject, two or three pieces of articles in the newspaper – and the debate is over. This lack of consistency clouds the direction of the debate. For the sake of posterity a consensual date must be arrived at. In this regard, the state government along with its departments concerned must take the initiatives. An expert review committee, as suggested by some commentators, instituted under the patronage of the state government will be one of the best ways forward. Let the committee invite and engage with different stakeholders. Let it come out with recommendations for the government to put a final stamp on the exact date of the battle.
Hegel, the German philosopher has been one thinker who has made extensive contribution in the approach to historical enquiry. He attempted to discover meaning or direction in history. He understood history as an intelligible process moving towards a specific condition – the realisation of human freedom. According to him “history is the unfolding of spirit in time, as nature is the unfolding of the idea in space”. RG Collingwood’s idea on history also hinges on the Hegelian view to a large extent. He viewed history as not believing someone when he says that he remembers something. The believer is not the authority. His conception of modern history begins with the rejection of scissor-and-paste view of history. A historical enquiry does not end when someone has possession of evidential material to support the date of an event. The historian must be the interpreter of the evidence.
In the light of these propositions, what could be further elicited from the debate that is centered on the accuracy of the date of Khongjom battle? Yes, accuracy of the date of the event has its primacy. But what about the meaning or direction of history, as Hegel had construed? Those who have engaged in the Khongjom battle debate are respectable scholars in their own right. Our submission is that debate should not be about scoring brownie points. On the other hand a healthy debate is always welcome. It is a good sign of people’s participation towards meaningful social dialogue. It helps in enriching democratic values of a society and nation. By public debate, we mean an informed dialogue among the citizens, with enough room to accommodate dissenting voices as well. Unfortunately, these days there is a dwindling of debating culture in the public domain. Debate competitions organised routinely at educational institutions lack vitality. Learning spaces like college and university, in absence of debating rigour, will produce citizens bereft of a critical eye. Yet, what is even more appalling is the debate which is lost to the informed citizens as well. What could be the factors that have stifled the growth of debating culture? One apparent factor among many is the lack of respect for dissent. Intolerance to divergent views needs to be shunned to find direction to the future by learning from the past.
Leader Writer: Senate Kh.