The seventh edition of the prestigious Military History Seminar was held at the Welham Boys' School on October 5 and 6, 2023.
The opening session had His Excellency the Governor of Uttarakhand, Lieutenant General Gurmit Singh as the Chief Guest, while the closing session was presided over by His Excellency the Governor of Arunachal Pradesh, Lieutenant General Kaiwalya Trivikram Parnaik. The two Governors are from the Assam Regiment and the Rajputana Rifles respectively and have inspiring track records of service to the nation.
Few know His Excellency Lieutenant General Gurmit Singh as one of the foremost experts on China. He retired as the Deputy Chief of Army Staff and had also been part of the talks between India and Pakistan on the vexing Siachen Glacier issue. His Excellency had earlier not only commanded 19 Infantry Division at Baramula, but had then served as the Corps Commander of the prestigious Chinar XV Corps that looks after the Kashmir Valley. His desire to further raise the level of education in the state is well known, and his presence at the seminal Military History Seminar helped the movement to go from ‘Strength to Strength’, which incidentally is the motto of the Welham Boys’ School as well.
The Welham Initiative, a brainchild of Mr. Darshan Singh, Chairman, WBS saw a record forty schools from across the country participating in the event this year. Mr. Darshan Singh, Chairman Welham Boys’ School shared slides showing the length and breadth of various Chinese Empires over the centuries and illustrated the fact that the so-called ‘One China’
claim was only a recent fabrication. He also said it was wrong to say India and China shared a 4000 km long border, for the border has been with Tibet for centuries but is now controlled by China through imperialistic force. The Chairman exhorted the students drawn from almost forty schools across India to debunk the other myth of the ‘nine-foot Chinaman’ which was the result of the 1962 debacle.
The Governor of Uttarakhand, Lieutenant General Gurmit Singh, also dwelled on the same point and said man to man, soldiers of the Indian Army were head and shoulders superior to the men and women in the PLA. The Honourable Governor made a wonderful speech truly applauded by one and all.
The MHS, as the seminar is popularly known, has grown over the years into a significant calendar event for educational institutions around the country. In addition to exposing both boys and girls of the next generation to significant events that have shaped our recent history, the Military History Seminar, which has gained enormous popularity in recent years, also introduces them to critical thinking, which will serve the student delegates well in the future.
The theme of this year’s seminar was ‘Stones of Silence: Myth & Reality’. The seminar comprised six main sessions spread over two days. The first session on October 5, 2023, focused on the importance of not allowing military history to be coloured by ideology and the need to focus and stay within available facts. The second session was a discussion on the division between the narrative of the epics and recorded history. This also allowed us to look at lessons drawn from epics that helped set the ethical standards for warfare, starting with the early empires like Magadh, the Mauryas, and the Guptas as well as the early Pallavas, Cholas, and Pandyas. The third session, also on October 5, 2023, looked at the Medieval Period, starting with the arrival of Islam, and the various Sultanates and finishing with the decline of the Mughals.
On Day 2, October 6, 2023, the fourth session saw how colonialism impacted India, starting with the Portuguese, the Dutch, the British, and the French plus other minor players such as the Danes and the Spanish. The one-and-a-half-hour session looked at various aspects, especially the inherent weaknesses that were exploited to the hilt by a ruthless Europe to subjugate an entire people. Session 5 looked at the post-independence scenario, especially the four major wars that shaped India. Session 6 culminated with the way forward, with additional emphasis on the Chinese threat on the Northern border. His Excellency Lieutenant General KT Parnaik was the Northern Army Commander in 2012 when the Chinese first invaded the Depsang Plains in Eastern Ladakh. The Indian response had been instantaneous with Indian troops occupying forward positions in the Chumar region.
Recently, in the ongoing Asian Games being held at Hangzhou, athletes who were from Arunachal Pradesh and an integral part of the Indian Asian Games contingent were denied visas by the Chinese. For the seventh year in succession, the Seminar was put together by the highly acclaimed author Mr Shiv Kunal Verma, who along with the Chairman of Welham Boys’ School, Mr Darshan Singh, had conceived the seminar in 2017.