The incident at the LOC with unprovoked firing by the Pakistani Army on an Indian patrol resulting in the “martyrdom” of five of our soldiers has now been followed up by another unprovoked act of aggression by the Pakistanis in the Uri Sector. The Defence Minister’s statement that “the ambush was carried out by approximately 20 heavily armed ‘terrorists’ along with persons ‘dressed’ in Pakistani Army uniforms” reflects the mindset of the Government of India that has invested its and the country’s future in the hazy optimism of an unlikely settlement of the Kashmir issue and peace in the subcontinent. The alacrity with which Mr. Antony has sprung to provide Pakistan with an alibi for its acts of blatant aggression would make a neutral observer believe that Mr. Antony is probably the Defence Minister of Pakistan. The opposition parties and the public outcry have been hysterical with the media jumping into the act with its own style of shrill histrionics. The news anchors of our different media channels have gone into overdrive and with strategically placed reporters in the homes of the “martyred” soldiers and near the scene of action, mass hysteria is being whipped up once again a la 26/11.
I remember receiving the following text message from a friend during the siege of Mumbai:
“I dnt want 2 light a candle 2 bury my remembrance 4 those who hv died. My heart’s full of anger, resentment, pain n revenge. I see no reasn 2 celebrte. I see no reasn 2 hoist my national flag outside Taj hotel.
10 terrorists had d power 2 make d entire nation go crazy for 60hrs.
V must fight back. If d govrnmnt cnt save us, let d army rule this country. The subtle speeches of Manmohan Singh & Pratibha Patil fail 2 extinguish my anger.
For d 1st time in my life I dnt feel proud 2 b an Indian, a country which is unsafe, volatile n corrupt.
We want Reaction. India needs Leaders NOT buffoons.
Its time 2 Wakeup. For Gods sake, don’t delete this msg. Pls, forward this msg to yr entire contact list in yr mobile. Pls..lets do it in d hope of getting a better life for our children!! Pls. frwd.”
The message was so long that when I did as advised; I found that it actually consisted of six SMS limits. I did not ponder about it and dutifully forwarded it to all my contacts, minus the ones I knew would also have received it from the same friend. After having sent the message I read it one more time, and it was then that the inanity and absurdity of the whole message struck me. To be fair, I am sure my friend would not be the originator of this text – like me he too would have got it from a friend – and like me he too would have forwarded it to the contact list in his mobile.
The text brings home the painful fact that we as a nation are perhaps the most casual and thoughtless in our response to critical situations. The terror attack on Mumbai was the latest in a sequence of violent and brutal acts of aggression on the people of this soil, dating back to millennia before Christ and long before the birth of the Prophet of Islam. The response, as always, has been the same – confused, abbreviated, and insufficient.
We Indians have perfected the art of self-deception. We continue to project to the world an image of the most peace-loving nation on earth, and we have perhaps the largest number of monuments symbolizing peace. We are adept at coining slogans and singing paeans in honour of those who lay down their lives in one conflict after another. Our politicians and diplomats are forever proclaiming that India is the prateek of shanti, condescendingly looking down upon the other nations and lecturing them on how to conduct themselves. We send our armed forces to patrol the strife-torn parts of the globe, especially in Africa, and the Middle East, and proudly claim to advance the cause of peace and democracy in these “unfortunate” trouble-spots. But we are the only nation who shamelessly calls a military adventure a “peace-keeping” expedition. The morons in New Delhi did not notice the oxymoron when they named the Indian intervention in Sri Lanka the IPKF, Indian Peace Keeping Force. It is this hypocrisy and double-speak that characterizes our response to any situation.
India is perhaps the most violent nation on earth. So what if we do not have the same lax gun laws as the US? We do not need guns to inflict violence. We have a huge arsenal of other weapons that we do not hesitate to use on the less fortunate and weaker sections of our society. The newspapers and TV channels every day are full of acts of violence we keep perpetrating against one another. As a nation we are perpetually on a short fuse, and the merest suggestion from a “leader” is enough to send us into paroxysms of violent explosions. Obviously, we do not have the time or the inclination to look for enemies outside. We are too busy looking for enemies within, expending all our energy in bringing down potential rivals in our spheres of activity. This violence did not begin with the Partition. It was always there, bred into the system by a divisive and demeaning caste structure. The largely unrecorded and unnoticed violence perpetrated by the upper castes on the dalits and the adivasis is no less than what the white Europeans did to the natives of America, Africa, and Australasia. And, whereas in most of the colonized world affirmative action has taken firm and definite roots, in India it has not even begun. The system of reservations has been specially designed to keep the majority in perpetual thrall while opening the circle selectively to a few from the lower strata who have been no less exploitative of the unfortunates left behind than the earlier upper castes. One does not have to name such people; they are well-known in social and political circles.
Adding fuel to this explosive mixture is our media; especially the visual one. Our TV channels have made perhaps the most Faustian bargain with the Devil. The race for TRP ratings and getting “exclusive” scoops has sent all ethical considerations overboard. Nothing is sacrosanct. To get an exclusive “sound bite” TV channels and their reporters are ready to stoop to any level of sensational crassness and crudity. Some are not even above “manufacturing” news. For them the siege of Mumbai and other similar incidents were a godsend. For sixty hours they had the air waves to themselves and without even batting an eyelid or stopping for breath, these reporters and their senior editors were, all at the same time, giving their “exclusive” versions of the unfolding drama. Their insensitivity was also captured live on camera when they tried to ask stupid and inane questions of the released hostages. The men in charge of the police and Para-military units had all the time in the world to give their versions of the ongoing battle, and one could see how eager they were to be on the tube. It mattered little that unarmed hostages were being slaughtered within the besieged buildings! The cameras were not recording those events. It was not necessary for them to be where their men were fighting a dangerous and determined enemy.
At the same time while the Parliamentarians are hysterically pointing fingers at one another, comes the sad news of the passing away of Santosh Koli, the brave young member of Aam Aadmi Party, who was struck down by a speeding automobile in Kaushambi on 30th June earlier this year. Santosh was an uncompromising activist who had been chosen by the party as its candidate in the forthcoming elections in Delhi. As expected, there are neither arrests nor any suspects apprehended by the police till now. Santosh had been receiving threatening calls telling her not to enter politics. What a waste of a young life full of promise!
The continuous cycle of violence against the poor and the dispossessed is the greatest condemnation of India as an independent nation state. This violence need not be only physical. The government and its various arms have grown into a hydra-headed monster destroying all mechanisms of equitability, accountability, and fair-play from public life. The judicial system is so clogged and arcane that it serves only the rich and the powerful. In our country the poor have no voice, and whenever some politician tries to represent them, it soon appears that he or she has a totally different agenda – the agenda of self-promotion. The growing extent of the so-called red corridor is not accidental, nor externally inspired, as some of our leaders would like us to believe. India is fast heading towards disintegration and anarchy, and our intellectuals and the educated classes have not even begun to appreciate the extent of the problem. They still believe that abbreviated text messages will do the magic and make the terrorists and the Naxalites disappear.
No wonder that our enemies from across the borders are capable of striking targets in our country at will! We can keep on demanding that we change our politicians and administrators, but we forget that the person we most need to change is us. Until we bring down the barriers of “exclusivity” that our class and caste conscious society has erected, we have no chance of success. Unless we begin to appreciate that all citizens have equal rights and do not try to jump the queue through connections and money-power, we will remain in perpetual threat of the dispossessed taking resort to violence. And while we are busy suppressing our domestic rebellions, our neighbours will continue to strike at us making us weak and ineffectual.
India needs enlightened citizens as much as it needs leaders who are not “buffoons”. Once the citizens change themselves, the “buffoons” will automatically disappear. Till then, I am afraid, we will continue to watch the three-ring circus that is going on at this time.