The video of Wing Commander Abhinandan as prisoner of war in Pakistan standing with poise and dignity, after being beaten by a bunch of villagers, and answering the questions of the Pakistani army officers made him endearing and admirable. It should have inspired the country-men to emulate that example of dignity in their argument and celebration of Abhinandan’s home-coming. Robbing him, his family and the Indian Air Force of any privacy, they reduced the entire incident into one big ‘tamasha’. The episode is only a small part of the ongoing soap-opera that is being scripted ever since the Indian ‘air-strikes’ in Pakistan’s Balakot, in the backdrop of which is Pulwama attack.
Drugged on the constant round the clock war hysteria fed by the electronic media, the dominant urban masses of the country are on a new high, soaked in war frenzy. The school-boy thrill of hearing headlines like “terror camp destroyed”, “300 terrorists killed” and “Imran brought to his knees” satiates the urge for domination, revenge, hatred, desire to be a super power, so much so that it robs the common minimum human intelligence of the ability to ask relevant questions. How and why does a nation that took pride in its traditions of non-violence, disarmament and reverently followed apostles of peace like Buddha and Gandhi not so long ago turn itself into a shrill war-mongering echo? Does one blame the media that has so willingly turned itself into a hideous mega-amplifier of war mongering, forgetting its professional job of informing public and asking crucial questions? To a great extent, yes. But what about the ruler of the country who becomes the biggest chest thumping warrior to promote his election campaign and gets busy trying to capitalise on the actions of the armed forces, for whose benefit the media willingly becomes the His Master’s Voice. While this manipulation is shamefully disrespectful of the country’s forces, it is even more shameful that the appetite for war and blood has caught the imagination of a nation.
Such glorification of war and honour associated with the valour of the soldier, bred on the hatred and prejudices against an ‘Enemy’, finds a precedence in Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy during the World War II. That the misled publics of these nations were left only with regret and repentance after the war should have been the guiding lessons. But humans have the inane ability of allowing the dark histories to repeat – perhaps in newer forms, perhaps in another geographical location. With poor understanding of how global politics functions and the horrors that any military confrontation, especially between two nuclear powers, entails, hostility and bellicosity has become the badge of honour. War, packaged as a glamourised commodity, has become the new liberating mantra for a dominant section of Indians. War has become the sole answer to all problems as if no other method exists in the civilized world.
It’s a War against Terrorism. A euphemism for War against Pakistan. It is not that Indian concerns are entirely invalid. Certainly not! Strategic and security concerns with India’s neighbours, particularly Pakistan have existed since the partition of 1947. Added to this are the terror outfits that operate from Pakistan and have their there with Pakistani establishment, particularly its arm and intelligence agencies, not only unable to disband them but habitual of using them for manipulating politics within Pakistan and with its neighbours. The present ire stems from Pulwama attack in which 40 CRPF men were killed. The suicide attack was carried out by 19-year-old Aadil Dar, a Kashmiri, affiliated to Jaish-e-Mohammed which is headquartered in Pakistan. The new breed of militancy in Kashmir is mostly home-grown. It is inspired not just by radicalization which is purported to be exported from across the border or support from that end but is mostly inspired by the existing suffocation in which youth find themselves today. Excessive human rights violations, which are justified, legitimized and even celebrated in mainland India, continuously nourish the project of militancy in Kashmir. The Geneva conventions that were recently being parroted in the Abhinandan case are violated with impunity in Kashmir by Indian agencies and forces on a daily basis. Ever since insurgency began in the Valley, Pakistan has been a key trouble-maker, funding and aiding militant groups in varying degrees from time to time. But Pakistan is not the sole creator of militancy. Insurgency is a creation of conditions created by the Indian state and Pakistan has been fully exploiting that situation. It would be almost impossible for Pakistan to successfully wage a proxy war if India could mend its own created mess in Kashmir. Terrorism cannot be fought without reaching out to Kashmiris with the promised embrace. Pakistan is only one end of the spectrum.
Is it really terrorism that is sought to be fought? If yes, then the landscape of terror and fear that has been let loose by Hindutva groups under the patronage of the present government should have been an equal cause for concern. That Kashmiris were attacked in various parts of the country, unjustifiably suspended from educational institutions post-Pulwama and that Muslims have been the prime target of the hatred that makes mob violence legitimate and fashionable shows that the ire against terrorism is selective and inspired by a racial prejudice. Anti-Pakistan rhetoric in the name of fighting terrorism comfortably fits in that imagination of War against Terrorism.
To fulfill that ambition, street warriors, key-board warriors and news studio generals have begun batting for war as not the only option but as something that is exciting and glamourous. Even in the face of global appeals of de-escalation and Pakistan’s offer for dialogue, the Indian prime minister talks about moving ‘pilot project’ to the real one. The valourised soldiers that had become central to any ultra-nationalist discourse post-Pulwama have slipped into the shadows. They are now the new disposable voodoo dolls that can cast a spell on Pakistan for a public drunk on war frenzy and “save the nation for the rest.” Where the war frenzied minds become comfortable with the idea of treating soldiers as cannon-fodder, pretty much obvious that the lesser known stories of people dying on the borders, their homes and fields devastated by shelling, causing fear, panic and displacements would not even be recalled.
That is why amidst the celebratory drums for a soldier’s homecoming drowned the tragedy of a woman killed in shelling along with her two children (her injured husband hospitalized in critical condition). This is not a pilot project. It is real. And the more the cheer-leaders continue to hoot for war and revenge, mistaking it to be a picnic or a joy-ride, the uglier and bloodier it would get. Bertrand Russell had famously said, “War does not determine who is right – only who is left.” Wars, are not controllable events. They become compulsively vicious and barbaric. In case of a war breaking out, the dangers of which seem likely, and if anyone were to press the nuclear button out of sheer stupidity, there would be very little left.