Hypocrisy in Hysteria over Deaths of Indian Soldiers

The Indian political leadership and a section of the intelligentsia have been hysterical over the death of 19 soldiers in a recent attack on an army base in Kashmir. The September 18 attack that also left four militants dead has been blamed on Pakistan-based terror groups. The Indian government continues to claim that the insurgents fighting for the right to self-determination in Kashmir are being aided and abetted by the Pakistani agencies from across the border. 

Indian Soldiers Killed in Uri
Image: The Indian Express

Since then, the Indian government has conducted surgical strikes on alleged militant camps near the border, and intensified its pressure to isolate Pakistan internationally. So much so, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has described Pakistan as the motherhood of terrorism.
Not to be left behind, a hawkish media and certain stars associated with the Indian film industry have created an atmosphere of hostility against Pakistan across the country. A pressure is also being built to prevent Indian filmmakers engaging Pakistani film actors. Those blinded by nationalism are not willing to listen to alternative views. As a result, those expressing reservations over this rhetoric are being hounded and intimidated by right-wing groups. Any voice of reason is seen as unpatriotic. 
Undoubtedly, Pakistan is responsible for supporting Islamic extremism and was instrumental in the creation of Taliban at the behest of US as a counterweight to Russia during the cold war era. But India’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is only trying to create war hysteria in the aftermath of the attack to attract votes during the upcoming assembly elections in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. It must not be forgotten that Pakistani soldiers and civilians are also getting killed at the hands of the same Islamic extremists who are active in the Kashmir region.
The bigger question however is, even if we believe what is being served to us by the Indian leadership and the media or their apologists in the film industry, why was such outrage and patriotism not shown when several Sikh soldiers were brutally murdered during the 1984 anti-Sikh massacre? The pogrom followed the assassination of the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards.
In the first week of November, 1984, thousands of innocent Sikhs were murdered in different parts of the country by the mobs led by Gandhi’s Congress party activists. Even uniformed soldiers (Sikhs) travelling in trains were not spared. No film actor or a leader had expressed any anger over such disrespect shown to the Sikh soldiers, who too were serving for the security and safety of the nation. 
One can argue that it is an old incident and the BJP which was not in power cannot be blamed. But this certainly reflects on the collective consciousness of the nation that was built on the principles of secularism and inclusiveness. 
Now consider a fresh instance to understand what this “selective patriotism” means. In June this year, a paramilitary force convoy was attacked in Kashmir by militants leaving eight soldiers dead. One of them, constable Vir Singh was a Dalit, a community that continues to face caste-based discrimination.
When Vir Singh’s body was taken to his native village for cremation in Uttar Pradesh, the upper caste chauvinists declined to give his family public space for last rites. They were forced to give in after intervention of the administration. It’s a shame that there was no national outrage shown to such disrespect to a slain soldier because of his caste.
Even otherwise, the way Indian soldiers are being immortalised by the political leadership and the intelligentsia is problematic.
Before the Uri attack, over 80 Kashmiri civilians had died at the hands of Indian security forces. They were killed during protests against the death of a militant in an allegedly staged shootout. Number of Kashmiris also lost their eyes in the pellet attacks by the soldiers. Twenty-five years ago, Indian soldiers had raped many women during a raid on two Kashmiri villages: Kunan and Poshpora. During the infamous military operation of 1991, men were separated from the womenfolk after which women, including minors and seniors were brutally raped by the soldiers.  Until now, no justice has been done to the victims of Kunan and Poshpora.
Those who are so much pained over the deaths of 19 soldiers must ask themselves why such outrage was not shown for the civilians who were either killed or raped by army men? Is the army the only custodian of national interest? Or is national interest more important than the life and dignity of the people of any nation?  
And why only see Pakistan as motherhood of terrorism when the BJP government is also shielding those involved in acts of terror and violence in the name of Hindu nationalism?  Among them are those who targeted Samjhauta Express that connects India and Pakistan in 2007, killing 68 people, mostly Pakistanis in a bomb blast. Why was there no outrage when a statue of Nathuram Godse, a Hindu extremist who had killed Mahatma Gandhi in 1948 was recently unveiled in Uttar Pradesh?
Why these double standards on terrorism? If this is how the national interest is defined then please include my name in the list of anti-nationals as well.

(The writer is a senior journalist with radio in Canada)



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