Present war-like situation and propagation of communal ideas in the garb of patriotism – Do not intellectuals have a duty to oppose?

In the last few months, gradually a war-like situation has developed around us. The Indo-Pak relation has been going through many ups and downs. It was not long when the relation between the governments of these two neighbours seemed very warm and hearty. Narendra Modi invited the Pakistani PM, Nawaz Sharif along with the leaders of other SAARC countries in his swearing-in ceremony as the PM of India. There had been an exchange of shawl and Sari between the two. After that these two leaders met a number of times. The most interesting and talked incident among those meetings was the sudden dropping of Modi in Lahore. Then it seemed that was going well between these two neighbours – the enmity seemed merely to be a thing of past. Suddenly, the situation has changed completely — 180 degrees. These two neighbours are now spitting venom against each other. After the attack on Army camp situated in Uri of Kashmir, there was tremendous pressure on the government to retaliate. The Indian government had claimed retaliation through the surgical strikes on the launch-pads of terrorists along the LOC. After those strikes, even those who were virulent critic of Modi started to heap praise on him. Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal congratulated Modi – ‘yes, it has been really an action worthy of a PM’, they said. There is a line in a Bengali poem of Tagore, “Babu joto bole, parishaddole bole tar shotogun”. (the supporters shout louder than the leader). The supporters of government are crying hoarse against all Pakistani people, even if they are not remotely connected with the terrorists or even the Pakistani government. All Pakistani artists have been banned. If somebody says that the Pakistani artists should be kicked out of the country, another is shouting that they should be hit with shoes. Somebody is saying that whoever is questioning the authenticity of surgical strikes is a traitor.

What has changed the situation so dramatically? One may say that the attack on Uri camp exposed the role of terrorists harboured by Pakistani government in launching attacks on Indian establishments. Then it can be asked, why the government and their supporters did not act in the same manner after the Pathankot attack? Indian government is claiming and has claimed before that the Pakistani government supports, helps Islamic terrorist organizations. Then why the Indian government tried to create the atmosphere of peace and fraternity during the initial period of Modi government? Nawaz Sharif is not a new player in this game that the Indian government may expect something different from the Pakistani government of Nawaz Sharif. Then why did the Modi government made bonhomie with Sharif government previously and now is spitting venom against it? Is it the mass agitation of Kashmiri people behind the change of tactics of Modi government? The agitation of Kashmiri people against Indian Army and Indian government was escalating for some time and had become intense after the killing of Burhan Wani. Every day thousands of youth are coming onto the street with stones to pelt on the Indian Army. The Indian government has not been able to quell the agitation with their intense and brutal torture. Rather, the torture of the Army has helped to engulf newer and newer region with the fire of agitation. The Pakistani government was also doing their bit to stoke the fire and also use the situation in their favour.  They were raising uncomfortable questions in international forums against the Indian government. The attack on Uri camp has given the Indian government a weapon to divert attention from the agitation of Kashmiri people. There was a Bengali poem, “jokhon manush chay bostro o khadya, simante beje othe judhdher badyo.” (When people demand food and clothing, war cry is drummed up in the border). The lines were written during a period when the class struggle was in ascendancy and the ruling classes tried to divert the people with the ultra-nationalist slogans creating a war frenzy. The present situation may not be same, but the similarity cannot be missed. The war situation has been cleverly created to divert attention from the movement of Kashmiri people.

The rulers are creating the situation of peace and war to suit their interests. It is natural that when the voices of people are muted due to their inactivity, passivity, absence of struggle, the government and their ideologues and intellectuals supporting the governments can create or change from peace to war according to their necessity. When in the early phase of the Modi government, the government issued signals of peace that was not due to any change of heart of Narendra Modi or RSS-BJP combine. That was because of the interest of trade and business of Indian capitalists. That interest is still there. However, the situation in Kashmir necessitated some change in situation. So, the intellectuals those who are supporting the government are treading cautiously. They are supporting the government for its aggressive posture, but also cautioning the government to control the hardliners so that situation does not grow to a full-scale war. It is more or less clear that the government needs a war like situation, not a full scale war.

Questions have been raised even from the camp of the intellectuals who broadly support the present system of governance that surgical strikes will not deter Pakistan from supporting terrorist forces. As long as the situation of Kashmir will remain volatile, Pakistan will try to use the conflict between Indian government and Kashmiri people for their own benefit. They did not mention that the situation of Kashmir is the creation of Indian ruling class. And it is also a fact the policy of Indian government, especially of the BJP governments is helping Islamic fundamentalist and terrorist forces by their pro- Hindutva activities. So, not only the Pakistan government is abetting the fundamentalist and terrorist forces, the Indian Government is also responsible for its growth. As the saying goes, it takes two to tango.

The war mongering has begun to influence common people. It may be true that it has not still become war hysteria. But, if in the coming days the war mongering grows further then the “wave of patriotism” which is still somewhat feeble will become much stronger. However, the cost of the war or any war preparation will have to be borne by the people. Recently the government of India has made an agreement to purchase 36 French Rafale warplanes at the cost of `0000. Where the money will come from? Who else other than the tax payments of the common people? All governments, be it the UPA or present NDA, have reduced the govt expenditure in the social sector on the plea of paucity of funds. The MNREGA project, also popularly known as 100 days work project has been all but withdrawn. Subsidies in petroleum products have been gradually curtailed increasing price of petroleum products. But, the government is incurring huge cost in modernizing the defence establishment. The government has repeatedly stated that it has got paucity of funds. So, who will pay for these defence expenditures. Does it not mean that the people will have to pay for these war preparations, keeping themselves in hunger. Who will gain from these defence deals? We have heard that Anil Ambani’s Reliance is a partner of the Rafale deal. It is difficult to assume that he is doing this for the sake of patriotism. He will make huge profit from these deals. Can anybody deny that? Who else will be benefitted? The ministers and politicians, and even some of the high-ranking Army officers have been found in the past to be involved in allegations of corruption in defence deals of huge amount – be it Bofors or Scorpene Submarine or AugustaWestland Helicopters. Do not these sections also benefit from these war mongering and war preparations.

Someone may say that we should bring down corruption, but for the sake of safety and security of this country we must incur these expenditures. They may add that if we do not tighten our security then Pakistan or other enemy countries like China may encroach upon our borders. Will it be desirable?

It is indeed peculiar that those who seem to be very much concerned about sovereignty of our country and very much eager to show their patriotism, their patriotism begins and ends in conflict with Pakistan only. When the interests of our nation are sold to the imperialist powers we do not find these patriots. The concept of Indian nationalism developed through struggle against British Imperialism. The then nationalists fought to emancipate the country and nation from the imperialist oppression. In that fight who compromised to what extent is altogether a separate question. At least, the main aspect of their nationalism was the opposition to imperialism. Their nationalism had another aspect. That was the development of concept of Indian nationalism and also the development of language and culture of different nationalities of the then India.

Now our country is not a colony. Does that change the whole meaning of nationalism? Those who are eager to prove their credentials as patriots, their patriotism means only opposition to Pakistan, not only opposition to the policies of Ruling class of Pakistan, but opposition to everything of Pakistan, even their common people. Their patriotism means supporting Indian teams in playing grounds, that support should be more vigorous if the opponent team is from Pakistan. If they want to show their patriotism it is their affair. However, dangerous thing is that to them raising any question about this definition of patriotism, raising any question about the role of Indian ruling class is anti-nationalist. Yet, the ruling classes of our country are selling the interests of this county to the imperialists – that does not raise any question in their mind. The ruling classes are selling of our natural resources at dirt cheap prices – that does not appear to them as anti-nationalist or treachery to the nation. The rulers are receiving huge kickbacks even in deals related with defence – that also does not appear as treachery to the nation. The rulers of this country has sold off our economy to the foreign imperialists and due to that many indigenous industries have died or dying – that is also not treachery to the nation. All their patriotic ideas are related to opposition to Pakistan only. Naturally, their definition of patriotism is very much coloured with communalism. To be precise it is not patriotism, but communalism in the garb of patriotism. What else it could have been? Because, the ideological proponent of this nationalism is Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh or RSS who never participated in the struggle against British imperialism in the pre-independence era.

The main danger of such so-called patriotic elements is that they do not tolerate any criticism of their idea of patriotism. If anybody raises any question about their definition of patriotism to them that person will become traitor and for that ‘offence’ that person will have to be thrown into jail. Does it not mean curtailment of democracy?  Does it not manifest fascist tendency?

Such idea of RSS is not new. It will be fanciful to think that their thinking can be changed. But, what is worrisome is that they are being able to influence a good number of people with their ideas.  Especially such periods of war mongering are fertile time for the propagation of their ideas. Advancement of these forces cannot be prevented if we are not able to free the minds of common people from this rubbish. It cannot be done by a fiery speech. It demands a continuous effort through which we will be able to raise some questions among the thoughtful people and at least a section of people will be made free from these ideas. Can we take some steps in this direction? We will be waiting in anticipation of positive responses.