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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 40 New Delhi September 24, 2016

After Fiftyone Years

Saturday 24 September 2016, by SC


Fiftyone years ago, in September 1965, Pakistan had gone to war with India with the purpose of annexing the Kashmir Valley by force. This happened barely sixteen months after the demise of our first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who not only defended the unity and integrity of this nation, including Kashmir, with rare foresight but also worked indefatigably to reinforce the democratic principles which constituted the bedrock of our independence and Constitution. In the Annual Number of Mainstream (which came out on September 11, 1965) it was clearly spelt out in an editorial (entitled “What We Defend in Kashmir”) that the “entire people of this country realise fully the truth of Shrimati Indira Gandhi’s declaration that what is at stake in Kashmir is not only our territorial integrity but the very basis of our life as a nation, namely, secularism”.

The editorial was significant for other reasons as well. While war was raging it declared, on behalf of Mainstream, something which is highy relevant in today’s context when passions are being roused by influential segments of the media, notably the electronic media, to proclaim our neighbouring country and its people as our enemies. It underlined that “we as a people have to bear in mind constantly that the people of Pakistan are our brethren, that we cannot hold them responsible for the misdeeds of their rulers who are resorting to aggression frequently only to divert the attention of the people from the misery and privation they have suffered for years. As our Prime Minister put it, we wish the people of Pakistan well.”

And then it concluded: “In the final reckoning, these two neighbours, India and Pakistan, shall have to live side by side as brothers in peace and friendship. As we defend our sacred land with all our might, we must not let iron enter into the soul of this great nation.”

After fiftyone years these words assume excep-tional importance today when the two neighbouring states are preparing to once again resume hostilities on a large scale that may or may not culminate into a full-fledged war with all its horrendous implications, given the nuclearisation of South Asia. Whatever the eventual outcome, the current sabre-rattling in India, the world’s largest democracy owing allegiance to the immortal teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, the apostle of non-violence, is a matter of serious concern and considerable alarm that must be openly voiced regardless of the consequences.

Lest some sections of our media, acting as the standard-bearers of jingoism, brand us as traitors and fifth-columnists, let it be made abundantly clear that there is no question of justifying whatever the non-state actors, belonging to the Jaish-e-Mohammad and armed to the teeth by the deep state of Pakistan, did when they attacked the Indian Army base in Uri near the LoC in the Kashmir Valley killing as many as 18 Army personnel. This was indeed a cowardly operation as it was carried out in the wee hours of September 18 when there was a change of guards and took our soldiers unawares. Of course there was a failure of intelligence on the Indian side. At the same time the Pakistani non-state actors were helped by the locals who have obviously got alienated from India due to the misgovernance of the Indian authorities on several fronts, something that must be conceded without equivocation.

The measures adopted by the Indian Government to meet the situation in the aftermath of the Uri attack leave much to be desired. As a matter of fact it must be admitted in all candour that our handling of the mass agitation in the Kashmir Valley after the death of the charismatic Hizbul leader Burhan Wani on July 8 was most unfortunate and only accentuated the public alienation from the Indian state. [The Pakistan PM’s description of Burhan Wani, in his speech at the UN General Assembly, as the symbol of the latest Kashmiri intifada has been roundly condemned in India as the glorification of a terrorist but then the popularity of Wani in the Valley, especially among the youth, is a fact beyond dispute.] In this the lion’s share of the blame must go to the Union Government headed by PM Narendra Modi though the State Government led by Mehbooba Mufti cannot also escape responsibility.

The Uri attack should have, in other circumstances, led to the activation of the hotline between the two PMs as had happened in the past, especially when I.K. Gujral was the head of our government for a brief period. But that was not to be as under the present dispensation that hotline no longer exists. And simultaneously PM Modi has painted himself into a corner thereby strengthening the hands of the military in Pakistan while weakening the authority of the duly elected civilian leadership represented by PM Nawaz Sharif. Now there is every possibility of Nawaz being dislodged from power with another takeover of the government by the Pakistani military.

If that happens, then who is to blame?

The answer, as we all know in Dylan Thomas’ famous words, is blowin’ in the wind!

Nevertheless, what needs to be emphasised once more without any trace of ambiguity is the last sentence of the editorial in the Mainstream Annual of 1965: “As we defend our sacred land with all our might, we must not let iron enter into the soul of this great nation.”

This warning carries far more weight today than when it was first conveyed fiftyone years ago for reasons which are so transparent that they don’t require elucidation. This only helps to provide a measure of the regression the country has experienced in these fiftyone years.

September 22 S.C.