Pulwama, Balakot and the Discordant Song of Nationalism

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Slightly more than a month ago, 40 CRPF personnel died in a suicide attack conducted by Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists in Pulwama, Kashmir Valley. As expected, it caused a huge uproar and raised a lot of questions about state of internal security in the country. A large amount of relief money was collected for the families of the martyrs, and condolences poured in from all over the country for the families. Indians were in fury, and revenge became the most uttered word from Indian mouths. The union government was in huge pressure to act. Surgical Strike 2.0 was demanded, as if it’s a sequel of some Fast and Furious movie. However, the government did act. Indian Air Force crossed the Line of Control (LOC) and air-bombed the establishments run by Jaish in Balakaot. Unfortunately, one of the IAF pilots was captured during this attack, and was kept in custody in Pakistan. He was released shortly by the Pakistani authorities, after Pakistani PM Imran Khan announced in his parliament that he wants peace, not war with India.

Amidst the vicissitudes of these adrenaline raising events, there are three issues which went unaddressed. First among these, was the large question on the status of internal security within the country, and the willingness of the state to protect its own soldiers. Keeping in mind that the convoy had tens of vehicles filled with CRPF soldiers, it is immensely careless of the authorities to not have ample security measures for the convoy. Also, the fact that the terrorists were aware of the route and plan of the movement of the convoy, and were able to transport 250 kg of RDX under the intelligence services of Indian in Kashmir, seems ridiculous. So, the functioning of the authorities in Kashmir should be brought into public scrutiny, as there is a glaring hole in the intelligence structure of India visible. It was not long ago that the infamous URI attacks happened, and not very later the attacks in Pulwama occurred. In fact, CRPF had asked for air-transit for the soldiers, but it was denied. As a result, this time the general uproar was even louder in the masses, and it has forced the people to question the commitment of the government for its soldiers.

Second issue which needs addressal is the role of the Media in creating war-like situations in the country, through mundanely provocative journalism. After the Pulwama attack happened, majority of the media was busy analysing how the government could take revenge from Pakistan. There was always a plethora of ‘so called’ defence experts on news channels debating how to attack Pakistan in the best possible way. This led to mammoth manipulation of public sentiments after the attacks, and it manifested in people’s increased demands for war between two nuclear powers. This clearly describes the state of the Indian media, and how it seems to have forgotten what journalism actually means.

Thirdly, the issue which should have been talked about the most, but was actually missing from most of the conversations was the politicisation of the deaths of the soldiers. PM Modi was busy campaigning even the day after the attacks, and when the IAF jets attacked Jaish, he readily took credit for fulfilling his promise of action after the acts. The general elections are banging on the door, and it wasn’t very hard to deduce what the NDA government was actually trying to do. However, it forces us to ask more deeper questions on the nature of state which exists in India today. The utter lack of emotional quotient in the institutions governing us is alarming. These institutions were created for the people who make up India, but the sheer apathy of these institutions has taken away any legitimacy for the nation which was there in the people’s mind. Politicisation of the deaths of the soldiers is another great example for it.

The idea of dying for the nation, and sacrificing lives for it, is central in evoking nationalism in the people who form the nation. Without this feeling of national unity and oneness, the nation state will most simply not exist. The flagbearers of such nationalism which is born out of death, are definitely the soldiers. They sacrifice themselves for the noble cause of protecting the nation and its people. Thus, deservingly, they are treated as national heroes; which they should be. But what about those protesting civilians who want their nation to become better in different ways, and are brutally murdered by the state? What about those people, who desire a better life for themselves and are in turn trampled on by the state? Basically, they are trying to raise their voices for growth of the nation (in different aspects). Aren’t they heroes too? Why doesn’t the state recognise the sacrifice? Does their lives matter less than the soldier who died at the border protecting the nation? Can’t the nationalistic fervour of the people emanate from their sacrifice? These are questions, whose crescendo is going to blast in our ears sooner than we think.

A nation is a mix of its people’s sufferings and the national pride. It is as if the nation is a dissonant song made by the mixture of the wailing and groaning of its people and the proud singing of the national anthem. The individual identity is lost in the crescendo of this cacophonic song. The individuals are no more than heads in a crowd, who can be manipulated by the media for TRP and politicised by its ruler for their political gains. If we don’t recognise it even after Pulwama, then I’m not sure we ever will!  

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