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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 15 New Delhi March 30, 2019

The Pulwama Attack and its Fallout

Sunday 31 March 2019

by Mahi Pal Singh

The terrorist attack on a CRPF convoy at Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir on February 14, in which forty personnel of the para-military force were killed, was a brutal, barbarous and cowardly act by an activist of Jaish-e-Muhammad, a Pakistan-based terrorist organisation, aided and abetted by the military and Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan; it needed and was rightly condemned throughout India by one and all as well as by the international community. The outrage was vociferously expressed by individuals as well as organisations including the political parties.

The TV channels went out of all limits of jingoism adding dynamite day-in and day-out to the already raging fire with a war-cry of tit- for-tat against Pakistan. The passions were heightened to the extent that the Modi Govern-ment thought it an opportune moment to take some military action against Pakistan so that it could well be used for garnering mass support a couple of months before the decisive parlia-mentary elections due in April-May 2019. And it did exactly the same by sending a few Mirage-2000 fighter planes across the borders and attacking a JeM centre at Balakot because the JeM had taken the responsibility for the Pulwama attack.

Though there were doubts and questions regarding the number of people (terrorists) killed in the Balakot attack launched on February 26, no party or individual questioned the retaliatory action of the country’s armed forces. The happiness exuded on the action of a Mig-21 Bison fighter plane flown by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman to counter an attack by an F-16 fighter jet of Pakistan, in which both the planes were destroyed, was to some extent marred by the arrest of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman by the Pakistani forces. He was, however, released without any harm a few days later by Pakistan as a goodwill gesture.

The whole nation had paid tributes to those killed in the Pulwama attack, praised our Air Force personnel and officers for their retaliatory action against Pakistan and welcomed the return of our brave soldier, Wing Commander Abhi-nandan Varthaman, unharmed. All the action and reaction should have left us a bit wiser and more vigilant in future so that Pulwama-like attacks do not get repeated and the country does not get pushed to the brink of another war like the earlier wars. This unfortunate array of events should have ended at that. But that was not to be, and that did not happen.

The way Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the BJP President, Amit Shah, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, in fact all the leaders of the BJP have behaved, and are continuing to behave, in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack and the Balakot action that followed, it seems that they are treating the Pulwama attack as a golden opportunity to first react by some military action and then to encash on it for electoral benefit in the ensuing parliamentary elections. In every election rally very elaborate references are being made to the military action by both Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. The action and bravery of our soldiers are being arrogated by Mr Modi to himself, as if he himself went across the borders and attacked Balakot. He does not realise that by doing so, he is denying the credit that should rightly go exclusively to our solders. He is trying to portray himself as the strongest Prime Minister of the country by allowing the security forces to take necessary retaliatory action. He forgets that the most decisive action against Pakistan was taken in 1971 by the then Prime Minister, Mrs Indira Gandhi, which resulted in bifurcating Pakistan into Pakistan and Bangladesh and that the action taken by him does not even deserve a mention in comparison with that action.

If he is so keen to take the responsibility for the success of the attack on Balakot, he cannot escape the responsibility of the three recent major terrorist attacks from across the border including the attacks at Pathankot airfield, Uri and Pulwama. His rule as the Prime Minister of the country has been marked of continuous terrorist attacks from across the border as well as of almost everyday breach of ceasefire by the Pakistan Rangers from across the LoC in spite of the earlier surgical strike against the terrorist training camps based in Pakistan/PoK. During the last five years of his tenure as the Prime Minister of the country there have been more terrorist attacks by Pakistan-trained terrorists in Kashmir and elsewhere and the security situation in Kashmir has also worsened. His declaration of bringing to book all the Pakistan- based handlers of terrorist attacks in India, made in 2014 as a poll promise, like all his other promises, has proved a bogus slogan.

Taking the cue from the top leaders of the party, Manoj Tiwari, President, Delhi State BJP, led an electoral rally in military fatigue in an attempt to exploit the prevalent nationalist sentiments of the people for political benefits. The incident was widely condemned except by the BJP. At another place a big electoral hoarding with photos of the BJP’s national and other leaders also had a photo of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, another condemnable attempt to exploit for narrow electoral and political benefits the brave act of the soldier who intercepted and destroyed the Pakistani F-16 fighter plane which Pakistan had sent in retaliation for the Balakot attack.

The Prime Minister himself is responsible for spreading the war-cry, politicising the Army action and using it for electoral benefits. In fact, that is another way of distracting the attention of the people from the colossal failures of his government on almost all fronts. He portrays himself as the greatest defender of the country conveniently forgetting that the people of the country have been hit in greater numbers and more grievously by his move of demonetisation and introduction of the GST resulting in massive unemployment, farmers’ woes including farming losses due to ungainful prices of their farm produce, very high and massive corruption and free play of black money, absence of safety of children, women and other vulnerable sections of society, destruction or subversion of all the institutions of democratic governance including the press and media, promotion of illogical and unscientific thoughts in education etc.

Intellectuals and social activists are being targeted and framed in false cases as never before. Dissent is being labelled as anti-national and actual anti-national hoodlums belonging to the RSS ideology, including those terrorists who are being prosecuted for various terrorist activities, like the Samjhauta train bomb blasts, are being defended or their actions connived at. Gangs of Hindutva goons have taken law in their own hands and mob-lynchings have become the order of the day. In the aftermath of the Pulwama attack, beatings of Kashmiris in various parts of the country by the Hindutva gangs wearing saffron kurtas have been added to the sufferings of ordinary peace- loving people. By alienating more and more Kashmiris, the Hindutva forces led by Mr Modi have made the solution of the Kashmir problem even more difficult.

The Unnao BJP MP, Sakshi Maharaj, who is known for making controversial remarks, said during a party programme on Friday, March 15, 2019 that the upcoming Lok Sabha polls will be fought in the name of the country and there will be no elections after that. His statement is perfectly in consonance with the RSS ideology which does not believe in democracy, diversity and dissent and has been opposing the present Constitution and advocating a Hindu Rashtra for which the Constitution and democracy are the greatest hindrances. It is not surprising, there-fore, that no leader of the BJP including Narendra Modi and Amit Shah has condemned, criticised or even expressed disagreement with that state-ment. Sakshi Maharaj’s statement is a pointer to the intent of the BJP/RSS to the kind of state they want to establish.

Hitler is the role model of the RSS and Narendra Modi is another Hitler-in-the-making, if only he can win the forthcoming elections by hook or crook. And in the nationalistic fervour they have aroused in the wake of the Pulwama attack by taking a little military action against Pakistan, they want to drown all other issues of Kashmir, the country and the aam aadmi and win the elections once and for all, as they ostensibly plan. Democracy in this country is facing a real challenge, unforeseen before. We have to think whether we are prepared for that.

It is said that the people get the government they deserve—more so in a democracy where they elect their own destiny-makers.

In 2014 the people of this country chose to elect the present government. Therefore, they can only blame themselves for their present woes. But the time has come to get rid of the prevailing hollow, slogan-shouting, non-per-forming, divisive and repressive dispensation led by Narendra Modi. They must not get swayed by misleading words of the top leaders of the BJP, the thoroughly biased media barring a few honourable exceptions, and the influence of ill-gotten money which will be spent in thousands of crores to hide their failures behind the glamour of money power and nationalistic slogans. It is better to be vigilant and to act wisely today than to feel sorry during the next five years, maybe more.

Even Mr Modi knows that he has utterly failed to deliver and electoral defeat awaits his party and him. That is why he is desperately trying to ride the wave of fake nationalism which he himself is creating, the old trick of the communal, fascist forces. In his self-praise he has rendered even Narcissus look a pygmy in comparison with him. It is time for him to come face-to-face with the reality or for the people to show him the mirror and the door. They are capable of doing so, and they will surely do so. They are in reality ‘We the People’ of India in whose name the Constitution was drafted.          

The author is the editor, The Radical Humanist, and a former National Secretary, People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCI).

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