As news of India’s ‘surgical strikes’ floated into our phones, a friend and I looked at each other.
“Do you realise this means there will not be a single generation alive that hasn’t lived through war?” I asked.
“People are being evacuated from border villages. Where will they go?” he asked. Neither of those questions was being asked on television. Neither of those questions was being asked on social media. Neither of those questions was being asked except by people who would be branded anti-national.
In this era, one cannot be deemed patriotic without being asinine – as illustrated by this tweet from Virender Sehwag, which has over 16,000 ‘Re-tweet’s and twice as many ‘Favourite’s.
Salute to Indian Army.— Virender Sehwag (@virendersehwag) September 29, 2016
The boys have played really well.
It is so easy to take a jingoistic stance, to thump one’s chest, when one is sitting in front of the computer or fiddling with the phone.
It is so easy to applaud the government for its “strong stand” when one has nothing to lose.
Let us ask the people who go to war. Yes, they are in the Army and they know they could die. But no one joins the Army hoping to become a “martyr”. No one celebrates his or her child’s passing out parade hoping s/he will win a posthumous medal for bravery. The Army is there to protect the country, not to die so that the people who run it can prove a point.
Let us ask the relatives of the people who go to war. Do they consider their men heroes for being out in the battlefront? Yes, of course they do. But would they rather have them safe, by their sides? Of course they would. Does this mean they are less proud of the Army than we are? No. It means their stakes are far higher than ours. What could be to us a victory over terrorists, a soldier’s sacrifice over which we click our tongues before we turn to the next page of the newspaper, could be to them the greatest tragedy of their lives.
Let us ask the people who have to pack all their belongings into trunks and bundles and leave the homes in which they have grown up to camp out in a strange place, not knowing when – or whether – they will be able to go back.
None of these people is celebrating the “success” of the “surgical strikes” as if it were a cricket match between India and Pakistan. That is left to former players who appear to believe that going out into battle is pretty much the same thing as sauntering onto a cricket field. That is left to burger joints that believe the first rumbles of war merit a twenty percent discount on their food.
It is so easy for us, with no stakes in a prospective war, to point to countries like America and their “strong response” to terrorism. “Not one attack on American soil since 9/11,” one may say. True, there has not been one attack on American soil of the scale of 9/11 since it happened. But America is not surrounded by countries with which it has had hostile relations. America does not have vulnerable porous borders which spill into areas where people have no faith in the government. And, yet, when America began to go to war, a far greater number of its own people died than in any terror strike. So what if they all wore military colours? They did not sign up to become “martyrs”.
In today’s India, desire for peace is equated with sympathy for terrorists. It is equated with lack of pride in the Army. It is equated with weakness and cowardice.
When two countries with as much poverty as ours pump money into nuclear programmes that could wipe the other off the map, we must despair.
And when two countries whose leaders have met multiple times since they came to power decide that war makes more sense than dialogue, we must despair.
Because a war is not a game at the end of which the two captains shake hands and pat each other’s backs.
A war has no winners. And the people whose “boys” are out there, fighting a war that only makes sense to people who cannot be killed in it, know this.
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