The Notion Of “My Country Strongest”, And The Display Of Military Strength

Posted on February 15, 2012 in Columns, Society

By Arastu Zakia:

Towards the evening of 26th January, most Indian news sites boasted of headlines on the lines of – “India’s military might showcased on Republic Day”. There were mentions of how “the 3,000 kms range Agni-IV missile, the T-72 tank, the C-130-J Super Hercules tactical aircraft” and many more were the highlights of this nationally celebrated flaunting of “strength”.

The republic day of my country – India is supposed to commemorate the date on which the Constitution of India came into force replacing the Government of India Act 1935 as the governing document of India on the 26th of January, 1950. Never have I understood why such an occasion is celebrated every year with a display of military “strength”.

At least until a few years ago, it used to be a proud routine in a lot of Indian families to sit together and watch Doordarshan on the morning of the 26 th and feel a rare sense of joint patriotism within. Even now, there are instances of parents travelling long distances with their children to witness this spectacle. What exactly are we celebrating here? What are we teaching our children? What is our definition of ‘patriotism’? How do we look at the notion of ‘strength’?

India is increasingly shaping itself into the America of South-East Asia. Cries by our media and middle classes of us turning into a “global superpower” are increasing each day. So perhaps, such a republic day celebration is what we do to flex our muscles in full view of the world. In that sense, we are positioning ourselves in a hierarchy we should ideally abhor and one that is very dangerous to the basic human right to life. Such a perception of ‘strength’ a few decades after defeating an entire colonial empire applying Mohandas Gandhi’s principles of non-violence and peace is tragic, to say the least.

Or maybe this celebration is the most we could come up with to celebrate and announce our patriotism. Maybe, at times we need to feel patriotic in ways besides the candle-light-media-covered-glamourous-marches by Indian citizens and corruption-division-manipulation by Indian rulers. One can’t deny that there is something hair-raising in a film scene where a soldier gets bulldozed with ten bullets and he screams “Bharat mata ki jay” still not letting go of the Indian flag. If we claim that a ‘terrorist’ agrees to give up his life because of religious fanaticism then what must be reason enough to convince a soldier to sacrifice his life fighting an enemy he never chose! If your answer is patriotism, I wonder why the most patriotic people in India are so poor. How many rich dudes can you count in the army? What we often fail to realize is that such propaganda is beneficial to the ruling political party in the sense that it unites the people of the nation against a different ‘enemy’, pulls all attention away from pressing issues of governance, overloads the pockets of a few defence factory owners and turns the number of dead people from a tragedy into a statistic.

Let me take up a very psychological basic aspect now. Do we buy a gun for our son apart from the customary tricycle and Frisbee? How will we react if the first person we see on the road points a gun at us? Does the sight of seeing a now customary gun planted on a security guard’s body not make us feel strange at times? Acts of murder and killings are reported as ‘crimes’ every single day in each newspaper you pick up. We collectively claim to hate Ajmal Kasab because he used a gun to kill people in Bombay. Why then do we celebrate the display of a missile or aircraft or bomb that is capable of killing several times more people than Kasab’s gun? Why are we selective in our approval of violence? This is where the concept of ‘legitimacy’ enters the frame. If we are told and made to believe that the use of violence is justified by one body towards the second but never by the second towards the first, a situation like this can lead to lakhs of human beings being butchered and the chain of hatred going on forever, several instances of which can be found in history.

It took the same Americans, who once fully believed that the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan were ‘necessary’, – a few lakh killings and as many revenge-seeking sufferers, to see through the projected lies and throw out the President who was the political face of that propaganda. Are we going to learn from their doings?

Arastu is a columnist at Youth Ki Awaaz and Founder of The Difference. ‘The Difference’ is a unique youth led and youth focused effort that uses interactive and innovative methods such as debates, forums, on the ground action, presentations, audio, films, theatre, games and so on to empower youth with a range of values, skills and tools to become better citizens.

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