By Niharika Singh:
On New Years’ Eve a fishing boat entered our country’s waters, allegedly carrying illicit material. When apprehended by our Coast Guard, it evaded surrender and after being chased for about an hour it blew itself up, killing its crew of 4 men and destroying all trace of itself. The fishing vessel was coming from Keti Bunder near Karachi and was intercepted and stopped at about 365 kms away from Porbandar. The Defense ministry applauded the effort and precision of our Coast Guards of preventing the second probable 26/11.
But who were these people? Could they be fishermen or small time smugglers? How did the Coast Guards’ ship take about an hour to chase a small boat? Is everyone coming from Pakistan a terrorist? What is the proof that they were carrying explosives? Why did they blow themselves up when caught by the Indian Coast Guard? Why isn’t Pakistan being approached through diplomatic channels on this incident? If they were carrying explosives on board, why didn’t the boat blow up in a blast and caught fire instead? Was it caused by a lubricant? And if it was a surgical, clandestine operation against infiltrators, why were its facts leaked in the public domain?
After getting to know about this incident and hearing the abysmal number of debates and discussions over it, these questions would reverberate in ever pragmatic mind. It looks like a murky affair and to be stuck between the cacophonies of our governments’ blame game and Pakistan’s typical denial techniques, it is difficult to take a stand on.
When Pakistan is reeling under the shadows of the heinous 16th December attack, can you fathom why it would send explosives to its estranged neighbors when its own skeletons are haunting it? But we are an anxious, scared and scarred bunch; any kind of suspicious prodding is enough to make us put our defenses up. The bullets of 26/11 have taken a firm holding in our psyche. And the failure of Pakistan to take appropriate steps against the masterminds of that nightmare have only exacerbated our vitriol.
But that doesn’t mean that we, the people of India and Pakistan, let the politicians take the better of us and politicize our entrenched wounds to their advantage. The people on the boat could very well be smugglers. But anything crossing over from the other side of the border is seen with a hostile, contemptible lens. And maybe the government is taking an advantage of that. By making us fear the “unknown”, they are trying to score brownie points and want to show how strong India is under our new and able leader to counter an act of belligerence, whether it exists or is made up.
Dissent in the government is very easily attacked and labeled as anti-national, or in our case it can be “Pakistani”, because whoever says anything against India (read the government) is being anti-national and would be what else but a Pakistani. We live in a world of simple binaries.
The opposition on the other hand has tried to make the most of this incident by heating it up and sensationalizing it to a point where amidst bureaucratic crossfire, the main argument is lost, that of government transparency and accountability, stronger border surveillance and developing trust in the citizens which goes beyond jingoistic garble.