By Arnav Deshpande:
There is much anger in the air. Our hearts bleed for the men in uniform, who fell at the border in service to the nation. We stand united in sharing the grief of their families.
Retaliation was in order, and retaliation did happen. Two men on the opposite front fell to the bullets of our soldiers. They served their motherland with the same dedication and sentiment of sacrifice that decorated the men who fell in Uri. The families there wept the same tears that families here wept.
These are men, united in death, who never should have died. And one fears, many more would have died, if the unscrupulous trolls in politics, media and social media on both sides of the border, always had it their way.
TRP-hungry news anchors do not pay the price when a vitiated atmosphere, among the public, makes it too expensive for governments to show restraint. Jingoists galore, who issue calls to arm on their Facebook pages, warming their armchairs over cups of tea, do not pay the price when a 22-year-old soldier falls at the border.
Nationalism is that dirty sentiment of superiority, which drives people out of all rational bounds. It makes them place their sense of ‘national pride’ above humanity and reason. It is a sentiment born out of the deepest of self-centered fancies of human beings, which convinces them that their political identity is the best, better than all other political identities – to prove which, they want revenge, battle and bloodshed. They want their nationalist pleasures to be served by the men at the border, the pawns in the game of nationalist politics.
That is what geo-politics and chauvinism make out of the men at the border, who put their lives in line to defend the state: pawns. What did the two Pakistani jawans have to do with the deep state of Pakistan, and its violent conspiracies hatched alongside the scourge of terror? They believed the nationalists who commanded them – politicians, army generals – and stood to die. What wrong had the men in Uri committed to have earned the alleged wrath of the Pakistani establishment?
There is no happiness in death. There is only pain – pain accompanied by broken dreams, broken hopes and broken people. There is only death in war.
War is not initiated out of choice. War breaks out when every alternative has failed, and war is the only choice on the table. Further, war doesn’t bring any solutions – it only places a lid onto the nationalism of the vanquished, until it simmers and boils to break out once more. There is no wisdom in calling for war and fanning hatred in public opinion, in the sanctity of the newsroom or the bedroom.
When social media trolls call for war, they feel a great sense of pride with the ‘Bharat Mata’ brand of nationalist adrenaline flushing their respective systems. It is a convoluted sense of power and feeling of strength that they want to experience. Power does excite amazement and inspiration. Amartya Sen’s description evaluates these aspects of power beautifully in his “Argumentative Indian.” Power does attract awe. But seldom do her beholders see the destruction and grief power can cause, or the inhumanity that her exercise can exemplify. Seldom do they see how repulsive power is, how ruthless and merciless in her manifestation.
The want for power comes together with nationalism and anger, to produce a dangerous mix – human beings stop feeling the fundamental characteristic of ‘humanness’ that binds us all, beyond and regardless of the political divides imposed by history and the manipulative designs engineered by politicians and non-state elements.
Political identities assume paramount importance when irrational nationalist bravado mixes with politicians ready to exploit every opportunity for political relevance. The waning Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) decides to work in service to their nation, and the closest they come to a Pakistani is when they threaten to harm unarmed, innocent actors.
India and Pakistan share variants of the same culture. Most unfortunately, the MNS cannot change that, the same way it cannot seek to define a Marathi culture minus Bihari rickshawalas, or UP sabjiwalas. The cultural exchange between the geographies that are now called these names has been abundant. It is only just recently, in the larger scheme of things, that these geographies have been politically defined. This political definition has subsumed all identities that so many Indians and Pakistanis share – connoisseurs of classical music, lovers of biryani, speaking variants of the same language, having the same cultural set-up. It has subsumed all areas of commonality that both need to work on – poverty, deficient healthcare, corruption, a dysfunctional public education system.
Talk of enmity and nationalist venom sacrifices numerous shared identities at the altar of a sole divergent political identity. We refuse to accept that states can be bad but people can’t. Our anger and fury needs to be directed towards the deep state of Pakistan, and the destructive designs of their army-politician nexus that subjects their citizens to propaganda and falsification – not towards the people. The average Pakistani is no different to the average Indian – they forget to distinguish between the State and the people of India. Indians call for throwing out Pakistani actors, who never donned the political identity of Pakistanis in the first place, but that of struggling actors eager to please. Nationalists impose upon them a political identity they never represented, but dare not overtly defy thanks to the nationalism of their compatriots across the border.
How can one single political identity obscure all other identities of a collection of individuals? How can humanity call for death and destruction to humanity? The answer lies in that monolithic, all-important, ever-prevailing, ever-correct abstraction that people make out of the nation.
Pakistan is the sad end that defying democracy brings. A State that submits to the military apparatus, a warring State that heeds its primitive impulses than sound policy, a State that has failed its people. In its struggle for parity with a much larger neighbour, it has armed itself with nuclear power – with willingness by policy to engage in first use. If these were to be exercised, the destruction of both our countries would be to astronomical levels. This though, is a very instrumental argument – there are better reasons for us as people to assimilate, as I have ventured to discuss above, than merely for the sake of managing to exist.
Beyond the veil of nationalism and unreason lie so many identities that deserve celebration. Beyond the monotonic newsroom abuse, there lie so many reasons to detest hatred. Beyond the diplomatic and political hurdles, there lie people – human beings, with the same sentiments and feelings. War would bring wounds that would for a significantly long time scar all those elements that lie beyond the hate, the bloodlust that nationalists would have us feel. If we were indeed to reach the doorstep of war, that would not be a development to celebrate. It would be a shameful failure of our diplomatic and political abilities. Beyond that, it would be the choice of brutality over humanity – a ruthless choice both sides would make. The choice of anything over humanity is not a choice to celebrate.