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June 3, 1999

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E-Mail this column to a friend Varsha Bhosle

House of dementia

Too many bulletins have infuriated me -- the murder of Squadron Leader Ajay Ahuja most of all. The post-mortem report indicates that death was due to bullet wounds in the left ear and chest. But the left knee had multiple fracture, and the thighs showed puncture wounds and lacerations: It's evident that Squadron Leader Ahuja couldn't have been mobile when he was shot. Also, there were extensive internal injuries in the right side of his neck, right lung, left liver lobe and small intestines: It's likely that he was tortured before being shot.

Brigadier Qureshi argued, "Any POW, especially a pilot, is an important asset... No man in his senses could think of killing him. Had our forces killed the pilot, how could the other escape unhurt?" Answer: Just so Pakistan could make this statement. Counter-question: What makes an IAF pilot an "asset" to the enemy? Scope for milking information and holding hostage...?

Today's figures are: 47 dead, 12 missing. We don't know their names. Does that make the casualties casual? Every single death must burrow deep and nest black in your heart. Everything *must* be tried to stem the flow of good blood -- blood that voluntarily enlists to prevent the loss of an inch of India. Which is why diplomatic channels must be kept open.

India hasn't offered safe passage (we've just napalmed Batalik sector); if Pakistan were to ask for it, India could "consider" the request. But Pak cannot ask, for that amounts to accepting its violation of the Simla Pact. However, if Pakistan does ask, and restores the status quo ante, and returns Nachiketa, and fulfills other such perfectly reasonable conditions, we must yield. War should be the last option.

Yesterday, an Army official contacted me with a request to change the "needs" in: "The Indian Army *needs* funds to rehabilitate the families of Army personnel." He explained that "donation is purely voluntary and should be done with a sense of patriotism." I stand corrected; that word was entirely mine. The Army isn't soliciting funds; I was soliciting, with no endorsement from it.

Frankly, the objection gave me goosebumps. Impossible as it is, I felt even more respect for the institution. And pride. It's why I say our defence forces shouldn't come in the purview of foreign-backed/pinko human rights orgs. None should have the reach to finger their morale. For they're like NO other constituent of this country. They are ultra-special -- and they should remain so.

So call me an army groupie but who the hell's aware of the circumstance of Sonia or Mr Pawar or Atalji? They could all hold hands and leap off the nearest polling booth for all I care. When hostilities broke out, it's strange how politics stopped mattering. To me, that is; the patriots never missed a beat: Harkishan Singh, Natwar Singh & Co were busy demanding George's resignation. Even in a state of emergency, this low-life was more keen on creating havoc in the very ministry that must defuse it. To what end is their righteousness? Do they expect Atalji to induct Indrajit Gupta as DM in the middle of an armed conflict...?

And then we have Iype, Diwanji, Sahay and associates, with The Asian Age's Seema Mustafa leading the sortie -- all firmly progressive, liberal, pacifist and peacenik till this point of time -- now making a case, with the help of those ubiquitous and always anonymous "official sources," that the defence and foreign ministries are furious about Sartaj Aziz's visit -- and why there should be no diplomatic negotiations. This is such an anomaly that it should have put all non-progressive-democratic-forces on guard. Unfortunately, fundies aren't exactly known for their brains. Therefore, we now have everybody clamouring for war. Wunderbar!

There's a lot to be said for Mrs Indira Gandhi and Balasaheb Thackeray. In a word: Emergency. I don't understand how this crap from the Press is tolerated when the country is facing a war. The Indian Express holds forth on how the Army screwed up intelligence and surveillance. Untold numbers of retired, always retired, military men tell the government where it's wrong -- VIA THE PRESS! Rediff lets Pakistan know that the prime minister of India was hesitant to retaliate against the infiltration! What the **** is going on?! This is not politics! This is national security!

When the US traverses half the globe to bomb various countries at its whim, there's not a word out of place from either CNN or BBC. Apart from a straggly few columnists, nobody's said a word against NATO attacks. With the sole exception of Vietnam, whenever the West has gone to war, its Press has toed the official line. But, that's what makes the West superior: They needn't follow hazy ideals; they set them -- for others to follow. Give Indians imported excreta, and they lap it up like cream, anyway

In this house of dementia, the only sane word's come from Mr K P S Gill: "Looking at the situation in Kargil, I feel the immediate need is that we should leave the Forces to do the job there and not get into ridiculous debates of the sort that are currently going on. Some of the issues that have been raised are just for the political ends of the people who are speaking. We are right now in -- what the prime minister described as -- a war-like situation and the important thing is to bring the crisis to an end. After that, they can hold any number of debates, inquiries and post-mortems. Right now, we have to give total support to our soldiers who are fighting on the border and to the families of those who have been killed while serving the nation. It is a difficult time for them. Our energies should be spent in keeping in touch with the families of the servicemen." I've *always* loved this Sardar.

Recently, a seminar on Media -- An Instrument of Psychological Operations was held by the Army in Baramullah, near Srinagar. The aim was to collate all available avenues to work against militancy, especially since, as the Indian Army contended, "Alone, we cannot win the war for the nation. Because it is a proxy war -- a war of the minds." Guess what the media's reaction was. The watchdogs of the nation objected to the notion that that they would allow themselves to be wielded as instruments, if you please. These aren't watchdogs! These aren't even dogs! For dogs are a loyal and trustworthy species.

Kashmiris, Hindu and Muslim, have suffered immense damage and brutality at the hands of the militants in the last decade. But what did we hear about the most? Right, the atrocities of the security forces against "civilians" and human rights workers. So much so that SSP Ajit Singh Sandhu, who banished terrorism from Tarn Taran, committed suicide. You see, the security forces wouldn't have hunted down our intrepid ones -- like the militants did their detractors. Bloody cowards.

Pakistan openly uses its official media to broadcast anti-India propaganda across the border. How does one counter the misinformation blitz if not through the Indian media? Pamela Bhagat writes, "Today, it is in the national interest to spread the net of responsibility. The media could be the key imperative in lowering the morale of militants, strengthening and sustaining the moral of the public and most important of all, fortifying the minds of the troops." Ooh noo, we can't be "instruments" of the Indian State, and certainly not of the hitherto-evil Army -- no matter what the ends may be. However, we're happy to be tools of the worldwide pinko glee club.

Ball-mad, I hit Rediff's mail page for diversion. *Mistake*. I found CPI-M activist Subhashini Ali politicising Kargil: The BJP has "no one, repeat no one, from the anti-British freedom movement in its top (or middle or lower) echelons." Perhaps. But it has no British collaborators, either. No need to explain the 1942 People's War and the betrayal of Indian nationalists to the British, and "quisling" Subhas Chandra Bose.

Then, the BJP is guilty of "talking to Strobe Talbot whenever he wants." Well, Russia's gone bourgeois, and the only country we simply must be inspired by -- China -- keeps cancelling even the annual meet fixed a year in advance. Besides, why not object to the various "progressive" political delegations which were camped in China just before they brought down the Indian government?

Then, "agreeing to CTBT." Unh? Since when are pinkos against disarmament? Since it's become clear that, post-Cox Report, China's not going to ratify the treaty.

Then, "taking a bus to Pakistan." Er... isn't it the pinkos who take bhai-bhai junkets to Pakistan and who supported Open-Border Gujral? Isn't it they who failed at their candle-light vigil at the border? Now that the Lahore process is internationally recognised as a milestone in bilateral relations, are pinkos worried that the declaration's shine -- despite being eroded by Pakistan's violation -- can still be retrieved? After all, Pak's found no support for Kargil, what with the US, UK, France and Russia refusing to raise the issue in the UN. That must hurt pinkos more than it does Pakistan.

Then, "So who was comparing Advani to Sardar Patel? And how many times did we hear that this was the only 'patriotic' government that would fix Pakistan forever." This gives insight to the pinko mind -- they attach a different meaning to "fixing Pakistan forever". It's the old hang-'em-high Stalinist tradition, I suppose. Besides, as my pal Supratik said, "If Advani went in and bombed the shit out of the pigs, this scum will say that Advani's fascist offensive destabilised Indo-Pak relations."

How different from parents children often turn out to be: My mom is as apolitical a person as one can possibly be. And, Subhashini Ali is the daughter of Captain Lakshmi, and obviously named after the "quisling" of the Indian National Army.

Indians are forever doomed to be at war with reality. Take Gaurav Kampani's sound bytes: "statements that the Kashmir insurgency was tottering on its last legs have been belied... for the first time in the decade-long insurgency, Kashmiri militants have attempted to dominate the critical Zoji la pass... the holding operations along the high ridges of the Kargil-Dras region demonstrates Pakistan's role in fomenting the insurgency in Kashmir... Unlike 1965, however, when Pakistan hoped to foment a rebellion in Kashmir through the infiltration of 7,000 army regulars, this time its goals appear more modest."

To begin with, the issue of Kashmiri militancy is not so facile that amateurs overseas can grasp it via a few articles. One, the Kargil infiltration has everything to do with Pakistan's frustration over the *decline* of local Kashmiri militancy as with its own internal problems -- sectarian clashes, public anger at truncated civil rights, unemployed Taliban guerrillas, anxiety over reduced US support, and so on. Two, Kashmiri militants aren't the problem in Kargil -- it's the Afghan, Irani, Peshawari and Punjabi mercenary. In fact, Kashmiri counter-militants have been armed by the Indian Army to take the Zoji-la Pass. Three, Pakistan can't foment what's hardly there -- which is why it sent in foreigners. Four, Pakistan's goals aren't "modest": whereas earlier insurgencies were enter-destroy-and-leave operations, this time, mercenaries have been sent in to *possess* land. So please, spare us Kashmir.

As for Kampani's nuke-related expositions, I quite accept that the expressed views are solely the author's and don't necessarily reflect the position of his Nonproliferation employers. However, it's just as true that we often take positions, consciously or otherwise, which would bring us maximum benefits from pleased employers. Now if Kampani were writing about, say, gastronomy, the disclaimer would've been credible. As things stand, we nuclearwallahs take American propaganda with a pinch of uranium.

Varsha Bhosle

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