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July 1, 1999

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E-Mail this column to a friend Varsha Bhosle

Mooh mein Ram-Ram, bagal mein chhoori

First things first. One Arvind Kumar wrote, "Yes you can [explain why a piece of frozen land is more significant than the life of an individual]. I thought you were smarter than the leftist journalist of Rediff to whom I had to explain why the peaks are important. Let me explain it to you. We live as a democratic, peace loving system in a society called India. There are some groups of people who fancy themselves to be the representatives of Allah and want to destroy us... What is important is that the terrorists crossing into this side of that border pose a threat to our system... You should ask your pinko friend who writes for Rediff what makes communists and preachers think alike."

Thank you for the lesson in Strategy 101. Whether my pinko friend and I are smart enough to grasp your erudite explanations is doubtful, but I'm wondering, how different are you in the preaching domain? My friend gives his justifications for the insignificance of peaks; you give yours for their importance; and I rhetoricise mine. Thing is, for the infantryman, it's immaterial whether holding them is tactically vital or not. That it is India under attack is why he's defending it with his life. It's this quality that raises him above the rest, and it's not something the smug can grasp or emulate. Whether the invading groups are inspired by Allah or Mao or Mickey Mouse is irrelevant to him; whether they pose a threat to our system, ditto. Or do you mean that if they weren't Islamic weirdos, or if they'd enhance "our system," we should welcome them with open arms?

On June 29, the fiercest, night-long artillery battle yet was fought to recover Peak 4700, a naked rock face. The men scaled the rock on a freezing moonlit night, continuously climbing for seven hours, stopping only for a sip of water. The artillery gave some cover but not enough against the well-entrenched infiltrators. Still, the troops kept climbing. A young major was the first to reach the top and fire at the enemy. He took down three before fatally taking it in the chest. A brutal combat ensued in which two more officers and 22 jawans died. Predictably, around 5 am, the Pakis panicked and fled; 4700 was regained. However, the Pakistani artillery mounted a counter-offensive: Only a handful of jawans held the peak till reinforcements reached at 10.30 am. Choppers flew sorties transporting body bags and stretchers while the remaining men remembered their mates with moist eyes...

How many of the jawans, do you think, were spurred by the fact that Peak 4700 was crucial for the recovery of Tiger Hill? Suppose if it wasn't, would they refuse to fight and say, "When will our commanders realise that dying for the peak in turn deserves a peak worth dying for"? That the canker of corruption and decay has penetrated the basic social unit, that four hundred million Indians sleep on an empty stomach -- should influence one's decision to defend India? The country must prove her worth to us...? Because we are a hungry, corrupt and poor nation, we should all roll over and die as Pakistani or Chinese citizens?!

Truth: A country that protects people who question if the country is worth dying for, is indeed not worth dying for. At least, not till it's cleansed of this element. If patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, the supposedly humanity-centric Communism is just the first stratagem of the traitor. God knows what they'll advocate next. And in war-time, too.

I one hundred per cent understand Kapil Dev's rage that gave rise to his impassioned plea to call off all cricket encounters with Pakistan, including September's Sahara Cup in Toronto. Which, BTW, is sub-billed as the "Friendship Cup." A more delicious irony, there ain't.

Last night, Kapil spoke to a Star News anchor, which species, I'm convinced, descends from another galaxy just for the telecast and is beamed up immediately thereafter. The woman repeatedly asked the very visibly agitated former India captain whether it was right to let politics interfere with sports. You see, in far-away galaxies, savage fighting at the borders, death of soldiers, and the inhuman torture of servicemen at the hands of an enemy are merely "politics".

Kapil did his diplomatic, restrained bit initially, to the tune of all of us thinking about policies, etc. But there are limited ways of differently framing the same answer and, obviously, limits to the Jat's patience. Finally, he exploded, "It's all crap, it's rubbish! What's this nonsense! Go and see the soldiers in the hospital with bullets in their arms and chests. I cannot do it -- I cannot keep a smiling face when I'm angry inside. How do you expect our cricketers to smile when there's a war, near-war on? How can you expect them to play happily when our men are dying? I'm the first person to say keep sports away from politics. But this situation is different. They are killing our innocent people. Tell me, what harm did that soldier do to anyone? Why does he have to die? We have tried our best to keep good relations with our neighbour. But if our neighbour is not good to us, we should sit at home quietly. We shouldn't play with Pakistan till it learns to behave."

I've no doubt, if the dame had persisted, we'd soon have heard bleeped-out "C" and "B" words -- he was that furious. Then again, it's nothing to be surprised at. A person who's honestly played for his country would naturally feel for its soldiers: both defend India. At the height of his all-rounded cricket career, Kapil could well have found takers in any team in the world -- of any country worth playing for.

Unnaturally, there's been a studied silence from Matoshri, the residence of that scourge of cricket pitches, Balasaheb Thackeray. But I believe, people passing through its vicinity hear gleeful echoes sounding like "I told you so!" Maybe Kapil Dev has donned the khaki chaddi or the bhagwa saafa. Or maybe he just reacted emotionally to the horrors of war, as manifested by the injured soldiers he and Jadeja visited in Srinagar. Either way, I'm ecstatic to see that Nationalism rules. More so because there's nothing, absolutely nothing, that disturbs the minds and ruins the plans of pinkos more.

Bapu Nadkarni, Naren Tamhane and a host of ex-cricketers from Bombay and Chennai supported Kapil's demand to snap cricketing ties with Pakistan. Yashpal Sharma, another hero of the 1983 World Cup, declared, "I have sworn that I will not associate myself with any match involving Pakistan, even if it were in the veterans' series, until relations between the two countries are normal. I request the members of the present team also to take an oath that they would not play against Pakistan till then." Vijay Malhotra, senior vice-president of the Indian Olympic Association (the country's apex sports body) and president of the General Association of National Sports Federations of India, fully endorsed Kapil's statement.

The fall-out is, the ever-commercial BCCI was forced to describe Kapil's observations as "very rational and very worthy of discussion." Its fence-sitting president, Rajsingh Dungarpur, squarely put the ball in Atalji's and the people's court (like, he's going to have a referendum): "We will, of course, have to take into account the government's policies vis-a-vis Pakistan in view of the Kargil conflict. Cricket can't remain in isolation. We have to take into account the sentiments of the Indian public at large. The matter will definitely come up for discussion at the board's committee meeting."

I expect the prime minister to rise to the challenge and scotch these idiotic "friendship" tourneys till such a time that Pakistan realises that India will not let herself be stabbed in the back: I've had a bloody surfeit of bus diplomacy -- it took a Kapil Dev to make me realise that. The very fact that Pakistani former cricketers Ramiz Raja, Intikhab Alam and Tauseef Ahmed have slammed one of the greatest cricketers India has ever produced for his position against their country, is reason enough for every Indian to stand by him. All that passion and fury shouldn't have been in vain: Nothing that leaps unbidden from the heart should be.

And why stop at cricket? What's this garbage about pretending that everything is hunky-dory in other areas? Sports and trade and arts are not diplomatic channels which can make, break or ease the ongoing conflict at the LoC. Sure, invite and send all the secret and not-so-secret emissaries you want. Do whatever is required to stop the flow of blood. But, while that blood is flowing, don't put the people in a position where they must have mooh mein Ram-Ram, bagal mein chhoori. For once, let's say it like it is: Pakistan is an enemy country.

Wasn't it just a few days ago that two Pakistani starlets were summoned by its parliament to explain why they "demeaned" Pakistan by substituting "Hindustan" for "Pakistan" in a *single* occurrence of a whole song in praise of their country? They raised such a stink that that particular episode of Antakshari won't be telecast there. They have barred my mother's and aunt's songs from on all state-run media -- not recently, but since decades. So much so that my mother's voice in four songs of the runaway hit Sargam was dubbed by a local singer to enable the songs to be telecast on PTV.

And what do we do? No need to drag in poor Ghulam Aliji and that atrociously besura "Sufi" pop group, Junoon, into the controversy. Fine; let's not be like Pakistan; let's rise above imbecility... And so we've stomached all this bullshit even as the ISI bombed our cities and spilt our blood. But effing hell, there's a war on now.

India takes the cake: Today there's an item in the ToI that the Kargil operations have taken a heavy toll on Indo-Pak trade at the Wagah border, with "Pakistan virtually declining to send across any items sought by India." But that's not the mortifying part. This is: "Panic-stricken traders have been pressurising officials in Amritsar to facilitate export and import of items for which orders had been already placed. As the trade between the two countries takes place on the basis of letters of credit procured from the other country, the traders apprehend that if the border tension does not ease soon, it may cause them huge losses."

I'm sorry but I DO NOT GET IT. What kind of vermin are these? Which gutter do they slink in? An invading enemy country blocks the trade route -- and they *beg* for it to be opened?! For a few paisas more? They make me want to vomit. It reminds me of the contrasting tales of war-time Britain, of the kind of hardships its common people endured when the Luftwaffe was bombarding them. It's not for no reason that Britannia ruled the world while Bharat Mata had both her arms ripped off.

Now I hear that Atalji sent, of all the people, R K Mishra, chairman of the editorial board of the Observer group of newspapers, as his secret envoy to Pakistan... Wunderbar. This is the very same gentleman thanks to whom not a single critical word about the Shroud is published in The Sunday Observer. Right, he'd try his damnedest to succeed and show the BJP PM in a good light. Such a brilliant move; all rocket-scientists in the government. Another case of mooh mein Ram-Ram, bagal mein chhoori. That's about all Hindustan is fated to undergo. Since time immemorial.

Varsha Bhosle

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