January 28, 2002


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Varsha Bhosle

Who wants a war?

My friends in the press have always advised me against responding to hate mail through my column. They say that I waste a whole week in giving undue importance to some frustro who has no place else to vent his hate, and that it prevents me from focusing on the current issue. I, of course, differ on all counts: One, the web has made obsolete the take on immediacy, for, unlike surface mail, email reaches a writer within minutes and can be answered in the very next column. Two, there’s no rule that says a person can flame a writer and not get flamed in return; as you all very well know, hate mailers widely circulate their vile responses among like-minded cronies, and my column is the only medium through which I can give it back to the lot. Three, and most importantly, amidst all those abuses, hate mailers sometimes do raise arguments that could exist in many unbiased readers’ minds – doubts that I must try to scotch.

Also, please note, mail sent to my rediff address is not private or personal – no matter how you mark it – because it is a response to the column. Just as surface or electronic mail sent to a newspaper belongs to the publication for printing purposes – along with the sender’s name and address – so is the email sent to me. The web is, indeed, infested by nuts: one psycho threatened to sue me for mentioning another sender’s name in my column (although I had held back the surname, only from the goodness of my pure heart).

That done, I’m gonna give one reader his 15 minutes of fame: Rama Ratnam, “Research Scientist, University of Illinois, Urbana,” wrote, “It should be clear to many readers that only the very rich and the elite of any society are ready to sacrifice the lives of the young in a battlefield. Only they will speak of strong words backed by ready action. They have nothing to lose. Presumably someone in her family will make a lot of money singing patriotic songs while the young march to their death... It must be so easy to relax in a comfortable Mumbai flat, far away from tense border regions, where I can sip my morning tea and crank out reams of pointless prose. So much easier than actually getting out there and observing how Kashmir is bleeding because of ham-handed government policies...”

Perhaps. But it’s easier still to lounge in the US of A and pontificate on what Indians in India should demand. Therefore, let’s examine how the people who do live in the war zone feel. Forget where I’ve travelled and what I’ve found, here are news items from the pinko-infested press, some with the usual sleights that twist any utterance into one pushing for peace with Pakistan:

  • The men of Mullakot, which is close to the border fence and barely 38 km from Amritsar, are determined not to move out of the area until the Army tells them to do so... Gurbachan Kaur, an elderly woman of the same village, said the Pak army had razed all their houses but left the gurdwara in 1971. “I will not leave my house this time. I prefer to die here on my soil, helping my brave soldiers”... Kishore Bhardwaj, resident of Dhanoe Kalan which Pakistan first attacked in 1971, was quite excited about helping the Army. He said they would arrange a langar for the jawans and also request them to train them in warfare. (The Times of India, December 25, 2001)

  • Bakhshish Singh, nambardar [sic] of the village... was quick to add that the villagers were ready to sacrifice anything for the sake of the country... Karmi (87), the last to leave her village, Gallowal, along with a bundle of her belongings, said it was high time that India settled scores with Pakistan once and for all. (ToI, December 26)

  • The youth in border villages like One-X, Fatuhi, Hindumal Kot, Mandera and Kotha are all for hot pursuit to end Pakistan’s two-decade-old proxy war against India. In fact, they expect an all-out war with Pakistan, in retaliation against the attack on Parliament... Ranbir Singh, of the same village, says: “If we avoid war, we will continue to bleed.” (ToI, December 26)

  • One mile of fence costs Rs 3.2 million ($68,000), a lot for a country where many villagers live on a dollar a day. Laborers from villages near and far – pumped up by motivational speeches about one’s duties for Mother India – do the construction work. They carry out their job on this perilous chunk of border interrupted by spurts of gunfire between Indian and Pakistani forces. (The New York Times, January 2, 2002.) [Don’t miss the pinko spin on why Indian villagers forsake everything to defend their homeland. The reporter, of course, is of Indian origin.]

  • Situated 2 kms from the Pokhran nuclear site, the people of Khetolai had vigorously opposed the nuclear tests of 1998 and had chanted the mantra of peace... “We are not scared about the fact that Pakistan too is a nuclear power,” says Ramavtar. But he cautions: “We still advocate peace and brotherhood as we earlier did, just after our country conducted nuclear tests here, but now the situation has totally changed as Pakistan is continuing to send terrorists to India. There should be an end to this”... Bagharam, a schoolteacher at Khetolai, says, “If India does nothing this time against Pakistan, it would invite more terrorist attacks. Shanti ka matlab kamjori nahi hona chahiye. India took Pakistan always as a friend, but Islamabad was engaged in anti-India activities for the last two decades. In our mind the nation’s interest is supreme.” (The Pioneer, January 11)

    “We are fed up of these killings,” said Ramji Velani [in Bhuj]. “Why should our people die everyday? We are bleeding and they are laughing! We want a lasting solution. We will burn Musharraf’s effigy to express our anger”... Bharat Parmar of Sukhpar put it into words, thus: “We remember how our jawans won Nagarparkar, a border tehsil of Pakistan, in the 1971 war. The Indian flag flew there for a year. But all that gains were lost over a meeting table in Simla. We don’t want politicians to lose the gains of our war on the diplomatic table. And we don’t want the US or the UN to tell us what to do once the war starts.” (, January 16)

That goes for the Indian evolutionary dead-ends living in the US, too.

It is more than evident what those who suffer the non-stop shelling from across the International Border and the LoC want the Indian government to do. In fact, it is only the urban elite, the “educated” “Indians,” who speak the coward’s words. As for the types grazing in greener pastures advocating compromise to the country they’ve abandoned, well, what can they do but parrot the lines of their adopted Secretary of State?? I sympathise, I really do, for their life is stressful. After all, I needn’t worry about green cards, nor can anybody kick me out of my native land, no matter what I say about our foreign policies.

It is the underprivileged at India’s frontiers who’ve been enduring the worst since Partition. And hence, they are the ones ready to sacrifice it all, even their sons, to put an end to this immoral “peace.” It is also they who are, yet again, being manoeuvred into accepting the continuous tension and killings they’ve been facing for 50 years. In the name of “humanity” – to be compulsorily showered via “people-to-people contact” – or that famous “responsible role,” the so-called educated elite summarily sentence India’s border villagers to life-long trauma and poverty, and never mind the daily body bags. The concepts of humanity and dignity – so readily available to moan and groan about minorities or beggars in cities – promptly do a Houdini when such villagers enter the picture.

Eleven years of cross-border terrorism in J&K has taken more lives than all the casualties suffered during the three Indo-Pak wars together: Since 1990, nearly 10,000 civilians were among the 28,000 who lost their lives in Pakistan’s proxy war. 568 men of J&K police, 2,485 men of the security forces, 208 SPOs and 66 VDC members have been killed. But, armed with just 12-bore rifles, young men in Doda or Lilhote or Dandkote still defend their villages from the jihadis – they don’t ask for resettlement, nor do they accept ceding of Indian territory...

You see, people who have much to lose – their pucca homes, their businesses, their cars, their home-delivered newspapers – why would they care about the gains of those in misery at the borders...? Why would they bother to learn the numbers of soldiers and civilians killed in “peace” time? This “humanity” business, and even the oh-so-rational but-what-can-we-gain-from-a-war argument, is just a cover for sheer cowardice and self-centredness. Wimps will be wimps.

Tailpiece: The video from the American Centre’s closed-circuit camera revealed that Calcutta’s armed police officers had actually bolted from the scene when the terrorists opened fire, forcing police commissioner Sujoy Chakraborty to admit, “I’m ashamed that not a single shot was fired in retaliation.” Instead of drawing their weapons, the officers had ducked and then moved out of harm’s way, leaving their men, some of whom were unarmed, to face the bullets. Hmm... makes one wonder if such is the result of decades of Communist rule, or that the decades of Communist rule is the result of such character...

Varsha Bhosle

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