India: The surgical strike has damaged us more than you, Pakistan

Published: October 12, 2016
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India says it conducted an operation beyond the Line of Control. (LoC) PHOTO: AFP

We don’t know the truth behind the surgical operation. Pakistan denies any kind of extraordinary military intervention in its territory. On the other hand, India says it conducted an operation beyond the Line of Control (LoC). International media, however, takes a nuanced view of the whole affair, distancing itself from the passion that grips domestic media in India and Pakistan.

Not long ago, in June 2015, India claimed to have conducted a surgical operation in Myanmar against the insurgent groups that allegedly killed 18 Indians soldiers in the North Eastern state of Manipur. Myanmar denied any such military strike inside its territory. Indian media went by the government’s narrative and indulged into a great deal of chest thumping. It failed to question the government’s version. On the contrary, the media played along the official line by publishing unconfirmed and unverifiable stories substantiating New Delhi’s claim.

A senior journalist and writer from Manipur, Pradip Phanjoubam, in a scathing article, titled, India’s War Against Itself, in Economic and Political Weekly (EPW), exposes the “chest thumping journalists”, who he says, have become “mere stenographer” of the government. Questioning the claims of the government and its journalist minders, Phanjoubam writes that the Modi regime has provided “no clinching evidence of the two strikes” in Myanmar. Therefore, the whole story is to satisfy the Indian sentiment.

When questions were raised about the Myanmar operations last year, the media, along with the ruling party members in particular, ignored them and did not brand doubting thomases as anti-national.

But now, when the same questions are being raised about the ‘surgical strike’ in Pakistan, the chest thumping journalists are terming such scepticism as an unpatriotic act. The questioning of the government is taken as an act of treason. And any kind of dissent is construed as a question on the ability of the Indian army, hence a highly unpatriotic act. The ruling Hindu right wing government led by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is not allowing any debate to take place on this matter, with the media playing as its willing ally, hence the country is now completely polarised.

That being said, the ‘surgical strike’ has not damaged Pakistan, it has actually affected us more. Indians have become the victim of politics that thrive on polarisation and hyper nationalism. This is the kind of politics that the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi built his career on.

A man who came to power in 2014 with the promise of economic development has now gone back to doing what he knows best. For the BJP, the image of Modi is its USP. With two and half years in power, the BJP government does not have much to show in terms of achievement – discontentment has, therefore, started brewing amongst a cross section of the society about its overall performance.

Intolerance has reached a new height now. Dissent and questioning the two basic normative behaviour in any democracy are being curbed in the name of nationalism. This is a dangerous trend and pushes India towards the majoritarian path. An atmosphere is being created where common people are being radicalised in the name of nationalism. Masses are led to believe that those questioning the government’s surgical strikes are traitors.

Electronic media has become a willing ally of the government in turning the country into a majoritarian den. We are witness to innumerable instances of the Hindu right wing cadres indulging into bullying to teach a lesson to those who defy their politics. The media sector in India is a bully now, and threatens those who express a liberal instance, opting for peace. They promote bigotry and present jingoism as journalism.

They claim they are doing this to protect the national interest. Is it in the national interest to curb liberal and secular voices? Is it in the national interest to create war hysteria in the subcontinent? Is it in the national interest to have media which promotes intolerance, radicalism, paranoia and creates herd mentality?

Surgical strike in the real sense is aimed at India, not Pakistan. It is a war against liberal and secular India, it is an attack on the voices of sanity, it is a very well calculated attempt to silence the voices of dissent against the government. Moreover, it is a political gimmick to divert the attention of the people from the pressing social, economic and cultural problems that beset the nation today.

There are certain crucial regional elections due next year, the BJP has a lot at stake. The states, like Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, and Punjab had supported Modi back in 2014. The fear is that these states might turn their back on the man when the next elections are held. With Modi’s image at stake, it suits the ruling party to come up with the hype and hoopla about the surgical strike.

sanjay.kumar

Sanjay Kumar

The author is a New Delhi based journalist covering South Asian and international politics. He tweets as @destinydefier (twitter.com/destinydefier).

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.