FROM HOLY COW TO HUMAN SHIELD, A NEW INDIA RISES

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Unlike their Western neighbour, Indians have managed to keep the Army strictly away from politics — and vice versa.  Indeed, if the country has been a vibrant, multicultural democracy, the credit goes to the nation’s early leadership as well as the Army and the stability it has provided all these years by remaining strictly apolitical and neutral.  That seems to be changing fast with Hindutva’s inroads into the Army, just as it has infiltrated and infected all other institutions with its pernicious ideology. 

Aijaz Zaka Syed | Caravan Daily

SOONER OR later, this was bound to happen.  Given the way the BJP and its Parivar have been ravaging India, wrecking and saffronising all national institutions, this was bound to happen. 

If tying a Kashmiri artisan to the front of an Army jeep as ‘human shield’ and parading him across the Valley as a “lesson to stone pelters” was shocking, the Army, egged on by a brazen BJP and assorted telly warriors and nuts, has now taken outrage to a whole new level. 

Instead of disciplining Major Nitin Gogoi for shaming India, Army chief General Bipin Rawat has heaped fulsome praise on the officer for “saving lives” and coming up with “innovative solutions in a dirty, proxy war.”

In fact, even as an inquiry against Major Gogoi is still on, he has been awarded by the Army, making a mockery of due process and all accepted norms of justice. Talk of adding insult to injury!

Unlike his predecessors, General Rawat has been increasingly taking a political line, talking more like, as the Indian Express noted, an angry prime time warrior, rather than the head of a professional army, one of the largest in the world.

Soon after taking over, the Army Chief had warned the Kashmiri protesters against coming out on the streets in support of militants, vowing to treat civilians as terrorists. 

And now in another gem of an interview, he has argued: “This is a proxy war and a dirty war…You fight a dirty war with innovations.”  He went on to suggest that it would have been easier for the armed forces if the protestors were firing weapons instead of throwing stones: “Then I could do what I [want to do]”.  

This is beyond shocking! If the chief of Indian Army begins to see an entire population and community as ‘the enemy’ and views this as a “dirty war,” what could you expect from his rank and file?

Is it any wonder then Major Gogoi chose to pick a random Kashmiri youth and decided to make an example of him for the rest of the population? Such antics haven’t been heard of even in countries occupied by foreign forces. Yet we never tire of proclaiming that Kashmir is an integral part of India.

With friends like these, who needs the services of Pakistan or any other country to foment trouble in the paradise? 

Is it any wonder then more and more Kashmiris are beginning to see the overwhelming military presence and its ubiquitous security checks as occupation? Ironically, after long years of trying to keep Kashmir ‘under control,’ even the Army seems to see this as occupation and Kashmiris as a hostile population.

Which is a profound tragedy. The Indian Army has been one of the staunchly secular and professional institutions, proudly representing and celebrating the country’s plural and democratic ethos. 

Not a day passes without some innocent Muslims, Dalits or even ordinary Hindus and Sikhs being put through instant justice by the mob. Even molestation of Muslim women, once unthinkable, is becoming commonplace.  So much so such incidents do not even raise any eyebrows, let alone shocking or outraging the nation. 

Unlike their Western neighbour, Indians have managed to keep the Army strictly away from politics — and vice versa.  Indeed, if the country has been a vibrant, multicultural democracy, the credit goes to the nation’s early leadership as well as the Army and the stability it has provided all these years by remain strictly apolitical and neutral. 

That seems to be changing fast with Hindutva’s inroads into the Army, just as it has infiltrated and infected all other institutions with its pernicious ideology. 

On the other hand, the perpetual eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with Pakistan, especially over Kashmir, also seems to be having a catastrophic effect on the Army.  The hysterical war of words by the Parivar and its growing army of motor-mouths in the media against ‘the enemy’ and portraying all Muslims, including Kashmiris, as its fifth column does not help.

And this ceaseless saffronisation and corruption of the secular Indian state and its various arms and institutions is not limited to the security and political establishment.

The insidious war that the RSS has been waging against the Idea of India since long before Independence has entered a critical stage, with its malignant influence pervading virtually every cell of the body politic.  The foundations of the great republic are being hallowed from inside. 

From the highest echelons of power to top universities and think tanks in the land to the media and the judiciary, the cancerous growth of this ideology of hate seems to be eating away the vitals of what was once a vibrant and melting pot of a society. 

Not a day passes without some innocent Muslims, Dalits or even ordinary Hindus and Sikhs being put through instant justice by the mob. Even molestation of Muslim women, once unthinkable, is becoming commonplace.  So much so such incidents do not even raise any eyebrows, let alone shocking or outraging the nation. 

The mob rules the streets, television screens and every other space available.  There is no peace anywhere.  Which is what this government seems to want — keep the pot perpetually boiling in a low-intensity, simmering campaign against religious minorities and vulnerable groups. Little attention is then paid to minor irritants like disappearing jobs, dying farmers and closing industries. 

As if the nation-wide witch hunt that has been going on over the past 3 years in the name of cow, beef and all that bull was not enough, the regime now has come up with a blanket ban on the sale and slaughter of cattle, dealing a devastating blow to farmers and industries like leather exports. 

Not surprisingly, from the south Indian states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu to the Northeast, where beef is a staple for all communities and cow slaughter is legal, just about everyone has been up in arms against the new food fascism. 

As Vir Sanghvi puts it, the new order is nothing but another excuse to raid Muslim and Dalit homes and terrorise them in the name of cow.  Although the Madras High Court has stayed the idiotic order, the move once again has a billion people endlessly debating and fighting their brains out over a harmless plate of food.

How a clever people who invented zero and much else can lose their minds over silly issues like a plate of food and social status of a harmless, witless animal just beats me.    

Even the highest courts in the land do not seem to be free of this madness.  Look at the pearls of wisdom being freely flung about by the Hon’ble judge of Rajasthan High Court. On the day of his retirement, in a 145-page judgment, Justice Mahesh Sharma asked the government to declare cow the national animal and handing its killers life imprisonment and more. 

Describing himself as a Shiv bhakt, the judge, also turned biological science on its head suggesting that peacock is a ‘pious’ bird and remains a “lifelong brahmachari (celibate). It never has sex with the peahen. The peahen gets pregnant after swallowing the tears of the peacock!”  

They say the law is an ass but where do we go when honourable judges begin to act as one, my lord?

Not surprisingly, the media has gone to town with the story, with stand-up comedians having a field day.  At least, we have our sense of humour intact! 

Seriously though, why blame the men in black when all they are trying to do is fit in with the new order.  As they say, jaisa raja, waisi praja

Three years of this government and already there is so much sweetness and light all around.  And Modi and the Parivar are just beginning to warm up just now.  We seem to be in this for the long haul, people.   

Aijaz Zaka Syed is an award-winning journalist. Aijaz.syed@ hotmail.com

 

 

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