Amrinder Singh is part of that blood thirsty crowd Pratap Bhanu Mehta wants the army to be wary of. That he has been heard by the army and the government is not surprising. He wanted special medal for Major Nitin Leetul Gogoi,The army chief has obliged him. Kashmir watches with deepening anguish and rising anger an Indian consensus emerging regarding its response to the anxiety and unrest in the state.The Arrogance, smugness, insensitivity and a violent sense of entitlement over Kashmir which drip from every word of Amarinder Singh, who loves to be called Maharaja and Captain is in fact only an expression of the hard, militarist Indian hand that seeks to put Kashmir down mercilessly.
There is also no irony in defense minister Arun Jaitly seconding Singh in advocating free hand to the army which is said to fighting a war in Kashmir. It is also not shocking that a chief minister, who swears by the Constitution and belongs to a ‘secular’ party places the army above the people and beyond political power when he says, ” ….the Indian army should have an upper hand to be able to negotiate peace on terms that are favourable to the country ….”. He forgets that it is for the elected government and not the army to negotiate peace or decide what would be the terms most favourable to the country or the people.
It is this message we must read:making army supreme: unanswerable to the parliament and the judiciary. The government recently moved the supreme court asking it to quash its order to investigate the excesses committed by the armed forces in Manipur.
Let us be clear then: it is not only about Kashmir. It is about a new India where the army would deal with the people independently on its own terms. In fact, we should have seen it coming when the army chief addressed the nation directly through the AIR and Doordarshan on the Army day this year. This, according to Rajesh Priyadarshi of BBC, should be marked as a turning point for India. A new narrative in emerging in which the army is not only a institution to be for its professionalism ,but to be feared by the people of the nation as the guardian is by the potentially delinquent children .
Major Gogoi, in this new narrative is the new creative genius . At this point of time he provides to India more the blood of Kashmiris : a spectacle made out of their humiliation. It is meant for Kashmiris telling them that they are like toys and for Indians to gratify their nationalist thrust which can only be quenched by the feeling of expansion, of victory by subjugating other populations. The image of Dar was very symbolic though: both hands of Kashmir tied by the brutal power of India. It was an insult of the supreme order, a sense of powerlessness driven in the collective minds of Kashmiris who were made to witness this, of a man being stripped of humanity before his own people. No bullet fired, no blood shed but we have not seen a more brutal picture of humiliation of a human being in recent times . It was an act of double violence : on the man and also his fellow villagers, who were turned into subjugated spectators.
Gogoi was acting on our behalf. We applauded this act of extraordinary wit which saves us money and gives us spectacle as well, There were court jesters who, jumping steps ahead wanted Gogoi to do it to ‘rogues’ like Arundhati Roy and other human rights people.
That it did not shock us and did not provoke outrage when Major Gogoi addressed the nation again through the media after being decorated is a disturbing sign of the changing times. Before him and the current army chief we do not remember any general or army officer addressing a press conference ,not even after the surrender of the Pakistani army in 1971,not after the Operation Blue Star or the Kargil conflict. In all these the army was a main actor. But it refrained from being seen as the director.It was always seen as following the civil authority. Now it is said that it should be given the primacy it deserves.
It is being done in the name of extraordinariness of the situation. But “terrorists” of different kinds are there in other parts of India as well. Maoist is as despised a term as a militant of Kashmir. The army would require free hand and impunity in dealing with them as well. And they are indistinguishable with the Adivasis. They, like the Kashmiris are also not normal people, they harbor the Maoist and challenge the supremacy of the Indian state.
Many former army men find the act of the officer Gogoi cowardly . It also it violates international conventions. India has moved to the International Court of Justice at Hague against the death penalty given to Kulbhushan Jadhav by Pakistan citing international conventions. But it conveniently ignores and flouts them in its own territories of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir.
Amarinder Singh pleads for ‘a tooth for tooth and a nail for a nail’ policy while dealing with situation like Kashmir. He does not want our army men to be burdened with the label of being a ‘gentleman’s army’.The army chief almost echoed him in his recent pronouncements.
The present government with the vocal power of the ruling party is invoking nationalism to legitimize itself. It is trying to show that this is the first government which is behind the army. The army is also obliging the government by making its The nationalist agenda its own. Recently the vice chief of the army and an air marshal participated in a government programme where offerings were made to the image of the Bharat Mata, resting on her lion and holding saffron flag against the background of the map of greater India which is much larger than the India we live in. They saluted this image and stood in attention when Vande Mataram was sung in full. This is what the Muslims have been objecting to.
The army has been seen by all sections of the society as a non-partisan force. In violent situations, the people have always sought it. But now by being allowing itself to aligni with a particular ideological version of nationalism platform it is losing that place of honour and neutrality.
It suits the agenda of the BJP to turn the army into a nationalist army. It is not for nothing that to the image of dying soldiers is slammed on the face of students, teachers, artists or workers fighting for their constitutional rights. It may sound harsh but is true that in India the ruling nationalism would always be majoritarian nationalism.
Amarinder Singh is creating an ideological atmosphere which legitimizes a militarist nationalist India, where rights of the people are suspended perpetually since there would not be a time when the state is in absolute peace with all sections of its population. It is not only about Kashmir. Kashmir is only a cover.
- Indian Express, June, 2017