It could almost qualify to be a third-rate Bollywood ‘dishum dishum’ film – a terribly naïve and immature plot, which can be seen through by any moron sitting in the theatre. The narrative at play however, is too serious a matter, to be toyed with. Lives are lost and two countries are on the brink of war. Both India and Pakistan can ill-afford another war; both countries face immense problems at home and apparently have neither the sagacity nor the political will to deal with their internal problems!
However, with the General Elections around the corner, the BJP and their ilk are having a heyday. They seem to leave no stone unturned to propagate their 3P programme: Pakistan-Pulwama- Polarisation. They are doing so with the finesse they have mastered over the years and ably supported by a howling and baying media who deftly dish out lies, myths, half-truths and false propaganda! Finding and focusing on an ‘external enemy’ is a ploy which dictators, failing rulers and petty-minded politicians often take recourse too. In doing so, they are able to kill two birds with one stone: they whip up a fervour of ‘nationalism’ among fairly gullible ‘bhakts’; simultaneously however, this jingoism, the ‘hatred’ for the enemy, also translates into precious votes.
A careful analysis of several key elections clearly shows that often just before the election there is some ‘attack’ somewhere. These attacks naturally help in garnering a ‘sympathy wave’ for the ruling political dispensation. On 9 March addressing his party workers on the 13th Foundation Day of the MNS, their chief Raj Thackeray linked Pathankot and Pulwama terror attacks with elections and said another "Pulwama like strike" could occur in near future in a bid to win the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. Thackeray added, "There is a limit to speaking lies. Lies are being spoken to win elections. In a bid to win upcoming elections, there will be another Pulwama like attack within the next 1-2 months." On the Pathankot attack, Thackeray said PM Modi had met his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on December 25, 2015 and gave him a cake on his birthday . “In the next seven days, the Pathankot terror attack took place. At that time, (assembly) elections were due in four states in the next three months," he said. Strangely enough, the MNS are fairly in sync with the BJP ideology.
‘Pakistan’ has always been a convenient bashing bag for the ‘Hindutva’ bhakts. After one of the coaches of the Sabarmati train was set on fire on 27 February 2002, leaving about sixty dead, the immediate blame was put on the ISI and Pakistan. This in spite of the Home Minister of the Vajpayee Government stating in Parliament that it was an accident! Objective studies/reports point out to those responsible. If an Indian dares to cheer Pakistan for playing better than India either in cricket or in hockey, and if there are some ‘bhakts’ around – then that person would surely have had it. Then several of the ‘hindutva-ised’ politicians have been spewing venom with their hate speeches against Pakistan, against Muslims, against Christians and particularly against those who have the courage to stand up to them – and tell them this type of low, divisive political discourse should have no place in the country.
Pulwama, by any counts, was a tragic incident. Forty CRPF personnel were killed in a dastardly attack on 14 February. This was very unfortunate and the nation rose as one to condemn the heinous crime and to extend support and solidarity to the families and loved ones of those killed. There is already plenty written on that attack and several questions are asked and many still remain unanswered. For one, why was there such a failure in intelligence? Secondly there are Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for all military convoys – why were these not followed? How did the lone attacker breach a high security area? Besides, how did complete details of the ‘terrorist’ unfold immediately after the attack and were played and replayed ad nauseam by the paid propaganda media units? Apart from that the BJP and their cronies did all they could to maximize ‘political leverage’ from the tragedy.
Then there the war cries and right enough there was the airstrike on Balakot. Many unanswered questions from that strike too! How did the ‘media’ know, just a few hours after the strike, that three hundred terrorists were killed! Suddenly the politicians and some media channels took credit for the strike saying that they inflicted a massive defeat on Pakistan!
Polarising people on the religious, ethnic, caste identities has been the forte of the BJP. They continue doing so with frightening regularity. The Ram Mandir is in the spotlight once again. A good percentage of the so-called ‘mainstream’ media is polarised on communal lines is without doubt. Sometime last year, the online portal Cobrapost in a sting operation codenamed ‘Operation 136’ on 27 media houses revealed how most of them were prepared to strike business deals to promote the Hindutva agenda and help polarise voters in the run up to the 2019 elections. The country’s Constitution is not important; the rich pluralism, diversity, harmony between peoples does not figure in their scheme of things! Besides just before elections were announced, Modi and his party went on a ‘Mega Jumla’: in just about 30 days, he went on 28 trips and inaugurated 157 projects (several old or non-existing ones); these facts were brought out by the NDTV in their programme ‘Truth v/s Hype’ recently. Several people were polarized with the ‘achhe din’ promise and other bluffs; all have realised that have come to naught.
So it is clear that the BJP and their crony capitalists have nothing to offer the Indian electorate as a positive manifesto, in the run-up to the elections. They are really desperate! The last five years have not been easy for the vast majority of the people of India – particularly the poor and the marginalised. There have been several objective and scientific studies done on the performance of the current ruling dispensation. The ratings given on every parameter are from dismal to very bad. Economically, the country is at its lowest: demonetization has taken its toll on those living from hand to mouth; an RTI query made public on 11 March 2019, concludes from the minutes of a meeting held on 8 November 2016 (just two and half hours before the Prime Minister’s announcement of demonetisation) that the RBI was not prepared for demonetisation and did not give its formal approval before the announcement. Corrupt crony capitalism is on the upsurge; an OXFAM report of January 2019 highlighted the growing gap between the rich and the poor; of how just nine individuals in India own 52% of the nation’s wealth. Communalism (which has made lynching, the ‘new normal’) continues to rear its ugly head, with the minorities on the receiving end. A UN Report of September 2018 puts India in the category of the worst offenders against human rights defenders. Several have been killed or put in jail! The prestigious Thomson Reuters Foundation in its annual survey of 2018 declared that India is the most dangerous place for women. Millions of tribals/adivasis/other forest dwellers are on the verge of being evicted from the forests. The Dalits continue to be victims of an unjust society. There is massive agrarian distress with several farmers committing suicide.
There is an upsurge in unemployment. A leaked version of a report ‘Annual Survey on Employment and Unemployment for the year 2017-18’ from the (NSC) showed unemployment rate in India at a 45-year high during 2017-2018. Recently, two government officials, including the acting chairperson of the NSC resigned, protesting the withholding of the report. There has been great interference in the functioning of independent/autonomous bodies of the country – the Judiciary, the RBI, the CBI, the Information Commission and quite obviously the ECI too: a clear undermining of democratic institutions and processes, and even a threat to the Constitution of India! Attempts are made to put the controversial Rafale deal under the carpet, despite incontrovertible evidence! India as a nation has never been so corrupt! Sitting members from other parties are being bought up with mindboggling amounts. Indian politics has been criminalized as never before!
Millions of Indians today seem determined to vote for change – a change from the petty rhetoric and divisive politics that have kept people impoverished, and excluded. They are convinced that the responsibility of Government is good governance which is people centred, guaranteeing peace and prosperity to all, with a commitment to th
e rights and freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution. Social scientist Neera Chandhoke, in an incisive op-ed in ‘The Hindu’ on March 13, writes, “Cynics might wonder whether elections bring about change at all, or whether the outcome results in more of the same. Nevertheless, elections are significant. The opportunity to vote offers us choices, we can vote for the same violence that has left us with bloodied hands and torn feet. Or we can vote for a party that offers us freedom. At stake in the 2019 election are four kinds of freedoms. The first is freedom from fear; the second sort of freedom we should reinstall is freedom from want; the third freedom that we have to re-capture is freedom from discrimination; the fourth freedom is freedom from sexual violence, for women, for men, for transgenders, and for children…. At stake in the elections that loom large on our collective imaginations is not delegation of power to representatives, so that they can live out their sick fantasies of controlling minds and bodies. We vote to recapture and protect the freedom that earlier generations fought for so strenuously. We vote because freedom is our constitutional right and we will reclaim it”.
The people of India will surely see through the desperate devious deeds of the current ruling dispensation and their petty Pakistan- Pulwama- Polarisation politics! Their bluff will be called on 23 May and India will surely see the triumph of Truth and Justice once again!
(The writer is a human rights activist. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org(Published on 18th March 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 12)