Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman is that brave face of the Indian armed forces that the country has come to identify with lately.
The fighter pilot who had to bail out into enemy territory after a dogfight, was caught and suffered 60 hours of mental ordeal in enemy captivity before being released, has scripted a new chapter in Indian history with reports of his bravado on the face of hostile reception inspiring millions of Indians.
It is very rare to have national sentiments rising to the pitch that was witnessed after reports of Abhinandan’s capture had the entire nation in a state of ‘suspended animation’.
Considering the captured IAF pilot as a trophy that Pakistan wanted to gloat over in the aftermath of the airstrike on JeM camps in its territory, they would not have bargained for the pressure from the international community that compelled the authorities to hasten with Abhinandan’s release-formalities.
The delay of his ‘confirmed’ release notwithstanding, the moment the Wing Commander of the IAF walked safe through the Attari-Wagha border, it was to be assumed that Pakistan would showcase the safe handover of the officer as a goodwill gesture aimed at diffusing the tense situation between the two nations in the wake of the terror attack allegedly sponsored by Pakistan at Pulwama and the retaliatory military action by India on a major terrorist camp in Balakot.
The Pakistan PM however calls the repatriation of the captured IAF pilot as a ‘gesture of peace’.
The neighbouring country needs to be reminded that India’s war has been against the terrorists harboured by Pakistan on its soil and not Pakistan as a nation.
But how well has India fared in honouring its valiant warrior who braved the hostile Pakistani reception and quarantine to return home to a hero’s welcome!
With the Modi-sarkar milking these ‘surgical strikes’ on foreign soil to its advantage, political opportunism and bickering appears to have eclipsed the saga of heroism.
With general elections round the corner, the Indian Prime Minister has all but made it clear to the nation that his government will have no respite till terrorism emanating from the neighbouring country is completely annihilated.
Basking in its exaltation, the retaliatory attack on the Balakot-based Jaish terror camp has been well-used as a poll-ploy by the ruling dispensation.
With Prime Minister Narendra Modi indicating more action to follow the airstrike in Pakistan, the BJP will for sure exploit the issue of ‘surgical strikes’ to promote its election campaign.
Vitriolic speeches that purport to magnify the hate for terror operators holing within Pakistan with threats of dragging them out of the bowels of the earth where they are hiding may sound sonorous to us Indians. But would any country like foreign powers to invade their territory even if it is for ferreting out avowed enemies of that country!
Has creating a war-like situation ever boded well for any country! And how are the citizens to fine-tune to such a condition! As it is, reports of mobilization of additional troops along the Line of Control by Pakistan are raising apprehensions of an imminent war between the two countries.
For that matter, thoughts of a war should not be nurtured by the premiers of the two nations at any cost. While India may claim military superiority over the neighbouring nation, Pakistan has enough in them to pose sufficient problems for India.
The acerbic rhetoric notwithstanding, we on this side of the border need to know that political leaders have this uncanny knack of playing to the gallery. It’s all fine as long as it serves their purpose – that of garnering votes.
But they fail to realize the consequences. This is not a cricket or hockey match we are playing with Pakistan where the xenophobic feelings are on an all-high with the maddening cheers from the stands creating a high adrenaline rush among the spectators and players equally.
War is a more complex scenario! The idiosyncrasies that characterize the political fraternity today are far too many to enumerate. Suffice to say that the so-called leaders have failed to recognize the true worth of the supreme sacrifice made by our soldiers in their line of duty.
It is not that people cannot read between the lines, but if the ensuing elections are compelling the ruling dispensation to create an aura of ‘assumed hostility’ from perceived enemy threats over the country which it intends dispelling in no uncertain terms, one can only say that this is politics at its ‘worst best’.
The opposition in the meanwhile is demanding the exact count of terrorist casualties!
The raging controversy over the damage inflicted on the Jaish-e-Mohammad terror camp in Balakot has only intensified further with high resolution satellite images of a madrasa building near the site still standing with no visible damage six days after the airstrike by the IAF, as reported by news agency Reuters; whereas the IAF’s radar and satellite images given to the government show significant damage to the intended targets.
India is however going hammer-and-tongs against the Imran-government in Pakistan blaming it for creating tension in the sub-continent!
But, inspired by Abhinandan Varthaman’s daring, the manner in which the general public has gone overboard eulogizing the officer and gentleman is exasperating, to say the least.
If the sight of youngsters sporting the IAF officer’s haircut and the ‘gunslinger’ moustache is not enough, the Geneva Convention relative to the rights of POWs featuring as quips on the social media is in rank bad taste.
The IAF pilot’s dialogue, “I am not supposed to tell you that,” as would be expected in this age of social media competence, immediately went viral. Indians are now using it not only as a sign of bravery, but also as a viral meme.
Some of the hilarious memes and jokes that netizens have come up with do not do justice to the show of bravura associated with Abhinandan Varthaman.
What a paradox! While at one end we have the Modi-sarkar making the most of the Balakot feat; after the fighter-pilot’s ‘Pakistan tryst’, for the public every facet of his demeanour, his looks, his dialogues when in captivity; all these have gone on to create a caricature of awe – but one that has a humorous side to it as well.
And we Indians cannot tire of telling the world that as a fundamental human right of every citizen, the freedom of expression is curtailed in India!
Abhinandan Varthaman is definitely a celebrity today, but one who has earned special mention for his exemplary courage. Let us not deny him his moment of glory!(Published on 18th March 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 12)