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Why Be Silent?

Why Be Silent?

There is a time to speak; there is a time be silent, says the Bible. When there is a time to speak and if one keeps quiet by suppressing one’s voice of conscience, one is doing injustice to oneself and possibly a disservice to others too.

In today’s India, one is expected to be silent. Not just expected. Terrorized, mauled, trolled and abused. Within the past half-decade, the Indian nation has witnessed many a gory incidents of cruel suppression of the voice of conscience. Writers and thinkers have been shot point blank in daylight, Kalburgi and others.  Journalists have been told to shut up and pack off. TV channels and anchors who stood by truth and facts were threatened with a black eye.

Matters have speeded up. Today, if one were to speak of peace between nations, one is declared an enemy agent and told to jump over the fence or face the consequences.

An army of speed-posting avenging ‘angels’ is spawned and cultivated and bestowed with freedom to abuse, threaten and terrorize those who spell truth and describe it.  

The Right to information is a legal right. The elected government claims that it has won the confidence of the electorate and the citizens of the country. If that is so, every government in power has to take into confidence its citizens in matters that pertain to the good of the nation. To gain a political point, the opposition parties may blare out their demand that the government let the nation know its wheeling and dealing.  That apart, every citizen has a right to know what the government is up to when it comes to law making or when it comes to dealing with other nations. It is at the tax payer’s benevolence the government functions and expends the exchequer.  If the taxpayers’ money is squandered by the ruling government through manipulations and favours of backdoor loans to bankrupt billionaires, the citizens have every right to question the government and even seek to bring it to its knees.

In order to protect its citizens and to preserve the integrity of the nation, if the government orders the army to step up operations even by boring holes in the enemy territory, could not the concerned citizens ask how many boreholes and manholes were made and how successful was the operation?   Does that question mean that one is siding with the enemy or questioning the integrity of the armed forces?

It is a point to note that the Indian army is noted for its integrity and commitment. It has been a nonpartisan force without currying favours with a particular political outfit. Its commitment is unquestionable. Its integrity is above board. But, the army is a human instrument. Not so superhuman as to don the mantle of divine and infallible powers. All the more so, when it has political masters to order them to stand in attention or stand at ease. Hence, there is nothing wrong for any citizen of the country to expect to be fed with information concerning the outcome of a military operation.

When such a political master or government functionary stands up and tells its citizens that, in recent past, we have had 3 surgical strikes and details of only two could be revealed, then could not one ask why the third is kept under wraps? Was the surgical operation aborted halfway or kept for caesarean for a later date? Could such a question mean that the questioner is questioning the integrity of the army? Instead, he could probably be questioning the doublespeak of the one who does not want to dot the ‘i’s and cross the ‘t’s. 

In the recent Balakot air strike, the government was silent on the result of the strike. It just confirmed that the air force did strike. But, when the citizens began to ask what the result of the strike was, they were told that such questioning would be doubting the integrity and commitment of the armed forces. Such a reaction from the elected government does not wash. The citizens are not morons and idiots. They expect from the representative government the capacity to think and act logically. Instead, if the government reacts with tantrums instead of responding with cogent answers, then sensible people believe that there is something seriously wrong somewhere.  The pertinent question is why the government wants to duck under the cover of illogical statements and garbled arguments that the army cannot be questioned. It is evidently a political ducking. Who questioned the army or doubted its striking force and commitment? Rather, by wanting to know that the striking taught the terrorist a lesson for life, people could have had the satisfaction that the government of the day handled the manoeuvre successfully and, hence, the nation wants to be proud of it.  And, if the government wants to deny that satisfaction to its citizens by covering up the results of the operation, then who is at fault?

As elections are at our doorsteps, parties are in frenzy. They are devising backroom operations to present themselves to the nation that they are all ministering angels. But, only time will tell who are devil’s advocates. A time to speak and a time to act!

(Published on 18th March 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 12)