In an era when truth is often made a casualty, everything else becomes secondary. In such circumstances, there is no scope for things, such as individual freedom, integrity, liberty, and independence of thought. Post-Pulwama, the whole nation and the world at large have been treated to such a miasma of mendacity that an attempt to ask the most natural questions about the veracity of claims regarding the number of those killed in the air strike on Balokot has attracted not only undeserved vilification but even death threats.
Amid this sea of falsehood, the only piece of news that has been allowed to surface involves the death of 40-odd CRPF personnel in a tragic suicide attack in Pulwama about three weeks ago. The rest is nothing but utter hogwash and falsehood. For once Raj Thackeray of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena is spot on when he says that “To know the truth behind the Pulwama attack, let Ajit Doval be questioned”
It is in the light of these circumstances that following the Pulwama attack, the Prime Minister’s appeal for calm involving acts of vandalism on Kashmiris working in other states of India came at a time when the damage had already been done. By that time, more than 4,000 students studying in other states had already returned to the valley under duress. That was a classic case of too little too late, that too after the Supreme Court ruling, urging state governments to protect Kashmiris. Come to think of it, all this snugly fits into the electoral calculus of the Shah-Modi-Doval trio who see nothing unholy in anything that may, in their view, improve their electoral prospects, including resorting to questionable tactics.
How does one distinguish truth from a lie? Conventional wisdom has it that a lie has no legs to stand. In contrast, truth is distinguished by the quality of being characterised by a unique interpretation of its import. Which is why the innumerable and contradictory versions of the number of those killed in the Balakot air strike, as provided by the Army, politicians, media and the government should convince even diehard bhakts that there was no such thing as human casualties in the air strike, barring perhaps one single casualty- some odd trees in the forest! This narrative of falsehood does not end there.
The spectacle involving IAF pilot Abhinanadan finding himself inside Pakistan territory during a dogfight in the air, his subsequent capture and release by Pakistan, presents yet another picture where falsehood is pushed to absurd levels. Much as the government machinery was gaga in praise of the pilot for his bravery and valour, the fact is that his escapade into enemy air space followed by his fulsome praise of the Pak army as a ‘professional force’ has not gone down well with those who have ended up with egg on their face following his quick and unexpected release by the Pak authorities.
As if that was not enough, yet another salvo of falsehood fired was evident in the brazenness of bhakts’ unsubstantiated claims involving their hypothetical role in bringing tremendous pressure to bear upon the “Pak PM who had no choice but to give in!” They went to the extent of saying that Pakistan had done no great favour to India by releasing the captured Indian pilot because they were obliged to do so under the Geneva Convention (GC) on the treatment to be meted out to prisoners of war. How hypocritical of them to invoke the GC, as they don’t seem to know that the current stand-off between India and Pakistan does not fall in the category of war, just yet.
Why do hypernationalists forget their own share of responsibility when it comes to Kashmir whose inhabitants are treated with unspeakable indignity and inhumanity, even in situations where they are not even remotely involved in any illegal or anti-national activity? Recall, the disturbing images of a Kashmiri boy being strapped to an army jeep and paraded through the streets by one Major Gogoi of the Indian Army when he was returning home after casting his vote.
What is worse, the whole country had erupted in rapturous admiration and support for this ignominious act by the officer when he was acquitted of this heinous crime by a court of enquiry conducted by the Army. So much for the intellectual honesty of the Indian elite which has willingly chosen to acquiesce in to this climate of intolerance and violence by staying aloof.
In this battle of perception, where the effort to spread lies and falsehood have been employed as a chief weapon by the spin doctors of the ruling party and the government, I go with Justice (Retd) Markandey Katju who says that except for a handful, those involved in print/electronic media in India are ignorant, ill-informed, hardly educated and moronic to the core. The media’s sense of history is so pathetic so as not to understand that the single source of tension between India and Pakistan has to be pinned down entirely to the core issue of Kashmir. Everything else is peripheral, including the oft-repeated reference to what is being referred to as 'cross-border terrorism'.
The bottomline is that all this will vanish into thin air once the K-issue is resolved once and for all to the (minimal dis) satisfaction of all those involved - -Kashmiris, India and Pakistan. It has to be conceded that the Indian position on what India maintains as 'export of terror against India emanating from the soil of Pakistan' may have some merit in it. However, the point is that it makes little sense to expect Pakistan to eliminate terrorism from its soil on its own without India chipping in. And to this end, all that India has to do is to shun its reluctance to address the core issue of Kashmir by initiating a process for dialogue with Pakistan and Kashmiris who are the genuine stakeholders in a solution.
The greatness of India is in the voices of reason and rectitude that ought to be heeded and acted upon, not in naked falsehood being propagated by bhakts consisting of sabre rattling, jingoistic, hypernationalist enemies of this country masquerading as (fossilised) defence experts, (ill informed) journalists and (self -seeking) politicians.
It is time to lend an ear to what author Arundhati Roy has to say on that count: "Kashmir is the real theatre of unspeakable violence and moral corrosion that can spin us into violence and nuclear war at any moment. To prevent that from happening, the conflict in Kashmir has to be addressed and resolved".
How one wishes that wisdom dawned upon those calling the shots to understand that it is the unresolved K-issue that has spawned so much death and destruction in Kashmir and in the region- and that everything else is a red herring.
I conclude by the following words, not by someone of the so-called ‘tukde tukde gang’, an urban Maoist or by some Trojan horse in the camp, but by a son of the soil, Rajiv Tyagi, a former IAF pilot.
In his recent essay "Of limited wars and precision strikes" that had appeared in a newspaper some days ago, Tyagi aptly sums up the India of today "I don’t know what has happened to our populace. We have become a very stupid and a hysterical nation, almost like caricatures in a cartoon movie. And we vote politicians exactly like us".
A moment of reflection indeed, for those who set so much store by deception and falsehood.
The writer is professor in the Department of Mathematics, Kashmir University, Srinagar. The views are personal.