It’s Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary and the state of the nation is not good. Not with regard to its neighbour and not with regard to itself.
On Thursday, the Indian Army conducted attacks specifically targeting terrorist launch pads across the Line of Control with Pakistan. These ‘surgical strikes’, according to the Army, successfully neutralised over 40 terrorists with no casualties to the Indian troops. The strikes were conducted to avenge the 18th September attack by militants on an Army Camp in the Kashmiri town of Uri, in which 19 Indian soldiers were killed. Pakistan denies there were any strikes at all.
Things haven’t been this bad between the two countries since the Kargil War. The SAARC summit, to be held in Islamabad, has been postponed after several other countries followed India’s decision not to attend. Villages within 100 kilometres of the LOC in India have been evacuated in anticipation of retaliatory attacks by Pakistan. Even the much-loved Pakistani artists such as actor Fawad Khan were asked to leave by zealous jingoists and a public letter addressed to him by a so-called fan, claiming he owed his wealth and success to Bollywood and presumptuously speaking on behalf of all Indians while telling him he was not wanted- went viral on social media.
And then there was the media itself, overjoyed, I daresay, at not having to look for something sensational to report. While the rest of the team worked overtime, I reckon the only people who got a good day’s rest were the ones they probably hire to invent “BREAKING NEWS”. Jokes aside, it was quite disgusting the way several news anchors across the Indian channels seized the opportunity to belittle, mock, challenge, threaten and instruct Pakistanis whom they had invited on their shows, whether they be former presidents or senior army officials. They were all given a dose of the news anchor’s two-bit views and philosophies. Many like me cringed. While no one in their right minds wants these tensions to further escalate, much less to the point of war, the electronic media has certainly done its bit to fuel the flames with its jingoistic chest-thumping, cashing in on TRPs with plain disregard for the consequences the nation could bear.
Within the country too, division has been writ large with the actuations of “gow rakshak”, (cow guardians), who couldn’t really give two hoots about a cow unless it were to accuse someone of eating it and knock them off, because they’ve decided no one will eat beef.
Hypocrisy affects the nation everywhere one looks. What unity do we so proudly speak of when two people from different economic and social strata are so completely and utterly removed from one another’s reality that it would be difficult and quite uncomfortable for them to even have a five-minute conversation with one another.
We are well-divided by class and yet there is not much class at all in the way we act.
Women are raped, people are stabbed, animals are tortured but we look the other way. We are not one. We have no common ideology. No tolerance. No clue who we are and what we stand for. We stand alone. “An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind”, said the Mahatma. Well, seems he was right. We subscribe heavily to the eye-for-an-eye policy and divided we are by religion, state, culture, profession, gender, caste and finance. As we all rest at home, celebrating Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday amidst such tension between the two countries he never wanted to separate, perhaps we could find a moment to take a deep breath, forgive someone or something, remember our history and ourselves. Perhaps there is still time to turn back from the path of conflict and dehumanisation that we have embarked on. Our Army may defend our borders but it’s really up to us to defend what’s inside them.
Funny, this is supposed to be a blog about animals and I haven’t really spoken of any. Or have I?