Why blame Maharashtra CM for brokering a deal between KJo and Raj Thackeray?

When force reigns supreme, extortion resembles donation.

 |  6-minute read |   29-10-2016
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The border is bleeding. A dialogue of bullets is being reported. Bigger guns are firing in TV studios.

Between the two there is a total disconnect. The people who are taking the bullets on their bodies are of a different class. Near the LoC, the civilians who are getting hit and live under terror and uncertainty are the poor. The Jawans who die in action, terrorist or otherwise, are poor. We don't get to hear from them. Nor do we see their pain, panic or misery. The loud lamentations of widows last a few seconds. They vanish before we get to know their names. The heartbreaks of widows, you're right, is unnamable. It's, after all, only a game of numbers. One killed on this side. Ten, on that side. One tooth lost on this side, several jaws broken on that side. Sounds nice. But does it?

The ruling elite seeking to gain from war-mongering and its attendant patriotic fervor is nothing new.  Indira Gandhi did it quite smartly in 1971.  Military action that dismembered Pakistan was followed, lest we forget, by Internal Emergency in a few years. The connection between the two was lost on most people.

War is like golf; an expensive game. The poor pay for it with their life. The rest of us in the middle class spectrum pay for it with what little we have by way of livelihood. There is no instance in history of any war effort not resulting in inflation. Inflation hits the kitchen, bull's eye.  It determines the number of chapatis you may cook. Or, whether dhal should, or shouldn't, supplement chapatis.

fadnavis_102916091546.jpg It is strange that nobody is blaming the climate of opinion in which this irrational exercise took place? Fadnavis alone did not create it. Or, did he? Credit: PTI

It's no great deal to turn war into the opium of the masses. In the glee of inflicting pain on the enemy out there, you become insensitive to your own pain.  Of course, you are patted on the back for it.  But why is it that patriotism has different price tags for different classes of people? Why do the poor and the middle class have to pay disproportionately higher prices for warscompared to the socio-economic elite who are always the gainers?

Do a count of dead bodies, if you are not convinced. If at least ten thousand poor lives are not lost for every elite life, call it not war but a nuclear holocaust.

Our relationship with Pakistan has never been smooth.  Who wants it to be smooth? Sincerely? Perseverance is the proof of sincerity.  Hostility yields greater dividends than amity. Peace with Pakistan may not win an election. Crackling hostility could.  So, in whose interest is it to risk our lives and our pockets in the bushfire of war? It is not my contention that Pakistan is not to blame. It is not my case that Pak hands are not active behind terrorist episodes in J&K. I too insist that we must resort to every means possible to protect our borders and our lives. This is beyond all debate. But not everything else is.

Are our interests served best by waging a war or avoiding it through mature diplomacy?

One thing is absolutely certain. Already our public life is showing evident signs of wear and tear. Take the Fadnavis brokered peace between Raj Thackeray and Karan Johar. The blatant irrationality of it is a national insult which simply could not have been conceived, but for the prevailing climate in which the freedom and leisure to think rationally cannot be taken for granted.

A certain sum must be paid - of course voluntarily, but under compulsion- to a certain fund if a film, certified by the Censor Board is to be released. (A classic rule of law situation, this!)

The appeasement money must be offered, we are told, as a sign of admission that a "mistake" has been committed by the producers of the film. When was the mistake committed? When the film was being produced? Or when this mockery of a peaceful settlement was clinched? Surely it cannot be the former; for at that time the Government of India was happily doing business with Pakistan. Even after the Uri attack the hockey teams of India and Pakistan played in the Champions hockey tournament. How come that that is not a mistake, but Pak cine artists featuring in Karan's film is a mistake? Are we to believe that there were no Pakistanis in the Pak hockey team? Not even one?

Unlike most others, I do not blame Fadnavis. If I were in his shoes I might not have done any different. It is strange that nobody is blaming the climate of opinion in which this irrational exercise took place? Fadnavis alone did not create it. Or, did he? The problem with war-mongering is that it exiles rationality. When force reigns supreme, extortion resembles donation. After all the only difference between extortion and donation is violence. Once violence, or a display of greater violence, is national extolled, a particular logic is activated in the public domain.

On the one hand all of us are busy extolling violence as an idiom of national pride; for what is surgical strike, except an infliction of greater violence? Well deserved, but violence nonetheless. In such an ambience what is wrong about Fadnavis silently countenancing a deal that smacks of arm-twisting (MNS) and desperation (KJo)? We better make up our mind. Do we want a national climate in which reason and common sense shape thinking and activities? Or, do we want a situation in which anything can be done and justified under the thunderclap of jingoism?

Surely, the hallmark of mature foreign policy is that areas of tension are managed and contained. It is not in the interest of any nation to be in hostility with its neighbours. Chest thumping cannot last long. Sooner or later the painful reality will set in. Patriotic fervour is a poor substitute for medicine, education, jobs or even a decent meal. War efforts divert scarce resources from schemes meant to address the basic needs of citizens. They take away, besides, what little you've set apartfor the rainy day. The fact that the depletion of your personal resources takes place by indirect means, like a hand without the rest of a body picking your pocket, is no consolation. Human suffering is the same everywhere. Death is the same on both sides. The problems that citizens on both sides of the LoC face are also similar. It is the inability to see this simple truth that keeps the two nations sparring against each other. The terrorists are lamentably blind to it. Should we be?

Why are Pak artists featuring in our films such a huge offence? It is that it deflates war-mongering. Or, pulls us in a different direction.The popularity of artists from the so-called enemy country with the Indian masses tells a story, not of enmity, but of harmony and good will between the two peoples. We have no quarrels. Our eyes are not packed with hatred. For all of us there is life besides and beyond terrorism and hate-mongering. Frankly, we have nothing to do with any of these.

Ask anyone in his senses, the response will still be, "Jiyo aur jeene do".

Writer

Valson Thampu Valson Thampu

The writer is former principal of St Stephen's College, Delhi and former member of the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions (NCMEI).

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