IIT Madras student is right: GD Bakshi has a flawed idea of uniting India

If solidarity among citizens is premised on hatred for the warring neighbour, it is severely problematic.

 |  6-minute read |   13-08-2016
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In a recent extra-mural lecture delivered at Indian Institute of Technology in Madras (IIT-M), Major General (Retd.) GD Bakshi allegedly said, "In our generation, we split Pakistan into two. Your generation should split it into 4." Bakshi's "irrational jingoism" wasn't well received by an MTech student Abhinav Surya who wrote to the institute's director complaining about the retired army officer's hate mongering.

"I am writing this letter to you with a bleeding heart, worried about the recent EML lecture by GD Bakshi on 11th August, 2016. I am still not able to digest the fact the institute has given a platform to such a speech filled with hatred, instigating violence among the students. A lecture that was heavily loaded with brewing enmity, inhumanity and glorification of brutality," Surya wrote.

The student's rebellion did not go unheard. IIT-M's director Bhaskar Ramamurthi responded by forwarding the complaint of the student to the core EML team responsible for organising the lecture. "I am copying the EML core on this email. I request them to look into your complaint to see if any legal boundaries were crossed with regard to incitement to violence, etc. No public speaker, EML or otherwise, can cross these," he stated.

Unrepentant Bakshi

According to The News Minute, Major General Bakshi is least embarrassed about his comments. "They tried to break up India, so we need to break them up into four, of course," an unrepentant Bakshi told the news portal. He claimed that his speech was supported by 99.9 per cent of students and only 10-12 Kashmiri, left liberal students opposed what he said.

Thereafter, wittingly or unwittingly, Bakshi made public his distrust of Kashmiris. "I do not respect Kashmiri students or leftist liberals - they only try to promote sedition on our campuses," he said. That sets the record straight. Bakshi is indeed a hate monger. Why? Because he thinks every Kashmiri and left liberal student promotes sedition. Such an assertion is absolutely ridiculous.

And if anyone thinks that Bakshi's sweeping remarks against Kashmiris and left-liberals are true then he/she too is in need of a reality check. They seem to have been influenced by a hyper nationalist, Hindutva government. We must not forget that the incumbent government's Home Minister Rajnath Singh had announced that the pro-Afzal Guru protests in Jawaharlal Nehru University(JNU) were backed by Hafiz Saeed on the basis of a fake tweet.

Interestingly, Bakshi also stated that India should support the freedom movement in Balochistan. As per Bakshi, "From 1993 onwards, we have been fighting terrorism in major cities. My contention was that we should equally support the freedom movements in Balochistan."

Such a viewpoint has been increasingly gaining currency in India. Yesterday, at an all-party meeting, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also said that there was a need to expose Pakistan's atrocities in Balochistan and Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir. But the fundamental question is: what moral authority does the Indian government have to raise both these issues in the international arena?

Indian political leaders and hyper-nationalist television anchors are silent about the extra-judicial killings, torture, sexual assault and use of pellet guns in the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir. It's true that army convoys should not be stone pelted or put on fire. Protests that turn violent lose their legitimacy.

However, what has prevented successive governments from reviewing Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)? No substantial measure has been undertaken to revoke the draconian legislation or subject the errant security officers to a fair trial.

Yet some people tend to argue that India should expose Pakistan's human rights violations. Shouldn't we put our own house in order first? And the situation is no better in Pakistan. Till very recently, there were no democratic elections in PoK to preserve its disputed nature. Terming Pakistan's Azad Kashmir as "far from free", the Human Rights Watch called out the Pakistani government for violation of basic freedoms and practising torture on a routine basis.

In Balochistan, thousands have gone missing with corpses being found in decomposed, mutilated state. But in the words of noted Pakistani author Ahmed Rashid, "the army, paramilitaries, and the government have consistently denied being responsible for violence in Balochistan, pointing instead to the myriad of armed groups operating in the region."

Let's face the facts. Both the sides are guilty of human rights violations in their respective territories. They don't wish to talk about their respective follies and open themselves up to high level probe. They are simply insincere about investigating into their human rights crimes and hence choose to indulge in convenient political deviations. That's precisely why Pakistan is perennially interested in J&K's human rights violations and now India is keenly following up on cases of barbarity in Balochistan, PoK.

At the end of the day, the people of J&K, PoK and Balochistan are the ones who lose everything. They are not only subjected to gross human rights violations by their governments but are also reduced to pawns in a dangerous game of geopolitics.

Bakshi's hatred not new

Coming back to Bakshi, he is not a recent convert to jingoism. In fact, he has been a venom-spewing orator since a long time. In April 2014, the author of this piece had a first-hand exposure to what Bakshi repeated in IIT-Madras. At that time, I was a student of Maharaja Agrasen College at the University of Delhi.

As a retired army officer, Bakshi was invited to be the chief guest at the annual day function. Very much like Surya, I too was aghast, when I heard Bakshi advocate the annihilation of Pakistan. His words were almost the same. He stated that the biggest achievement of his generation was that they split Pakistan into two parts and if the current generation supported them then they would split it into four parts.

I am least surprised that Bakshi has claimed that most of the students appreciated his speech at IIT-Madras. At my college, he was given a standing ovation. That's right! The auditorium reverberated with thunderous applauses every time Bakshi sounded his war cry.

Flawed idea of unity 

There are certain sections within the Indian society who seem to base India's unity on an anti-Pakistan plank. Bakshi also belongs to the same group. That's probably the reason why he mentioned at IIT-Madras that the best way to strengthen India's unity was by fighting Pakistan.

I recently had lunch with someone who said "Indians don't seem to realise the difference between being aggressive and abusive."

The context of the conversation was obviously different. But it says a lot about us as a nation. We somehow don't realise that we can question Pakistan's actions pertaining to cross-border terrorism without hating ordinary Pakistanis. We can work towards a peaceful solution despite all bilateral disputes with Pakistan without destroying Pakistan.

It's such a simple thing which is not so commonly understood. Someone I know raised the slogan "Bharat Mata Ki Jai" in the presence of a few colleagues.

The response that he received was below his expectations, so he raised the slogan "Pakistan Murdabad". This is something we need to change. If unity between a set of people is premised on hatred for someone else then it is severely flawed.

India must come together to annihilate casteism, communalism, corruption, misogyny and terrorism. But Indians must refrain from building unity with the intention of destroying a neighbouring country.


Saif Ahmad Khan Saif Ahmad Khan @saifakhan

The writer is pursuing MA Convergent Journalism from AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia.

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