Hollow patriotism over human shield episode on Twitter hurts Indian Army

There are more things in heaven and earth than 140 characters, which need to be understood for explaining a complex reality like Kashmir.

 |  6-minute read |   26-05-2017
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The ongoing war on media between the pro- and anti-human-shield operation in Kashmir has once again put a question mark on our ability to deal with sensitive issues in today’s superfast world, where everything – from enjoying gratification to establishing truth, or even, acquiring wisdom – is expected to be instantaneous.

In this binary world knowledge and wisdom are often acquired through monosyllables; yes or no, pro or anti is quite adequate for describing an individual’s philosophy, value system, level of patriotism and so forth.

Hence, no one needs to go beyond 140 characters for experimenting with truth. Mahatma would have been a terribly disturbed soul today.

On this quick road to wisdom, a celebrity micro-blogger with a huge fan-base can now immediately acquire the status of a thinker. Naturally, few can resist such a temptation, when it doesn’t involve more than posting a few tweets.

Unfortunately, there are more things in heaven and earth than 140 characters, which need to be understood for explaining a complex reality to millions of followers. It is more so, when we talk about Kashmir,where the complexity of the reality has truly acquired Himalayan proportion, probably keeping in tune with the region’s geographical location.

gogoibd_052617031500.jpgMajor Nitin Leetul Gogoi’

Whatever we know so far (mainly, from media reports), it seems the troops under major Nitin Leetul Gogoi’s command were in a difficult situation and the major had to take a quick on-the-spot decision to avert a calamity of much higher magnitude. Whether the particular decision at that moment was right is a matter of actual investigation.

To all fairness to the Army, it must be acknowledged that they have already initiated a formal inquiry. Such an enquiry is extremely critical for a highly professional Army, like the Indian Army, for demonstrating its true commitment in fixing accountability.

Every action of its personnel, irrespective of the rank, has to be justified in accordance to the law of the land and also, in conformity with international conventions regarding the dos and don’t s of any army operation.

Liberals who are criticising the Army for using a person as shield are wrong to pronounce their judgment before even completion of the Army’s own inquiry. It is also important to acknowledge that even if the inquiry finds it wrong on major Gogoi’s part to use a civilian as shield, nevertheless, we must be sensitive to what he had actually accomplished by applying quick thinking on the spot to save lives of civilians as well as military personnel involved in that operation.

In the court of law, it is quite possible that Gogoi will be held responsible for committing a crime and violating conventions for which he has to face repercussions. This is normal in any justice system and in all professions, which is often accepted as necessary professional hazard.

But, the citizenry still need not look at major Gogoi as a criminal. On the contrary, we should feel sorry for him for having to end up in a situation where he had only Hobson’s choice available.

Having said that, it must be also recognised that if major Gogoi was just doing his duty to the best of his ability to assess and avert a calamity (even if he transgressed convention to achieve that), the ministers and celebrities must not score brownie points and derive political mileage riding on the poor officer's shoulder.

If Gogoi has to answer to his bosses in the Army for what he did and why, the ministers and other ruling party leaders must let the citizens of the country know what they have done so far to make the political situation better, so that the Gogois of the Army are not put into similar situation again and again.

There is no point in denying the fact that the situation in Kashmir today is much worse than what it was even a few years ago when peace was limping back to the region.

By politicising the whole issue involving major Gogoi, our leaders, who are making public statements (often through their celebrity admirers) either in favour or against Gogoi’s actions, are only making a professional force, which is operating in a complex and mentally tiring situation, more vulnerable to political attacks.

This is going to have serious repercussions on the morale of our security forces and their professionalism.

It is disgusting to see how ministers are avoiding their own responsibility by simply leaving everything to the Army. Arun Jaitley is certainly right when he says that in a war-like zone let our Army officers, as professionals, decide what needs to be done.

By telling the public this commonsensical truth, he, however, cannot expect people to give him a pat on his back. As one of the most senior ministers of the government he must tell us what initiatives he or his government have taken so far to transform the war-like zone to a normal zone. The general perception is: none.

It is now obvious to many that the Modi government’s handling of the Kashmir situation is leading us to a total disaster. Its opportunistic alliance is only adding fuel to the fire. The government it seems naïvely believes that only Army action can lead to a permanent solution.

It is a no-brainer to see what one can achieve through such an approach. Just look at Israel to understand the futility and social costs of pursuing a military-only solution. With all its aggressions backed by hugely superior military power what has it achieved so far in terms of solving the Palestinian problem?

It is heartening to see that some senior BJP leaders are now realising how Modi is allowing the Kashmir situation to go out of control. Much to the chagrin of the government, these leaders are now taking their own initiatives for starting a dialogue with other parties for developing a political consensus and bringing Kashmir back from the brink.

But, the government is still doggedly sticking to its singularly focused confrontationist policy. As the situation gets grimmer by the day, to hide its failure the ruling party will resort to more jingoism accompanied by the bogey of patriotism.

Army could be a very potent instrument in this strategy. It can be very effectively used to foment patriotic feelings. Hopefully, the leadership of the ruling party will finally realise that to gain public sympathy for itself by exploiting the sacrifices and bravery of our jawans is simply despicable.

By sharing super patriotic wisdom encapsulated in 140 characters, celebrities, many of whom these days are wearing patriotism on their sleeve, can only give their political leaders a false sense of righteousness.

Such hollow patriotism is not only harming the Indian Army by dragging it into a propaganda war, but also pushing the country to the cliff with all its spine-shivering consequences.

Also read: Indian Army normalised war crime by awarding officer who used a Kashmiri as human shield


Abhijit Bhattacharya Abhijit Bhattacharya @b_abhijit

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