The Bigger Picture
How BJP used Kargil martyrs for their political benefit
Vijay Divas was a means of concealing the guilt of the BJP-led NDA government in allowing Pakistani forces to make massive incursions.
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By all rights, Kargil Vijay Divas, the formal end of the Kargil war of 1999, ought to be a solemn event commemorating the sacrifices of the 474 officers and men who died pushing back Pakistani intruders from the strategic heights above Kargil. By and large it is indeed observed as such, except, curiously, by people close to the ruling party who use the occasion to bait liberal academics in Indian universities.
In JNU, the vice-chancellor led a tiranga rally on the eve of Kargil Vijay Divas in which he not only demanded that a tank be placed on campus to promote “love for the army”, but a retired general, well known for his hawkish performance in TV channels, likened the occasion to a “capturing” the liberal fortress of JNU and called on similar “victories” in Jadavpur University and University of Hyderabad.
So, it was not surprising when, a week later, the students’ wing of the BJP forcibly set up a Kargil “memorial” on the University of Hyderabad campus, which was subsequently demolished by varsity authorities. That it was a political move, and not really motivated by any solemn goal of commemorating the Kargil sacrifices, is evident from the fact that it was set up near a memorial for Rohit Vemula, a Dalit student who committed suicide in January 2016.
It is ironical that elements close to the BJP are using Kargil in their culture wars against liberalism. This is because the whole Kargil Divas was actually a means of concealing the guilt of the BJP-led NDA government in allowing Pakistani forces to make massive incursion in a strategically critical part of the country.
The sheer bravery of the troops, who set aside the canons of modern warfare and frontally took on the enemy, saved the government’s neck.
That is why we have no similar public “celebrations” for the day Indian forces flew in to rescue Kashmir on October 27, 1947, or when they turned defeat into victory in Asal Uttar in September 1965, or for that matter, captured Dhaka in December 1917. The failure of the BJP-led government was at three levels.
First, it failed in its strategic assessment of Pakistan. Even as the Pakistan Army was readying to cross the LoC in February 1999, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was making India’s most dramatic gesture of peace by visiting the Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore. Claims of “Pakistani perfidy” would have had greater credibility had they been accompanied an acknowledgement of your own naivety and culpability.
At the second level was the inability to understand what was happening even after the first news of Pakistani infiltration came in on May 5, 1999. The first formal meeting of the cabinet committee on security (CCS), the one in which it finally authorised the use of IAF, took place only on May 25. This was a failure of not just the brigade in question, but up the ladder to the division, Corps, Army HQ, the R&AW, PMO and the CCS. Yet, as is famously known, no one paid the price for this except a lowly brigadier.
At the third level, was the nature of the Indian response that led to heavy casualties. The government insisted that the conflict be confined to the area in which the Pakistanis had intruded. So instead of fighting on a ground of our choosing our soldiers were made to undertake frontal attacks on a ground well prepared by the Pakistani forces.
Several excuses were trotted out for this, principally that a wider conflict would have been escalatory and could have led to nuclear war. But surely, there were alternatives and why was the onus of preventing escalation on us, and not the Pakistanis?
The Kargil Review Commission was set up with the careful mandate to “review the events leading up to the Pakistani aggression” and to recommend measure to prevent a recurrence. It self-consciously avoided apportioning blame, and though it broadly absolved the military brass and criticised R&AW, it did refer to the “euphoria in some political quarters” over the Lahore process.
The sheer bravery of the troops, who set aside the canons of modern warfare and frontally took on the enemy, saved the government’s neck. Their sacrifice does indeed demand solemn observance, but always with the knowledge that had the government handled the situation more competently, they may have been with us today.
Instead, what we are forced to confront is the shoddy and sad use of the occasion to promote a political platform.
(Courtesy: Mail Today.)