Referring to India’s response to the Pulwama terror attack on the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy by an operative owing allegiance to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan-based jihadi organisation, Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), the South Asia scholar Christine Fair recently wrote that it “seemed to have awakened a somnambulant giant”.
Judging by the reactions from across the length and breadth of Bharatvarsh, the ghastly and dastardly act did indeed seem to have woken India up from its deep Kumbhakarana-like slumber of ‘strategic restraint’ that had come to characterise New Delhi’s policy towards Pakistan over the years.
The attack that saw India lose 40 of its CRPF personnel — in a non-combat situation — also indicated the violation of what many call India’s 'Shishupala Principle' — according to the Mahabharata legend, Shishupala was destined to be killed by Lord Krishna, his cousin. Shishupala’s mother, however, convinced Krishna to pardon Shishupala for 100 sins before killing him.
Shishupala had his punishment coming. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Emboldened by this boon, and misjudging this as weakness on Krishna’s part, Shishupala kept attacking and humiliating Krishna. As Shishupala committed his 101st sin, Krishna launched his Sudarshan Chakra to punish Shishupala by taking his life.
India, in its self-inflicting strategy of strategic restraint, has been pardoning numerous Pakistani transgressions. The mayhem of 26/11 in Mumbai saw 10 jihadi zealots from Pakistan take more than 160 lives and stun this city of over 1.2 crore people. Many more were injured. The gore of the Mumbai train blast, the carnage at Delhi’s Akshardham Mandir, serene, yet bustling with devotees, the attack at India’s Sansad Bhavan et al, are just a few in the long list of attacks from across the border, carried out by proxies.
However, judging by the reaction now, the Pulwama terror attack seems to have pushed the everyday Indian over the edge. Indians, it would appear, seem to have finally overcome the lethargy of their ‘Hanuman Syndrome’. India, realising its position of strength, was ready to strike. Twelve days after the Pulwama attack, during the early hours of February 26, India sent a fleet of 12 Mirage 2000 Indian Air Force planes several kilometres deep inside Pakistani territory. The fighter jets bombed their targets and returned to their base safely.
The Pulwama attack generated huge outrage, both inside and outside India. As the dead bodies of CRPF officers reached the small towns and villages of India, there was an outpouring of feeling never seen before. People lined up for miles to show their respect to their fallen heroes.
India's anger over Pulwama was of a kind that the country hadn't seen before. (Source: Reuters)
It also started a process of intellectual churn that saw several scholarly articles being written and serious debates being held. It was probably for the first time that the situation was prominently analysed using Dharmic principles in major media outlets.
Citing a discourse between Bhishma and Yudhishthir in the Shanti Parva of the Mahabharata, Gautam Chikermane presented a brilliant analysis of the situation from a dharmic perspective. In the aftermath of the Pulwama attack, a war with Pakistan suddenly seems a possibility. Terming it a dharma yudha, a righteous war between good and evil, Chikermane asks four important questions — Should India go to war with Pakistan? What sort of war should it be? What would be the best victory? What tribute to extract post-victory?
Similarly, Sumedha Verma Ojha analysed the situation from the Kautilyan perspective. Kautilya, in his Arthashastra, propounds the saptanga (seven limbs) concept of statecraft, consisting of ‘swami, the king; amatya, the minister; janapada, the land and the people; durga, the fortress; kosha, the treasury; danda, the army; and mitra, the allies’.
Kautilya also describes six methods of dealing with constituent states — “sandhi (peace), vigraha (hostility), asana (remaining quiet), yana (military expedition), sanshraya (seeking shelter), and dvaidhibhava (a combination of sandhi and vigraha).” Based on her analysis, Verma concludes: “This is not the time to invoke Gandhi but Kautilya. And this is the time to have faith in our government and army; swami, amatya, and danda.”
But no sooner than a consensus appeared to be emerging on tough action against Pakistan, the usual suspects from the left-leaning liberal elites started clamouring for 'restraint'. The release of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was captured by Pakistan after his MIG-21 went down in Pakistani territory once he had shot an F-16, provided fodder to such claims. Many even declared the Pakistani PM as a shantidoot based on this singular act.
It is important India follows Kautilyan principles and remains pragmatic to the core. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
This reminded me of Yaska and his great work Nirukta. The 9th century BCE grammarian (according to Kapil Kapoor) and etymologist believed that nouns are derived from verbs (dhatuj/akhyataj). This assertion, however, wasn’t without controversy. Many grammarians, including Gargya, argued that if all nouns were derived from verbs, every person who performs a particular action should have the same name. Yaska presented several counter-arguments to Gargya’s criticism. For example, Yaska says, everybody who cuts wood is not called a carpenter. Similarly, a carpenter performs many other actions besides cutting wood.
Therefore, to be considered a shantidoot, a random act of peace is not enough — one must exhibit his traits consistently.
Interestingly, the aftermath of the Pulwama attack also brought to the fore the deep-rooted hatred against Hindus that seems to prevail among many Pakistanis. The Pulwama attack bomber, a Kashmiri trained by the other side, himself made several denigrating references to Hindus, cows, etc., in his suicide video. After that, several videos surfaced on social media where no less than Pakistani federal ministers were heard making similar hateful comments against Hindus. A prisoner of war, retired Wing Commander MS Grewal, speaking on a recent TV show, apparently mentioned how he experienced the same hatred first-hand during his captivity in Pakistan.
This hatred towards ‘Hindu kafirs’ is not new. Husain Haqqani, former Pakistani ambassador to the US himself, an esteemed thinker and Director (South and Central Asia) at the Hudson Institute, writes, “Radical Islamists invoke the Hadith (the oral traditions attributed to the Prophet Muhammad) to prophesise a great battle in India between true believers and unbelievers before the end-times. These references in the Hadith to the Ghazwa-e-Hind (Battle of India) infuse South Asia with importance as a battleground in the efforts to create an Islamic caliphate resembling the social order that existed at the time of the Prophet Muhammad and the Rightly Guided Caliphs (632-661 AD).”
Against this backdrop of ancient hatreds, what is new, however, is a new India — ushered in by the Pulwama attack.
An India that is fully awakened. An India that is self-aware, self-confident and dharma-conscious. An India that is ready and willing to fight a righteous war.
As the Mahabharata says, dharmo rakshati rakshitah — those who uphold Dharma, Dharma protects them. India is learning that lesson, anew.