Sections of the media along with the Sangh Parivar are trying to build up a hypermilitarism to turn attention away from the failure of state and central politics.
The Sangh first pushed for tanks in JNU. Later, this led to military symbols in Hyderabad Central University by the ABVP.
Firstly, war is something all Indian rulers have avoided. Thousands of civilians as well as soldiers die in wars and many are badly injured.
It is not true that symbols of victory and courage are few. For example, at the most important symbol - India Gate - there is a memorial for the Indian soldier. In various parts of the country there are cannons, tanks, fighter planes, helicopters and statues of war heroes.
But there are many symbols of places of worship too - the site of Buddha’s meditation, graves of saints, places of pilgrimage, and so on. The problem from the Sangh to ex-militarymen is that they privilege militarism.
It is intriguing that the unaware are wanting to play up Kargil. Some even refer to a Kargil War. But the hostilities in Kargil between the Indian and Pakistan army were a battle not a war. The decisive war won by India was the December 1971 War, in which the Indian military substantially aided the Bangladeshi liberation struggle, leading to the independence of Bangladesh from West Pakistan.
The Bangladeshis had to pay a terrible cost of some 3 million dead. So, as many militarist civilians don’t realise, wars are bloody and apart from the military many civilians can die.
But is land valourised as the land of armies or the land of saints, pious poets, and holy pilgrimages? From Buddha, to Asoka, to Kabir, Mira Bai, Guru Nanak, Nizamuddin, Ghalib, to Sheikh Nooruddin, such holy and saintly people have spread the message of peace and brotherhood.
War is valourised only if we win. There is little talk of martyrs when we lose.
These great souls have inspired the poor, the uneducated, the homeless, the jobless, i.e. millions of common people. Not through aggression, death and despair. We must remember that even in the wars India won, there was considerable damage to the country’s infrastructure.
The problem with militarism is that it opposes peace, including the peaceful resolution of conflicts and disputes. Most military experts agree that the 1962 India-China War was a disaster. An expert committee report called the Henderson Brooks-PS Bhagat report was never declassified by the Indian government.
That was because the 1962 War was a debacle. No remembrance for the many Indian dead who lost their lives in the snow and ice on the northern border. So war is valourised only if we win. There is little talk of martyrs when we lose.
For the sake of argument, let us agree that there should be a tank in JNU. Firstly, contrary to what retired generals say, a tank is not the most deadly weapon. On land, artillery barrages can be deadly for tanks. Even more deadly for tanks are aircraft especially those armed with armour piercing missiles or bombs.
Considering that modern fighter aircraft cost between $2-$4 million apiece, with the cost of missiles additional, it is a heavy cost to the exchequer. Particularly when we remember that a survey by economists Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze calculated through the purchasing power of the rupee compared with other currencies, that the extent of poverty was 68.7 per cent in 2013.
How many educated people does the military require out of the entire school population? National Defence Academy cadets are high school products, a very small proportion of the students available. Those in Army-connected civilian jobs are even less. While these sections must be given due credit for their contribution to the defence effort, are not deadly weapons placed in schools, not to speak of higher education, a very small part of the security forces.
While lauding the military, militarists play down the role of the paramilitary and police. For example, in Kargil the Ladakh scouts through the local people found Pakistani cigarettes, canned food tins etc, and warned the Army. They also provided information to the jawans about the best route to the heights occupied by the Pakistani soldiers.
Similarly, on the Pakistan-Kashmir border the paramilitary CRPF are kept in reserve. When, as is quite common, there is shelling by the Pakistani troops, Indian civilians are injured and killed. So war or armed conflict are not events to valourise. Nor are the instruments of war - which are often costly for a poor country such as ours.
Major victories in cricket, badminton etc, are sidelined when it comes to warmongering - hysterical channels have a lot to learn.
It is important to remember that by 1964 there was mass opposition to the Vietnam War. Even the great boxer Mohammed Ali publicly opposed it. Those who valourise war and weapons are diminishing and distorting Indian culture and non-violent values.
Truly, political discourse and hate speech are polluting the basic values of our society and culture.