Op-Ed: Let The War Frenzy Play Out Its Course

When a layman says something like this, it is at least understandable, if not condonable. But when a person holding the exalted post of Governor, who is sworn to protect and uphold the Constitution, does the same, it has serious implications for democracy and the Idea of India. Meghalya Governor Tathagata Roy has disgraced not just himself but the high constitutional post that he holds with his abominable comment on how the rest of the country should deal with the alleged perfidy of the Kashmiris.

Here is what Ray tweeted on Tuesday afternoon. “An appeal from a retired colonel of the Indian Army: Don’t visit Kashmir, don’t go to Amarnath for the next 2 years. Don’t buy articles from Kashmir euphoria or Kashmiri tradesmen who come every winter. Boycott everything Kashmiri. I am inclined to agree.” After his tweet predictably created an uproar, he even had the cheek to defend himself saying it was a ‘non-violent’ way of dealing with the problem. “I am bound by what is written in the Constitution,” he said. He is obviously a man unlettered in the nuances of the Indian Constitution, knows only its ‘letter’ and hasn’t heard of something called the ‘spirit’ behind it.

But the fault perhaps lies not with him, but with the government that appointed him to this high constitutional post in the first place. After all, it is not possible for someone to change his world view at the age Ray is in. But propriety demands that such persons are kept out of harm’s way from any statutory posts. Unfortunately, the Modi government has given definite signs that it would stop at nothing in its cynical, single-minded pursuit of saffronising every institution.

This brings us to Modi’s own conduct since the deadly attack on a CRPF convoy in Pulwama on Valentine’s Day that left at least 40 jawans dead. For once, the Opposition rose to the occasion with Congress President Rahul Gandhi taking the lead in assuring the PM and the countrymen that the entire Opposition was firmly behind the government in this hour of crisis. In doing this, Rahul showed statesmanship which we didn’t know he was capable of. But the man, whose statesmanship matters the most at this juncture, showed himself as a person incapable of rising above politics.

Having taken the praiseworthy decision to call an all-party meeting to formulate a unified response to the provocation the day after the attack, Modi spoilt all the good work by running away to Maharashtra to address a rally instead of playing the leadership role expected of him at a time like this and deputing his Home minister Rajnath Singh instead to chair the meeting. BJP President Amit Shah and the party’s ‘star campaigner’ and UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath did even worse. They went ahead with their political engagements as the whole country was mourning the death of the jawans on February 14, the day of the attack.

Let me make it clear that I do not subscribe to the mischievous insinuation being propagated by a section of pathological Modi-haters that the Pulwama attack was engineered by his government to raise its sagging electoral prospects by building up war hysteria ahead of the elections. Apart from the sheer implausibility of the suggestion, it is also bad strategy because it would have the exact opposite effect of what is intended and would play straight into the hands of the BJP – just as the insinuation by a section of the intelligentsia that the burning alive of 59 kar sevaks in Godhra was the handiwork of the BJP did in the 2002 Gujarat elections, which set Modi firmly on course for a national role!

But make no mistake. In their utterances since the attack, Modi and his fellow travelers have made it abundantly clear that they are not at all averse to cashing in on the nationwide emotional outpouring in the wake of the Pulwama attack to inflate its electoral tally. At a time when the PM, as the leader of the nation, should rise above partisan considerations and try to douse the flames of passion unleashed by the dastardly attack by appealing for calm, Modi and his minions are busy raising the temperature several notches higher. Yogi Adityanath’s speeches during his visit to the state today were only the latest example of how the BJP is trying to make political capital out of the Pulwama attack.

A word of caution here for those well-meaning people who are going hammer and tongs against the war mongering and calls for retribution reverberating across the nation. Appeals for peace and calm are the need of the hour. But I am afraid excessive condemnation of those calling for retribution, even war, and calling them names could prove counter-productive. Outrage among the masses, not all of whom have the advantage of education and the moderation that comes with it, and calls for revenge are only natural on occasions like this. I am sure the chorus would play out its course in a few days and things would be back to normal. That’s why excessive criticism of such people runs the risk of being misunderstood and backfiring.

The real challenge is for the Union government not to be influenced by the public outcry and do what is in the best interests of the nation. Unfortunately though, the Modi government appears to be doing the exact opposite by feeding the war frenzy.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)