War is Not the Answer

By Ashwin Tombat
24 March 2019 21:24 IST

Yoga guru Baba Ramdev says: “It is better to fight a war with Pakistan than suffer daily.” He wants to break Pakistan into “three pieces”. The Baba told reporters this at the lavish launch ceremony of a Patanjali Ayurved store in Chhattisgarh.

Many who sit in TV studios also decided that India must go to war with Pakistan. Republic TV’s Arnab Goswami said “#IndiaWantsRevenge”. Times Now’s Navika Kumar asked whether India had reached a “point of no return”.  ABP News aired clips from Bollywood’s hit film on the 2016 surgical strike, ‘Uri’!

India Today’s Rahul Kanwal congratulated the PM for being “ready for all consequences, including limited war”. News18’s Bhupendra Chaubey said that the United States should bomb Pakistan’s terror camps. TimesNow’s Rahul Shivshankar discussed about banning “terror apologists” from contesting elections.

Except Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Despite the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) saying it was cancelling all political events on that day, he continued to ask people to vote him back to power with a bigger majority.

Political experts say the Indian Air Force strike in Balakot will help Mr Modi win 350 seats in the coming Lok Sabha election. Former Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa said the IAF air strikes will help the BJP win 22 Lok Sabha seats in the state.

Remember the two-month Kargil war, from May to July 1999? It was comprehensively won by India just over a month before Lok Sabha elections. The late Pramod Mahajan had then declared: “In 1997 India celebrated 50 years of Independence, mostly under the Congress, but the next 50 years belong to the BJP.” In that election, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led BJP got just 182 seats — same as its 1998 tally. The Telugu Desam enabled it to form the government.

This time, we have an air strike. Its accuracy and effectiveness are disputed. Each country lost one aircraft. Balakot is no Kargil… 

War is obscenely expensive. Victory is by no means assured. Nearly 68 per cent of India’s defence equipment is ‘vintage’. We don’t have ammunition to support more than 10 days of war. Our Air Force has too few planes; many are seriously outdated.  We do have the finest and bravest soldiers. But are they equipped to win?

Worse, our government does not treat the Armed Forces as well as it should.

On Zee News, panelist Major D P Singh — whose right leg had to be amputated after injury in the 1999 Kargil War — said that more than military action, India must ensure that youth are not radicalised. The anchor’s response: “Perhaps you have not seen Pulwama pictures; that is why you don’t agree that the only solution is badla.” On his Facebook page, Major Singh wrote: “If a pagal padosi can enter my house and radicalize my youth and I am unable to guard them, perhaps somewhere I am wrong.”

Studio warriors and social media soldiers can never imagine what it takes to lose life or limb… And then to knock the doors of the court to get justice. In one case, the Ministry of Defence asked a widow to produce her husband’s body to get her pension! She fought for 30 years to get her dues.

Wounded soldiers and widows of martyrs have to go to court for years for disability pension. Thousands of cases are pending. Despite Supreme Court judgments to withdraw unnecessary cases, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is still the biggest litigant. Mostly, it spends more on lawyers’ fees than the actual pension would have cost.

Not surprisingly, those least enthusiastic about war are retired military officers of middle ranks. “Stop talking revenge/war sitting on easy chairs. Fight terror in any way if you can,” said one tweet. “Soldiers and their families pay the price, not video-gamers sitting in drawing rooms,” said another.

“Be calm. Wise men will find a way to resolve the conflict. The price is paid by children, widows and parents. The Mahabharata teaches us the futility of a victory at the cost of a generation,” wrote Col DPK Pillay.

Among the 44 martyred CRPF jawans at Pulwama was Babloo Santra from Howrah in West Bengal. His grieving widow Mita feels that “war cannot solve every problem”. Mita, a history teacher, was trolled on social media for being “cowardly and self-centred”.

But it is Vijeta, the widow of Squadron Leader Ninad Mandavgane — among seven IAF men killed when his Mi-17 chopper crashed in Kashmir's Budgam district — who gets the last word: "We don't want a war. You don't know the damages of war. We don't want more Ninads to go. Social media warriors, please stop. If you want war, go to the front…”

(Originally published on Sunday 10 March 2019, in 'Lokmat')

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Ashwin Tombat

Ashwin Tombat has been the Editor of Gomantak Times and Herald. Worked as an Associate Editor of national magazine Gentleman in Mumbai, before shifting to Goa. Loves sailing, also participates in Marathons. Has worked as an activist in students's union and trade unions in Maharashtra. Also an artist of Street Theatre during student days.

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