Real issues are clouded by national chauvinism By Ashim Chatterjee

From: The Asian Age,
18 June 1999,

Real issues are clouded by national chauvinism

By Ashim Chatterjee

That war psychosis rules the day and dominates the Indian mind at present cannot be denied anymore. As is apparent from the jaundiced popular reaction, it has cast its evil shadow over the World Cup that is in full swing in England. One is alarmed at the intensity of the menacing spirit dominating the cricket ground these days. Undeniably, what dominates an Indo-Pak match is not cricket at all. In fact, even at the risk of inviting the wrath of our "patriots," I admit that I was much relieved when India went out of the reckoning in the World Cup. The evil spirit of national chauvinism remained subdued for a couple of days. Our victory over Pakistan at Manchester exposed the ugly face of chauvinism. One was really alarmed. National sentiments, alas, have degenerated into national chauvinism &emdash; in the case of both cricket and Kargil.

The frenzy is so strong and intense that it has successfully drowned all the relevant life and death questions concerning the fate of the country. One may remember the debate on the power, jurisdiction and status of a caretaker government that dominated the national arena not so long ago. In the face of this pervading frenzy, the debate has been reduced to a mere irrelevant academic exercise. The minority caretaker government, without any accountability to any elected body whatsoever, is functioning as "more than a regular" one. A Prime Minister, discarded by Parliament and a defence minister, a known demagogue with little popular support, have arrogated to themselves the right to dictate terms and decide the fate of the country. And if one dares to raise uncomfortable questions, one is accused of treason. It is a sad time when natural intelligence and sense of responsibility is looked down upon as a vice and irresponsible, idiotic gullibility is praised as a precious virtue. We are asked to consume anything and everything unhesitatingly no matter what the government pleases to dish out as facts.

Meanwhile, all the self-contradictory statements of the government remain unexplained and the uncomfortable questions as to the correctness of the governmental claim remain unanswered. It is still not clear whom we are fighting at the Kargil-Batalik sector. Are they Kashmiri militants demanding liberation of Kashmir or mercenary intruders, aided and abetted by Pakistan? Or is it a case of Pakistani invasion, pure and simple? One wonders why the government is talking in different languages at different times. One equally fails to understand why our defence minister is eager to give a clean "chit" to Nawaz Sharif or his government and why is he talking of "safe passage." These, clearly, are not compatible with the theory of invasion. Mystery also shrouds the question of every casualty. If, as per the government claim, about 250 are dead, another 300 presumably are wounded, how can the remaining 100-150 men survive on the hard terrain in the face of continuous shelling and air raids by the Indian Army? Even a fortnight after the Operation Vijay [Indian Military code name for the Operations in Kargil, Kashmir] started, what actually is happening at the theatre of war remains very unclear.

In view of this incompatibility of governmental claims and real facts resulting in undeniable self-contradiction, the deafening silence of the Opposition is really surprising. While questions are being raised regarding the method adopted and the real intention of the BJP-led government, none dares to voice doubts as to what actually is happening at the Kargil-Batalik sector. This is a clear pointer to the strength and all-pervading influence of national chauvinism. All the political parties, swallowing all their scepticism, have meekly surrendered before this chauvinistic menace. Even the Left parties, who often claim that truth is objective, are no exception. Much respected and responsible Left leaders have come out in support of the war effort to drive out "intruders" in the valley. Obviously national chauvinism has won the day.

The rise of national chauvinism is not accidental. It is undeniably the result of conscious and concerted efforts spreading over a long period. It reached a new jingoistic height after Pokhran and was further permeated in our society through the cricket fever. With Kargil it has only burst asunder.

The development is really alarming, because history shows that the chauvinism never pays. Rather it erodes the strength of the country in the long run. One may recall the past experiences in the history of our country. International experiences also show no exception. Once upon a time, a German chauvinist, with the slogan of "only Germans are Aryans," promised to subjugate all the nations under German hegemony. History tells unequivocally that none has harmed the German nation more. Under the circumstances, the fight against national chauvinism has become imperative. In view of the fact that national chauvinism in our country offers communal fascists the opportunity to put on the guise of patriotism, it is all the more necessary. After all, two under developed poor countries like India and Pakistan need no war to settle bilateral issues. While being incompatible with their real interests, it is suicidal for both the countries.

Secular democratic forces with the inclusion of the Left should discard their present disappointing role and come out with the slogan in one voice, "Stop this suicidal war-mongering." Our jawans should not be used as cannon fodder unnecessarily to promote the political ambition of a handful few.

(Ashim Chatterjee is the general-secretary of the Communist Revolutionary League of India, and a former leader of the Naxalite movement)

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