People and the Indian Army are on their own is the lesson from June

As a meme put it succinctly, while the media deals with Pakistan, the army takes on intruders and people fend off the virus, BJP and the Prime Minister can focus on winning elections

Photo courtesy- Getty Images
Photo courtesy- Getty Images

Ranjona Banerji

On a normal day, every single little BJP/Narendra Modi/RSS supporter out there is a warmonger.

If not craving actual warfare, they extol the virtue of the Indian Armed Forces and have all sorts of gimmicky support lined up for soldiers. (Let’s not discuss the contentious One Rank One Pension for now.) But clearly, all this is only in peacetime.

When Indian soldiers are captured and brutally killed by China’s People’s Liberation Army in Ladakh, both our super-brave Modi-run administration and his large army of followers, go silent. Nothing in support of our dead soldiers, nothing about China’s actions, nothing about the honour of the Indian Armed Forces.

It took Mr Modi over 36 hours to respond to the news of the deaths in Galwan Valley on Twitter with a condolence message. It took him hardly any time at all to respond to the tragic death of a film star. But 20 Indian soldiers, or at least 20 Indian soldiers, maybe 40, maybe more? It takes time to compose that tweet, evidently. It is certain that the Indian government knew before the Indian people did. The Army and the ministry of external affairs both responded, contradicting each other.

And then the prime minister just capitulated to China, or so it seems to us shocked and horrified citizens. Suddenly, India had not entered anyone else’s territory, no one had entered our territory and we had given a befitting reply to an unnamed entity. There is no explanation of why Indian soldiers were killed, if no one entered anyone’s territory. Territory incidentally we have held since 1962 and which China has now claimed as its own. After Modi’s capitulation that is.

The writing on the wall is now as clear as it can be, in case the true purpose of the RSS/BJP ever fooled you. The main focus of the Modi government is to oppress and suppress the democratic rights of Indian religious minorities, particularly Muslims and Christians. And also,to break the backbone of Dalits, particularly those who speak out about the injustices they face now and have faced in the past. The focus is to establish a Hindu Rashtra. The dream of “Akhand Bharat” is on hold for now. China has ended that.

You can see how fast Modi went from telling India that no one entered our territory (as in the Galwan Valley is not our territory) to running to his makeup room to start an election campaign for Bihar. In which he invoked the sacrifice of the Bihar Regiment in order to sway votes in his favour. Not a word of remorse of course, even though those men died either due to his Government’s callousness or carelessness or cluelessness or capitulation. Everything is about elections and images. Even a subsequent clarification is full of obfuscation, to keep supporters and critics in the dark.

To some Indians, Modi’s image as a “strong” leader will have been damaged. But whether the scales have fallen from all eyes is another matter. Because you can rest assured that the BJP propaganda machine will not stop churning out the lies. And given their manipulative and perception control abilities, some people will continue to believe in them. In spite of all evidence to the contrary. The BJP’s way to its goal is to keep hold of power at all costs. So,money, luring of elected representatives from other parties, these will be their tactics in the days to come.

In case anyone needs a reminder, this capitulation to China’s aggression comes right after Nepal flexing its territorial muscles in spite of being one of our oldest friends. Our status in the neighbourhood is at one of its lowest points, thanks to Modi’s awkward attempts at becoming a “statesman” to beat Jawaharlal Nehru.

And in case anyone has forgotten, the virus still rages across India. Some states have not managed to end their lockdowns because cases are going up and medical facilities are stretched to the maximum. The more we lockdown the more our fragile economy suffers. We have had no clear Central policies – apart from the usual hot air – on either. Except, I should clarify, for petty politicking. There is always time for that in BJP land, no matter how difficult and life-threatening the circumstances.

So, a moment of silence for the lost lives of Indian soldiers, sacrificed at the altar of political expedience and political cowardice.

And a moment for all of us Indians caught in this impossible, ceaseless maelstrom.

(Disclaimer: The views expressed are the author’s own)

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Published: 21 Jun 2020, 11:00 AM