Gurpreet Singh: Hypocrisy of hysteria reigns over death of Indian soldiers

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      The Indian leadership and a section of the intelligentsia have been shedding tears over the deaths of 19 soldiers in a recent attack on an army base in Kashmir.

      The September 18 incident, which also left four militants dead, has been blamed on Pakistan-based terror groups. The Indian government continues to claim that insurgents fighting for the right to self-determination in Kashmir are being aided and abetted by Pakistani agencies from across the border. 

      Since then, not only has the Indian government conducted surgical strikes on alleged militant camps near the border, but it has intensified its pressure to isolate Pakistan internationally. So much so that Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has described Pakistan as the "motherhood of terrorism".

      Not to be left behind, a hawkish media and certain stars associated with the Indian film industry have created an atmosphere of hostility against Pakistan across the country. Pressure is also being put on Indian filmmakers to prevent them from casting Pakistani actors.

      Those blinded by nationalism are not willing to listen to alternative views. As a result, those expressing reservations over this rhetoric are being hounded and intimidated by right-wing groups. Any voice of reason is seen unpatriotic.

      Undoubtedly, Pakistan is responsible for supporting Islamic extremism and was instrumental in the creation of the Taliban. This was done at the behest of the U.S. government as a counterweight Russia during Cold War era.

      India’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) is trying to create a war hysteria in the aftermath of the attack to attract votes during upcoming assembly elections in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. It must not be forgotten that Pakistani soldiers and civilians are also getting killed at the hands of the Islamic extremists, who are active in the Kashmir region.

      India's double standard on patriotism

      The bigger question, however, is that even if we believe what is being served to us by the Indian leadership, media, and their film-industry apologists, why was such outrage and patriotism not shown when several Sikh soldiers were murdered during the 1984 anti-Sikh massacre? That pogrom followed the assassination of the then Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards.

      In the first week of November 1984, thousands of innocent Sikhs were slain in different parts of the country by mobs led by Gandhi’s Congress party activists. Even uniformed soldiers travelling in trains were not spared. No film actor or leader has expressed any anger over such disrespect shown to Sikh soldiers, who too were serving for the security and safety of the nation.

      One can argue that it is an old incident and that the BJP, which was not in power in 1984, cannot be blamed. But this certainly reflects on the collective consciousness of a nation that was built on the principles of secularism and inclusiveness.

      Now, consider a fresh instance to understand the selectivity of patriotism. In June this year, militants in Kashmir attacked a paramilitary convoy, leaving eight soldiers dead. One of them, Const. Vir Singh, was Dalit, or a so-called untouchable. It's a community that has faced caste-based discrimination in Hindu society for centuries.

      When Vir Singh’s body was taken to his native village for cremation in Uttar Pradesh, upper-caste chauvinists declined to give his family public space for last rites. They were only forced to give in after the intervention of the administration. It’s a shame that there was no national outrage shown to such disrespect to a slain soldier because of his caste.

      Const. Vir Singh's caste became an issue when his family wanted to hold his funeral.

      Indian Army has come under criticism

      In other ways, the way Indian soldiers are being immortalized by the political leadership and the intelligentsia is problematic.

      Before the Uri attack, more than 80 Kashmiri civilians had died at the hands of Indian forces. They were killed during protests against the death of a militant in an alleged staged shootout. A number of Kashmiris also lost their vision in pellet attacks by soldiers. 

      Twenty-five years ago, Indian soldiers raped up to 100 women, according to Human Rights Watch, during a raid on two Kashmiri villages: Kunan and Poshpora.

      During this infamous military operation of 1991, men were separated from the women, after which women, including minors and seniors, were brutally sexually assaulted by the soldiers. Until now, no justice has been done to the victims of Kunan and Poshpora.

      Mahatma Gandhi's assassin, Nathuram Godse (above), is being celebrated with statues in some Hindu temples in India.

      Those who are pained so much over the recent deaths of 19 soldiers must ask themselves why such outrage was not shown for civilians who were either killed or raped by the army. 

      Is the army the only custodian of the national interest? Or is the national interest more important than the life and dignity of the people of any nation?  

      And why only see Pakistan as the motherhood of terrorism when the BJP government is also shielding those involved in acts of terror and violence in the name of Hindu nationalism? 

      Among them are those who targeted the Samjhauta Express rail service that connects India and Pakistan. This attack in 2007 killed 68 people, mostly Pakistanis, in a bomb blast.

      Why was there no outrage when a statue of Nathuram Godse, a Hindu extremist who killed Mahatma Gandhi in 1948, was recently unveiled in Uttar Pradesh?

      Why are there these double standards on terrorism? If this is how the national interest is defined, then please include my name in the list of antinationals, as well.

      Gurpreet Singh is a Georgia Straight contributor and a founder of Radical Desi. He's working on a book tentatively titled Canada's 9/11: Lessons from the Air India Bombings.