ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
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Warmongering against Democracy

The ruling party and the government have turned the state into a war machine. 

 

The conduct of the government in the wake of the terrorist attack in Pulwama and cross-border strikes by the air force, is morally irresponsible and antithetical to the norms of democracy. As the possibility of escalating conflict between India and Pakistan loomed large, there was no effort on the part of the Prime Minister or his colleagues to address the nation and take the citizens in confidence. While the Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot was in Pakistan’s custody, the Prime Minister and other ministers continued with their partisan political engagements. Instead of communicating with the citizens in a transparent manner, the government seems to have relied on pliable media outlets to carry unverified and at times conflicting news reports based on “sources.’’ Transparency is essential in times of conflict or crisis in order to shape a reasoned public opinion by allowing citizens to draw conclusions based on facts. However, the purpose of this government does not seem to be enabling such informed conclusions, but spreading confusion to seek immediate electoral gains. Doing this helps the government cultivate the image of its muscular posturing without coming clean on the actual working and outcomes of its defence and strategic decisions. It is quite telling that the only apparent intervention from the defence minister during the entire period of heightened tensions was a solitary tweet after the release of the IAF pilot.

Even as the government wilfully evades the responsibility of providing political leadership to the whole nation during crisis situations, the ruling party has sought to appropriate the air force strikes for its partisan political objectives. Sometimes through insinuation and otherwise brazenly, the leaders of the ruling party have sought to claim the air force action as its own achievement. Just as in the case of “surgical strikes” in 2016, they are claiming that this government is the first one to have “avenged’’ Pakistan-sponsored acts of terror. In order to position it as the only custodian of national security, leaders of the ruling party have made claims of hundreds of terrorists being killed in the air strikes. This is despite the IAF categorically saying that it does not have any such count. Such discrepancies naturally raise questions about the veracity of these figures, which have been floating in the media through unverified sources. This, once again, highlights the link between deliberate obfuscation and the ruling party’s combative nationalist posturing. Such claims are instrumental in building a political narrative of enhanced national pride and triumph, which responds to the militarised consciousness of sections of the civil society. Simplistically reducing strategic achievement to some number without going into the actual realisation of strategic objectives is adequate to consolidate this constituency of militarised minds. It not only shows a fatuous understanding of foreign and defence policies, but also legitimises war and military action as a tool of domestic politics. Such conduct of politics on part of this government does not allow for a reasoned dialogue on the consequences of its strategic actions as it substitutes national interest with partisan interest for electoral gains.

Therefore, instead of adopting a consensus approach and rallying the entire nation together in the face of the possibility of conflict, the government and the ruling party find it necessary to adopt an adversarial approach. While facing the questions from the opposition parties regarding the veracity of the number of the terrorists being killed and details of the extent of damage to the terror infrastructure, the government has been trying to use the armed forces as a shield. Shirking its own democratic responsibility to answer these questions on the appropriate platform, it has instead chosen to use every other platform to attack the opposition for doubting the armed forces.  Along with the fact that, in a democracy, the armed forces are not above critical questioning, such rhetoric is also a brazen attempt to use the armed forces for electoral gains, thereby threatening their non-partisan character that is a hallmark of our democracy. However, a ruling party that envisions politics itself as an act of war would not be bothered about such consequences.

Such a vision of politics, which looks at the state as a war machine, is endemic to the ruling party and this government. Even demonetisation was presented as an act of war or surgical strike on black money, and anyone questioning or opposing it was deemed a traitor. However, the constant warlike mobilisation by this government is targeted towards opposition forces, and thereby against the vast sections of its own citizens who are represented by them. It shows how the ruling party is interested in retaining power and not maintaining democratic institutions of the state. The government capitalising on air strikes and labelling those who are asking questions about it as enemies within is a reflection of this permanent war mode. It is not surprising, however, that such thinking is espoused by the party that is guided by a regimented group like Sangh Parivar, whose sole purpose itself is waging war on the so-called enemies within. In a democracy, citizens are not to be constantly mobilised for war, but invited to join the dialogue. It is the inherent incapability of the current government to initiate such a dialogue that forces it to militarise the conduct and discourse of politics.

Updated On : 12th Mar, 2019

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