The beginning of 2013 stood in a sudden stark contrast to the end of 2012. The same electronic media that resonated in December with cries of freedom and justice for women, and discussed with great urgency issues of much-awaited democratic reforms in our society, began whipping up competitive waves of jingoism over issues of violation of cease-fire along the India-Pakistan Line of Control. If democracy was the theme for December, jingoism became the dominant tune for January. Instead of exerting diplomatic pressure on Pakistan to seek a probe into the gruesome beheading of Lance Naik Hemraj, condemned unequivocally by every sane person in both India and Pakistan, the issue is being cynically exploited to whip up an emotional frenzy with BJP leader Sushma Swaraj calling for ten Pakistani heads for one Indian head.
The jingoistic environment has already begun to take its toll. Faced with protests by Shiv Sena, the Pakistani hockey players who had come to India to participate in the Indian Hockey League have been compelled to return home. Shows by two Pakistani theatre groups – Kaun Hai Yeh Gustakh by the famous Ajoka Theatre of Lahore and Mantorama by the Karachi-based National Academy of Performing Arts – have been called off in Delhi. Ironically enough, both these plays were meant to be a tribute to Sadat Hasan Manto, the legendary Indian writer who migrated to Pakistan after Partition, in the centenary year of his birth. Pakistani classical singer Zaved Bashir was not allowed to perform in Delhi on January 14 while actor and pop singer Ali Zafar was prevented in Pune. All these cancellations have been done by the organisers in the name of ensuring the ‘safety and security’ of the Pakistani players and performers, revealing in the process how the Indian state actually promotes and emboldens the purveyors of jingoistic frenzy.
The Congress has always seen great merit in the politics of jingoism. War clouds provide the best cover to legitimise unpalatable decisions in the name of national security. Following a steep hike in railway fares, the government has already taken this opportunity to deregulate diesel prices and pave the way for complete abolition of fuel subsidy. Politically, the Congress believes that it can always outsmart the BJP and the Sangh Parivar in a game of jingoism. It may be recalled that in the wake of the India-China war of 1962, Nehru had even gone to the extent of inviting the RSS to participate in the Republic Day parade. Today, once again the Congress is adopting a similar stance to placate the BJP, Shiv Sena and the like.
A war-like situation is the last thing that the people of either India or Pakistan can afford in today’s volatile geo-political climate. Apart from rampant corruption and severe economic crisis, India and Pakistan are both vulnerable to the spiral of imperialist intervention and terrorism. Pakistan is, in fact, being pounded daily by US drone attacks and Taliban-inspired terrorist violence. At the same time, India and Pakistan are both witnessing encouraging signs of a growing popular assertion for democracy. Any escalation of tension between the two countries and deepening of war clouds in the sub-continental sky will only vitiate the domestic political atmosphere in the two countries and strengthen authoritarian trends to the detriment of democratic politics. Public opinion in both India and Pakistan will therefore have to prevail over the warmongers and compel the two states to strictly abide by the cease-fire accord of 2003 and avoid another Kargil by all means.