How India should respond to China’s new tactics
India's strengthening of defences may have spooked the Chinese, who sense there is a dramatic change in the balance of power on the border as compared to 1993, when they were still in full control. Rather than feeling inferior, India should now move with confidence and force a new equilibrium more favourable to it.
A platoon, five tents and a dog is what the Chinese intrusion 19 km inside the Line of Actual Control (LAC) comprises in a sensitive sector that India has regarded as being under its control. In that sense, it is not a big, belligerent message that China has sent to India. However, it has been sufficient to trigger a wave of condemnation and misplaced hysteria across India’s political spectrum.
Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel had once written about the Jewish holocaust — “To forget it is to kill twice.” Tragically, by acquitting the devils of 1984, we have killed the innocents once again.
protracted proceedings of Indian courts are often ridiculed through the pithy aphorism that “justice delayed is justice denied”. Unfortunately, in the case of the massacre of Sikhs in 1984, it is not even “delayed justice”. It is a case of justice that is perpetually denied. Every country has its share of low and horrific moments, but the difference between a great country and a not-so-great country is that while the former learns from it, the latter, to quote the words of George Santayana, is condemned to repeat it. No wonder, a critical failure of our state is the refusal to learn from our mistakes. We did not learn our lessons and our society continues to be repeatedly accosted by incidents that remind us of our past. And yet, we seem to possess an unpardonable amnesia when it comes to our hours of national shame.
No wonder, a critical failure of our state is the refusal to learn from our mistakes. We did not learn our lessons and our society continues to be repeatedly accosted by incidents that remind us of our past. And yet, we seem to possess an unpardonable amnesia when it comes to our hours of national shame.
The acquittal of Sajjan Kumar is an example of what has become a sad and predictable pattern in India. A monstrous crime took place, following which the government made some vacuous platitudes. Perfunctory inquiries were constituted which took decades to come out with their self-contradictory findings and provided sufficient red herrings for another inquiry to be constituted. But the unfortunate story does not end there. State agencies continue to collude with their political bosses and in their attempt to save yet one more ruling party politician, they end up weakening our judicial system.
Consider the acquittal of those criminals who have shockingly received clean chits from the judiciary in the last few years. This means that people who saw their near and dear ones torched, raped, murdered and looted, but kept faith in their country’s legal establishment, have now been callously told that there is “lack of sufficient evidence” against monsters who eradicated their worlds in from of their own eyes.
What of thousands of depositions that the victims had made before countless commissions where they relived their horrific memories? What about candid depictions by some of the most venerable national and international media houses and journalists? What about the disclosures by some of the pre-eminent citizens of India? Do we ignore the myriad ground-level inquiries which unequivocally prove the culpability of these people? Does it imply that the numerous unbiased eyewitness accounts and subsequent admissions by administrative officials are tantamount to nothing?
The Nanavati Commission was constituted to investigate the 1984 massacre. Its report in particular was full of obfuscations and circumventions, which were clearly aimed at saving a few individuals. We had hoped that the glaring inadequacies of these investigations would embarrass the government, and that at least the second time around, there would an attempt to restore some semblance of justice. But it appears that we live in a nether world, where the sun never rises.
Our system has now gone beyond Nanavati, and after his whitewash job, it systematically goes to acquit even those whom Nanavati had dared to touch.
While injustices continue to be heaped upon the victims, there is an inhumane “rationale” coming from so-called pacifists and intellectuals that is both appalling and disgusting. The argument of “letting the past go” is the sort of thinking that has let this nation down repetitively. This has allowed criminals to misuse the emotions of people and make a violent case for “settling of scores” which vitiates the politics of the nation and causes further misery to the people.
One of the main reasons that the quality of polity has stooped to such abysmal levels is because of our system's inability to punish wrongdoers. If inciting violence can generate gains, more and more criminal politicians would be happy to do so. True to the Orwellian prophesy, 1984 was an apocalyptic year for our nation. Victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy and the violence against Sikhs are still seeking justice. While the perpetrators of the gas leakage were foreigners, the genocide was wreaked upon us by our own government.
Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel had once written about the Jewish holocaust — “To forget it is to kill twice.” Tragically, by letting go the devils of 1984, we have killed the innocents once again.
If Hindi is now understood across the country and Urdu is still spoken, the credit for both these achievements must go first to the film industry that has brought us into closer contact with these languages.
3 was declared the day
when Indian cinema turned a 100 years, triggering off a bonanza of
celebrations to mark this historic event. Delhis Siri Fort was the
venue for a special festival with screenings of a range of films from
the earliest times to now as well as talks, seminars and discussions
arranged by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Our
television channels paid homage in their own ways and the National
Awards for this year’s best in Indian cinema brought the usual
bloopers (Mala Sinha’s name missing from the invitation to the
prestigious Phalke awards list). Some of the shine was also dimmed by
the tragic events that led to a nationwide outrage at the death of an
Indian prisoner in a Pakistani jail and the usual scam-a-week drama.
Nevertheless, this week must be dedicated to the medium that has
brought joy to many Indians in the 100 years of its existence.
Now called Bollywood, our film industry would be well-advised to drop this demeaning moniker. After all, we far outrank Hollywood in terms of output and reach and at a time when crossover films have brought our actors and directors to the world's stage, why do we denigrate ourselves by appearing to be the poorer cousins of those who live in Los Angeles? In glamour, talent and earnings, we can match them frame by frame. The Bombay film industry is quite a unique institution in itself and we should pay homage to all that Indian films have given this country apart from happiness and escape from misery.
I am a child of the 1950s and can remember almost totally all the great films that were made from then on. As a child, the only entertainment that we had (apart from the faithful radio) was the cinema and going to the pictures was an experience that the multiplex generation cannot even begin to understand. The intimacy of an intense emotional involvement with the screen in a darkened hall branded what we saw indelibly on our minds. It helps that the kind of films that we were encouraged to see were made by directors such as Bimal Roy, Guru Dutt and Satyajit Ray. I was just six when I saw Pather Panchali for the first time and although the version I saw was not subtitled, certain scenes stayed with me no matter that I did not understand most of the story. The visual impact of Apu and his sister racing to see the train, raindrops dancing on a pond's surface to the music of Ravi Shankar, the death of the old aunt and the last scene with a snake slithering into an abandoned chulha — all these came back to me when I saw the film again almost 20 years later at a film appreciation course I attended in Chandigarh. I count it till now as a life-changing experience.
There was something about the innocence of the 50s and 60s, the honest engagement with building a nation, the hope and the trust we had in our country that makes films such as Do Bigha Zameen, Jagte Raho, Boot Polish and Mother India inspirational. One of the greatest qualities of the Bombay film industry was its uncanny sense of prescience. From the famine-displaced peasant of Do Bigha Zameen to the coal mafia of Gangs of Wasseypur, it has been able to point out the flaws and injustice of a system going astray. Certainly, it has also produced frothy romantic nonsense with swaying mustard fields, Kashmir and exotic foreign locations to bring out romance and idiocy, yet its lyrics and stories have brought a nation together more than its politics and politicians.
A few years ago, Meghnad Desai (who is as knowledgable about Indian films as he is about economics) authored a book on his favourite actor Dilip Kumar, where he documented how the Nehruvian dream was faithfully echoed in the films that Dilip Kumar acted in. The socialist economic model favoured by Nehru with its touching faith in the worker and the dignity of labour — all these were highlighted as he matched each Nehruvian decision against the films of Bimal Roy and others. I suppose the end of this paradigm would be Chetan Anand's Haqeeqat, which was the betrayal of the Indian Army during the India-China skirmish of 1962 that spelt the death of that dream.
Momentous as these observations are, they pale before the greatest service that the Bombay film industry has performed for this multilingual country. If Hindi is now understood across the country and if Urdu is still spoken, the credit for both these achievements must go first to the film industry that has brought us into closer contact with both these languages. Unfortunately, the radio — which had a far greater reach —was unable to create a lingua franca. In fact, the kind of Hindi favoured by the pundits of Akashvani was fit for pundits like themselves. Its news bulletins, couched in a pedantic, often hilarious, Sanskritised idiom only served to put off its listeners. On the other hand, the beautiful dialogues and lyrics of our films, penned by some of the greatest Urdu poets of the time, introduced grace and beauty into the language of everyday discourse.
So, let us forget for some time that Hindi films also
brought in their wake sexism, vulgarity and voyeurism and concentrate
on the happiness they have brought to all Indians — from
intellectuals like Meghnad Desai to your faithful rickshawalla.