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EDITORIAL: 1-15 March 2002

National insecurity

National security is an important and sensitive issue, we knew this all along. But that it can be converted into an electoral plank to garner political support and get votes in elections, after creating fear psychosis of a non-existent threat, remains out of our comprehension. No one had resorted to this in our long history. Not the political parties so far who have been squabbling for power at the centre and different states in the country. Not even when we got a drubbing at China’s hands in 1962 or during wars with Pakistan. 

It is beyond our imagination that a party of self-imposed super deshbhakts and ultra nationalists, can stoop so low that it can resort to creating a psychosis of fear and insecurity among sections of its own country. More so by a ruling party at the centre. This is precisely what is being done all over the country for the last few months by the BJP and its family of theekedars of nationalism. 

In the run up to the current assembly elections these outfits, bereft of any achievement in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Uttranchal, where they were in power for the last five years, have taken to the streets, talking of imaginary threats from both within and without. They resorted to this gimmick after they realised that their most prized plank all these two decades, Ram temple, has lost popular appeal even in UP. Their other gimmick of offering reservation to Most Backward Castes (MBCs) and woo other sections by promises too failed to enthuse voters. 

So the BJP and its bosses seem to have realised that they cannot cling to power without creating a feeling of insecurity among some people. It is trying to convey the massage that it is the only party which can make the country secure from these threats. Pakistan and its omnipotent and omnipresent intelligence service (ISI) have been transformed into a workhorse that can be put to work in any given situation anywhere in the country. This ilk is now parroting the new threat from Muslims, their institutions and mosques. Terrorism is being made out to be the greatest threat to every ordinary man and woman. A threat is discovered where there is no threat.

The BJP is not only trying to woo voters using this issue by creating a feeling of insecurity. It is also trying to coerce political parties to shut up and toe its line. Anyone who seems to be opposed to whatever it says at any given time is branded anti-national. We are not alone in this feeling. To quote only one concerned voice: 

The crux of the matter is whether a political regime can manufacture a ‘national security’ hysteria without its concomitant demands on – and expectations of – the armed forces. There is renewed faith in the efficacy of the state’s coercion against dissenters and other challengers; indeed a new theology of national security is being created. The debate over POTO revealed this new itch for intolerance. The Opposition parties must fall silent just because this or that Minister invokes the ‘national security’ mantra. Those who dare question even the government’s tactics invite the risk of being labelled a collaborator in the tradition of a Man Singh, rather than being a defiant Rana Pratap, be it the question of joining anti-Pakistan all-party delegations or of caving in to the Unites States’ pressure on talks with Pakistan.
There is a new ‘josh’ among the Prime Minster and his senior colleagues, all itching to fight the ‘aar-paar ki ladai’ (decisive battle) against Pakistan. Machoism has cast its spell over the septuagenarian crowd. Armed forces and their willingness to die in defence of the country are being bandied about by third-rate political leaders, especially those involved in Uttar Pradesh. Our economic priorities are to be re-adjusted to suit the calibrated beating of national security is proving a heady intoxicant.
The keystone in the new theological edifice of national security is a touching faith in the institution of the armed forces. In fact, we would soon be resembling Pakistan if the present inclination to concede a centrality to the armed forces remains unchecked. The only redeeming feature is that the defence forces’ leadership knows that political problems can be sorted out only by political methods available only to the political leadership. For instance, Gen Padmanabhan is on record having argued very sensibly that insurgency in Kashmir was best amenable to political instrumentalities. The fraudulent ‘deshbhakts’ who preside over New Delhi ought to be slowed down in their heedless quest fro making India into a garrison state. (Harish Khare, The Hindu, 23 Jan. 2002).

There is a renewed effort to portray Muslims before the country as the greatest threat. There are daily ‘revelations’ about their involvement in one plan or another to destabilise the country. Mosques and madrasas are being targeted by new and newer outfits. Even though the infamous POTO was repromulgated despite objections by Parliament, its already draconian form is to receive more ‘teeth’, to combat terrorism, of course. More ‘teeth’ for POTO will not translate into more security (Parliament was attacked while POTO was operative and its engineer had given prior warning of the attack!). It will mean more harassment of the weaker sections, especially Muslims and their schools (madrasahs) and organizations. 

By failing to deliver to the masses anything except promises, misgovernance, incompetence and sheer corruption everywhere it ruled, the super deshbhakt ilk has discovered a new path: to arouse fear psychosis and rule, mimicking the old tried and trusted colonial strategy of divide-and-rule. Through harping on national insecurity day and night the BJP has hit on a magic formula since anyone opposing it would automatically turn into ‘anti-national’. Grave issues of national security should best be left to the police, intelligence and judiciary. Their hijacking by political outfits will defeat the very purpose of these organisations. Politics and politicians have debased the very high purpose of our life. They must not be allowed to undermine it further. (SUR)

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