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      INDIAN ANTI-MILITARISM: AN INTROSPECTION.

 

      By

      Dr. Anil A. Athale

      Retired Colonel and former Joint Director War Studies division, Min. of Defence. 

      Writing on security issues is a thankless job in India. If one points at the emerging threats, one is labelled `scare monger'. Traditionally Indians have woken up to the threat of advancing armies when they reached Panipat; a stone throw from Delhi, but never when they crossed the Khyber Pass!  It is only in India that one is called a hawk for merely suggesting that till some countries in the world keep the threat of nuclear weapons alive, India must not close its options. In this, one is not referring to the not so honourable men (and women) with `pens for hire' but well meaning citizens.

      The behaviour of the Indian political class on the death of our only true war hero, Sam Bahadur, makes one wonder as to their value system. The way the bureaucracy has got away with treating and paying a soldier less than Chaprasi in 6the Pay Commission award is a scandal. Recently in Pune, a district collector, wantonly confiscated land awarded to war heroes and war widows on the ground that they have failed to construct houses in stipulated period. That the awardees had paid half the price of the said land was of no consequence. In modern ‘Socialist’ India, encroachers on govt. land fare much better (especially if they are from minority or even illegal immigrants). They are given free flats, while war heroes have been running from pillar to post to save their assets! With this attitude towards defence and defence force personnel, with all our nuclear arsenals, India will always remain vulnerable.  

      Many explanations, all of them having logic of their own, are offered to explain the situation. The blame for Indian `pacifism ' is put on Gandhiji. But as the Mahatma himself quite candidly put in his autobiography,

      “I have not invented non-violence. It is as old as the hills."

      Many thinkers in India have come to a conclusion that the Indians do not value their freedom as we got it relatively `cheap'. Going even deeper, India's geography that isolates us from the Asian landmass, gave us a false sense of security for over thousand years and therefore most Indians do tend to take it for granted. The Indian civilisation and culture that was nurtured in these geographic settings developed an approach that regards use of force as ` Apat Dharma' (exception to the rule).  Thus use of force is reserved only for `Apat-kal' or calamity, and is strictly an `Apawad' or an exception. This was most vividly seen in times of crisis. While researching and writing the history of 1962 Sino-Indian conflict for the Ministry of Defence, the mass upsurge that this war saw was truly remarkable. It was again seen in 1965, 1971 and during the Kargil conflict in June/July 1999! Indians indeed rose to the occasion! But no sooner after the danger was over; we wiped it from our collective memory.  

      The major preoccupation of the Brahminical order has been to control the Kshtriyas. Even in Indian fairy tales, the Senapati (chief of the army) is most frequently the villain, who usurps the fair Princess and Kingdom! Anti-militarism is ingrained in our minds. A military coupe can never have legitimacy in India. Even the legendary (and secularly popular) Hyder Ali of Mysore, could never gain the stamp of legitimacy for his rule in the 18th century.  

      This approach to violence or war is indeed surprising if one is to remember that `Bhagvat Gita', is widely accepted as the essence philosophical moorings of Indians (not Hindus alone, as at that time the other modern religions were not even born). Gita was propounded on a battlefield and regards use of force to establish `Dharma' or righteousness, as not only legitimate but one's highest duty. But somewhere along the way and definitely after the rise of Buddhism, peace at any price became the governing philosophy of the country. During the later Rajput period, war became either a sport or was fought for the sake of individual's honour. Chivalry and not politics dominated the war aim. Bhishma Niti or 'honour code' as opposed to Krishna Niti, became the dominant creed. Even the methods of fighting became an issue and Krishna Niti was forgotten. In most languages, `Krishna Krutya' (Krishna's deeds) became synonymous with dark deeds. Means became as important as ends. 

      As opposed to this, the Judaic - Christian civilisations follow the doctrine of necessity. The Gandhian counter to the Biblical dictum `an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth' was that we may then end up with a world that is full of only the blind and the toothless. This is only partially correct. If the whole world is to adopt the Indian approach it would lead to peace. But a poser to this is that should India alone adopt the path of peace and non-violence, it is only India that will end up both blind and toothless! The Mahatma was very clear on one issue. His non-violence was to be practised `only from a position of strength'. Unfortunately his followers failed to grasp this very crucial point of Gandhian philosophy. The Mahatma was a shrewd judge of the British character, his adversary in the freedom struggle. It was a strategy that worked against civilised people like the British with a strong sense of justice and fair-play. Against a Hitler, it may well have ended in Gandhi landing in gas chamber!

      The fact is, in less than two and half months after getting independence, on 27 October 1947 to be precise, the armed forces of newly independent India had to battle the Tribal invasion of Kashmir. In less than 15 years, in 1961 December, the non-violent `Satyagraha' approach failed in face of obdurate Portuguese and India had to send in its army to liberate the last colonial pocket of Goa.  Our peaceful disposition and lack of territorial ambition did not stop the Chinese from attacking us in 1962. Pakistan, even after losing half its country, still nurses dreams of annexing Kashmir and in wilder imagination, even thinks of unfurling its flag on the Red Fort in Delhi!

      In the 21st century, Indians ought to ponder over as to why and how did we lose our freedom in the first place?  What were the `REAL' compulsions that led to British withdrawal from India? And finally must we not value the people who defended our freedom? We owe it to posterity to find a truthful answer to these questions and clear the ideological fog that seems to have settled over the thinking faculties of Indian intellectuals.

      Essence of Indianess is acceptance of plurality, of thought, creed, race and behaviour. This has been wrongly construed as the celebrated `Indian Tolerance'. Nothing could be further from truth. Indians are as violent as any other people. But to preserve plurality and the essence of Indian civilisation, it is necessary to fight creeds that propagate a single path and are intolerant of pluralism. These ideologies could be religious fundamentalists (saffron or green) or economic dogmatists like Communists or hegemonic nations like the US intent on imposing their way of life. Running away from this essential duty is not tolerance, it is COWARDICE!                                                          

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