The following article appeared in www.indiainfoline.com
November 14, 2000
It is indeed a sign of the times, that Times of Indiaâ€™s Bombay editionâ€™s first page has the five column top story of a gangsterâ€™s wife (also a local Shiv Sena Corporator) being shot at grievously and on page five in one column there is a news item titled â€œLt. Kapadiaâ€™s last rite todayâ€. Now who is Lt. Kapadia and why is he important?
Lt Kapadia is the youngest son of Harish and Geeta Kapadia, two very well known mountaineers and avid trekkers from the city of Mumbai. Lt. Kapadia comes from a well to do family and entered the armed forces purely out of his passion for this country and sense of patriotism. At the time of his death he had seen all of twenty-four summers on this planet.
For newspapers, most readers and the government, Lt. Kapadia is but one more statistic from the vales of Kashmir. But it should not be so. My suspicion is that the actual number of deaths from this war in Kashmir (or whatever else you may like to call it) are far more than what we once in a while get to read in the newspapers or hear on the nightly news bulletin on TV. If the actual number of deaths were known, we may have had a revolution in our midst. Everyday many Lt. Kapadiaâ€™s die an untimely, unwarranted death in war that has no solution in sight. The question that has been coming back to my mind is whether this is necessary? Do the Lt. Kapadiaâ€™s of India have to be the sacrificial lambs at the altar of what? Because I am convinced this has hardly anything to do with patriotism or defending Indiaâ€™ s borders.
For Pakistan, the raison dâ€™Ãªtre of its existence is Kashmir. Economically a bankrupt state, if Pakistan is not able to keep the Kashmir issue alive, it my actually face the threat of disintegration. Apart from economic crisis, it is torn by internal strife among Shias and Sunnis, Mohajirs and the West Pakistanis and it would also not know what to do with the rebel/ terrorist groups created to fight the Russians in Afghanistan. So Kashmir is convenient for Pakistan to keep going.
But it is not so for India. Why is the Indian government acting in such a pussy-footed manner with no articulation of a long-term policy? Most Indians have had enough of vacuous political inanities where from various forums it is declared that Kashmir is an integral part of India and so on and so forth. Lacs of crores of rupees have been spent on Kashmir to fight the ongoing war and for various subsidies. If we are to fight this war the government needs to declare its three-year goal very clearly â€“ we will wipe out terrorism from Kashmir. And while it is not an easy task, if Punjab Police under K. P. S. Gill can do it, surely the combined might of the Indian armed forces and Kashmir police should be able to do it as well. It needs freedom from political interference. If need be, put Kashmir under Presidentâ€™s rule during the same time and put an end to the problem once and for all.
And if the government feels it cannot do it, let us take the issue to an international forum and have a referendum under the aegis of United Nations. Let it be decided once and for all and letâ€™s get on with life. However much our politicians may have us believe otherwise, fact is that Kashmir today is virtually an international issue.
In no forum is India or the sub-continent discussed where Kashmir does not find a mention. What has India got to lose from the exercise? Nothing at all. Letâ€™s not have any false sense of pride. The lacs and crores that we save (and not to mention the lives of all our soldiers and innocent citizens) can be much better put to use for the rest of the country.
We have often been described as a weak-kneed (no reference to the PMs knee troubles) nation, especially after the abject surrender on Kandahar. We have also as a nation taken pride in martyrs and there are various poems extolling the virtues of martyrs who have laid down their lives in their service to the nation. Yes, Lt. Kapadia belongs to that breed of brave martyrs who have laid down their lives in the service of the nation. But is that cause well defined today? Is there a goal?
Or are we just fighting everyday with no practical goal in sight? It would be good if our polity realizes that martyrs do not win wars. To quote a US General Patton form a hit film: â€œNo bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it, by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his own countryâ€. How many US soldiers have got killed in the Gulf War with Iraq? And count the number of soldiers sacrificed in Sri Lanka and Kashmir. Are our soldiers more expendable?
An American President would have lost his pants (which Bill Clinton anyway seemed to be doing all the while in White House) if his muddled policies had sacrificed American soldiers. But here our government has no such worries. Rajiv Gandhi signed the death warrant of thousands of soldiers in the Sri Lanka accord.
Kashmir seems to be no different. But probably the time has come to change. Media would have a role to play. Probably to start with lets talk about Lt. Kapadia and others of his ilk in the front pages, and not about gangsters and their ilk. We should not and cannot allow the likes of Lt. Nawang Kapadia or Capt. Vinayak Gore or Capt Hemant Prem Kumar (the list is endless) become mere numbers in army records.
Anirudha Dutta is a respected commentator and writer on the Indian Affairs.