The hero of my tale, whom I love with all the power of my soul, whom I have tried to portray in all his beauty, who has been, is, and will be beautiful, is Truth. — Leo Tolstoy
Indian conscience today is dominated by the need of War. War, say they, will end once and for all the endless pains inflicted upon the idea of India by its eternal enemy: the enemy that was once part of the identity of India.
What is this bond of hatred between India and Pakistan that grows by the day? Do the reasons still remain or what prevails today is mere dogma? To each and one the only plausible answer is: War is what will make the problems disappear. But do they not realize that War is no more being fought for a cause that can be justified. ‘They’ say that India has done Injustice to the idea of Justice. India has got Kashmir crucified. Say We, Kashmir belongs to none but us, its pains and pleasures belong to none but Us, Pakistan must not interfere. In all this mess we fail to learn about Kashmiri’s idea of justice and fairness. Maybe that is the idea that ‘They’ and ‘Us’ have long ago crucified. Maybe their idea of justice is not allied with our idea of the justice. Maybe they do not deserve the same choice that ‘They’ and ‘Us’ deserved 70 years back. Maybe that is because we fear that they will make the same choice.
Kashmir today is not the issue of Justice, but that of ego and pride. More than this Kashmir today has become an economic issue. There was still a chance a few decades ago where Kashmir would have been given Justice. But due to economic interests of China in Kashmir and Pakistan, the Justice seems to be remote. When it is clear to both the nations that the issue of Kashmir cannot be resolved the way it had been intended at the time of Independence, why then even bother to fight? To understand the reasons we will have to delve into more fundamental, philosophical, psychological, economic, political and geopolitical issues. As students in India in the 21st Century, we study and learn the ideas of liberalism, globalization, socialism, capitalism, utilitarianism, free trade et cetera, none of which on a closer perusal seem to be employed as they are meant to be. We are today living in a globalized world where there are more rigid boundaries than there were any time in the past. Nations championing free trade are its biggest exploiters, subjugating the poorer and smaller nations through the subtler form of imperialism: Economic Imperialism. In every part of the modern world, no matter which philosophy is being followed, capitalist or communist, one has to sacrifice one part of his existential identity without even ever realizing having done so. The capitalists prey upon the individualistic and selfish nature of man, while on the other hand, communists try to exploit what they call the socialist and altruist nature of man. The result is that nowhere on the Earth the comprehensive nature of man and its potential is being utilized.
A few hundred years ago when the global political system was dominated by the monarchial states, the greater national consensus was easily built through oppression and forcing of ideas of the ruling class on the classes that were ruled. Due to the dominance of democratic states today, the forceful oppression of the mighty has become extremely difficult, as well as, not a preferable method of consensus building. Relatively more power and information in the hands of the common masses has rendered it difficult for the Mighty to commit crimes in the broad daylight. But the elites were too organized to have fallen so easily. At the turn of the 20th Century the psychoanalytical revolution under Sigmund Freud changed the way human behavior was perceived. Utilizing the insightful new theories of his uncle, Freud, Edward Bernays, Austrian-American pioneer in the field of public relations and propaganda, developed psychological tools that would enable the democratic governments to create mass consents. The process is known to the modern thinkers as the ‘Engineering of Consent’. Bernays writes in his book ‘Propaganda’ that
“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.”
We are facing the same engineering of consent today that the people of western nations have been experiencing from last century. America’s involvement in the World War 1 when the earlier consensus of the people of America was against the war is the classic example of an experiment undertaken to engineer a mass consent for war. India and Pakistan are at a stage where their media have grown influential enough, and working in the hands of their corporate masters subservient enough, to do the biddings of their respective governments. What people fail to realize is that the people benefiting from such war like conditions are no other than their ruling classes. Pakistan’s PM Nawaz Sharif, himself being a business tycoon, represents the Pakistani corporate lobby, whereas, Indian PM Narendra Modi while not a business man himself, represents the interests of the Indian right-wing corporate lobby. The surprise visit of our PM to their PM at their PM’s birthday seems to be an indication of the aligned interests. With elections overhead and no economic achievements to showcase, it was aggression towards Pakistan that could most easily polarize the country in favor of the present government. In Pakistan Sharif faces a challenge from Imran Khan that he intends to neutralize. In these times when the evening news are dominated by pro-war sentiments, the real issues of the country are being intently sidelined, Kashmir being the primary sufferer. Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman in their book ‘Manufactured Consent’ note that
“In countries where the levers of power are in the hands of a state bureaucracy, the monopolistic control over the media, often supplemented by official censorship, makes it clear that the media serve the ends of a dominant elite. It is much more difficult to see a propaganda system at work where the media are private and formal censorship is absent. This is especially true where the media actively compete, periodically attack and expose corporate and governmental malfeasance, and aggressively portray themselves as spokesmen for free speech and the general community interest. What is not evident (and remains undiscussed in the media) is the limited nature of such critiques, as well as the huge inequality in command of resources, and its effect both on access to a private media system and on its behavior and performance.”
Chomsky and Herman have rightly argued that when the media is private it becomes extremely difficult for the common man to realize that they can be and are being manipulated. People have to operate from the feeling that the apparatus of media exists separately from the government and thus has no reasons to side with government propagandas. What people fail to see is that the private media firms are more than often owned by the business houses that the government supports. Therefore, the journalists find it difficult to give statements against their corporate masters although they may realize that they are playing in their hands. The system has been created as such that it becomes extremely difficult to say the truth, and even when one does the message is denied to be published or promoted by the media. As such the consent is manufactured. A few months ago when the Kashmiri crisis had just started and the forces had started using pallet guns against the civilians, I had shared a Facebook post with pictures of a Kashmiri woman blinded by the pellet hits on her face and eyes. In response to the post I had shared, one of my Facebook friends replied with hatred and abuses. I had written a small post in response to his attack. I am reproducing the piece below.
I was not sure how to react to this. On one part I was thinking that replying to such allegations would only fuel them more. But in the meantime I came across a few comments made by Muslims on Hindu brothers. These comments were as grotesque and full of contempt as have been targeted towards me on my views. I have been feeling for a long time now that we are witnessing a paradigm shift in our country. The premises of thought and feelings among common men have drifted to more radical sources. The Indian ideal of democratic constitutionalism is being constantly thwarted and ridiculed for more personal and rigid opinions. The problem does not lie with the opinion itself, opinion being the fundamental feature of democracy, but with how the opinion is being propagated as mainstream ideology. Today speaking for a deprived community in India has become a symbol of anti-nationalism. People have forgotten how our ancestors fought for our freedom. We were once deprived and oppressed. The militarianism that we support so much today was what we opposed to win our freedom. The difference is that we were the oppressed and not the oppressors. The British Empire was using the same ideology to fuel warfare and oppression. That ideology should be termed ‘radical nationalism’. The idea that one’s nation cannot do anything wrong, the very idea that oppressed us in the past and the very idea that has been responsible for bloodshed throughout history. We have become no different from nations we freed ourselves from and the nations we intellectually fought against for the freedom of other oppressed nations. We have become no different from Pakistan who has been historically using the issue of Kashmir for their political ends. And we are only a step away from becoming the nations we loathed so much, the ones that destroyed the very fabric of our society. But the radical nationalism has occupied our rationalism to the extent that we have become oblivious of the suffering of people who do not share our opinion. An intellectual campaign has to be started against such radicalism if we want to truly free our country again.
Just like we deserved in the past, Kashmir deserves the freedom to choose its own path. Let not my nation become what we most despise by depriving Kashmir of its fundamental right. Let India be free again.
PS. My personal opinion is that Kashmir be part of India but by consensus and without bloodshed and by winning their hearts.
Individuals are not always in support of wars. It is the mob where the opinion changes, even the most peaceful agrees to abide by the opinion of the masses. It is this opinion that is staged through controlled gatherings which are then displayed on the media channels leading the individuals into believing an opinion which is non-existent at the time. In time the non-existent opinion becomes the true opinion of the masses. In India, the conditions for the present paradigm were being created from some time now. The idea of ‘Hindu Nationalism’ which is only as old as the ideas of Ram Mohan Roy is propagated as ever existent. Its most prominent ideologue Savarkar is today hailed as a national hero in the eyes of RSS and the people who are influenced by its ideology. The idea of ‘Hindu Nationalism’ and ‘Hindutva’ is not at all compatible with ‘Hinduism’ or ‘Sanatana Dharma’, which being a religion does not create any boundaries. Jains and Buddhists are constitutionally Hindus, thus lying within the definition of Hindutva. Dalits, although, part of Hinduism, do not want to be called Hindus today due to centuries of oppression. The definition of Hindutva was carefully designed so that all except Muslims become part of the idea of Unified India. Muslims were denied membership on the basis of their religion while Jains and Buddhists were not. Jains and Buddhists were accepted on the basis of their ethnicity and roots in in India while Muslims were not. 99% of the Muslims living in India share the same DNA with the other Indian communities and yet it was them that were labeled as the “other”. After the election of the pro-RSS BJP government, the experiments of engineering of consent against the Muslims through the issues like ‘Love Jihad’, ‘Cow Slaughter’ and ‘Anti-Nationalist Slogans’ have been forcefully initiated. These ploys existed even before the last elections, but on a much lower scale. The present government has commercialized these concepts. The pro-war sentiment is the byproduct of these efforts. Leo Tolstoy writes in his 1895 essay ‘Christianity and Patriotism’,
In all history there is no war which was not hatched by the governments, the governments alone, independent of the interests of the people, to whom war is always pernicious even when successful.
The government assures the people that they are in danger from the invasion of another nation, or from foes in their midst, and that the only way to escape this danger is by the slavish obedience of the people to their government. This fact is seen most prominently during revolutions and dictatorships, but it exists always and everywhere that the power of the government exists. Every government explains its existence, and justifies its deeds of violence, by the argument that if it did not exist the condition of things would be very much worse. After assuring the people of its danger the government subordinates it to control, and when in this condition compels it to attack some other nation. And thus the assurance of the government is corroborated in the eyes of the people, as to the danger of attack from other nations.
The preceding excerpt highlights the role of the governments in creating sentiments for war. In another essay ‘Patriotism, or Peace?’ Tolstoy writes,
Tell people that war is an evil, and they will laugh; for who does not know it? Tell them that patriotism is an evil, and most of them will agree, but with a reservation. “Yes,” they will say, “wrong patriotism is an evil; but there is another kind, the kind we hold.” But just what this good patriotism is, no one explains.
Nationalism in its most radical form, called Jingoism, is what is being promoted as patriotism in all the countries of the world. The word ‘patriotism’ and ‘nationalism’ have been used interchangeably in such a way that they have become indistinguishable in the eyes of the common masses. George Orwell writes on the difference between two words as follows
By “nationalism” I mean first of all the habit of assuming that human beings can be classified like insects and that whole blocks of millions or tens of millions of people can be confidently labelled “good” or “bad.” But secondly — and this is much more important — I mean the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognizing no other duty than that of advancing its interests. Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism. Both words are normally used in so vague a way that any definition is liable to be challenged, but one must draw a distinction between them, since two different and even opposing ideas are involved. By “patriotism” I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.
As is clear, the two words may ideologically be antonyms of each other. India and Pakistan have both used nationalism as their preferred method of mass control through the instrument of media without caring for the adverse effect it had and continues to have on Kashmir. According to Wikipedia, there have been 16,725–47,000 civilian deaths and 5462 security forces deaths in the valley between the period of 1989 and 2002 at our side of the border. Thousands of Jawaans and civilians have been sacrificed by both the sides of the border in order to control an area that has not essentially been given any right for determining their own path. This is because in all the nations of the world, the human soul and consciousness has been nationalized. It is the people of these nations that due to manufactured consent are unable to side with the justice. When we see the statistics on deaths in wars, we find that we live in a gloomy world dominated by violence and bloodshed which in most cases is unwarranted and unjustified. The death tolls in wars of the past where more than 100,000 people died has been given.
It is curious to note that most of the recent wars have been fought by the West. It is also curious to note that almost all of these wars were fought for more land and wealth rather than any religious cause, religion usually being highlighted as the cause of wars. It is religion and class that is politically utilized for creating sentiments for war for the personal gains of the ruling classes without any benefit ever passing down to the people who actually fought them. It is due to the radical nationalism that even after so many statistics and examples we fail to see the effects of war. People who have never experienced war are mostly the ones that ask for it. If only they could experience the pain of a dying soldier or a civilian they would never ask for conflict but yearn for peace. I wish people could realize that violence leads to more violence resulting into a formation of a vicious circle. Such a circle is only broken when and if the wars are fought for justice and all the parties after the war agree that justice has prevailed. But if justice were to prevail like this people would not have chosen war at the first place. The issue of Kashmir as such must be solved by giving Kashmiris the right to choose their destiny rather than India and Pakistan acting as their rightful envoys. If the decision is not given to them the issue will never be resolved. Countless more families of soldiers and civilians will be destroyed amidst the power hunger of the politicians and the corporates. Such arbitration can succeed only if the citizens of both the nations start seeing this issue as a Kashmiri issue rather than seeing it as the issue of their respective governments. They have to start criticizing their own if they think their own to be at mistake. This will not make the nation week but will make it stronger than it ever was where true voice of the people is heard. For this to happen Media will have to start fighting for justice prior to common man because common man’s perception is built upon the perception of the media. At the same time social organizations should become stronger, more organized with more information passing through its channels to the common man so that even with the absence of a media that support the masses, the masses could support themselves.
The empahsis of the West and the Hindutva lobby on Islam being a religion that promotes and supports terrorism forced me into studying the validity of their claims. What I found can be best represented in a single verse of Qur’an
“If anyone slays a person (unjustly), it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.”
It is the beauty of Islam that it does not give importance to the idea of nationalism. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in his last sermon said
“All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action. You know that every Muslim is the brother of another Muslim. Remember, one day you will appear before Allah and answer for your deeds. So beware, do not astray from the path of righteousness after I am gone.”
The preceding paragraph defines the egalitarian and righteous nature of Islam which unfortunately even the Muslims have not been able to completely understand and employ. If Muslims want to defend themselves from ideological oppression of the West and Hindutva then they will first have to realize the strengths of their own ideology. If that happens, a major population of the planet will be actively opposing war and oppression and striving for peace. Other religions should also try to follow a similar path where they should exploit the peaceful nature of religion. Let then people chose ‘Peace over War’.