By Manik Sharma Feb. 16, 2019
An attack like Pulwama will naturally elicit concern and passion, as it should. But even our anger, our hostility has to be carried out by men and women who have families to come back to. Let us always remember that.
The last 48 hours have been difficult for India. In between the romantic exaggerations of Valentine’s Day, news poured in from Pulwama, Kashmir of the biggest terror attack on India’s armed forces in the three decades of militancy in the Valley. Jubilation frantically turned to sadness, for this dastardly attack pointed, yet again, to the distance our average, urban livelihoods have from the country’s tense borders. This distance has never felt greater, the screaming quietness along its muted spread, never as deafening.
It is natural to react, of course. First comes sadness, for those who have left us and for those they have left behind; then comes anger which though just, can irredeemably turn into hate directed at a community or a group. We need to respond, but not through the hysteria of a war cry, but a rally for peace. Peace that soldiers have a better chance of living through, if they aren’t asked to go to war.
It’s easy right now to give into emotion. Anger is just, even the desire to exact a price. But while violent retaliation might redeem to an extent our hurt self, even nationalistic pride, it doesn’t resolve long-term problems, not to mention it doesn’t bring back the deceased either. The attack in Pulwama, a glaring error of intel and judgement, is also a reminder that far from the histrionics of an Uri-like spectacle, there are no victories in war – only, perhaps, the avoidance of loss. Every day a soldier makes it back home alive, unharmed, is a triumph. A triumph we must concern ourselves with more regularly than the gusto our patriotic films and songs sporadically solicit. Rather than scream our loyalties and passions pointlessly into the dark of a cinema hall, we need to constructively question the lapses and shortcomings that repeatedly endanger the lives of our soldiers. Channel our energies, so to speak, toward something consequential rather than vengeful and brief.
Even our anger, our hostility has to be carried out by men and women who have families to come back to.
A moment like this is precarious, to a certain extent even definitive to our immediate future as a society. In the rush to indemnify for such a loss, the easiest thing to do would be to broaden the imagination and identify culprits, who are essentially faceless for the rest of the country. Within hours of reports of the Pulwama attack the hashtags #TerrorismHasAReligion and #TerrorismHasAMazhab began trending on social media platforms. To castigate a group and incite religious passions at a time when the need of the hour should be to stick together on the inside, is suicidal. It risks fracturing a bone on the inside, as we fight both emotionally and physically to repurpose it on the outside. To implode, to quarrel amongst ourselves, demand blood and life based on religion, faith, caste or creed would be to the enemy, a bigger victory than what it assumes has been accomplished through Pulwama. Terrorists only have one religion, violence. To assign them any other would be a disservice the very concept of robust faiths, and by extension, god.
An incisive, demonic attack like Pulwama will naturally elicit concern and passion, as it should. But it will also encourage rhetoric, calls for violent retribution and most frustratingly, politics. Common sense be damned, it would be criminal to seek a vehicle in all of this. There has to be consensus now that nothing from here on in, should be at the mercy of political jargon and campaigns. In the wake of a national election it would be disrespectful to treat the death of our soldiers as a gambit to garner support from people. We deserve from our politicians their composure and calm, but it is unlikely that a handful of them won’t see this as an opportunity to further their agendas by rallying for wars that they themselves don’t have to fight.
We must approach the seething tension in the aftermath of Pulwama with a reality check that is more personal than political. To retaliate determinedly surrenders our soldiers to further risk. Yes, we may kill some of theirs, and rejoice in the numerical chess of body bags, but it hardly addresses core issues that pertain to dialogue, diplomacy and in this case, the disadvantaged armed forces. To be an inactive part of a war, seated away in mainland India, is in itself a privilege. Even our anger, our hostility has to be carried out by men and women who have families to come back to. Let us not ask them to do, something that we wouldn’t want to do ourselves.
That said this attack calls for perspective. We need to understand the everyday cost of militarising landscapes and fighting complex battles; the losses that a brave few suffer on our behalf. War, as history tells us, is only redeemed by peace. It is this peace that we must keep, even if it pierces the chest, close to the heart.