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"Leave us alone "
("Hame apne hall pe rehne dein")
Chief of Army Staff, General Ved Prakash Malik

May 31, 1999: Senior army staff officers were asked to brief the BJP National Executive. This has never happened before.

August 1999: Army officers, to their discomfort, were persuaded to attend a RSS - sponsored function, Sindhi Darshan in Leh. They were given citation signed by RSS chef, Rajinder Singh. In his address, Mr.L.K.Advani to establish similarities between the RSS and Indian Army.
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August 19,1999: A VHP delegation, led by Vishnu Hari Dalmia, Ashok Singhal, Giriraj Kishore distributed books printed by them to our injured soldiers.

August 23, 1999: Vishwa Hindu Parishad representatives gate crashed into the office of the ministry of Defence, armed with photographers and 20,000 Rakhis, for the Jawans in Kargil.

The Army refused to accept the Rakhis.

Mr. Vajpayee,Mr.Advani
Please don't politicise the
Secular Indian Army.

(Advt. Sponsored by Combat of Communalism" in Hindustan Times New Delhi on August 29,1999)


AKSHAYA MUKUL WARNS OF THE DANGERS. (In Hindustan times, Sunday August 29,1999)
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Kargil has brought to the fore Indian machismo – it is on display at election campaign meetings, in advertisement jingles, in our public discourse. It has crept into our drawing rooms and boardrooms, dominating the discussions of the chattering class whose aversion for the olive green color was proverbial. Suddenly, the Army is the paragon of efficiency, the soldier the new role model – and death in the battlefield the ultimate sacrifices, to be pined for and celebrated. Indeed, the Indian consciousness seems to have been militarized irrevocably.

This change is neither accidental nor natural, but a necessary culmination of the Pakistani intrusion in Kargil and the commendable success of the Army in pushing it back. Very few nations have escaped war – but not all adopt the military mindset. India, however, has, consciously, with the BJP government’s encouragement.

The "explosion of self-esteem" has been replaced by unprecedented aggression post-Kargil, followed by the hasty articulation of the nuclear doctrine. And then the ultimate shock – the Prime Minister of the world’s largest democracy speaking against the backdrop of portraits of the three military chiefs and the prithvi missile. It seems the political class is willing to accord a role to the military that the constitution had never envisaged.

What is worrisome is that this militarism is no longer based on emotion, as it was during the Kargil days, but is being shrewdly crafted. Warns political scientist Rajni Kothari, " It’s not militarism in the sense that the military has come to power or there is a chance of coup d’etat by the military, but it’s a new form of governance which attempts to increasingly militarize the state." Adds sociologist Shiv Viswanathan, "The militarisation of our civil society is an attempt to get over the widespread stigma of the Hindu’s lack of killer instinct."

Kothari provides the backdrop against which the BJP is pushing its new style of governance. Till the time the Congress dominated the political scene, provided stability and forged together a large and diverse coalition of social groups, there lingered the hope that democracy would be transformative – and offer something to everyone. "There was a constant relationship between government and society,. The credit for this must go to Nehru who, despite partition, ensured that the Constitution emphasized the dominant role of democratic politics." He says.

The decline of the Congress has inspired the BJP to occupy the vacant political space through a brand of politics of which militarism is an integral part. Unable to widen its social base through the pursuit of transformative politics, the party hopes that militarism could cut across the class/caste divide – and propels it into power.

Indeed, militarism weaves smoothly into the BJP’s worldview of creating a highly theocratic centralized state. Pokhran II followed the Ram agitation; and the trend has been reinforced through the premature spelling out of the nuclear doctrine and irresponsible talk of stockpiling nuclear arms. "It’s no longer for peace, as the BJP had claimed before, but for combative purposes. The next logical step of militarism will be to imagine enemies and be in a constant state of military preparedness," Kothari observes.

This will then fuel the ambition of India becoming a global power, necessitating the building of a strong military base. Existing policies will be changed to take the active help of multinational arms manufacturers for creating a large industrial base for the military. Ultimately, what will emerge is a militarily strong, nuclear-led infrastructure – something the BJP has been aspiring for long.

The process of militarisation, says Kothari, is already unfolding through India’s attempt to seek approval from other big states, most notably the US, for its new status – and campaign to isolate Pakistan. New Delhi recently dispatched two retired bureaucrats, N N Vohra and J N Dixit, to the US to break fresh grounds in bilateral relations. Secretary of State Madeline Albright responded to these overtures through a statement that called for greater cooperation between the two democracies. "What she forgets is that the Indian approach to democracy is different from the US’. Unlike their bi-partisan democracy, we have a pluralistic set-up... Albright’s prescription for closer cooperation will not only complete the process of militarisation but also make India move to the Right, domestically and internationally,’ says Kothari.

But sociologist Dipankar Gupta of Jawaharlal Nehru University refuses to be so pessimistic. He agrees that the BJP’s ultimate goal is to build a Hindu Rashtra – and militarism is inherent in this worldview – but feels this is impossible to achieve. "Hinduism has so many strands that it is difficult to weave a theocratic structure out of it. Moreover, in the long run, I don’t think people at large will get militarised even if politicians do," he says.

An act of desperation
Gupta perceives the BJP’s flirtation with militarism as an act of desperation. "Like the earlier issues they raised, even militarism will meet a quiet burial," he quips, and wagers that the BJP combine will find it difficult to return to power. His logic is rooted in history – in major democracies, no leader or party has been able to capture power even after presiding over a successful military campaign – be it Winston Churchill after World War II or George Bush after the Gulf War. Indira Gandhi won the election after the Bangladesh war in 1971, but was in dire straits four years later, ultimately imposing the Emergency on an unsuspecting nation.

Obviously, the story will be different if the BJP proves Gupta wrong – and wins another stint at the Center. Kothari is convinced about its implications: "Greater Indo-US cooperation will lead to US interference in our affairs. It always finds it easier to deal with authoritarian regimes than with the open, pluralistic, multi-ethnic, diverse polity that India was under the Congress and United Front regimes." To bolster his argument, he cites Washington’s interference in chile under Pinochet, Pakistan under Zia-ul-Haq and Indonesia under Suharto – in all these countries the US intervened under the garb of protecting human rights.

Adds Vishwanathan, "Militarisation will not only open floodgates for the MNCs but will also become a tremendous source of corruption. No one will be able to question this dangerous triangle of liberalisation-globalisation-militarisation. The BJP will justify irrational expenditure in the name of Kargil. There will be no scope for a rational look at the defence budget."

He fears that militarism might also depoliticise democracy: "The culture of protest and public debate will die forever and there will be a mad scramble in the civil society to be more patriotic than the rest." Those who will dare to speak against war or warmongering will not only be scoffed at but might also be threatened with dire consequences.

Worse, rues a retired Army official now in the BJP, the Armed Forces will suffer. "The supremacy of the elected over the non-elected institutions of the state will continue. Politicians know when to tighten the leash," he says. He, too, cites an example from history – VK Krishna Menon stepped up defence expenditure, but also took swipes at the services, calling the Indian Army a "parade ground Army," and contravened the hallowed military tradition of seniority in promotion.

Says the general-turned-BJP leader, "In the aftermath of the 1962 war against China, a parliamentary committee was set up to probe the debacle. Army officials openly furnished evidence to the Opposition against Menon’s decisions during the war. Something like this will happen to the likes of George Fernandes. It will further erode the liberal democratic theory that non-elected institutions should be neutral."

Militarism will also impact domestically, feels sociologist Veena Das. The spectre of violence will come to grip society. This will receive a fillip by the flourishing arms industry in search of new trouble spots to push their supplies. Eventually, the traid of war-insurgency-crime will make its presence felt in new sectors, and intensify further in existing strifetorn areas.

The price, predicts Kothari, for the poor and unemployed, women and religious minorities will pay militarism. Already at the receiving end of the new economic policy, they will be ignored and forgotten in a military based economy. Also, their protests will be suppressed by police and paramilitary forces, which will be armed with more repressive powers.

Most importantly, the patriotism of Muslims will be constantly under test. No longer will it is contingent on their display of hatred for Pakistan, but on their wholehearted approval of Hindu leaders. Hindutva as the only valid form of nationalism will then attain new credibility.

Another Soviet Union?
POPULAR DISCONTENT repressed rather than resolved will bring about a total collapse, just the way the Soviet Union fell apart because its economy couldn’t sustain its military power. No wonder, Das dubs the ongoing militarism as the beginning of the end of the Indian State itself. Kothari says the Indian state will try to bail out by redefining the contours of its relationship with the US: "The new relationship, unlike that of before, won’t be of that between a rich and a poor country but of a militarized power working out a deal with global powers and transnational corporates."

Does that leave any space for hope? Yes, says Das, because the majority in the country will have no stake in it. "It’s difficult to think that day-to-day harrowing experiences of life will be put aside for militarism, "she believes. Kothari, on the other hand, sees hope in a new alliance of secular politicians, intellectuals and activists coming together to work among marginalised classes. And evolving a new political idiom to replace the jingoism and communal politics of today. In fact, says Kothari, the country will continue to have elections until democratic forces find an alternative to the militarized, centralized, foreign-influenced polity that is emerging under the BJP.(Courtesy: Hindustan Times, Delhi)

The BJP and Military "Stability"

Vijay Prashad

Joseph Goebbels, Propaganda Minister of the Nazi government in Germany,
declared at the time of the first pogroms in 1933 that at the very least
the fascists are not boring. More than a decade later, the great German
philosopher Theodor Adorno wrote that "fascism was the absolute
sensation." That is, in the Third Reich "sensation has submerged,
together with differentiation between qualities, all judgement." Adorno
meant that the generation of news by the media relied upon sensationalism
for two reasons. First, the sheer bulk of news makes only sensational
news memorable and so, people who want to appear in the news must be
outlandish. Second, the sound-bite method of reportage makes it hard for
the public to make reasoned judgements of the material presented to
them. This is so because we often provide quotes out of context and
political statements without any sense of history. Election time is, in
my opinion, an intensification of Adorno's pithy remarks and the fascist
like character of Hindutva makes sensationalism all the more prevalent today.

For sensational remarks, Bal Thackery ('supremo' of the Shiv Sena and the
closest ally of the BJP) stands alone. On 30 December 1997, told Reuters
that "I say to hell with democracy. Democracy has ruined [India]. There
is too much of freedom without knowing the exact meaning, and the
spelling too. Unless and until your people know the meaning of democracy
and freedom, you are not supposed to give the people what they demand and
ask." The anti-democratic ethos of Mr. Thackery carries over into the
tradition of the BJP and its Hindutva allies. After all, M. S.
Golwalkar, as neo-Manu, noted in 1966 that the "Brahmin is the head, King
the hands, Vaishya the thighs and Shudra the feet. This means that the
people who have thus, four-fold arrangement, i. e. the Hindu people, is
our God" ("A Bunch of Thoughts," p. 25). As India (much celebrated for
its history of democratic rule in this half-century) goes to the polls,
let the population keep these sentiments in mind as they see the lotus
symbol on the rolls.

In recent weeks, too many people seem to offer the banal sentiment that
this time it appears inevitable that the BJP and its allies will
triumph. This judgement is based on two erroneous principles that I will
explore in this opinion piece.

Multi-party rule
The first mistaken belief is that states can and should be ruled by
single parties rather than by multi-party coalitions. Democracy must not
be squandered for the sake of an expedient search for "stability."
Multi-party coalitions allow many voices to enter governance and to place
needed checks and balances on those who rule (especially in such vast
countries as India). The collapse of the Congress led to the National
Front experiment, but that failed in large part because its members had
an opportunistic attitude towards the coalition. The United Front, in
contrast, has held together and its constitutents appear to have created
a modus operandi essential to political rule. The other successful
coalition is the Left Front government in West Bengal that has survived
for two decades through the creation of mechanisms for the management of
intra-front problems. These coalitions show that the form is worthwhile
and democratic.

The BJP recognized in the early 1990s that it would be unable to win
sufficient support in most states to ensure its victory in Delhi.
Therefore, over the years, it too has cultivated a platform for various
parties who ascribe in some measure either to its ideology (Shiv Sena) or
who are eager to take power in Delhi at all costs (George Fernandes'
Samata Party). In seven states the BJP has created alliances that make
little sense in terms of its own manifesto. For a party wedded to
national unity, it embraced both the Akali Dal in Punjab (whose history
of mild secessionism is well-known) and the Tripura Upajati Yuva Samiti
(whose militancy is the stuff of legend). For a party that claims to
oppose corruption, it is now in alliance with Jayalalitha's AIADMK, it
embraces dissident Congress leaders (whose entry into the BJP is simply
to ensure the maintenance of their fiefdoms) such as Aslam Sher Khan and
Anadi Charan Sahu and it allows considerable space to opportunistic
fence-sitters like Navin Patnaik and Suresh Kalmadi both of whom have
floated their own parties in alliance with the BJP rather than risk
complete submission to it (the Biju Janata Dal and the Pune Vikas Aaghadi).

Sunil Adam is right (India Abroad, 2 January 1998) that the BJP "will
laugh all the way to the vote banks," but isn't the vote bank culture of
the Congress something that the party once vowed to abolish? In
September, L. K. Advani (BJP) noted that "if the BJP is looking like the
Congress, it is part of the democratic process. We are, after all,
witnessing the transformation of an ideological movement into a party of
governance." In other words, in order to rule, the party of Hindutva is
willing to absorb corrupt elements within the Congress and use their
venal thirst for power (at any cost) as a means to put its own
anti-democratic, anti-cultural agenda into full motion.

Party of "Stability"
The second error of judgement that appears in the internet and at
gatherings of Indians is that the BJP has mellowed since its 6 December
1992 days and it will now simply act as the party of "stability." The
desire for "stability" is championed amongst the elite particularly since
many have realized that the 1991 liberalization dynamic has made the
Indian economy reliant upon foreign capital investment. When Sakutaro
Tanino, Japanese Ambassador to India, told the Confederation of Indian
Industry that "the political situation [in India] has made our people
really apprehensive about investing" [India Abroad, 2 January 1998], the
Indian elite senses danger for itself. For this reason, perhaps, the big
business houses have begun to line-up behind the BJP. On 25 December
1997, major newspapers carried a supplement in honour of Atal Behari
VajpayeeUs 74th birthday, paid for by big business houses who are eager
to protect their interests. In September, BJP General Secretary
Kushabhau Thakre noted that "till recently we were described as a party
of shopkeepers, but we are now reflecting the needs of newer social
groups." Certainly, the party that found its major support from the
lower middle class in the 1980s is now feted by big business whose
interests run contrary to those of the "shopkeepers." One can be certain
of a conflict along those lines in the near future. The Left parties
note that the bill for the next election will exceed Rs. 8 billion ($211
million) and the party that collects the most support from big business
is clearly at an advantage. The BJP, as the new beloved of big business,
is slated to receive large funds.

Of course, all this is at odds with the people's demand for "stability"
and for better governance. By all indications, the people want an end to
corruption, to political violence (such as the Ranbir Sena massacre in
Bihar) and for greater equity in economic terms. The bulk of the
population can do without foreign investment, since their only benefit
thus far has been harder work for a marked decline in social conditions.
The media, nevertheless, chases "stability" of the elite form, asking
business and financial magnates what they think of the political situation.

To secure this image of "stability," Advani noted on 28 December 1997
that the BJP will continue the fight to demolish the shrines at Kashi and
Mathura. Further, he noted that the BJP will not let-up on Ayodhya.
This Vijaywada speech won him acclaim from his RSS controllers. The next
day, however, Advani retracted the statement and in recent days he has
stated that the BJP wants to "befriend the minorities." It is
disgraceful for a political party to use 11% of th country's population as
a means for political power. That the inflammatory rhetoric leads to the
death of innocent Muslims seems to have changed little in the ways of
Advani. Now that "stability" is on the agenda, the Muslims are once
again to be the object of BJP attentions. The sensational speechs, as
Goebbels noted, enables the BJP to make news every day and not to be
boring. Those parties that are concerned for the popular well-being are
unable to be fashionable since the tasks they have set for themselves
appear mundane. Better to be mundane and just than to be sensational and

The desire for "stability" amongst the managers of the BJP led to the
recent and sensational entrance of 90 retired military personnel into the
party (22 December). At the event, one ex-officer noted that "the armed
forces can do anything better than others, whether administrative work in
the government or running the politics of the country." This sentiment
goes well with the anti-democratic statements of Thackery and it shows us
that the BJP means to be the agent for the entry of a military
"stability" to India.

Ek fasl paki to bhar-paya
Jab tak to yehi kucch karna hai

Some day a ripe harvest shall be ours
Till that day, we must plough the seeds

(Faiz,"RYeh Fasl Umedon Ki, Hamdam").


Vijay Prashad is Assistant Professor of International Studies
Trinity College
Hartford, CT. 06106-3100, U.S.A.
(860) 297-2518.


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Last updated: February 23, 2000 .