In this week’s News ka Juice, Barkha Dutt asks 9 pm pseudo warriors to learn from real soldiers.
Today, let’s talk about the two most loaded words in Indian politics and public debate.
The first is secularism.
The second is nationalism.
Instead of being unifiers in a vibrant diverse democracy,
Both words have become divisive, distorted, politicised and corroded in recent times.
But as the Indian military commemorates the 70th Army Day…
The day when Lt Gen. K.M. Cariappa took over from General Francis Butcher as a free country’s first commander in chief…
We can learn lessons in both secularism and nationalism from our fauj.
Secularism is organic and effortless in the Indian Army.
In politics, the Right-wing uses the word secularism as an abuse…
They mock us with a variation of the word and call us ‘sickular’…
They are brazen about their anti-Muslim hatred.
Liberals, on the other hand, make the mistake of insisting on a Nehruvian take on secularism… An arid sanitised version that fails to celebrate faith.
And so-called liberal politicians are often selective and hypocritical about secularism.
The army, on the other hand, simply and happily prays together.
The Sarv Dharam Sthal or a common prayer hall often brings soldiers of different religions under one spiritual roof.
The unwritten rule is that the faith of the troops becomes the faith of the officer. At least while on duty.
The Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry or JAKLI is one of the youngest regiments of the army.
It initially drew from citizens militias that were formed to resist the invasion of Pakistani raiders in 1947.
Today, it is 50 per cent Muslim and 50 per cent non-Muslim, and extremely proud of its diversity.
It is also home to the unique MMG concept…
Where MMG stands for not a gun but Mandir Masjid Gurdwara.
The unit has a multi-religious approach to not just prayer and god but also festivals and food.
During Ramzan, Hindu officers also keep the roza and often lead the namaz prayers.
During Diwali, Muslim officers not just celebrate the festival but step in for duty so their Hindu comrades can get time off.
Halal and jhakta meat are cooked alongside in the kitchen.
And, last year, on Baisakhi, because the granthi was on leave, the maulvi delivered the sermons of the Granth Sahib.
What does the army’s practice of religious diversity teach us about secularism?
Well, for a start, we need to get rid of this word called tolerance.
As Indian progressives we asking Indians to be tolerant, and keep lamenting rising tolerance.
In fact, tolerance is a terrible word because it suggests enduring each other without much liking each other.
But the army’s notion of secularism is not tolerance, it is joyous participation, in each other’s religious customs.
It is a metaphor for the India our founding fathers imagined.
And a microcosm of the pluralism we should celebrate every single day.
Now, let’s discuss nationalism.
We live in an age when all dissent is called sedition…
And any opinion that goes against the dominant narrative is called anti-national.
The ‘9pm patriots’ in particular…
Who may never have moved out of the cocoon of the TV studio…
Have twisted nationalism out of all shape and meaning.
Here too we need to learn from the army
Now no one in their right mind can call General D.S. Hooda, the former Northern Army commander, anything but a patriot, right?
Well, in 2016, right after Burhan Wani was eliminated in an anti-terror operation…
And the Valley had erupted in violent turmoil…
It was not the political class that first called for peace and negotiation…
It was the General.
He appealed to all stakeholders — security forces, separatists and students — to sit at the same table and talk to find a solution.
Today, anyone who calls for talks in Kashmir is called an anti-national by the 9pm pseudo patriots.
Would they dare to say that to General Hooda?
Because a soldier actually pays the price for the absence of peace.
A military man or woman knows nothing is more anti-national than prolonged conflict.
They will take a bullet, fight ferociously and not compromise on dignity.
But they will never be pseduo patriots like our TV anchors.
General Hooda was also the officer who courageously lead the surgical strikes against Pakistan.
These are now the subject of films and books but, unfortunately, also material for election politics.
It is this that the General warned against.
Speaking this year at the military lit festival…
He slammed the use of the strikes for chest-thumping and point-scoring and, above all, playing politics.
Saying bluntly, there was too much political banter on both sides.
He was unequivocal in saying that the over-hype did not help.
This quiet dignity of the uniform is what patriotism is all about.
In sharp contrast to the asinine ideas that hashtag warriors propound, these are men who fight real battles.
So, the next time someone on Twitter hectors you on secularism or nationalism…
Point them in the direction of the Indian Army.
And then dare them to disagree.
See you next week.
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