Being anti-war and pro-peace is not being anti-soldier.

A response to Major Gaurav Arya We dont celebrate deaths because we care about our soldiers
Blog Blog Wednesday, October 05, 2016 - 16:48

In the past couple of days, a blog by Major Gaurav Arya, a soldier and popular prime-time face has been shared widely online. This is only an extension to what the respectful Major has already been shouting on Times Now, one Newshour after the other.

In the blog, Major Arya puts in play the same rhetoric which nationalists have employed for centuries, but there is one bluff which needs to be called out every time it is mouthed - the pitting of peaceniks against soldiers. Repeatedly, he makes those asking for peace, calm and protection of individual rights look anti-soldier.

Being anti-war and pro-peace is not being anti-soldier.

I respect the soldier in Major Arya. I salute him for the sacrifices he has made, and well aware that not only am I physically and mentally incapable of what soldiers endure, but that I should be eternally thankful for their service in our defense. Every solider deserves our unflinching support, peaceniks know that.

What we don’t have to support is the politics of warmongering that goes on in the two countries, of late enabled by shrill voices on TV screens and mindless rants online. We don’t have to support those who call for more military action which could cost lives of our soldiers.

A soldier’s life is important for us, and while they are willing to give it up, we are not willing to create a situation which puts their lives at risk. We don't want governments to go on the warpath when peace is a possibility. We certainly don't want the media to whip up passions so some defense contractors can make money. We don’t want our soldiers to die, we want them to live, that’s the least we can do for them in return for their sacrifices. And we are entitled to hold this opinion without being called anti-national, for this is the very right which our soldiers protect for us.

I care for soldiers and their family. If this is mala fide intent, then so be it.

It isn’t just the framing of the issue by the Major which is problematic, it is also the “delirious joy” he sees in the “nation” after the surgical strikes by India across LoC.

No doubt, that as Indian citizens, there was a sense of security and reassurance in knowing that the government did not sit idle as cowardly terrorists attacked our men. But why should we celebrate this? That this had to be done is the sad reality of our times, and we sympathize with our brave soldiers who put their lives at risk. But do we want them to risk their lives again? No. Would we not rather have a situation where no Uri happens and hence no response is required? Should we not aspire for that?

And is the “nation” really celebrating this with “delirious joy”? Or is this joy just inside delirious studios in Mumbai and Delhi, screaming with excitement and bloodlust?

The other day, Tamil news channels played out a purported recorded phone conversation between a soldier posted in Kashmir and his mother back home in Tamil Nadu. In the conversation, the soldier tells his mother as he prepares to leave for the frontline, “Don’t worry. If I die, just think that you gave away one son for the nation. If I die, be happy. If I come back alive, be happy.”

His mother is in tears, breaks down on the phone. She asks why this has to happen, why her son is in danger.

I salute the brave soldier, and I also care for the mother. I want him to come back alive. I want him to live and defend the country for us. That’s the best I can do from back home on my couch – be sensitive and do my bit to reduce tensions between the two countries.

And that’s why, sensible, sensitive and right thinking citizens should allow a Fawad Khan to do his job here, and let our businessmen operate in Pakistan. We support our soldiers, and yet we respect individual rights of citizens. This is a nuanced position to take, and delirious nationalists are usually not capable of understanding it.

Our army is not fighting the people of Pakistan, but the terrorists in that country. We do not have hatred for the people of Pakistan, but only those elements in their polity and army which kill our army-men and citizens. And it is when the peace-seeking people of Pakistan and India stand together that tensions will reduce, and the warmongering politicians on both sides will take a back seat – for many of them indeed stand to benefit from wars at the cost of soldiers’ lives.

“Peace is not a punch line. It is the end result of war,” says the Major. Well, as he might know better than me, war is no primetime TV punchline either. It is the beginning of years of loss of innocent lives, a great economic burden on the country - which has to be borne the most by soldiers and the poor, and it guarantees no peace. Those sitting comfortably on their anchor-chairs in studios have blood on their hands, blood of their own soldiers. I want none of it on mine while I enjoy the comforts of my safe home, forgive me for that.

In the end, Major talks about the letter written by a 5-year-old kid, asking PM Modi to stop talks with those who “think they can bully us with threat”. Nothing can be a better illustration of what’s happening today. Only kids should be saying this. Sensitive, thoughtful adults who respect soldiers should not be warmongering.

Jai hind, and more power to soldiers risking their lives out there for us.

Note: The views expressed here are the personal opinions of the author.

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