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A Moment of Reflection

Archbp Thomas Menamparampil Archbp Thomas Menamparampil
06 Mar 2023
If the publication of Gujarat violence humiliated India, the Income Tax raids humiliated the nation even more. The world knows that 95% of 3,010 such raids that this Government has launched have been against political critics.

The Arab-Israel war in 1967 lasted only 6 days, but it placed Israel definitely on the map of the Middle East. The Bangladesh liberation war too was short, lasting just 13 days; but it set a nation free. Mahabharata war is supposed to have lasted merely 18 days, but it affirmed that victory belongs to the weaker, if only they stand closer to what is right. 

But ‘wars of display’ drag on endlessly. There is no clear goal, mere empty show. Korean and Vietnam wars dragged on and on, merely frustrating the aggressors and weakening the weak. The experience of the invading Soviet army in Afghanistan and the US-led invasion should have taught mighty nations that the stronger will not necessarily be the winner, especially when they want to impose their will on others. The so-called ‘strong’ leaders are slow learners and hastily forget the lessons that their own or others’ experience should have taught them. No wonder, Rishi Sunak of the UK rightly called for a “moment of reflection” on the anniversary of the Ukraine War. 

Ukrainians are fighting for their homeland. They are doubly determined. As they seek to stand by the values of democracy, the solidarity of all freedom-lovers will be with them in one manner or the other. That adds to their inner strength.  So, Kyiv stands to this day. Joe Biden could sturdily affirm during his Kyiv visit around the anniversary: “One year later, Kyiv stands, Ukraine stands, democracy stands”. Democracy that is threatened right round the globe, stands firm in Kyiv for all the world to see! 

Do Wars Pay? 

Fresh weapons are on the way. More lethal tools are moving to Ukraine. Putin is evidently shaken. He seems to have slipped down the stairs some time ago in sheer exhaustion. But he rises, only to fight more recklessly. He changes tone, sounds fiercer, withdraws from all previous agreements on strategic arms reduction, scraps the nuclear pact, and delivers nuclear threats. Zelensky fears that Moldova will be next.     

The losses have been beyond calculation. Not less than 40,000 Ukrainian civilians have died. About 1,00,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed or wounded; similar number of Russians too have become victims. Over 15.5 million have crossed the Ukrainian borders, 8 million as refugees.  For all his brave words, there is a tone of fatigue in Zelensky’s voice as he promises to continue the struggle. There are echoes of tiredness right round Europe. How long can they keep it up? No wonder Biden came round to reawaken enthusiasm. If the world attention is on Ukraine, non-performing world leaders can escape scrutiny for a while. Arms producers are happy, of course. The sad reality is that the main source of income for developed countries is not food or garment production, but arms sales and quality-weapons development. The more advanced the country, the higher the quality of the ‘weapons of mass destruction’ they produce.  The US, Russia and France are indebted to India not because of her spiritual message or wise philosophy but because she remains the most reliable purchaser of fighter jets, rare missiles and destructive gadgets. They hail Modi’s appeals for peace in Ukraine, as long as his weapons’ orders remain. They can sound flatteringly appreciative!

What is more, this ‘harbinger of peace’ has made India an impressive exporter of deadly weapons, never mind their performance! It is true, an Indian missile was misdirected to Pakistan and a Brahmos missile sold to the Philippines failed to function, but foreign exchange earnings have gone up. There was a period in our history when we encouraged universal values and international relationships worldwide. We have long forgotten all those ‘archaic’ ideas. Today we foster ultra-nationalism among our own people and others which will ensure a better market for our arms. Einstein used to say that nationalism is an infantile disease, like measles. We are happy to be in its clutches.

Unfortunately, for some people, war is just another form of diplomacy, and conflict another source of income. We do not grudge that the Ukraine war provides a living for many workers in ordnance factories in the US, France, Germany, Poland or Czech Republic, but an alternative way of prospering can be sought. US-EU imposed sanctions may have troubled Russia in some manner, but they have punished themselves even more with inflation rates rising to 10-15%. If the war is brutal on the front lines, it is equally harsh on those who suffer its economic consequences in EU and those who are cut off from the supply chain of wheat in Africa or elsewhere. It is a moment for reflection!

Conflicts galore

As Juan Manuel Santos, the former President of Colombia, points out, Ukraine certainly deserves attention, but we must not forget that there are more than a hundred conflicts currently going on in the world. If the war lengthens out, Ukraine can lose support gradually. Life must go on there, but elsewhere too. Ordinary people are concerned about their own anxieties. 

Currently, the poor beyond Europe face violence in a hundred forms in a hundred places. Myanmar is under martial law. There are insurgencies in Africa. There are social disturbances in Latin America. In most of such places, unemployment is worrying, price rise killing. Poor people are hurt by oil prices, food scarcity, lack of shelter. The helpless are lost amidst their own realities.  In addition, there are leaders who create problems for society as well. 

Planting Irrationalities  

The world was shocked when they heard Yusuke Narita of Yale University urging: “Old people in Japan should kill themselves to avoid burdening the state”. In an aging Japan, pension totals are rising to immense heights; society cannot afford to support them. People over the age of 75 are 15% of the population, those over 65 number 29.1%. When questioned about his shocking statement, Yusuke, himself being of Japanese origin, explained he was merely suggesting that old leadership should make place for new.  ‘The shocking’ has become the ‘new normal’. 

Donald Trump wanted to shock people with his unquotable expressions. He did. It was never his aim to be politically correct. Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines meant it when he said he would shoot and kill drug-dealers. He eliminated 27,000 poor young Filipinos. 
Netanyahu has returned to power in Israel. He wanted nothing less than strike terror into resistant Palestinians when he said, “We have a clear policy: to strike terror powerfully…” It could also have been meant for Iran or anyone else who had a design on Israel. 
People have asked themselves: Is there a future living in such a neighbourhood? Migrations to Europe increased from the Middle East and Africa. The momentum has intensified of late. We have news that some 60 migrants have just perished near Calabria, Italy. These are among the 20,000 who have gone missing on the Mediterranean since 2014.

Land of Buddha, Yet Violent

Akhilesh Yadav tries to argue that Adityanath Yogi’s bulldozer policy and Modi Government’s Income Tax raids have dented India’s image. He asks how foreign investors will come to a land where the houses of the poor are being bulldozed without explanation and where news agencies of international repute like the BBC and other media are targeted? Those who have chosen to “suspend reason” for a while feel no obligation to offer an explanation for what they do. 

When minorities and the weak are the victims, there is no one to speak up on their behalf…Muslim houses have been bulldozed in UP and Kashmir; Muslim and Christian settlements in Assam too are falling prey to the highhandedness of the government. There was a Muslim-lynching incident in Nuh district of Haryana of late. This was one of the 69 cases in the state recently, where the acquittal rate of criminals has been 94%. When the state promotes crime, crime rates rise sky high. Haryana authorities themselves are beginning to realize that they will have to pay the price some time.   

Humiliating the Humble

The list is very long. Here are a few examples. At Gurugram, Haryana, a tribal girl was abused. In M.P., there was violence over Dalit entry into a Shiva temple.  In U.P., a Dalit youth was attacked for sitting on a chair. Such things are multiplying day after day. If the victim is a tribal or a Dalit, it is a non-event. No action is taken, no action needs to be taken! In U.P. again, singer Neha Singh Rathore was threatened for her humorous lyrics on the Government’s ‘failures’. Assam Police rush all the way to Delhi to arrest Congress leader Pawan Khera for ‘mispronouncing the name’ of the Prime Minister’s father; it was described as “derogatory remarks” by the police. Does it make sense?

Authorities in Assam seek to be one step ahead of U.P. in everything: use of bulldozers, encounter killings, love jihad. In order to be further ahead, the Assam Government of late started arresting those guilty of child marriage. Over 3000 have been taken into custody. This is turning out to be an impossible venture. Statistics show that more than 31% of the marriages in the state had violated the law in recent years. The national rate is much higher. All wise people plead: help the weaker sections, educate them; don’t close down schools; don’t arrest the ill-informed; assist them, guide them. 

In the Meantime, Bajrang Muni Das, a Sadhu in U.P., who called for elimination of all Muslims to establish “Ram Rajya” goes around propagating his message. When there is a mention of Muslims, the Prime Minister becomes alert. He himself has been lamenting again and again the 12,000 years of slavery; he harks back to Aurangzeb’s rule. Arundhati Roy explains: ‘More than 80% of Indian Muslims are Pasmanda (Dalits). They did not rule us. Don’t accuse them for what irresponsible rulers have done in the past’. 

A Lot More to Be Reported

In reference to the BBC documentary, Gujarat-2002 is not the only tale to be told. Bharat-2014 continues the account, Bharat-2019 takes it further. “Report without fear”, the BBC authorities told their staff in India. “Thank you for your professionalism and courage.” If the publication of Gujarat violence humiliated India, the Income Tax raids humiliated the nation even more. The world knows that 95% of 3,010 such raids that this Government has launched have been against political critics. If the criticism is baseless, why all that fuss?

Every Income Tax raid establishes the truth of the critic’s allegations. 

No wonder David Rutley, U.K.’s parliamentary under-secretary, reaffirmed, “We stand up for the BBC. We fund the BBC…It criticizes us, it criticizes the Labour Party, and it has the freedom which we believe is vitally important.”   

If international news agencies fail in their duty, Ayodhya masjid bricks and every inch of Gujarat soil will cry out the truth. A disillusioned kar sevak who pulled down the masjid asks today on further thought: what is this big temple about if my family cannot have two meals a day? 

The Prime Minister had no worthwhile comment on the BBC documentary. External Affairs Minister Jaishankar had to do all that for him. C.P. Chandra Sekhar says, neoliberalism in India is not about market competition and fair distribution. It is about free distribution of income and wealth to favourite business groups. As long as that is done, why strain your nerves about damaged images?

Operation Dost

The good news is that as wars and violence harass the world, 108 South Korean Buddhist monks are on a 43-day peace march from Varanasi to Bodh Gaya, covering a good portion of Buddha’s world.  “We want world peace”, they pray. Undoubtedly there is a longing in every part of the world for the very values absent in society today. For example, as Netanyahu seeks to limit the power of the Judiciary, there are thousands on the streets of Jerusalem vowing to fight for the “soul of the nation”. 

When Turkey lay in ruins under the impact of the earthquake, (it is estimated that over 47,000 lost their lives in Turkey and Syria), it was kind of Modi to organize an “Operation Dost” offering relief to the victims of the disaster.  Earlier, he had reached out to the SAARC nations during the Covid crisis. Sri Lanka was assisted during its financial helplessness. No good work goes unrewarded. 

He could reach out to Kashmir too and offer solace to their hurt sentiments. He could extend his concern to millions of Indian Muslims, Christians, other minorities, tribals and Dalits with credible signs of assistance holding out new hopes for their future. We have been told, Modi works hard and prays. That is the precious “Moment of Reflection”. Kindness is nothing but its fruit. The “soul of the nation” may still be saved!

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