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Wars Against People

By Raja Jaikrishan

15 June, 2010

The worldview of the Indian subcontinent is well summed up in an old Hindi film song:

Your loss was a pretext
Break-up had to follow
Not this, some other issue
Had to well me with tears
Even smile had to weep…

For us suffering be it in times of war or peace is a condition of fate without any escape. The revolutionary aspirations peter out in ethnic conflicts and communal riots. This leads to displacements and changes in power structures.

Wars on al-Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan have turned out to be for the capture of iron ore, copper, cobalt, gold and lithium. The secessionist movement in Kashmir is a spillover effect of the turmoil in Afghanistan.

Wars to sanitize jungles of Central and eastern India from Maoist is turning out to be war on adivasis for they are resisting the MNC plunder of resources.

An environment has been created where the abuse of power by the governments of the Indian subcontinent is visible and invisible at the same time. It is like a mirage, which disappears as we draw close to it. The institutions of democracy are being used to muzzle screams of victims and numb their thinking.

The increasing influence of USA has turned the governments against their own people .

This has led to the rise of Al Capones of caste, religion and region. Who bully the weak and buy peace with the strong.

The reporting on wars against people in the subcontinent is such that avertable causes are fudged in the rhetoric of violence and nationalism. The infotainment machines censor preventable causes. Untruths, lies and half-truths are repeated to numb people’s thought.

All is well as long we are able to argue about it .Our prime Minister inspires us to foreign –investment centric progress, despite Union Carbide turning the shantytown of Bhopal into a morgue. Deaths due to industrial mishaps or floods or starvation or riots or war…are a small price for progress. Anyone who asks why and how is a great security risk. Kill him for his courage; defame him with bad verses, say our Oxford-returned ministers. There are words and words but not one sired by concern for the people. Herta Muller reacts to the deathly fear created by systemic violence with a thirst for life. A hunger for words. She says about her work place:

“The harassment was passed down; the rumor was set into circulation among my colleagues. That was the worst. You can defend yourself against an attack, but there's nothing you can do against libel. Every day I prepared myself for anything, including death. But I couldn't cope with this perfidy. No preparation made it bearable. Libel stuffs you with filth; you suffocate because you can't defend yourself. In the eyes of my colleagues I was exactly what I had refused to become. If I had spied on them they would have trusted me without the slightest hesitation. In essence they were punishing me because I had spared them…

Dots are dancing here says Bea
you're coming into a long-stemmed glass of milk
linens in white gray-green zinc tub
nearly all materials
correspond upon delivery
look here
I am the trainride and
the cherry in the soapdish
never talk to strange men
or speak over the switchboard

This violence takes away our sense and sensibility. There are explanations galore but they don’t rekindle the truth reduced to embers by our leaders and judges and babus. We see everything but register nothing. Men turn into silent sheep and women bleating goats. Varis Alavi elaborates on our condition in his essay Riots and Artist:
“When, at My Lai, the skull of a wounded child is blown to bits from a distance scarcely eight feet way, or, at Ahmadabad, an entire family of ten, children included, is burned alive in just one house --exactly what is one supposed to feel? Sadness and stupor, pity and fear -- in other words, the feelings that tragedy inspires in us? But what is happening around us is singularly devoid of the barest trace of tragic majesty. Our violence is as meaningless as our agony and pain is senseless. Entirely unproductive! Our violence and our atrocities have risen so far above all ethical consideration of good and evil, and reached such an extreme form, that they appear laughable.”