Centre may be trapped in its own game

The government has given no reasoned arguments to back its decision of not providing proof of the strikes.

Claiming ownership of anything — property, discovery or achievement — makes it obligatory to provide proof if the title right is challenged. In case of property, such evidence is the deed or legal document. In case of discoveries, it is either the product or demonstrating the process in public. For accomplishments or triumphs, visual and other proof is required. In past decades, several mountaineers have fraudulently claimed scaling Mount Everest, forcing the Nepalese to regularly scrutinise all such claims. In June this year, an Indian couple declared they were the first married duo to have conquered the peak. Congratulatory messages, including from the Maharashtra government and the state police, poured in for the couple, both state police officers. But their claim was questioned by fellow mountaineers. Nepal Tourism later cancelled their climbing certificates and banned the couple from climbing any mountains in Nepal for the next 10 years as the photos the couple had submitted were forged.
After eyewitness reports were published in the media, it may not be fair to say that the Indian Army had falsely claimed to have executed successful surgical strikes. But by declaring on September 29 that the entire operation had been documented, the government has put itself in a severe bind.

Sooner or later, someone on this side of the border had to demand that if the government was so blatantly marketing its military action, it must also submit proof of its “success”. If military success is to be politically exploited, the ruling party’s opponents are well within their rights to demand that these claims be substantiated. Till mavericks like Sanjay Nirupam and Digvijay Singh had sought release of the video evidence, this demand had not been a part of the mainstream discourse. This is evidence of the Sangh Parivar’s success in imposing its ultra-nationalistic agenda on the political system. Despite the matter being raised, the government has made it clear there is yet no necessity to release the video recording and photographs. But by contending that asking the government for evidence was akin to toeing Pakistan’s line, and thereby an act of grave anti-nationalism, the Centre has needlessly boxed itself into a situation where brazenness is its sole defence. Accusing its adversaries of being anti-national has become a ruling party ploy since the events at Jawaharlal Nehru University unfolded in February. Whenever anyone asked an awkward question or pointed to an obvious inaccuracy, a flaw in an argument or a gaffe, the establishment has hit back by questioning the individual’s loyalty to the nation. Ever since the Uri strikes and more so after the Indian response on September 29, the definition of nationalism has become narrower than ever. Any person, group or party who questions government action or policy is seen with suspicion.

Because the heart of the matter involves India’s security, sceptics are being, without second thought, branded as terrorist supporters, following which individuals, groups or organisations are declared anti-India and pro-Pakistan. Each of these accusations is breathlessly hurled, giving no chance to people to argue that scrutinising government action is not an unpatriotic act. If that was the case, no institution can be more treasonous than the Comptroller and Auditor-General. After all, does it not examine all government accounts, including several expenses that are made to safeguard the nation-state? By hyperventilating at people seeking more information on the strikes, the government has scored a self-goal. Let’s go back to September 29, when the government announced its success at hitting back at terror groups in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and their Pakistani handlers. Its celebratory tone was not backed by exhaustive details of attacks on the three “launchpads”. If the government had concluded that making the visual recordings of the operation public would compromise military strategy that may be deployed in future, the information that such evidence was available either should not have been made public or the government should have declared that for reasons stated, the video and photos would not be put in the public domain.

The Congress has provided three dates over a span of several years when similar attacks were launched on PoK installations. The government of the day, however, had decided not to publicly announce these strikes as it wanted to keep a veil of secrecy on covert operations. As it did not consider it appropriate to disclose the details, the Manmohan Singh government made no dramatic claim like the Narendra Modi government. If this government desires to convert the covert strikes into a feat and seeks to be feted for it, its leaders, including Prime Minister Modi, must be ready to pay a price. In today’s world, this price must necessarily be in the form of information. Quite clearly, the way in which non-disclosure of evidence is boomeranging on the government shows the Centre and the Army can do with better public relations management.

The government has given no reasoned arguments to back its decision of not providing proof of the strikes. But even if one factors in credible Indian media reports that the strikes actually took place as claimed by the government, there is the disconcerting possibility that the scale of success may not have been what is claimed. True, the government has not given any figures, but it also hasn’t denied the speculative reports in which the precise figure of 38 or upwards was given for fatalities in the attacks. The government is in a further spot as media reports have claimed that the Indian Army has no objection to release of the video footage and photos of the surgical strikes, but the final decision rests with the PMO. The government’s decision raises the suspicion that its claims were grossly exaggerated. Alternatively, the visual proof is so clinching and the damage to terrorist facilities more pronounced than believed that the ruling party would like to cash in on this at a more opportune moment, possibly closer to the Assembly elections looming in some states. The Modi government has allowed the desperation that it was losing public support to play on its nerves. Consequently, it decided to play to the bhakts’ gallery without realising that it could eventually get trapped in a game of its own making.

( Source : Columnist )
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