By all rights, Kargil Vijay Divas, the formal end of the Kargil war of 1999, ought to be a solemn event commemorating the sacrifices of the 474 officers and men who died pushing back Pakistani intruders from the strategic heights above Kargil. By and large it is indeed observed as such, except, curiously, by people close to the ruling party who use the occasion to bait liberal academics in Indian universities.
In JNU, the vice-chancellor led a tiranga rally
on the eve of Kargil Vijay Divas in which he not only demanded that a
tank be placed on campus to promote “love for the army”, but a retired
general, well known for his hawkish performance in TV channels, likened
the occasion to a “capturing” the liberal fortress of JNU and called on
similar “victories” in Jadavpur University and University of Hyderabad.
So, it was not surprising when, a week later, the students’ wing of
the BJP forcibly set up a Kargil “memorial” on the University of
Hyderabad campus, which was subsequently demolished by varsity
authorities. That it was a political move, and not really motivated by
any solemn goal of commemorating the Kargil sacrifices, is evident from
the fact that it was set up near a memorial for Rohit Vemula, a Dalit
student who committed suicide in January 2016.
It is ironical that elements close to the BJP are using Kargil in
their culture wars against liberalism. This is because the whole Kargil
Divas was actually a means of concealing the guilt of the BJP-led NDA
government in allowing Pakistani forces to make massive incursion in a
strategically critical part of the country.
sheer bravery of the troops, who set aside the canons of modern warfare
and frontally took on the enemy, saved the government’s neck.
That is why we have no similar public “celebrations” for the day
Indian forces flew in to rescue Kashmir on October 27, 1947, or when
they turned defeat into victory in Asal Uttar in September 1965, or for
that matter, captured Dhaka in December 1917. The failure of the BJP-led
government was at three levels.
First, it failed in its strategic assessment of Pakistan. Even as the
Pakistan Army was readying to cross the LoC in February 1999, Prime
Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was making India’s most dramatic gesture
of peace by visiting the Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore. Claims of
“Pakistani perfidy” would have had greater credibility had they been
accompanied an acknowledgement of your own naivety and culpability.
At the second level was the inability to understand what was
happening even after the first news of Pakistani infiltration came in on
May 5, 1999. The first formal meeting of the cabinet committee on
security (CCS), the one in which it finally authorised the use of IAF,
took place only on May 25. This was a failure of not just the brigade in
question, but up the ladder to the division, Corps, Army HQ, the
R&AW, PMO and the CCS. Yet, as is famously known, no one paid the
price for this except a lowly brigadier.
At the third level, was the nature of the Indian response that led to
heavy casualties. The government insisted that the conflict be confined
to the area in which the Pakistanis had intruded. So instead of
fighting on a ground of our choosing our soldiers were made to undertake
frontal attacks on a ground well prepared by the Pakistani forces.
Several excuses were trotted out for this, principally that a wider
conflict would have been escalatory and could have led to nuclear war.
But surely, there were alternatives and why was the onus of preventing
escalation on us, and not the Pakistanis?
The Kargil Review Commission was set up with the careful mandate to
“review the events leading up to the Pakistani aggression” and to
recommend measure to prevent a recurrence. It self-consciously avoided
apportioning blame, and though it broadly absolved the military brass
and criticised R&AW, it did refer to the “euphoria in some political
quarters” over the Lahore process.
The sheer bravery of the troops, who set aside the canons of modern
warfare and frontally took on the enemy, saved the government’s neck.
Their sacrifice does indeed demand solemn observance, but always with
the knowledge that had the government handled the situation more
competently, they may have been with us today.
Instead, what we are forced to confront is the shoddy and sad use of the occasion to promote a political platform.
Mail Today July 31, 2017