REPUBLIC DAY 2002 is being observed against a disturbing backdrop that cannot be obscured by all the pomp and grandeur of the occasion. Over the years, the Day has come to acquire an increasingly aggressive martial overtone and the scaling down of the martial display during this year’s parade is therefore itself bound to be treated as a statement of crisis facing the republic. But more than the scale of display, the people are now bothered about the very integrity of the Indian Army. Enough skeletons have tumbled out of the military cupboard in recent months to make the nation sit up and take a fresh look at the holy cow called our defence establishment.
Scams like the Bofors and HDW submarine deals that shocked and stirred the whole nation’s conscience a decade ago would today appear to be mere peanuts. This country had never seen or heard about scams more shocking than Tehelka and the coffin scam and other acts of theft unearthed by the CAG. And this sense of discomfort can only be reinforced by the growing strategic proximity between New Delhi, Washington and Tel Aviv.
The scourge of terrorism, as symbolised by the dastardly attacks of December 13 and January 22, is certainly a major challenge facing the republic. But terrorism per se, is not a new problem for India. After all, this country has experienced major political assassinations and a whole series of terrorist onslaughts. If the republic has managed to survive these scars, it is only because at the end of the day the resilience of the secular democratic potential of India as a modern republic has always proved stronger.
What has however aggravated the problem of terrorism in this country in recent years is the fact that the forces in power are now themselves practitioners and perpetrators of terror. Terror has paved the way to political success and, as they say, nothing succeeds like success. The man who held this entire country to ransom by spreading sheer terror, sectarian strife and communal venom through his infamous ‘rathyatra’ is now waxing eloquent against terrorism. And the saffron goons once again threaten to impose their blood-soaked Ayodhya agenda on the country on the eve of the crucial Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. It is this combination of saffron terrorism and state terrorism which has provided the most fertile ground for all other kinds of terrorism.
New Delhi’s growing strategic dependence on Washington is bound to make India even more vulnerable to the terrorist challenge. If part of the terror the US has always sponsored and sold in other parts of the world has now begun to find its way back to the symbols of American power right on the American soil, India must realise the futility of seeking security in the American shadow. Yet India is making precisely this blunder by trying to acquire the status of America’s most trusted and loyal ally against terrorism. This only amounts to mortgaging our diplomatic independence and initiative to the world’s biggest promoter and peddler of terror while incurring the collective wrath of all anti-US terrorist networks.
The growth of the Indian republic on a sound secular-democratic foundation has always been threatened by the ugly baggage of the colonial-communal politics of divide and rule. Historically, the Sangh Parivar has been the biggest carrier of this baggage and today it is trying to unload it on all spheres of Indian state and society. It is rendering India more fractious and feeble in all vital internal respects while the country is being forced to suffer greater humiliation and isolation in all relevant international fora. Only a determined drive of desaffronisation can save the republic from this disastrous course and enable it to wage and win its real war of survival and growth.