Slowly, subtly, almost imperceptibly, the BJP is changing the issues in the Lok Sabha elections. Vikas or development is no longer the issue. The Government will not tell the people what it achieved during the past five years regarding employment generation, poverty alleviation, de-hoarding black money, suppressing terrorism, improving health care, etc. The Government owes no explanation to the people about these issues.
It is for the opposition to prove its credential of nationalism, of patriotism, of loyalty to the country. The opposition has to convince the people that it does not support Pakistan when it questions the outcome of India’s airstrike at Balakot. The very positing of this question, the people are told, becomes ipso facto a proof of the questioner’s sympathy with our enemy – Pakistan.
The armed forces of India – the army, navy and air force – are one of the most well-trained and efficient in the world. Nobody questions their professional efficiency. They do exactly what they are ordered to do. Ordered by whom? By the Government. What the Indian Air Force did at Balakot, or refrained from doing, was what it was ordered to do or not to do.
It did not exceed its brief by even by a millimetre. So, when someone asks, exactly how many people were killed in the Jaish camp at Balakot, nobody is questioning the professionalism of the IAF. What they are questioning is: Did the Government ask the IAF actually to bomb out the terror-training camps, or did it ask the IAF to cross the border and fly into Pakistani skies, make its presence known and thereby send a clear message to Pakistan to rein in the terrorists? Pakistan must de-escalate the confrontational situation it was making and escalation between two nuclear-armed States is extremely fraught.
If the brief was to destroy the camps but the IAF had failed to do it, only that would bring into question the efficiency of the IAF. But nobody has questioned that. There have been insinuations that the Pulwama terror attack was a “got up” job. Such insinuations are condemnable and contemptible. They are to be rejected outright. But that does not absolve the Government of the onus of telling the people why such a huge convoy of CRPF personnel was sent by road, especially when there were Intelligence reports from two different agencies that a terror attack was likely and the CRPF itself had requested for an airlift.
How could a car heavily loaded with RDX enter the main road – which is supposed to have been sanitised – from a side street and ram straight into the convoy, leading to the death of over forty jawans? Was this not risking the lives of so many jawans with scant regard to their security?
There is a sustained propaganda campaign to portray the Congress as pro-Pakistan, the party’s president Rahul Gandhi as pro-Pakistani whose intention is to weaken the morale of our armed forces. Do the peddlers of this crap really believe that the people of this country fall for such crude propaganda, that they swallow it hook, line and sinker? Obviously not.
But the intention of the peddlers is clear: to silence all criticism and to stigmatise the critics as enemies of the nation. This is an unmistakable sign of a nation slowly slipping into the grip of fascism. Treating a party as synonymous with the nation, or treating a supreme leader as the embodiment of the nation are signs of advancing fascism. Such ideas are reminiscent of what Louis XIV of the Bourbon Dynasty of France famously said in 1655: L’ Etat c’est moi (I am the State).
Is it sedition to ask actually how many terrorists were killed at Balakot? Is it seditious to ask why there has been no satellite picture of the wreckage of the F-16 aircraft of PAF which was downed by a MiG 21 Bison of the IAF? The best way for a ruling party to avoid answering inconvenient questions is to take shelter behind the smokescreen of patriotism and mount a strong counter-offensive against those who raise such questions by dubbing them as fifth columnists and traitors. The propaganda has to be massive and repeated again and again so that it sinks into the sub-conscious of the people as proven truth.
Hitler’s propaganda minister Goebbels’ dictum to his party workers was: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. It, thus, becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie and thus, by extension, truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” Eight decades later, his Indian disciples are following his recipe faithfully.
For suppressing truth and projecting a lie, statistics are being systematically fudged, their bases of calculation are frequently changed so that comparing the performance of the economy of one period with another becomes difficult if not totally impossible.
The utter failure of the ruling party to deliver on its promises is sought to be covered by perfervid appeals to hyper-nationalism and spurious patriotism and conjuring up a nightmare of the Indian State being under constant threat from internal and external enemies. Can an opposition, divided as it is, stand up to this vast lying machine? It has some of the makings of an Orwellian world where the lie is always one step ahead of the truth.
Barun Das Gupta is a freelance journalist. Views are personal.