A chilling development just took place in the self-professed “world’s largest democracy” after the ruling party’s Finance Minister implied that the opposition’s political dissident is treasonous after prominent figures began publicly questioning the government’s official narrative over the Pulwama attack and the subsequent “surgical strike” that it claimed to have carried out against Pakistan.
Speaking Truth To Power
Less than 24 hours after the author observed that “India’s Taking A Page From Its American Ally By Accusing PM Khan Of Meddling” and warned that the state’s copying-and-pasting of the Russiagate narrative into a domestic context could dangerously run the risk of intimidating people into self-censoring their views in order to avoid being smeared as “Pakistani agents” or “useful idiots”, the ruling party’s Finance Minister chillingly implied in a blog post that the opposition’s political dissent is treasonous. His brazen attempt to intimidate the BJP’s rivals came in response to the Chief Minister of India’s fourth-most-populous state of West Bengal accusing Prime Minister Modi of knowing in advance that the Pulwama attack would take place but refusing to do anything to prevent it, echoing a common speculation about the Bush Administration in the run-up to 9/11 and then going as far as saying that the Indian leader wanted the incident to transpire in order “to take advantage during the election” in May.
A few days later, 21 opposition parties passed a resolution “expressing their deep anguish over blatant politicisation of sacrifices made by our armed forces, by leaders of the ruling party” once it became evident that no “surgical strike” really took place and that the entire provocation was just a big Bollywood spectacle, albeit one that Pakistan turned into reality after it downed an Indian jet that violated its sovereign airspace. The resultant fiasco led to the capturing of the Indian pilot and the subsequent boosting of Pakistan’s soft power after Prime Minister Khan maturely decided from a position of strength to release him as a goodwill gesture demonstrating his country’s desire for peace. This in turn showed India’s Russian partner that Pakistan was sincere with its previous rhetoric, which is why Foreign Minister Lavrov unprecedentedly said in response to a question that his country would host peace talks between the two South Asian states if both of them asked for it.
Setbacks And False Flags
It can’t be overstated just how much of an interconnected soft power and diplomatic setback this was for India, after which New Delhi dug an even deeper hole by outright refusing to agree to any mediation offers – even from Russia – if they were officially made in the future, which bunglingly resulted in even more international isolation after the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) condemned India for its atrocities in Kashmir just a day after its Foreign Minister was their guest of honor. Sensing that a disaster of some sort was in the cards just days before this happened, former Prime Minister Singh implored his country’s current leaders to let “saner counsel prevail” and to instead focus on tackling “chronic poverty, ignorance and disease” instead of foolishly engaging in a “mad rush of mutual self-destruction” with Pakistan. His words weren’t heeded, but they were noted by Finance Minister Jaitley and responded to in his blog post.
Before addressing the dark implications of Jaitley’s words, it’s important to point out that his anti-democratic rant coincided with his defense of the state’s refusal to provide any proof whatsoever that it carried out its much-touted “surgical strike” against Pakistan in the face of rising opposition pressure, saying that “It’s a very irresponsible stand” to ask for evidence of the government’s claims because of his belief that this could somehow reveal secrets about the security agencies’ “operational details”. Cynics might retort that state-connected Bollywood producers have yet to concoct convincing enough footage “confirming” the government’s claims and might still need more time before introducing their final product into the mainstream, but the unquestionable point to focus on is that the government hasn’t publicly presented any evidence that the attack even took place, which his curious when considering that it can’t stop bragging about it and is questioning the motivations anyone who doubts the official narrative.
Twisting Dissent Into Treason
This indispensable background briefing brings the reader to Jaitley’s dystopian blog post where one of the most prominent ministers of the self-professed “world’s largest democracy” implies that the opposition’s aforementioned three examples of dissent are treasonous, or as he specifically puts it, “gave a handle to the enemy”, “give smiles to Pakistan”, and have “become an important instrument in Pakistan’s hands to discredit India.” His disturbing words are very similar to the angle that the author predicted less than a day prior might be employed by the state in order to stifle dissent and blow dog whistles to the ultra-jingoist mobs under the ifnluence of massive BJP-managed WhatsApp groups in order to encourage them to carry out acts of violence against the opposition on the presumed basis that their targets are “Pakistani agents” or at the very least “useful idiots”. Modi endorsed Jaitley’s anti-democratic attack when he told a campaign rally on the same day that Pakistan is “applauding [the opposition’s] words”.
It’s clear to see that the Indian government is trying to intimidate the opposition into silencing itself or self-censoring because it fears the possible electoral effect if more people pay heed to their words and begin questioning the official narrative about Pulwama and the “surgical strike” that followed it. The state is obviously bereft of evidence and has yet to manufacture anything convincing enough to share with the public, which is why it’s attacking anyone of prominence who doubts the official storyline by implying that they’re committing treason and ‘playing into Pakistan’s hands’, accusations that should never be levelled by an elected government against any dissidents in a self-proclaimed “democracy”. In the court of law, it’s incumbent on the accuser to provide evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the accused, but not only has the BJP failed to present any proof implicating Pakistan for Pulwama or backing up its claims of a “surgical strike” against it, it also can’t prove that the opposition is treasonous either.
India’s descent from “democracy” to dictatorship began long ago but recently accelerated after the BJP’s return to power in 2014, though it’s now proceeding at a dizzying pace after the government’s latest attacks against the opposition. It’s ethically irresponsible to imply that the opposition is committing treason for reacting skeptically to the state’s unverified claims that Pakistan was directly involved in the Pulwama attack and that India carried out a “surgical strike” against it in response when the authorities outright refuse to present any evidence of this on “national security” grounds. Not only that, but it’s also extremely dangerous in the current political context of WhatApp-driven mob lynchings to blow such dog whistles because the ruling party’s most zealous supporters could weaponize those means against their opponents by spreading fake news about their alleged ties to Pakistan in order to make them targets of political violence. Jaitley accused the opposition of “hurting India’s national interest”, but it’s actually his and Modi’s rhetoric that’s doing the worst damage.
By Andrew Korybko
Source: Eurasia Future