Vol. XLII No. 23 June 10, 2018

Creating Civil-Military Schism

B Arjun

INDIA is ruled by polarisation experts. Our country is experiencing what an American anthropologist had identified as “schismogenesis” in simple words “creation of division”. The country seems to be in a perpetual state of conflict. There are slanging and shouting matches going on in TV studios and social media. And those in drawing rooms are shouting at their TV screens. Institutions, families and friends stand divided. Legal fraternity, intelligence community, armed forces, election commission all are experiencing great erosion of institution independence under the present regime in New Delhi.

The Army Chief says we are preparing for two-and-a-half front war and his army commander says that the concept is just not feasible. This government neither has any idea about a national security strategy nor is it clear about the armed forces modernisation process. To top it all, every issue is being used to affront the national military. More recently, the government hurt the armed forces by placing the army, navy and air force chiefs under the National Security Advisor (NSA) – a police officer – in the newly created Defence Planning Committee.  

Not a day passes without the government passing some order that irritates and antagonises a particular community or an institution. This is followed by assertive questioning of the victims both on the social media and television studios controlled by the RSS. If the victim resorts to submission to buy peace, she is not spared but subjected to even more attacks to push her against the wall from where she either capitulates or retaliates violently. In both cases the victory of the agent provocateur is ensured because it is he who has the State power to either crush violence or brand the victim as terrorist. This game has been going on unabated for the past four years. The victim can be from anywhere, if any of his habit, behaviour or action helps divide the society than he is targeted.

Even the army has not been spared in this game of polarisation by the government that professes to be nationalist. Army officers fighting for their pension rights have been projected by this government as a bunch of greedy middle class men living in posh localities. Questions are being raised through the social media as to why old soldiers need such high pension? Similarly, they have shown the ration entitlement of army officers as a perk that they don’t deserve because of their high salaries. This move of the government created fissures between the officers and the men they command.

The most recent move of the government directed against the Indian armed forces was the opening of 62 cantonments through a verbal order by the ministry of defence that has been led by four non-performing minsters in the last four years. Military establishments all over the world are high security zones where the movement is restricted due to the sensitive nature of job they perform. That the order was retracted is beside the point because it had already damaged the national military’s relationship with the working class people who use two wheelers and cycles to work.

The moment the order was passed, RSS motorcycle squad invaded the Danapur cantonment in Bihar. Scenes of commotion at some other cantonments in the country were also seen on the social media. Some newspaper who got carried away by the prospects of the cantonments opening up and the prime land getting released for the land sharks, celebrated the government move and saw it as a “victory over the nation’s Army by its own populace.” The army did not take this assault on its professional turf lying down. The armed forces veterans, and military wives took up the matter in the social media condemning the actions of the government. There were posts in the social media that counted all that the government had done to alienate and undermine the ethos and pride of the institution and advised their brothers-in-arms to think twice before voting for BJP or Modi in 2019.

The irony is that the order was released by the government that talks maximum about terrorism and the threat it poses to national security. The damaging order was passed by the set of people that cry hoarse on nationalism. This is the work of a government that is high on rhetoric – when it comes to pinning flags on their chest and in milking martyrdom to score political brownie points. Earlier during Karnataka assembly elections, Modi miserably failed to drag the military into politics. Now, Amit Shah is trying to make up for the mistake committed by their defence minister by reaching out to retired General Suhag at his residence in the Delhi cantonment. 

The question that we must ask is, why is this right-wing government playing the polarisation game? Why is it needlessly alienating the armed forces? Some view the increasing polarisation over issues of religion, nationalism and region, pensions and even cantonments through the economic lens. Their argument is that polarisation is merely to divert the attention of the people away from the sharp decline in employment and growth rates. While this is true, this is just the fringe benefit that the reactionary government is extracting through its diversionary tactics. Their ultimate aim is to constantly keep the people on tenterhooks, in a constant state of shock and awe. This is being done to benumb the sensibilities of the masses so that operation loot of the national wealth can be carried out without confronting any resistance.

One cannot blame only the minister of defence and the incompetence of the officials under her command for passing a ridiculous order. It was a well thought out ideological plan to create schisms in the society. The modus operandi is similar to the one used by ultra-right authoritarian governments across the world, including America. The game is to raise issues that are seen by the working classes to be against the interest of the rich. For the poor working classes, the rich are the relatively well-off people with whom they come in contact with, on a daily basis. The working class is oblivious of the richness of the super-rich with whom they never come in contact. Therefore, the strategy is to direct the anger of the poor against the educated, middle class – the house and car owners – in their vicinity. All these efforts are to keep the billionaires club safe and secure.

The game is to fleece the middle class and to fool the common man into believing that the government is acting against the rich and is pro- poor. This is exactly what the Modi government did when it fooled millions to stand in queue in front of banks during demonetisation, making them believe that they were helping the country to suck black money from the rich. It is a well-known fact that demonetisation did not impact the big business, it is only the small and medium enterprises that suffered during the process.

After one year, the poor are realising the damage demonetisation did to their livelihoods. The kisan and the jawan are now able to understand the mechanism of this government. People are aware that the opening and closing of cantonments was a  drama enacted by the ministry of defence to appease the land vultures waiting to devour the green cantonments to make more profits, congest the urban spaces, and cause water and traffic and health problems. Since the matter is in the public domain, it will spring up later for selling the government land. 

It is to be understood that the main aim of RSS is to protect the properties of the super-rich and make them richer. “Cultural nationalism” is a veil to hide the dirty deals of the super-rich in international bazaars. This government has done exactly that by sucking people’s money through demonetisation and by letting the bank NPAs to surge. Over the past four years it has garnered Rs 10 lakh crores through levy of high excise duty on petroleum products. But it has made the veterans literally cry for correct implementation of the One-Rank-One Pension (OROP) scheme, which would cost the exchequer less than Rs 8000 crores.