Millennium Post

In the age of psychological warfare

Ideas in the political pipeline are not as quick to come into play as ideas emerging from the breeding grounds of intellectual romance

Popular sources convey that psychological warfare is a term used "to denote any action which is practiced mainly by psychological methods with the aim of evoking a planned psychological reaction in other people". The methods in this course of action include influencing a target audience's (which may be governments, organisations, groups, or individuals) value system, belief system, emotions, motives, reasoning, or behaviour. Technology and media are the weapons of choice. What was once an aspect of warfare has now morphed into an instrument of tremendous potency. Clearly, this pervasive method of is devoid of the straightforwardness of a conventional war and takes on forms that easily deflect attention from its covert objective.

Recent times have brought into focus the phenomenon of psychological warfare – Doklam stand-off in Bhutan being a tipping point for India. Military infrastructural development in a Protectorate state by a rival state that can potentially sever a crucial (but largely ignored) domestic territory had sent a tremor across national security. More than a year down the line, the status is a stand-still situation on India's side. Across the border into Bhutan, Chinese developments continue without any conflict, and so does their pursuit to establish their hegemony in the Asian region (to start with). The impact this episode ought to have created for India was to secure and fortify the Northeast on a war footing for its geographical peculiarity and geopolitical vulnerability. But ideas in the political pipeline are not as quick to come into play as ideas emerging from the breeding grounds of intellectual romance.

A wave sweeping the nation more expansively has been the concocted portent with the sensationalisation of a notion masquerading as 'urban naxalism'. To cut a long story short, Naxalism was essentially an uprising in the late 1960's by the peasants and tribals in northern West Bengal against a system whereby the oppressed and exploited poor were for generations denied right to land which was controlled by landlords. It was a communist ideology-driven violent movement which sought to overthrow the upper class and government by force. The objective was redistribution of land to the working peasants. In the decades that followed, the predicament was addressed across regions in varying degrees but Naxalism grew exponentially and marks its presence as a persisting anti-state menace.

The swift transition from a detriment to law and order to demonstrations against certain governmental policies and execution, Naxalism seems to have been diluted as a grim political reality and the idea behind it is exaggerated to indicate any kind of sensationalised revolt – the most prominent being intellectual. 'Urban naxalism' is a fancy nomenclature by all measures: to dim the significance of a cause upheld and to glamourise any counter viewpoint and push it into limelight. Original Naxalism, though violent in its method, had a clearly defined objective. Its determined pursuit to decimate an existing system carried with it a semblance of a solution: land reforms. Etched as one of the most successful land reforms programmes in India, Operation Barga was lauched in 1978 (and backed by law thereafter) throughout rural West Bengal to facilitate the conversion of the state's bargadars (sharecroppers) into landowners in line with the Constitution and Directive Principles of State Policy. Bargadars were bestowed legal protection against eviction by landlords and were entitled to due share of the produce.

Another remarkable instance of laying to rest Naxalism is Kerala where it started dwindling from '63. The state proactively undertook land reforms and distributed land equitably to people, thereby eradicating the scope of any oppression and exploitation engendering from disproportionate land-holdings. The takeaway is that there needs to be an antidote to a surge of anti-state or anti-people activities (whether confirmed or suspected). Activism in India, unfortunately, largely misses this point and its fierce and relentless opposition to a particular stance depreciates in the absence of a possible solution. A protest is a mere anti-stance; it is counter-strategy that can corroborate a protest and establish the validity of an opposition.

Surreptitious intentions of exploitation by furthering an ulterior agenda is conspicuously at play in PoK. Offering to step up development in the disputed territory of Gilgit-Baltistan, China seeks to venture out for newer niches behind its ambitious billion-dollar worth China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project. Dangling sops to soften its expansionist approach, China offered to play a "constructive role" to ease tension between India and Pakistan. Invading territories with supposedly noble intentions of bringing prosperity while executing major infrastructural projects is laying down a quagmire that is difficult to escape. Whether psychological or conventional, warfare is a pursuit of destruction for interest, never resolution.

(The author is Senior Copy Editor with Millennium Post. The views expressed are strictly personal)

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