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'Surgical Strike Day'

With a directive ordering schools and universities to celebrate Surgical Strike Day, the government shows that it has little to boast of

Surgical Strike Day

Marking a paradigm shift from Teachers' Day and Children's Day, schools across the country will be celebrating 'Surgical Strike Day' today. No, seriously! As per a directive from the Ministry of Human Resource Development, schools must commemorate the day the Indian Army destroyed terror cells across the Line of Control in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir in 2016. 'Parakram Parv' will be celebrated in colleges and universities too, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has also ordered. And schools in Jammu and Kashmir must celebrate for three 3 days and send videos of the celebration as evidence, lest they wish to be tagged anti-national. Without taking anything away from the valour and sacrifice of the Indian army, I am forced to ask, is this really necessary?

I can't remember being asked to celebrate Kargil Divas while in school. Wasn't that a big victory too? What is this nationalist, hollow propaganda that must permeate young minds? Are we propounding and justifying violence and vengeance even if done to protect one's nation? I don't remember the US celebrating 'Killing Osama Day' after the 9/11 mastermind was butchered! Of course, we must remember our martyrs, our soldiers for their irrefutable contribution to the nation but to coerce schools and universities and make celebration mandatory, the Narendra Modi government inadvertently exposes the fact that it has had no other achievement in the last 4+ years to celebrate.

With six months or so to go for 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the government is scrambling to showcase its achievements. The government's much advertised hard economic decisions have fallen flat on the face. The controversial demonetisation has not brought back any black money. Its only result was a forced digitisation thrust upon India, something that could have very well been a planned, gradual implementation. It also strengthened the businesses of several digital players, caused 100 or more people to die (many while standing in gruelling lines), and made GDP lose a percentage or two. The Supreme Court has thwarted the efforts of making Aadhaar mandatory, dealing another blow to the government's efforts. Our relations with Pakistan are at a low and Amit Shah's recent 'termite' barb on illegal Bangladeshi immigrants threatens to sour relations with a friendly neighbour.

The government has also, in the last few years, lost its credibility to ensure the safety of all religions. Staying mum on lynching, protecting cows over human beings, allowing violence in the name of 'love jihad' have decidedly given it an anti-Muslim tag. So bad has been the publicity surrounding these incidents that even long-time BJP sympathisers have started hanging their heads in shame in private circles. Publicly, its senior leaders such as Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie have criticised the government's economic and other policies. Senior economists such as Raghuram Rajan, Arvind Panagariya, and Arvind Subramanian beat a hasty retreat, and these exits may not be the last. Added to these are errant defaulters fleeing the country to save their skin and the Rafale controversy that is day-by-day proving that the government has had its finger firmly in the mess. With all this unsavouriness thrown about against the government, what achievement can Prime Minister Narendra Modi have to boast about? The surgical strikes of course! Remember, once his predecessor, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, too, benefitted from Kargil and ensured his re-election. Can it work for Mr. Modi too? Worth a shot when so little is going their way. And that is why the directive to celebrate 'Parakram Parv' comes this year and not in 2017. Till last year, the government was supremely confident that all its moves would bear fruit, this year, they seem on unsound ground.

I remember this children's tale: Once there was an emperor who loved his clothes and spent all his money on it. Two swindlers took advantage of the emperor's narcissism and duped him into believing that he would receive the most exquisite clothes but they would be invisible to anyone who was either stupid or unfit for his office. Adorned with these invisible clothes, the emperor went on his procession into the city, stark naked. First, a child pointed out this fallacy followed by the whole town. 2019 Lok Sabha elections may do just that for the current regime; smart PR, propaganda, and sycophancy may not cut it this time.

(The writer is a journalist and media entrepreneur. The views expressed are strictly personal)

Shutapa Paul

Shutapa Paul

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