Saturday 01 October 2016
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Do Look Before You Lunge

We don’t need Kurosawa to show there are several sides to a story, as in the present case.

“I had to look three times to make sure I was seeing right. Balanced on one knee, in a tiny alley behind the army’s administrative offices, I was peering through a hole in a corrugated tin sheet. At first glance, all I could see were some leaves. I looked harder and amidst all the green, there was a hint of black—it looked like a moustache.

“‘Look again,’ said the army colonel, in a tone that betrayed suppressed excitement. This time, I finally saw. It was a head, the disembodied face of a slain soldier nailed onto a tree. ‘The boys got it as a gift for the brigade,’ said the colonel, softly, but proudly.”

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This was how one of India’s ace TV anchors described a scene from the Indian side of the Kargil war. The article was published in Himal magazine [archived at the Hoot] in June 2001. The trophy she described may be assumed to be the head of a Pakistani soldier. Had this narrative been shared with the TV audiences during the ongoing description of Pakistani cruelty against Indian soldiers, and recast as what surely seems like a gory practice indulged in by not just the Indian army, but possibly all armies everywhere (the Americans urinating on the corpses in Afghanistan, for example), my guess is that the television debate on the tensions on the LoC would be less one-sided.

We don’t need Akira Kurosawa to show how there are usually several sides to a story, as happens to be the case in the narrative between the militaries of India and Pakistan. There are at least two rival claims and many more denials in New Delhi about how one alleged incident on the LoC led to another. There was the Pakistani version to begin with, on January 6. It claimed that Indian troops broke the ceasefire in the Hajipir sector of the LoC and killed one of their troops.

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Then of course there was the January 8 episode, in which the Pakistanis are supposed to have entered Indian-controlled territory in the Mendhar sector. Two Indian jawans were killed and at least one of them was beheaded. The Pakistanis took away the head, it is alleged. This may be true. After all, if Pakistani troops could rape and murder thousands of their erstwhile citizens in the former East Pakistan in 1971, decapitating an Indian soldier must be small beer.

However, if you look closely and with a degree of honesty, you could find a vast multitude of Pakistanis who are themselves bitter critics of the perfidy of their army, not just in Bangladesh but also closer home, in their daily lives that the generals are always poised to disrupt. Faiz Ahmed Faiz even wrote an evocative poem about the blood-soaked separation from his Bengali comrades.

On the other hand, there are those too who swear by the Pakistani army, which they see as the spine of their nationalist pride. They mirror the Indians who see their military as spotless and pure, who prefer to remain blind to the army’s shenanigans, say, in Manipur or in Kashmir, under the cover of a dubious law that gives the soldiers protection from criminal prosecution. And quite a few Indian TV channels, like several of their Pakistani counterparts, love their military, often blindly.


Earlier it was erroneously mentioned that Jawed Naqvi is the New Delhi representative of the Dawn. We regret the error in representation. Jawed Naqvi is a freelance Indian correspondent who writes for the Karachi newspaper Dawn from New Delhi. Email your columnist: jawednaqvi AT gmail.com

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