The courageous dignity of IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman amidst the Pakistani forces emerged as a beacon of what real valour and pride looks like. Everyone noted the contrast with shrill jingoinsm of the news anchors who had been war mongering and baying for blood for the past few days. The hypocrisy of tweeting from the comforts of one home and asking for destruction and blood stands in sharp juxtaposition to the condition of the actual soldiers who fight the wars. It is thus no surprise that amidst escalating tensions appeals for peace and dialogue permeated both sides of the border through the trending hashtag #NoToWar.
Tensions between India and Pakistan escalated when 44 CRPF jawans were martyred and 70 injured in Pulwama terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir. In what can be seen as one of the biggest terrorist attack, Jaish-e-Mohammad suicide bomber rammed explosive laden SUV into the CRPF convoy in Awantipora, Pulwama. Following this, Indian fighter jets crossed the Line of Control before dawn on Tuesday and carried about “non-military, pre-emptive air strikes” within Pakistan to target a training camp of the terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed in Balakot.
Details of aerial combat emerged on Wednesday morning. According to sources, the engagement started when at least ten Pakistan Air Force (PAF) aircraft were seen heading for military targets along LoC. A combat air patrol, which had at least two MiG21 fighter jets and Su30MKI fighters, was launched from the Indian side to engage them. Pilot Varthaman managed to let off a short-range R73 missile against an intruding F16, which brought it down. During the engagement, his MiG21 crossed LoC to retain the lockin on the target and was shot down either by a surface-to-air missile or another Pakistani jet.
In few videos that emerged on social media it can be seen that IAF pilot Abhinandan was first attacked by a mob and injured. He was later taken in for questioning by the Pakistani forces. The first is an interrogation video where a blindfolded he answers their questions with quiet dignity and refuses to answer many that he is not supposed to. In another video it appears his injuries have been tended to, he is drinking tea and attesting to good treatment by the Pakistani forces.
Appeals to bring him back safely started soon on both sides of the border. Many rationalized that further tensions would bring two nuclear states to a war, which would be devastating. Others reasoned that when wars happen both sides suffer, especially the families of soldiers. War mongering journalists, screaming from comforts of their studios were critiqued for helping create the present situation. Abhinandan’s videos put a face to the dangers of war. Many recognized that armed forces cannot be used to score political points, nor are they pawns to be deployed at will of the nation baying for revenge, but humans with families.
Political parties like the Indian National Congress and Aam Aadmi Party appealed to stop the spread of fake news/misinformation and to remain peaceful. BJP was critiqued for carrying out its campaign and programmes as usual – PM Modi launched Khelo India app as demands to bring back the pilot increased. Today Prime Minister Narendra Modi will interact with over 1 crore BJP workers and volunteers from 15,000 locations across the country today in what the party claimed would be the “world’s largest video conference”. The Congress had cancelled its Working Committee meeting.
21 opposition parties came together to release a joint statement read out by Congress President Rahul Gandhi condemning the terror attack and attacking the BJP for politicising the “the sacrifices made by our Armed Forced”. The statement read that, “National security must transcend narrow political considerations. The leaders observed that the Prime Minister has, regrettably, not convened an all party meeting as per the established practice in our democracy.”
George Orwell in Homage to Catalonia writes, “One of the most horrible feature of war is that all the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred,
comes invariably from people who are not fighting…It is the same in all wars; the soldiers do the fighting, the journalists do the shouting, and no true patriot ever gets near a front-line trench, except on the briefest of propaganda tours.” Fortunately rational voices have been many and strong. Nation awaits the safe return of Abhinandan, as Pakistan PM Imran Khan has now announced that he will be released as a “gesture of peace”.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NEWSD and NEWSD does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.