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OP-ED: Gulliver’s new tales

  • Published at 11:49 am June 24th, 2020
Ladakh Galwan India CHina border dispute woman crying soldier funeral
The real face of grief REUTERS

But can India afford a boycott of China?

I have a little question: Would the Ladakh legacy fade away, if Indians stopped eating Chinese food? 

And, if the people in this country stood on their balconies, en masse, beating their thaalis, lighting diyas, and chanting loudly “go, China, go,” and, would the fierce, fire spewing-dragon at Galwan valley, meekly turn tail and flee in fear? If our movie stars and cricketers stopped endorsing Chinese products, would that bring back the soldiers who had lost their precious lives, at Galwan?

And yes, there is something terribly off about the narrative India’s citizens are being fed -- after the nation went into collective mourning. We must understand that a grieving nation lost its brave soldiers in what had apparently looked like an ill-thought-through military operation. On the hindsight for the Indians is the even trickier and more sensitive question of intelligence failure.

It was a heartbreaking optics -- the sight of two little boys saluting their courageous fathers at their respective funerals (Colonel B Santosh Babu’s son, three-year-old Anirudh Teja in Suryapet and Havaldar Sunil Kumar’s son Ayush in Patna) has raised several awful questions about what exactly happened during that barbaric encounter with Chinese forces.

However, the more critical debate is: Were the Indian soldiers unarmed, in the first place? And -- why? There have been strenuous official denials on that score, but who can vouch for the real story? Surely, someone at the very top had authorized such a strange and unconventional meeting on the roof of our planet. 

Shouldn’t that “someone” have known better? Could the Chinese have been trusted? Have India-lovers not learned their lessons over five decades of playing hide and seek in this part of the bad, regional neighbourhood? Indians and Chinese have asked the same question: Is “friendship” as fake as the stuff they sell?

What took place in eastern Ladakh is being called the “biggest military confrontation” in half a century.” True -- and, serious enough, right? Indian soldiers certainly weren’t going on the roof to share a bowl of chop suey. But then, what were they really doing there and how were they caught off guard? 

In this day and age, where surveillance is more advanced and sophisticated than at any previous time in history, India’s shocking lapse needs to be explained to the people -- by the prime minister himself.

Remember? There were similar concerns raised after the Pulwama incident, but the people who had raised these were effectively silenced. It would be a pity if the same tactic would be employed once again.

Only after do we get to see the grisly footage and hear the most sadistic stories of hand-to-hand combat. Next, we ask ourselves: Are we still living in the Middle Ages? India’s retired generals have issued strong public-media condemnations about the flawed and clumsy army operations. India’s soldiers came face-to-face with the monsters, armed with primitive weapons -- nails, clubs, sticks, and stones. 

No amount of lofty talk can possibly soothe the outrage of citizens who are anxious to know the truth. There exists a 3,488km LAC. We get to hear only what we are meant to hear -- is the Galwan river water really being disturbed? And if a road is being built -- has been built -- by the Chinese, was it built overnight? How come nobody knew about the existence of such a road that has seriously compromised India’s security?

What will future chroniclers of this terrible Galwan tragedy write about India’s handling of it? What will we tell those two little boys seen in the funeral optics, when they grow up -- that their heroic fathers lost their lives in a fight that was uneven, unfair, and completely weighted against them from the word go? How does India extend comfort to their grieving widows, fathers and mothers, family members, during their darkest hour?    

When their union minister Ramdas Athawale advised Indians to boycott Chinese food as a form of protest, did he not know how foolish he had sounded? The Chinese food that we enjoy in India or elsewhere has really nothing to do with China. I would like to say that I love Chinese dosas, for example. 

Particularly because there is a dish called chicken manchurian, which nobody in China has heard of. There is also the other question being tossed around -- like stir-fried vegetables in a wok -- can India afford an economic boycott of China? 

Bhaijan -- why don’t you turn that question around and ask -- can China afford to lose the massive Indian market? The answer is purely obvious! Modiji’s grave mistake was to play “Enter the Dragon” on a loop for all these many years, and go along with the empty bhai-bhai nonsense. 

The evil Chinese dragon should be shown zero mercy, at first sight! China should have been shunned, not just by the Indians, but the rest of the world.

Meanwhile, tonight I am cooking chicken manchurian for dinner -- my small but intensely personal revenge, for what those Chinese Gullivers did to India’s “soorma” heroes in Galwan Valley.

Let the China eat crow, forevermore. 

Nazarul Islam is an educator based in Chicago.

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