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The world of GD Bakshi, face of Indian media’s shrill war cries

The Kashmir Monitor

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By Nandita Singh

Sitting on a plush cream-coloured couch at his home in Gurugram, Major General Gagandeep Bakshi (retd) adjusts his tie, takes the stem of a delicate teacup in his hand, and begins to extol the virtues of military retaliation against Pakistan.

For G.D. Bakshi, war is not a diplomatic disaster, but an inevitable price Pakistan must pay for being a “pagal kutta”.

 

“A rabid dog that goes around biting everybody,” he tells Defensive Offensive, a news portal, shortly after we leave.

And the call is not entirely political — Bakshi lost his brother, Captain Srishthi Raman Bakshi, in a mine explosion during the India-Pakistan War of 1965. The Captain was only 23 years old at the time.

“His entire body was shattered to pieces in that mine blast. People collected whatever was left and burnt his body then only. Then they gave us urn with the ashes, saying ‘here, this is your brother’,” Bakshi tells ThePrint.

“After immersing the ashes, I was filled with rage. At that moment, I decided that I would join the armed forces and take revenge for my brother.”

Five decades, an illustrious career in the army, a PhD in military history, and two grandkids later, Bakshi’s quest for revenge has not mellowed. Rather, it has metamorphosed into another form — rabid rhetoric on television.

Nowadays, whenever the media needs a defence expert to cry war on Prime Time television, Bakshi is inevitably the man for the job. You can find him wagging a self-righteous finger on your television every other night, his gruff voice reaching a breaking point as his temper rises and his nostril flares.

While he is synonymous with Republic TV, where he is an ever-present fixture, Bakshi has been making appearances elsewhere too.

Three weeks ago, his theatrics were on display in the ABP newsroom.

“How many casualties will we suffer? For 30 years we have tolerated this in silence, 30 years!” he can be heard screaming during a debate after the 14 February Pulwama attack.

“Pakistan will pay a heavy price for their unholy actions. I can promise you this. Agar Pakistan ko Mahabharata chahiya, toh woh ho ke rahegi! (If Pakistan wants a war, then they will get one),” he adds.

A week ago, as Bakshi sat on a panel in conversation with News Nation’s senior correspondent Ajay Kumar, a debate on alleged Pakistan-sponsored terrorism descended into the retired army general shouting, “Screw you! This isn’t about Pulwana.

“I’m only asking ‘Is Indian blood this cheap?’” he goes on in a tirade. “Come on, tell me you bloody peaceniks! Is Indian blood this cheap, you kabootar udane walo! Marjao chullu bhar paani me doobke (Die of shame). We are not prepared to die!”

The audience applauds.

This, say some of those who know him, is part of the problem behind the retired general’s hawkish posturing.

“In part, I blame the media and the viewers,” a retired army man, who has known Bakshi for 40 years, tells ThePrint. “They love controversial people, and even he (Bakshi) knows that if he hadn’t created this persona, they would give him less space on strategic matters.”

That he makes an impression on an audience is also due to his credentials.

Bakshi has seen more war, insurgency and terrorism than even an average Armyman — he was at the China front during 1971, in Punjab at the height of militancy in 1985, Kaksar in Kargil in 1987, Kishtwar, J&K, in 2000. His war-time experience has earned him both the Sena Medal and the Vishisht Seva Medal for his service.

If that wasn’t enough, service in Kashmir is a family legacy. His father, S.P. Bakshi was the chief education officer of the Jammu & Kashmir State Forces (6 J&K Rifles), and his brother lost his life while serving in that regiment.

Bakshi says he joined the forces against his father’s wishes — who wanted him to be an IAS or IFS officer — and was commissioned into the very same 6 J&K Rifles.

His military experience, however, isn’t merely restricted to the battlefield. He was a member of the Military Operations Directorate — a planning body directly under the supervision of the Chief and Vice Chief of Army Staff. In the Ministry of Defence, Bakshi helped plan the Indian Peace Keeping Force operations in Sri Lanka before he was sent to Siachen when tensions in the Kashmir Valley heated up.

For Bakshi, the horrors of war are real. He says that he has seen the bodies of soldiers tortured to death by Pakistani terrorists who “receive continuous refuge from the state”. When he talks of men dying at the border, he does not access a theoretical framework, but a lived one.

All of this, however, suggests the retired army man quoted above, shouldn’t cloud the judgement of Bakshi’s views.

“We have no doubt about his commitment and love for the nation, but the manner in which he is presenting it in his speeches needs more balance,” the army man adds. “People who have a love for the strategic domain are concerned.”

Also read: If Indian media becomes anymore servile towards Modi, it will lose whatever viewership it has left

Away from the glamour and aggrandisement of the TV spotlight and in the comfort of his Gurugram home, Bakshi’s views appear more tempered. He says “communalism, of course, is bad”, and that “nobody is forcing you to watch any particular media channel”.

But he also insists that Mughal rule in India was akin to Muslim colonialism by “our enemy for eight centuries”.

As we wait in his Gurugram home, three young students from Delhi University (DU) sit with a laptop next to the retired officer. One of the boys mentions forming an “Azad Hind Sena in every Delhi college,” paralleling that set up by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose during the freedom struggle.

Bakshi says that “it’s a great idea” and that “just as the NCC (National Cadet Corps) wears a uniform, Azad Hind Sena should have a uniform in every damn school and college”.

“I’ll invite ex-servicemen to deliver lectures on military history, strategy and give you training — you can learn judo, karate and other forms of defence. As long as they’re willing to say ‘Jai Hind’, Hindu, Sikh, Musalman, doesn’t matter,” Bakshi says.

For Bakshi, the distinction between a good and bad Muslim is clear — the fault line balancing on allegiance to Bharat Mata. Muslims in the Azad Hind Sena and Muslims who denounce the Mughal period are good Indians, but the rest, aren’t Indian at all.

It, however, merely takes the mention of Pakistan, Kashmir, and “our boys at the border”, to catalyse an unfurling — Bakshi’s bottom lip shakes as his mouth forms a grimace. He sits up straight, eyes wide, fist curling into a pointed finger as he asks, “Who died in Pulwama you tell me! All of you preaching for peace!”

On the alleged human rights violations by the Indian Army in Kashmir, he says the stone pelters are “them”, who deserve “no special treatment than the rest of the country”.

He makes his case by attempting to draw a parallel between pellet gun victims in Kashmir and the rioters who died in the Dera Sacha Sauda protests (in Chandigarh) “here in Hindustan”.

“In one day, 36 Indians were killed. No FIR was filed, there were no humans rights violations,” he says. “But pellet guns against violent protesters in Kashmir are human rights violations — it can happen only there, right?”

Through the course of the conversation, Bakshi tells ThePrint that he is not just a “screaming Armyman”.

“A lot of people tell me that I’m a fauji, and am yelling for no reason, but I’m a PhD (in military history),” he says. “I know how to research. I’ve written two books.”

Bakshi then goes on to explain that after studying the Transfer of Power Archives in London, he was shocked to learn that a letter signed by the Viceroy of India, the Field Marshal, the Commander in Chief and the director of the intelligence bureau at the time, proved without doubt that “Mahatma Gandhi’s Quit India Movement had failed”.

“We never got freedom from non-violence,” he says.

His downplaying of the Quit India Movement isn’t without reason. Bakshi is an ardent admirer of Subhash Chandra Bose — the army veteran is both a trustee of the Netaji Bose INA Trust and has written a biography of Bose, the Azad Hind Fauj and the INA, which he once told Republic World, “was really responsible for forcing the British to leave”.

“Of 60,000 INA soldiers, 26,000 were martyred. They may have lost the battles of Imphal and Kohima but they won the war for independence,” Republic World quotes him as having said. “It was the INA which was really responsible for forcing the British to leave. They had completely shaken the loyalty of the Indian soldier to the Raj.”

But Bakshi, who has also reportedly served as the deputy director of the Vivekananda International Foundation, alongside NSA Ajit Doval, hasn’t always had his finger on historical facts.

In February, he was responsible for spreading the fake news that the Pulwama attack was only possible due to a 2014 incident in Budgam, in which security forces were ordered to not stop vehicles at checkpoints on the Srinagar highway.

Bakshi blamed Mehbooba Mufti of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the directive, failing to realise that she wasn’t the chief minister in 2014 — Omar Abdullah of the National Conference was.

Further, the Indian Army had addressed the Budgam incident shortly after it happened, and their version was quite different from the one general Bakshi was describing.

In what was described as a “hate-mongering lecture” by an IIT Madras student in 2016, Bakshi also reportedly said that “Dehradun was originally called Dehradrone, as Dronacharya’s camp was set there… In its spot, the Indian Military Academy has come up”.

Student Abhinav Surya, who wrote a complaint letter to the IIT director about Bakshi’s speech, told the media that the Major General’s contention was “an instance of distorting history”.

Of Republic TV and that temper

According to those who knew him, Bakshi’s “temper streak is not new and has been with him for decades”.

A former student of his at the Indian Military Academy during 1978-79 recounts instances where general Bakshi “threw a duster and chalk at one of the cadets who had dozed off in his history class”.

“He started by calling him an idiot and the abuses increased to the range of madarc**d and behenc**d. Although, he later did apologise that he shouldn’t have lost his temper,” the former student added.

“But passing by on his shining motorcycle, with his simmering temper and handlebar moustache, he was the typical fauji example for young cadets to look up to,” the former student added. “We saw him as a real soldier, who was no-nonsense, well-spoken, and physically impressive.”

In today’s world, Bakshi stands at the crossroads of two increasingly divergent worldviews — the liberals and the orthodox — and has built himself a boat on this Right-wing wave.

As he says, “you aren’t forced to watch the channels” you do, before going on to defend’s Republic TV’s controversial anchor Arnab Goswami.

“He’s doing what he’s supposed to do for his channel — he’s getting viewers,” Bakshi says. “And he has a very nationalist agenda, so what the hell is wrong with it? I think we need more of

(Courtesy: theprint.in)


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Opinion

Reliving Faith in modern times

Monitor News Bureau

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By Amir Suhail Wani

A voice lost to wilderness or the madman’s rubric, any talk of religion, God, metaphysic, values and reality suffers any of two possible consequences. Giving him the advantage of anonymity, a top notch Jamat i Islami scholar pertinently described modern epistemology with all its offsprings as the means and instruments of ensuing and securing a revolt against the God and religion. Never before was civilization so shallow in matters of faith and never before a unanimous and collective onslaught was launched against the sacred, Transcendent and divine. A mere mentions of words like “Divine”, “sacred” or “Transcendent” makes people, experiencing the opiedation of modernism, to rise their eyebrows. Any talk of worlds beyond the sensual is termed as intellectual backlog. World has seen, now and then, people rising, out of their intellectual sincerity or otherwise rising against religion and God. But historically they could never enjoy the status of metanarrative, but were always, by virtue of historical entelechy confined to margins of civilization. In post renaissance era world has succeeded, by and large, in constructing a civilisation and culture with man rather than God as its ontic reference. This man cantered civilization has paved all the possible ways for criticism and demolition of religious meta narrative.

Let’s come to philosophy first. Modern philosophy, starting with Descartian scepticism and evolving through the stages of Positivism, Naturalism, Materialism Nihilism and Existentialism, modern philosophy seems to have ultimately ended up at postmodernism. The possibilities of future development can’t be ignored nor can it be claimed that postmodernism is an all pervasive philosophical trend claiming universal adherence. But the broader picture of things has unfolded thus. Postmodernism maintains incredulity towards metanarrative and has brought with it a host of questions. Traditionally and even up to recent past man seemed to be unanimous on ontic and epistemic stability of things. But with postmodernism not only have been the institutions of religious and traditional impotence held under scrutiny but the very fundamentals of human existence like language, society and all other institutions of human importance have been deprived of their ontic reference and have been made to float freely in abyss of uncertainty. The case with science has been no better. Being a victim of excessive and inordinate empiricism, the Modern day science has surrendered its inquisitive and rational spirit to sheer scienticism.

 

Ibn Arabi, a classical theorizer of Islamic mysticism noted that “God is a percept, not a concept”. In this single line, the master has resolved an age old question and the problems associated with it. The notion of “conceptual scheme” as it has been adopted unquestionably alike by scientists and philosophers has brought with it an equal number of goods and ills. Man has turned obsessive to reduce everything to his conceptual categories. The human attitude of dividing a problem into subunits, though it has paid heavily in scientific realm, but has simultaneously brought irreconcilable problems in other affairs of human existence. Modern medicine treats biology disentangled from psychology and this piecemeal approach has landed us in an era where we know more and more about less and less. In a sense we know everything about nothing and nothing about everything. Traditionally things were seen associated and entangled in the cosmic Web. Coming back to human methodology of understanding things by dividing them into subcategories and then understanding things in terms of local mental categories has distorted and ruined our understanding of God, sacred and divine. We need to understand that the laws formulated by human mind are refuted within the physical realm itself. Thus the laws obeyed by matter aren’t obeyed by light and the laws applicable to fermions are completely defied by bosons. So within our physical immediacy are instances to cleave apart our ultimate trust in the laws of physics. The unending quest for unified theory in physics might bring further insights in this direction. Thus we need to be careful and watchful to the fact that the laws of matter do not apply to the realm of spirit. Coming back to God who is neither material nor spiritual, neither defined by material boundaries nor circumscribed by contours of space we need to be all the more careful. While we try to understand God in terms of mental categories derived from our physical realm we need to be very cautious that all these categories do not hold true beyond this material universe. Our conceptual schemes, which in the final analysis rest on the categories of mundane material realm are too coarse and inappropriate to conceptualise and theorise the realm of divine, sacred and godhead. At a point where despite all boasting scientific discoveries man is yet incapable of understanding his basic biology and where despite of conquering the vastness of space man is yet to gain a glimpse of his psychological depths any sweeping statements and miscalculated statements oriented towards reduction of divine to categories of psyche seems but a naive affair. The enlightened theologians, mystics and philosophers of the past have explicitly denounced the access of finite human mind to infinite cosmic intelligence. What God has informed us here and there in sacred texts is to contemplate the nature and our own selves. This unbiased contemplation is sure to bring forth some indirect aspects of divine. Though we shall be fully conscious of the fact that within the physical universe and human civilization there are instances which are heartrending, discouraging and at times they run quite contrary to the notion of divine. But the mystics and enlightened men throughout the history have been able to dissect the veil of appearance and have succeeded in looking at the essence of existence. On having this enlightened vision they bowed their heads and understood the essence of these apparent vagaries of nature. Ibrahim, the father of modern monotheism, Buddha a silent contemplator, Nanak, a socially conscious religious purgatory amply demonstrate this state of enlightenment. Modern scientific mind is highly welcome in questioning the authenticity of religion, aspects of divine and the apparent chaos that is witnessed everywhere in physical and social landscape. There can be no proper understanding in absence of questioning. Likewise doubt is an essential ingredient of faith. But while one raises questions in atheist or any such frame one must have patience, tolerance and wide sightedness to understand theistic point of view. To dub religion irrational for its simple disagreement with science seems a rather constricted opinion. Religion has been a great architect in shaping the course of human civilization and to unfasten our knots with this perennial source of wisdom, learning, inspiration and exaltation will amount to gross intellectual injustice. The need of hour is not to posit theists and atheists as antithetical but to encourage each to understand the point of other. Maybe in this collective endeavour humanity discovers a paradigm that has still not been thought of.

(The author is a freelance columnist with bachelors in Electrical Engineering and a student of comparative studies with special interests in Iqbaliyat & mystic thought. He contributes a weekly column for this newspaper that appears every Monday. He can be reached at: [email protected])

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Opinion

Pleasures of poetry

Monitor News Bureau

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By Shabbir Aariz   

Poetry is a refined manifestation of using language artfully, effectively and persuasively. Priest, poet and blacksmith were the three those stood before the King in ancient times. Priest and blacksmith are easily identifiable but how do we describe poet? The Greek and Latin roots of the word “poet” means “creator” describing one who demonstrates great imaginative power, insight or beauty of expression. Therefore, the poet must be more than a writer of pretty words. A poet while writing poetry, the poet means to reach his audience in the deepest part of their being and wants to make them absolutely sure that he knows what he is talking about, because they are able to understand what the poet is saying so clearly. It is unlikely that a poet seeks fame. Ideally he is just seeking one person who understands; who embraces him and acknowledges a secret that they share; a mutual agreement that they are both same. It ought to have a universal appeal. It should not be confined to a particular time or age. It matters little whether a poet had a large audience in his own time. What matters is that there should always be at least a small audience for him in every generation. One has to take the poetry into one’s heart to fan the fire there and then also light one’s own fires. One amuses oneself with the world over which one finds to have been given dominion and trust that poetry will in the same measure help one to understand and explain it. Enshrined in poetry are the pleasures of entertainment as well as the pleasures of value. Entertaining pleasure suggests mirth and relaxation while as pleasures of value indicates information and learning. Amazingly some believe that poetry with a particular social, moral, religious or political message restricts reader’s imagination but T S Eliot holds that poetry always adds more to reader’s knowledge of the subject and sharpens his/her thinking power for that particular area. According to him, the poet utilizes his own language for expressing his people’s feelings and emotions. The twofold duty is thus performed; directly promoting, preserving and improving the language with an indirect duty to his people. There should be no denying of the fact that a poet is a person of extraordinary intellect and observation with a command over human nature that allows him to versify his people’s emotions in poetry. How interesting is the fact that such expression of feelings also enriches the language and keeps it alive for ever. We are well aware that in this part of the world, Urdu language even after stepmother’s treatment, has flourished more because of its excellent treasure of poetry and its worst enemies use it to properly express themselves. One finds it appropriate to mention Khushwant Singh’s observation while he says that if you are in love, you need to understand Urdu poetry and if you want to understand Urdu poetry, you need to fall in love. No doubt the role of poetry is less certain due to distractions. Electronic boom like TV, internet and computer made it less tempting and lesser reading population. Needless to say that earlier reading was a primary activity of the population and poets represented the spiritual guide of the population, who helped reader identify their most internal emotions, intuitions and imaginations. Yet the role remains the same as a century ago. Poet captures the essence of the world and the society in a unique manner and reflects it to be understood by people. He also captures the essence of internal emotions including joy, sadness, fear, hope as well as any other feeling comprehensive real of emotions. Poetry is an art to engage, to influence and to inspire. Poetry, every time has passed the ordeal of understanding the realities of human life to its readers with an infallible test of blameless style. Poetry appears to have remained an effective medium of articulating the concrete realities with an ability to speak forth ideas ever since the creation of the universe and the man along with it. And various poets have attempted to define poetry. Someone has observed, “poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words”. Sigmund Freud says, “poets are masters of us ordinary men, in knowledge of the mind, because they drink at streams which we have not yet made accessible to science”. He further observes, “Everywhere I go I find that a poet has been there before me”. P B Shelly observes, “poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world”. While John Keats says “…… a thing which enters into one’s soul…”. Samuel Taylor Coleridge centuries before has held, “…. For poetry is the blossom and fragrancy of all human knowledge, human thoughts, human passions, emotions, language.” All said, the poetry in its ultimate analyses is to call the soldier to war and a lover into the bosom.

(A leading lawyer and eminent poet, author contributes a weekly column. He can be reached at:  [email protected]

 
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Opinion

Fighting the menace of corruption

Monitor News Bureau

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By Fida Firdous

Recently J&K Governor publically said that behind the fake appointments in JK Bank there seems some back of political people and involvement of corrupted big fish will not be spared.  He without wasting further time he sacked Chairman J&K Bank. Half of a month had gone, where is report? Who is investigating the case? What has been done to fake appointment?  If this was not just a news stunt or a political posture, then, why action under rules is not initiated against corrupt people? These are some legitimate questions from the desired youth of J&K to be answered?

Governor in his speech said that Kashmir is the victim of politicians and corruption. The statement was widely appreciated and welcomed by all. Without naming any particular political party he denounces any relaxation on corruption belonging to any political party or person.

 

Pretend to mention here, why the system is corrupted? Who makes us corrupted? And what are the consequences of corruption? I’m not writing an essay but revealing what I have witnessed. Let’s talk about home? J&K is among the most corrupted states in India a study of Centre for Media Studies (CMS) in its annual corruption study – CMS 2017- has placed Jammu and Kashmir among top corrupted states.

Answers of these questions are simple, “helplessness” of giver before the corrupted system. There is evidence that corruption at the top of a bureaucratic system increases corruption at lower levels. Manipulating the social and political environment.  

Paradoxically, increased corruption in JK has increased the level of frustration in the young competent youth. This is not evident in jobs only, but other sections as well.  There is a well phenomenon that giving and getting bribe both is corruption. But this phenomenon is administrative in practical. Until transparent system will not be enforced by the government organs to eliminate corruption. The giver and taker will no longer be active in malpractice. So, primary duty of eliminating corruption depends on government organs.

Unemployment is the outcome of corruption. The consequence is deviation of youth and addiction of drugs and involvement in unlawful activities. Youth which is called backbone of a developing country like India and in the conflicted state like JK has its worst results seen so far.  

Today if you are worth competent, merit holder and lacking approach you are at ground zero. For giving bribe you need a political or bureaucratic approach, Agents of corruption. Those who don’t fall under such category will fall prey and sick. What approach means? It doesn’t mean a transparent approach for promising justice, no, not at all. Here it means something else. My simple words may heart some of the persons who are involved in the recent backdoor appointment through political approach and get jobs in JK Bank being incompetent and undesirable that marred the merit of desirable ones. That is why I failed to qualify interviews many times due to the notorious and corrupted system.

Giving job to undesirable person for being a voter or supporter for political gain and use them for propaganda is a bumpy idea. This can’t be the subtlety of politics. Does it mean after pursuing PhD I should follow illiterate politicians for adjustment? Bear me it happens in my home, where an educated person becomes the political bedfellows for getting a job. They are habitually now? They are in a mess of materialistic world where aspirations of the desired candidates are not delivered properly.  At this point of time they become the victim in hands of influential ones or bribers. In a way society is dying. Young youth getting frustrated. Those who facade corruptions are agents of evil.

Don’t take it simple. It is a curse. A curse like cancer. Frustration is due for a postgraduate unemployment youth looking a 10th class person’s in job without any merit. It notionally has bad impact on our society. Further, the more corruption, the slower the economic growth. One of the worse consequences of the corruption is to produce incompetent society. Developed countries are mainly depends upon the competent people, and developing country like India or Kashmir, incorporated incompetent people either by bribe or influence, this incompetency can never contribute to our society. Hence we are thousand years back then the developing countries.

No doubt, corruption is inevitable fact of human civilization. It is the malaise attached to the largest democracy of the world that is India. From getting a job to IAY facility or to any legal case nothing goes without giving a bribe. But it is actually we people who are promoting it; we gave bribe to skip the queues to get driving license without giving any test. There are thousands of cases (files) pending rounding from table to table in our highest office civil secretariat from years reasons best known to everyone. The disposal of our work culture is corrupted.     

Corruption in J&K has becomes a national security threat. We can’t stop it, but there are ways to reduce it. It starts with the government but it includes everyone from lowliest to the highest. In short corruption has to eliminate somewhere and it stops at the ballot box and it stops in the home. Politicians are well aware about this fact, but they are not ready to take any lesson from the pages of history. PV Narasimha Roa is the worst example that history has ever met.

J&K Anti-corruption Bureau, J&K State Vigilance Commission and other agencies must eliminate corruption at a point that it doesn’t affect the whole society in a bad way. An honest man must believe in honesty, everyone is not corrupt. Coordination of young educated youth towards corruption should be voluntary and open. (The writer cam be reached at: [email protected])                                                                                     

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