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‘Diversion’ whiff in Bipin Rawat’s border claim

“The Indian army is always ready for escalatory matrix,” he said
 “The Indian army is always ready for escalatory matrix,” said Rawat

Imran Ahmed Siddiqui   |   New Delhi   |   Published 20.12.19, 09:55 PM

Army chief Bipin Rawat’s comment on a possible border escalation has prompted allegations from military veterans and citizenship law protesters that it may be part of an attempt by the Centre to divert attention from unpalatable realities such as the countrywide protests and the economy.

The Narendra Modi government has in the past too faced Opposition accusations of whipping up nationalist sentiments to hide its failures on real-life issues such as jobs, prices and the economy.

General Rawat had on Wednesday said the situation along the Line of Control could escalate any time. “The Indian army is always ready for escalatory matrix,” he told an event in Delhi.

A retired army officer told The Telegraph on Thursday: “I don’t understand why the army chief shoots his mouth only when it suits the government. Whenever there’s a crisis, the government talks of Pakistan and border tensions to advance its nationalist agenda.”

Many protestors against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act echoed this.

“The government amended the citizenship law to create a divide between Hindus and Muslims and shift people’s attention from the job crisis and the failing economy,” said Prashant Singh, a Delhi schoolteacher participating in a protest at Jantar Mantar on Thursday.

“After facing a backlash against the citizenship amendment, with growing protests across the country, they are back to the same old narratives about Pakistan and border tensions.”

Singh cited how Modi had a couple of days ago told a Jharkhand poll rally that the Congress and Pakistan were “talking the same language” on the citizenship amendment. The Prime Minister had dared the Congress “to publicly declare it is prepared to accord Indian citizenship to all Pakistanis”.

Singh said: “Neither has Pakistan made any statement nor has the Congress said anything like this. This government has nothing to offer on the real crises engulfing the country and keeps harping on Pakistan as a diversionary tactic.”

A home ministry bureaucrat underlined how, till a week ago, the national conversation had been about onion prices and the economy. “Now everybody is talking only about the amended citizenship law and the National Register of Citizens,” he said.

Such shifts towards a nationalistic discourse have often benefited the Modi government, one such instance coming just ahead of the April-May Lok Sabha elections.

At a time when the government was facing corruption allegations in the Rafale deal, a terror attack that killed 40 CRPF men in Pulwama and the subsequent Indian air strike in Pakistan’s Balakot area changed the discourse and helped the BJP return to power.

“Nobody questioned the internal security failure that led to the Pulwama attack,” a security official posted in Jharkhand said.

Anurag, a protester at Jantar Mantar, said the Modi government had become “adept at using multiple diversionary tactics” to cover up its failures.

“They always fall back on hyper-nationalism and majoritarian themes,” he said.

Anurag flagged Union home minister Amit Shah’s announcement at a Jharkhand rally that a “sky-scraping” Ram temple would come up in Ayodhya in four months.

“At a time when the people are concerned about bread-and-butter issues, he is talking about building a temple. He said not a word on providing employment or fixing the economy,” Anurag said.


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