THESE days the only topic of conversation in the Indian sub-continent and the surrounding SAARC region is Surgery. The last time when surgery was the cause celebre was in ancient India when Sushruta discovered the art of plastic surgery to reconstruct the noses of unfaithful females, cut off by suspicious husbands.
The lead was given by the fiery Lakshmana, who did not relish the sexual overtures made by the dusky, Dravidian featured Sroopnakha, the princess of Srilanka, and tried to palm her off on his elder brother, the calm Ramachandra. When the younger prince of Ayodhya divested her of her nose and ears, she naturally ran to her elder brother Ravana and accused the Indians of perpetrating terrorism.
At that stage, it was terrorism pure and simple. Later when Rama’s army crossed the ocean to invade Srilanka, it became cross-border terrorism. Yes, Sir! That is how ancient the Indian practice of cross-border terrorism is.
I am not an expert in military operation. So I cannot say whether Lakshman’s cutting of Sroopnakha’s nose and ears would count as a surgical strike within the modern definition of that phrase. If it does, then Rahul can legitimately claim that the country had achieved the triumph of surgical strikes in the reign of his forefathers who had always been ruling India in the pre-BJP era.
So what is Amit Shah talking about when he claims that the first truly wonderful surgical strike was implemented in the Modi period? Does he not realise that he has got to assign the bulk of the credit to the military? He does not have a choice. When Rahul’s ancestor struck surgically, he did not delegate the task to the military. He did it himself. When Lakshmana perpetrated his surgical strike, he wielded the weapon with his own hands. He did not merely take the political decision, leaving the dirty work to the DGMO, as Modi did.
But the BJP has its own experts of Ancient Indian History. They would not concede the assumption of the Suryavanshi dynasty made by Rahul. The party has already blazoned forth their strategy in huge posters showing Modi as Lord Rama, apparelled in bow and arrow. It would not take them long to declare Jambvant as an ancient Parikkar, who suggested the secret mission of Air Vice Marshal Hanuman, in order to locate and rescue Sita. This, it can be easily argued, was a classical surgical strike, with all the elements of stealth, adoption of aerial surveillance, location of Sita in the Ashok Vaatika, destruction of Rakshas in large numbers and the use of fire to destroy a huge part of Lanka.
The only weak point in this story is the persona of Hanuman himself. There is a sardarji joke which narrates an argument between the pujari of a village temple, the mullah of a village mosque and the granthi of a village gurudwara about the persona of Hanuman. The Hindu based the Hindudom of the deity by the existence of a million Bajrangi temples, the mullah said his name, which rhymed with Suleiman, Rehman and Sultan, gave away his credentials. The granthi stated his arguments in cogent terms,”Bohti kisi hor di, leh gaya koi hor, inney apni puchh jala diti. Yeh sardar nahin howuga, toh horki howuga?”(It was another’s wife who was kidnapped, someone else abducted her, but this fellow got his tail burnt in the process. He could not have been anything but a Sardar!”)
The big element in the present debate is “proof”. There was a moment in the recent post-Uri crisis, when an overwhelming percentage of Indian population became emotionally charged and fervently wished that the Government did something. A kind of revenge. A heavy reprisal that would cause such a high rate of causalities that Pakistan would think ten times before they ventured to damage India once again!.
While the nation was in this super-vengeful mood, someone asked for Rahul’s reaction to the surgical strike. In a weak moment, Rahul allowed his emotion to take charge of his better sense and actually sang paeans of praise for Narendra Modi. He felt that for the first time during his tenure of two-and-a-half years, Modi had acted as a Prime Minister should act. He (Rahul) supported the action fully.
The managers and spokespersons of the BJP could not believe their ears. Rahul Gandhi, Modi’s bête noir, had actually indulged in fulsome praise of the PM. They went to town with this positive story. They played and replayed Rahul’s video again and again. That is when Rahul realised that he was out hit-wicket or that he had perpetrated a self-goal.
How to get out of the tricky situation? The usual suspects provided the basic material by borrowing it from the version put out by Pak generals and news agencies sympathetic to them. They started big by asserting that no such surgical strike, as had been claimed by India, had been accomplished. Where was the proof?
DIGVIJAY Singh and Sanjay Nirupam asked for proof. And soon enough Rahul Gandhi also took up the chant. Where is the proof, the whole Congress Party asked. The whole nation asked. Soon the Aam Aadmi Party also asked. This provoked the stand-up comedians of Whatsapp to portray Arvind Kejriwal as the Transmigrated Soul of the Famous Dhobi of Ayodhya, who when Rama claimed that Sita was pure, is reported to have commented, “The Agni Pareeksha might have satisfied the innocent Lord Rama. It does not satisfy me. I would like to have a thorough examination by a Qualified Medical Practitioner and a detailed report.”
So there the matter rests. The military does not consider the demand for proof as legitimate. It will not release military secrets which had better remain sealed.
Meanwhile, the Pak generals are jubilant. They were always saying that the Indians are incapable of delivering an effective surgical strike. And now they have proved it through the silence of Indians.
MK Kaw is a former Secretary, Government of India. (The views expressed are those of the columnist.)