Indo-China War 1962: A history ignored
by Jaibans Singh on 20 Oct 2012 7 Comments

Today, October 20, 2012 marks the 50th year of the Indo-China war. The current national preoccupation with corruption and incessant attention to other tomfoolery that keeps modern Indian society busy has resulted in miniscule level of attention to this historically significant event. Another reason for this important episode being sidelined is the obvious apathy of the central government. Instead of confidently talking about the issue, it is bent upon taking an ostrich like approach. One wonders what our leaders are trying to run away from and why.


The Centre’s apathy seems to have rubbed off on the State of Jammu and Kashmir also. Not a word on the subject has been spoken by the government, the political leadership, the intellectuals, the academicians, the civil society or anybody else. Even the local media has been indifferent to the cause of an important geographic segment of the State. While some local newspapers have carried articles on the subject written mostly by people from outside the state, and giving more of a national than a local perspective, a majority of newspapers have not touched the matter at all. It is obvious that what does not interest the government does not interest the newspapers either; so much for an independent media! This is truly incredible since a major part of the action took place over there.


Not much can be done in Ladakh itself given the fact that the region, unlike the other major cities of Jammu and Srinagar, continues to be bereft of even rudimentary media presence. Sadly, the local newspapers being published from both capitals of the state do not even have correspondents in the important townships of Leh and Kargil, let alone an office. The same can be said for the national dailies, television channels, FM radio channels etc. The media initiative, therefore, was required to emerge from the national and regional assets, and this has not been forthcoming.


Politically, the lack of interest of the separatist Kashmiri leadership does not come as a surprise considering that it remains habitually unconcerned with what goes on north of the Zojila Pass and south of the Banihal tunnel. However, this was not to be expected from the major regional parties. The National Conference and the Congress, partners in a coalition government, have a moral obligation to respond to this historical moment; that the State government has not done so amounts to abjuring responsibility.


Why is it important to observe this historical event? Because there is a need to send a clear message that our great nation may have temporarily lost some territory, but overall the moral victory was ours and that we as a people cannot be deterred by the evil and inimical designs of others. For this, a good start would entail paying homage to the brave soldiers who fought against impossible odds and preferred death to leaving their posts. There can be light and sound shows, exhibitions, documentaries, brochures, comics, street show etc highlighting their bravery; their next of kin could be invited and honoured at the very places where our jawans and officers fought and sacrificed their lives.


The brave people of Ladakh who did not flee in the face of the Chinese onslaught and chose instead to support the army in its epic battle deserve to be commended in a manner that teaches all other Indians a lesson in nationalism. This occasion provides the most apt platform for open intellectual discussions in the form of seminars, debates, presentations etc. The thrust could be on independent assessments of the prevailing security situation, identification of the loopholes and ways and means to plug the same. In this, public involvement could be extended beyond the people of Ladakh to encompass other parts of the State and of the nation.


The silver lining is that some determined journalists, writers and thinkers have kept the candle alight by writing on the issue. Some articles have featured on the edit page of some national dailies and on the internet; a few defence magazines have given the matter a little space. Television channels will probably engage in a few minutes of breathless debate on the topic on October 20 before quickly reverting to Kejriwal.


Many different perspectives have been thrown up from what has been written: did we actually lose the war as is widely perceived? Or did the abrupt Chinese withdrawal mean a stalemate? In the aftermath of the debacle have we emerged stronger as a nation or are we still faltering? Are we prepared for a similar misadventure by inimical forces in the future? How should the future relationship with China be conceived?


Like many nations, India also holds a huge parade on the occasion of Republic Day as a show of strength and solidarity to the world in general and our enemies in particular. However, parades are not the only medium where such a message can be sent out; occasions such as this 50th anniversary of an immoral war against the nation and the manner in which the adversity was overcome provide an excellent platform to foster a message of nationalism.


This is also an ideal opportunity for the people of Jammu and Kashmir to show solidarity with their fellow citizens of Ladakh. How else can the state demonstrate its homogeneity in the face of the prevailing ethnic and geographic diversity? The entire nation, with motivation emanating from the central government, should have given due importance to this significant moment in our history; that the same has not happened gives all the more reason to the State Government to be more forthcoming since it is a direct stakeholder.


There is a lot that could have been done, should have been done and can still be done starting October 20 when war was declared and ending November 21 when the Chinese withdrew unilaterally. Here’s hoping that some positive initiative will still emerge.


The author is editor, Defence 

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