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Even Ashoka would go for war, should his people be killed

Even Ashoka would go for war, should his people be killed

Author: S Gurumurthy
Publication: www.newindpress.com
Date: May 22, 2002
URL: http://www.newindpress.com/Column.asp?ID=IEH20020522124732&P=old

'War is not the option' they say. 'Nor is it the solution', they counsel. 'Be restrained' they pontificate. Whether it is the peace-loving media or the neutral intellectual in India or the United Kingdom or Iran or China, they speak in one voice.

For every warmonger in the world, we have a million peace-makers. This ratio is increasing by the day. There are more peacemakers than at any point in history. Subject to one difference. The warmongers are sincere about the war, highly motivated about their cause. The peacemakers are terrified of them. So they do what is easy. Pontificate to the victim.

The Wagah candle carriers are telling Vajpayee to tell Bush to tell Musharraf to tell the terrorists to stop the terror. Marxists, by habit and belief, are suspicious of the US. But Harkishen Surjeet is advising India to tell the US to pressure Pakistan to rein in the terror. So bizarre is the counselling to avoid the war.

War is of course a bad word now. But surprisingly not when the West wages it. England will go to the far off Falklands to wage war. Just for its honour. The US would carpet bomb and flatten a whole Afghanistan, in the name of protecting Americans. A global alliance has been forged for this war, the war against terror, a highly respectable war. Israel will hit the nuclear facility in Iraq, to destroy a perceived danger to the Jewish people. These are wars. But being waged by the 'civilised', they are not bad wars. They are wars for peace; noble and good wars.

But if India were to think of a war as a counter to the attack on innocent citizens, against the attack on its Assembly and its Parliament, it would be a bad war. Not wholly a war against terror, for it is against a partner in the war against terror, that is Pakistan. It is not just that the US or UK or China or Iran would consider it a bad war. Even the Indian liberal will not accept such a war.

It is conceded that the life of an American is so precious to the US that it must go to war if they die or their lives are threatened. Similarly the life of a Jew is so precious to Israel that they should go to war, every time there is a suicide attack. Is the life of Indians so cheap that even over 60,000 of them dying at the hands of terror in Kashmir is not good enough to think of a war?

'Yes', they say. 'Let any one go to war. India should not go to war'. Their obsession with peace at any cost proves, by contrast, that any one who thinks of war as a solution is against peace. So those who sincerely believe war as a legitimate means for peace are shy of talking about it. With the result the whole national mind is confused. Nothing would benefit the enemy than a warrior's confusion.

This was precisely the position of Arjuna before the start of the Kurukshetra war. And it was exactly the position of Ashoka after the Kalinga war. One was confused by noble thoughts before the war, and the other was confused by noble thoughts after the war. But fortunately Sri Krishna laboured through 18 long chapters of discourse in Bhagwat Gita to clear Arjuna's confusion and to help him take a decision. Arjuna finally decided to wage the war. But unfortunately Ashoka did not have the wise counsel of a Sri Krishna to clear his confusion. Result, Ashoka's confusion still haunts India. In the Indian dictionary, war has turned a dirty word, thanks to our construction of Ashoka. But what our intellectuals failed to fathom is that only wars waged out of ambition, like Ashoka did and realised, are wrong. Not wars to prevent the slaughter of the innocents.

So we have perverted Ashoka. Whether it is Tsun Tsu or Bhishma, men of wisdom have regarded war as sometimes essential to bring peace. A great saint once said even wars may have to be waged out of love. What is wrong is war of hate. That is Jihad. But a war to protect ourselves from Jhad is not a war of hate. In dictionary and statistics, ofourse, both are wars.

What Ashoka retreated from was war motivated by lust and ambition, not wars to prevent wars. Even the peace-at-any-cost peacemakers would not say that India is motivated by lust of ambition. Imagine if Ashoka were ruling Delhi today. Would he shy away from the war imposed by Jihadis? Never. He would have taken them on frontally. He would have brushed aside the peace-at-any-cost peacemakers with contempt.

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