Everybody loves a dead soldier
Dead soldiers are a political and emotional capital. People who wore a uniform for the necessity of a salary suddenly become martyrs for the sake of the “mother/fatherland”. They become a mythological cause for a government to hide behind, the veil of perfect excuse. On the 74th Independence Day yesterday, the Prime Minister Modi had this to say:
Those who challenge India’s sovereignty, be it Line of Control or Line of Actual Control, have been given a befitting reply in their own language. What India can do, world has seen it in Ladakh. Respect for India’s sovereignty is supreme for us.
What he does not mention is that the Chinese standoff is far from over. In the sectors where China has encroached upon Indian land, Indians have managed to do little. Though the Chinese side haven't released the number of dead on their side of the border, the Indian government and the Army had to account for the 20 dead soldiers at the Galwan Valley clash. The spin machine in Modi's right-wing, nationalist BJP government has taken advantage of the information opacity to say that the Chinese have been deterred by the Indian show of force. The temptation of using dead soldiers for political mileage is too good to pass in an environment which would otherwise call for more political scrutiny. India is facing the sheer brute force of COVID-19 coupled with a weak economy and increasingly receding democratic apparatus.
In the same speech PM Modi quotes:
“On behalf of the entire nation, I want to thank the efforts of all corona-warriors. All those healthcare workers, doctors and nurses, who have worked tirelessly to serve the nation amid the pandemic. Many have even lost their lives. The nation salutes them.”
What this rhetoric does is that it transforms the administrative shortcomings of the government into the same martyrdom capital a dead soldier provides. This shifts the blame away from the government and instead fools the public into blind veneration. No rational person chooses to die from work. The incentive of being a healthcare worker or a soldier comes from the paychecks they bring and the societal privilege these occupations provide. This is not to mention that most soldiers choose to become one because there's no other form of livelihood that can be guaranteed from the places they come from. They are underpaid and overworked, an occupational privilege they share with the so called “corona warriors”.
What could have been a political disaster for a nationalist party that cannot secure its nation has now become the very strength. The more people that are killed through the pandemic and along the border with China, the more people would be willing to buy the hokey bullshit that Mr. Modi has to peddle. Aided by the media which have fallen for the Hindu propaganda over the past six years, the failings of Modi's government are easily forgiven and forgotten.
This masculine chest thumping is a worrying sign, the only independence the country is celebrating right now is the independence from common sense and empathy. India has devolved into a puppet state where the puppets are the people participating in the democracy. There is very little hope when the spilling of blood is seen as a sign of power than a crisis of morality.