Musings on Pokharan

Itihaas May, 24th, 1998
Akhilesh Mithal
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Is Pokharan 11 and 13 May 1998 a kind of watershed, a turning point in the history of world and humanity? It certainly has the potential of being made into a kind of symbol, a jhandaa or flag of the colonies and slave camps of yesteryear bouncing back to take their rightful place in the comity of nations.

The year 1498 saw the arrival of the first Europeans into India and that event occurred on May 20, 1498. Five centuries have passed. As can be seen these five centuries of European expansion into the non-White, non-European world has been to the detriment of the latter.

It is now time that this five-century period, a half millennium was studied in depth and an assessment made of the damage caused by the White people of the world to the non-Whites and their land.

World bodies such as the UN and the Unesco should hold seminars and workshops where the scholars of the individual countries can meet, exchange details and work out estimates of the loss, damage and destruction of life, property, environment and culture caused by the expansion of Europe.

Some areas are permanently cleared of the “native” or aboriginal populations. Notably in Australia, New Zealand, North America and the area between Russia and the Pacific Ocean. Such an exercise would show that the Western ideas, that “scourges of God” have of necessity to be coloured (Attila, the Hun, Chengeyz, the Mongol, also known as the Ocean Wide or the Kha Khan and his acolyte from “Tartary” Amir Teymour) are wrong.

That self-proclaimed “Caucasian” White Europeans are equally adept and have shown their proclivities since Spaniards sailed to the “New World.” In recent times, the My Lai Massacre, the Jallianwala Bagh outrage and the annihilation of small nationalities by the expansionist Russians whether Czarist or Soviet, Leninist or Stalinist, Gorbachev or Yeltsin show that colour has nothing to do with perpetration of atrocity.

It is, like religion, morality neutral.Perhaps the two real issues of the world today are colour and gender. This is not a commonly accepted viewpoint. More is the pity as the surge of joy witnessed at the announcement of Pokharan was not confined to Hindus or to India.

It overflowed the national boundaries and even the faraway countries which were once in bondage to the Whites rejoiced with Indians. The recent past heard talk of an “Islamic bomb”. Whether it came about or not is a matter of debate.

The Pokharan Five, Panchatantra? (implosions/explosions/detonations or whatever) are, however a fact. It is a fact that the devices were manufactured by Indian scientists working in the face of a world boycott, resistance and obstruction to their efforts.

The object should be to make this achievement a “common cause” one with other countries of the ex-colonial “developing world”. The event does not represent screwdriver technology which means that the object was created elsewhere and bought to India, in what is called CKD and reassembled here with screwdrivers.

India should offer the knowledge and skills developed to any democracy which wants to go down this path. Including Pakistan. Perhaps a goodwill gesture could be made. Something like a unilateral suspension of visas for Pakistanis and Bangladeshis.

The Nepalese require no visas to come to India and this favoured nation treatment can be extended to all neighbours who were a part of India. The powers that be should act in a manner that behoves the dignity of a great country being rebuilt brick by brick after two centuries of being mulcted, despoiled and impoverished.

Which brings the Pokharan musings to a point of real fanciful and fabulous imaginings. In this scenario the relations of India and Pakistan have moved away from gratuitous insults like naming missiles Ghauree. There is a genuine bonhomie.

In such a scene, the Pokharan event would have been something the Pakistanis would expect. Not inside knowledge but hints and winks and nudges. Then the response would be “Good Show Old Boy, Delighted one of us blackies could do it.”

What is needed is that India get out of its “go it alone” mentality and make common cause with the others who suffer from colour discrimination. Although the Japanese have been declared “White” by no less an entity than the masters of Apartheid in South Africa, they are coloured.

Their students have terrible stories to tell of treatment received in US universities. It was unfortunate that the date chosen for the Pokharan event was Buddha Jayanti. This thrice blessed day saw his birth, his enlightenment and his mahaparinirvaana.

The Japanese are, many of them, Buddhist. They are also the only people in the world to have suffered the horror of atom bombs at the two cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Perhaps some special effort needs to be made in their direction.

A cultural event catering to their taste may well help. After all, we Indians were the only people who refused to exact reparations from a defeated and humiliated Japan at the end of the World War II. This shows that sometimes we can show sensitivity.

Now is the time for more of this kind. Perhaps this unfortunate choice of date would not have occurred if the focus had been “anti-colonialism.” The world in general and India in particular have been victim to Europe’s greed and atrocities.

The beginning (during the Christian Era) occurred with the landing of Vasco Da Gama in Calicut on May 20, 1458. The Pokharan event could have occurred on this date in 1998 and a clear, anti-colonial signal given. Alas, an opportunity missed!

Akhilesh Mithal, 1998. All rights reserved.
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