If you want peace, prepare to be ruthlessly just and fair

The 3rd president of Pakistan, General Yahya Khan, must be the original “My Name is Khan.” In 1971 he instructed the Pakistani army to “Kill 3 million of them and the rest will eat out of our hands.” He was talking about his compatriots in the eastern half of Pakistan, present day Bangladesh.

Samuel Huntington in his book The Clash of Civilizations pointed out bluntly that not only are Islam’s borders bloody but that its innards are bloody as well. Pakistan is a fine illustration of that brutal truth. Anyway, in 1971 in accordance with General Yahya Khan’s orders, the Pakistani army proceeded with the job of killing three million and by some estimates, achieved that target. India helped in bringing the killing spree to a close but at an enormous price. The humanitarian costs were staggering. The Indian army suffered thousands of casualties; around 10 million refugees flooded into India (most of whom never returned). I don’t know if anyone can reliably estimate the economic costs. What bothers me is that too many people did not learn an important lesson even after this.

It is certain that most Indians don’t know much about India’s 1971 war with Pakistan. It happened too long ago and more than 70 percent of present-day Indians were born after that war. Things that happened before one’s birth have an unreality and don’t appear to matter much. It’s all history and we are not very good at history.

The numbers associated with the Pakistani army’s crackdown in East Pakistan, and the 9-month long war that ended with the secession of East Pakistan, are mind-numbingly horrifying: rape, torture, murder, displacement, death, disease. As you can imagine, the Hindus in East Pakistan suffered disproportionately. (Mercifully, my ancestors had escaped from East Bengal about a century ago.)

That war ended when the West Pakistani army surrendered to Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora, Joint Commander of Indian and Bangladesh Forces on Dec 16th, 1971. Wiki says

Over 93,000 Pakistani troops surrendered to the Indian forces, making it the largest surrender since World War II. Bangladesh sought admission in the UN with most voting in its favour, but China vetoed this as Pakistan was its key ally. The United States, also a key ally of Pakistan, was one of the last nations to accord Bangladesh recognition. To ensure a smooth transition, in 1972 the Simla Agreement was signed between India and Pakistan. The treaty ensured that Pakistan recognised the independence of Bangladesh in exchange for the return of the Pakistani PoWs. India treated all the PoWs in strict accordance with the Geneva Convention, rule 1925. It released more than 93,000 Pakistani PoWs in five months. Further, as a gesture of goodwill, nearly 200 soldiers who were sought for war crimes by Bengalis were also pardoned by India. The accord also gave back more than 13,000 km2 (5,019 sq mi) of land that Indian troops had seized in West Pakistan during the war, though India retained a few strategic areas; …

The first of the present Gandhi dynasty, Mrs Indira Gandhi, was ruling India. I use the word ‘ruling’ advisedly. She decided that it was a great idea to give up a great bargaining chip — the 93,000 prisoners of war — and take nothing in return. War criminals, schriminals. Why bother trying them for war crimes! And what war crimes are we talking about anyway? The victims were largely kaffirs anyway. “The Hindus, who account for three-fourths of the refugees and a majority of the dead, have borne the brunt of the Pakistani military hatred,” TIME magazine reported in August 1971.

This is nothing new. Mohandas K Gandhi’s policy of turning the other cheek was applied. The soldiers who died on the battle field fighting the Pakistani army were not members of the Gandhi clan. So they don’t matter. For Mrs Gandhi, occupying the moral high ground was better than occupying some bit of land — never mind that soldiers laid down their lives in bitter battles for it.

The Bangladeshis repaid all the sacrifices that Indians made — the lives of soldiers, the economic hardship of feeding refugees — with enmity and aggression. The Bangladeshis don’t particularly dislike the Pakistanis these days. In fact, they provide Pakistani terrorists easy access across their border to India. The Bangladeshis and Pakistanis are brothers in arms, fighting a common enemy, the filthy idol-worshiping Hindu infidels. (Lots of redundancy in that last bit: infidels are filthy by definition; Hindus are infidels; Hindus are idol-worshipers by definition; Hindus are enemies by definition; etc.)

The trouble is that Indians don’t learn from their mistakes. They believe that being nice is a great big moral victory. Here’s a tweet that illustrates my point:

I don’t know what Maneckshaw thought of the matter of not trying war criminals but I find it hard to imagine that a soldier would allow war criminals to go unpunished.

Soldiers who fight other soldiers on battlefields should be treated with due respect and honorably. But soldiers who conduct a genocide of unarmed civilians are war criminals and must not be accorded the same treatment that good soldiers deserve. There’s no virtue but only shame in treating war criminals as if they were heroes defeated in war.

Justice and fairness have to be keystone virtues of a moral position. Justice and fairness demand that good deeds be rewarded and bad ones punished. The great moral teacher Confucius was asked what he thought of the precept, “Repay hatred with kindness.” Confucius replied, “Then how will you repay kindness? Repay hatred with justice and repay kindness with kindness.”

Pakistan keeps sending horribly tortured and mutilated bodies of Indian soldiers back to India. The mombattiwalas continue their celebration of peace with those monsters. While the jholawalas pontificate over their coffees and cigarettes, the poor soldiers die miserable deaths.

I have come to realize that the average Indian does not care too much for justice and fairness. If we did, we would not stand for the kind of treatment that Indian politicians and the enemies of India dish out to the people. Come to think of it, it is becoming hard to distinguish between the politicians and the enemies of India.

To have peace within the country and with our neighbors we have to be prepared to be ruthlessly just and fair. Repay hatred with justice and repay kindness with kindness. Anything else and we are complicit in the injustice that is sure to follow.

Related Post: The Unbearable Silliness of Loving One’s Enemy. Oct 2004. I argue that Gandhi’s “an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind” is an astonishingly stupid notion.

Author: Atanu Dey


10 thoughts on “If you want peace, prepare to be ruthlessly just and fair”

  1. “To turn the other cheek” actually means to not react to a situation out of pique and hatred, but to engage Reason and project forward ‘Most Effective’ options. That’s what you are suggesting 🙂


    1. I suppose one can read whatever one wants to in any statement, in that case. Language, reason, logic, consistency — all discarded to support one’s prejudiced position.

      Here’s where that phrase originates from. It is Christian doctrine. “That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

      You have decided that it does not mean what it says. The doctrine is asinine and you want to get into logical contortions to make it mean what it does not. Congratulations.

      Now here’s an example. The statement says, “Sell all your possessions and give it away to the poor.”

      Let’s see what it means. It means, “Always make sure that the water in the bath is lukewarm by testing it with your little finger.”

      Fuck logic, meaning and sense. They are hinderances.


      1. Not sure if this is true, but a Christian pastor, whom I respect, explained it to me thus:

        In Biblical times, when A struck B on the cheek, A would typically use his right hand and the slap would be back-handed, so that the back of A’s right palm would strike B’s right cheek. If B were to turn the other cheek, he would be inviting A to now use his left hand, but in that time and place, the left hand was typically used to perform ablutions after going to the bathroom so that by turning the other cheek, B would be embarrassing/discomforting A and most likely deterring A from striking again. Therefore, turning the other cheek had implications beyond what a literal reading might suggest.

        A broader point: Social norms have to do with right versus wrong. Cultural norms have to do with meaning. If I drive a car well past the posted speed limit, I would be violating a social norm, but if I drive a car with a bumper sticker that said “I be the Messiah,” I would be violating a cultural norm.


        1. Hi Indradeep:

          Thanks for the explanation. Like 99.999 percent of the population, I am quite ignorant of the social and cultural norms in biblical Middle East. Like the others, I can only understand the words to mean what they appear to mean.

          Turn the other cheek has been understood to mean that one should attempt to overcome aggression by shaming the aggressor and one should not resist evil — especially because it says “that ye resist not evil.”

          Now if “resist not evil” does not mean “resist not evil”, it gets confusing.

          In any case, I don’t really care who said what and in which context that was oh so enlightened. All I am concerned about is what is the right thing to do — if one wants to reduce conflict around one. I argue that the best way is what Confucius recommends and “turn the other cheek” way is the worst.



  2. Actually, many heroes in Indian movies follow this Confucius principle.
    Even with Punch dialogues. I see this in every telugu movie where hero’s
    introduction song will have lines similar to this principle where he
    promises to be good to those who do good and vanquish those who do evil.
    During these lines, the hero will be cheered.

    I have no idea
    why the same people who cheer and make the cinema a hit are unable to
    send the same signals that even Govts will be cheered if they do similar

    Also. doesn’t all Indian epics more or less say the same
    thing? then where did Gandhi get such idea that we should be passive in
    the face of aggression?


    1. Gandhi got his ideas from the Christian bible. A lot of nonsense that he propounded came from that source. If he had actually understood the message of the Bhagavat Gita, he would not have done as much harm to India as he did.

      India has had the misfortune of having terrible leaders.


  3. Gandhiji philosophy also came from the Jain religion. It is unfair to criticise him too harshly. Of course he made mistakes… but have you tried to do something which involves getting 300million people behind you, to overthrow a mighty imperial power. Let’s not underestimate his achievement, especially as he was working with Nehru.. who was a bigger spanner in the works.


  4. good relations cant be proceeded without letting old bitterness go away. I guess what britishers did to us was no less than the above issue. even we are paying for thier exploitation today also. this pakistan and bangladesh are creations of their only. secondly it is not about an Indian Pakistani or Bangladeshi but the govt which ruled them..


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: