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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Can there be peace without war ?

 The humidity of a typical Delhi August ! I look through the glass windows at the sky. Dark clouds are gathering. I cross my fingers for the much needed rains .Inside the house the air hangs heavy -it is  oppressive with unsaid  words and suppressed emotions. I look at her. She is still doing something on  her laptop and  managing to ignore me with studied nonchalence. I look down at my book and try to read some more. Ten minutes later I abandon the charade and look at her - " We need to talk". She looks up reluctantly and says, " what about/'. I tell her in no uncertain terms what  needs to be spoken . She replies and then I say some more and then she says some  and before we know it we are in the middle of a  heated argument. Ten minutes later I look out of the window. It is pouring . I throw open the windows. Fresh , cool air blows in and the humidity in the room dissipates. I look at my daughter. " Should we have some tea?" " I will make some, mum " and she waltzes happily  out of the room. There is a sense of peace in the room - the tears and acrimony of the previous ten minutes all but forgotten.

It leaves me thinking - is war necessary for peace? I had always thought of myself as a peacenik but now I realized I was moving towards a thought process which advocated that in some situations peace could only come after war. Consider this : King Ashoka  earned his place  in history for two reasons- the battle of Kalinga and the aftermath of the battle viz the peace that engulfed his kingdom, his people and the king himself. That one battle brought about an everlasting peace to Ashoka and a conversion to Buddhism.. Yes, the war saw many lives being lost, but it also ensured that no more lives would henceforth be sacrificed at the altar of a kings need and greed for power and supremacy.

America became the United States of America after a bloody civil war that lasted all of  four years, saw more than 600,000 soldiers killed and countless civilians butchered. What did the civil war achieve? Plenty. It saw the abolition of slavery, the coming back of the errant southern states to the fold and the dawn of the mightiest country in the world. One war- many gains.

Closer home , let's look at the role of 1857 in Indian history. Things were chugging along smoothly for the East India Company when out of the blue a regiment stationed in Meerut ignited the first war of Independence for India. The mutiny was brutally put down, an ageing and ineffectual mughal king beheaded,  the queen of Jhansi ,  and  other bravehearts killed- but 1857 did achieve a lot. It was the spark needed to bring peace in our minds and hearts- the peace that comes only when we know we are free.

Have you watched vintage Mahesh Bhatt movies? Arth, Saaransh  etc ? The commonality in his movies is the thread of violence and volatality , interwoven with angst, portrayed by his protagonists and antagonists. Peace does come but only after a celluloid eruption of  volcanic emotions  . His movies left the viewers battered and bruised but happy that Shabana Azmi could walk away into the sunset with her head high and the 'other' woman  still battling her demons.

Here, I pause. I realize it is important to also analyze what  exactly we mean by war. A person can be at war with himself or herself ; there can be a war carried out in words; an armed military conflict ;  a war on something- say food prices/ corruption  etc.  And now the important question- do we need a war today in India? against an aggressive neighbor in the north east ? against an ineffectual government? against a silent head of state? against dipping moral values ? A war  for peace ?


  1. Good article. Just one correction though. The last Mughal King was not beheaded but exiled to Burma.

  2. Hi Puru- thanks for reading my article , liking it and also for the correction. Just an add on to the last- BSZ was certainly exiled to Burma, and it was in Burma that he was beheaded :)