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Narendra Modi Must Use Balakot To Consolidate India’s Rajasic Transformation


Pakistan wanted to “bleed India with a thousand cuts”. Question: is Pulwama, where 40 jawans of the Central Reserve Police Force lost their lives in a suicide attack on 14 February, the thousandth cut? “The sacrifices of our brave security personnel shall not go in vain,” promised Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Question: is 14 February Pakistan’s Shishupala moment? Three years ago, former Research and Analysis Wing chief Vikram Sood had advocated that India should stop being the “good boy” of international affairs. Question: does 14 February mark the end of the idea that India is a peace-loving, peace-spewing nation ready to be trampled, humiliated, killed?

Across planes of time, space and beyond, on battlefield Kurukshetra, Sri Krishna, after several rounds of attempting to deliver peace, each of which was destined to fail, had advised the reluctant warrior Arjuna, fraught with tamas, to go and fight. Question: is this India’s rajas moment, a moment when the collective consciousness of a nation comes together and sheds its tamasic mode and embraces the rajasic spirit? Is the new India that is emerging from the ashes and graves of our 40 CRPF warriors, not merely delivering retribution, but is, in fact, one small expression of a deeper rajas, expressing itself through rage?

Rajas is a state of being that goes out and does rather than waits to be done. It applies to the evolution of individuals, as they, generally, evolve from being in a tamasic state to a rajasic one to finally conclude in the sattwic.

Under tamas, men and nations succumb to world-energies, are overborne by them, afflicted, subjected, somehow seek to survive, “to shelter himself in the fortress of an established routine of thought and action in which he feels himself protected from the battle,” wrote Sri Aurobindo. On the other hand, rajasic men and nations fling themselves into battle to slay, conquer, dominate or, helped by a certain measure of the sattwic quality, “make the struggle itself a means of increasing inner mastery, joy, power, possession.” According to Swami Vivekananda, “Tamas is typified as darkness or inactivity; rajas is activity, expressed as attraction or repulsion; and Sattwa is the equilibrium of the two.” Every person, animal or plant, he says, is a mix of these three traits.

As every Indian who has read the Bhagwad Gita knows, so far as the individual goes, the gradation of beings is clear. But as a collective, this principle applies to nations as well. The collective is the spiritual agglomeration of the individuals. And as the evolution of individual beings, so the spiritual progress of nations. Driven by a strengthened will, India’s transformation follows its spiritual resurgence. In its rise since Independence, India has been on a runway to rajas, as reflected in its culture or the economy, both of which have impacted the world and earned it respect. The missing part of India’s rajas has been on the physical side, in its defence and military policies.

Here, it is the will of the people that has been missing. When people say we need to learn from Israel in dealing with Pakistan, they forget that behind the leaders of Israel stand the people of Israel and their collective will to sacrifice individual preferences, to suffer, to die if needed. This creates and supports an aggressive rajas of a small nation surrounded by enemies. This rajas has been missing in India. Blaming leaderships is easy; looking behind them is not.

In the Kandahar incident of 24 December 1999, for instance, it were the cries of the relatives of passengers that soon converted into orchestrated protests outside Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s residence, “with women beating their chests and tearing their clothes”, writes Kanchan Gupta. Vajpayee gave in to the demand of releasing terrorists, one of whom, Masood Azhar, is the founder and leader of Jaish-e-Mohammed that has taken responsibility for the 14 February CRPF terror attack. “Give away Kashmir, give them anything they want, we don’t give a damn,” Gupta quotes a relative as saying. Clearly, India wasn’t ready to sacrifice. Tamas won.

The Kandahar was a work-in-progress in Pakistan using terror as a state policy against India. A decade earlier, on 8 December 1989, less than a week since Mufti Mohammed Syed was appointed Home Minister in Prime Minister V.P. Singh’s government, terrorist Ashfaq Majid Wani kidnapped his 23-year-old daughter Rubiya Syed. After several rounds of negotiations, five terrorists were released to free Rubiya. The 122 hours of Rubiya’s captivity, writes With Kashmir, set the tone for the future of terror in Kashmir. “Kashmiris saw India brought to her knees for the first time.” This time, it wasn’t some average citizens that pushed – it was the Home Minister himself. Tamas won.

On its part, Pakistan has been clever. Having lost four wars, one each in 1947, 1965, 1971 and 1999, its army that runs the country knows it cannot fight India in an open war. In a war, once the rajas force is unleashed through the military, Pakistan doesn’t stand a chance.

And so, firm in its understanding of the tamas of the Indian people, it created and nourished a terror network that has been wreaking havoc not only in India but across the world, attacking countries from the inside, using religion as a medium and 72-virgins-seeking bodies as a force. In all such acts, India has been told by the global community to stand down, from the 13 December 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament to the 26 November 2008 Mumbai attacks to the 18 September 2016 attack on the Indian Army’s brigade headquarters at Uri. Pakistan has been right. India’s tamas allowed it, and the world, to walk over us, kill us.

It wasn’t always so. Five millenniums ago, in the Mahabharata, Sri Krishna had promised to pardon a hundred offences of his cousin Shishupala. At Yudhishthira’s Rajasuya ceremony, when Shishupala crossed the hundredth offence and freed Krishna of his promise, the Sudarshan Chakra beheaded Shishupala with a single stroke. The beheading came within the confines of morality, the needs of justice, and most important, the sanction of Aryavarta. Most kings at the sacrifice spoke not a word. Some swallowed their rage. And some applauded the act.

Supported by China, the Pakistani establishment has been seeking out its Shishupala moment, confident India would do nothing. But now, it seems India’s Krishna moment is here too. Three reasons. First, for the first time, barring the usual virtue-signalling elites, the common man across the country stands behind the government in seeking retribution; she seems prepared to sacrifice. Second, for the first time, despite elections being around the corner, most Opposition parties stand behind the government, giving it the political heft it needs to deliver the retribution – this reflects the changing stance, to rajas from tamas, of the people at large.

And third, riding the two pillars above, India seems to be embracing military rajas. It continues to seek peace – and that’s a good ideal. But in our dealings with Pakistan, this peace has to be painfully extracted out of the jaws of war. And for which, above all, it is the rajasic force that needs to express itself. The time to whine and appeal to a world that ignores our pleas is over. Even the world listens only to rajasic powers, as it did when the Twin Towers went down in the US and the war on terror was globalised in 2001. “Pakistan helped nurture the Taliban,” noted the 9/11 Commission Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. The realisation that we are on our own, alone in the reality that global powers will partake of our economic growth but not support us in our fight against terror, has been a reality we have tried learning to live with.

Pulwama has changed all that. Powered by the realisation that our people in the Kashmir Valley have been victims in a larger game of asymmetric warfare of terror, a fight that India will certainly not indulge in, we are ready to make sacrifices – that too is part of the country’s rising rajas.

War will deliver victory no doubt; but it will also inflict pain, physical, economic, psychological. Terrible will be the destruction if Pakistan uses the nuclear option. Our growth, prosperity, economy, well-being will be dented for a few years. The violent transformation into rajas through Pulwama has us prepared.

Pakistan will bleed too. Like it never has: soldiers, generals, their corner plots, their post-retirement sinecures, its economy – and its terror infrastructure. Once India’s tamas-to-rajas force is unleashed, it will be irreversible. It won’t stop with the killings of Hafiz Sayeed or Masood Azhar, it won’t end with the reclamation of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, it will go deeper. It won’t begin tomorrow or end the next year. The rajas force will sustain, it will grow stronger, become wider, climb higher. It will hurt, it will deliver pain.

Despite this, the rajas of India will be different from that of Pakistan’s, which is led by a brutal, regressive version of Islam. In its evolutionary trajectory, India not only lacks this motivation but doesn’t seek this savage and uncivilised state of being in the first place – to that extent, the rajas of India will be unique. India’s rajasic retribution will be hard, cold and decisive. But we can trust our soldiers to not cross the line of civilised behaviour, a control we’ve seen them exercise in Kashmir. And even in the tiny act of bombing Balakot, India has gone out of its way to ensure there are no civilian casualties. Balakot has delivered an initial catharsis, but it is only the beginning – India needs to be relentless and not return to tamas. If Kandahar, Rubiya Syed, Parliament attack, Mumbai attacks were tamas, Balakot is the beginning of rajas.

Several millenniums ago, this rajas played out in the Rig Veda, when 10 kings attacked the kingdom of Trtsu-Bharata together. In the battle that followed, all 10 were defeated by king Sudas. This rajas expressed itself in the Mahabharata repeatedly – Arjuna defeating the Kauravas at Virata, or Bhima single-handedly killing all 99 Kauravas, for instance. This rajas waded through blood in 1660, when Baji Prabhu and his 300 men fought an army of 10,000 to protect Shivaji. This rajas powered the battles Rani Lakshmibai fought, it flowed from the guns of Chandrashekhar Azad, it expressed itself in the valour of Bhagat Singh. On rajas rode Mahatma Gandhi, this rajas powered Subhash Chandra Bose.

After years of foreign invasions, first by Mughals and then by the British, the soul of India began to lose its rajasic lustre, declined into tamas or sublimated into sattva. We aspired and reached the higher wisdom of the sattva in the realm of ideas, economics, social change, civilisational reach, literature. But on the military side, we embraced weakness, dullness, tamas. Otherwise, how is it possible that Pakistan, a country whose GDP is one-eighth of India’s, manage to inflict so many deaths, wreak so much havoc, become the global hub of terror? Yes, Pakistan does carry the cross of Islamic terror, but equally, India is guilty of being swamped by tamas. That is now changing.

The execution of a national rajasic force rajas rests with leaders of nations. The leader is like the head of an arrow. If the arrowhead is blunt, all the will of the people, the force of a billion emotions, the rush of the spirit, and the power of rajas will get blunted. As it has for the past decades in dealing with Pakistan. A testing time for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government – Balakot is only the beginning, as Pakistan prepares to retaliate – we wait to see whether he rides India’s big leap to rajas from tamas. Or gives in to tamas and encourages the rogue state of Pakistan into another round of terrorist killings in India.

This article was first published by the Observer Research Foundation and has been reproduced here with permission.


Gautam Chikermane
Gautam Chikermane is Vice President at ORF. His area of research is international and Indian economic policy.

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