On February 27, the IAF claims,
the pilot, Abhinandan Varthman, got into a dogfight with an F 16 plane on
Pakistan airspace and ejected. He was captured by the Pakistan military and a
video of him answering questions with calm, unhindered spirit, was released.
What is less known is that missiles were ready on both the sides of the border,
and that hotlines were connected with the United States. India wanted its pilot
released safely, and did successfully procure him, but let us remember that in
war, truth is the first casualty; what we learn is what they want us to hear.
The fact that India's
conventional army has superior military capability than Pakistan, could mean
that Pakistan waging a nuclear attack is less likely. However, Pakistan has
consistently refused to sign a 'no first use' pact, for it claims if there is a
threat of annihilation, it has the right to use its nuclear weapon.
No one quite knows what exactly
was destroyed at Balakot and if anyone dare raise a question, they are
threatened, and are accused of disregarding the supreme sacrifice of the armed
forces. Meanwhile, the drum-beaters of the political party in power and its
media acolytes give us 'manufactured news stories', which pass as the truth
In this context, it would be
appropriate to remember the work of Australian journalist Wilfred Burchett â€“
the first journalist to get to Hiroshima after the US destroyed the Japanese
city by detonating atomic bomb over it in 1945. His report blazed across the
London 'Daily Express' with the subheading: 'I Write This as a
Warning to the World'.
Burchett wrote from ground zero, "In these hospitals, I found people who, when the bomb fell suffered absolutely
no injuries, but are now dying from the uncanny after-effects. For no apparent
reason, their health began to fail. They lost appetite. Their hair fell out.
Bluish spots appeared on their bodies. And then bleeding began from the ears,
nose and mouthsâ€¦ And in every case, the victim died. That is one of the
aftereffects of the atomic bomb and I do not want to see any more examples of
Burchett also wrote: "My nose
detected a peculiar odour unlike anything I have smelled beforeâ€¦ I could also
smell it when everything was deserted. They believe it is given off by the
poisonous gas still issuing from the earth soaked with radioactivity by the
split uranium atom. â€¦ Hundreds upon hundreds of the dead were so badly burned
in the terrific heat generated by the bomb that it was not even possible to
tell whether they were men or women, old or young. Of thousands nearer the
centre of the explosion, there was no trace. They vanished. The theory in
Hiroshima is that the atomic heat was so great that they burned instantly to
ashes â€“ except that there are no ashes."
During his 1971 visit to
Hiroshima, Burchett found it beautifully rebuilt with parks and a museum, and
said so in his speech. He later met with a hibakusha (victim of the Hiroshima tragedy) who told
him that one in four children of the first-generation victims had birth
defects, as documented by the Yamaguchi study. Ms Hasegawa, who was born in the
year of the bombing, castigated Burchett for being pleased by the outward
appearance of Hiroshima. She explained that they suffered chronic weakness and
extreme lassitude, ensuring that no one would hire a hibakusha and also no one wanted to marry a hibakusha for the fear of birth defects. This created serious
psychological problems for them, and they were, in fact, the world's new
While Burchett had his press
accreditation taken away for his writings on Hiroshima, he said that he was too
overwhelmed to even question the cool planning that went into the subsequent
cover-up. For instance, why did he, as an accredited war correspondent, have
difficulty in transmitting his report to a newspaper? Why did he receive such
hostility from military authorities in Tokyo? Why was he whisked away to a
military hospital â€“ perhaps in an attempt to isolate him from his colleagues
who were more involved in witnessing the handing-over ceremony? And how did his
camera with the roll of photographs taken in Hiroshima get stolen? These are
just some questions he raised years later.
In contrast, there is another
much feted journalist, William L Lawrence, who was a member of the US
journalists' delegation, and was the science writer for many years for
York Times. Burchett revealed that he wore
two hats: he was also a 'member of the inner circle of the government's nuclear
weapons directorate'. He was recruited by Leslie Groves, the commander of the
Manhattan project, as the 'news manager'. Burchett said that given the years of
voluntary press censorship on the mention of atomic energy and the general
scientific ignorance of wartime journalists, Lawrence became the mouthpiece.
For his service towards the US government â€“ including drafting Truman's
statement on Hiroshima â€“ he was awarded the Pulitzer prize and a War Department
Not much has changed: one only
has to look at the war-drumming machinery â€“ at our various media channels â€“ to
recognise the existence of several Lawrences â€“ journalists and media managers
who are, and will be further rewarded with plum assignments and honours.
While Burchett was ostracised by his government and even had his
accreditation taken away from him, witness what journalists like Ravish Kumar
and others are facing right now.
War is always a series of
miscalculations in which the masses have to endure the horrific pain in silence
lest the nation loses its glory. Those who celebrate war never participate in
it and those who participate in it never ever celebrate it. And war is always
an accident: it was the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand that led to the
World War I.
After Hiroshima and Nagasaki,
the world has been close to using nuclear weapons nine times: in the Cuban
missile crisis, missed radar warnings and other accidents that sound like
sci-fi if they were not so horrifically serious.
Just after Pokhran two I was at
Sabarmati ashram in the early hours of the morning. As a writer and a
filmmaker, I was walking around in the early morning light to assess where we
would be filming when I heard some loud sounds, and went to check what was
happening. I saw Gandhi's words against nuclear warfare being dismantled and
put away into crates; visitors to the museum have an edited version of Gandhi's
concepts of ahimsa. The threat of nuclear war is real and we need to reclaim
the idea of India and talk peace with our neighbours.
This is not to put down Abhinandan, but we do need to
ponder. Are our real heroes those who are fighting for peace, or those who are
propelling us towards becoming the state of Hiroshima?