At a time of unbridled warmongering, it can be hard to resist the drumbeat of war. There are memes of Indian soldiers dancing in fatigues and fake footage from video games going viral and feed after feed of actors, politicians and other public figures calling for war and demanding more and then some against Pakistan.
But it is also in times like this that a call for peace must be just as loud. And I am not talking about a call for peace that is simply the absence of violence. But a call for peace that as Philip Borseman challenges us with, which is peace as the “presence of the conditions necessary for being free to peacefully thrive and fulfil one’s potential.” and that to this extent, and for this reason, “any genuine attempt to promote peace requires addressing issues and questions of injustice, personal and social, as both a form of violence and a cause of violence.”
This is at the heart of a Dalit Bahujan call for peace.
Was India attacked? Yes! But there other responses outside of violence that are available to address this attack that do not promote war. This included diplomacy, international pressure, economic sanctions, and more. An act of military aggression escalates an already difficult regional politics at a time when there are strongmen leaders who do not have many restraints on either side.
Additionally, from a Dalit Bahujan perspective, this is not the time for military escalation. The rise of the BJP and its attack on all organs of Indian democracy has resulted in an unparalleled series of socio economic crises. From millions of desperate farmers who are fighting against attacks on their livelihood, to thousands of women who marched against India’s pervasive rape culture in the Garima (Dignity) March, from the highest levels of unemployment we have ever seen, to the looming spectre of climate change, which is transforming all our cities.
There are also one million Adivasis who are resisting eviction from their own land and this is the latest attack on their sovereignty and dignity. Trans people from our communities are being murdered in temples, students and teachers are being stripped of their constitutional rights to affirmative action/reservation in employment and education, our academics, poets, and lawyers are being jailed by the state for sedition, and we have seen the rise of one of the largest disinformation apparatuses of casteist trolls in the world that is helping cover for a government, while it systematically excludes our communities from the fabric of this nation.
This is not a time to exacerbate our already fragile economic and social instability. This is also not the time to let the BJP cadre unleash their anger towards our fellow Muslims, or to use this as an emotional manoeuvre to win elections.
In many ways, if we are to look at what is the bigger threat to the peace and well being of our society, it is not a singular terrorist attack, it is rather a systematic attack on Indian institutions by the BJP. And it is an act of real patriotism to answer the calls for violence with an equally powerful call for peace, dialogue and compromise.
War will not help us achieve solutions to these crises. It will only distract temporarily from these disastrous policies, and amplify the hardship the most vulnerable will face in India.
For make no mistake, it is Savarnas who call the loudest for war, but it will be DBA bodies sacrificed on the front lines to carry out the will of this Savarna ruled state. Watching the warmongering publicly is triggering for many of our families who have lost members in past wars and in world wars like WWII. We are still bearing these burdens, and paying the heavy price of war.
At times like this, it is easier to fall prey to reactionary politics. But there is also the possibility to dream bigger than a vision of the world that is shaped by mindless patriotism that cares nothing for the future of Dalit Bahujan people. If peace is the condition to be able to thrive, and peace is freedom, then we must, as people of conscience, stand up and resist the instinct to demonise our neighbours and work together as citizens to build networks of peace. It is hard to stand up in times like this, but in some way, if we cannot answer the call for hate with the call for love, then what is the nation for?
For every bogeyman of terror, there are millions of families with children on each side of the border who are terrified. For the future of these children, and for the possibility of another way forward, I ask that we consider another option outside the drumbeat of war. I ask for the consideration of a Dalit Bahujan call for peace, one that is rooted in the idea of peace as freedom, peace as possibility, and peace as hope for a world free of militarisation, religious extremism, gender-based violence and, of course, caste apartheid.
As long as there is even one Ambedkarite who can hold open the door for peace, then yes there is still hope for peace, and we must not let it be extinguished.