Today is an historic day in the polity of India. On one hand we have experienced the celebrations of the 72nd Republic Day of India, despite the horror show that was the year 2020, and on the other hand, we are witnessing the self-proclaimed resistance to the Government’s actions in the form of a tractor rally.
It is a day of mixed emotions, and of a great contrast. While most of the countrymen and most of the rest of the world had a keen eye on the Republic Day proceedings, which not only is a process to rejoice India’s diversity and brotherhood, but also is a way to celebrate the Vehicle of Life, which, in the words of BR Ambedkar, is the Constitution of India, there is a substantial portion of the civil society, political machinery, international players, and pressure groups which have looked the other way to protest the constitutionally passed Farm Laws.
This opinion piece is neither about the socio-economic validity of the said laws, nor about the political inclinations we might have. It is not even about supporting or opposing a particular political leader or party, and not at all about undermining the interests of any group, both social and economic. This piece is about something we all have in common – The Republic on India.
Through this article, I want to comment on the nature of these protests, the role of an ‘Invisible Enemy’, and what led to such deteriorated conditions that we are witnessing today or have seen in the near past, especially in the cases of anti-farm laws and anti-CAA protests.
Anyway, to get a better understanding of the said ‘Invisible Enemy’, we will have to dive into the pool of history. Let us go back to the Cold War era, and take a look at its characteristics. The war is called a Cold war because there was no large scale military battles, but there was an ideological war. The involved parties would not go to a full-fledged war with traditional weapons, but instead used psychological warfare, narrative building mechanisms, and espionage to topple the other one.
One of the major feature of this war is Time. Cold War lasted for more than four decades, and came to an apparent end with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The question remains, though, did the war really end?
Yuri Bezmenov was a Russian spy working for the KGB, and was stationed in India as a translator in the mid-1960s. Later he went on to work as a journalist in New Delhi, and used his reporting capacity to collect information and spread disinformation in India to strengthen the Soviet propaganda. According to the reports, subsequently, he grew really fond of India and its culture, which was one of the reasons that prompted him to defect the KGB.
The spy-turned-defector then came out in the public and shed light on the elaborate plan of Ideological Subversion by the Soviet. He defined ideological subversion as a brainwashing strategy “to change the perception of reality to such an extent that despite the abundance of information, no one is able to come to a sensible conclusion in the interest of defending themselves, their families, their community, and there country.”
In an interview with an American media outlet in 1984, Bezmenov talked about Soviet Union’s plans pertaining to the West, led by the US, and India. He illustrated how the KGB would target influential people like politicians, journalists, authors, university professors, film makers, and businessmen who would then subscribe to the Soviet thinking and propagate the same ideology to their followers, readers, students, and viewers, thus strengthening the Communism narrative. He said the term used for these intellectual and influential people is ‘Useful Idiots’.
Bezmenov also maintained that there are four stages of Ideological Subversion.
1) – This stage is about conflict creation through narratives set by the useful idiots. In this stage, a perception is created against the targetted country by means of education and media. People are made to doubt and question the rules of their country, traditions of their cultures, and even the beliefs of their religions.
The whole process takes 15-20 years to complete, equivalent to the time period one whole generation takes to get educated. Festivals, languages, religions, and culture must account to be a uniting factor, but ironically all these are used to divide people, and create a feeling of enmity among different sects. This conflict creation is so deeply rooted that this stage is almost impossible to reverse, though it can be checked by restricting the spread of subversive thoughts in the society.
2) – The second stage pertains to conflicts, which were created in the first stage, to come to the forefront. These conflicts are then used to attack the economic infrastructure, foreign relations, and defence of the targetted country. All the Useful Idiots now get popular for showing their misplaced dissent. This stage goes on for a period of 2-3 years, and serves as a build-up to stage three. A counter to this stage is to restrict the freedom of certain people (useful idiots).
3) – This stage is marked by violence and bloodshed. Conflicts lead to crisis which further leads to a state of anarchy. The control is shifted to the players who are neither elected by the mandate of the people, nor answerable to the public. The maturity period of this stage is about six weeks, and military might is needed to curb its effects.
4) – This is the fourth and final stage where the propagandist country finally takes control of the targetted country. This stage is called normalisation because all the pawns which are used in the early stages are now neutralised. Hence, the term Useful Idiots.
Not only the pawns, but also anyone who raises voice against the new regime is either silenced, persecuted, or, in the worst cases, assassinated. The Hundred Flowers Campaign by the Communist Party of China led by Mao is an example of this stage.
This stage goes on for an indefinite period of time, and is irreversible by using any internal powers, though international help and intervention can counter it.
Now that we know about the whole process of brainwashing and taking control by means of Ideological Subversion, it is time to relate these stages to the current social, economic, and political conditions of India.
Yuri Bezmenov painted a picture which served as an important piece of a big puzzle associated with the warfare techniques used in the past, but the puzzle is still relevant, considering the present day situation, especially in India. Moreover, the anti-CAA and anti-farm laws protests can also be seen as the missing pieces of the said puzzle.
1) – Identity Politics is referred to a phenomenon in which people belonging to a specific religion, ethnicity, caste, race, economic cluster, or culture come together in a group to promote their own specific interests without considering the concerns of any other larger group. This was seen in both the protests which further shifted the focus from the main issue.
The anti-CAA protests were headlined as a movement led by Muslim women. Both Muslims and women are considered a minority group in India, so the anti-CAA movement was perceived as a fight between minority groups and majority groups to gain public sympathy, but in reality the CAA laws has nothing to do with either of the two.
In the case of anti-farm laws agitation, the propagandists sought to make the movement about Punjabis vs the Government. They coupled this narrative with a new one – the plight of the suffering Annadatas; and as always, nobody cared about the taxpayers who are still facing the brunt of the ongoing protests. The identity tag is what that gives relevance to these movements.
In both the cases, the general idea was to hold the Government to ransom, and make it do whatever is suitable for certain groups, and not in the interest of the general public. Seldom had we seen any constructive criticism, or a will to end the protests to find a middle path. Parties involved were/are there to reinforce their goals, both political and economic.
Moreover, during the farmers’ protest, it seemed like everybody forgot that we are in the middle of a pandemic as neither preventive measures were taken, nor the social distancing norms were followed.
2) – A tendency to contest the authorities was seen in both the events. The social power to lead the discourse was shifted to the useful idiots, the narrative builders like film makers, singers, journalists, student union representatives, and university professors, who became famous and increased their following overnight just by raising voice against the administration.
Raising voice and showing dissent is not a problem, to be honest, but challenging the system with unsubstantiated insinuations to achieve a political or economic gain at the best, or to cause disturbance at the worst is. Moreover, these people do not represent the people as they do not have a public mandate, and therefore they cannot be held accountable for their actions.
3) – Delhi riots happened when the then President of US, Donald Trump was on an official visit to New Delhi. The tractor march is happening on the Republic Day, 2021, when UK PM Boris was scheduled to visit the capital, but the visit was cancelled due the ongoing pandemic. Timings are of significant importance because during the both the events, the world was looking at India. This is a way to tarnish the image of India in front of the geo-political community.
One of the most significant examples of psychological warfare can be seen in India. We, as Indians, are constantly made to doubt and question our culture, belief system, and religion. They attack our rich past, our family values, our way of doing things, and even our festivals. The main idea behind this lengthy and time taking process is to create conflicts by dividing us using the factors that should otherwise unite us.
From misinformation and disinformation to the whitewash of history in our textbooks, we have seen it all, and these practices are still prevalent in the modern day India.
Take the example of anti-CAA movement, in which religion was used to create enmity among people and fashion a situation of unrest. In the case of anti-farm laws, fake story of potential land grabbing by corporates was peddled to create disputes among the parties.
This was Stage 1 (Demoralisation) at play which paved the way for Stage 2 (Destabilisation).
In Destabilisation process, the structures of social harmony, economic progress, among others are attacked. Both anti-CAA and anti-farm laws protests had attacked the social compatibility, and economic peace. Blocking of national highways, damage to public and private property, and closure of businesses are common to both protests. Moreover, the extent of disinformation and fear mongering was such that around 1800 Jio’s towers were vandalised in Punjab. It also disrupted India’s foreign relations, considering how these protests were reported by the foreign media. Western media outlets left no stone unturned to undermine the international confidence in the State of India and in the Indian Armed Forces.
Now comes Stage 3 (Crisis) which involves bloodshed and use of military might. Do you remember the riots that shook the national capital in February last year when at least 53 people were killed? Not even a whole year has passed, and we are back to potentially face a similar situation again. The condition in Delhi has deteriorated. Police officials were seen using tear gas and doing lathi charge to control the farmers who have hurled stones, used wooden sticks and metal rods, and even put a show of swordsmanship while exercising their right to peaceful protest. Dividers have been pushed aside, and temporary walls have been breached as farmers have led their tractor rally to ITO, which is just a few kilometres away from India Gate, and the Rajpath. The farmers did not stop at ITO, and went onto progress till the Red Fort. To put a cherry on the top of the cake, all these things have happened on Republic Day, when the eyes of whole world rest on India.
These Cold War tactics were used by a Communist Soviet in the past against the Capitalist US, but it is safe to say that these tactics are still in play and are hurting the Republic of India. India is the only country in the world which has two nuclear enabled States as its neighbours; one is a communism giant which is playing the role of a big brother to the other, which is a Deep State. Though a full-on war using traditional weapons is less likely to happen, we are seeing modern techniques of warfare. Nothing much has changed, just except that perhaps the Soviet’s KGB has been replaced by Pakistan’s ISI and China’s MSS, and we are still fighting the invisible enemy like we were doing decades ago.