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Inspiring Courage


A people who do not submit cannot be conquered. The history of India bears this out in ample measure. There are collaborators who may betray and undermine the resistance, but a resolute spirit always prevails. The people of Ukraine, today, seem to be going the way of the Rajputs, Sikhs, Gorkhas, Zulus, Samurai et al with their ‘willing to die spirit’. Already in the few days of their conflict against the ‘might’ of the Russians, individuals have made the supreme sacrifice to defend the nation and its freedom. The group of thirteen soldiers (men and women) on Snake Island who, in the face of certain death, told the crew of a Russian warship what they could do with themselves, will remain immortal in the memories of their people. There have been other such inspiring incidents, including that of a man standing up against a column of tanks in a repeat of what happened in Tiananmen.

Strategists are pointing out that even a hundred and fifty thousand Russian troops will find it very difficult to control a nation of forty million people bent upon resisting the occupation.

Russian President Putin seems to have realised this and has been appealing to the Ukrainian Army to turn on the political leadership, much in the way the Afghan Army had melted away against the Taliban. If the resistance takes hold, he will have to increase the level of bloodshed or withdraw. Despite the perfectly valid objections he may have had against NATO’s expansionist policy and Ukraine’s willingness to join that alliance, his strategy has backfired. The common folk around the world have been inspired by the courage of the Ukrainians and Putin is more unpopular than ever. Voices of dissidence have risen even in Russia, where the opposition has been more or less crushed over the years.

By abstaining from the Security Council vote, India has stood by the Russians as they are allies of long standing. That does not imply support for Putin’s actions. It is for the Russian people to decide if they will have him for their leader. If things do not improve and the sanctions begin to bite, a change of leadership could become inevitable.

There is a problem with the ‘direct’ election of leaders where there is some form of democracy. There is too much power in an individual’s hands – be it Russia or the US. In the parliamentary system, a bumbling leader can lose a vote of confidence, be ousted from his or her party’s leadership. Otherwise decision making goes into the hands of some doddering old man, as in the case of the US, or a paranoid autocrat who, having ordered the murders of so many opponents, can no longer trust his own shadow, like Putin.