It was the year 1998 , and the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party was in power with A. B. Vajpayee as the prime minister. Three years ago, Narashima Rao had decided to carry on nuclear tests in a veiled cloud of secrecy. The plans were however halted when American satellites detected preparations at the test site at Pokhran. Now, the leadership of BJP decided to carry on the tests once more. No mistakes were made this time – elaborate arrangements were made to fool intelligence agencies across the world. When the news of 1998 Pokhran tests were finally made public,the news was welcomed with large scale approval across the country. The printed press was mostly filled with editorials expressing kudos to the BJP. Television channels praised the bold decision of the leadership. Many scientists were thankful to the establishment for having provided them the great opportunity to prove their capabilities.
Abroad, however, the mood could not have been more different. The UN expressed strong disappointment. China pressurized India to sign the Non-proliferation treaty. But the greatest anger was displayed – for good reason – by Pakistan. Just fifteen days after India’s last nuclear test, Pakistan too tested five nuclear warheads. Reactions were now desperate – Bill Clinton accused Pakistan for its reactionary measures and quoted, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”
The nuclear tests are now a matter of the past, forgotten since it is perhaps easier not to remember shameful events in history. I had a certain hope that the BJP had learned its lesson, but no. After seeing a recent campaign ad, the party seemed all the more ready to re-wake the atomic Kumbhakaran:
The video clearly shows an atomic test, not to mention several deadly looking missiles. But what made me really gasp was the banner bearing the words: “We are proud on our nuclear test.” Really, who is this ‘we’ ? Who would be proud of creating weapons that could kill a lakh people in the blink of an eye? I am not against the BJP – I don’t know about you, but I just don’t want another Hiroshima.
It seems that authorities have no trouble fooling citizens. All they had to was to go for nuclear armament under the label of technological development or security concerns. One thing is clear, though: when I am of age, I would know whom I should not vote for.