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From the Smiling Buddha to Shakti

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Geography lesson class 8 : We are learning about the different climatic regions of India and  Mrs.Karat intones .” the Thar Desert is an arid wasteland also known as The Great Indian Desert. It also forms a natural boundary between India and Pakistan, ” and thwack a piece of chalk falls on Baldie’s desk as Mrs. Karat catches him napping.  This piece of information which was of no importance to us 14 year olds,  remained dormant in my head after the Board Examination a year later. It only surfaced in 1998 when India conducted its first nuclear weapon’s test in Pokhran. Since then this tiny city on the outskirts of Jaisalmer has remianed in my mind as a symbol of India’s determination to prove to the world that it was now a power to reckon with.

What  thrilled me the most was that the  US satellite tracking all movements,  missed it! And India joined the other nuclear nations atom for atom with its successful mission code named Shakti.

But the journey from the Smiling Buddha to Shakti was not always easy.

From the Smiling Buddha to Shakti

Not many people would remember that it was as early as 1945, that India actually embarked on its nuclear program. And if today we have joined the elite Nuclear Club, it is thanks to the vision of Dr. Homi Bhabha. However, the first nuclear test was a long time coming and it was only after the brief Indo Chinese war in 1962, that the program received a boost. In 1974, India first detonated its ‘peaceful’nuclear bomb in an operation code named  the Smiling Buddha.

The program then lay in limbo for many years till the spectre of CTBT reared its ugly head and India realised that it had very little time to show the world that they could match it atom for atom. Another factor that pushed them was the fact that neighbouring Pakistan had its own nuclear program blessed by none other than the US of A.

So it was that early one afternoon, at 15:45 hours, on May 13, 1998, India successfully conducted a series of underground nuclear tests with five bombs in Pokhran, Rajasthan. India’s defining moment had come!

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Today this story is brought to our screens and the collective Indian consciousness in the film PARMANU.

Do we need nuclear weapons?

Once upon a time, on a clear day, I could  see in the distance, the nuclear reactors at Trombay . The sight of them inspired  feelings of both fear and awe. Some days I feel  proud  but on other days, I feel sad that this power that has the ability to destroy, is in the hands of us Indians who claim to be peace-loving and tolerant.

The horrific power of destruction was showcased to the world in the last stages of World War 2. In fact, it was the bombing of the two Japanese cities Hiroshima & Nagasaki that brought this war to a close. It is estimated that 129,000 people ( most of them civilians) were killed in this bombing.  Perhaps more people have died since, in wars using less destructive weapons.  But still, the horror of Nagaskai and Hiroshima remain so embeded in the collective human memory that the mere word Atom Bomb strikes fear in the minds of everyone who hears it.

Thought the war was brought to an end by the bombs, does using such a force actually justify its use? Did the US regret its decision to go ahead with Project Manhattan ?

Definitely,Col. Paul Tibbets Jr., the pilot who flew Enola Gay didn’t feel any regret when  he saw the mushroom cloud created when he discharged Little Boy, on 6th August 1945. Nor did Maj. Charles Sweeney who flew Bockscar three days later feel any regret when he discharged Fat Man.

The destruction after Hiroshima was dramatic :

Of thousands of others, 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 – except that there were no ashes. Wilfred Burchett

The destruction at Nagasaki was slightly less so because of the hills that surrounded it. But the destruction they caused continued for generations with deformities in successive generations.

Nnuclear bombs are really quite scary.

And considering the fact that the detonation of these bombs did not deter wars, are atom bombs even necessary?  Wouldn’t it make more sense to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes like generation of power for industrial/commercial use, treatment of diseases like cancer, food security and environmental protection?

Why would a country like India that is strapped for financial resources spend a large amount of money on developing the nuclear bomb? What difference does it make to the man on the street if India can repel an invasion merely by the fact that it possesses nuclear capability?

But to paraphrase a Hindi phrase ( Jiska danda uski bhains)   he who wields the stick, owns the buffalo .

Hence it is important that India has the capacity to protect itself with that shield of ultimate horror – the atom bomb.

Jai Hind.

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Author: Bellybytes

Proud Mumbai gal who always sees the humour in life. The mum who made banana fritters when all the other mums made cupcakes.

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